09 August 2017

see you in 500 years

31 October 2017.  Five hundred years since Martin Luther posted his “let’s get together and chat” flyer in Wittenberg.  When studying history, we often point to particular incidents in which a movement began.  That day is as good as any to be considered the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, even though the groundwork had been in preparation for many years prior.

Every five hundred years (or so), a dramatic shift can be seen in philosophy, politics, theology, spirituality, and a variety of other human endeavors.  Today we are in what is often called the Great Emergence.  Referring to the church, the late Phyllis Tickle spoke of a “500-year rummage sale.”  Every half millennium, there’s a wholesale parting with the old and a welcoming of the new.  (You know, one person’s trash is another one’s treasure!)

Today, a new awareness, a new consciousness is dawning.  Global, not simply local, concerns are in ascendance.  This awareness was in evidence throughout the 20th century, even the end of the of 19th.  One notable event was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the early 1900s, beginning the Pentecostal awakening.  Another example can be seen in, with the passing decades, a greater impetus to ecumenical and interfaith efforts.

Let’s go back 500 years from the Reformation.  (And clearly, this is no exhaustive presentation!)  In the 11th century, the Great Schism occurred.  In 1054, the church in the Roman west and in the Greek east officially split.  As with the Reformation, there was a constellation of factors involved.  Over the centuries, misunderstanding and mistrust grew between east and west.  The Schism remains with us today.

Around 500, there is the fall of the Roman Empire in the west.  It would last for another 1000 years in the east, ending with the Turkish capture of Constantinople.  There is the rise of monasticism in Europe, along with the start of the Middle Ages.  A little later, Muhammad is born, with the religion of Islam as a result.

With the dawn of the 1st century, we have the messianic awakening, the advent of Jesus Christ, and the birth of the church.

Five centuries earlier, there is the flowering of the Hebrew prophets.  The temple and Jerusalem are destroyed by the Babylonians.  This general time period is often called the Axial Age.  Classical Greek philosophers like Socrates and Plato are active.  In China, we see Confucius; in India, we see the Buddha.  Other parts of the world have their own awakenings in philosophy and spirituality.

Around 1000 B.C.E., David establishes the Israelite kingdom.  Solomon has the temple in Jerusalem built.  Going further back, the dates are more subjective, but we have the earliest estimates of Moses’ life in roughly 1500 B.C.E., and Abraham’s five centuries earlier.

Okay, there’s a crude thumbnail sketch!

So, back to today, with the Great Emergence.  One way we can see this is with the effects of the internet.  The French priest and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin spoke of the “noosphere”: the Greek word for “mind” plus “sphere.”  Vastly oversimplified, the noosphere is the consciousness that is becoming increasingly more complex.  It is a sphere, analogous to the atmosphere, sort of like the information in the internet cloud.

But this sphere just isn’t mind; it is also spirit.  I like to think of the Biblical image of the ascension of Christ, the one who, as St. Paul puts it, “fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:23).  Perhaps we can see it reflected in Hebrews 12:1, with its mention of the “great cloud of witnesses”?

I’ll admit to uncertainty—mystery is part of the appeal!  After all, who knows what the Great Emergence has in store?

I’ll see you in 500 years to compare notes.

25 July 2017

no one cares…or do they?

It’s interesting.  Two of the people I have identified with have had some sort of mental illness.  One was someone with whom I felt a political bond—and the other included politics—but more deeply, it was something spiritual and a matter of faith.  That includes a mutual love of Thomas Merton.

Am I alone in this?  Surely this blog post means something.  I don’t care if Dr. Sheltie is widely read.  Maybe someone on Facebook can identify with what I’m sharing.

Or do I have a mental illness?  😉

17 June 2017

time stand still

This Sunday is Father’s Day.  When my sister and I were growing up, neither my dad nor my mom made a big deal of the days dedicated in their honor.  Nevertheless, this will be the 15th Father’s Day since he died in 2003.

I was with Banu at a craft store this past week when I saw something that brought a memory to mind.  I don’t remember exactly what I was looking at!  I think it was an activity book for kids.  The thing is, the memory just resurfaced, and I was drawn to it.

At times in life—and this is true more so for some than others—we have moments that touch eternity.  Time stands still, or so it seems.  When I was fourteen, I had such an experience on a late afternoon while sitting in a chair in our living room, while my father was sitting over on the sofa.

Explanatory note: For several years when I was young, I was a devoted reader of comic books.  (I always thought Marvel was better than DC!)  On this particular afternoon, my dad was reading one of my comic books.  (I don’t remember which one it was, so I posted images of two of my favorite superheroes, with issues of their books from that year.)

It was one of those moments when streaming bright shafts of sunlight draw the curtain on specks of dust.

Each time my dad flipped a page, I heard the rustle of the paper as it slipped through his fingers.  There was just enough friction to make an insistent hush…  —shhhift—  —shhhift

It was 30 seconds (or was it 30 minutes?) between —shhhift— and —shhhift—  In real time the whole experience lasted 15, maybe 20, minutes.  But could I call it a taste of the eternal?  I didn’t want it to end.

That’s what I’m thinking of on this Father’s Day.