Category Archives: Spirituality and Wholeness

Are we ready to build Dr. King’s Beloved Community?

The Unitarian Universalist congregation that I joined recently voted to accept the UU Eighth Principle

So I thought I should try to understand what a Beloved Community might look like. Here is one description extracted from a blog titled “Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism. Carl Gregg wrote…..

In progressive religious circles, you will often hear calls to “build the Beloved Community,” but I’m not sure we always appreciate the full historic resonance of that phrase. The term “Beloved Community” was coined by the early twentieth-century American philosopher Josiah Royce (1855-1916). But most of us learned it not from Royce but from The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who often spoke of the “Beloved Community” as his ultimate goal.

As an early example, after the Montgomery Bus Boycotts in speaking about the larger movement toward which they were building, Dr. King said:

Continue reading Are we ready to build Dr. King’s Beloved Community?

Gleanings from “Widening the Circle”

The following is personal exploration into the first few chapters of the text, Widening the Circle of Concern: Report of the UUA Commission on Institutional Change – June 2020.

This text is available free as a pdf. The following notes represent my own gleanings of statements that seemed important to me. Direct quotes from the text are indicated with quote markings. Other statements are adapted or paraphrased to make sense out of context.

NOTE to the UUSA Board of Trustees…. I wonder if it might be useful to share these quotes in the weekly UUSA Newsletter, as proposed at the most recent Board meeting?

Gleanings from the Preface

“Addressing the perennial problem of race in Unitarian Universalism is not broadly seen as a theological mandate.”

We need new definitions of multicultural competency for religious leaders (including lay leadership).

“Too few white people are engaged in intentional anti-oppression work.”

We need to articulate what a liberation theology could look like for UU’s.

Continue reading Gleanings from “Widening the Circle”

Was it cultural appropriation?

Boston Globe Front Page Story: November 21, 2021

She submitted a print featuring Indigenous ‘ghosts.’ He called it ‘genocide art.’ She claimed it was a white person acknowledging the pain caused by colonialism. Who is right?

Doris Madsen held her artwork “400 Years Later, no. 4” in Northampton. Artist and poet Jason Montgomery objected to the inclusion of Madsen's work in a popular juried show at the local library.
Doris Madsen held her artwork “400 Years Later, no. 4” in Northampton. Artist and poet Jason Montgomery objected to the inclusion of Madsen’s work in a popular juried show at the local library.ERIN CLARK/GLOBE STAFF

NORTHAMPTON — When members of this city’s arts council logged into a meeting in late September, few could have imagined a retired librarian’s artwork was about to torpedo their upcoming biennial, a popular juried show at the local library.

But then artist Jason Montgomery joined the meeting to voice his concerns about the upcoming exhibition, which was to showcase work by scores of artists from the four counties of Western Massachusetts. Montgomery, who is of Chicano and Indigenous descent, said he was particularly concerned about a print by Doris Madsen, whose work “400 Years Later, no. 4” portrays the Mayflower as it floats through a fog of spectral figures she’d previously described as Indigenous “ghosts.”

Continue reading Was it cultural appropriation?

Death and Grieving; Life’s Ultimate Transition

Chapter 14 in: Toward a Meaningful Life – The Wisdom of the Rebbe Menachem Schneerson  by Simon Jacobson

And the living shall take to heart.

Ecclesiastes 7:2

The soul never dies.

The Rebbe

WHAT DOES DEATH REALLY MEAN?

Death: The very word strikes fear in people’s hearts. They consider death as unfathomable as it is inevitable. They are barely able to talk about it, to peer beyond the word itself and allow themselves to contemplate its true implications. This is an understandable reaction, given the fact that so many people think of life as nothing more than a state in which the human body is biologically active. But we must ask ourselves: What happens after death, if anything? What does death really mean? How should the surviving loved ones react?

The mystery of death is part of the enigma of the soul and of life itself; understanding death really means understanding life. During life as we know it, the body is vitalized by the soul; upon death, there is a separation between body and soul. But the soul continues to live on as it always has, now unfettered by the physical constraints of the body. And since a person’s true character—his goodness, virtue, and selflessness—lies in the soul, he will ascend to a higher state after fulfilling his responsibilities on earth.

Continue reading Death and Grieving; Life’s Ultimate Transition

One of my favorite authors…

newell-011215-300x300John Philip Newell, the author of Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality, is one of the most prominent Christian teachers of spirituality in the Western world.

Formerly Warden of Iona Abbey in the Western Isles of Scotland, he now divides his time between Edinburgh, where he does most of his writing, and teaching on both sides of the Atlantic as well as leading international pilgrimage weeks on Iona. He is the co-founder of Heartbeat: A Journey Towards Earths Wellbeing (www.heartbeatjourney.org), established to expand sacred vision, deepen spiritual practice, nurture reflective community, and enable action for change.

The following is a talk he gave in Hartford, CT last year that I hoped to attend but could not while I was caring for Phyl.  Fortunately, it became available on You Tube.  I’ve linked a slightly edited (shorter) version here (click on the picture) as well as an audio-only file (since it is simply a “talking head” in video form).

newel

Audio Only –

Navigating those Big Transitions in Life

Phyllooks2Everything looks the same – and nothing feels the same.  My wife has died.  The center of our family has been ripped out leaving the rest of us to hold onto each other, still alive –  but without our heart.  Nothing makes much sense in my world without Phyl.  The searing pain appears unexpected from time to time, and then fades back into a dull ache.  And the worst part is that the world seems to look sort of normal.  But nothing feels normal.  Nothing feels right.  Everything has changed…

Continue reading Navigating those Big Transitions in Life

The First Two Weeks

grandcanyo
Phyl’s spirit was more grand than the Grand Canyon….

I read somewhere that the first two weeks after the loss of a spouse was the “easy part” since there are so many things to do, visitors, cards, practical arrangements, and just plain “busyness.”  I’m not sure it was “easy” but I can attest to the “busy” part.  Family and friends have been keeping me company while I try to navigate the early days of grieving.  Here is a brief update….

Continue reading The First Two Weeks

The letter I never wanted to write

TO:  Family and Friends….

This is the letter I never wanted to write.  Your friend, family member, and my wife of almost 48 years passed away peacefully last night, surrounded by her children, lots of flowers, a rose scented candle, and Beetles music.   Phyl just ran out of time.  Her breathing has been getting worse for the past year and finally her lungs quit on her, even with the mask and respirator.

The past two weeks have been tough as she struggled to breathe and lost her ability to communicate.  When she experienced air hunger, we gave her morphine which gave her some relief.  Yesterday morning I helped her dress and took her into the dining room in her power wheelchair.  She had three doses of morphine before she got comfortable, but this also made her groggy.  We didn’t think she was aware of what was going on around her, but when she heard our grandchildren playing at the dining room table Phyl perked up and waived to them weakly.

We kept her comfortable all day with morphine.  She seemed to perk up when her brother Howard call, but she slept most of the day.  Her breathing became weaker and weaker all day and we knew she was transitioning when her oxygen level began to drop.  Jake, Brian, Jeremy and his wife Sam, and I held her hands, rubbed her legs, talked to her, and cried until her breathing stopped altogether at 2:45am.  It was a relief as she was suffering.  She passed very peacefully.

Phyl will be cremated and we are planning a celebration of life sometime in the fall, hopefully associated with the ALS Walk-a-Thon in Look Park.  More on that later.  We’ll also ask for donations in lieu of flowers etc. for the ALS Association of Massachusetts which has been very good to us.  Here is the link if you would like to help;

http://web.alsa.org/site/TR/Walks/Massachusetts?team_id=386635&pg=team&fr_id=14146

I’ll tell you more in another letter, as I’m exhausted and can’t think.

Love to you all…..

John


Click here for Phyl’s obituary


After her passing……  a few posts about John after….

June 28, 2020 – The first two weeks

July 4, 2020 – Navigating Transitions

August 15 – After Two Months

Thoughts on life and the afterlife

I’m really not sure why anyone would be interested in my thoughts on the afterlife but it helps me to clarify my own thinking when I write.  So I did.  I’ve been thinking about death a lot as several close friends have died recently and the corona virus has surely put death in the news.  These sort of ponderings seem to happen to many people as they age.  I offer these ideas in a public forum in hopes that some readers might share their own thought/feelings about life and death (in the Comments box below). 

SO HERE GOES…

First, I’m not terribly fond of the word “afterlife” – even though I used it in the title.  Most people know what is meant by the term afterlife, so it is useful.  But the word “afterlife” feels too final as I have come to believe in the continuation of consciousness after the death of the physical body.  For me, the death experience appears to be more of a transition to another form of existence, a continuation – not an ending.  I need a better word to describe the “condition of being that follows once the spirit-self has left its bodily container.”  Perhaps you have a suggestion.

I surely don’t have a picture in mind of a heaven with “pearly white gates, hanging out with old friends playing harps in the clouds etc.”, I do understand why that description might be a useful story to tell children and I suspect it can be a comfort to those who believe.  But it’s just a bit too easy for me to accept what seems more like a fairy tale than a thoughtful depiction of the state of existence that continues following the demise of the body.  Nevertheless, I believe that we live forever, as suggested in Francis Hodgson Burnett’s classic book, The Secret Garden.

Continue reading Thoughts on life and the afterlife

An update on Phyl (from Florida)

leaving
Leaving Amherst on a cold day in January

This is a story about our month in Florida.  We decided that our winter break from the cold needed to be someplace we could drive to, since getting on and off an airplane has proved pretty difficult and we need our wheelchair accessible van to get around.  So we drove to Naples, FL where we rented a small house for the month of February.

The drive down was uneventful (thank goodness) and we took our time.  Finding wheelchair accessible rest stops has become my new hobby.  We booked accessible hotels one day in advance and it worked out.

One night we spent at Jekyl Island, GA where we had spent many spring vacations with the kids, my brother and my parents.   Phyl recalled the beach where Jake took off on a wind surfer and couldn’t turn around.  John swam out to “save” him and they both had to be towed back by a local fisherman.  And there was the beach were Jeremy lost his beloved toy train “Percy” in the sand – which Phyl says is still out there!  And another beach where John and his Dad Continue reading An update on Phyl (from Florida)