Tuesday, January 29, 2013

the internet as god

[Pragmatism] implied a doctrine...which [Charles] Pierce was concerned to refute.  This was nominalism--the belief that since concepts are generalizations about things that, taken individually, are singular and unreproducible, they do not refer to anything real.  Nominalism is the doctrine that reality is just one unique thing after another, and that general truths about those things are simply conventions of language, simply names.  Pierce balked at this conclusion...We think in generalizations:  that is what inferences are--general truths drawn from the observation of particular events.  Therefore, [Pierce concluded] there must be things in the universe to which our generalizations correspond.
The nominalist's mistake, Pierce argued, is the definition of belief as individual belief.  Of course the beliefs of individuals are flawed; no individual mind is capable of an accurate and objective knowledge of reality.  But the aggregate beliefs of many individual minds is another matter...
Nominalism, [Pierce] believed, was a philosophy in aid of selfishness.  This was not simply because nominalism denies knowledge its social character; it was because by acknowledging the reality only of individuals, nominalism denies the social altogether...
[The] conviction at the bottom of all of Pierce's thought...was that knowledge cannot depend on the inferences of single individuals.  For individuals die:  "the number of probable inferences, which a man draws in his whole life, is a finite one, and he cannot be absolutely certain that the mean result will accord with the probabilities at all"...Reasoning "inexorably requires that our interests shall not be limited.  They must not stop at our own fate, but must embrace the whole community...He who would not sacrifice his own soul to save the whole world, is, as it seems to me, illogical in all his inferences, collectively.  Logic is rooted in the social principle."
 --from The Metaphysical Club:  A Story of Ideas in America by Louis Menand

If it's true that all learning is social--and it is in the sense that "to learn" means to acquire or gain some new knowledge or skill; if we mean something else we need a different word--then learning is something we can only do in culture, in society.  Learning has to be taught, and it makes no difference if we're talking about a human teacher, an accidental teacher, or a physical natural event as the vehicle of what's taught.

I'm reminded of one of my favorite geek ideas, that once everyone on the planet becomes connected to the internet or some web, then the web itself becomes god.  As at least one blogger has suggested, this posits an optimistic rather than dystopian future:  that the divine is what we have to look forward to (as a communal rather than individual end) rather than a golden past with a Fall.

Friday, January 25, 2013

so it goes

The other morning the manager at the bookstore where I'm working 10 hours each week asked if I'd ever seen "So It Goes," a tribute to Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.  I hadn't, and because I had my Kindle with me, we watched it there in the store.  That led to a discussion of the Vonnegut novels we'd read--it turned out she'd stopped reading them earlier than I did, and I stopped at Galapagos--but she's rereading the earlier ones and is now in the midst of Slaughterhouse Five, whose movie trailer I showed her.

Anyhow, this wasn't really a memory about Vonnegut so much as about the first Vonnegut novel I ever read--which was Breakfast of Champions--and isn't really about that so much as about where I got it.  Back in the 70s department stores used to sell all kinds of paperback books, from men's espionage to women's love stories (of course--this is where Harlequin Romance made most of its sales) to tracts about current politics to, and this is what I'm really surprised at, literary fiction and essays.  It might be argued that I oughtn't be surprised that Barkers would sell a paperback of Breakfast of Champions--after all, it was a recent bestseller then--but what about Wampeters, Foma, and Granfalloons, the essay collection I bought and read immediately after (and where I first heard about Biafra)?  At that time and in that place, the only stores were department stores, and they sold what people wanted to buy, and how did they know what I wanted to buy was a collection of self-referential Vonnegut essays?

Monday, January 21, 2013

great discussion, lousy denomination

[Benjamin] Pierce carried this air of superiority into the public realm.  For several years in the 1860s...he delivered public lectures at Harvard for advanced students and local residents.  A woman was asked after one of his lectures what she had got out of it.  "I could not understand much that he said," she explained; "but it was splendid.  The only thing I now remember in the whole lecture is this--'Incline the mind to an angle of 45 degrees, and periodicity becomes non-periodicity and the ideal becomes real.'"  Pierce once represented Harvard at a town meeting at which some college policy was being debated.  One of the townspeople, in response to something Pierce had said, called him a nabob.  After the meeting, Pierce was asked why he had not responded.  He said he hadn't taken it as an insult:  "I so enjoyed sitting up there and seeing all that crowd look up to me as a nabob that I could not say one word against the fellow."  He cast himself, in short, as the enemy of sentimental egalitarianism.

--from The Metaphysical Club by Lewis Menand

I've been reading this huge book (450 pages before we reach the notes) as background over the January break in preparation for the return of my class in Unitarian Universalist history and polity class.  I'd gotten about halfway through when I discovered just last week that it will be on the required reading list for the second half of the class.  So I will be one book ahead when we start up again in 2 weeks.

What struck me about this passage, found about 150 pages in, and describing the father of Charles Pierce, who was a future member of the short-lived club, and a Unitarian (as was his father), is how aptly it points out what I think is the braggadocio of many contemporary Unitarian Universalists and parenthetically why I think we're dying.

It's a well-worn argument that in Unitarianism especially the head won out over the heart.  One of the most appealing arguments against the way most UU services are held is that it's hard to tell whether it's worship or lecture (usually with a heavy bias toward lecture).  I use the word "appealing" purposefully--it's an appealing argument against attending services.  It isn't that critics want UUs to dumb down sermons or to not focus on abstract concepts, but that UUs too often are in the position of Daddy Pierce, enjoying their role as whatever their detractors call them--bloodless, intellectual, nonreligious, high-handed--that they not only continue their metaphorically looking down on congregants who would have them be otherwise, they see the criticism as a badge of honor.  

While it's true no one would confuse the average UU for a religiously conservative congregant of any faith, it's also true that no one is likely to confuse him or her for an ecstatic of any faith.  And while there are exceptions, the bulk of UUs I'm familiar with would probably sit through a Pierce lecture without much complaint.  Pierce's "obscurity was legend," Menand writes.  "Even his most loyal students admitted that impenetrability was a large part of the appeal...Pierce enjoyed the reputation, and even played up to it, because he was a confirmed intellectual elitist, a pure meritocrat with no democracy about him.  'Do you follow me?' he is supposed to have asked one of his advanced classes during a lecture.  No one did.  'I'm not surprised,' he said. 'I know of only three persons who could.'"

Four persons make for a great discussion.  But not much of a faith.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Free at Last!

A Sermon Delivered to the
Dakota Unitarian Universalist Church
January 20, 2013

Events have occurred since I announced the title of this sermon that make me wonder if I should have used a question mark instead of an exclamation point. The title itself, of course, is a direct quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous 1963 March on Washington Speech also known as the “I Have a Dream” speech. And tomorrow many of us have the day off in celebration of King’s birth. It will be a perfect day for watching the televised second inauguration of President Barack Obama who will take his second oath of office on Bibles previously owned by Abraham Lincoln and Dr. King.

What makes me wonder if, indeed, there’s a reason to ask if freedom is questionable is that yesterday was a different celebration. You may not have heard about this one or you may have heard about it but paid little attention to it. It was Gun Appreciation Day, the first nationally set-aside day to “rally support against anti-gun legislation and to show America that gun owners aren't 'radical crazies.'”

I know a lot of gun owners—my wife’s entire family is composed of hunters and she has explained to me that when her dad dies she will inherit the rifle he taught her to shoot with which she wants to display, which will be the first time I’ll have ever had a gun in my home—and many of us, if we don’t hunt ourselves, rely on family or friends who do to provide us with meat. Some of us served in the military where we learned to handle a weapon and use it in the way it’s meant to be, as a killing device, and took away from our service an appreciation for the power and use of guns. There are many former and current military members of my extended family and I have a friend who’s a gun rights advocate with whom I argue often about gun control, but who I also love and respect. I don’t think of any of them as either radical or crazy.

But the designers of this new-fashioned Gun Appreciation Day—or GAD as it’s called on friendly websites (and it may not be entirely coincidental how easy it is to slip from “GAD” to “God”)—while they may not be radical crazies, are at least tone deaf to the mood of most of the country, including the mood of many gun owners.

Gun Appreciation Day is the brainchild of Larry Ward, president of Political Media, Inc., a D.C. PR firm. In his announcement, Ward solemnly warns, “If the American people don't fight back now, Obama will do to the Second Amendment what he has already done to the First with Obamacare; gut it without a moment's thought to our basic constitutional rights.” How exactly a Gun Appreciation Day will accomplish that is no more explained than how the President, and the Congress and Senate and Supreme Court, all of which either voted in favor of or endorsed the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, did anything to, let alone gut, the First Amendment, but we’ll let that slide for now. The tone deafness comes from the choice of January 19th for this day, two days before both the President’s second inauguration—this president who has been the target of more death threats and animosity than any other in more than a century—and our celebration of Dr. King’s birthday—this man who was cut down by an assassin’s bullet—and a month and five days after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

I don’t think I need to remind you of what happened that day or of what you felt. But I may need to remind you of how the rest of the country felt. Most of us were decimated. That a young man could get hold of a semi-automatic gun and use it to kill, in seconds, dozens of children and adults was the stuff of nightmare. For many of us, it was the culmination of the fear we had always had.

I say “for many” and not “for all” because for some people, the idea was too fantastic, too outside how they see reality, to have happened so easily, and so has been ripe for conspiracy theories ranging from suspicions the massacre was carried out, not by Adam Lanza alone, but with help from professional snipers or Israeli commandoes in order to hasten the Obama administration’s invoking the massacre to confiscate all weapons, to the conviction that no one actually died at the scene but that it was all staged by actors who got up and walked away, and in one case supposedly even sat on the President’s lap during his appearance consoling many of the victim’s families, again with the intent of providing an excuse for confiscating guns. Is it na├»ve of me to point out that, if confiscation were the rationale, it would have happened by now? One similarity all these events—the Sandy Hook shooting, the shooting of Dr. King, and the President’s inauguration—have is that each has been the subject of multiple conspiracies. Perhaps then it should not be a surprise that Ward feels more comfortable suggesting the President is fomenting a clandestine shredding of the Second Amendment and not, say, recognizing his own efforts to exacerbate a poor decision about timing into a tragically demented one.

Yesterday’s Gun Appreciation Day included at least three separate incidents of what are called negligent discharge—what the rest of us would call accidental shootings—in three states. Fortunately, no one was killed. (This is, of course, not including others who were victims of gun violence.) Unfortunately, the last time I spoke here for MLK Day, two years ago, I was also talking about another recent shooting, this one Jared Laughner’s assault on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords that resulted in six deaths, among them 9 year old Christina Taylor-Green. La plus ca change…

Unlike Gun Appreciation Day the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday has a long history. I remember the battles that were played out over the choice to give MLK a holiday that involved giving working people another day off. It’s always been interesting to me that it was Ronald Reagan, a president I would never associate with progressive causes, who signed the bill into law making the third Monday of each January the day we pay honor to Dr. King. King’s actual birthday, you may know, is the 15th. But by 1983, the year Reagan signed the bill, the push to honor Dr. King, which had been building since his assassination in 1968, had reached a crescendo that simply was impossible to ignore.

Perhaps it’s a function of the “only Nixon could go to China” concept, that Reagan, a stalwart conservative Republican, would sign a bill honoring Martin Luther King. Reagan would reference that commitment to and success preaching nonviolence when he said, “Abraham Lincoln freed the black man. In many ways, Dr. King freed the white man…Where others - white and black - preached hatred, he taught the principles of love…”—and we could make a point here that, with so much involving Republicans even when they get the idea right, the focus was not on King’s accomplishments for black people but what he did for white people; but let’s let that lie—but as Lou Cannon in his magisterial President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime writes:

[Reagan] spoke movingly about King’s contributions at an observance of his birthday on January 15, 1987, urging American youth “to accept nothing less than making yours a generation free of bigotry, intolerance and discrimination.” And he took other symbolic steps…When the Washington Post reported that a suburban black family had been harassed, Reagan visited the family. He twice visited a black high school in Chicago and paid tribute to black scientists, businessmen and military heroes in a commencement address at Tuskegee University in 1987. But blacks, the most conspicuous dissenters in the “Morning Again” landslide of 1984, never gave Reagan high marks. And the skepticism about Reagan’s commitment to civil rights was not limited to blacks alone. Reagan was simply reluctant to use federal authority in the cause of punishing discrimination of any sort.

This is neither to condemn blacks as being ungrateful for his signing of the MLK bill or any of his other symbolic gestures, nor to condemn Reagan for relying simply on those symbolic gestures. When you think about it, symbolism is often a president’s only effective tool. What he focuses his attention and energies on becomes important, not only politically but culturally. For a negative version also involving Reagan, consider his response or lack of response to AIDS.

Be that as it may, the bill, which had first been introduced by Democratic congressman John Conyers and Republican senator Edward Brooke in 1968, brought to the floor of the House of Representatives in 1979, and finally passed both houses in 1983, was signed by Reagan. But that was not the end of the struggle. From the outset, there was tremendous blowback against the new holiday, primarily from Republicans (ironic, in hindsight, given the attempts by the Republican Party in the last two elections to reclaim King as one of their own).

Reluctance was spearheaded by Jesse Helms of North Carolina who insisted, based on privately obtained FBI documents, that King had been a Communist. Reagan himself, citing costs, had rejected the bill for most of his term, until it won a veto-proof majority. Most famously, Arizona’s governor, Evan Meacham, and later a 76% majority of state voters, refused to honor Dr. King but recanted after losing its place as the 1993 home to the Super Bowl. Interestingly, it wasn’t Arizona that was the last state to recognize MLK Day but New Hampshire, which had ignored the holiday throughout the 80s and created a Civil Rights Day in 1991 that it reconfigured as MLK Day in 1999. Perhaps fittingly, it wasn’t until the turn of the millennium that all fifty states celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. 2000 was also the first year all fifty states recognized it as a paid holiday for all state workers.

What do we celebrate when we celebrate a holiday? We recently celebrated New Year’s Eve, a time when the clocks and the calendars take on an added importance because we have made another complete circuit around the sun. We’ll soon celebrate Presidents’ Day which is the combined honoring of two important American leaders, Washington and Lincoln, for what they accomplished—in the first case by leading the country in a war for independence and in the second for leading a war for reunion. Then we’ll start celebrating a while slew of secular holidays honoring the Irish (St. Patrick’s Day), Mexicans (Cinco de Mayo), Italians (Columbus Day), and veterans (Memorial Day). There are also what we might call holidays of the state like the Fourth of July and Flag Day and Labor Day and Thanksgiving. There are holidays devoted to the seasons like the vernal and autumnal equinoxes and winter and summer solstices and to a lesser extent Halloween, Arbor Day and Earth Day. Then there are multiple religious holidays ranging from Eid al Fitr to Yom Kippur to Diwali to Samhain to Easter and Christmas.

There are as well many days given over to celebrating specific individuals, days devoted to remembering Rosa Parks and Malcolm X and Susan B. Anthony and Father Damien. But Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is different. It is a day when we are given national time off to celebrate—what, exactly? Well, MLK’s birthday of course and the things he stood for. But what exactly is that? What are we celebrating when we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day?

One of the protestations against honoring Dr. King’s birth as a national holiday is that he was a private citizen. He never held office. He did not make legislation. His birth was unremarkable and while his death was a tragedy neither is the basis for a religion or a national day of mourning. He was by all accounts a great man but he was also by many accounts a troubled man. He was instrumental in helping society see certain other people in a new and better way but he didn’t do that by anything other than the force of his speaking voice and his writing and his personality. And he didn’t do it alone. He’s a minister but he isn’t a religious figure. While he was a force for change he didn’t bring change about by himself or even introduce method for making change. He didn’t even have the standing to have brought civil rights legislation to a state government. As a citizen, he could suggest changes he thought the United States needed, but only on the local level. At most, he should have been a person who made an impassioned speech at a city ordinance meeting, perhaps that black city workers should have been paid on par with white city workers.

But he did something, something ineffable, something more than that. He led a movement—and by led I don’t mean to suggest he created the movement or gathered its people together—but he led a movement that made a major change in the ways Americans treat one another and love one another. The difference between a Gun Appreciation Day and MLK Day is that the former is a day intended to react against misplaced fears and concerns—that individual’s guns will be confiscated, that access to guns will be made more difficult—while the latter is a true appreciation to the influence an individual can have. His influence was not in having legislated treating one another well but helping us to recognize when we fail to.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

new year's eve wedding homily

I've made it plain I love doing weddings.  If I could plan, write, and perform weddings every day, that would be my ideal work (and if I could do that for the homeless and street folks, even better).  I was honored to be asked to do a New Year's Eve wedding this past Monday, my first one.  This is my homily for that.
Wedding Homily
It’s fitting we come together on this New Year’s Eve, a night of promises and resolutions and hopes for new lives, as we are privileged to share with [this couple] their moment of supreme joy in the new life they begin together.  [My friends], you’ve expressed to me that for you tonight is the end of a search and the start of a new adventure.  That is exactly what marriage is, an adventure.  One embarked on, like many treks into the wild, not alone but with companions.  Many poets and commentators have written that weddings are not for the bride and groom but for the guests, and to a certain extent that’s true.  However, the focus and the hour of exultation is yours. 
Still, I would speak of new hope for them.  [My friends], in the years ahead I hope for many things.  That your wisdom will be steadily increased.  That your love for one another, strong as it is now, strengthens and matures even more.  That your dreams for the future grow larger and more fully.  We don’t choose our children or our parents. But we do choose our companions. We choose our partner. We choose one another. Today you look one another in the eye and say, “I love you and I want to be with you, and I want to share my life with you. The good, the bad, the swiftly-moving giddy days when I’m happy just to be with you and the long, never-ending nights when it seems I will never like you again. I want to share my greatest, my least, with you, because only with you do I feel complete.”
You’ve shared with me during our meetings together that you want to think of your marriage as a perpetual motion machine.  You said, “Our energy circuit should be self-maintaining.  We won’t be dependent on an outside source for our energy.”  That’s important because that is precisely what marriage is.  An energy-producing mechanism providing the magnetism that brings two people, already attracted to one another—perhaps, like the little magnets of our childhood, our southern and northern poles juttering one against the other—into proximity.  But it’s also as often an energy-sucking appliance that can drain the last residue of strength from you just when you need it most. 
You know this already; you told me “It’s not always gonna be sunshine and flowers.”  Truer words were never spoke.  Does this mean we should never marry?  Of course not.  It means we go into marriage with no illusions about it or about each other.  You have been together for years.  You know one another’s foibles and fortes.  Just like when you played racquetball together, you needed to serve as one another’s best opponent, not in order to produce a kill shot—that’s not the point of conflict in your relationship—but to produce a consistent rally that makes you a better player, a player who has found his equal. 
Marriage is a community, sometimes comprising hundreds.  We would be less than we are if our lives didn’t include the companionship of our parents or our families.  Our lives would be less if they didn’t include the moments we share with friends.  But the community will always consist at its core of the two of you.  Our lives would be less if they didn’t include the partner we choose beside us.  We choose that partner because the thought of being alone is unbearable.  Whether you think of that partner as Pinky or the Brain, as Fidel or Che, that partner needs to always be beside you even when, for the sake of peace of mind, you need to put a door or a wall between you. 
[Friends], if I can charge you with one responsibility it is this:  Remember this moment in the days ahead. Remember this is the person you love, the person who shares the way the world excites you and wants to be with you as you explore it. “We will sail pathless and wild seas” you promise one another today, and sometimes those seas will be the distance between the two of you. Be as unafraid of crossing those intimate borders as you are to take up each other’s wish to visit every country together.  This person is your friend and is as anxious as you are that you win.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

spiritual homelessness 4

The final segment of my essay "Spiritual Homelessness," and again a part of which some of you may have read before.  

Part III:  What is my hope?
A final story, this one about me rather than people I’ve known.  The worship experience that most resonated for me was one where I wasn’t present at first. Decades ago, while I was homeless, I was invited to take meals with a Hare Krishna group that met around Newburgh, New York, and because I was hungry I took them up on it. A part of the understanding, not uncommon among religious charities providing food for people, was that I would take part in one of their services.
A Krishna service is a misnomer. It’s more like a short, extemporaneous lecture punctuated by ecstatic dancing and chanting, similar to Sufi celebration. Individuals were invited to the house where its members communed, sat in a large room listening to one essentially tell the story of his conversion to Krishna or his recognition of Krishna’s influence on his life, then be invited to eat of the prana or gift that Krishna had for us, have short conversation for digestion, and then dance and sing to celebrate our acceptance of Krishna’s prana.
All I wanted was to eat. Having spent the previous days subsisting primarily on peanut butter and crackers, I had been lured by the promise of mounds of hot rice and raisins, dates, oranges, and of course the eyes of the shave-headed girl who’d invited me. I certainly wasn’t interested in a lecture, although the nascent anthropologist in me was open to experiencing it. Still, when the time came for the lecture/personal tribute, I managed to excuse myself to the bathroom and remained there for about 15 minutes, which seemed like the right amount of time.
It was an old house, one of those hundred year and older grand family mansions of the Hudson Valley burghers that had been subdivided and made into apartment housing over the decades and eventually remade back into spaces for family-type living. It had a large bathroom on the first floor, which was where we visitors were relegated to, with plants and guest towels and white walls (the Krishnas make a fetish of the color white) but it was also drafty and unheated. It was set up with books and pamphlets and I knew I could pass time there painlessly.
I sat on the floor and started paging through a book. Several rooms over, the personal testament of some gawky middle class suburban kid began and occasionally sounds came in under the door that I identified as his voice getting louder and then softer and then people muttering appreciatively.
The illustrations in the book were captivating. Nearly 30 years on and I wish I’d noted the title of the book or even snuck it out with me. They were old Hindu woodcuts and paintings of pilgrims and ascetics, monkeys and housewives, merchants and jaguars. I was lost among those illustrations, lingering on page after page, trying to drink in every element of every picture as if it was the dinner I was waiting for.
Eventually the murmuring outside the room grew quieter with a few scattered single loud words. I grew more transfixed by the pictures and then by the silence I experienced in the room. And it dawned on me, this was the prana I was receiving. The food was nice, the food was what I needed, but equally necessary was this silence and meditation I was allowed in the hundred year old bathroom of a Hare Krishna commune. I had been invited to share time and food with them and all they’d asked for in return was a little of my time to listen to them. I had that time to give; it wasn’t as if my life was going anywhere fast anyway.
I jumped up and put the book back on the stack next to the toilet and hurried back out to rejoin the group as the Krishna convert finished his narrative. There were appreciative mutters from people gathered in the room. The eyes of the shave-headed girl were on me as I returned to my place on the floor next to her: she had seen people hide in the bathroom before, people for whom the only prana was food and someplace warm, and my epiphany was that I wasn’t there only for that. I was also there to be given space to develop into something or someone I needed to become and the immediate path was to take me through these people.
I tried to explain that to her during the conversation after we ate. It wasn’t nearly as well-articulated as it may seem now. She smiled and nodded as if she understood but I had no doubt she’d heard something like that before too. But it was real, I assured both her and me; I wouldn’t join them but I’d like to remain near them, learning what I could. (And, I admitted, seeing her and eating on a regular basis.)
When we stood to chant I chanted and then danced with abandon. That summer I returned to the commune for days at a time, staying in my car and studying with the ascetics there. The girl, whose name I’ve forgotten, eventually left to seed another commune in New Jersey. I was asked to join the group moving there but I said no. I hadn’t found a home but I had found one of the landmarks I recognized on the way there.
In loss there is also discovery.  This last story illustrates what it was that I found when I was in need:  a place to be and people to be with.  At this time my Rule of Life was simple:  to exercise, shave, and brush my teeth every day.  That has not changed.  It is still my Rule.
But what do I want to do, if it is not being in a traditional church setting with traditional church people?  I’ve often been most comfortable with people on the edge of civilization, people whose transgressions have put them there or who have put themselves there, liars, cheaters, thieves, the lame and the halt.  My service, if I can design it, would be this:  I would spend my days walking around and talking with street people, listening to their problems and their joys, laughing over coffee, crying over injustice, holding hands.  One of the things that appeals to me about Unitarian Universalism is that it’s not evangelical, so I would not be bringing the Good News of it to people, but would use it to listen to people tell me their good and their bad news.
My problem, of course, lies in the fact that I don’t know anyone who will pay me to do this.  From the Krishnas I have learned such service is often gratis.  My problem is that I have also learned I like being married and having a home to return to each day.  Toward this end I’ve made the decision recently to seek licensure as a chaplain as well as ordination because that is essentially the sort of work I want to do, only on a larger scale than a facility or even an area.  In my dreams I would even do this nation-wide.
It is my calling to be with other people.  While I’ve never seen myself as a chaplain, and I’m still not certain that’s how I see myself, I find I am very comfortable being together with people who need someone there.  I’ve worked for a long time to create what Murray Bowen and Rabbi Edwin Friedman called a “non anxious presence”—Buddhism would call it nonattachment, the Krishnas would call it Krishna-consciousness—in which anxiety over a result is accepted and released. It’s a concept I’d only begun to comprehend when I ate Krishna’s prana, but I know now it’s my gift to present that to others.  I continue, of course, to work on using it on myself.  In my imagination I characterize it as being like a duck, placidly floating above the water, below it peddling like crazy.   It is in this wobbling tension where I find my hope.