It’s been a little rough these last few hours, hasn’t it? Is there anything good in the world? Is there anything sweet, or genuine, or gracious, or extraordinary? Is anything sacred or sublime?
Sweet: A Story A Story and All the Words in Between
This blog—my life in letters—is a written legacy for my daughter. However, I can promise you that the only reason that she started a blog is because her journalism class required her to do so. I would love to be the reason that she writes and loves reading and loves movies and stories. But, I’m not. She is she. She does what she does. And, all bias aside, I have to say that what she does is pure genius. This blog that she has created is the sweetest thing I’ve seen in the blogosphere in decades. It’s a blog about all her favorite picture books from childhood. What 16 year old blogs about that?!? Mine does.
GENUINE: Three Books of Poems
When the world grows very dark and the brooding rise to power and rule, one of the groups to be bullied first are the artists. Kill the darlings, quite literally and brutally sometimes—strangle them breathless and silent. It’s brutish, grueling work. Eventually, the brutes realize it’s not worth their sweat. That damn light is a spot they can’t rub out. And the flickering flames set themselves all aglow again—only brighter. I believe poets light the paths to help us wend our way through the darkness and back home where all is genuine and true. Here are three lanterns of light to help you find your footing:
1) Every Watering Word: A Book of Poems by Tanya Manning Yarde
A woman’s voice is voluminous work/Inside each tongue is/a home of beacons,/scribbling ancestors/incessantly unfurling bonds, blues, balm/dispersed from pooled brilliance—from Psalms
2) The Undressing: Poems by Li Young Lee
My childhood is two facing pages/in The Book of Childhood./Open, the left-hand page begins:/They hated us without a cause./And the right-hand page ends:/The fire had not harmed our bodies,/nor was a hair of our heads singed./Funny, each one born receives/two pages in that great book,/and neither page is written by the child.—from Our Secret Share
3) Carver: A Life in Poems by Marilyn Nelson
Late Sunday morning gilds the pins and needles, strokes the wall ochre, blanches the white collar. He bends, intent on detail, his fingers red in sunlight, brown in shade. Light calls though the open to April window directly into his illumined invisible ear, like, elsewhere, the trumpet whisper of an angel— from The Lace-Maker
GRACIOUS: Harry Potter & The Sacred Text
Before I go into my love for this podcast, I want to address something—
To my many dear conservative, Christian friends:
I know that you feel strongly about Harry Potter. You’re troubled by the idea of any kind of sorcery and that anything other than Christ can defeat evil. I hear that. I understand that. I even believe part of that. But, let me offer some truths for you to consider.
First, many of you abhor Harry Potter but love The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. I know, I know—but, those books were written by Christians, Marcie. True and touché. But if J.R.R. Tolkien can create a gallant wizard isn’t it possible that J.K. Rowling can too? If C.S. Lewis can create a lion who saves mankind, can’t a fictional boy be just as inspirational and brave? Also, I know many of you enjoy the Marvel comics, Disney princess movies, classic fairytales—all of which feature the supernatural, magic and sorcery. At the end of the day, not everything labeled Christian is good, and likewise not everything secular is demonic.
Now onto Harry Potter and the Sacred Text for those of you who would love to hear about something truly wonderful in the world. Harry Potter and the Sacred Text is a podcast that has been my most treasured spiritual practice these days. It took me a while to catch up on the episodes. But boy, was it ever the most enjoyable, delectable podcast binge. Casper ter Kuile and Vanessa Zoltan are two Harvard Divinity alumni. Though, I feel labels lessen these two gracious, loving humans, and for the sake of my earlier “rant”, I will tell you ahead of time that Casper is a gay, married humanist who’s living a beautiful, loving gracious life; and Vanessa is a Jewish humanist who’s living a beautiful, loving gracious life. Their podcast features all people. They invite such an array of people of different faiths, preferences, ethnicities and gender to dive into the texts of Harry Potter to find meaning and connection in this very divided world. It’s my favorite, favorite, favorite reason to believe that I—little ole me—can love others as well as I love myself. I can make space for the other side. I can disagree in peace. And, I can learn from someone who’s beliefs are different than my own. Oh... please listen to the show. I promise you that Casper, Vanessa, and their producer Ariana, come in pure and total peace.
EXTRAORDINARY: Feeling Good by Nina Simone & Lauryn Hill produced by Amerigo Gazaway; and, Nont for Sale by Sudan Archives
Sometimes, I’m so overwhelmed by a song that I have to save myself from it. Here are two songs that I know my description of won’t do them justice. The first is a mash-up piece created by Amerigo Gazaway. Gazaway produces mash-ups of legendary old school soul artists with legendary old school hip-hop. His latest blends a sultry Nina Simone with a precocious Lauryn Hill. It’s as extra as it should be. The second is from Sudan Archives latest album Sink. It’s a song called Nont for Sale. It’s extraordinary!!! And the video?!? It’s brown-female-afro-puffs lovely. But, conservative friends, the video is not for the faint of heart.
SACRED: Hasidic Tales: Annotated & Explained by Rabbi Rami Shapiro
This little book has been my nighttime reading to lull me to back to the sacred practice of rest & belief. Here’s an excerpt with some adaptations:
A Rabbi told this story: “Once, a young Rabbi visited an elder Rabbi. For the journey, he took along a young companion to keep him company. When the young Rabbis entered the elder’s home, the young Rabbi asked his companion, “In a few words tell me: “Why are there humans in the world.”
Without hesitation, his traveling companion answered, “We come into this world to align our souls to God. “
The young, brash Rabbi exclaimed, “Nonsense! Why are we here? We are here to lift up the heavens!” Not content with either answer, the Elder would add his own understanding, saying: “In fact, both sages are correct. We humans are here to align with God and in so doing uplift the heavens. We know this from the first five of The Ten Commandments which only parallel the remaining five commandments. Thus, “You shall have no other Gods but Me,” goes with “You must not commit murder.” For to kill a human being is to diminish our capacity to bring godliness into the world.
“Thus, when God asks Cain after Cain had murdered his brother, Abel, ‘Where is Abel?’ Cain answers, ‘I don’t not know. Am I my brother’s keeper,’ we should understand Cain to be saying: “I did not know that my brother was the keeper of I AM. God, I did not know that by killing my brother I was weakening the influence of the divine I AM in myself and in this world.”
SUBLIME: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
“Love is at the root of everything—all learning, all parenting, all relationships. Love or lack of it and what we see and hear on the screen is part of who we become.” Fred Rogers
I have to admit, I can be pretty jaded and extremely cynical. The worst thing about that sentence is that most of the people I know can be jaded and cynical as well — or, in some cases, even more so. I totally know that had I lived in Jesus’ time, I would have sided with the Pharisees had I been born into their privilege. I hate to think about what goodness I’ve totally missed because my spirit was too ravished and eroded with misanthropic ash to notice it. But, I dare you to watch this documentary with your most vitriolic, sarcastic, bitter lens, and not feel hopeful, cared for and healed.
Peace and Courage!