Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wait a minute! Not so fast to the burn pile with me.

“Stocks slump in early trading
Economy in recovery? Not so fast
Sprint and T-Mobile are in trouble
Clinton to Big Biz: Cough it up!
Christie to Buffett: Just ‘shut up’
Confessions of an inside trader
Help wanted: Older workers welcome”

So goes the Business section of the CNN website main page on this Wednesday morning, February 22, 2012. The only link I followed concerns older workers in the job market. I’m not looking for a job. I just like good news. And as the report revealed in this story about a New Jersey healthcare system, workers over 50 are considered a real asset for many reasons, including innovation, productivity and reliability. No surprise. No surprise either about the other less uplifting offerings in this section. As they say, check it out.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Indian Watchtower at Desert View, Grand Canyon, 1932. Designed by Mary Colter. Photo courtesy of Carl Beal, Santa Fe NM.

Friday, February 17, 2012

"Prayer is not about changing God, but being willing to let God change us, or as Step 11 in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says, “praying only for the knowledge of His will.” Jesus goes so far as to say that true prayer is always answered (Matthew 7:7-11). Now we all know that this is not factually true—unless he is talking about prayer in the sense that I am trying to describe it. If you are able to switch minds to the mind of Christ, your prayer has already been answered! That new mind knows, understands, accepts, and sees correctly, widely and wisely. Its prayers are always answered because they are, in fact, the prayers of God, too." (adapted by Richard Rohr from his book, "Breathing under Water:
 Spirituality and the Twelve Steps", pp. 96-97).

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What, Me Worry?

A commercial for an upcoming episode of a talk show hosted on a major network by a well-known doctor plans to give viewers four signs to look for letting them know they might have cancer. A local cardiologist, also on the airwaves every day here, gives viewers information on signs to look for, telling them that they might have heart disease. The website of the most popular internet news micro-manages what’s happening in the stock market. Earlier this morning, the forecast was negative based on what’s happening in Greece. After the markets opened, “Stocks tick up on positive U.S. economic data”, explaining why, in spite of the economic crisis in Greece and more generally the Euro market. The GOP presidential contenders continue to sling mud at one another and, of course, at the current administration. If we are of a mind, we have sufficient cause anywhere we look and listen for our anxiety levels to rise. And the news goes on. Anyway you slice it, we have cause to feel anxious and worried. I understand why some people eschew print and broadcast news.

I’m not a news junkie. I ignore most of what I see on the news website that is my internet homepage. Articles and op-eds focused on politics get my attention, but I let most of them pass on by. The local crime report, which apparently is characteristic of all local television news, bores and disgusts me. The national network news is a way of punctuating the day—sometimes with a glass of red wine nearby. The trend over the last few years for each of the three networks to close its broadcast with an uplifting human interest story pleases me. For this—to hear about some of the good things we are capable of and actually follow through on, and to have the option of enjoying a glass of wine if I so choose—for this, I say thank you.

Last fall my house was broken into while I was away for a few weeks. Fortunately, a friend was keeping an eye on my house and discovered the break in, apparently on the day it occurred. And fortunately, only my television and a collectible old western saddle were taken. On the unsettling side of this equation, however, the thieves tried to kick in my front door that night, in an attempt to come back for more sellable material. Their efforts were spoiled—yet another reason to give thanks. A few weeks ago I walked out my front door one morning and discovered that an old, hand-made trunk, which had set undisturbed on my front porch for many months had been taken. My theory—that the thief had kept watch, and the moment to strike seemed right. Maybe it was just a random act.

And so the story goes with those who have something that someone else wants. If the desire is strong enough and the opportunity exists, such things occur. Police report? Absolutely. Insurance claim? I don’t think so. No one wants his premiums to increase or for his policy to be cancelled—especially in the case of minor theft that one can fairly easily absorb. A hard, bitter pill to swallow, but at the same time, a good reality check. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21) My heart tells me that heaven begins here and now, and that flat-screen televisions and collectible western saddles don’t have much to do with heaven. Some of us do love our worldly treasure, however.

As I prepare to take leave of my home for several weeks, I’m taking reasonable precautions. Both my front door and back door are solid wood. My landlord has voluntarily put steel security doors on the front and back of the house, which is located in a “good” neighborhood. Nonetheless, it is a neighborhood where 13 thefts had occurred within a half-mile radius over a 30-day period. The top locks of each of the interior doors is now double-cylinder. While a key is required to open these locks from either side, someone with enough determination could use a screwdriver to remove these locks, once they get into the house through a window, all of which are 1940 vintage steel frame with small panes of glass.

“Why don’t you have an alarm system installed” I’ve been asked. Just not ready to go there, I reply. I don’t know how much longer I will occupy this house I lease. So, I plan to pack the portable things I prize most and take them to a friend’s home nearby. This is no way to live, right? I don’t want to be yet another part of the local crime stats, but I know that ultimately I can’t control that outcome. Normal property crime doesn’t make the news. The crime has to be much more troubling—murder, rape, abuse, major theft, drugs. Ah drugs—most likely the motivation for theft of my property.

As I prepare to leave my home here for awhile, I am anxious. Why shouldn’t I be? The news and my own experience speak to the vulnerability I feel. When I lock the door the morning I leave, I will have second thoughts. Did I remove what I treasure most—that which can be taken easily? The front porch will be empty—a step I took a few weeks ago, following the petty larceny—petty, they call it—that occurred while I slumbered. Someone will be checking my property frequently. The porch light will be on each night. An automobile will be in my driveway. A light on timer will come on each night. This is what I can reasonably do. Every thought is a prayer. My highest thought for my home—my sanctuary in this place—is that it can escape even the news that doesn’t get reported. No news can be good news. And so it is.

What, Me Worry?—The Land of Enchantment (February 16, 2012)
R. Harold Hollis

Sunday, February 12, 2012

from the Sermon on the Mount

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

the Gospel of Matthew

Thursday, February 9, 2012

That Makes Sense to Me

Photograph taken by the author in the interior courtyard of the New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico. “The Voice of the Earth (The Basket Dance)”, 1934, Will Shuster, fresco 68x46 1/2 in. Funded through the Federal Emergency Relief Agency, 1934.

As I approached a red light on a busy street in Albuquerque two mornings ago, I noticed a bumper sticker— the only sticker on the rear bumper of the SUV to my left. Gratefully, I had an opportunity to read it. “Pro-Child, Pro-Family, Pro-Choice”. Of course, I was curious to see the driver. No surprise. Ordinary 30 or 40-something female, hair pulled back in a short ponytail, on her way in early morning traffic. Was she dressed for work? Is she a stay-at-home mom? Is she even a mother? Who knows. All the above.

Curious what catches our attention. For me, it is just about anything that speaks to my conscience, sense of fairness—not only to myself but to others. Take, for example, a sticker I saw the other day on a trip to Santa Fe—”EVERYONE does better When EVERYONE does better”. My mind played with that for all of 3 seconds, and then I smiled. Makes sense to me, I thought. The older Subaru wagon—a very common site in Santa Fe, bore other stickers—also a very common site in Santa Fe. Social awareness and public expression of consciousness is a common sight here in the land of enchantment. Aside from the sheer beauty of this state, evidence of thriving social conscience is pretty much, well evident, here.

Frankly, these days I have little interest in or inclination toward arguing about matters of social justice. I’ve lived long enough—and thanks to my birth family—I learned about fairness a long time ago. I don’t come from a pack of liberals. I just come from a growing-up family where the so-called golden rule was alive and healthy, even when my sisters and I were too young to understand what that truly means.

Life can be really tough on us. I have to look no farther than my own family—immediate and extended. Now that I live away from my birth family most of the time, I hear about what’s going on from afar. And I have plenty of time to look around me right here and see the aching need for fairness that demands, so clearly, my attention. It’s so easy to have opinions—even though I often think about the process by which these opinions are formed. The words from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “South Pacific,” are never far from my thoughts and they ring clear. “You’ve got to be taught/to hate and fear…”You’ve got to be taught to be afraid…” Every time I notice in myself the instinct to put my foot on another person’s neck—evidenced in feelings of judgment, resentment, an attitude of entitlement, jealousy, control—I like to be reminded, even as the thought or feeling is occurring, that I am out of line, out of alignment.

I realize that the issues that divide us are just that—divisive. That was underscored as I listened to a program on National Public Radio (NPR) yesterday afternoon. The conversation was among a small group of people who were on opposite sides of one of the issues capturing our attention right now, and again. And, big surprise, guess what is at the center of the firestorm—the Church. God save us from people who want to save us. The “Affordable Health Care Act” has been the source of argument since it was passed 3 years ago, and the volatile issues of abortion and birth control are center stage. Without wanting to sound flippant, I am reminded of another bumper sticker I noticed for the first time a few weeks ago—”Against abortion? Don’t have one”. Of course, the proposed legislation is more complicated than that. Do your homework, if you don’t understand. It seems simple and indeed reasonable to me that I can make personal choices that are in my best interest and that do not, do not indeed, infringe on the rights of others. I like being reminded—as in the slogan I saw plastered on the back of an SUV the other day—that being pro-child and pro-family do not exclude having the choice of making a choice.

That Makes Sense to Me—Albuquerque, New Mexico (February 9, 2012)
R. Harold Hollis

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

River Experience Reprise

"Spirituality is about seeing. It’s not about earning or achieving. It’s about relationship rather than results or requirements. Once you see, the rest follows. You don’t need to push the river, because you are already in it—and floating along!" from a meditation by Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, (Center for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque, NM)

Quickly I was pulled into the vortex, and before I knew it, my floating inner tube mounted on heavy gauge plywood had flipped, and I was under it, swallowing water so fast, it took away my breath. I knew I was choking. I was being hammered, held captive, working against myself. A poor, inexperienced swimmer to begin with—although that might not have made a difference—I struggled to keep my head above water.

Then, just as quickly as it all began, I was free of the tube, shooting down the river and still taking in water. I had no doubt that I would die. The thought that raced through my mind—“we wonder how our end will come, and this is my end”. I gave into it. Almost as quickly, the water calmed, although I continued to be carried rapidly on my back. I tried to catch hold of limbs hanging over the bank of the river, but all I accomplished was to strip leaves from the branches. I wasn’t ready to give up. Suddenly, the waters became peaceful, and I was able to paddle my way to the bank. I reached for a limb that held and struggled out of the water. When I tried to stand, my legs simply would have none of it. Somehow, my friends were there, but on both sides of the river. Someone helped me up. There was much laughter as they recounted the experience with the rapids. One of the friends, who was visiting from north Texas, had lost his spectacles, on which he counted for just about everything—like seeing.

I was changed forever that day, even most days I don’t realize this. I don’t remember my experience being any big deal to anyone. All I could think about was how close I had come to death. Later I did tell my parents. My mother was a born worrier, but I don’t remember anything exceptional about her response. I’ve recounted that experience on the Guadalupe a few times over the years. Shortly after it happened, our group of innocents discovered that the river was particularly treacherous that day, according to experts, and we also learned that drownings on the river were not unheard of. Almost 30 years later I told about this experience while participating in Episcopal Cursillo. We had been asked to tell about an experience where we had felt especially close to Christ. My day on the Guadalupe came to mind, but not because I knew that day that Christ was watching over me. What I did know and accept was the reality that I would die, that I might be aware of it as I was dying, and that I could accept it—even peacefully. I knew God that day on the river, and I felt safe.

River Experience Reprise--Albuquerque, NM (February 8, 2012)
R. Harold Hollis