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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Halloween - A Holiday Reflection


When I was young I imagined that Halloween was for children.

It was costumes and candy and imaginary play.

Halloween was an escape from reality, it was a chance to take a glance into another world, to pierce the veil of what is real and true.

We use to go block to block in our costumes, we called it Trick or Treating, we carried pillow cases slung over our shoulders, taking candies at nearly every door we knocked on, with nearly every bell we rang.

We scoffed at the people who only handed out little bibles or toothpaste, or some home-made fare, thinking they were doing something good.

We would rather have nothing at all than have those things, which quickly found their way into the trash.

I remember the drill of searching through our candy piles at the end of the night, looking for suspicious things, open packages, pins and needles and razor blades.

We understood that some people hated children and would slip these into the candies.

I never found anything dangerous, never once in all of those years.

Halloween is not all fun and games, though, it has a deeper meaning, than we were taught as children, a long history

Halloween is was not just about ghosts and goblins and friendly witches.

In the celebration of Halloween an ages old conflict is present, between the Christian Church, and the “Old Time Religion,” the customs of the pagans, paganus, pagani, the country folk and their persistent traditions lurking just beneath the surface of the Christian rites.

On the Christian Calendar; Halloween is All Hallows Eve, a celebration of the honored dead, of all the saints who had passed before, who have gone already to meet the maker.

For the old pagans; whose traditions are tightly interwoven with the church, Halloween is a celebration of the dead, plain and simple, of all of the dead, of the saints and sinners who have passed from this world together.

Halloween is an acknowledgment of the dead whose spirits live among us still; good and bad, honored or not; more often than not Halloween celebrates the dangerous, the macabre, the frightening and the weird, those qualities and characteristics that every person hides within themselves, because they are in fear of the world.

I was fourteen the last time I went Trick or Treating, and really, I was only chaperoning my younger brother, I was not dressed up, but I took some candy nonetheless.

In that same year I remember the Pastor at my church lamenting the popularity of the pagan festival. Believing that the Christian feast should be honored above it instead, or better yet, to the exclusion of anything else.

There was no fun in that, there was no fun in him. He was just an old man watching his tradition fade away, usurped by those of another generation, less committed to the Church.   

In the years that followed, the number of children who go out in costumes seeking candy has declined by 25%, so the media outlets say.

Halloween is no longer considered safe or wholesome. It has yielded to the real dangers of the real world.

For me it is just another day, Halloween, I do not believe the dead walk with us. I have never seen a ghost, or any evidence of magic.

There are real horrors in the world, package bombers and angry middle-aged white guys with guns.

We have a pumpkin colored demagogue for a president, spreading fear, night and day at every turn.  

We should all be thankful that we have the time to luxuriate in the fantastic and the surreal.

2019.10.31

Given 1st - 2016.10.31

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Stage Fright


A brilliance of light, hot piercing needles, bright—he stands beneath them
Light and heat, the weight of it burns him, sets his Id on fire

Illusions burst, worms of confusion slither and hollow his belly
Amplified voice barely audible, echoes resounding

A pounding inside his head, bells peeling alarm, tinging with dismay
The shaking begins, the axe, a tangle of strings and chords

Plucked into order, the audience in agape, settle in their seats
Wait for the music, Dionysius, fraught expectations

He dreams of the tortoise, the desire of seclusion, seeking an escape
To be, and not to be, the enigma trapped between poles

Torn apart by fear, the strains of desire, discord as the pressure mounts
Flee for the dark of an anonymous pool, cool serenity

Monday, October 28, 2019

Emergence 4.0 - Part Six, The Empire; Chapter Forty-one, Tradition


Week 43, 2019


El became a living exemplar of the faith, a flesh and blood narrative of what the people of the Empire hoped for.

His story sustained them, like food for the hungry and water to the thirsty.

The stages of his life symbolized what the faith of every citizen held to be true, what they were led to believe through the teaching of the Imperial Cult, and in its way, because of the hope he represented, he also perfectly articulated the fears of the ruling class.

His early life demonstrated how a person and a family could be caste down and caste out. As he transitioned from plebian to criminal, to outcaste and ultimately a rebel.

The story of those transitions took on the quality of an epic myth, characterizing the decent that everyone feared might be waiting for them and those they loved, the expectant judgement awaiting them in the timeless place before rebirth, if they did not fulfill their duties faithfully.

Even in his decent he demonstrated qualities of virtue and integrity that were supposed to be redemptive. The narrative of his life, which virtually every citizen in the empire was familiar with, was in a constant state of editing, of simplification and refinement for the purposes of propaganda.

People on a million worlds followed him, put their hopes in him, believed that he was a child of the God’s, of the Continuum, a divine being sent to live among them, a hero to share their pain, to lead them out of the worlds of suffering and chaos.

He was a demi-god, myths regarding his origins circulated among the people, carefully crafted by the Imperial Cult, for maximum exposure.

El’s life story became a new vehicle of control and exploitation.

During his long life whole generations had been born, and died adoring him, they set him on a pedestal, ignorant of the danger that they were merely preparing him for a mighty fall.

El participated with full devotion in the great charade of temple life.

He never let on that he did not believe in the things he studied or the things he taught, after all, he was the subject and the beneficiary of the greatest miracle that had ever been engineered in the living memory of the Empire.

He had returned from the dead.

The perception of holiness mattered more than the reality, his safety and security depended on it, but more importantly the safety of the woman he loved depended on it.

Every affectation of pietas was a charade, pageantry, performance art and deception.

This did not bother him.

The most important thing to the hierarchy is what people believed about the priesthood.

The rituals were like veils, they obscured reality but they were also translucent. If you practiced mindfulness you could peer through them, remove each veil, one by one, while advancing in knowledge.

Image was everything; rhetoric not logic, not truth, rhetoric was the measure of the day.

The truth, if it was known, would only harm people, confuse them, or so the priestly cast believed.

It would tear the Empire apart, El was sure of that.

Given the powers belonging to the priesthood, it was a relatively easy task to deceive the masses.

The priesthood controlled the Imperial Schools, and more importantly the cultic rituals that governed every moment of the day to day lives of the citizens.

The controls the priesthood exercised were not taught as vehicles of deception, but as a guided rituals, intended to slowly bring people to a place of sanctity. They were preparation for the next life and the world to come.

Everything was theater.

El was a grand performer.

He had an intuitive sense for the fact that he was being watched at every moment, filmed, studied, reviewed.

He did not think about it, and yet it never left his awareness.

In the rituals of the priesthood every gesture was important.

The complex movements of the customs and rituals reenacted a narrative and reinforced a story that encompassed the history of the Empire and its million worlds.

The rites fostered a sense of belonging in the people.

It was an incredible drama, the story of every planet was told, of every class, every victory and every crushing defeat.

The rise and fall of worlds was recounted in the liturgical cycle.

The glory of the Imperial house and the part each person played in the construction of that story was told and retold, both to terrify and to instruct, to delight in and give hope.

The group participation in those rituals, led by the priests, sent waves rippling through the lives of the faithful, binding them as by the successive movement of concentric rings.

El played his part flawlessly.

He became the singular focus of every nearly every person in the Empire, whispers began to take shape that he would lead the people to a new way of life.

El did nothing to counter those narratives. He himself wanted to believe it was true.

The imperial system was held together by class, rank and ancestry.

Only the outcaste was free from it, and while they were free from the oppressive weight of the conforming belief systems, they were absolutely without rights, without representation in government or standing before the courts.

Nearly every citizen clung to their place in the hierarchichal order with vicious determination.
They knew they were constantly under watch, scrutinized from the moment they stepped out the door of their dorm, their home or apartment, they were under constant observation.

Most of them suspected, but few of them knew the extent to which their private lives were monitored.

There was no privacy.

There were few limits to what a person would risk, merely to advance a step or two in rank.

Inasmuch as every person was inextricably bound to the system of rank, they also longed for a release from it.

They were conditioned to see release only through advancement, by forward motion, through reincarnation, and countless lifetimes of struggle.

Even death was not seen as a release, merely a transition to a new mode of suffering.

That is what the cult taught them, to always look ahead, to see themselves as one day filling the role of village chief, of captain, of high priest, of abba; to hope that they could advance so far that they and theirs would ultimately occupy the highest place of all, to ascend the steps of the curial throne and be welcomed into the Continuum, to merge with the divine Collective, find peace, to ultimately become the god of their own private world.

The immediate goals for the ordinary citizen were advancement, to climb above their neighbor, to move beyond their current station. 

The realization of hope was perpetually on the other side of a great divide, it was tantalizing, ephemeral and just beyond their grasp,

Everyone believed that freedom was waiting for them. Independence was just a few paces away, if only they could have a perfect day for themselves, or engineer the failure of someone close to them.

This system pitted every person against their neighbor, children against their parents, workers against their supervisors, soldiers against their generals, and acolytes against their masters.

It pitted world against world.

The secret desire of every person was to live autonomously, free from the responsibilities of their station, or the pressure of seeking esteem from their families, peers, and colleagues.

The heavens were imagined as worlds beyond time and space where each person became a god, ruling with absolute power over a creation of their own, as dark or as light as their imagination would allow it to be.

Autonomy was an illusion, private property, self-direction, they were all lies. There was not a single point in the chain of being where a person was ever free.

What differentiated one world from another, one caste from its subordinate, was only the type of work that consumed them, and the relative degrees of comfort or luxury attending to it.

In truth, everything and everyone was fully socialized and owned by the state.

The Empire was absolute, holding power over every living thing, over life itself, even the lives of an entire world could be sacrificed in a moment at the whim of the Emperor, or for the malign purposes of the Continuum.

It was possible for an individual to be at peace in the Empire, millions of citizens were. Theirs was the peace and comfort of the acquiescent.

Acquiescence masked itself as transcendence, passivity as mindfulness, unquestioning as understanding, silence as self-realization, and acceptance as actualization. 

People were conditioned to obey, they found satisfaction in it.

To be at peace in the Empire a person merely had to accept the view that their happiness was an integral part of the whole. An individual did not have a right to their own immediate and personal sense of joy. They had to look beyond themselves, to the wholeness of their family, to the security of their village, to the prestige of their world and beyond.

This was referred to as the globalist perspective, and it was normative.

The sound perspective, what was most helpful was to look beyond their immediate conditions of their lives, to look to the next life, to a series of a thousand lives, to the long-slow turning off the wheel of life.

The immediate present could not be changed, only accepted and accounted for.

Individual happiness did not matter, what mattered was the happiness of the whole.

It was a trick.

Most of the population of the empire had been bred to accept this, with those liabilities reinforced by their education in the Imperial Schools and their worship in the Imperial cult.

The citizens understood the reality of the Empire, a million worlds, stretched across the galaxy, but the vast majority would never leave the world they were born on.

Interstellar, travel was mainly the province of the soldier and priest, with the exception of the outcastes, who were likely to be gathered up and sent off world to the serves in the mining fields scattered throughout the Empire. They were the expendable labor force and they were used as such.

Nevertheless, the people held an image of the Royal worlds in their minds, hoping one day to go there, or be reborn there.

It functioned in their consciousness like a beacon, a light to guide them…a false hope.

Every person desired to see their lives as meaningful. Even those citizens whose station in life was fixed in drudgery. This cognitive impulse, to ascribe meaning onto even the most ordinary and mundane activities was instinctual, a genetic imperative.

The mode by which the individual person shaped the narrative of their experience was simple, it involved the projection of everything they did outward toward the universal, reshaping the context of even the simplest and most routine tasks.

This was a categorical imperative.

The Imperial cult ensured that every vestige of the religious rites that the people engaged in, every movement, every word they uttered, conditioned them to believe that individual fulfillment came through the great chain of being, through a series of incarnations, and re-incarnations in which each person experienced life at every station, rising or falling in rank according to the merits by which they lived out each one of their lives.

The journey of the individual entity was depicted in the sacred text like the revolution of a galaxy, billions of stars turning around a massive gravity well, the fixed singularity of a black hole.

It was a cosmic dance.

Planets and stars, turning around the center, until one by one, each was consumed by it, drawn to the point of no return, merging with it, passing across the event horizon, becoming one with the singularity itself.

This example, drawn from nature, was especially poignant to the people.

The common end which it proclaimed, the final calculus of all existence spoke of equal justice for all.

The singularity was depicted not as the end in itself, but as the entry point to another state of being, a gateway to another dimension.

The Continuum was depicted as analogous to this fixed point in nature, and it was a black hole, the material end of all things and that of the soul’s journey, both located in the same terminus.


Emergence 4.0

Part Six, The Empire

Chapter Forty-one, Tradition

A Novel – In One Chapter Per Week

#Emergence #ShortFiction #365SciFi #OneChapterPerWeek

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Sunday, October 27, 2019

A Homily - The Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)


First Reading – Ecclesiasticus 35:12-14, 16-19 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 33(34):2-3, 17-19, 23 ©
Second Reading – 2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18 ©
Alternative Acclamation – 2 Corinthians 5:19
The Gospel According to Luke 18:9 - 14 ©


Listen to words of the sage!

Listen and be joyful.

God creator of the universe, God is not respecter of persons, God respects neither the rich nor the poor.

There is no differentiation in God’s love; God loves all of God’s children equally.

God listens to all prayers, ignoring none of them, but God will not come to your aid, not while you live on Earth; do not wait in the expectation of it.

God’s deliverance comes after the body perishes, when you are delivered to the new world, to a place beyond time and space.

Be humble, serve your brothers and sisters as you would wish that God serves you, be the hand of God in this world, showing love and mercy and kindness.

Be mindful!

If you intend to seek God; look only in your heart. You will find God in loving, and in loving you will be blessed.

Praise God through works of love.

Look for no other glory than service.

God is great because God cares.

God has no name, therefore exalt God’s loving work in creation.

Listen to your neighbors, rescue them from fear, God’s light will shine through you, through the hope you kindle and the love you share.

Remember, with God there is no shame.

God is no respecter of station, class or wealth. God loves everyone the same.

Do not look for God to save you from your troubles. We are all Job, in a way. Have faith and you come to understand how transient your troubles are, and the temporality of pain.

There is no rescue in this world unless it comes from your neighbor.

All pain is temporary, but love lasts forever.

Do not fear.

Speak the truth.

Avoid evil.

Do good.

This is the wisdom of the psalmist, God see all, hears all, knows all; God knows even your innermost thoughts, your deepest secrets, desires and hidden motivations.

Keep your mind in the present and do not focus on the good things that may or may not come.

God loves us always, but it is only in the present that we feel it.

Listen only to those who teach hope…ignore the fear-mongers.

This is the way to peace.

Listen!

God will rescue you, whether you are pure and without flaw, or dirty and soiled with corruption.

God will rescue you though you do not deserve it.

God will come to your side and deliver you, God will place a crown on your head, but it is not for the righteousness you have earned, it is because God has claimed you for God’s own.

It is not a crown of glory earned through righteous perseverance, it is a token of God’s love.

Do not shun it.

Do not devalue it.

Do not think less of it when you see those who persecuted you and those who abandoned you receive the same blessing, when those who did not listen to you, when those who ignored you are present with you on the same pilgrimage to the divine.

Consider this:

The apostle tells us in the simplest of terms; the mission of the church is to announce the reconciliation of the divine.

Everyone is reconciled in the loving embrace of God, of God who created the universe.

The members of the church are meant to be ambassadors of this good news.

The church is not, nor should it ever be a recruiting agency, with the purpose of signing up members, for whom the reward is reconciliation.

Know this!

The reconciliation has already occurred, it occurred in Christ at the beginning of time.

It is the mission of the church to proclaim it.

Consider the Gospel of the Day:

Do not be mistaken; both of people are beloved by God.

God, the creator of the universe; God loves all people, without qualification. God gives to all people without preference.

In the person of the Pharisee and in the person of the tax collector; there is good and there is evil; both. This is true of everyone. It is true of you, and it is true of me, but God loves us despite our faults and failings.

The Pharisee was born into the life of a Pharisee, was given the means to live the life he lived. He had some say in how he would handle his inheritance; as we all do, whatever that inheritance might be.

This is not to excuse the Pharisee’s miserly behavior; this is simple to state our understanding of human nature, and the way things are.

Do not be surprised by it.

We are each of free to be prideful, or humble regardless of what we do or do not have.

All of us are in different ways both.

A person who manifests an ugly sense of pride in relation to one aspect of their life, may be loving and humble in another. Do not believe that because you see one side of a person, you have seen everything about them.

The tax collector also inherited his circumstances; perhaps making choices along the way to establish himself in the role he occupied, nevertheless, like all people, his role in his community was partly determined by free will and partly determined by the exigencies of his community life.

A person may have an occupation where they know they are doing harm to others, but cannot walk away from it, because of unseen obligations; responsibilities to family, to friends, to community. The fact that they are engaged in a sinful occupation does not tell us the whole story of who they are. They may be fierce and aggressive in the pursuit of their duties, and yet come to their prayers with humility and contrition.

Be welcoming to all who come to you. Do not judge them based on the outward expression of their piety, their occupation or their place in society.

We are all of us a mix of good and bad intentions.


First Reading – Ecclesiasticus 35:12-14, 16-19 ©

The Humble Man's Prayer Pierces the Clouds

The Lord is a judge who is no respecter of personages.

He shows no respect of personages to the detriment of a poor man, he listens to the plea of the injured party.

He does not ignore the orphan’s supplication, nor the widow’s as she pours out her story.

The man who with his whole heart serves God will be accepted, his petitions will carry to the clouds.

The humble man’s prayer pierces the clouds, until it arrives he is inconsolable, and the Lord will not be slow, nor will he be dilatory on their behalf.


Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 33(34):2-3, 17-19, 23 ©

The poor man called; the Lord has heard him.

I will bless the Lord at all times,
  his praise always on my lips;
in the Lord my soul shall make its boast.
  The humble shall hear and be glad.

The poor man called; the Lord has heard him.

The Lord turns his face against the wicked
  to destroy their remembrance from the earth.
The just call and the Lord hears
  and rescues them in all their distress.

The poor man called; the Lord has heard him.

The Lord is close to the broken-hearted;
  those whose spirit is crushed he will save.
The Lord ransoms the souls of his servants.
  Those who hide in him shall not be condemned.

The poor man called; the Lord has heard him.


Second Reading – 2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18 ©

All there is to Come Now is the Crown of Righteousness Reserved for Me

My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.

The first time I had to present my defence, there was not a single witness to support me. Every one of them deserted me – may they not be held accountable for it. But the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.


Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 11:25

Alleluia, alleluia!

Blessed are you, Father,
Lord of heaven and earth,
for revealing the mysteries of the kingdom
to mere children.

Alleluia!

Alternative Acclamation – 2 Corinthians 5:19

Alleluia, alleluia!

God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself,
and he has entrusted to us the news that they are reconciled.

Alleluia!


The Gospel According to Luke 18:9 - 14 ©

The Tax Collector, Not the Pharisee, Went Home Justified.

Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else: ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.” The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’


30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)