Saturday, August 28, 2010

On the Transmigration of Souls

I don’t claim to be the poster child for the connected world (the web 2.0 world). I have a couple of blogs. I have multiple e-mail accounts. I have a Facebook page – though today I read another article on the “graying of Facebook.” Seniors are the fastest growing group using this social media. I am not yet a “senior” and I am not so much graying as balding. However, I guess the “graying of Facebook” sounds better than the “balding of Facebook.” Anyway, though I have posted on this blog for three and a half years now, I am still discovering features of this blog site.
I just discovered that if you go to your profile page you can click on the underlined items in your profile, such as “favorite music,” and you get a list of every other blogger who also has this listed as a favorite. 532,000 people list Bob Dylan as among their favorite music. That’s a lot of people, but it is nothing compared to The Beatles – 3,090,000. So I thought I would see if at least some of my choices were rarer. Lucinda Williams counts 20,300 blogspot bloggers who list her in favorite music, smaller, but still quite a few. One of my favorite bands of summer 2010, The Hold Steady, clocks in at 5,100. Then I decided to see if anyone else listed “On the Transmigration of Souls” in the favorite music category. I guessed it would be smaller than even The Hold Steady.
“On the Transmigration of Souls” is a classical piece composed by American composer John Adams. It was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic to honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks and to honor those who reached out with a heroic and caring hand that day. It is a haunting and beautiful piece of music. In the booklet that accompanies the CD there is this description: “It superimposes pre-recorded street sounds and the reading of victim’s names by friends and family members, also pre-recorded, on live performances by a children’s chorus, an adult chorus, and a large orchestra.” I remember first listening to it while driving. If I wasn’t on a schedule, I would have pulled over just to hear it all without thinking about driving. I listened to it again that same evening, and then a few more times. I found this music profoundly moving, and I continue to be moved whenever I hear it. Not everyone has the same reaction. I remember wanting to play it for a small group of clergy colleagues, and they did not hear it in the same way I did. I admit to being disappointed, but I am sure I have disappointed others in not sharing their enthusiasm for something or other.
I realize that there may be some bloggers who list John Adams in their favorite music list. I simply have this one piece by name. So I clicked on “On the Transmigration of Souls” in my blogger profile. The list of bloggers who identify this as a favorite piece of music is small. “David Bard.”

With Faith and With Feathers,


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Anne Rice

I am not a fan of Anne Rice novels. It is not that I have read them and don’t like them. It is that in the scheme of things, with more books to read than I have time to, I have chosen not to read vampire literature. I know it is on a long-term come back, but this is one wave I am not going to ride. I didn’t ride it years ago, either – anyone remember Dark Shadows?
I guess that I am not an Anne Rice fan is o.k., because she is probably not my fan either. Last week, Anne posted a statement saying that she was quitting Christianity, giving up on it because it is “quarrelsome, hostile and disputatious.” My sense of what I viewed of an interview with her was that what she was giving up was “organized Christianity.” As a clergy person, I certainly am a part of organized Christianity, and so assume that Anne Rice would not be a fan.
You might expect me to rush in to defend organized Christianity. I think it is defensible, at least in part, yet it is only so when we admit the truth of Anne Rice’s statements. The history of Christianity is littered with and marred by incidents of Christianity being quarrelsome and disputatious. The problem, in my mind, is not that Christians disagree. The Bible is a complex document. Disagreement about its meaning is to be expected. We are trying to grapple with deep mysteries of life and the reality of God. Our intellectual categories can come up short. Christians will disagree – with one another and with non-Christians. Healthy disagreement can energize and sharpen our thinking. Disagreement is not the problem, hostility is. The smallness of some of the issues we become exercised about is.
Despite our shortcomings, there remains something valuable and important about organized Christianity. The teachings of Jesus, his intriguing presence and the stories told about him are still part of organized Christianity, and they would not have made it this far without some organization that sought to carry them forward. That the teachings and spirit of Jesus have been distorted by the same people who carry them forward is tragic, but those same teachings and that same spirit provide a corrective.
Hopefully we who name the name of Jesus will learn to be less hostile and quarrelsome. Hopefully we can assert our viewpoints with gentleness, humility and love. That would be more in keeping with the teachings and spirit of our founder.

With Faith and With Feathers,

Monday, August 16, 2010

Returning from vacation, to the hustle and bustle and noise and busyness of life, I would like to remember these words:

Until we go into silence, we have nothing to say except what we hear around us, nothing to think except what has already been thought by somebody else. Until we go into silence, we may know really very little about ourselves.

Joan Chittister, Living Well

With Faith and With Feathers,


Friday, August 6, 2010

Taking some time away from writing while I have been attending the School of Congregational Development and on vacation.