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the life of stuff






so much stuff

the stuff of time
the stuff of place
the stuff of life

so much stuff
one thing then the next
and the next
and the

and there is love
that breathes
the stuff rises, falls
and love lives


in the midst of suffering

Not hope for love but

refuge in wisdom/compassion

refuge in love . . .



I take refuge in boundless compassion

I take refuge in infinite light and life

I take refuge in love . . .


The world is stressed

Fear is all around

Remember that the opposite of love

is not hate

but fear

I Take Refuge in Love!


The Game Changed in Venezuela Last Night – and the International Media Is Asleep At the Switch

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Remember there are always more going on than we are being told.

Originally posted on Caracas Chronicles:

San Cristobal ayer

San Cristobal on Tuesday night

Dear International Editor:

Listen and understand. The game changed in Venezuela last night. What had been a slow-motion unravelling that had stretched out over many years went kinetic all of a sudden.

What we have this morning is no longer the Venezuela story you thought you understood.

Throughout last night, panicked people told their stories of state-sponsored paramilitaries on motorcycles roaming middle class neighborhoods, shooting at people and  storming into apartment buildings, shooting at anyone who seemed like he might be protesting. People continue to be arrested merely for protesting, and a long established local Human Rights NGO makes an urgent plea for an investigation into widespread reports of torture of detainees. There are now dozens of serious human right abuses: National Guardsmen shooting tear gas canisters directly into residential buildings. We have videos of soldiers shooting civilians on the street. And that’s just…

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No Golden Age


To Be Clear™

The myth of a “Golden Age” is so pervasive we think we need to look for historical precedents for the acceptance of gays and lesbians, transgender persons, middlesex identities, marriage equality, even women’s and civil (race based) rights.

I there is NO need, or even viable historical precedents for these and many other developments in our social values and culture.

It doesn’t matter one bit if an idea has historical roots or that some small society in inner-trans-pacific-noncolonial-land has had these ideas for 10,000 years. Good for them.

We CHOOSE to change our worldview to include women, middlesex, gender non-conforming . . . persons as whole complete members of society and not slaves, property, acceptable objects of violence.

There was no Golden Age.

Nor is this a Golden Age. It’s just our time. We need to travel by our lights into the future.

And there is no Golden Age there, either. They too will will walk their own path, make their own missteps, and pass a legacy on to their decedents.

No divine right of kings. No serfs. No women-as-property transactions (“traditional and biblical marriage”). No slaves by right of capture and race. We changed these things and we choose to change other things.

There was no Eden, nothing to harken back toward, no Golden Age.

There is only today.

humbly and respectfully,



Martin Luther King Jr.

I know that some of my younger friends don’t really have a clear idea of the person we are honoring today.

Here is a place to start if you want to learn why today is important.  

The Nobel Peace Prize 1964
Martin Luther King Jr.

Questions to explore:

Where did his method of nonviolence originate?

Why did he choose it?

Did he wrestle with it?

How has his legacy been carried on or corrupted?

Learn for yourselves.




Love and Europe


I realize that I have not properly introduced you to my guy nor told you the details about how we met and such. It is time to catch up on the story so far . . .

Last year I took advantage of spring break not to go to Cancun but to make a pilgrimage to visit my second family, the Euclid Street house of L’Arche Greater Washington DC. When I arrived I was introduced to a new member assistant from Hungary, Erhard. After establishing the “vibe” that gayfolk use to discern and recognize our kind, I observed how he interacted with the core members of the house. It was clear right away that Erhard got it. He understood and had a real relationship with my friends. More Important, the core members liked him and, in their own ways, told me he was a good guy. So he passed that test.

Needless to say I started visiting DC a bit more frequently and soon we were seeing each other almost every week. Most of the time Erhard endured the Megabus ride up to Pittsburgh for a quick two-day visit. We made the most of that time, went for long rides in the countryside, visited my mom and dad, and took in Pittsburgh events.

Erhard? He is intelligent (he taught himself English), skilful (he made me curtains and he is a jeweler),  handsome (you can see that), enchanting (his smile makes me forget anything that is bothering me), perceptive (he can tell my mood instantly).

As we learned more and more about each other we realized that we needed to make plans for what would happen after his volunteer visa expired. We proposed marriage to each other several times, and still do (he keeps on saying, “yes”). It remained to see how we could make that happen. Our first plan was for Erhard to move back to the USA after he returned home as required. In fact, I was following a live feed from SCTOTUSblog the day the Supreme Court made it possible for us to apply for a fiance visa by striking down DOMA. I called Erhard moments later and proposed to him again. He said yes again.

It became increasingly clear, however, that our future lay in Europe, specifically western or central Europe.

School and healthcare will be much more affordable there. Gay married couples are welcomed there. Combined with the growing culture of violence, religious ignorance, and guns here, and the stronger culture of human rights and enviorenmental stewardship there, I knew I wanted to live there. That, and it will cost roughly $1000 to $2000 a year to go to school. Yes that is only three zeros not four. I guess I am better suited to a communitarian society than an individualistic one.

I struggle with the prospect of leaving Pittsburgh, however. I moved here to be close to my parents and return to the land of my roots. Studying at the University of Pittsburgh has opened up new worlds and possibilities to me. I have friends here.

As Erhard and I researched places to live we settled on Belgium because of the culture and our ability to integrate into society. Because of changing rules we find that we need to establish residency for ourselves sooner rather than later. This means that I will be moving there earlier than I expected. I will return to Pittsburgh when my parents need more physical help. That could happen quickly or, given the longevity of both sides of my family, several years off.


So this is the plan as it stands today. In the next few days Erhard will be moving to Antwerp to join the L”Arche community there. I will begin to search for work and start the process of applying for a visa to emigrate. I don’t anticipate this happening before June of course. I am finishing this year at Pitt. Once we become established in Belgium we will evaluate our next step. I have been looking into degree programs at universities in Belgium and The Netherlands. I found one bachelor degree program in psychology that is offered in English just an hour train ride from Antwerp. Almost all master’s level programs are taught in English.

My educational goal remains the same, to gain a master’s level degree that will enable me to provide psychotherapy. I will change my focus from becoming a licensed clinical social worker to a master’s level psychologist according to the European practice. I think that I will be able to establish myself in a practice serving English speaking clients.

In the meantime I am learning Dutch :-)

So that is the plan at least as it stands. Recognizing that the nature of things is change itself I don’t expect it will play out exactly like that. But the journey begins.

If anyone has insights, connections, or recommendations that might help us in our plans please pass them along.


Is Consciousness Universal?


For every inside there is an outside, and for every outside there is an inside; though they are different, they go together. —Alan Watts


” … any complex system, as defined below, has the basic attributes of mind and has a minimal amount of consciousness in the sense that it feels like something to be that system. If the system falls apart, consciousness ceases to be; it doesn’t feel like anything to be a broken system. And the more complex the system, the larger the repertoire of conscious states it can experience.”

New Year Greeting

Remembering New Year’s aikido practice


The eight directions

mind at rest in the center

the spiral, no-mind




May even those things that attack us this year be a source of peace for us

All the Buddhas of the Ten Directions, past, present, and future, all conspire to bring well-being

May all beings be at secure peace





tapping of the rain on the window in early morning darkness —
and gently, suddenly, my mind is in a quiet place
St Joseph’s Trappist monastery, central Massachusetts, 1980s

sipping coffee, then as now,
in the guest house sitting room
the smell of an oriental carpet
warm against the damp chill outside
a book in my lap
but the window is my lectio divina
black dark night slipping towards a grey dawn
a silent monk in the kitchen
places a heavy pan on a stainless steel table

this stillness is now
my whole life is memory,
I am memory
slipping into the future

The Pope and the Duck Hunter


[December 20, UPDATE: Additional information has come to light. See addition below. This illustrates exactly what I am trying to say (not very well) in this post.]

Fair warning: I’ve been down with a cold all day and have had too much time to think about this.

I want to take the occasion of the recent remarks of Phil Robertson, the Duck Dynasty patriarch, and the ensuing discussions as an opportunity to share part of something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. It is my hope to eventually lay out a defense of my religious position in a kind of Apologia Pro Vita Mea.

For now I would like to reflect on the use of religion, specifically Christianity, in current American conservatism. Mr. Robertson is not just a crazy old guy on a TV reality show. He taps into some very deep currents in the nation today and these currents are closer to the mainstream than many think. I intend to examine what I see as a core idea of American Christian conservatism and to reflect on its causes and consequences.


Mr. Robertson is not a bigot, or at least I will give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. In the GQ article itself he says quite unequivocally, “We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later, you see what I’m saying?” [UPDATE: I am wondering if this is true, in view of  additional information that has come out today.]

I don’t think Mr. Robertson is hateful, nor is he a hypocrite. He believes what he says, but he is mistaken in his beliefs and dangerously so.

For the sake of the Gospel, it was worth it,” Phil tells me. “All you have to do is look at any society where there is no Jesus. I’ll give you four: Nazis, no Jesus. Look at their record. Uh, Shintos? They started this thing in Pearl Harbor. Any Jesus among them? None. Communists? None. Islamists? Zero. That’s eighty years of ideologies that have popped up where no Jesus was allowed among those four groups. Just look at the records as far as murder goes among those four groups. P. Robertson, GQ Magazine, January 2014 edition. 

Granted Mr. Robertson is not arguing from Oxford style logical premises here. He may have stated things differently if he had been. Skipping over slavery in the Christian Republic of the Confederacy and the United States before that, and the Crusades, and the burning of people at the stake, and the colonial wars by Christian states inflicted on the peoples of Africa and Asia to bring them “civilization,” lets consider the genocide of native peoples and subsequent removal of survivors to the western United States. This was done by the same Christ-confessors whom present day advocates of the United States as a Christian nation look toward for inspiration. My own commonwealth of Pennsylvania barred non-christians from serving in public office while these very policies of extinction and removal were decided. It is clear that Christians perpetrated this murder and violence.

I’m not saying Christians are more disposed than others to violence and war, but that they are not less so. Confessing Christ as Savior hasn’t stopped much in the way of violence, injustice, and inhumanity. Judge them by their fruits. Many Christians are faithful and compassionate and have advanced human society by leaps and bounds. Other Christians have been unjust and violent.

However there is a new type of American Christian. They use Christ to prop up an old cultural order that is disappearing. “It’s just a fact,” is not a defense, it is a call to arms. We here this from several quarters, on Fox News, from our friends, and from politicians seeking to harness unhappiness for political gain. Some are threatened by the rise in the status of women and people of color, as well as the ascendancy of humanist values, but saying “Deus vult” or “in the name of Jesus” does not make it God’s will or OK to be done in his name. Those who wrap their ideas in the banner of God are not necessarily his friends.


I say that Mr. Robertson’s ideas are dangerous because they can lead to blind uncritical thinking and can be manipulated to target scapegoats for current difficulties or to distract citizens from the real problems facing the nation and the world. The example of president Putin and current laws in Russia comes to mind immediately. These kind of ideas can be the occasion of the very evils Mr. Robertson sees in the history of Nazi Germany and such.

To say that the American republic was founded as a Christian nation, and further, to insist that America is failing because we have lost our way as a Christian people sets up those seen as in opposition to these national Christian values as anti-american. It is only a few steps from there to brand them as the reason we are incurring the wrath of God. It is not unheard of today for preachers and leaders to blame gay marriage, abortion, and lack of prayer in schools for mass killings, terrorism, and even natural disasters. Examples of this are not just from fringe groups like the Westboro Baptist Church, but from former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. The need to find someone to blame and the need to alleviate the stresses of a changing world can precipitate frightful behavior. We can see this happening in Russia today. If opinions don’t turn around soon I fear we will see the rounding up of LGBT persons in Russia as “enemies of the people” in the not too distant future.


Do I think this will happen in the United States today? No. But many thought it was unthinkable in Germany in the 1920s and 30s. Or  just before the US Red Scare in the 1950s. And then there are the guns. Mainstream pro gun groups see the weapons they keep as a bulwark against tyranny.  This worries me. The mixture of a siege mentality and divine approval is dangerous.

But there is a better way to engage and wrestle with the stresses of a radically changing society. The best example of this comes from a surprising quarter, the Pope.

The Papacy is not one of the first institutions of western civilization that comes to mind when one thinks of dialogue and engagement. Maybe this is unfair. The Catholic Church underwent a radical transformation, a true revolution, in the 1960s. The documents of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council are perhaps the most extreme example of an ancient institution seeking to reform and modernize itself. It may not be clear today how revolutionary some of the teachings of Vatican II were back then. Individuals have the right to follow the dictates of their own conscious, the council fathers said. Individuals possessed the fundamental freedom to practice the religion of their own choosing. In a blink of an eye the Catholic Church repudiated centuries of state established and enforced religion. This is just one example.

It should not surprise me then that the recent remarks of Pope Francis should reenergize this movement of dialogue with the world. It is clear that Pope Francis has chosen a different tactic than fortifying the castle for a siege. He explicitly indicated his approach to the world this week in the unusual canonization of Pierre Favre, the first disciple of St. Ignatius of Loyola. (Francis is a member of the order founded by St. Ignatius.)  The website Zenit reports, “Pope Francis has spoken of the influence Father Favre has had in his life, in particular his message of dialogue with anyone ‘even the most remote and even with his opponents.’”


Francis’ method of dialogue rather than a siege mentality challenges us all but especially those who use religion as bulwark against change. Francis and Mr. Robertson both hold views at odds with prevailing society, but their tactics couldn’t be more different.

I see a dangerous trend in American Christian conservatism toward using God and the Bible as a weapon against ideas and people who disagree with them. I see this trend as one that comes from fear, fear of the loss of status, fear of the unknown, fear of one’s own doubts. On the other hand, Francis’ tactic of dialogue has its roots in love, love of the stranger, love of learning. Like Mr. Putin’s laws in Russia, fear leads to violence, but love casts aside fear and leads to compassion.

It is my sincere hope that love will cast out fear.

Humbly and respectfully,




UPDATE: “Women with women, men with men, they committed indecent acts with one another, and they received in themselves the due penalty for their perversions,” Robertson said. “They’re full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant, God-haters. They are heartless, they are faithless, they are senseless, they are ruthless. They invent ways of doing evil. That’s what you have 235 years, roughly, after your forefathers founded the country.” This type of tactic is exactly  what I was trying to describe here. Stirring up fervor against “evil-doers” is just a few steps removed from doing something about them. Contrast that with Francis’ approach to meeting those who disagree and respecting them while holding to your own beliefs. See complete video here.


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