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Institutional Advancement

So this day, a national federal holiday since only 1941. Independence Day.

In 2012, institutional advancement as a moving account revisiting history, figuring out the social order of the soul. A celebration of the institutional advancement, just around the time of the American Revolution. With its burden of history.


It had not just been in the Americas where the locals lived, with a missing immunity to world diseases of despair, of powerlessness, and the directed anger over the powerlessness. The unstated spirituality of Columbus, in going west in search of a route to the east. With such a conflicted theology in late 15th century Europe. On December 5, 1492 Columbus landed, having come in search of a route to the east. If one existed. With such a conflicted theology of a late 15th century European God. To avoid the Ottoman Turks –those fierce Ottoman Turks. The fierce-fighting Ottoman Turks who believed so strongly in the God of Mohamed. With such a conflicted theology of a late 15th century European God of Columbus’ world. The Ottoman Turks who by the 17th Century had their eyes on the city of Vienna. And then the Christian world, with such a conflicted theology. That soon would allow an Inquisition against the descendants of Abraham. In the history of the nomads, looking for a new perspective.

Irish music. The same traditional songs night after night. Passing down the same songs. When a people could become bored with the same old songs, night after night. When in each generation there was all the modern music. Traditional Irish music, not so unlike the same stories, over and over, in the Torah. As Jewish people passed down the same stories. The stories which together gave a moving account of their relationship with God. In one generation after the next. Along with a history.

In one generation after the next, there was the struggle to find God in the new world. Independently, or from the same traditions. As documented on MTV, on The Real World, as people could become bored with the same old songs, night after night, unless there were new arrangements.

Being a slave. Dependent versus independent. With the educated descendants of displaced slaves, and the descendants of slave masters, there was the directed anger over the powerlessness. The anger from the past which had come out of slavery was a part of the always and everywhere identity of being a slave.

The always and everywhere identity of being a slave. Had there been a certain irony that the descendants of Abraham had become enslaved in Egypt? After Abraham had circumcised his own slaves? In these Tree of Life stories. The ones that involved becoming in so many different ways knowledgeable about a divine viewpoint. Which started after Adam and Eve ate the apple. With no mention whatsoever about who invented this thing called soap. Can you imagine tilling the soil and roaming the dessert without soap? Maybe that was why Eve thought they should eat the apple. And then after more than 400 years, once Jacob settled his family in Egypt, it took 40 years of wandering in the desert to cleanse the influence of slavery from those Hebrew slaves working in Egypt. If it could ever be cleansed of the pretensions of the labor of the enslaved, and the every day aspects that took up every moment of your life.

Like religion. Undoubtedly, an imposed faith. And so the always and everywhere powerful identity from the past that is little discussed in polite society, with forced circumcision. The past no one could escape, with identity of being a slave based upon race, color, creed; there was this always and everywhere identity of slavery which was never a part-time job, because slavery represented parts of every moment of your life.

Irish music. The same songs night after night. I was once again in this pub in Galway in January, a place that I last had set foot in 1978. And there the locals still were. Passing down the same songs. When in each generation there was all the modern music. Traditional Irish music. Not unlike the same stories, over and over, in the Torah. As Jewish people passed down the same stories. The stories which together gave a moving account of their relationship with God. In one generation after the next. When most of us struggled so much with the concept. Of moving forward. The moving account of cave women with their power struggle in their relationships. With nomads. With God. Or nomads with their sons. These women trying to get their arms around something, like a cave man who did not even seem human. At least compared to me. They did not seem real lovable. Compared to me. And was Abraham’s love for Isaac only as strong as he had loved his own slaves? If circumcision was a symbol of love. This new concept of unconditional love.

The unstated spirituality of those slaves. The ones of Abraham. The ones of Columbus. To try and believe in such a conflicted theology, in going west in search of a route to the east. To move humanity forward. Using words to try and get your arms around something. When most struggled so much with the concept of going west to end up east. And Columbus with his own distinct religion, along with his private philosophy of going west to end up east to avoid the sons of Ishmael, who was the son of the servant girl.

In modern times, the one universal truth since the American Revolution has included the anger and the fear that the young always directed at institutions. The institutions which sheltered a civilization. Institutions like government. King George. Or the G20. Or a lot like the anger directed at institutional religion. Or maybe at Jacob. Or now at Christopher Columbus. With his built up immunities. Including the immunity against seasickness. Because the world was so unfair. And the institutions seemed to prop up all of the old ways, and their people entrenched in power.

To try and get your arms around somebody. When most struggled so much with the concept of righteousness, and institutions. And so the understated spirituality of those stories about Abraham, about Isaac, and about Jacob. In Tree of Life stories meant to lead people somewhere. When so many people were wrapped up into themselves. Maybe not unlike Jacob, trying to get his arms around someone. When he struggled so much with the concept. About the God of Isaac and Abraham.

Tree of Life stories meant to lead people somewhere. When moving forward, the struggle with the old concepts, while opening up a new perspective. Now read in such a booming world population, with overcrowding. It was a more interesting story than most people had ever explained to me.

A generation raised on these Tree of Life stories about Chosen People living in a world without enough people, left with so few answers, but moving forward. And opening up to someone. Completely. Unconditionally. Descendants of believers who did not ask, did not dare ask this generation whether the one true God would seem relevant to them in such an overcrowded world. Even though a few had four spouses, like Jacob. Did not dare ask if God, amidst all of the personal pronouns used, had ever been relevant to the parents.

These Tree of Life stories about Chosen People, when God always met a person one on one. As someone developed their own relationship to the Tree of Life narrative set in a world with enough people. And now the generation with all of the new nomads. Maybe like Jacob in his all night fight with an angel. Or the one true God. Or maybe with one of his four wives over the issue of unconditional love. Or his eleven sons and one daughter. Stories about Chosen People, living in a world without enough people.

Institutional advancement. With all the burdens of history. When settling onto the lands of Abraham. As he had moved his own family back to the lands of Abraham. Approaching a tough fight with Esau and his four hundred. When God always met a person one on one, in such a lonely world of solitude. To try and get your arms around somebody. Like Jacob, in the night. To be left like Jacob, with a visible disability which seemed to inhibit all future movement. Not unlike Columbus with his concept, going west to end up east. To avoid the tough fights. It is said that it had been in Galway in 1477 that Columbus came to realize the world was not flat.

Institutional advancement. Moving forward. Figuring out the social order of the soul, today. With issues still about immigration. Or nomads. Illegal nomads. In a land once belonging to Spain. Just as in the history of Mexico, and most of the Americas, except Brazil, had belonged to Spain. Or to France. Before the American Revolution.

Institutional advancement of Jacob. A nomad finally after twenty years of marriage ready to settle down. After twenty years, ready to move forward in his relationship with the one true God. Because up until this point in the story, Jacob had not shown much loyalty to the God of Abraham or the God of Isaac. While on the receiving end and the giving end of all of his deceit. Jacob, who had wanted a piece of the institutions which sheltered a civilization. Institutions from where birthrights had come. Jacob returning to world where those first sons of a first son were supposed to get everything. Until with a bit of deceit, Jacob got his. Maybe in some way, wanting God to discover him, in a blessing? If his father Isaac had not. Jacob, now escaping death as he fled his father-in-law, after being accused of hoodwinking Laban, the ultimate of hoodwinkers. Jacob, facing death again as he was about to confront his brother. Esau, with all of this DIRECTED anger, maybe not unlike Cain’s anger about Abel. And Rachel stealing the idols of her father’s gods, with her own deceit with the idols as she left her homelands and moved for the first time to the lands of Abraham.

To try and get your arms around someone to move humanity forward. Union, with your own descendants. And Jacob had little understanding of the One True God that he had inherited. The God of Abraham, who Isaac had discovered with his post traumatic stress syndrome. The One that left Isaac mostly silent, when he never came down Mount Moriah with Abraham. When his father had to find him a wife at the age of forty. When Isaac is never heard speaking for the next twenty years. And now Jacob, fighting in the night with an angel, to be left with a visible disability for the remainder of his life.

“Something that is yours forever,” wrote Chaim Potok, “is never precious.” Looking for Union. And all the evolving traditions of union. With the ongoing theme of barren woman and Chosen People. Sarai. Rebekah. Rachel. Looking for the divine in all relationships. Barren women looking to bear a child to prove their worth. Women looking in a world for meaning in relation of their children to a father. In relation to the Creator. Women, looking for union with God, through their own flesh and blood. Women trying to get their arms around someone to move humanity forward.

Jacob, leaving for the world of Canaan after having worked for a generation. His attempt to return home. Jacob, the greatest nomad in days long before Columbus, leaving behind Rachel’s world to finally go back to find the viewpoint of God in his very own personal life.

In one generation after the next, the struggle to find God in the real world. In the same songs. With a new arrangement. Jacob. Not really seeing God directly, outside his youth. Beyond Canaan. Or outside his immediate family.

New arrangements. God in His incredible non-apologetic graciousness. In His subtleness. Always and everywhere His graciousness. Not so unlike Isaac, carrying his spiritual disability like some kind of DNA which had come to you from your own experience, here was Jacob, coming home. In search still of the divine. Wrestling with God. Over issues of goodness and evil. When you had been disabled from the deceit in your life, as a result of the decisions you had made. When you carried an invisible disability from the past like some kind of genetic DNA. A now the love lesson. Looking for union. Left with a visible disability from the choices made over power.

Jacob. Columbus. Famous men in need of spiritual direction in their lives. Going west to end up east. A nomad ready to settle down? Looking for union. In his love. Of God. Of a family. Of a nation. Left with a visible disability which seemed to inhibit all future movement, trying to understand the mystery. Jacob. Looking for the perspective of the God of Isaac. And finally finding the viewpoint of the living God. In this world. In his own family. Which came both from hereditary or the environment where he choose to live. The love lesson. And those feeling of always being unworthy.

Independence Day. The unstated spirituality of a nomad ready to settle down. When it took so long to know the Living God, based not on the old paradigm but the new. And when it took so long to try and get some mastery over this thing called creation.



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The Amen Corner

“A fierceness of one independent woman? There is no fierceness. You are confusing women with men.”

Barren. Drought. Willing to be enslaved to survive. For a while. Over and over, the waiting in the story. About leaving and coming back. The tension when you moved outside the tribe. In leaving. In coming back.

The tension when you moved inside the tribe. Parents who are fooled, blinded by their own kids. Eloping in the night, like Jacob.

The tension when you moved outside the tribe. Contrast the tensions. Between mothers and sons. Between fathers and daughters. Between newlyweds, during the early barren period. Contrast the independence in the stories of nomads to that of people enslaved.

Living outside the garden. Banished. The anger over who left whom. Learning to live with things that hurt. As you own children became outsiders, living life in so many prophylactic ways. And all of the waiting in the story. How men, how women, dealt with the waiting. Contemplating the deepest things about you. When women discovered how to push men along. So gently.

The barren period. The never ending barren period, when fertility comes in conflict with spirituality? When one thing led to another. In looking for love.

I have not read James Baldwin since reading The Invisible Man in the fall of 1973. I did not recognize then that it was a story of spirituality and the African-American experience. Did a twenty-year old kid know enough to really be in college? And last month I somehow missed the Guthrie Theater’s production of “The Amen Corner,” a story about the what happened to the shared belief of the descendants of share-croppers. I want to read the play after hearing some dialogue.

When fertility comes in conflict with spirituality? The juxtaposition of the outside church with the inside preacher. Feel the barren periods. When the setting conceptualized by the producer involved having the actors go through something to get to the church on stage. And did you ever note the chronology how Chosen People had to go through slavery to reach the Promise Land?

To go through something …. like slavery. Enslaved to your fertility. With a conflict between the sacred and the profane, between a young man’s inner longing to work in the world of music, in the plot. A young man in the 1950s involved with a music that “belongs to us.” In one perspective of the African-American community that never had anything that ever belonged to them.

The tension when you never knew whether you had much of a relationship or not. The tension that came down from slavery. When one thing led to another.

Listen to the Negro spirituals, which came out of slavery as a way of life in the quite personal inner battle between the sacred and the profane, when every moment of your life involved being a slave to someone or something. It is written that Baldwin wrestled in his quite personal inner battle with his own sexuality in a time when the outside world was hostile to homosexuality. In story after personal story, God went about meeting His people usually in socially and spiritually awkward settings. Baldwin grew up in a place and time when it was felt his sexuality did not belong in the world. So how in the world could his sexuality ever be sacred?

In “The Amen Corner,” this character grew up living with a mother who had become a preacher. A divorced preacher. In essentially a love story between a mother and her son. The power in relationship, with manipulation of religion. With characters doing things, even against their own will, in what it was that they listened to. And an anger over who left whom.

There is the alienation theme, when the mother tells her divorced husband, “I did not know if I had a husband or not.”

There is dialogue in the play between the mother with his father who returns. When the past threatens the present and your future. In a ‘when he was never there for me” moment. In one scene with his son, the dialogue is:

“I heard about you. All along I have heard about you.” With the alienation theme.

Learning to live with things that hurt. In the spectacle of the church service, when you own children became outsiders. When people are afraid to talk, about the deepest things within. And from a note I jotted in listening to the producer, with a preacher without answers. When a child so much was a reclamation process of your own past.

When you are born into something. When you had no choice. When you had to live with it. The alienation between believers and non-believers, in the outside world. The producer’s daughter is involved in the marketing of this play at the Guthrie, too much with the air of a preacher, only on issues of politics. I am not sure she gets yet the subtle nature of Baldwin.

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Lou Bellamy
Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church
James Baldwin
Gloria Jean Watkins, better known by her pen name Bell Hooks

Random House

SOON AVAILABLE IN A BOOKSTORE NEAR YOU.

In the beginning. Natural law. THE excitement of God in the story. The power of God. TO have God naturally appear in the history of a people. In their temples, in their churches, in their mosques. In their places of domicile.

Sitting on the shores of the lake reflecting upward. To carry a civilization forward. Onward. The lake as some kind of mirror, like some kind of hangover from last night’s storm. And the fish still far below, as if in search of some inner peace. When my fertility, their fertility, would decide everything.

Creation. The visible and the invisible. Power. Might. In the dogma of hovering bonds.

When it came to stories, everyone understood the one event. In the beginning. The story of creation. The search for the Holy Grail was only a search for the Creator. In all the universe. The mutual search. For all time. For all places. People looking to bond.

“Give us time. And please forgive us our trespasses. As we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Western ways. Learning the tribal ways of capitalism. And what have you done to my God?

So in the beginning when I entered the story, this western form of capitalism under an authority like once seen under communism. The mutual search, when I entered the story. China, with six trillion four hundred billion in foreign reserves. Mostly in dollars and euros, as the Chinese really hate the Japanese. And China was being asked to keep the charade of the west up. And so few saying the prayers of survival.

Six trillion four hundred billion in foreign reserves, in a world with eleven trillion dollars worth, set aside. Mostly in dollars and euros, as the Chinese were being asked to keep the charade of the west up, while their nation kept up the charade of communism.

The story of the systems. The seen and the unseen. Form follows functions. Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven. But now what of the sins you retain? What would you do with them?

Notice all the pretend banks here. Over capital requirements. Holding capital reserves. In bonds? Whose bonds? In what currency?

In bonds as the dogma of currency. When first your credit card and then your currency was rejected. With all of your education and sophistication.

From the Intelligent design comes a blasphemy of self-importance. Noting the hostility over authority, in my search for union. Looking for union, when you had four trillion dollars worth of chips. And only the Arab nations with oil had chips. No one else had any, if you believed the world news. Though the Europeans were allowed to keep playing. With systemic risk.

Cognitive dissonance. In a build up of power, in upward momentum, the retained sins. Repeating “them” over and over? The movement in the story of those ordained to power. How to pass on power?

Debt. Time. The future. The sins of power and space? Over and over, the story of power and power-sharing. Mindful that something was eating at you, and it seemed to involve your progeny. Was it over their use of assets and power?

With the survivors, the forms of God. If a leader truly was infallible, there would be no coverups. When most of the world could see now behind the curtain that the pope – this pope – just like an aging Abraham, was recognizable crazy. In the story. Like in the Wizard of Oz.

The story of God trying to get into the outside world. Nomads taking direction from God, when the alpha male had to decide on what to do with a fear of the Lord, in having to make this earthly decision. When it would involve what was left of your fertility. And getting to her deepest part with words and deeds. Somehow through my fertility, God trying to get into the outside world.

And so from deep recesses, the same stories over and over. Of transfering your energy and power into someone. Without wounding them. The conduits. Power. Spirit. Fertility. To cheer for humans who compete with the rest of the world to be the best, who had to create, it seemed, with so little.

When you have all this time and all of this space, at the time that something is written. But no real trust. Bearing down, in such a vast world to create, what had happened to Dominion? When a spark of someone you knew was written into a character, in one story of power and power-sharing.
PHOTO COURTESY JENNIFER KIRBY

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