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The Discernment Committee

We are all
in the discernment process
every day
whether we know it or not.
It may be a formal process
with biweekly
committee meetings
working through
a set agenda
helping us discern
what we should become
and how we should get there.

At times
the discernment committee
gathers round the water cooler
and members
talk of their weekends
offering advice
that shape our journey
unintentionally.

Discernment committees
often meet
unaware
in unexpected places
with unexpected guests
like the altar guild’s
midday
midweek
Eucharist
as they put down their knitting
jam making
linen cleaning
friendly gossip
and welcome
a younger aspirant
to the Lord’s table.

Today
we say goodbye to Joan
who in her earthly life
did so much;
often that others were unaware of
and at times
that she too
was unaware of
until she received
her heavenly crown.

The Idea of a #FathersDay #Rhizome

Saturday evening, at about 8 pm, Kim, Fiona, and I had finished dinner and were sitting on the deck, getting ready for the final phase of the evening, when my phone rang. It was my eldest daughter, Mairead, calling from Japan, where it was already Father’s Day.

Perhaps some fathers, especially those interested in gardening receive rhizomes for Father’s Day, maybe irises to plant, or ginger, or asparagus. I have been interested in the works of Deleuze and Guattari, and particularly around the idea of rhizome as a philosophical and educational concept.

We ended up having an hour long discussion, covering all kinds of different ideas, a very rhizomatic discussion.

It is hard to say where to start, with everything so interconnected, and it probably doesn’t matter. Instead, I will provide a little context and then try to map out some of the rhizomatic discussion.

Mairead left for college when she was fourteen, heading off to Mary Baldwin College in Virginia. She explore several different majors and ultimately ended up getting a degree in history from University of Connecticut before heading off to teach English in Japan, and then enter graduate school there.

From time to time, we get the opportunity to talk about her studies, and this evening was a good example. She talked about a presentation she gave in her seminar which is being led by a professor very interested in Guattari. Mairead mentioned to him that I was interested in Guattari and he asked if I was a history professor or something like that. She said something like, no, he’s just weird that way. He said that he would like to meet me some time, and I hope that will work out.

I remembered meeting one of Mairead’s Asian Studies professors at Mary Baldwin. We had joke beforehand about how she should teach me a phrases to say to him, introducing myself, but instead of being a proper introduction, being the sort of phrase that someone might convince someone else to say, as a joke. So, Mairead taught me how to say “Hi. I’m weird” in Japanese. I didn’t know what she had actually taught me to say, but I figured it was a good thing to do, so I said it to the professor, who raised an eyebrow as I said it.

This evening, Mairead who only knew rudimentary Japanese at that time, told me that she might not have used the best word for “weird”. The word she taught me had connotations of “deep” and “mysterious”.

One of the ideas that came up in our discussion this evening was one that people who don’t speak multiple languages and travel circles where different languages might be spoken are unlikely to encounter, the decision of what language to talk in.

It seems there are many factors that go into this decision, in terms of the context of the discussion, the content, the participants, the goals, etc. I guess the closest I get to that is deciding, especially in my work role, whether to write something as an email, a tweet, a Facebook post, a blog post, or some other format. Perhaps it is something we all have to decide in terms of whether we call someone, text them, send them an email, a Facebook message, or many other options.

It made me think of a Group Relations conference I attended in Holland back in about 2000. It led to a brief digression to talk about Wilfred Bion, S. H. Foulkes, and Melanie Klein. We talked briefly about psychoanalysis, Object Relations, Group Relations, and Group Analytics. We did not digress as far as Jacques Lacan which could have brought us all the way back to Guattari.

The Group Relations conference was international and was supposed to be in English, but at one point, some of the participants rebelled and chose to speak in Dutch, leaving me and some of the other international speakers out, or “othered”.

I also spoke around recently listening to a recording of Evelyn Underhill’s 1911 book Mysticism. We went off on a brief tangent about Underhill, Tolkien, and hobbits. Evelyn Underhill did write to C.S. Lewis, who was a friend of Tolkien. It is curious to wonder if Tolkien knew Evelyn Underhill. I suspect he did.

Thinking about Underhill’s work, it is interesting to think about how our approaches to realism, idealism, pragmatism, etc shape our thoughts about the transcendent. It is even more interesting to think about this in terms of how the language we speak or choose to speak shapes our thinking. Mairead spoke of the choice on language in a multi-lingual setting as being automatic, and I thought of how Underhill spoke of some of the writings of the mystics as being automatic. A tangent we didn’t get off onto was Jackson Pollack and automatic painting or approaching Pollack from a context of Deleuze and Guattari

Mairead recounted writing a paper about some female Christian mystic back when she was in junior high school. We had a good discussion around women and mysticism. We talked about how this might relate to the education available to women in the middle ages, their relationship to the dominant power structures of the time, how it related to other forms of expression, particularly in the arts.

This led to an interesting discussion about the relationship between religions and power structures. We talked about the established church verses the counter-cultural church. Mairead spoke about a Buddhist friend who had visited the United States during one of the Gulf Wars and was shocked to find Christians that supported war, since there was a strong relationship between Christianity and pacifisms in Japan. This led to talking about Buddhists that were not pacifists in Japan, which may seem equally hard to fathom for American’s that have a strong association between Buddhism and pacifism.

Perhaps the interesting relationship isn’t between pacifism and specific religions, as it is between pacifism and how the religion relates to the power structures of the culture. Perhaps pacifism is more about a rejection of the use of violence by the dominant power structures to maintain power, and so established religions are less likely to be pacifist and counter-cultural religions are more likely to be pacifist.

It was particularly interesting to think about this in terms of the discussions about Islam, and particularly some of Donald Trump’s rhetoric, and Obama’s response.

We veered over to touching on R.G. Collingwood’s Idea of History as well as a discussion of one of Mairead’s classes where different professors come and lecture on different methods of research. It made me think of a class I took on Marx back in my college days, not the Marx of the Red Scare, but the Marx of Philosophy, History, Economics, Sociology, Political Science, and more. This provided another chance to return to the thought of Guattari, but instead, it was time to end to phone call and attend to other stuff.

#Ingress #MissionDay Update

It has been a while since I participated in an Ingress event. I’ve just been too busy with other things. I have been doing minimal daily ingress, mostly just enough to keep some of my streaks alive.

Today, I was supposed to go to a poetry picnic, but it got cancelled at the last minute, so I went to “Mission Day” in New Haven. People who play Ingress gathered on the Ingress Green at 11 am to start their mission day. They came in from Maine and New York City. Many wore their team colors, blue or green, carried flags, and had t-shirts, buttons, or other symbols of their participation.

In Ingress, you go from portal to portal, capturing the portal if the other team has it, hacking to portal to get more gear from it, and creating links, which joined together create fields. There are also missions where you interact with a group of different portals. Then there are groups of missions that some people participate in.

In Ingress, you get various badges for your participation. Some of the badges are for participating in large Ingress events. Others are for accomplishing various tasks, and you get different levels of badges depending on how many times you’ve completed the task. Having played for a long time, it is harder and harder to get new badges. Partly, these days, I am looking at hypothetical badges for multiples of the highest level. For example, the highest level recharger badge is for recharging 25 million XM. I am currently at 266 million. I celebrated getting to 10 times the top recharger badge and figure the next celebration will be at 12 times the top recharger badge.

Likewise the top Guardian badge is for holding a portal for 150 consecutive days. My record is 365 consecutive days, and my current oldest portal I’ve held for 141 days. For consecutive days hacking, the top badge is for 360 consecutive days. I’m currently at 471.

For Glyph hack points, the top badge is 50,000 points. I’m up to 90,000 points and approaching two times the top badge. For total hacks, I’m about 12,000 hack short of the second highest badge, having added 213 hacks today.

One badge that I haven’t done much with is the one for participating in missions. I completed 13 missions today, getting me the silver badge, but still leaving me many missions to go. For the distance walked badge, I’m current at 2,731 kilometers, having walked 13 kilometers today. That is a little bit beyond the 2,500 kilometers for the top walking badge, but a long way from the next multiple of that.

Another badge I am approaching and will hopefully get sometime this year is for the total number of portals captured. I’m currently at 14,610, which is 390 away from the second highest badge. Mission day was a good day for capturing portals. I capture 103 portals today. 48 of these portals were ones that I had not captured in the past, pushing me over 2,000 unique portals, but I have to hit 5,000 to get the next badge. Likewise, I visited 66 portals I hadn’t visited in the past, although I’m still a long way from the next badge for total portals visited.

I did deploy 549 resonators, pushing my total over 121,000 resonators deployed, but I still have a long way to go.

All in all, it was a good day, made all the better by running into various Ingress friends throughout the day.

The Sacrament of Animal Crackers

I open the box
of animal crackers
wondering
what they signify
to me.

I count them,
arrange them,
looking
at the different species
and broken pieces.

It is a writers’ prompt.
What do these crackers
represent?
What is their story?

I stare blankly,
waiting for inspiration
but all I can think of
are the forty nine
who died
at The Pulse
a gay nightclub
in Orlando.

Who were they?

I think of the nine that died
in Charleston,
the twenty six
in Sandy Hook.

I think of Columbine
and Aurora,
of San Bernadino
and Virginia tech.

Who were they?

I eat the animal crackers
remembering
the innocent days of my childhood
and those who were killed
because they were different;
because they were gay,
Latino,
black,
or simply
because they were in the right place
at the wrong time.

What if
every time
we ate
animal crackers,
or anything else
for that matter,
we remembered;
we remembered the victims,
the broken,
the grieving,
and those who sought
to bring love
and compassion
for everyone?

These are my animal crackers
broken for you.

Psalm 42 in 2016

“Why art thou cast down, Oh my soul?”
“Why do you write like you’re running out of time?”
“Why aren’t you running for office again?”
“These things I remember as I pour out my soul”,

“how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng”;

The festive throng,
like those at The Pulse
or The Bataclan.

Yes. I feel God is calling me,
calling me to something important,
something I do not yet know
or understand.

Yet the path seems unclear,
the hurdles insurmountable.
What can I do
in the face of such suffering?

How much difference
does my smile,
kind word,
or prayer
for the homeless
alcoholic
in the street
near my office
make in a world
where one deranged man
can easily kill fifty?

How can I make a difference
when it seems like such a struggle
to simply provide for my family
and help keep the house clean?

How can I find joy
amidst all the suffering
toil
and fatigue?

So I write,
“like it’s going out of style”,
and pray
and say a kind word
to those around me
who are suffering
even more than I am.

It’s all I can do,
the rest is up to God.