Bamboo and the Broken Lotus
Rev. Douglas Taylor
May 18, 2014
My mother once told me the story of a workshop she participated in that had a deep sharing component. She found herself in a small group about halfway through the event in which she and the other participants talked about personal hurdles and difficulties they had experienced in their lives. Difficulties they had experienced and overcome, that was the focus of the conversation. And when it was her turn to share she spoke of a series of major events, losses and tragedies and personal challenges, that all came within the space of a handful of years. She called that time in her life “the crucible years.” They were defining years for her.
A short time later someone reflected back to her that while they had known her for a long time they had not known about those difficulties which my mother had shared. “I always thought you really had it all together,” the person said with a small smile. My mother responded saying “Often the people who seem to have it all together are the ones who have had to put it all back together.”
Back in the fall of 2010, 33 Chilean miners were trapped in a collapsed mine. Chili had experienced a major earthquake and resulting tsunami earlier that spring. The Chilean people were already weary from loss and tragedy. The mine in question had a history of safety violations and fatal accidents. But the people of Chili poured out their empathy for the situation all the same.
The government stepped in and drilled several exploratory bore holes down into the mine. These were nine-inch wide holes through the 700 meters of rock to reach the caverns. 17 days after the initial cave in they received a response, a piece of paper tied onto the drill saying the men were all alive and well and awaiting rescue. They had been living off limited reserves from one of the mine’s emergency shelters.
The bore holes were big enough to transport food, water, messages, and other basic supplies. It took the rescuers 52 more days to dig the men out. These 33 men hold the record for surviving the longest underground in a collapsed mine (69 days – over three months); and they all made it out. One key aspect to their survival is a commitment each man made to help the whole group survive. They worked together to keep each other alive.
“Come out of the dark earth” May Sarton calls to us from the opening words we heard this morning (SLT #428) “Here where the minerals glow in their stone cells deeper than seed or birth.” Whether figuratively (as the way you or my mother might use to describe a painful time in the past) or literally (as in the example of the Chilean miners) come out of the dark earth, “Come into the pure air… Love, touch us everywhere with primeval candor.” Come rise up from the tragedy, the difficulty, the loss. Come, love touches us; arise.
Stephanie Kallos is a novelist and one of her books entitled Broken for You is about the suffering and loss and brokenness we can experience in life, and it is also about a way through it. At one point she writes:
We speak of ‘senseless tragedies,’ but really: Is there any other kind? Mothers and wives disappear without a trace. Children are killed. Madmen ravage the world, leaving wounds immeasurably deep, and endlessly mourned… But we never stop looking, not even after those we love become a part of the unreachable horizon. We can never stop carrying the heavy weight of love on this pilgrimage; we can only transfigure what we carry.
Whether we speak of tragedies large or small, personal or global, a few things hold true for it all. The suffering and the loss can break us, likely will. It breaks us because we care – and that is in no way a bad thing. The cost of compassion and love is heavy and we will carry it with us everywhere we go. We can never be relieved of our losses, we carry them always. As Kallos writes, “we can only transfigure what we carry.” And that is the secret of resilience.
Poet Jane Hirshields offers us this:
More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
Returns over and over to the same shape
But the sinuous tenacity of a tree:
Finding the light newly blocked on one side,
It turns to another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose
Turtles, rivers, mitochondria, figs –
All this resinous, unretractable earth.
Nature’s refulgence is forever offering examples of resilience for our living. Today I notice, with almost an eastern eye, the lessons offered by both the lotus and the bamboo. Call to mind the tragedies, the losses, the catastrophes and atrocities that plague your heart. Call to mind things personal or global, recent or in the long past. And hold those heartbreaks as we consider the lessons offered by nature. Let us test this notion that we too can be resilient as a tree, as a turtle, or as the unretractable earth.
Bamboo is not a tree. It is actually a grass. It is a fast growing grass. It is reported to be able to grow more than 3 feet in length in a 24 hour period. Another remarkable thing about bamboo is its strength. It is said that the tensile strength of bamboo rivals that of steel! In South America bamboo is referred to as vegetable steel. Bamboo can also tolerate extreme conditions that most plants cannot. It was actually the first plant to re-green after the atomic blast in Hiroshima in 1945. Bamboo is a persistent, tenacious, resilient plant.
You bow and bend with the angry wind
But you do not break, you stand your ground
Until the wind gets tired, weaken, and departs
Though scarred and shaken, still you remain erect
Many of your delicate leaves may have fallen
But your spirit is undiminished
(from Bamboo by Haley Allan)
What if, in the most troubling times of our life, you could imagine your refuge and security to not be found in stability but in the freedom to bend and sway? What if your image of strength was not a rock but a bending reed?
This weekend I watched the film 5 Broken Cameras. It was part of our monthly Social Justice Film series here at the church. This month’s film was co-hosted by Peace Action and Veterans for Peace from out in the community. The film is a documentary about the Palestinian experience of the Jewish settlements and the wall Israel has built. The beauty, the elegance of the film is its depiction of the Palestinian town’s commitment to non-violence and peaceful demonstration. The Palestinians try to be like the bamboo: strong but not rigid, determined but gentle, yielding yet resolute. It is not simple. Anger and violence are ready responses to injustice and loss and suffering. But to be like bamboo is to be resilient even in the face of “an angry wind,” a violent storm.
Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. called it Soul Force: that strength of non-violence wedded to direct action and resistance. In nature is looks like the tenacious resilience of bamboo. In political and social change is looks like a non-violent movement. In your personal life it might be called an experience of rebirth or ‘a crucible,’ or the long dark night of the soul when you learn the true mettle of your spirit.
Have you ever felt swept under by the storm? When the storms of life blow over you, can you bow and bend like a bamboo rather than hunker down to hide? “To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed.” Bamboo is a natural example of how to hold fast with conviction and commitment, to ever remain in place through the strongest of winds. We can be as tenacious and resilient as the bamboo reed.
Resilience is our capacity to survive, adapt, and grow in the face of unforeseen changes, even catastrophic incidents. The lotus flower is also a symbol of resiliency. It is universally seen as a symbol of beauty and peace as well as spiritual purity.
Many people easily recognize the lotus flower as an important religious symbol for Buddhism. One legend is that lotus bloomed wherever the Buddha walked. The lotus is important for Hinduism as well, though for slightly different reasons (as I am sure you could figure out if you know the historical connection between those two traditions.) But did you know that the early Egyptians also saw the lotus flower as a symbol of the sacred. As a symbol of the sun, it had a connection to creation and rebirth. The symbolism comes from the flower’s daily behavior: at nightfall it closes and goes beneath the water and at dawn it climbs up above the water and reopens.
The lotus flower is an aquatic perennial. Sometimes mistaken for the water-lily, the lotus has a distinctively different structure. It also only comes in pink hues or white, whereas the lily comes in many different colors. So to add to the sense of symbolism, the lotus not only emerges each morning from the water, it rises pure white or with pink hues from the depths of what is often muddy water.
In a swamp a lotus reigns …
Lives in muddy waters yet untainted
How’s that for a symbol of a difficult life? You’re sitting in the muck and yet you bloom with a radiance that is not merely surviving – you are a shining icon of beauty and peace. This isn’t a story about a poor kid from the projects who gets a break and makes the big time. It is something that every kid in the projects can tap into because it is not limited to being noticed by a talent scout or being lucky with the whims of culture and fame. A closer analogy would be the story of a kid growing up in a toxic household and becoming a firefighter who saves lives or a teacher who makes a difference or a loving father despite a complete lack of training or modeling.
The lotus flower is a symbol of awakening to the spiritual reality for people who have had tough times in their life and are finally coming out of it. A lotus seed is one of those seeds people talk about being able to germinate even after a long period of time. One type of lotus seed managed to develop into a plant after 1300 years of dormancy. Why not your spirit? Why not the Middle East? Why not a blossom of peace and spiritual maturity from the slow sludge of materialistic culture around us that fosters greed and ignorance, isolation and irrelevance?
Each night the lotus sinks down under the water. Each morning it arises fresh to bask in the clean air. The context of your living will determine your life; but sometimes your spirit will reverse that. Sometimes suddenly even the swamp is transformed to a flowerbed of beauty because your spirit arose there.
We will never not be from where we have come from. We will never be relieved of the baggage of our past: our mistakes, our past tragedies and our losses. But we also will never not have been the ones who loved and cared and tried. “We can never stop carrying the heavy weight of love on this pilgrimage;” Stephanie Kallos writes, “we can only transfigure what we carry.” And that is the secret of resilience.
One aspect I see in resilient people is the capacity to live outside the box, to live within what might seem impossible or absurd – but it only seems to be impossible or absurd. Resilient people like the lotus flower can rise with the sun clean and pure, thriving amid the mud and murkiness of life. Resilient people like the bamboo reed can withstand the storm and wind not by their strength of resistance but by their flexible strength to bend and stay grounded.
This is what I mean by living outside the box. Strength usually looks like unyielding solidity and resistance. Murkiness and mud are not usually thought of as the location from which crisp beauty arises.
But the lost miners survived by sticking together, lost beneath the earth they stayed lost … together …until help arrived like a ray of hope cutting through half a mile of rock. The Soul Force Gandhi called forth from the people of India, the stone of hope King helped hew from the mountain of despair, the plea for peace from both sides of the new Israeli wall – all of these are signs of how it works. The crucible my mother walked through of loss after loss after heartbreak after loss after devastation led her into a ‘strength of spirit’ heretofore unknown to her.
Like bamboo bending in the wind or a lotus rising from the murky depths into the light of day – we can learn of our own resilience. We can bend but not break; we can dwell in difficulty but not be tainted. We all can rise. It is in our nature to rise and bring peace and lend our gentle strength to the universal commitment of love.
In a world without end,
may it be so
Parables of Miracles
Rev. Douglas Taylor
May 4, 2014
A mother asked her son what he learned in Sunday School. He said he learned about the time Moses led the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt. “When they reached the Red Sea, they crossed over on a pontoon bridge,” the boy said, “and did not get their feet at all wet while God sent a fighter aircraft to stop the Egyptian soldiers and blow up the pontoon bridge when the Egyptians tried to cross it.” She was surprised and asked if that was really what he was taught. He said, “No, but if I told you what the teacher said, you wouldn’t believe me.”
It is an old story that Unitarian Universalists are people who left Christianity because they no longer believed the doctrines and beliefs of their childhoods. For many their departure from Christianity was a departure from a belief in a supernatural deity performing supernatural miracles. It is an old story that is no longer the dominant story of the generation. It holds true still for some, for perhaps a fair number – but it is not the only way we Unitarian Universalists approach Christianity today or, to my point this morning, the idea of miracles.
I grew up in a Humanist Unitarian Universalist congregation. The trajectory of your beliefs about miracles likely took a different path. But I was taught a message that the Bible was a humanly inspired collection of books that have valuable lessons as well as irrelevant material that no longer serves. I was taught that we live in a natural universe that has evolved according to natural laws; and the stories in the Bible of miracles are fanciful inaccuracies, part of the irrelevant portions of the Bible.
As a teen I was given a copy of Jefferson’ Bible, the cut-and-paste version of the New Testament that the third President of the United States had created for his personal devotions. I saw the ‘Loose-leaf Bible’ that my minister the Rev. Dr. Richard Gilbert had created and adapted over the years as an ongoing examination along the lines of Jefferson’s Bible.
My education was still grounded in the basic premise of Sophia Lyon Fahs who said
[The Bible] as interpreted by Biblical Scholars is avowedly a combination of myth, legend, and historical record, mingled together without discrimination. All the records were made during a period when miracles were commonly believed to occur, and before man had conceived of the scientific concept of a law-abiding universe. (Today’s Children and Yesterday’s Heritage, Fahs, 1952, p80)
When talking about specific accounts of miracles, of Moses parting the Red Sea, of Jesus waking on water or raising Lazarus from the dead, of the resurrection, Fahs says this:
Such an astonishing story could be believed by Christians during the second century after Jesus lived, but modern man, whose whole thinking about this universe is scientifically conditioned, cannot believe. (Ibid, 9 81)
So despite the evidence that countless Christians do, in fact, believe the miracles to be real, I was raised to believe that miracles are not real. To believe the miracles are not real is still a strong belief held by a number of Unitarian Universalists. This disbelief in miracles (that was handed to me) was hard-won by others. My upbringing, however, provided me a freedom to explore possibilities. So let us consider the different ways we see miracles as Unitarian Universalists today.
It was Albert Einstein who wrote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” The basic outline of my Humanist upbringing is that nothing is a miracle. But there are others from within our history offering the opposite perspective.
‘Miracles have ceased.’ Have they indeed? When? (Asks Ralph Waldo Emerson,) They had not ceased this afternoon when I walked into the wood and got into bright, miraculous sunshine, in shelter from the roaring wind.
Another option that is widely held today is that the word ‘miracle’ has a natural meaning, one that is wider than the historically Biblical miracle. Like the Humanists, Emerson and other Transcendentalists in Unitarian history reject the Biblical miracles. But for Emerson, it was not that the Biblical version of a miracle said too much, but rather too little! In his Divinity School Address of 1838, Emerson said:
[Jesus] spoke of miracles; for he felt that man’s life was a miracle, and all that man doth, and he knew that this daily miracle shines, as the character ascends. But the word Miracle, as pronounced by Christian churches, gives a false impression; it is Monster. It is not one with the blowing clover and the falling rain.
From The Divinity School Address by R.W. Emerson
Walt Whitman echoes this sentiment in his poem Song of Myself:
Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles,
and each part and tag of me is a miracle.
Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy
whatever I touch or am touch’d from
The Transcendentalists saw life itself as a miracle; and nature as an ongoing refulgent flow of miracle. Miracle, by the definition of the Transcendentalists, was not just another word for the majesty or awesome beauty of nature. It was wrapped up in virtue and all that calls us to our highest sense of self in harmony with nature.
Yet contrary to what Albert Einstein claims there are more than two ways to look at miracles. The perspective that they are exaggerations or literary troupes that never happened is one way. The perspective that miracles are ‘one with the blowing clover and falling rain’ is another way. I haven’t done a study or anything, but it seems as though these two perspectives are the two dominant perspectives on miracles among Unitarian Universalists today.
Here’s the thing for me, however. Neither of these perspectives takes the Biblical miracle stories seriously. I do not want to read the miracle stories in the Bible as mere fact or as supernatural proof of Jesus’ divinity. I do want to read them as deeply mythic stories that can help us understand life and ourselves better. I want to read the miracle stories as parables.
A parable is a lesson-story told in metaphor. Parables are told by Jesus throughout the gospel accounts. What if we saw the miracle stories as parables about Jesus or – as any good parable will be – about you and me. In his book Power of Parable, Jesus Seminar Fellow, John Dominic Crossan writes this about parables:
A parable is a metaphorical story and, as such, it tends to generate a special mode of participation by hearers or readers. It does not want you to get into its story, but to get out of it. The Sower parable does not want you to get into sowing and ponder agricultural data. It wants you to get out of sowing – but into what? Parables are traps for thought and lures for participation. You are seduced or even provoked into thinking like this: If sowing is not sowing, what is it?
J. D. Crossan, Power of Parable, 2012, p 244)
Last month I facilitated a discussion course using the book A Short History of Myth written by religious scholar and historian Karen Armstrong. In the book she explores the evolving nature of the myths through the different eras in the evolution of humanity. According to Armstrong, myths serve a purpose. A myth is not meant to provide factual information or eye-witness history. The purpose of a myth is to guide people in understanding problematic aspects of the human condition and the world we live in.
Since the eighteenth century, (Armstrong writes in the first chapter) we have developed a scientific view of history; we are concerned above all with what actually happened. But in the pre-modern world, when people wrote about the past they were more concerned with what an event had meant.
A myth was an event which, in some sense, had happened once, but which also happened all the time. Because of our strictly chronological view of history, we have no word for such an occurrence, but mythology is an art form that points beyond history to what is timeless in human existence, helping us to get beyond the chaotic flux of random events, and glimpse the core of reality. (p 7)
I have no preference as to if we talk about the miracle stories as myths or as parables, my goal is that we talk about them. The miracle stories are not found in Thomas Jefferson’s cut-and-paste Bible. Because they are heard as historical facts, Jefferson and many others choose to discard them as unreasonable.
But we can look at these stories as parables, if you will, as metaphors or myths. Leaving aside the facts for another day, we can look to the stories and see what we can get out of them, what life-giving messages may be revealed.
Consider the miracle story of the few loaves and fishes – there are six occurrences throughout the four Gospel accounts, so it is clearly a significant story. A literalist interpretation says this actually happened; that if the video camera had been invented by then it could have captured the event exactly as written. A similarly literalist interpretation says it say it never happened and is only a meaningless fiction or at best irrelevant. A Transcendentalist might also say the story is irrelevant, but look instead at the extravagant way of nature’s abundance in the world. What I’m suggesting is a mythic or parabolic reading to see it as a story of God’s abundance and your abundance if you will step into the story and learn the lesson it contains for you.
Another memorable miracle story is of Jesus walking on the water, (Matt 14:25-27, Mark 6:48-51, and John 6:19-20,) but in one version (Matthew) Peter also steps out of the boat and walks on the water. This version casts a question in my mind at least about the meaning of this story. If walking on water is meant to be a sign of Jesus’ divinity, does Matthew’s Gospel suggest that Pater is also divine? Or might it suggest that the story is not really about walking on water. Perhaps it is a story about trust and our capacity to be more than we usually believe we can be.
In all four accounts of Jesus’ arrest, the story is told of one of his disciples drawing a sword and striking the ear off one of those come to take Jesus to trial. In Luke’s Gospel (22:51) Jesus is reported to have healed the wounded man. In the three other versions Jesus does not heal the injury. It seems as though the healing is not the primary point; the lesson is the point. Put away your sword. To truly follow the example of this non-violent prophet and healer, you too must be non-violent, compassionate, and just.
Personal meaning can be found; political meaning is in there too. Really, my point today is that we should not ignore or dismiss these powerful stories. And we need not subscribe to particular beliefs and creeds to hear these stories and benefit from them.
In Chapter 5 of Mark, Jesus meets up with the Gerasene Demoniac (5:1-20). The man spends all his time in the tombs. No one can subdue him. They tried to chain him up with shackles, but he broke the chains to pieces. “Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones.” We can be trapped, at times, consumed in our fears or preoccupations, unable to see past our own calamity or turmoil. We dwell in despair, among the tombs of a half-life, unable to break free, unable to reign in the darkness and the anger. The Tombs can be a place of replenishment and solace as well as a place to hide or even grow numb – as the reading from this morning reminds us (SLT #628) But in no way is it a place to set up residence. The Tomb is no place to live.
Jesus says, “What is your name,” and the man answers, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” I can’t figure out who I really am because it feels like there are dozens of me inside me and not all of them are attractive. I can’t tell you who I am because I am not really sure myself. I am a bundle of conflicting emotions and desires vying for expression.
Whatever your interpretation of miracles or your understanding of God and power, this story offers witness to the difficulties we can experience in life, the doubt and despair, the fragmentation and alienation we can endure. It also witnesses release that can come when we surrender ourselves to life. In the story, Jesus saved this man, but in my own story the role of Jesus was played by different people at different times: a wise counselor, a 10th grade art teacher, my best friend, my spouse, a Methodist theology professor, the Spirit of Life, and even my own meandering journal entries.
“What is your name?” Why are you so restless? What is breaking your heart? Why do you linger here at the tombs? The questions Jesus asks can break us open, the questions the Spirit will ask when we are at the bottom, the questions and the support and the love can save us. I know this to be true. And I don’t mean “save” as in get into heaven, (I’m a Universalist – that part is covered,) I mean “save” as come back to life after living among the metaphorical tombs.
Do not take the story of the Gerasene Demoniac out of my Bible, I need that story. Leave me the ones about healing as well, I need all the clues I can find. Jonah swallowed by the great fish, Moses standing before a bush that burns but is not consumed, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, and the parting of the Red Sea are all stories I need from the Hebrew Scriptures that would not pass as historically literal in our modern scientific and naturalistic understanding. The healing of the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter and Jarius’s daughter and the unnamed woman Jesus called ‘daughter,’ are all miracle stories I need from the Gospels.
I read these miracle stories as parables with lessons about life and hope and love abundant. You may not see miracle stories this way. You may see my perspective as going too far or as still not going far enough. But that also is why I contend we need more stories not less. What stories do you have in your life that lift you or wash you or help you move forward? What are the myths that give you meaning and healing amidst the reality of facts and events of life? May we each find ways to encourage the uncovering of truth and light in each other’s lives. May we discover anew the life-giving messages contained in old stories.
In a world without end
May it be so.
The Immorality of Income Inequality
Rev. Douglas Taylor
April 6, 2014
A few weeks back I was part of a Moral Monday rally outside the state office building in Downtown Binghamton. Moral Mondays began down in North Carolina over a year ago. Religious and Civic leaders rallied around various legislative issues. In Binghamton, the Labor Coalition and Citizen Action hosted three consecutive rallies in March focused on the state budget proposals that were passed at the end of March.
The issues we were talking about as clergy from different traditions at the Moral Monday rally included raising the minimum wage, increase funding for education, a more progressive and fair taxation on the wealthier people and corporations in our society, and a commitment to the safety net for the disadvantaged and poor in our neighborhoods.
Well the state budget has passed and some of the features people are talking about include funding for potholes, prison reductions, and a property tax freeze. There are some very good pieces to the budget involving money allocations for schools including the Universal Pre-K program. This budget includes tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations without much relief for the middle class. For example, there is a major manufacturing income tax reduction from 5.9% to 0%. http://auburnpub.com/blogs/eye_on_ny/things-to-know-about—new-york-state-budget/article_f1be5196-b9aa-11e3-8470-001a4bcf887a.html
The Classic Economic theory of John Stuart Mill and Adam Smith talks about the ‘invisible hand of the market.’ What is meant by this is that free markets will self-regulate, they will naturally find balance and equilibrium because it is the nature of economic interests, through the process of supply and demand for example, to adjust to the needs of the society. The Classic Economic idea is that the free market, unregulated by the government, will always find balance. That things are not balanced is a sign that the either this Classic Theory is not true or that the government is not neutral.
I hear politically conservative people suggesting that government interference and over regulation mucks up the economic system and that’s why everything is out of balance. The claim assumes that the interference is on behalf of the poor and the workers. What if instead it is an undue government interference in favor of the wealthy and the corporations that is mucking up the system?
And while there is much to be said in favor of the poor, the concern I want to raise is for the middle class. I’ve heard it said that America has an eroding middle class; that the middle class is disappearing. I looked at some fairly simple and clear charts that show the growing income inequality, that demonstrate this growing gap to be a fact. There is a measurement called the Gini Coefficient that shows the steady widening of the gap between the rich and the poor since the 1970’s in this country. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gini_coefficient
The Gini Coefficient proposes an optimal level of inequality: that there be an equal spread of all the various levels of income across the population. It would look like a straight 45 degree line, a perfect diagonal on an x/y axis. The U.S. chart has a deep bend into the corner that has been getting deeper and deeper over the past four decades.
In Dick Gilbert’s book, How Much Do We Deserve, he explores the application of distributive justice to the American capitalist democracy. Gilbert says, for example, that the old board game ‘monopoly’ is fine for an evening of fun, but the ‘one winner and everyone else a loser’ game dynamic it is a poor model for a society’s economic policy. He lifts up three ethical principles that refute pure capitalism. He says the first principle is that the “needs of the poor should take priority over the wants of the rich.” In many ways this is what the Occupy movement was all about with their juxtaposition of the 1% with the 99%.
Political conservatives will say that taxing the wealthy is unfair, even un-American. They will say that people should be free to keep what they have earned, not being required to support the unsuccessful and unproductive people in the country. They will say it is part of our national tradition to celebrate those who achieve wealthy, not to punish them.
Yet concern for an extreme concentration of wealth is a very American thing. Jefferson warned against the danger of an aristocracy of the rich saying a broad distribution of wealth is important for broad participation in our government. Theodore Roosevelt was a fierce proponent of high taxation of the rich, and Roosevelt’s programs were demonstratively beneficial for the country’s work force and economy. And that part about keeping what you earn – I quibble with the idea that it was fairly earned.
It sometimes seems to me that people have mistaken capitalism for a form of government. They conflate a free market with a democratic society.
My point is not about attacking the rich. It is about calling out the acquisition of wealth by unfair advantage. My point is not to say corporations and capitalism are bad. It is about the abuse of capitalism and the undue influence corporations have gained over our government. We’re not working with a zero-sum gain model. My argument is that nurturing the middle class will benefit the rich and the poor alike. A strong middle class is the driving force of a thriving democratic government and capitalist economy too.
The wealthy have taken to calling themselves ‘job creators.’ It seems to me that according to Classical Economics, the consumers are the job creators. A job is created by the demand for a product. There is a limit to the number of fancy cars one wealthy person will buy. Most of the money ends up in savings or essentially removed from the economy. But if the middle class were thriving, there would be more people buying cars, or TVs or homes, or whatever widget is in the spotlight today.
My point is that it is not just a Jeffersonian argument for the health of a democracy that leads me to say the middle class is necessary. It is also economically critical. A capitalist society lacking consumers will not last long.
Full time minimum wage should be a living wage. I don’t know that everyone shares a definition of what a living wage means, but I figure it at least should be above the poverty line. Yet people who work full time at minimum wage are still eligible for government assistance such as food stamps. Full time Minimum Wage at the Federal level, $7.25 for 40 hours for 50 weeks, comes out to $14,500 a year. That is below the poverty line for a household of two ($15,730). Why is that okay?
In the past 25 years the state based minimum wage has been raised 91 times. http://www.americanprogressaction.org/issues/labor/news/2012/06/20/11749/the-facts-on-raising-the-minimum-wage-when-unemployment-is-high-2/
When researchers looked in a year later they saw that the unemployment percent fell 47 of those times, remained unchanged 4 times, and went up 40 times. Raising the minimum wage is not a guarantee that unemployment will increase, in fact, more often than not, raising the minimum wage is good for the unemployment rates. http://aneconomicsense.com/2013/03/06/the-impact-of-increasing-the-minimum-wage-on-unemployment-no-evidence-of-it/
It is a mixed bag, but raising the minimum wage leans toward creating more jobs more often than not. Plus there would be few people on food stamps. The government spends billions of dollars each year for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Slate ran a short 2 minute video crunching the numbers using Walmart as an example. http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2014/04/big_box_stores_make_billions_off_food_stamps_often_it_s_their_own_workers.html
An estimated 15% of Walmart employees are currently on SNAP, or food stamps. If Walmart raised the wages of those employees such that they were no longer eligible for food stamps and if they chose to pass the cost along to the consumer rather than just eat it themselves, the cost of everything in the store would need to go up by 1.4%. So, the cost of a box of Mac & Cheese would rise from 68 cents to 69 cents. And Walmart’s executives would not need to take a pay cut.
But instead, Walmart is basically relying on the government safety net. The government not only gives tax breaks to the corporation and other tax breaks for the wealthy individuals running the corporation, the government also pays to feed the low-wage employees of Walmart. According to reports, Walmart receives about 18% of all food stamps dollars spent. That’s quite a cycle of benefit pouring into Walmart!
Rather than insisting on a minimum wage that is a living wage (and thus allowing the bottom rung of workers the dignity of earning enough to live on) the government chooses to be complicit in forcing full time workers to be in the government assistance programs. On one hand the political conservatives are saying we can’t tax the rich because they should be allowed to keep what they have earned. I disagree with the word “earned” as used in that sentence. On the other hand political conservatives claim that they poor don’t deserve $10 an hour and we shouldn’t have to support them. Well, which is it: by not paying an honest wage for an honest day’s work, we are basically committing to supporting them through the safety net of government assistance.
I have drifted away from preaching and into political problem solving. And really politics is not my strong suit. And besides, there are numerous layers of analysis concerning the problems of income inequality we face as a democracy and possible solutions. I recall more than one member of this congregation saying that raising the minimum wage is not really the great solution I am now making it out to be. We have a diversity of opinion and understanding when it comes to politics just as we do when it comes to religious beliefs.
The heart of what I want to offer today is the encouragement of people to pay attention and form opinions and listen to other people and engage in the conversation. Get involved. Be a citizen.
For me, the reason this conversation is one about the ‘immorality’ of this political topic is that my faith is based in relationships. How we gather in community has a holy component. ‘We the people’ should be the end goal of any political debate. How does this effect the people? How does this effect the common good for all the people involved?
Our form of government as a country is a mirror of the form governance we use in this congregation. Theodore Parker said a Democracy is “of all the people, by all the people, for all the people.” A phrasing picked up and put to good use by President Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address.
Capitalism is not a political system, it is an economic system rooted in private ownership of means and production toward a profitable goal. We would do well to remember that the purpose of our government is not to support our private industry over our citizenry. Do we need to institute a separation of corporation and state?
As I have already said, politics is not my strong suit. Perhaps it is so for you as well. But too much is at stake for me to not be paying attention. Perhaps it is so for you as well. I do not wish to surrender my country to contrary values and self-destructive tendencies. I do not wish to be lulled into complacency with a dream of middle class status while the reality of a middle class evaporates. I do not wish to lose a prophetic voice for the poor for the benefit of a few extra coins in my pocket.
Let us gather in the spirit of mutual learning for the good of all involved. Let us listen to each other and with compassion find a way forward at least one more step toward the goal of peace and liberty and justice for all people.
In a world without end
May it be so.
The Theology of U2
Rev. Douglas Taylor
March 23, 2014
I can’t believe the news today
Oh, I can’t close my eyes
And make it go away
How long must we sing this song
-Sunday Bloody Sunday
As I entered my teenage years, the Irish rock band U2 crossed the ocean with their third album entitled War. In many ways they are what you expect from a rock band – four guys: a drum kit, bass, guitar, and vocals. They’re loud, they swear, they thrive in the center of attention, they go by iconic names – Bono and The Edge rather than by their birth names: Paul and Dave. They totally work that ‘too cool for you’ look in photo shoots. They are rock stars.
But in many ways they are atypical for a rock band. Their music is not all love songs. They sing about faith and hope, they sing about injustice and social turmoil, they sing about brokenness and the power of love.
In 1983 they performed at Red Rock amphitheater in Denver, filming the concert for release titled Under a Blood Red Sky. Rolling Stone named them the band of the year in 1983. The opening lyrics of their song Sunday Bloody Sunday captured me. “I can’t believe the news today. I can’t close my eyes and make it go away.” U2 captured my emotional and political stance with those words.
I remember hearing about a prominent religious figure saying several decades back that he had to stop watching the news because it interrupted his prayers; it made it too hard for him to pray. What I heard from this rock band was the opposite. I watch the news and am drawn to lament with the Psalms: ‘How long must we sing this song?’
When I was a teenager I didn’t know what this song was about. I thought it was a reference to the America’s Civil Rights movement and our 1965 Bloody Sunday when Dr. King and protestors tried to march across the Edmond Pettus Bridge. But it was instead about two events 50 years apart both called ‘Bloody Sunday’ in Ireland’s history; one from the 1920’s and another from the 1970’s
Broken bottles under children’s feet
Bodies strewn across the dead end street
But I won’t heed the battle call
Bono insists it is not a rebel song or a partisan song. It is an appeal to end the violence.
And the battle’s just begun
There’s many lost, but tell me who has won
The trench is dug within our hearts
And mothers, children, brothers, sisters
For years after writing it, violence would still flair up in Ireland, bombs would still go off.
And it’s true we are immune
When fact is fiction and TV reality
And today the millions cry
We eat and drink while tomorrow they die
How long, how long must we sing this song? The urgency of the emotion gives the song its drive, but the clarity of its conscience gives the song its heart. As I think about my own ministry and passion I can see the influence U2 in general and this song in particular had on me in my teenage years.
Over the years, U2 has written songs about the social problems of drug addiction (Bad, Running to Stand Still), inhumane treatment of the mentally ill (The Electric Co.), suicide (Stuck in Moment), female body image insecurities (Original of the Species), and grieving Argentine mothers of political victims ( Mothers of the Disappeared). But it is the appeal against violence that appears most regularly in their music throughout the years.
Bono and the band are regulars at the various global music charity and consciousness-raising events such as Live-Aid, Band-Aid, “We Are the World”, and the Conspiracy of Hope tour. Plus Bono has gained renown for meeting with political figures around the global to talk about helping Africa rise up out of debt and crushing poverty. They are an activist rock n roll band. And for more than a generation, they have made it cool to be an activist!
Van Diemen’s Land is a song off their “Rattle and Hum” album. It is a song written by lead guitarist Edge as an appeal for justice without violence. John Boyle O’Reilly was a poet sentenced to the Van Diemen penal colony in Australia back in 1848 for his role in an Irish rebellion associated with the Great Potato Famine – which wasn’t really a famine but a plundering of Irish potato farms for export while the Irish people starved. The song calls not for a rebellion but a reflection on suffering and justice.
I am far from the first person to recognize and comment on the ethics and theology of this rock band and their music. For over a decade, nearly a dozen books have been published with titles such as:
Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2 (2005)
One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters for those Seeking God (2006)
Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalogue (2003)
We Get to Carry Each Other: The Gospel According to U2 (2009)
The depth of this band is not captured only in a political and social outcry. U2 has always had an element of religious and spiritual search in their lyrics. Early on, three of the four band members were part of a Charismatic Christian community. After their first album they felt pressure to pick a side – to be a Christian Rock band playing the message of that particular community or to let go of Christianity and faith to embrace the rock star world. They choose to find a third way. Their music has strong themes of redemption and salvation, with lots of biblical imagery, but they explore doubt and loss of faith as well.
All over the websites people of faith are condemning U2 for not being Christina enough or not ‘really’ Christian. And then other websites have people of faith lifting up U2 (usually with a perplexed expression because U2 doesn’t quite fit what they expect from a rock band with a message of faith.)
In their 1991 song Mysterious Ways, they have the line: “To touch is to heal, to hurt is to steal. If you want to kiss the sky, better learn how to kneel” but that is coupled with words from an earlier song: “We thought we had the answers, It was the questions we had wrong” (11 O’clock Tick Tock – 1983). In their 2009 song Magnificent Bono sings: “I was born to sing for you, I didn’t have a choice to lift you up and sing whatever song you wanted me to. I give you back my voice … I will magnify.” But they also sing “I have spoke[n] with the tongue of angels, I have held the hand of the devil … but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”
In a 2004 interview Bono said:
There [are] cathedrals and the alleyways in our music. I think the alleyway is usually on the way to the cathedral, where you can hear your own footsteps and you’re slightly nervous and looking over your shoulder, and wondering if there’s somebody following you. And then you get there and realize there was somebody following you: it’s God.
-from Jon Pareles, New York Times, section 2, p29 (Nov 14 2004)
Their song I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For was covered by a gospel Choir; there is a clip of Edge saying it really is a gospel song if you listen to the lyrics … it’s not in they way they play it, he says, but it is gospel. But then Bono will say it is more an anthem of doubt than an anthem of faith. My sense is that it’s a mix – it is a searching through doubt and faith.
A significant element of U2 is the message of grace and hope and the Gospel. While they don’t come on heavy handed with their beliefs, they do lean heavy on their faith. There is no denying they are a rock n roll band with deep spiritual overtones.
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For comes from the 1987 “Joshua Tree” album. It was a number 1 song on a number 1 album. The album’s title is about old growth trees in the Nevada desert. The Joshua tree grows in dry dirt, sand and stone and somehow survives to show there must be water somewhere around there, hope lives hidden there somewhere. The song “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is about spiritual doubt and the drive to keep searching, knowing that the source of life is there somewhere.
As was mentioned in the announcements, Jason Smith won the sermon topic at last year’s church auction and asked me to preach about the Gospel of U2. In our conversations we learned that he and I were both at the 1987 concert at Silver Stadium in Rochester for the Joshua Tree tour.
Jason wrote me saying:
I remember seeing MTV videos for Gloria and I Will Follow, [but] it was the performance of Sunday, Bloody Sunday at Red Rocks that caused me to buy my first U2 [album] …riding my bike down to T&C World of Video on Market Street in Corning to pick up the Under a Blood Red Sky EP when I was 14 years old, seeing them perform at Live Aid, playing the song Bad when Bono jumped into the crowd, going to see them twice on the Joshua Tree tour in Syracuse and Rochester, during my Freshman year at Corning Community College with my best friend Scott, continuing the tradition of seeing them live with Scott right up until 2009 when I took my boys to see them for the first time at Giants Stadium.
When I asked him why U2 was important to him he said:
It’s a combination of the depth of U2’s convictions, their willingness to discuss social action in their music and the history of camaraderie that the music has provided to me that keeps me coming back for more.
What keeps me coming back to U2’s music is the way they cast hope while being firmly grounded in reality. They sing about resilience and the power of love.
Their 2000 album has a song about Aung San Suu Kyi, the political figure from Burma/ Myanmar who chose to leave the comforts of Oxford University and return to Burma facing imprisonment but to fight for the cause of democracy. She became a symbol for people.
Walk on, walk on
What you’ve got, they can’t deny it … Walk on, walk on.
A favorite of mine is their song One from their Achtung Baby album. Bono sings:
Have you come here for forgiveness
Have you come to raise the dead
Have you come here to play Jesus
To the lepers in your head
It has the line:
One love, one blood
One life but we’re not the same
We get to carry each other, carry each other
I love that it doesn’t say, ‘we have to carry each other,’ but that we ‘get to.’ What makes us “one” is not that we are all the same; but that we belong together as humanity and that we are responsible for each other in a way that blesses us.
U2 performed their latest song at the Oscars last month; Ordinary Love is a tribute to Nelson Mandela. One interpretation is that it offer the perspective of Mandela when he gets out of prison.
I can’t fight you any more, it’s you I’m fighting for
The song has won the Golden Globe award for Best New Song this year and was nominated at the Oscars from the soundtrack to the new Mandela movie “Long Walk to Freedom.” The song appeals just to ‘ordinary’ love – not the extraordinary, monumental love like that of Gandhi, King, or Mandela. Just the ordinary love will be enough, more than enough to see us through.
U2 sings about more than injustice and a bit about faith. They have blended the activist spirit with the postmodern yearning for deeper meaning. The Christian ethic and faith they present are not neat and clear. Bono sings about brokenness and despair, lost faith and found hope. He sings about our responsibility to build a better world with the flawed material of our own aching hearts. U2’s theology is about the transforming power of love that can and does change the world.
So what music or art has influenced your outlook on life, your faith and understanding of the world?
Pride (In the Name of Love) is from the “Unforgettable Fire” album of 1984. The first two verses are stylistically written to be like “grainy photos sent back along the wire from the front lines of resistance;” snapshots of the work and its cost. The last verse is about the death and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. The song is about the power mix of love and pride that propel people to stand up and speak out and change the world.
Gracious and Loving God, from whom all things come and to whom all things return
Let us turn our attention this hour to the clamoring needs of our world, of our people, of our own souls. We gather today as a liberal people of faith, people of a wide path, a welcoming path, a path of compassion and acceptance.
We gather as a people in honor of our differences and the differences all the world round.
Let us gather as people of courage and hope, let us gather as people of love and justice
In this silent moment we recognize and honor those places in our own lives and in our own hearts where burdens reside. We seek the comfort of community, the peace of faith, and the yearning for wholeness in our lives. May this hour bring life-giving truth and peace to us and all the world.
We recognize and honor that people in many places the world over seek this same balm.
We recognize that this very hour and over the past days and weeks and ages and eons, people have come together in faithful community seeking this same balm of comfort and justice and life.
Let us recognize that humanity is one family; that though we are not the same, we are still one human family in one common web of existence with all that is holy.
Let our prayer be not only for ourselves and for our near neighbor. Let our prayer be for clean water for all people, for schooling for every child, for medicine for all the afflicted, and for an end to extreme and senseless poverty
Let us together build a better and safer world for all creation. Let us not ask for the blessing of the holy upon our lives and upon this world. Let us instead step up and be the blessing to the world.
Let us speak up for the disempowered, and be the voices of compassion and reason for a world gone mad with cruelty, poverty, and injustice. Let us set aside hate, and devote our lives to the ways of peace and justice.
Let us be tender with the broken places in our own souls and in the souls of our neighbors near and far. Let us be tender yet persistent with the broken places in our global systems that allow racism and poverty to flourish, that allow homophobia and misogyny to run rampant.
For such injustice let us be tender but not complicit, demanding but not unkind. Let us acknowledge these broken places in our world and in ourselves and stand up, speak out, and reach out to make a difference
Be thou an ever present strength upon our journey, O Spirit
In the name of all that is holy
may it be so
Love Builds a Bridge
Rev. Douglas Taylor
February 16, 2014
Yesterday my 21 year-old son sent me a message on facebook in anticipation of my sermon today. It warms my heart to think he is paying attention. The message was a picture of a church roadside sign that read “God says homosexuality is in” and there were two guys grinning in the foreground holding a letter “s” from the sign board. In other words, the sign originally said “God says homosexuality is sin,” but these young men had stolen the “s” so the new message is that God says it is “in”
As a parent, I hope my values are transmitted to the next generation. When I am at my best I hope these values are not merely a parroting of my values but a deep reflection and acceptance of what I hold dear. I hope what I have projected into the next generation is not merely the conclusions I have reached, but the terms by which I reach those conclusions. I don’t want my kids to be comfortable with homosexuality because their parents are; I want them to see the deeper value of acceptance and non-judgment at the heart of any particular political or social issues in the news today. I want them to recognize the best qualities of love in the conversation.
It is a particular sort of love that I want to focus our attention on this morning. I know Valentine’s Day just happened and everyone was talking about romance and relationships. But the love I want to raise up is suitable for all of us, whether we have a date or a partner or a spouse or any of that.
Carter Heyward, a lesbian feminist theologian, teacher, and priest in the Episcopalian church offers this on the topic of love:
Love, like truth and beauty, is concrete. Love is not fundamentally a sweet feeling; not, at heart, a matter of sentiment … Love is active, effective, a matter of making reciprocal and mutually beneficial relation with one’s friends and enemies. Love creates righteousness, or justice, here on earth. To make love is to make justice. (Our Passion for Justice)
Or as philosopher and activist Cornell West succinctly said, “Justice is what love looks like in public.”
The song we just offered, “Same Love” by Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, and featuring Mary Lambert, has become a popular radio song. Ben Haggerty (that is Macklemore’s real name) wrote the song as a statement in favor of same-sex marriage. The cover of the album shows his uncle John with his partner Sean.
Marriage equality is a current news story. Same-sex Marriage has become the legislative flash point for GLBTQ issues in our country and in Unitarian Universalism these past few years. Back in 2005 in a sermon on marriage I stated that it was only a matter of time before marriage equality was the law of the land. These things take time but it certainly seems like the tide of cultural acceptance is rolling in.
Two weeks back Tabernacle United Methodist church hosted Rev. Frank Schaefer into their pulpit. Rev. Schaefer was defrocked last year for officiating at the marriage of his son several years back. There was a trial and everything; his ministerial credentials were revoked by the council. The United Methodists have been wrestling with GLBTQ issues but at the last General Conference they upheld the language that disallows the officiating at same-sex marriages. Schaefer was in town to preach at Tabernacle, a Reconciling Congregation – that is akin to our ‘Welcoming Congregation’ as a formal designation welcoming people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
Rev. Steve Heiss is minister serving that congregation. Rev. Heiss has issued a public letter to his congregation and to his bishop stating that he has officiated at several same-sex marriages and has no intention to cease the practice. Rev. Heiss will probably be brought to trial and be defrocked as well.
As a Unitarian Universalist clergy I have no such concerns for the same-sex marriages I have officiated. Unitarian Universalism went on record in 1970 with a resolution against the discrimination of homosexuals and bisexuals. There was an official resolution in 1984 affirming the practice of conducting services of union for gay and lesbian couples, and another one in 1996 supporting full marriage equality.
But in many ways, marriage equality is not the pinnacle of LGBTQ concerns in our society. I recall conversations with people who were frustrated with the marriage equality focus, not because they didn’t agree with same-sex marriage or because they did not wish to marry their partners, but because there were many other issues of importance that were getting no attention. Marriage Equality became a wedge issue during recent election seasons, and by some interpretations even a distraction tactic.
But marriage equality, I believe, has come to represent more than just the freedom for same-sex couples to marry. In many ways Marriage Equality seems to be akin to the voting rights act of the 1960’s. The point of the civil rights movement was not to win the vote for people of color. The point was to stop the legal violence and dehumanization. The point was to get society to see that no matter the color of your skin, all people deserve equal treatment. But a galvanizing focus of that was the push for the voting rights act. The voting was literally valuable, but it was also symbolically valuable – voting is about agency and having a voice and power. The 1960’s voting rights act was about more than voting. Similarly, the point of marriage equality may not merely be about the freedom to marry. It is the legislative focus for the effort to change the culture at large; to get people to pay attention to the violence and the dehumanization of gay and lesbian people, of bisexual, transgender, queer people. Most of society is still coming to terms with just the G and the L parts of the GLBTQ acronym.
Charlotte and I participated in a fascinating interfaith lunch conversation with local Christian clergy last week. The conversation ranged from war and peace, through politics and popes, and finally into sexual orientation. Homosexuality was the topic which then dominated the bulk of our interchange that afternoon. We talked about how different denominations handle the topic, we talked about Rev. Hiess and Frank Schafer; we spoke of weddings and family members and colleagues. It was wonderful to hear our liberal Christian colleagues speak so affirmatively for the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the worship life of their congregations.
There were different guesses as to how long it would take for society and the different religions to come to terms with marriage equality and the full participation of gay and lesbian people in the church. But these colleagues seemed to echo the general sentiment of Macklemore’s song. “I might not be the same, but that’s not important.” “Strip away the fear and underneath it’s all the same love.” People are getting much more comfortable with the conversation. Marriage equality is approaching ‘normal.’
In a slightly different though related topic, a week ago (Feb 9, 2014) football player Michael Sam announced publicly that he is gay. This is news as he is the first professional football player to make such an announcement prior to retirement. Dale Hansen, a local Dallas Texas Sportscaster, offered a remarkable commentary on the news. He said,
It wasn’t that long ago that we were being told that black players couldn’t play in our games because it would be uncomfortable. And even when they finally could it took several more years before a black man played quarterback, because we weren’t comfortable with that either. So many of the same people who used to make that argument and the many who still do are the same people who say government should stay out of our lives but then want government in our bedrooms. I’ve never understood how they feel comfortable laying claim to both sides of that argument.
Hansen then quoted Audre Lourde in that commentary: “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
What Loure was lifting up is not that our differences ‘don’t matter;’ she wanted our differences acknowledged but not judged. She calls for our differences to be acknowledged and celebrated. Audre Lorde was a black lesbian feminist at a time when it was hard enough just being black, or lesbian, or a feminist. She understood about differences and the loss and silencing that occurs when we say our differences don’t matter.
One way to look at our differences is to say they matter a lot; they matter so much that they are insurmountable barriers. Another way is to say our differences do not matter at all; indeed we are all the same deep down. A third way to look at it all is to say our differences matter a lot and we can celebrate our differences together.
In considering all this news from the past few weeks and the conversations I’ve had, I’ve been thinking about this point made by Audre Lourde. Thinking about my conversations at lunch with other clergy, thinking about the words of Macklemore’s song and how popular the song has become, thinking about the courageous stance of Rev. Steve Hiess, thinking about the same-sex weddings at which I have officiated, and thinking about this young football player having to explain what it will be like in the locker room – thinking about all this I am reminded of the of love. And justice is what love looks like in public.
And this is what I think is so elegant about the push for marriage equality: It puts love into the conversation. Too often people get bogged down thinking about what homosexuality means in the locker room or the bedroom. But the bigger point is relationship, it always has been. The point is the love. Seeing the conversation as one about love helps people to make that first step.
Macklemore says “It’s the same fight that led to walk-outs and sit-ins, human rights for everybody there is no difference.” Justice is what love looks like in public. Like the voting rights act, the legislative push for marriage equality is worth it both literally and symbolically. In the literal sense, it matters for couples to receive equal protections and rights whether they are a same-sex couple or an opposite-sex couple. In a symbolic sense, it matters because we’re talking about love and reminding everyone that we’re talking about the basic human relationship between people. Love is patient, love is kind. Love is bigger than our differences; and love can help build the bridge between those differences such that we see that our differences do not matter and beyond that to see that they do matter in a way that can be celebrated.
Love finds a way when laws are blind and freedom banned. Put your trust in that concrete form of love that looks like justice, listens with patience and reaches out across our differences with kindness. Love is patient, love is kind.
In a world with out end
May it be so.