Friday, October 30, 2009

Part Two: Compassionate God

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

Today is Friday...thank God its Friday (but there is a whole lot of rain here in the Windy City...a heap of rain has reigned downed on us). Enjoy your weekend all and I look forward to talking with you soon!

Here is the conclusion of Compassionate God, a posting I started in my previous blog (if you haven't checked out this blog in a while, I suggest you read the previous posting before starting this posting).

I’d like to consider God being revealed through my dead mother. This woman who gave birth to me is by all accounts physically dead. What does she physically have left to give? What compassion exists in her if her life ceases to exist? Something happens when I return home from the hospital. I am still angry, frustrated, guilty and above all feeling a complete sense of loss for having missed the opportunity to say goodbye to my mother. Before going to bed alone (my wife has moved out), I happen to notice a card on my desk. It is not as if the card was not there before, but it just so happens to catch my attention tonight. The outside of the card is a picture of a dove carrying an olive branch–––the inside is a message from my mother. It is a Christmas card she had given me last year. Even though I am middle-aged with children of my own, she writes the same conclusion in all my cards: “you will always be my child–––my baby forever. Love, Mom.” It always seemed like a sappy ending until now–––at this moment that somewhat cliché “I love you” message mysteriously triggers a reconciliation that becomes multiple reconciliations that begin to refocus my life. The written words of my mother seem to say from far away that she is still near and that she loves me–––for who I am and for who I fail to be. This woman, who gave birth to me–––who is dead¬¬¬¬–––seems to live.
Through rereading my mother’s card at a most crucial time, I recognize God. For what other way might I describe why I looked at that card the night my mother passed away? Though my mother’s heart stopped beating, her heart lives on in her memory and in her words. Can this phenomenological experience sustain me (does it provide me with ample faith)? It does seem to point to an even deeper truth–––it reveals a God who is fully compassionate. I conclude that the night my eye happened upon the card was a phenomenological experience: a revelation from a God who works subtly and is elusive while nevertheless pursuing me. God did not want me to feel angry or guilty or sad because I could not say goodbye to my mother. God seems to say, “I recognize your pain and I feel it along with you.” The moment I read the card triggers reconciliation with the life of my mother that begins a transformation in me. I realize selfishness and my ego was holding me back from the relationships I most cherished. The seeds of change are planted through a revelation that neither shocks nor awes but deeply mystifies.
In conclusion, I have painted a portrait of God that is not a theological proof for the existence of God or justification through scripture or tradition. The God I reveal in my story does not appear in wind or fire, but rather in the silence of a most lonely night. The God revealed suffers with me as I mourn the loss of my mother and wipes the tears from my eyes while crying along with me. I need not wipe the tears from God’s eyes because God is fully giving to me–––the tears God cries reveal the full compassion of God. The revelations of God’s fulfilling love come in ways that I don’t always see through my fragmented, sometimes suffering existence. However, when I reach outside of myself, I can collect the images and experiences that will serve as a foundation for beginning to sketch a picture of God. But alas, the sketch will remain incomplete.
Scattered though it may remain, the revelation of a fully compassionate God is one that calls for a transformation of heart and mind. William Reiser, S.J., in my opinion, puts the matter quite well. He discusses the crucifix (the sustaining tree of life of the Christian tradition) as a haunting, yet sacred image. A crucifix “draws attention to a haunting solidarity with the suffering humanity of [Jesus’] time and place that Jesus had demonstrated both in his living and in his dying.” In considering the death of Jesus–––what his death means if we put stake in the words and actions of his life–––we come to see an image of an unselfish person who gives of himself for the sake of others. Does he give fully? That is a question of faith that I simply can’t tackle in the context of this paper. But I would say that if we believe that God really could enter into life fully as a human person and then die fully as a human person, we could conclude that that God is fully self-giving. If we accept the idea that God might indeed have chosen to be revealed through the suffering of Jesus of Nazareth, then who is to say that God would not enter into our own sufferings in a most intimate and compassionate manner? This revelation would be a self-giving sacrifice from the Creator that would redeem our personal sufferings. If one believes in the resurrection of Jesus, one sees the plan of a person carried out in fullness. From life to death to resurrection of body, the Christian tradition believes in a person that becomes someone who conquers death.
Consider once again the narrative I used as an allegory throughout this paper: my mother who died is fully alive and recreated in a redemptive act that remains to be seen by me but exists within the confines of a mysterious God who does not hide behind a transcendent, Kantian kind of wall (nor high in the sky like my five year old brain conceived of it), but who actually exists in our midst as an elusive, yet fully compassionate God.


Thanks for reading my blog! Let me know if you have any questions or comments about what I posted; I'd be happy to share further.

peace and blessings!

with love,

your friend bob : )

Monday, October 26, 2009

Part One: Compassionate God

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

I want to post a paper I wrote for my Philosophy of Religion class. It has to do with the idea of God as all-compassionate...feel free to comment on it.

Part One:

When I was five years old, I vaguely recall drawing a crayon picture in my kindergarten class of a God who sat high in the sky at a computer desk. This Zeus-like man sported a flowing white beard and programmed the life of people on earth through his masterly computer programming skills. Obviously, the drawing was an innocent sketch of something or someone–––God–––that remains as much a mystery to me now as that moment I drew my old friend on the computer. I guess the difference between the me that thinks about God now verse the me that thought about God in kindergarten, is that the me now has more ideas and life experiences to draw from when trying to construct an image of God. But I concede that I am still much like the little boy with crayon in hand.
Nevertheless, I now, ironically enough, will consider God through a paper typed on a computer. The God I plan to discuss is not one who sits high in the sky at a computer desk (that would make God some kind of control freak computer geek–––not to offend anyone with computer expertise!). Rather, the God I will discuss is one who is fully compassionate, unselfish, and completely lacking in moral defect. God is not playing any games with anyone or entering codes or cheats to challenge or control. Instead, this God has to find a way to creatively enter into the humanity God created and make a revelation that is potent enough to touch the human heart enough that the human experiencing this God understands and seeks to turn away from her or his own selfish fears and desires. The mysterious interaction between the divine and the human would have to convince the human both in the existence of the divine and in the incredible call to the human to enter into the mystery of the divine, thereby forever intertwining the created with the Creator. What type of evidence might a fully compassionate God give to humans in order interact with them? How might God become present to humanity?
Faith traditions from around the world seek answers to such questions, relying on prophets, tradition, scripture, and phenomenological experiences, among other categories, to form belief systems. However, if I may be so bold, I want to attempt to step outside the doctrine and beliefs of major monotheistic traditions and seek to answer the question of how the God I have described might interact with humans like us from an existential standpoint. Leaving aside my Christian identity, I turn to an allegory to consider a modern Godly revelation.
Say that today I would like to go shopping for a birthday card for my mother only to find out, after walking to the local drug store, that the store is closed for the day, I would feel as if my set task was not fulfilled. Maybe I could shrug that off (with an example like that it wouldn’t be hard to do) and reason that I can walk to the store and get the card another day. But what if I take this to an extreme situation: my mother is on her deathbed and that card symbolizes a last chance to say I love you to a woman that gave birth to me. I run to the store only to realize that it is closed for the day. Dejected, I drive to the hospital to visit with my mother. I get to the hospital only to hear the terrible news from the doctor that my mother has passed away. In this instance, I feel a lack of fulfillment that comes from not only not having a card to present to my mother, but also a feeling of regret at having not been able to at least personally say goodbye. Tears maybe even swell my eyes as I realize that my mother is no longer alive. My desire to say goodbye to my mother, to tell her I love her, has not been fulfilled.
Following the doctor’s announcement that my mother has passed away, I cry out “why!” I am feeling as if I have somehow been betrayed by someone–––though I don’t know who. No one answers. I feel forsaken, shook and angry. My lack of fullness is becoming apparent to the nurse and doctor who are with me. They understand my struggle because they have had similar experiences of loss, and yet anything they say won’t make my pain go away. The pain feels lodged inside of me, as real as the blood that flows through my veins and keeps me from death. In this moment, I am seeking an answer to the question of why my mother had to die before I had the opportunity to tell her I love her. Just to make the situation even more difficult, let’s say that before she died, I had told her something very difficult–––that my wife and I were going to get a divorce. This is something my mother cried about–––I felt terrible telling her on her deathbed. Nevertheless, I felt like I had to tell her, to get it off my chest so to speak. The card I wanted to give her was something more than just a birthday card then; it was an apology and a sign that I sought forgiveness from and reconciliation with her. I was part fearful that if I didn’t apologize it would sting me more and continue to hurt her even as she struggled with the pains she was experiencing while slowly losing her battle with cancer. Giving the card to my mother was more than a way to say sorry; it was also a hidden way to restore some of the pride I had lost after telling her about the breakup with my wife.
To interrupt, it is now evident that the “I” in the narrative is not fulfilled, not fully compassionate and not without moral defect. He struggles with fear, pride and guilt among potentially other things. Moreover, his lack of confidence in relationships and his struggle to find peace in them seems to suggest a further lack of fulfillment. Establishing this, I want to now interject (abruptly) with a revelation from God. It seems to me that God would have three general ways to be revealed: (1) through a place, (2) through a thing, or (3) through a person. Let’s consider God appearing first in the form of a place in our narrative. To speak metaphorically, we might consider the place that a compassionate God appears in the told narrative is the drug store where I intend to buy the card to give to my dying mother. The place seems to represent an attempt of my wanting to reconcile a broken feature of the relationship with my mother. But the place is closed.
Second, let’s consider God appearing through a thing–––the card in itself. God might speak through the compassion, the words of kindness and love to the person who gave birth to me. But the card is never bought and God therefore does not appear in this thing in the case of my narrative.
Lastly, let’s consider God appearing through a person in the narrative. Does God appear through me? Is God revealed in my attempt to reconcile my relationship with my mother? Partly, I would argue, but not fully. For instance, I show signs that I wish to be closer to a God who is fully compassionate and unselfish and to be trusted, insofar as I want my mother to understand my love for her. I express this desire through my desire to give a birthday card. Still, as I have said earlier, the giving of the card is not completely unselfish–––there is an underlying pride because I want to receive–––and implicitly expect–––some kind of forgiveness and acceptance in return for the work I put into buying and giving the card to my mother. A fully unselfish and completely self-giving person would not want anything in return for the gift. Further, I am not giving of myself in giving the card–––I am giving a symbol of how I feel or who I am, but I am not physically giving myself. Would God have to be revealed through a full act of physical giving?

I'll post the second half in my next blog posting. Take care and God's blessings.

peace and with love,

your friend bob : )

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

It has been forever in my opinion since I last posted on this blog. Part of me really misses my weekly (at the peak of the blog almost daily!) postings here on the network. I regret that my time is crunched this semester to the point that I barely have time for the things I am most passionate about (i.e. writing posts here on the Network of Love). But today is a new day! I do have a morsel of free time, a space on my hard drive not yet filled, if you will.

Here is a poem I wrote about a week ago as the season slowly changed, seemingly in front of my eyes, as I watched the waves beast their way toward my window (Loyola University has a new building, the Information Commons, that has two story windows with a spectacular view of Lake Michigan. Right now, I am glancing through the windows and feeling an incredible peace.)


Throw my fish net out into the Horizon:

Today is a day that I wish I could spend the whole day staring nakedly into the infinite horizon of Lake Michigan
To cast my worries in a net in the sea---to watch the Captain capture them with his bare wet hands and sink them forever.

Today is a day I'd rather be away; but I guess where I am is really where I am called to presently be.
At times of learning, yearning, discerning---there is always an unspeakable presence breathing life within me.

Even when death strikes, when the hellish hounds haunt my night, when terror becomes stronger than sight.
There is an oracle, an interpreter, a guide dog trained to show me the way
To give order to my steps in the fragments and brokenness of my discard-able day.
And when my thought is "come what may"---

I wake and rise fulfilled, sitting silent, soothing waters, on the dock of Otis' bay.

peace and blessings to all my friends.

with love,

your friend bob : )

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Prayers for a Friend Far From Home

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers,

I have not posted in a long time. I apologize for anyone who happens upon the site looking for new content. It is just that...well busy has been the name of the game for me this semester. But I will do my best to update the Network, if at the very least it is an instrument for me to extend my prayer and spirituality with others who are willing to share in it with me.

I would ask any and all who stumble upon the site to prayer for Oswaldo da Silva and my friend Raphael. Oswaldo was Rapha's Grandpa and he was buried this morning. Raphael, being here in Chicago, his family in Brazil, could obviously not be at the funeral and burial. So I pray that Oswaldo, or "Cuca" as he was better known to the family, can smile down on Raphael today, as he mourns the loss of a person who was so deeply close to him his whole life.


peace and blessings.

with love,

your friend bob.