Sunday, May 20, 2018

Paul Lane

Paul Lane, a good friend to me and to so many people for many years, died today.  He was 57.
I am devastated.  The death of a good friend makes the world feel lonely and empty.
Goodbye Paul, and thanks for everything.

Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory.


Paul's funeral will be on June 23 at 2PM in St. Luke in the Fields Episcopal Church in New York; the day before the Pride March, for which he organized the Episcopal delegation for many years.

Alas, I will not be able to attend.  I will be in South Carolina.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

I Hope I Live to See Democracy Again

Democracy is not Utopia. It is not the fulfillment or end of anything. Democracy does not end history, but makes it less dangerous and more bearable. Democracy can always be improved, but perfection is not in its nature. Democracy is a modus vivendi negotiated among selfish frightened human beings. People who are different from each other, who look different, speak differently, believe differently, -- even people who hate each other -- agree to somehow live together. Factions, parties, interests, constituencies can compete for power without murdering each other. The rule of law means safety for everyone, but especially for minorities from the tyranny of overbearing majorities. People can live their lives as they see fit despite the pronouncements of some philosopher king or the prevailing majority opinion.

Democracy, like youth, is best appreciated when it is lost.

I hope that our current retreat from democracy is only temporary and not a permanent transformation, that this current revanchism is but a passing phase. I hope I live long enough to see democracy restored and reborn in this country. I hope I will see the USA return to its very painful and imperfect struggle to try to live out the principles of Liberty and Justice for All outlined in its founding documents. I hope to see people's work valued, that they share in what they produce, and can make a genuine claim upon their own country. I hope that people will not always be treated as a source of cheap disposable labor, or like tenants in their own country. I hope Liberty once again can lift up her lamp beside an open door welcoming the wretched refuse of teeming shores, as she did for all of our forefathers and foremothers who came here as refugees and immigrants looking for safety and a better life just like today's cast-aways. I hope to see the rule of law restored and the rule of strength and expediency rejected. I hope to see people of integrity in public life again instead of a grotesque parade of scoundrels, fanatics, thugs, racists, and paranoids.

I hope to see the USA rejoin the civilized world and once again lead by example and blaze trails for liberal democracy, for freedom and dignity for everyone.

Eva Gonzalez and James Shaw

The Women's March, January 2018

Taliesin Myrddin Nakmai-Meche, 23 died;  Ricky John Best, 53, died; 
Micha David Cole-Fletcher, 21, injured

These men intervened to stop a racist attack by Jeremy Joseph Christian upon two women on a Portland Oregon light rail train, May 26, 2017.  Christian turned and attacked them with a knife.  Two of them paid the last full measure of their devotion.  Another was badly injured.

Grateful Remembrance

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The New Messiah

"I am the Messiah you always wanted. I'm rich, white, successful, powerful, aggressive. I will wreak vengeance on all of your enemies. I will rescue you and keep you safe from all harm. I will give you glory and put humankind under your feet. I will turn stones to bread. I will conquer the earth. You will see that God is with me when the angels keep me from falling. I will remake the world and make it right by the force of my irresistible power. I speak plainly and not in riddles.
I won't disappoint you by dying on any cross."

White evangelicals quitting Christianity and trading in a Palestinian Jew for Donald Trump as their messiah makes my life a lot easier and less complicated.  It certainly clarifies things.  In the end all of that moralizing posturing was always about race and white nationalism (formerly known as racism).

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Saint Mary's Kansas City

The very first Episcopal church I ever attended was Saint Mary's in Kansas City MO on Easter Sunday, 1980.  It remains among the most beautiful Episcopal churches I've ever prayed in; a wooden vaulted ceiling, splendid brick arcades, a wrought iron rood screen, and a Tiffany altar.  It was definitely the church of the local Establishment at one time.  Now it is marooned among parking lots and freeway interchanges next to downtown.

When I visited there on Easter, I was hooked.  I loved the liturgy and music.  For the first time in my life, I heard a sermon that spoke to me as an adult and not as a child.  After a few more visits, and some visits to some other congregations, I decided that this was the break I was looking for with the bland suburban Protestantism in a fundamentalist evangelical culture that I grew up in.  I was a secular agnostic at the time, and I so wanted a religious life again, and a specifically Christian religious life.  But, just about everything I grew up with was too anodyne or repulsive to consider returning to.  Rome and its authoritarian hierarchy wasn't an option either.  I wanted to keep my own mind and conscience, to remain myself doubts and all, and remain free.  Having grown up in a culture where hellfire is a constant terror, I became convinced that salvation must be something more than simply being spared an eternal torture chamber.  Nor did I believe that a truly loving God would create such a place, though hateful mortals just might.  God was not a monster or an extortionist.  God is Love in every sense of that word.

I've been going to Episcopal churches now for 38 years, and I am so very grateful for this non-confessional church that makes no claim beyond what's proclaimed in the Gospel and the Nicene Creed.  I remember hearing Neil Alexander (long before he became a bishop) describe the Episcopal Church as a place where a motley group of pilgrims ended up and found each other on the way to the Celestial City.  We make no claims to have The One True Answer.  We don't own any copyright on the Gospel or the Truth. We are pilgrims on the way, deeply flawed human beings, sinners like everyone else, trying to live out the Gospel as best we understand it individually and collectively.  Our mission is not to be the exclusive club of the Saved set over and against the Not-Saved, but to be Tikkun to use a Hebrew word, healing.   The Cross is not judgment, but the healing and reconciling medicine for a torn and  bloodied world.  The Gospel is not another calamity piled onto the backs of suffering humankind, but Good News -- liberation, freedom, compassion, God with us always.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Nicene Creed

Filled to the brim with Prosperity Gospel and white nationalism, it looks like white evangelicals want to trade away the Christian faith altogether for the sake of being white. Instead of some Jew telling them that they are part of one human family, that they should love their neighbors as themselves, now they want to be told that the world is divided between “winners” and “losers,” and that God predestined them to win. White evangelicals want to hear that as white people they are set apart, that indeed they are the only people who really matter.  Their messiah is a winner, a successful rich white American; not some Palestinian Jew executed for blasphemy and sedition. They believe that a white American man like themselves sits at the right hand of God. He will judge the (inferior) nations of the world at the coming Apocalypse, so their oracles tell them.  White evangelicals believe themselves to be the betrayed and persecuted masters of the earth, chosen by God to rule over all the lesser mortals given into their tutelage.

Against this backdrop, I appreciate more and more the Nicene Creed. Saying it every Sunday becomes ever more meaningful; a human God in solidarity with us, all of us, a single human family. Not bad work for a 4th century crowd of quarrelsome clerics and officious government bureaucrats.

Icon of the Nicene Creed

I should point out that I am a very agnostic believer.  I think most of the narratives in the Bible are folk tales.  I don't think anything in the Christian faith is provable or demonstrable, nor do I think that proof matters.  However, I can say this creed every Sunday without crossing any fingers.  

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Michael and the Cats

Michael with Bonkers and Willy in 2013

They are now on their way to South Carolina where I will be joining them for the summer in June.
I will return to New York to teach in August.

Uncle Michael yesterday with his nephew Cole Brock who will turn 2 on June 1st in McGolrick Park in Brooklyn near our home.


Michael and the cats arrived safely in Bluffton last night.

Friday, April 13, 2018

New Living Arrangements

Willy and Bonks in the sunlight in our Brooklyn apartment about 4 years ago.

On Sunday, they will be leaving with Michael as he starts a new job in Bluffton, South Carolina just across the channel from Hilton Head.  I will be joining them in the first week of June, and then returning to New York in the middle of August to teach the Fall Semester back at Bronx Community College.

I am not looking forward to this temporary separation.  I haven't lived alone in many years.

If Michael's new job in Bluffton turns out to be a big success (which it probably will be), then I will be spending part of my time there and part of the time back in New York teaching until I retire.

Last summer, we joined the ranks of property owners when we bought a nice condo in Bluffton that's about 10 minutes from the beach at Hilton Head, and about a half hour away from Savannah.  The new condo is over twice as large as our Brooklyn apartment and with all new appliances.

Here are a few pictures of it that I took last Thanksgiving.  Since then, the carpet was replaced with a new hardwood floor, and there's a little more furniture.  But, it still looks a little bare.  It's a second floor condo with its own staircase to the ground floor, and a small balcony from the living room.  There are two bedrooms with walk-in closets, and two baths.  After more than 2 decades of depending on laundries in New York, we finally have our own washer/dryer.  I will be using my bedroom as a studio.  It's actually a little bigger than the studio space I occupy now.

We are very lucky to have this condo.  If we had waited even another week, we would have been priced out of the market.  It looks like this is where I will be spending my summers (thank God for central AC!).

Our dreams of owning property either in New York or the San Francisco Bay Area ran into the hard wall of the high cost/ low wage economy.  And even then, we are lucky to get this.  Michael has an old friend who lives in Bluffton who persuaded him to buy property there.  It turns out that the area is full of transplants from New York with the same idea we had.  There's no way we could afford to buy anything within a 300 mile radius of the city these days. 

I think this will be the nicest place that I've lived in since I left home in 1977.  I look forward to spending my summer there and working on my art in a studio I don't have to walk 3 miles to get to.

I will be traveling back and forth between Bluffton and New York until I retire.
It's going to be hard.

A picture I took in Savannah last Thanksgiving.  Spanish moss everywhere.

Michael with Yours Truly on the beach at Hilton Head.