“… The art of loving has to be learnt… Part of love is friendship, which knows how to combine affection with respect for the other person’s liberty. That means respect for the mystery of the other, and his or her still latent and unrealized potentialities. If love stops, we make a fixed image of each other. We judge and pin each other down. That is death. But love liberates us from these images and keeps the future open for the other person. We have hope for each other, so we wait for one another…” ~ Jurgen Moltmann, Jesus Christ for Today’s World, p. 25.
Over the last twenty-years, approx. I’ve kept running into German Reformed Theologian Jurgen Moltmann (b. 1926), mostly via books and journal articles, but also from time-to-time via podcasts and YouTube) A good friend has added a couple of Moltmann’s books to my library, and as I’m come across his books in my travels I’ve also added them to my library, which means I haven’t always read there, but they sit there for easy reference, and to be read at those times when Moltmann’s thinking is alive and I know I need to read a particular book or article.
Most recently I purchased in Whakatane (NZ) a good second-hand copy of Jesus Christ for Today’s World (SCM Press / Westminster, 1994 / I was interested to see that the original purchaser of the book lived in Murray Crescent in Kelowna BC Canada, and now its ended up at the bottom of the world in New Zealand.). I felt compelled to read it straight away, before it goes on my library shelf.
I was a good read, accessible, and a succinct overview of themes important to Moltmann, and in this instance particularly focused on Jesus Christ - Who Is Christ for Us Today? Jesus and the Kingdom of God (my favourite chapter!); The Passion of Christ and the Pain of God; The Anxiety of Christ; The Tortured Christ; The Resurrection of Christ – Hope for the World; The Cosmic Christ; Jesus Between Jews and Christians; and ‘Behold I m=Make All Things New’: The Great Invitation.
I valued the linkages he makes between theology and practice. The earlier chapters are more grounded in the practical than latter ones, but in all, he establishes a good theological framework out of which one can draw their own practical implications.
Here’s a couple of quotes from the book:
“…The church is a liberating community…”
“…The messianic hope can act in two opposite directions. It can draw the hearts of men and women away from the present into the future. Then it makes life in the present empty, and action in the present empty – and of course suffering over present oppression too. But it can also make the future of the messiah present, and fill the present with the consolation and happiness of the coming God. In this case what the messianic idea enforces is the very opposite of ‘deferred life’. It is life in anticipation, in which everything must already be done and accomplished in a final way, because the kingdom of God in its messianic form is already ‘at hand’.
A good starting point for more on Moltmann, or a good starting point if you’re new to Moltmann is Tyndale Seminary’s Jurgen Moltmann Reading Room.
I’ve been reading his for over a decade, and listening to him whenever I come across a podcast etc. There’s so much about his approach to Jung and Jungian psychoanalysis that I find both fascinating and compelling in terms of my own journey and life experience. Which of course isn’t to uncritically elevate either Jung or Hollis. Whether I agree, disagree, or am unsure, I find them both to be rich conversation partners.
I was recently reading the published transcript of a conversation with Pete Rollins in the Feb. 2017 issue (Issue # 50) of the Australian publication Dumbo Feather(still on shelves in good NZ magazine / bookshops - $20) and it as fascinating, especially his conversation about “ghosts and hauntings” and “mirrors”. I was thinking of Hollis’ book, mentioned above, as I read Rollins, and then a few days later I was listening to Hollis, covering similar ground. The combination of book, magazine article, and podcast (see below) was a rich one.
Hollis has come up many times on this blog (use search function if interested), and I’ve tried to link to all podcasts I’ve heard (hopefully most will remain active links). The most recent podcast (Nov. 2016) was this one The Love that Heals: Welcoming in our Shadow(downloadable via iTunes)
“Exploring one’s shadow is no easy undertaking. The idea of getting to know what Jung referred to as, “That which I do not wish to be” is rarely considered an exciting prospect. Yet we implore all leaders to be courageous and get to know and learn to work with their shadow. It is only when we do the work to make the unconscious conscious, that we are able to build true compassion for ourselves and others; freeing us to become the leaders we were born to become.
James Hollis is a Jungian analyst, author and lecturer whose work has inspired and influenced us at Reboot. In this episode Jerry and James talk in depth about the Jungian concept of shadow, how shadow shows up in leadership, and what we can do once we become aware of our shadow.”
Today I want to highlight a recent review, by Alan Roxburgh, of a recent book written by Chris Hedges. Hedges is a leftist thinker, one who deeply engages contemporary US and Western culture. I've always found Hedge's to be a very helpful commentator, and a number of his books can be found on my shelves, including The Wages of Rebellion, which is the book Al reviews.
"...As the expectations of a better future recede for more and more people across the West (e.g. shrinking middle classes, jobless or part-time minimum wage economies, austerity) there is a growing loss of faith in the primary narratives undergirding Western social, political and economic life. With this situation comes a weakening of the capacities or will of elites to provide leadership. The cumulative result is a growing undercurrent of rage, confusion, and frustration roiling just under the surface, waiting to be catalyzed into revolution.
For Hedges these conditions now exist across the West. The hope that we'll, somehow, get through it all with a new fix misses what is happening. In Hedges' analysis what is occurring is no longer amenable to adjustment. As the basis of people's hope keeps being hollowed out, existing social, political and economic structures can collapse at a dizzying speed. This sense of collapse is now happening, but it's not primarily at the level of rational, abstract analysis. Rather, what is occurring is that the emotional experiences and convictions of people are changing as witnessed in events like Brexit or the US election. When this happens the soil is ripe for revolution. Revolutions are about emotions not primarily new ideas. As has been said revolutions come about when people feel that established power structures no longer serve the common good. The language Hedges uses here is drawn from the American social theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr who used the term sublime madness to describe a force which gathers inside people who 'disregard immediate appearances' and, with 'nothing but madness will do battle with malignant power and "spiritual wickedness in high places"' (211). What was prescient about Niebuhr's own evaluation was his recognition that traditional liberalism (which has made a come-back in Canada in its last national election) is a 'useless force in moments of extremity' (211)..."
The first book of Hedges that I bought was his War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning (2002). The most recent is Unspeakable (Oct. 2016) which is a transcript of Chris Hedges conversation with David Talbot (He is the founder and former editor in chief of Salon).. It covers all of Hedge's areas of focus and interest and should be a good introduction for anyone not familiar with Hedges and his writing.
I was disturbed by a 2016 lecture by Israeli Historian Yuval Harari (b. 1976) who specialises in World History and macro-historical processes. I listened to it yesterday. He is the author of the September 2016 published Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. He is apparently also a practitioner of Vipassana Meditation.
“The industrial revolution gave us the working class. Harari believes the digital revolution will create the useless class as technology destroys millions of jobs. Speaking at the RSA, the Royal Society for the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, he says that social inequality will grow unless we make different choices now. Otherwise the future could be ruled by a super-elite of technocrats.”
The following excerpt, from Tim Adams’ Guardian review of Homo Deus, will give you the flavour (you can find Adams’ complete review here:
“…The new longevity and super-human qualities are likely to be the preserve of the techno super-rich, the masters of the data universe. Meanwhile, the redundancy of labour, supplanted by efficient machines, will create an enormous “useless class”, without economic or military purpose. In the absence of religion, overarching fictions will be required to make sense of the world. Again, if nothing in our approach changes, Harari envisages that “Dataism”, a universal faith in the power of algorithms, will become sacrosanct. To utopians this will look a lot like the “singularity”: an all-knowing, omnipresent data-processing system, which is really indistinguishable from ideas of God, to which humans will be constantly connected. To dystopians it will look like that too. Harari is mostly, thrillingly or chillingly, sanguine about this prospect…”
Even if I found it disturbing, the talk is well worth a listen. You will find the downloadable podcast here. I wondered too what reponses Christianity might want to make in response to Harari's talk?
I first heard Pádraig Ó Tuama in 2014 (my post here; no link to the interview, but I wanted to share one of his poems). He was interviewed about poetry and movingly read a number of his poems. Next up was an interview on Australia’s The Spirit of Things (my post and link here). Finally there was the On Being conversation that I listened to today. I so value his take on the importance of language.
“Pádraig Ó Tuama is a poet, theologian, and extraordinary healer in our world of fracture. He leads the Corrymeela community of Northern Ireland, a place that has offered refuge since the violent division that defined that country until the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. And Pádraig and Corrymeela extend a quiet, generative, and joyful force far beyond their northern coast to people around the world. “Over cups of tea, and over the experience of bringing people together,” Pádraig says, it becomes possible “to talk with each other and be in the same room with the people we talk about.””
Ó Tuama reflects of the fact that “agreement has rarely been the mandate for people who love each other. Maybe on some things, but actually, when you look at some people who are lovers and friends, you go actually they might disagree really deeply on things, but they’re somehow — I like the phrase “the argument of being alive.” Or in Irish, when you talk about trust, there’s a beautiful phrase from West Kerry where you say, “Mo sheasamh ort lá na choise tinne,” “You are the place where I stand on the day when my feet are sore.” And that is soft and kind language, but it is so robust. That is what we can have with each other.”
I enjoyed listening to Hugh Mackay’s 2017 Gandhi Oration. It was delivered at the University of New South Wales on January 30 and was titled: The State of the Nation Starts in Your Street.
I’ve always believed the importance of the local, but I think it’s important to reduce it further; reduce it to smaller constituent parts. The state of the nation starts in your home; it starts with your family relationships; your relationship with your partner; your relationship with your children; your relationship with yourself. A healthy self opens up the possibility of healthy and life-giving familial and intimate relationships. The health of these in turn open up the possibility of healthy and life-giving neighborhood relationships and so on and so forth.
I’ve lived enough of life, and through enough sad and difficult personal and relational realities to observe the truth of these statements time and time again. I’ve seen time and time again the way that personal ‘ill-health’ (an unwillingness to face into our own shadow and brokenness) flows into relationships and damages those.
Damaged personal relationships and ways of relating impact neighborhoods, towns, cities, and nations. If we can’t make our intimate and familial relationships work, if we can’t healthily overcome their inevitable dysfunction, if we can’t enact the practices of open listening, trusting, loving, supporting, believing the best about others, reconciling, holding, caring, openness, compromise etc. etc. then in my humble view there is little real hope for the neighborhood, the workplace, the city, the nation, and the nations. I feel very very sad about that.
Anyway, have a listen to Mackay, read his books (particularly his social psychology and ethics titles), reflect, start with self (but don’t stay there; don’t underestimate, for your own health and well-being, the importance of putting others and their needs ahead of your own), and work outwards from there. Couple this listening with listening to an article written by Olivia Laing on e future of thloneliness, and then check out her brilliant book, The Lonely City: Adventures of Being Alone.
You’ll find the audio recording of Mackay’s oration here, an edited (written) online copy of the talk here, and the reading of an article written by Laing in 2015 here (you’ll find the article here).
With Bruce Springsteen in the country at present (although, sadly, I’m not going to one of his concerts) I thought it would be good to feature an excellent and thoughtful interview with Springsteen. The interviewer is Marc Maron, and the audio was released 2nd January 2017.
This is a YouTube recording of the audio.
“…Two Jersey guys hanging out, talking about dads, depression, fear, fulfillment and the future. Bruce tells Marc how and why he constructed "Bruce Springsteen" and what he's learned about the struggle we all go through to become who we really are.”
The downloadable podcast can be found here.
Today, a post in its entirety from Chris Erdman (Thanks Chris. His blog can be found here). I reminded me of a conversation with good friends a couple of weeks ago. One of those friends was Gareth Higgins, and one of his contributions to the conversation included talking about “Porch circles…” In “Porch Circles” a small group gathers for 90-minutes around food and four questions:
What's most alive in me?
How could my life be better?
What opportunities have I had in the past week to embody my purpose to serve the common good?
How can we help each other?
More from what Gareth’s up to in my next post:
And here’s Chris:
“…Feeling passionate but alone? Here's a way to contribute to the common good
Circles of Strength are small, intentional gatherings of people drawn together by a desire to co-create the kind of world we wish to live in. We gather around two essential goals:
We identify our desires to improve our world, and together, we grow our sense of strength so we can make a difference.
Around us, millions of Americans are rising up to meet the environmental, social, and political challenges of the 21st century.
Rather than feeling disempowered or disillusioned, people like us want to do something useful to transcend barriers, overcome hostilities, and create programs, products, movements and opportunities that contribute to the common good in our neighborhoods, cities, nation, and around the planet.
Circles of Strength are small gatherings of 3 or more people (no more than 5). They are intentional in that they meet at least every other week for at least an hour to check in with each other around a series of questions like:
What am I feeling passionate about? And why?
What is a problem or injustice I cannot allow to remain unchallenged?
What would I like to do about it?
What gifts do I have to address it?
What gets in the way or holds me back?
What progress have I made since we last met?
What do I need to take the next step?
Circles don’t need a trained leader, but they do need a common commitment from each other to listen more than give advice, and to help others find their passion. Through meeting together and talking about our desires for a better world, we help foster accountability, hope, and follow-through. (And when we fail or repeatedly bang into walls, we help each other find new direction.)
Find a few other people, create a circle, and begin to change your world.”
This week in Fr. Richard Rohr’s daily e-mails he’s had guest writer Cynthia Bourgeault exploring her specialty subject, the contemplative practice of Centering Prayer.
Here’s a summary of her week of reflections.
Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, and John Main recognized meditation not as a newfangled innovation, let alone the grafting onto Christianity of an Eastern practice, but rather, as something that had originally been at the very center of Christian practice and had become lost. (Sunday)
Centering Prayer is apathway of return in which every time the mind is released from engagement with a specific idea or impression, we move from a smaller and more constricted consciousness into that open, diffuse awareness in which our presence to divine reality makes itself known along a whole different pathway of perception. (Monday)
Each time you manage to disengage from a thought, you are doing so in solidarity with Jesus’ own kenotic stance; and in the process patterning that stance more and more deeply into your being until it eventually becomes your default response to all life’s situations. (Tuesday)
It could be said that in Centering Prayer your intention is “to be totally open to God”: totally available, all the way down to that innermost point of your being; deeper than your thinking, feelings, memories, and desires. (Wednesday)
There is a deeper current of awareness, a deeper and more intimate sense of belonging, which flows beneath the surface waters of your being and grows stronger and steadier as your attention is able to maintain itself as a unified field of objectless awareness. (Thursday)
Once you get the hang of it, attention of the heart allows you to be fully present to God, but at the same time fully present to the situation at hand, giving and taking from the spontaneity of your own authentic, surrendered presence. (Friday)
Practice: Centering Prayer
As Cynthia Bourgeault shared earlier this week, here is the simple method for practicing Centering Prayer as taught by Thomas Keating. I hope you’ll try it and stay with it for a while!
Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.
When engaged with your thoughts [including body sensations, feelings, images, and reflections], return ever so gently to the sacred word.
At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes. 
This post follows on from my most recent one to this point. The School of Lifeis committed to developing emotional intelligence. It was founded by Philosopher Alain de Botton. I have been aware of the school through their book series, which have included a wide range of titles.
What I discovered yesterday evening was their YouTube channel ("How to Live" / see short introductory video here) and the wide-range of short-educational films they've produced on a really large range of subjects.
So, given that yesterday was marketer-invented Valentines Day, I decided to illustrate their film-style by posting their short educational film entitled: How Romanticism Ruined Love. I also include a link to a paper of the same title here.
If Philosophy is more your interest you can check out a short film on Michel Foucault, or this one on Jacques Derrida.
“What if the first question we asked on a date were, “How are you crazy? I’m crazy like this”? Philosopher and writer Alain de Botton’s essay “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person” was, amazingly, the most-read article in The New York Times in the news-drenched year of 2016. As people and as a culture, he says, we would be much saner and happier if we reexamined our very view of love. How might our relationships be different — and better — if we understood that the real work of love is not in the falling, but in what comes after?”
You’ll find the podcast here. The NY Times article can be found online here. I also recommend Susan Quilliam’s How to Find a Partner (from The School of Life series. It has useful and interesting insights on the basis of relational love,whether you're in an established relationship, or looking for one)
I’ve been listening to Bangladeshi-born Australian Doctor/Psychiatrist Tanveer Ahmed quite a bit this year. He’s a young man who’s had his fair share of controversy (plagiarism), but to me he remains a fascinating and oftentimes compelling commentator (for some he will be controversial or just plain wrong in his assessment) on what is happening in Australian culture, and as a corollary, with men. I’ve never been much inclined to gather around my self people and commentators who will affirm what I already think. I like to be stretched intellectually.