"Its OK to cry if you want to," Siri replied, "My aluminosilicate glass surface is tear resistant."
In 1855, long before robots were imagined, Walt Whitman spoke to us through his Leaves of Grass, "I sing the body electric..." he wrote, "And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?/And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?"
One hundred sixty years later the questions still earthquake our hearts. Would we prefer a reliable "electric body" over a passionate but vulnerable "Body Electric?" When will we become more robot than human? If the robot crushes humanity "what is the soul?"
Science fiction is now science possibility. Thoughtful people probe the core of compassion. Is love truly unique to humans?
Caregivers labor to cure disease & relieve pain. They have a third role: to offer healing. Do we wish we had an "aluminosilicate glass surface to catch our tears?" Who among us would not sell their souls for a body free of disease, injury & pain?
Can love's healing be replicated? Love is grounded in intent & only we can form such a complex emotion, right? I asked my son-in-law, a computer engineer with a genius IQ, about this. His answer stunned me. "Maybe," he said.
The camera aiming at us in the picture is a computer. Are the body & soul of the photographer replaceable? Can a robot paint a masterpiece or write an immortal poem?
The Japanese have been testing caregiver robots. Programmed to say kind things they provide comfort to the elderly & the autistic.
Scientist Prakash Presad writes, "many a time we are unable to tell if the human to whom we are speaking really cares about what we are saying." He wonders if a robot could be a better listener.
We can argue our uniqueness. Still, the "electric body" might, within this century, so threaten our humanity that we may ask: Where is our soul?
Note: This reflection is offered by Liz Sorensen Wessel
Metaphors enable us to express divine ineffable truths. The mystery of the Holy Trinity is a Christian understanding of God. One that invites us into a relational experience of love.
Richard Rohr describes God as “a circle dance; a total outpouring and receivingamong three intimate partners, who receive their Total Self from another and then hand it on to another, who repeats the self-emptying act of love to a third …”
“All is a constant changing of forms through a nonstop process of loss and renewal, death and resurrection, losing the self and finding a larger self – just as in God and in the teaching of Jesus.” (Rohr)
Theologian and musician, Jeremy S. Begbie explores art as a means of enlivening the gospel beyond the confines of words. He views the integration of art and faith akin to learning a new language; a bridge between our limited perceptions and world view to new understanding and the discernment of meaning in our lives.
The delight of self-expression through art has been universal throughout the ages. This can be seen in ancient cave drawings, the composing of music, of painting beauty in vibrations of colors and prose and in dancing to the movements of life (to name a few).
Begbie suggests that we consider the notes that form the C Major chord as an analogy for the trinity. When the solo note of C is played it fills the entire air with sound. As a second E note is added, the two combined notes fill space so that you can’t tell where one note begins or the other leaves off. As the G note joins in, the complete chord vibrates as one integral sound, yet with distinctive parts.
Berber exclaims, “What could be more apt than to speak of the Trinity as a three-note-resonance of life, mutually indwelling, without mutual exclusion and yet without merger, each occupying the same ‘space,’ yet recognizably and irreducibly distinct, mutually enhancing and establishing each other.”
Rohr shares the revelation of Saint Bonaventure, “For God to be good, God can be one. For God to be loving, God has to be two because love is always a relationship.” But his real breakthrough was saying that “For God to be supreme joy and happiness, God has to be three.”
God is relational, and love is revealed in our relationships, our suffering and in our joy. When we see ourselves as separate from one another, we feel cut off; isolated. Yet, we can gift each other along the way by offering an outstretched hand. We can awaken to the divine truth that we too are a part of this all-inclusive love.
Erie Chapman Foundation, Fr. Richard Rohr, Jeremy Begbie- Stillpoint www.gordon.edu/download/galleries/Summer2005Stillpoint1.pdf, Journal of Sacred Work, Liz Sorensen Wessel, Peter S. Williams http://www.bethinking.org/god/understanding-the-trinity
The Rilke poem & the photograph of an autumn-drenched Vermont posted in the weekend Journal by Liz Wessel caught my heart. Autumn is, like all seasons, a sacred time. Poets rhapsodize about the fall almost as much as they do spring.
Of course, the colors are thrilling. Of course, fall's new air (referred to predictably as "crisp") sweaters our skin while autumn light makes every death-spiraling leaf a shooting star.
And fall can be devastating. The change of seasons, especially summer to fall, is a fragile time for those vulnerable to depression.
Where is salvation? The Dalai Lama says he believes "...that the only true religion consists of having a good heart." And Jesus pronounced that "God is Love."
Having a good heart allows us to love the shadows as well as the sun that creates them. That love can only be found in slow breaths.
Speed tramples compassion, destroys Radical Loving Care & causes spiritual blindness. Race through your days & you will miss the world's beauty.
"I went and sat in front of a Turner for hours and I realized something profound," artist Catherine Clancy wrote, "-that the vanishing point in the work does not vanish so that you have the feeling that love, truth and beauty go on forever."
The "good heart" needs regular visits to the private forest of Slow.
Space sprouts satellites.The world spins speed. The sky grows jets.
Inside Slow live Hemingway, Van Gogh, Michelangelo, grass just mowed.
Inside Slow the widow in the windowed corner of her second floor bedroom sews kitchen curtains, raises her eyes to review rows of corn, harvests the caws of a murder of crows.
"We are beasts bounding through time," Charles Bukowski wrote. The persistent question is, Can Love exalt us above the rest of God's creatures? Can what we interpret in a pair of tomatoes & an avocado differentiate us from other life beings?
Love's seekers may briefly touch the hem of her dress. Still, earth's love is fraught with fire. Most are burned by the encounter as well as illuminated.
Love engages excruciating pain. If we pursue her we will be locked in conflicting desires.
She offers the best life can give. Can we survive her challenges?
Pioneers push boundaries the furthest. They meddle with the alchemy of our being & sometimes, after harrowing explorations, they stumble into the secret forests we covet. Laboring to bring back hard won gifts they return scarred.
The same is true with our saintly caregivers. To paraphrase Henri Nouwen, caregivers rush into burning buildings to save those in need & sometimes are burned themselves.
This is the challenge of Radical Loving Care. Bukowski describes it as "the impossibility of being human." He lists the tragic endings some artists found,
"...the impossibility of being human Maupassant going mad in a rowboat Dostoevsky lined up against a wall to be shot Crane off the back of a boat into the propeller the impossibility Sylvia with her head in the oven like a baked potato Harry Crosby leaping into that Black Sun Lorca murdered in the road by the Spanish troops...
...These champions these mad dogs of glory
moving this little bit of light toward us impossibly.”
Many risk the journey but, like some daring mountain climbers, fall from the peaks.
Admire the seekers. Admire the caregivers who risk everything to "move this little bit of light toward/ us/ impossibly."
“If your only goal is to love, there is no such thing as failure…” St. Francis of Assisi
According to the Franciscan priest Richard Rohr, Saint Francis offered an alternative way of life that recognized God’s presence in our midst and the sacredness of everything that is.
The lived experience of St. Francis was one of opening to love, and of loving God wholeheartedly through love of all God's creation.
Francis understood “an essential truth about God, that there is no separation between matter and spirit. Knowing our true identity- one with God- frees us from fear of death and allows us to let go of our small self to live more fully as embodied love.” (Rohr)
Rohr encourages us to seek the inspiration of St. Francis through a contemplative way of being, forging connection, rather than judgement. In the sacred realm of relationships we can explore, find and trust our gifts and use these gifts in the service of others.
We can create bonds of healing in communion with one another and our community. This requires a willingness to see differently, to awaken to the common thread of our humanity and not turn from suffering but rather to embrace our true calling.
As America's vast legions of caregivers work to meet our deepest needs I wonder each day: How well are they led?
Some leaders shine with the light of loving support. They understand that their top responsibility is to take care of the people who take care of people. Baylor's Chris York (pictured) is like that in numerous brilliant and Godly ways. So are George Mikitarian at Florida's Parrish Medical Center & Laurie Harting at Dignity Health in Sacramento. These are among America's Radical Loving Leaders.
Too many leaders are failing our caregivers. Instead of offering encouragement, compassion & strength they peddle fear & incompetence. My heart breaks for every caregiver who comes to work each day afraid of their boss.
This is one reason I worry about Donald Trump's relative success, not as a political commentary, but as a reflection on leadership temperament. Will his bullying, boastful & abusive behavior encourage bad leaders? Make them think their own failed behavior might actually be the best approach? Meanwhile, Trump's leadership is splintering relationships in ways not seen since The Civil War. If leaders believe in love for themselves & their children they must turn their backs on such fear-based approaches.
Long ago, Gandhi proved that "Power based on love is a thousand times more effective & permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment."
Caregiver satisfaction & energy often flow from the caregiver's feelings about their boss. The truth is as clear: If want positive outcomes engage positive energy. Leaders who practice this must be affirmed. Those who do not must be retrained or removed.
It is the responsibility of leaders to care for caregivers not bully them.
Where did my eyes linger today? Where was I blind?
Where was I hurt without anyone noticing? What did I learn today?
What did I read?
What new thoughts visited me?
What differences did I notice in those closest to me? Whom did I neglect?
Where did I neglect myself?
What did I begin today that might endure?
How were my conversations?
What did I do today for the poor and the excluded?
Did I remember the dead today?
Where could I have exposed myself to the risk of something different?
Where did I allow myself to receive love?
With whom today did I feel the most myself?
What reached me today? How deep did it imprint?
Who saw me today?
What visitations had I from the past and from the future?
What did I avoid today?
From the evidence, why was I given this day?
-From John O’ Donohue’s Benedictus, A Book of Blessings
The late John O’ Donohue offers an inquiry that invites us into a deeper reflection into the unfolding of our lives. In this age of technology, where machines have us whirling at ever increasing speed, we do not know the ultimate effects this will have on our neuro-biology. I’ve heard our situation described humorously, as information terrorism. Just imagine the rapidity of which our neurons have to re-calibrate in response to our attention flitting from instantaneous flashes of information. Amidst the wonder of innovation and the exhaustion of full throttle we need to pause.
We need to seek out the sacred spaces to reconnect with our spirit. O’ Donohue offers a lovely mirror to enter into a more intimate relationship with ourselves and the meaning of this life.
The reflection hung on the garage wall for only a few moments. I almost missed it. My camera helped preserve it for you to see.
Your Book of Now has only the current chapter. Your Book of Moments holds unnumbered words. Both sit in your Library of Meaning.
How long is a moment? A minute? A second? Can it be measured?
This moment we call "now" is all you will ever have.
Claim it. Live now with full presence.
Sometimes the "watcher" within us waves a warning finger. Are you living fully or anesthetizing yourself? We have seen the boredom of the subway rider, the tired eyes of the department store clerk checking her watch.
Some strive to "kill time." Even during pain why would we ever want to "kill" the only thing we have?
There are manifold ways to absent ourselves. That is the core of the quote, "We must wake ourselves unnumbered times a day."
"Now" has enemies.
The first is routine. The trick we call "Time" piles one moment atop another. How can we show up for each? One at a time. Routine creates robot living that blocks the uniqueness of moments.
Speed is another foe. Rushing from one moment to the next tramples the richness of each so that none are lived.
I love how cameras "capture" moments. The photograph enriches that moment when I use more "nows" to dive deeper into the picture.
"Now" will always frustrate those who seek to cage it. There are solutions.
Thomas Traherne (1636-1674) wrote, "This moment exhibits infinite space, but there is a space also wherein all moments are infinitely exhibited...Love is the true means by which the world is enjoyed."
Once again we see. The worst enemy of our moments is not boredom or speed but fear. Love is the only path to a sweet Now.
Close your eyes & meditate for one minute. If you can extend that to twenty minutes twice a day you will discover a precious new page in your Book of Now.
Great God, who has told us "Vengeance is mine," save us from ourselves, save us from the vengeance in our hearts and the acid in our souls.
Save us from our desire to hurt as we have been hurt, to punish as we have been punished, to terrorize as we have been terrorized.
Give us the strength it takes to listen rather than to judge, to trust rather than to fear, to try again and again to make peace even when peace eludes us.
By ~Sister Joan Chittister, OSB
Psalms for Praying, Psalm 67
God is gracious to us and blesses us. The Radiant One shines upon us. O, that Love’s Way be followed in all the earth. Love’s saving power among all the nations.
May the people rejoice in You! May all people sing with gratitude to the Beloved!
Let the nations be glad and give thanks, for you call the people to integrity and justice. You guide the nations upon the earth.
May the people rejoice in You! May all people sing with gratitude to the Beloved!
The earth yields its harvest. The Beloved blesses us. Yes, the Beloved blesses us. Let us abandon ourselves into the Heart of Love!
Translated by ~Nan Merill
A Healing Blessing That each ill be released from you and each sorrow be shed from you and each pain be made comfort for you and each wound be made whole in you that joy will arise in you and strength will take hold of you and hope will take wing for you and all be made well.
By ~Jan Richardson
Shared by Liz Sorensen Wessel Mandala Prayer by ~liz