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DUST THOU ART

WHEN NOTHING STANDS STILL IN THIS WORLD. AS THE GROUND CRUMBLES BELOW YOU.

The homeless. No longer able to fit in at home. No longer able to fit into the main stream. Trying to tie all of this together, but with this lingering restlessness? Which sprang from a Fear of the Lord.

From an old culture where you had to know and memorize, instead of knowing just where you left it. In a library, on pre-recorded media. In a book. To really know who you are, when the resource center was closed at night, when the kids went out, you used to have to memorize.

Earthquakes. As the world became borderless once again. The disrupted home lives. When a man needed a woman to contribute some upheaval to his peaceful home life. As a home became more intense.

Institutional power. With all of the human rules. Taking sides. Ollie North. Ronald Reagan. Iran. Iraq. Sunnis. Shiities. As the military invented the internet, with certainly access to all the information that people voluntarily posted on websites. And your cellphone signal was jammed, or you were just outside the range?

When you no longer fit in here, as Muslims. Like a poet in the wake of her grief who said: “I am still in the space of missing him, and finding it odd to be one instead of two.”

For the children and grandchildren of war, homeless, and coming to need God. When you were removed by either distant miles or time from the way of life which you had grown up with. Healing the fears of the abandoned, which always involved a perspective of distance.

In exile. The disrupted home lives. Groundshifts. Graveyard services. As the meek inherit the earth. With the ensuing great doubts when you had comforts and lost them. Like hot water, a wife, or shared belief.

Abandoned. As the world became borderless once again. With all of the disrupted home lives. The feelings which move the story. Missing. In exile, when God was more and more left homeless. When the visible became invisible.

The exile, away from the Promise Land. Going home, post war, to a better and fairer future? With the distance and alienation in the story. Or the one you carried with you?

The conflict in the world between those with the desire to remember with those who have a need to forget. The refugees. The homeless. The war vet, drafted at a young age. Absorbed into false ideals of human glory. The callousness of humans walking by the hungry. Nations looking on. The threat which came from hunger. To each other.

Grieving, in ordinary times. The feelings which move the story – the deepest of feelings of denial, anger, fear after facing an end. The ebbs and flows. Homeless. And coming to need God. In the unknown human world. The ensuing great doubts of the refugees. The deep feelings of abandonment. The sin of pride and identity and nationalism. When restlessness was directed toward a competition.

The Wasteland. Over and over THE contrast of the desert, the contrast of dust, to fertile land and fertility. The inner tension of a nomad. Confronting greatness within. The biblical reference was to the desert. It was a Fear of the Lord by humans born in His Image and Likeness. And consequentially it made sense to have a fear of the greatness within. Over my own fertility in such a harsh world. It did involve sexuality. And the struggle to confront the greatness within, in a future.

Contemplate the Stone Age and what Adam and Eve lived through, before the battle of church and state. Establishing the proper degree of order, of love and desire. Establishing the systems of the world. Or just trying. With your fertility. If I was too a creator. If I had money. IF I was rich. If I had the energy. If I had kids. IF I had the discipline. If I lost it all?

Real fertility stories. True, or not so true? The fears with beginnings and ends. In stories. If I were a rich man.

Dust

Philanthropy—that you might have what I have. When I was in the process of giving away a book. About what seemed a normal way of life . The movement in the story. From a time so long ago. Before the mysterious disappearance.

Tradition: You had to be looking at what it was which you were about to give away. To appreciate the movement in the story.

Having to resume a life, as if nothing had happened. All the ongoing movement in the story. Over the inheritance. The land was still here. The children grown. With a growing numbness. To the inheritance. And working for a losing cause. Cognitively impaired. With anger.

Philanthropy—that you might have what I had. What seemed a normal way of life. Like in the life of Cain and Able.

Having to resume a life, as if nothing had happened. After an injustice. Maybe after you have been forced to move. By the war. Or a sinking economy, with rising prices. Or by famine. Or just because your parents had shared one apple. And witnessing all of the truth which comes out of anger. With a demand for custody. Ask Eve. After she ate the apple. About the developing anger of her son, Cain. With his certain lack of self-worth which had developed. Working for a losing cause. A child of divorce asking about this all-loving God, with some doubts about the God of his father and of his mother. Over issues of fairness. And discrimination.

The Cain question: How can God not love my mother? Even if she had been, in an updated story, divorced? A child, wondering, how could such great parents be kicked out of the garden? For just eating the apple? And why should they lose custody rights? To the garden. Over a simple apple.

The Cain question: Waiting, to know more. About custody rights to God? On Ash Wednesday. Numb, at this point, about inheriting the earth. With an indifference in such a fast paced world. So, ‘Adios.’ To God. To the God of Adam and the God of Eve.

Wanting your own kids or grandkids to think. About their past. And the custody rights. To slowly think and understand. This creation. About all the problems in life. When both the giver and the recipient slowly thought about the great gifts.

Ashes. When you had to dispose of the ashes. What to do with the ashes? When one day you died. And the old-time costs of funerals were like the cost of health care. Just so prohibitive.

The old adage: Get lots when you are young. The anger over having been placed in a container of ashes, instead of in the ground. With all the expense of disposal.

The Nora Lynch story, by Thomas Lynch. To find me in his story. About ashes. What to do with our ashes. Mobile people wondering what to do with our ashes. In a society that spent so much to have mobility.

This western identity was so much about the mobility. Movement from one place. From home. With home security. With all the systems of home security and oil to keep warm. Oil to move around. Laws. Traffic regulations. Young people trafficked. Passports. Visas. Going to school. Junior year abroad. Going to work. Laws, to address the movement. The demand for mobility, and ‘destination’ weddings. With some sort of immigration policy. And caller ID.

Love. Coming home. Living with awareness. Nomads, with some degree of awareness, about all the movement. Awareness about how to position your feet. When you were not particularly aggressive about your personal life. But your wife was. About going places. About escapes.

The bonds which came out of stories. Using words to try to move humanity forward. Using words to convey the most important parts about being alive. Or, maybe Facebook. About true intimacy. Before people forgot.

Living with awareness. And how to position your feet. And learning how softly to hold the club. When a tradition was passed down to you, and it was your turn. But you messed up the mechanics, and due to a slice one day or a hook the other, you just were out of control of your intentions. And your short game. Oy-vey. Mobility. Distance. Speed. Maintenance. Having to be conscious about how close to keep the hands to the heart. The speed of understanding, when you were moving so fast, out of control. Compared to stationary people. The anger over having been placed in Group 2. As society distinguished the mobile from the immobile. Having been thought to be mobile, based upon your heritage. The anger at having been placed in Group 2, as immobile. With a dimming awareness —due to genetics, philosophy, or the environment. Which could not be my fault.

Escapism. Deep rooted self destructive behavior. The speed of anger. That never left. Below the surface. Lingering anger. The speed of understanding about the underlying anger. Over history. The self destruct in nature, that brings us to die each season. And then the ashes. With a slow speed in understanding. As your field lies fallow. Absorbing things, about the world. And the movement from one place. A lot like dust.

So, remember guys, that thou art dust.

The slow speed of understanding. About what to do with the ashes? Move to Phoenix? As a child of divorce. The anger over having been placed in this group. Separate. With pain. Because of some problems at home. With life. That had involved no choice by the kids.

Nomads. When you came from this tradition of nomads. Ah, with all the mysterious disappearance. Of nomads. With all the various degrees of understanding of God. But you should give thanks for all which you had. And for all the days of your life. And then start giving alms. To those who never had what you had. With various degrees of understanding, with the missing bonds, over the distance, which had never developed in relationship.

Love and mortality. Philanthropy. Passing it on, after your fertility was spent. Intimate sex and fertility, in such an unfair world. To somehow move a people in exile. Somewhere. The movement in the story. What had just happened here? Outside the garden. In this life? With all the need for numbers.

When you saw someone die. Or when you saw someone live. Demonstrating passion. To somehow demonstrate passion. Over the inheritance. The inconvenience in bad weather to demonstrate passion. Or in just bad times. Over a pregnancy. Or over the tradition. With the resources depleted. Money spent. And the growing pain. In a tradition.

Philanthropy—that you might have what I have. The slow speed of absorbing things, about the world as your field lies fallow. To drag a body out. To accept death. To start all over. In weakness to continue to accept yourself as you are. To finally feel moved. And to keep moving.

That you might have, that you could have, what I have. With the wise sincerity in content, Abraham and philanthropy. When on the surface Isaac seemed so undeserving. Like I was. Reading or hearing the stories. Of Abraham and philanthropy. That you might have what I have.

When you were moved by stories. Reading or hearing or witnessing one. About real life, freshly pressed. When I was in the process of giving one life away. A life that I never had been deserving of.

Sacrifice. For the slow. And all of this knowledge. And belief. And love. Based upon hereditary, or environment. The slow speed of trying to move humanity forward. In institutions. Or in other vehicles. Learning how softly to hold. When I was in the process of giving this gift away.

The slow speed of understanding. For nomads. When you were born into all of this. When you came from this tradition. Seeking, taking, sanctuary. With so many people indifferent, in good times. In such a mobile world. And seeing the passions become inflamed. Again. Over giving alms.

Remember man, that thou art dust.

So, with your slow speed of understanding, remember that thou art dust. Remember everyone, so that you might have what I have. And that you might keep moving. In alms-giving.

That you might have what I have. When you were moved to give alms. After reading or hearing the stories. About a real way of life. In real life. After reading or hearing the stories or witnessing one. When on the surface we were all so undeserving.

That you might have, that you could have, what I have. Life. From this God who was always involved in life issues. Giving life. Sustaining life. All the various varieties of life which, on the surface, seemed to be a losing cause.

And unto dust thou shall return.

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The Ashes

The dust of memory.

Right and wrong. Good and evil. Wrongdoers and righteous people. The struggle between wrongdoers and righteous people.

Images of right and wrong. The biographical reality of evil. Baggage. The relation between wrongdoing and existence. In a world where the mean and the vulgar flourish.

Evil. Lent was all about the focus on evil. In the world. In my life. Lingering regret, lasting regret about the past. My own degree of evil. With selfish worries, about where the market is gonna end up? Where they all end up? Power, domination and possessions.

Lingering regret, lasting regret about the past was the problem of history. The challenge to advancement, with lingering memory. With a history.

I have a friend who once carried the title of vice president of institutional advancement, before he advanced himself to run the whole university –a different one – himself.

Spirituality’s impediment. Evil. Forgiveness. Advancement with forgiveness. Ritual sacrifice and holocaust. Reconciliation, through communal and institutional advancement.

The tensions in society. Between liberals and conservatives. Among prodigal sons and the ones left behind. Between men and women. Or just the tensions in God. Between religions. Between the sexes. Looking for unity, and the quest to be God-like. One God. Three in One, if you were Christian. The tension in the struggle between wrongdoers and righteous people.

In the context of the times. The search for God. And God’s search for man/woman. This search for God over and over. The search for meaning, in each other. In relationship. In institutional advancement. In the ashes of relationships, with the serial failure.

It can be a phony world. Of phony relationships. With phony politics. Propelled by money. With a lot of artificial love. And evil.

And so Lent begins, in the context of these times, with these readings on the 1st Sunday in Lent.

“…And when they were over he was hungry. The devil said to him: “ If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” ….and then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant.

The devil said to him: “I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me.”

Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “ If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written:He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and: With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” And Jesus said to him in reply, “It also says, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”


And so Lent begins, with these readings. In a sense the readings on Good Friday were about the same temptation, of power, of domination, and of possessions. Over the identity of the Messiah. Over my own identity. After three years of public ministry. After teaching his followers to pray, “Deliver us from evil.” And so Lent beings in the context of these times, with people ‘giving things up’ which might relate to the same temptation of power, domination and possessions, to establish some connection to a personal identity to Jesus of Nazareth, if he was believed to be the Messiah and made a difference in personal identity. In the context of these times.

In the context of these times, to have your own identity “marked” in some way. “If” you were, “If” I was a son, a daughter of God. The challenge of Lent was always about identity. And it included the doubt. Lent was about images of right and wrong. About the delivery from evil. And that means of delivery.

Note the reading today where Jesus instructed the devil not to put him to the test. Ironically, it would be in 6 weeks that God would put Jesus to the test. Over this identity of the Messiah. And what this “marked” identity, so publicly, meant in the real world. When he also was led to Jerusalem. God, who had destroyed the world and saved only Noah. God, who in a sense destroys Himself, this time through His son. Yes, through the Messiah. To prove a point. Yes, “remember man that thou art dust, and unto dust though shall return.”

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….and so institutional advancement. “The story begins with Creation which, as we have seen, is the story of the acts of distinguishing one thing from another. It ends by alluding to the most crucial distinction of all …..”

Attention

Lent was the mid term. Lent was the time for letting God get our attention. My brother-in-law was giving up chocolates. I could not fathom how that would grab someone’s attention. It seemed to be some kind of childhood fast. What about the entire appetite?

Getting our attention with those mid term tests. When was it time to buckle down in life? To put beliefs into practice? And how? How would prayer, fasting or alms-giving affect others? Was Lent about improved outcomes?

“I asked him about what it is exactly that he came to this place to find.” Mid terms was the time to ask why you were not studying. Is there transformation on the other side of distance?

To be Catholic student meant an exposure to real demands and being held accountable. To those 10 Commandments. It could work because of an exposure to caring mentors, in parents, in teachers, and in priests. Those mentors make up the institution. Those mentors value the students, knowing that they were the world of tomorrow.

Lent was about those personal relationships which are integral to improved health outcomes. At a private school those personal relationships must remain the priority. Lent was the time for letting God get our attention back.

Framing the Story

The most difficult things as an artist was working on a project before it took shape. The framing of a house. The framing of a book. The most difficult thing was to remain excited over the project in the early stages. When all you had was a dream.

I think a lot about the story of Noah. Like how it was all coming along. God’s view of creation, that is. I thought of it this morning as I deleted my computer history. Did God simply want to delete a history, a lot like I could on a computer? Wanting to start again? Fresh.

What was God’s view of creation? Was it a lot like using the characters as in all those sequels in books and movies. The same character repeated over and over. Rabbitt Run, by Updike. Harry Potter. “Dirty Harry.” The Hardy Boys. “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Sequels in the Good Book. Abraham and then Isaac. Sacrifice. This bizarre idea, to sacrifice the future, a son.

And now in the ongoing sequel, there was this human named Jesus. There in the desert. Scripture is nothing but the history of how people who went before us learned how to pray. Jesus in the desert. Praying. For 40 days. Like this season of Lent. A lot like Moses, except it had been 40 years.

Those who tried to look at the sun…it cannot be sustained for long. Or so it seemed on a morning after a 9 inch snowfall, on a bright bright February morning in Minnesota. On in Florida with the invasion of all these snowbirds. Concentration on the sun was not possible. You had to look elsewhere. And so the minister in his quest for God. He/she had to gaze elsewhere and not at God.

Formed in God’s image and likeness: The most difficult things as an artist was working at the beginning of an idea without yet a form. The difficulty for this human was in the motivation to continue.

A man from Roseville, Minnesota had solicited thoughts of a painting on the wall, entitled “Christ in the Wildness,” which was painted in 1929, from those who spent a weekend at the Jesuit Retreat House in DeMontreville. In the painting, Jesus of Nazareth is in the desert, in the wildness, surrounded by his humanity and little else. In the middle of nowhere. The man from Roseville had contemplated the artwork, wondering what the artist was trying to depict.

My interpretation was that of this Messiah thinking, a lot about the story of Noah. Wanting to start again. Fresh. Thinking about how all of this creation had been coming along. From the perspective of God. With that hostile force from Rome, trying to keep order. Wondering what to do 30 years after that census. And thinking about God’s view of creation.

“Christ in the Wildness.” With Christ thinking as an author, like the writer of the plot of the Good News. And because he was human, it was not easy. He suffered like a hematologist in search of answers on how to resolve the threat of death, in the blood. Jesus of Nazareth, like you and me, with a divine nature and contemplating how to change humanity. In the days when he was making a career change, from that of a carpenter, where he had been creating things out of wood. His career change to what had always been in this desert that of a prophet.

Christ, in the wildness, where he found himself in need of food. In need of drink. Alone. In prayer. And wondering of the answers to the questions. The same questions addressed everyday in the stories of the morning news: With whom? Where? When? How? Formulating a plan with help from above to explain the reasons why. Focused on the Truth, with his Jewish background.

Like the morning news. Just like any writer tried to focus on. Tying everything together. For all people who daily had a need for food, for drink. Each day.

There in the desert. Jesus. A lot like me. The most difficult things as an artist was working on a project before it took shape. Struggling like most young people, to tie everything that they had come to know together.


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Blushing

To remember the excitement of it all. The excitement of youth. Blushing. Embarassments. Embarassed not at being an animal, but learning about it. At dirty jokes. Embarassed at my imperfections in an imperfect world.

To remember the excitement of it all. The excitement of youth. The ones involving hunger and thirst. Learning limits. Embarassed by my appetites. We were all embarassed by sexual appetities.

When some people forget those teen-age years. Embarassed to be passing into this stage of life. Embarassed by change. Embarassed by the attraction that had overcome me. Embarassed by the animal within.

Ash Wednesday. The excitement of God. Embarassed. By my sins. We all had them. Most wanted to ignore them.

In the western world, there had always been an embarasssment of sex. When I grew up. Outside of marriage. The excitement of sex was conveyed in the public proclamation. Whether it was the excitement of youth, the excitement of a life long commitment ….the embarassment was gone. Do you remember the embarassment when someon at the age of 15 asked if you had a girlfriend. No. Not me.

The excitement. The attraction. Distant. The sex part to others. But she was here every day, just distant. Union. When the goal was union. With just one.

Comfortable in a relationship. Around all the time.

Ash Wednesday. Foregiveness. Forgiveness over appetite. Never have so few people asked for forgivenes. From God. Of course never before have there been 6 billion plus people.

The difficulty in forgiveness. Forgiveness started with the one who was wronged. The one who was subject to one degree or other of unfaithfulness.

It was a season of the year to try and get some control again over appetities.