Monday, June 26, 2017

"The Paradox of our Age" by Silvia Brandon-Perez ARCWP


"We have bigger houses but smaller families.
more conveniences, but less time
we have more degrees, but less sense;
more knowledge, but less judgement
more experts, but more problems;
more medicines, but less healthiness;
We've been all the way to the moon and back
but have trouble crossing the street to meet
the new neighbor.
We built more computer to hold more
information to produce more copies than ever,
but have less communication;
We have become long on quantity,
but short on quality.
These are times of fast foods
but slow digestion; 
Tall men but short character;
Steep profits but shallow relationships.
It's a time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room."

– His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama 

A couple of days ago while looking for articles on Johrei, a movement I joined many years ago and practiced and shared in Newark, New Jersey, as I recall in the late '80s (I was initiated and still have my Ohikari pendant but had not found a nearby Johrei institution), I found a Johrei Fellowship location in San Francisco.  I sent an email to them and left a phone message and couldn't connect, but I finally made an appointment for yesterday at 11 a.m. The night before the 84-year-old widow and my twin sister from another life, Maria, had spent a harrowing panicky and painful night, and we had been talking and praying until 3 in the morning.  That morning a home physiotherapist had visited to install a toilet seat with arms and a bed assist, so by the time we left I had to have a latte with a double shot to make sure I was not going to fall asleep in the car...

The location is wonderful, many of Meishu-sama's books and writings were on sale and I came back with many things.  We both had a treatment and my pendant was blessed again while we chanted the Amatsu Norito (Prayer of Heaven) in Japanese.  The Amatsu Norito is said to be three thousand years old, and it asks God to cleanse the world of all evil, error and impurities, to hear our prayers, to protect us and to bless us all with joy and happiness.

These days we are in an age of non-history and non-reflection.  We judge others by the standards and mores of our own times, and because we have failed to learn history, and by that I mean not the history of the mass media or of whatever convenient empire has thrust down our throats, rather than the history of the daily steps, woes and joys of earlier times, we judge according to our own prejudices.  All the word “prejudice” means (Latin praejudicium) is judgment in advance. And although we are allegedly told by Hillel the Elder: "Pass not judgment upon thy neighbor until thou hast put thyself in his place," we judge those of earlier generations by our current “judgments in advance.”  

This brings me in a roundabout way to Augustine of Hippo, whom I know as St. Augustine, who said, and this is one of my favorite quotes from his writings: ​Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.  [On the topic of not knowing history, Augustine has generally been adjudged to be a male chauvinist, but he was probably no better or worse than the rest of the men in his time, whose world view assumed the “natural” subservience of women.]    

While I was busy with the Bernie or Bust work of last year, I struggled to understand why I was so much for Bernie, and why it felt so comfortable to listen to him, and I realized he reminded me profoundly of my beloved paternal grandfather, abuelo Gerardo, who was a non-observant Sephardi, brought “low” by marrying a Cuban Catholic woman who not only refused to convert to Judaism, but who said she would bring up their children as Catholics.  It is funny because I don’t remember particularly ever having gone to church with her.  She was a beautiful woman who smoked endlessly and who had meticulously manicured fingernails… She tried very hard to get me to stop biting my nails as a child, and even gave me a manicure or two (which worked until my mother had a fit and said she was not to do that anymore).  Because my beautiful and manicured abuela Inés with her hands yellowed with nicotine, her flowers and her guitar, played with a husky voice from the smoking, seemed to me in retrospect to be a shallow woman, it was interesting later to realize she had been a suffragette, a tremendous activist for women’s vote and rights, no wonder abuelo Gerardo fell in love with her… it was her mother whose room I slept in, whose hands I watched making old recipes, whose eyes clouded by inoperable cataracts I watched with fascination, whose long braids I loved to touch… 

I have been struggling with faith, with anger, with family issues, with the concept and difficult task of forgiveness.  Tonight a wonderful fellow priest sent out this link to an interview with Martin Sheen.  I will write later on about meeting with and praying with him on two separate occasions and two separate places, but for now, just enjoy:
Hillel also says, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?" Ethics of the Fathers1:14.  Every day something interesting is happening in this “ministry of mine,” including my elder care ministry.  Every time I mean to do my housework or gardening someone comes in with a question which becomes a three-hour problem to take care of; I will not be getting this year’s or last year’s award for the best housekeeper or gardener.  I write in short bursts, interrupted by the anguish of my friend, and I postpone whatever I was doing and know that someday there will be someone who will listen to me as well.   Even though she attended my ordination, tonight she asked me to pray with and for her as “whatever minister you became.”  I realize that she has not and cannot accept my rebel priesthood as a Catholic woman… and I don’t need to mess with her mind.  I wish I could bring her out of her adoption of the old Catholic church full of sin and punishment and into my belief in a redemptive divinity, but I don’t “need to” evangelize her out of her beliefs and into mine.  Suffice it to say that I love my faith, I love the concept of the Eucharist and what Ramón Estévez, whom we mostly know as Martin Sheen, has to say about this in his interview with Tippett.  

To healing, to the joy of being sacred beings, to the marvels of life, even in its moments of dread and pain.

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