2018


A very happy New Year to my Another Voice Friends. I will return in a couple weeks. Just a reminder…..

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language

And next year’s words await another voice.”

T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Many very kind regards to all. We best travel down this road of life hand in hand…

– Jack

The Journey of the Magi


25 December 2017

Once again I invite reflection on a poem written in 1927 by T. S. Eliot (1888–1965). Journey of the Magi is told from the point of view of one of the magi. It is a faith journey that expresses themes of alienation and a feeling of powerlessness in a changing world, but the Birth changes everything….

A very sincere thank you to my readers who have been supportive in word and gesture. Every good wish for Christmas and the New Year. In 2018, may we all be strong, encouraging, and faith-filled in our human journeys.

I will be away from my computer for a few days and will return after Epiphany.

Warmest regards, Jack.

Journey Of The Magi by T.S. Eliot

A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of the year

For a journey, and such a long journey:

The ways deep and the weather sharp,

The very dead of winter.’

And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,

Lying down in the melting snow.

There were times we regretted

The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,

And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

Then the camel men cursing and grumbling

and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,

And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,

And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly

And the villages dirty and charging high prices:

A hard time we had of it.

At the end we preferred to travel all night,

Sleeping in snatches,

With the voices singing in our ears, saying

That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,

Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;

With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,

And three trees on the low sky,

And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.

Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,

Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,

And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.

But there was no information, and so we continued

And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon

Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,

And I would do it again, but set down

This set down

This: were we led all that way for

Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly

We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different; this Birth was

Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.

Disturbances


December 17, 2017

I was in a bit of a hurry, pushing my shopping cart down the aisle of a local grocery store, looking for a bag of pasta and some tomato sauce. Behind me, somebody yelled “professor”! I turned around and there was one of my former students, a brilliant young fellow, who completed his doctorate three years ago.

With a big, happy smile, the young man told me he was in town for a couple days, that he got married a year ago; and that now he and his wife were expecting a baby. “A little boy,” he proudly said. “We expect him to arrive on Christmas and will name him ‘Christian’.” I congratulated him.

Then my ‘student’ became a bit serious. “I have my doctorate, a great wife, and soon a little son,” he said. “Now” he continued “I have to focus on a big question.” I asked if he was looking for a job, needed a good recommendation, or was going to buy a house. “No,” he replied. “I really need to go looking for God — for that ‘taste of the Transcendent’ you often talked about in class. There is still a terrible emptiness in my life…..”

The most important part of our life journey, as I mentioned last week, is God-discovery along the way. A great many people today, like my student, whether religious or not, are hungry for a God-experience. Hungry and thirsting for spirituality. That demands a special kind of openness and a clearing away of the roadblocks that dull our sensitivities and block our vision.

In contemporary life there are two great, but related, existential disturbances: noise pollution and hyperactive busyness. They block our openness to the Sacred, yet we have become so accustomed to them that we take them as simply a normal part of life……

Visiting friends recently, the noise pollution really hit me. The radio was on and loud. The television was replaying a football game with yelling fans. One person was talking on his cellphone; and their neighbor was mowing his yard (last time before the snow) at full throttle. I laughed and said “oh for the days of peace and quiet.” No one heard me of course.

Ubiquitous noise works insidiously. It raises our blood pressure and heart rate. It contributes to anxiety, stress, and nervousness. It closes our minds to contemplative experiences.

Along with noise, hyperactive busyness characterizes much of contemporary life. Here of course cellphones are the great disrupters. People are made to feel guilty if they are not rushing from place to place, working on projects at home, multitasking, and constantly connecting via texting, Twitter, FaceTime, and Facebook. If the power goes off, life becomes suddenly strange and disconnected.

The re-discovery of spirituality — and the survival of art, music, philosophy and theology — requires long and regular moments of tranquility. Reflective contemplative moments. We need to control our noise pollution, clear our schedules for more free time, and reduce our cyber connectedness. The more receptive, contemplative, and inwardly quiet we become, the more open and attentive we become to the deeper vibrations in Reality.

Then we resonate as well with a recent reflection from Richard Rohr:

“The purifying goal of mysticism and contemplative prayer is nothing less than divine union—union with what is, with the moment, with yourself, with the divine, which means with everything…..We came from God and we will return to God. Everything in-between is a school toward conscious loving….God is your deepest desiring. But it takes a long time to allow, believe, trust, and enjoy such a wonderful possibility. We move toward union by desiring union….So just pray for the desire to desire union. Then the actions will take care of themselves.”

My favorite poet, T.S. Eliot, summed it up this way:

“We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.”

*********

Throughout the month of December, I am asking my readers to consider a donation to keep Another Voice on the Internet. Another Voice is a free service. Nevertheless, the old fellow who writes and keeps it going has computer upgrades and maintenance expenses, and website and monthly Internet provider costs.

If you would like to contribute, kindly send a US dollar check, made out to John Dick, and send to: Dr. J.A. Dick, Geldenaaksebaan 85A, 3001 Heverlee, Belgium.

If you would like to contribute in euros, through international bank transfer, here is the information you need: BNP Paribas Fortis Bank NV, Warandeberg 3, 1000 Brussels Account name: John Dick Account number: 230-0392360-15

SWIFT CODE (BIC): GEBABEBB IBAN: BE83 2300 3923 6015

For my part, I promise to keep thinking, researching, and writing.

Thank you for helping me to keep Another Voice speaking!

Travel Advisory


December 10, 2017

The older we get, the more we realize that we are travelers. In our life journeys we move not just from day to day, but from place to place, and from event to event. There are grand discoveries, routine daily chores, great joys and great disappointments. Throughout the whole journey, as we hear so often these days, God travels with us.

Soon, we will again commemorate the biblical journey of Jesus’ parents to Bethlehem. Young people on the road. Their journey leading to the great revelation that would change the course of human history. Matthew’s infancy narrative also describes Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as refugees, fleeing into Egypt to escape the villainy of Herod the Great. Self-centered Herod launched colossal building projects. He ordered great buildings and walls and promised to make Judea Great. Focusing on Jerusalem, he expanded the Second Temple (“Herod’s Temple”) and even slaughtered children to eliminate any possible opposition. Every age has a Herod, determined to make things great, branding “accomplishments” with his own name.

And so for today, the Second Sunday of Advent, my travel advisory for contemporary Christians:

(1) Traveling with “them.” The fundamental reality for most travelers is that we travel with other people. It is easy then to make comparisons and to make judgments. Other travelers can make us feel uncomfortable and occasionally frightened. They do it to us; but we do it to them as well. In truth, however, we may dress strangely and speak in funny ways; but we all have human dignity, equality, and self-worth. We are not just “us” and “them.” We are brothers and sisters. If we travel with the Spirit of Christ, differences in gender, race, and nationality can never allow us to denigrate and condemn the other. Contrary to an old Catholic teaching about gays, for example, no one is innately disordered. God loves all. So should we. We need to welcome and accommodate them.

(2) Travel brings change. Life is not static. Change happens. We either make the best of things and move forward or we regress and die. Nostalgia can be fun for a short time, but do we really want to live in the past? An acquaintance, who is a US Catholic cardinal, told me some time ago how wonderful the 1950’s were and how much he misses those days. I chuckled and said he had a very selective memory. I said I remember the “good old days” as well. I remember having scarlet fever. I remember the petrifying fear of polio and learning that a couple kids in my school were in “iron lungs.” And I remember public drinking fountains marked “for whites only.”

We change and our understandings can and should change. Women are not inferior to men. Protestants do not adhere to a “false religion.” Some of our religious understandings and practices (perhaps) made sense in the Middle Ages but certainly are nonsensical today.

St. Francis Xavier was never in an airplane. He died on December 3, 1552. I read last week that a Catholic group in an effort to “revive the faith” is flying Xavier’s arm to various locations across Canada. The arm even gets a reserved seat on Air Canada. I think they should put the old bone in a box and leave it in baggage claim…..A far better way to revive people’s faith would be for Christians across Canada (and everywhere) to put their living arms around contemporary people who are fearful, depressed, or impoverished. More Christ-like than a fragile old bone.

(3) News travels fast. Yes, news travels fast. Yet not all the news is fit to print. A lot if it these days is phony and dishonest, especially when linked with regressive politics. This morning I read on Facebook that a blog called “Freedom Crossroads — America Love It Or Leave It” announced, with disdain, that former President Barack Obama’s oldest daughter was fired from an internship in Spain this summer. According to Freedom Crossroads, Malia had a “cushy internship” at the Spanish Embassy; but she was fired when she got caught smoking pot.

Another contemporary alternative fact. The truth is: Malia didn’t have an internship at a Spanish embassy this summer. She had an internship in New York City, before attending Harvard. When her internship finished very normally, she went on vacation with her family. No pot involved. Just a lot of nasty falsehood.

As we travel through time and cyberspace, we have an obligation to check facts, and to speak out about and protest those often self-righteous “Christians” who propagate falsehoods and plant seeds of destructive discord.

(4) Traveling with fear. Fear is a part of life. In our human journeys, I suspect most of us have had fearful days that threatened to destabilize or even destroy us. And, in our politically unstable times, new fears are on the horizon. We need to acknowledge our fears but continue the journey and face life with courage. We are not alone. As believers we know that, despite paralyzing problems, we are loved. Love energizes and strengthens. Over the years I have often thought about the thirty years old man from Nazareth, stumbling towards his death, with a cross-beam on his back. Freightened beyond belief…His courage, suffering, and death gives me the courage to continue my journey on difficult days. “Greater love no one has than to lay down one’s life for a friend….”

(5) On a God pilgrimage. We are traveling with God and to God. The most exciting part of our journey. There are of course threatening temptations along the way. The first is to think that God is only for US and only with US. God travels indeed with all kinds of believers and nonbelievers. God is at the heart of all life and all Reality. No group owns God. The second temptation, however, is to act as though we can indeed control God and, like some fundamentalist fanatics found in all religious, use God to condemn and destroy the people we just don’t like and want to condemn and destroy. The temptation to make God in one’s image and likeness.

Safe travels!

————-

Between now and Christmas, I am asking my readers to consider a donation to keep Another Voice on the Internet. Another Voice is a free service.

Nevertheless, the old fellow who writes and keeps it going has computer upgrades and maintenance expenses, and website and monthly Internet provider costs.

If you would like to contribute, kindly send a US dollar check, made out to John Dick, and send to: Dr. J.A. Dick, Geldenaaksebaan 85A, 3001 Heverlee, Belgium.

If you would like to contribute in euros, through international bank transfer, here is the information you need: BNP Paribas Fortis Bank NV, Warandeberg 3, 1000 Brussels

Account name: John Dick Account number: 230-0392360-15

SWIFT CODE (BIC): GEBABEBB

IBAN: BE83 2300 3923 6015

For my part, I promise to keep thinking, researching, and writing.

Thank you for helping me to keep Another Voice speaking!

Advent I: PERSPECTIVE


1 December 2017

My reflection for the first Sunday of Advent is about PERSPECTIVE. Who we are, what we do, and who we become are so dependent on how we view and evaluate Reality.

Advent is traditionally about awaiting, and celebrating, the arrival of Jesus. In another perspective it is about what we believe and how we behave as followers of Jesus.

Yes. As we get into the “Holiday Season,” I am all for putting Christ back into Christmas. More importantly — when the message and spirit of Christ are absent in so much highly publicized contemporary “Christian” rhetoric and behavior — I would like to help put Christ back into Christianity. Too many religiously and politically influential people these days are re-writing the Gospel in their own image and likeness. When, for example, people like Franklin Graham and James Dobson proclaim that the current President of the United States was ordained by God. That is a very different perspective and terribly dysfunctional and deceptive.

And so this week end a poetic reflection on perspective.

The British poet, Brian Bilston, is a master at perspective.

Do we look at reality from top to bottom?

Or do we start at the bottom and go up?

Read his poem “Refugees” and please read to the end.

REFUGEES

They have no need of our help

So do not tell me

These haggard faces could belong to you or me

Should life have dealt a different hand

We need to see them for who they really are

Chancers and scroungers

Layabouts and loungers

With bombs up their sleeves

Cut-throats and thieves

They are not

Welcome here

We should make them

Go back to where they came from

They cannot

Share our food

Share our homes

Share our countries

Instead let us

Build a wall to keep them out

It is not okay to say

These are people just like us

A place should only belong to those who are born there

Do not be so stupid to think that

The world can be looked at another way

(now read from bottom to top)

+++++

Perhaps we can use Advent 2017 to check our own perspectives and our attitudes based on them……

Jack

Throughout the month of December, I am asking my readers to consider a donation to keep Another Voice on the Internet. Another Voice is a free service. Nevertheless, the old fellow who writes and keeps it going has computer upgrades and maintenance expenses, and website and monthly Internet provider costs.

If you would like to contribute, kindly send a US dollar check, made out to John Dick, and send to: Dr. J.A. Dick, Geldenaaksebaan 85A, 3001 Heverlee, Belgium.

If you would like to contribute in euros, through international bank transfer, here is the information you need: BNP Paribas Fortis Bank NV, Warandeberg 3, 1000 Brussels

Account name: John Dick Account number: 230-0392360-15

SWIFT CODE (BIC): GEBABEBB

IBAN: BE83 2300 3923 6015

For my part, I promise to keep thinking, researching, and writing.

Thank you for helping me to keep Another Voice speaking!