Friday, October 5, 2012

Seeking the Romance of Life

A recent trip back to California, where I spent the middle half of my life (the pat between the Seattle bookends)  and other smaller events have made me reflective of past events and places.  My brothers and I stopped in Santa Cruz, briefly, where I had lived for years, and stopped by a nightclub I had spent time in, the Catalyst, and asked the bartender the current status of local things.

I found out Club Zayante in the Santa Cruz Mountain had closed.  When I got home I researched the Club, which was once of the hottest nightclubs in Central California to learn what happened.  I found out the club had closed for financial reasons then burned down. But what I learned about the owner, Tom Louagie intrigued me. He had come out from the east coast on a romantic quest, to find the Cannery Row he had read in Steinbeck. He had the idea of moving there and living a literary dream from the past.  He didn't know that that Cannery Row had died when the sardine schools left. He moved up the coast a little to Santa Cruz county, bought a bar and did live music.  Later he opened Club Zayante and had a run with one of the most interesting music  clubs on the West Coast, in the redwoods under the canopy of stars, near the San Francisco music scene, with a community radio station broadcast greats like Clifton Chenier live from his club.  He looked for someone else's romance, which had  been dispelled, then created his own.

Like all of us, my life has involved a quest for available means of survival, but it has also simultaneously followed the quest for romance in life, the dictates of conscience and the desire to help others. the interaction of those four things has shaped my life down circuitous paths. My roads less traveled came through plenty to romance, but  like Tom I always found my own romance more interesting than someone else's.  But life is change, so yesterdays romance needs to be replaced.  To have a love affair with life, it has to always be new.

When I was a child I saw on television the bravery of civil rights demonstrators.   When I was fourteen and newly arrived in California I read of the students in the Berkeley Free speech movement resisting  the system. Mario Savio, one of their leaders said
“There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all"
And in my high school years I sought to replicate that in my growing participation in the anti-Vietnam War movement.  At the age of sixteen I made up my mind that I would apply for Conscientious Objector status from the Selective Service system  and that if I was denied I would resist the draft and refuse induction even if it meant going to federal prisonThe pangs of conscience telling me the war was wrong coincided with a romantic quest to resist the evil of the system. 
When I turned eighteen my request for "C.O." status was denied.  Had it been approved I would have been required to perform two years of civilian alternative service in a non-profit, a hospital, a school, an anti-poverty program, or something of that sort. Some of my friends in the local anti-war movement formed a Summerhill type free school, so I started volunteering there as if my request had been approved.  Then I set fire to my draft cards and folded the ashes into a letter to the local draft board that said, "To Whom it May Concern, Somehow my draft card caught fire.  Here are the remains." I then failed to show up at my scheduled induction.  I fin ished my two years at the school as a personal debt to my country and humanity.  Unlike a lot of other young men who resisted I was lucky and the system ground to a halt and never processed me for arrest. That was the point for us of course, to grind it to a halt.  That was the romance of a quest for peace and for justice. 
My point here is that there is no romance without risk.  Romance for some is falling in love, for others climbing a mountain.  Keep seeking it. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

America Magazine Benedict XVI weighs in on "Redistribution"

Paul Ryan should perhaps look at the writings of Benedict and other recent popes on redistribution.  they are most definitely teaching redistribution to help the poor, as this America article attests.

America Magazine Benedict XVI weighs in on "Redistribution":

'via Blog this'

Friday, September 7, 2012

Politics or Beatitude

I recently subjected myself to a political spectrum diagnosis that tried to categorize people along a left-right, Republican-Democratic spectrum using only two sets of issues and a few questions.   The issues were the economic questions and social issues, with no foreign policy/military questions of civil liberties/ rights questions.  In some cases, such as immigration, I was not sure if the questions were economic or social.  The mean computation of my "social issue" questions placed me on the right side of the Democratic party or among the left of the independent centrists.  The economic policy questions placed me at the far left of the Democratic Party, and the mean of them placed me closer to the center of the party.  Adding foreign policy/military questions or other social questions, such as the death penalty, might have placed me further left in the spectrum.  But the entire process raised the question of were I fit, anywhere, any time.

A Catholic Worker friend raised the problem this way.  When she is among people of the left and she says she is Catholic, they avoid her.  When she is in a typical Catholic crowd and they find she is of the left, they avoid her.  But the problem goes even deeper than that.

A young intellectual named Michael Harrington was the editor of the Catholic Worker newspaper from  1951 to 1953.  He then became disillusioned of religion and drifted into a secular democratic Marxism, becoming famous for writing "The Other America" and for persuading socialists to join the Democratic Party, while retaining socialist caucuses.  When he left the Catholic Workers he didn't just leave religion.  He left personalism. For Dorothy Day and the Catholic Workers it was not enough to make a objective critic of the evils of society.  Our thoughts and actions had to be guided by the unique subjectivity we each have as persons.  We each are working out our destiny and salvation.  It is not a matter of party platforms and actions.   So while Harrington made a great contribution to the critic of American society through his description of poverty in "The Other America", no party platform can substitute for the unique relation of each individual to his fellow man.  And I, as the Catholic Workers did, believe that unique relation is always God centered.

As a result where I sit on a political spectrum misses the primary point of why relation to other human beings.  More to the point is where do I sit between them and God, or where do they sit between God and I.  This is the spectrum not of left and right, but of the Beatitudes.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Glass-Steagall Act

The Glass Steagall Act was designed to protect us from the greed of bankers through regulation.  It was passed in the 1930's as a result of the major stock and banking collapse to regulate the financial industry and dismantled later at the prompting of banking lobbyists to allow the kind of activity that lead to  our recent financial collapse.  Instead of rules to protect the economy, bankers expect to be bailed out when there speculation goes awry.   This is a link to apetition asking for The Glass Steagall Act to be reinstated.   

Saturday, August 18, 2012


I noticed her walking "The Ave", as the non-avenue, University Street, near Seattle's University of Washington campus is known.  Then I saw her sitting at a table in the neighborhood Tully's Coffee Shop.  Or perhaps I should saying sitting over, her head and hair hovering over the table as a result of her weak and deformed back.  Perhaps an extreme case of  osteoporosis, or perhaps something else.  I didn't have the medical knowledge to know.   An old women with long grey here, hunched over completely, almost as through she could break in two. She looked incapable of standing erect.  And old woman in dress and attachments, the classic bag lady.  One look at her sufficient to evoke sorrow for suffering humankind.

Nightly, I do a bible study, inclusive of reading the gospels. That night the gospel spoke to me about her. I opened the pages of Luke and it spoke to me.  In chapter 13, v.10-17 it spoke to me about her.  There we find Jesus teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath. v. 11-13 reads "And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit; she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect.  When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said , 'Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.' He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God."  The remainder of the section is a dispute between Jesus and those who think he should not heal on the sabbath, where he triumphs by saying she has been set free from bondage.  I prayed for her.

Another day, while I waited for my morning bus for work and was feeding quarters into a newspaper vending machine, I saw her walking down the street.  She was asking people for something, but I couldn't hear what she said.  A couple people walked away from her.  After I pulled my newspaper out of the machine, I stepped away from it towards her and said, "I'm sorry I couldn't here what you asked."  She pushed forward a card in her hand and said, I want to sell my Mcdonalds gift card, because I need money.  I said, "I'm sorry, I don't usually eat there", but then I gave her a dollar.  Suddenly she rose nearly erect and said "Thank you" before resuming her posture.  Heal.

Declensions of Virtue

Faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love, writes the Apostle Paul. In the development of theology in the church these three became known as the theological virtues.

But while grouped together both in scripture and tradition these three have often been separated by theological disputes and the disposition of believers.   Some shout for salvation by faith alone and it's companion--solo scriptura. Some place all their marbles on hope, as if salvation were a gift of humanist psychology.  Others, using some mangled near universalism,   seize on the smallest charitable act or sentiment of brotherhood as absolute proof that people totally alienated from the gospel are just as saved as the greatest Christian saints, and that what you believe has absolutely no bearing.

The last is a rootless love, destined to topple as surely as a tree whose roots have rotted through.  The sentiment of love without a relationship with God is dying.   Faith without hope and love is a dark dead end  alley, where we box ourselves in thinking God is there.  Hope without faith and love is merely despair on Prozac.

True faith is a walk, like a marriage; an ongoing relationship that bears fruit.  We have to view faith, hope and love in the nature of the Trinity:  That the Father loved the Son and the love that existed between them was the Holy Spirit.  These three theological virtues are declensions, in human terms, of the relationships within the Trinity, which is always, ultimately, love. Hence, because faith and hope are never divorced from ,love, the three are declensions, each of the other. 

Friday, August 17, 2012