Monday, January 15, 2018

For MLK Day . . .

. . . "My Brother's Keeper," a painting by Haitian artist Watson Mere.

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

Related Off-site Links:
This Haitian American Artist's Image of MLK Hushing Trump Goes Viral Again – Stephen Snyder (PRI, January 15, 2018).
The Story Behind One of the Most Powerful Images of the Resistance – Tod Perry (Good, August 24, 2016).
Martin Luther King, Jr., the Radical: 9 MLK Quotes the Media Won’t Cite – Kali Holloway (AlterNet via Salon, January 16, 2017).
Turning King's Dream Into a Nightmare – Chris Hedges (Truthdig, January 13, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – January 15, 2017
Martin Luther King, Jr. and Democratic Socialism
Global Condemnation for Trump's Latest Ignorant and Racist Comment

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Global Condemnation for Trump's Latest Ignorant and Racist Comment

U.S. President Donald Trump recently ignited an international firestorm of outrage and condemnation when he called Haiti, El Salvador and African nations “shithole countries.”

Following are responses from around the globe to Trump's comment.


These are shocking and shameful comments from the President of the United States. I’m sorry, but there’s no other word one can use but “racist.”

You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as “shitholes,” whose entire populations are not white are therefore not welcome. [Trump’s] positive comment on Norway makes the underlying sentiment very clear.

Like [Trump’s] earlier comments made vilifying Mexicans and Muslims, the policy proposals targeting entire groups on grounds of nationality or religion, and the reluctance to clearly condemn the anti-semitic and racist actions of the white supremacists in Charlottesville, all of these go against the universal values the world has been striving so hard to establish since World War Two and the Holocaust.

This isn’t just a story about vulgar language, it’s about opening the door to humanity’s worst side. It’s about validating and encouraging racism and xenophobia that will potentially disrupt and even destroy the lives of many people, and that’s perhaps the single most damaging and dangerous consequence of this type of comment by a major political figure.

– Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the
UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights

Excerpted from “UN Statement on Trump ‘S***hole’ Comments, in Full
The Independent
January 12, 2018

Donald Trump has been branded a shocking and shameful racist after it was credibly reported he had described African nations, as well as Haiti and El Salvador as “shitholes” and questioned why so many of their citizens had ever been permitted to enter America.

U.S. diplomats around the world were summoned for formal reproach, amid global shock that such crude remarks could ever be made in a semi-public meeting by the president of the United States.

In a strongly-worded statement, the United Nations said it was impossible to describe his remarks as anything other than racist, while the Vatican decried Trump’s words as “particularly harsh and offensive”.

The 55-nation African Union said the remarks were “clearly racist”.

Trump initially allowed reported accounts of his comments to go unchallenged, but went into damage limitation mode on Friday, insisting he had not used derogatory words – but admitting that the language he had used at a meeting with Senators on immigration was “tough.”

But the democratic senator Dick Durbin – who was present at the meeting with Trump on Thursday – insisted that the reports were entirely accurate.

He said “those hate-filled things and did so repeatedly.”

“Shithole was the exact word used once not twice but repeatedly,” Durbin said, adding that the word was specifically used in the context of African countries.

– Patrick Wintour, Jason Burke and Anna Livsey
Excerpted from “‘There’s No Other Word But Racist’:
Trump's Global Rebuke for ‘Shithole’ Remark

The Guardian
January 13, 2018

I am not ashamed of the country where I was born. I am not ashamed to call myself an American now. I am a proud immigrant, refugee, Minnesotan and a proud State Legislator.

But make no mistake, I am ashamed, disturbed, and outraged that the leader of the United States can’t see beyond his own embarrassing privilege to embrace the diversity that has made this country great for generations.

– MN State Representative Ilhan Omar (DFL-Minneapolis)
January 11, 2018

The President’s comments today are horrifying and truly deplorable. It saddens me to my heart to see our country misrepresented like this.

The time for neutrality and silence is long over – anyone who doesn’t stand with this nonsense must stand firmly together against it now.

– St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter III
January 11, 2018

My response to President Trump is total condemnation. It was a very racist remark, which shed light on earlier decisions that he had – that have been made by the administration – for example, about temporary protected status being eliminated for Haitians and Salvadorans, and his remark, as reported by The New York Times, about all Haitians having AIDS. It seems like, once again, Haiti is being used as a foil, and he is baiting his bait and feeding them — Haiti as red meat.

And it’s extremely sad that it happened also in the shadow of this day. Today was going to be an extraordinarily sad day for many of us, anyway, who lost our family members, who lost our friends, in the devastating earthquake [of 2010]. So this is even more salt on our wounds. Not surprising, because of the nature of this presidency and the way this president conducts himself, but it is a terrible slight. It’s completely racist, especially the way that he paralleled Haiti and Africa, which is a continent, not a country – someone should tell him – and describing them in this manner and contrasting them to Norway.

Countries like El Salvador and Haiti are in terrible condition in large part because of long histories of American support for right-wing dictatorships and crony capitalism. And why would anyone in Norway give up their social benefits – universal health care on a single payer system, no college tuition, and the like – to come to the U.S., which has none of it?

Mae M. Ngai
via Facebook
January 12, 2018

President Trump’s characterization of Africa, Haiti and El Salvador as “shitholes” disturbed me, but I wasn’t sure why. The comments were made during a discussion about the temporary protected status for hundreds of thousands of Salvadoran, Haitian and other immigrants Trump had just rescinded. In search for an answer, I went home and pulled out and studied my boots , which were tattered after too many visits to mass graves, mass graves with the remains of Salvadorans—in El Salvador, in Mexico and in the deserts of south Texas. Wearing my hiking boots during visits to numerous sites along this chain of devalued life led me to the conclusion that mass graves were the ultimate shitholes.

What made me most uncomfortable was less about Mr. Trump’s choice of word than how he used it: he mistook the shithole part for the whole country. Trump’s rhetorical fallacy feels like a cover-up, a distraction from the fact that El Salvador’s mass graves contain fingerprints and other evidence that point to the United States as an accomplice to the mass murder and violence that created them. Viewed from this perspective, Trump’s “shithole” comment said in words what all US presidents have said with their policies towards countries like Haiti and El Salvador.

Consider, for example, the Salvadoran case of El Mozote, the site of the massacre of almost a thousand peasants, a crime whose irresolution still haunts many. Some 37 years after the mass massacre, forensic evidence from mass graves proved that 553 of those victims were children, many of them under six years old.

El Mozote is the best documented of El Salvador’s thousands of mass graves, many of which remain unexcavated. Forensic experts with El Salvador’s Institute for Legal Medicine and the world renown Argentine forensic team told me that their evidence – bones, shoe marks, hair samples, bullet shells – of the mass killing at El Mozote pointed to elite Salvadoran soldiers trained in places like Fort Bragg and Fort Benning, Georgia, formerly known as the notorious “School of the Americas.” Evidence from recent Salvadoran and international court cases corroborates this. The boots, bullets, weapons, helicopters and uniforms used during the massacre were all Made in the U.S.A. And the evidence trail isn’t limited to El Mozote.

– Roberto Lovato
Excerpted from “El Salvador’s Worst Shitholes
Are ‘Made in America’

Latino Rebels
January 12, 2018

Good people don’t refer to entire countries as “shitholes” – most notably countries that have given birth to our very humanity; ones that for hundreds of years have been colonized and poached and mined of their riches by powerful white men; countries whose people have been enslaved and sold and forced to come and build your country.

Good people by any measurement we might use – simply don’t say such things.

. . . But this President is simply not a good human being, and there’s simply no way around this truth.

He is the ugliest personification of the Ugly American, which is why, as long as he is here and as long as he represents this nation, we will be a fractured mess and a global embarrassment. He will be the ever lowering bar of our legacy in the world.

And what is painfully obvious in these moments, isn’t simply that the person alleging to lead this country is a terrible human being – it is that anyone left still defending him, applauding him, justifying him, amening him, probably is too.

At this point, the only reason left to support this President, is that he reflects your hateful heart;he shares your contempt of people of color, your hostility toward outsiders, your ignorant bigotry, your feeling of supremacy.

A white President calling countries filled with people of color shitholes, is so far beyond the pale, so beneath decency, and so blatantly racist that it shouldn’t merit conversation. It should be universally condemned. Humanity should be in agreement in abhorring it.

And yet today (like so many other seemingly rock bottom days in the past twelve months) they will be out there: white people claiming to be good people and Christian people, who will make excuses for him or debate his motives or diminish the damage.

They will dig their heels in to explain away or to defend, what at the end of the day is simply a bad human being saying the things that bad human beings say because their hearts harbor very bad things.

No, good people don’t call countries filled with beautiful, creative, loving men and women shitholes.

And good people don’t defend people who do.

You’re going to have to make a choice here.

– John Pavlovitz
Excerpted from “Good People Don’t Defend A Bad Man
January 12, 2018

I have lost patience with the shock supposedly well-meaning people express every time Mr. Trump says or does something terrible but well in character. I don’t have any hope to offer. I am not going to turn this into a teaching moment to justify the existence of millions of Haitian or African or El Salvadoran people because of the gleeful, unchecked racism of a world leader. I am not going to make people feel better about the gilded idea of America that becomes more and more compromised and impoverished with each passing day of the Trump presidency.

This is a painful, uncomfortable moment. Instead of trying to get past this moment, we should sit with it, wrap ourselves in the sorrow, distress and humiliation of it. We need to sit with the discomfort of the president of the United States referring to several countries as “shitholes” during a meeting, a meeting that continued after his comments. No one is coming to save us. Before we can figure out how to save ourselves from this travesty, we need to sit with that, too.

– Roxane Gay
Excerpted from “No One Is Coming to Save Us From Trump’s Racism
The New York Times
January 11, 2018

Far too many people are surprised by your racism, [Mr. President,] which is as ignorant as it is blatant. This is confusing because you’ve made no secret of your attitudes.

You started this political trip by insisting that America’s first black president wasn’t really American, despite all evidence to the contrary. You seem driven by an irrational hatred of everything Obama: you even blamed him on Thursday for building a new US embassy in London, even though the decision was taken by his white Republican predecessor. You campaigned against Mexico by peddling the libel that the country was sending its criminals and rapists to America. You now want to kick out 200,000 immigrants from El Salvador who keep the economy humming in your new hometown of Washington.

When neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville, carrying torches and shouting about racial purity, you said they were good people. You endorsed the Britain First brand of neo-Nazism by sharing its racist lies on Twitter.

With a depressing frequency, you have made it clear that you are literally a neo-Nazi sympathizer. If at some stage you promote eugenics on Twitter, we will save a few letters on our character counts and simply call you a neo-Nazi.

– Richard Wolffe
Excerpted from “‘Shithole Countries’?
Words Worthy of a Racist-in-Chief

The Guardian
January 13, 2018

President Donald Trump has called Africa a shithole. How America elected a narcissist, racist, white supremacist to be their president defies logic. Africa sends love and light to America.

– Boniface Mwangi
via Twitter
January 11, 2018

Related Off-site Links:
Trump Decries Immigrants from "Shithole Countries" Coming to U.S. – Eli Watkins and Abby Phillip (CNN, January 12, 2018).
"There's No Other Word But Racist": Trump's Global Rebuke for "Shithole" Remark – Patrick Wintour, Jason Burke and Anna Livsey (The Guardian, January 13, 2018).
"Reprehensible and Racist": Trump’s Remarks Outrage Africans – Cara Anna (The Associated Press, January 12, 2018).
"Racist" and "Shameful": How Other Countries Are Responding to Trump's Slur – Colin Dwyer (NPR News, January 12, 2018).
The US Role in Turning Countries Into Shitholes and Provoking Immigration – Juan Cole (Informed Comment, January 12, 2018).
Your Response to Trump’s Racist ‘Shithole’ Comment Will Be Remembered – Rex Huppke (Chicago Tribune, January 11, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Trump's America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence
In Charlottesville, the Face of Terrorism In the U.S.
2000+ Take to the Streets of Minneapolis to Express Solidarity with Immigrants and Refugees
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump as President
Progressive Perspectives on the Rise of Donald Trump
Trump's Playbook

Friday, January 12, 2018

Waking Up

I came across the video below while perusing my Facebook news feed earlier today. It's by the non-profit organization Avaaz, and I have to say that I find it very inspiring and hope-filled! Perhaps you will too.

I preface it with the following quote by Joanna Macy, one that I find equally inspiring and hopeful.

The most remarkable feature of this historical moment on Earth is not that we are on the way to destroying the world – we've actually been on the way for quite a while. It is that we are beginning to wake up, as from a millennia-long sleep, to a whole new relationship to our world, to ourselves and each other.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Hope in the Midst of Collapse
Let Us Be "Energized by the Beauty That Is All Around Us": Jane Goodall's New Year Message
Buffy Sainte-Marie's Medicine Songs
In Australia, "Love Has Had a Landslide Victory"
What a Man – Connor Beaton
The Catalan Firefighters: Listeners of the "Discerning Voice" Within
Progressive Perspectives on Colin Kaepernick and the "Take A Knee" Movement
Making the Connections
Ahmad Joudeh: Dancing for Peace
Imagine, Heal, Resist! – Mayday 2017 (Part 1)
Imagine, Heal, Resist! – Mayday 2017 (Part 2)
The People's Climate Solidarity March – Minneapolis, 4/29/17
Progressive Perspectives on U.S. Military Intervention in Syria
2000+ Take to the Streets of Minneapolis to Express Solidarity with Immigrants and Refugees
"The Movement of Love and Inclusion Has Just Been Unleashed"
"It Is All Connected"
Andrew Harvey on Radical, Divine Passion in Action
Move Us, Loving God
Sufism: A Call to Awaken
Don't Go Back to Sleep

Related Off-site Links:
For the New YearThe Leveret (January 1, 2018).
What We Want for 2018: The Biggest Movement Leaders Envision the Changes Ahead – Beverly Bell (Yes!, January 5, 2018).
Let's Make 2018 the Year We Rise Up and Regenerate! – Ronnie Cummins (Common Dreams, January 5, 2018).

Monday, January 08, 2018

Hope in the Midst of Collapse

In a commentary published in Business Insider in the ebbing days of 2017, James Traub argued that the United States has become “decadent and depraved.” He explains what decadence means, and how it's tied to corruption. “Decadence is usually understood as an irreversible condition – the last stage before collapse,” he writes.

Today I share an excerpt from Traub's December 24, 2017 commentary, one that, as the new year begins, remains very much relevant and "of the day." . . . And yet I am not despondent. For as Ann Kreilkamp's photograph above and many of the links that follow this excerpt remind us, every end serves also as a beginning. And that's hopeful.

A democratic society becomes decadent when its politics, which is to say its fundamental means of adjudication, becomes morally and intellectually corrupt. But the loss of all regard for common ground is hardly limited to the political right, or for that matter to politics.

We need only think of the ever-unfolding narrative of Harvey Weinstein, which has introduced us not only to one monstrous individual but also to a whole world of well-educated, well-paid, highly regarded professionals who made a very comfortable living protecting that monster. “When you quickly settle, there is no need to get into all the facts,” as one of his lawyers delicately advised.

This is, of course, what lawyers do, just as accountants are paid to help companies move their profits into tax-free havens. What is new and distinctive, however, is the lack of apology or embarrassment, the sheer blitheness of the contempt for the public good.

When Teddy Roosevelt called the monopolists of his day “malefactors of great wealth,” the epithet stung – and stuck. Now the bankers and brokers and private equity barons who helped drive the nation’s economy into a ditch in 2008 react with outrage when they’re singled out for blame.

Being a “wealth creator” means never having to say you’re sorry. Enough voters accept this proposition that Donald Trump paid no political price for unapologetic greed.

The worship of the marketplace, and thus the elevation of selfishness to a public virtue, is a doctrine that we associate with the libertarian right. But it has coursed through the culture as a self-justifying ideology for rich people of all political persuasions – perhaps also for people who merely dream of becoming rich.

Decadence is usually understood as an irreversible condition – the last stage before collapse.

– James Traub
Excerpted from "The U.S. Has Reached
the Last Stage Before Collapse
Business Insider
December 24, 2017

Related Off-site Links:
10 Good Things About a Terrible Year – Medea Benjamin (Common Dreams, December 25, 2017).
2018: Moving Beyond Trump – Rebuilding Our Civilizations from Source – Otto Scharmer (The Huffington Post, December 28, 2017).
Why Trump Phenomenon Signals an Oligarchy on the Brink of a Civilization-Threatening Collapse – Sally J. Goerner (Evonomics, April 29, 2016).
Golfing Into the Apocalypse, Which Is Happening Faster Than Anyone Anticipated – Abby Zimet (Common Dreams, December 28, 2017).
How Corporate Power Killed Democracy – Richard Moser (CounterPunch, December 6, 2017).
All of Trump's Problems Seem to Perpetually Come Down to Money – Charles P. Pierce (Esquire, January 4, 2018).
Daring to Dream in the Age of Trump – Naomi Klein (The Nation, June 13, 2017).
The End Is Near (or Is That the Beginning)Neo(un)Orthodoxy (April 2, 2012).
Scores of Leading Economists Demand End to All Fossil Fuel Investments – Andrea Germanos (Common Dreams, December 8, 2017).
How Inequality Is Killing Off Humanity – Paul Buchheit (Common Dreams, January 8, 2018).
What We Want for 2018: The Biggest Movement Leaders Envision the Changes Ahead – Beverly Bell (Yes!, January 5, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The End of the World As We Know It . . . and the Beginning As We Live It
See the World!
As the Last Walls Dissolve . . . Everything is Possible
Threshold Musings
The War Racket
Buffy Sainte-Marie's Medicine Songs
Let Us Be "Energized by the Beauty That Is All Around Us": Jane Goodall's New Year Message

Image: Ann Kreilkamp.

Happy Birthday, Shirley!

The celebrated vocalist Dame Shirley Bassey celebrates her 81st birthday today. Happy Birthday, Shirley!

To mark the occasion at The Wild Reed, I share the following clip of Shirley performing one of her most well-known recordings, "(Where Do I Begin) Love Story." It's from a television appearance in 1972. Enjoy!

Where do I begin?
To tell the story of how great a love can be
The sweet love story that is older than the sea
The simple truth about the love he brings to me
Where do I start?

Like a summer rain
That cools the pavement with a patent leather shine
He came into my life and made the living fine
And gave a meaning to this empty world of mine
He fills my heart

He fills my heart with very special things
With angels' songs, with wild imaginings
He fills my soul with so much love
That anywhere I go, I'm never lonely
With him along, who could be lonely?
I reach for his hand
It's always there

How long does it last?
Can love be measured by the hours in a day?
I have no answers now but this much I can say
I'm going to need him 'til the stars all burn away
And he'll be there

For more of Shirley Bassey at The Wild Reed, see:
Time of the Tigress
The Living Tree: Shirley Bassey and Me
The Rhythm Divine
History Repeating
Oscar Highlights 2013
Quote of the Day – February 26, 2013
Shirley, Shirley, Shirley!

Related Off-site Links:
17 Times Dame Shirley Bassey Proved She's Truly World Class – Tyler Mears (Wales Online, January 7, 2017).
Why Shirley Bassey Is Horrified by Today's Pop StarsThe Telegraph (December 24, 2016).
Dame Shirley Bassey "Couldn't Sing" After Death of DaughterBBC News (December 24, 2016).
Shirley Bassey Reveals Secret Torment Behind Glittering 60 Year Career – Rod McPhee (Mirror, December 23, 2016).

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Let Us Be "Energized by the Beauty That Is All Around Us": Jane Goodall's New Year Message

British primatologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace Dr. Jane Goodall recently shared a New Year's message via her website. Following is an excerpt.

[F]or so many people around the world, 2017 brought hardship and suffering, because of the hurricanes, floods, droughts and fires due to climate change that have caused some to lose their homes, their possessions, even family and friends. And climate change has caused others to migrate from increasingly hostile environments. Then there are the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing violence, war and genocide. The horrifying number of people subjected to domestic violence. The poverty, the rising number of the homeless and the millions, including children, subjugated to modern day slavery. And we have inflicted unimaginable suffering also on billions of animals in factory farms, those subjected to wildlife trafficking, or to medical or pharmaceutical testing. And let us not forget the shocking destruction of the rainforests, the pollution of the ocean, the devastation caused by the unsustainable demand for the finite resources of Planet Earth, the clearing of land for development and for industrial farming with its chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers. The loss of biodiversity, the increasing number of animal and plant species listed as endangered. A daunting and depressing scenario indeed. The list is endless.

But as I was thinking about all of this, a little robin, with his cheerful red breast, flew onto the bird table outside my window. I could just see him in the bleak morning light. And before taking a beakful of food, he perched there singing his little heart out. An exquisitely enchanting matins that found its way into my soul. I realized then that he was delivering a message: reminding me that there is still so much in the world worth fighting for. So much that is beautiful, so many wonderful people working to reverse the harm, to help alleviate the suffering. And so many young people dedicated to making this a better world. All conspiring to inspire us and to give us hope that it is not too late to turn things around, if we all do our part.

With his bright, beady eyes shining in the light from my bedside lamp, the robin gazed at me through the glass before flying off. He had played his part, rekindled the hope that leads to action. Prepared me for the challenges that lie ahead.

So this is the message I share with you now in the hope that throughout 2018 we shall be energized by the beauty that is all around us, and rather than becoming discouraged and rendered helpless by the ignorance and evil that is so obvious, we shall become strengthened by the goodness and love that is also everywhere. And then we shall be able to use the gift of our lives, to make the world that little bit better – every day.

And, by the way, we must take time to make merry, to have fun – and to laugh!

– Dr. Jane Goodall
Excerpted from her New Year's Message for 2018
January 2, 2018

Related Off-site Links:
12 Books (and a Poem) That Inspire the Activism We Need in 2018 – Paul Brandeis Raushenbush (Auburn, January 2018).
18 Refugees, 18 Countries – and Their Hopes for 2018 – Mark Rice-Oxley (The Guardian, January 1, 2018).
New Year’s Resolution: End America’s Quagmire Wars – W.J. Astore (Bracing Views, January 2, 2018).
Let's Make 2018 the Year We Rise Up and Regenerate! – Ronnie Cummins (Common Dreams, January 5, 2018).
For the New YearThe Leveret (January 1, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A New Year (2017)
Move Us, Loving God
Andrew Harvey on Radical, Divine Passion in Action
For 2015, Three "Generous Promises"
Something We Dare Call Hope
Buffy Sainte-Marie: "Sometimes You Have to Be Content to Plant Good Seeds and Be Patient"
Called to the Field of Compassion
Threshold Musings

Image: Writes Lori Dorn about this photograph: "In June of 2013, Dr. Jane Goodall and her team set out to release a chimpanzee named Wounda back into the wild. Wounda had spent a great deal of time at the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo being treated for a life threatening illness from which she had since recovered. Before heading out into the jungle, however Wounda doubled back to express her sincere appreciation to the entire team and give the iconic primatologist a truly grateful hug."

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

If God is Love . . .

. . . [then] the only way we can worship God
is by loving others. The more we give love away,
the more we make the experience of God visible.
God is not a being, external to us;
God is experienced in the presence of love.

– John Shelby Spong
Excerpted from his forthcoming book,
Unbelievable: Why Neither Ancient Creeds Nor the Reformation
Can Produce a Living Faith Today

HarperOne, 2018

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Return to the Spirit
Move Us, Loving God
Andrew Harvey on Radical, Divine Passion in Action
Called to the Field of Compassion
The Choice (and Risk) That Is Love
Love as "Quest and Daring and Growth"
Getting It Right
The Longing for Love: God's Primal Beatitude
Love as Exploring Vulnerability
The Gravity of Love
To Be Held and To Hold
To Know and Be Known
What We Mean by Love
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace

Image: James R. Eads.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas 2017 – Reflections and Celebrations

It's Christmas Day here in Minnesota . . . the coldest Christmas Day since 1996, in fact!

Yet despite the cold I know much warmth in my life . . . in the form of love and friendship. Indeed, although I miss spending this special time of year with my family and friends in Australia, I feel very fortunate to have many wonderful friends, and a special someone, here in the U.S. with whom I'm able to celebrate all that the Christmas season signifies.

I share this evening a few images of some of the celebrations I've been part of, starting with my Winter Solstice Eve party of December 20 and continuing through my Solstice/Christmas gathering of December 22, Christmas Eve, and today, Christmas Day. These images are accompanied by my favorite reflections on the meaning and significance of Christmas.

I also take this opportunity to wish all my readers a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2018.

The eternal Christ Mystery began with the Big Bang where God decided to materialize as the universe. Henceforth, the material and the spiritual have always co-existed, just as Genesis 1:1-2 seems to be saying. Although this Christ existed long before Jesus, and is coterminous with creation itself, Christians seem to think Christ is Jesus' last name. What Jesus allows us to imagine – because we see it in him – is that the divine and the human are forever one. God did not just take on one human nature, although that is where we could first risk imagining it in the body of Jesus. God took on all human nature and said "yes" to it forever! In varying degrees and with infinite qualities, God took on everything physical, material, and natural as himself. That is the full meaning of the Incarnation. To allow such a momentous truth, to fully believe it, to enjoy it in practical ways, to suffer it with and for others – this is what it means to be a Christian! Nothing less will do now. Nothing less will save the world.

Richard Rohr, OFM
Daily Meditation
December 18, 2014.

Into this world, this demented inn,
in which there is absolutely no room for Him at all,
Christ has come uninvited.

But because He cannot be at home in it,
because he is out of place in it,
His place is with those others,
for whom there is no room,
His place is with those who do not belong,
who are rejected by power
because they are regarded as weak,
those who are discredited,
who are denied status of persons,
who are tortured, bombed and exterminated,
with those for whom there is no room,
Christ is present in the world.

He is mysteriously present in those
for whom there seems to be nothing
but the world at its worst.
. . . It is in these that He hides Himself,
for whom there is no room.

Above: A Winter Solstice Eve gathering – Wednesday, December 20, 2017. From left: Jeffrey, Pete, Omar, my boyfriend Brent, me, and Jim.

Above: Jeffrey and Pete on the eve of Winter Solstice 2017.

Solstice means "sun stands still," as if the warmth and radiance of life itself hangs in the balance at critical points in the course of planetary existence. When the world becomes darker, the inner light of the soul becomes more important. The light we discover in our own depths is a speck of the original star, a spark of life that connects us to each other and to the Soul of the World.

On the evening of Friday, December 22 I hosted a Winter Solstice/Christmas party.

Pictured above is my dear friend Kathleen, sharing her beautiful rendition of the traditional Irish Christmas carol known as The Wexford Carol.

Right: With my boyfriend Brent.

Above: My friend John, helping get the fire going! It was the first time I'd used the fireplace since moving into the house I'm now in (from the house next door!) last summer.

Above: With my friends Omar and Kathleen – December 22, 2017.

Above: Friends Kathy, David, Hugh, and John – December 22, 2017.

Left: Omar, John, and Brent.

Above: Matt, Omar, John, Brent, and George.

Right: Kathleen and Joan. You may recall that my friend Joan accompanied me on a visit back to Australia in 2015.

Above: Omar and Brent – December 22, 2017.

The holidays are a time of spiritual preparation, if we allow them to be. We’re preparing for the birth of our possible selves, the event with which we have been psychologically pregnant all our lives. And the labor doesn’t happen in our fancy places; there is never “room in the inn,” or room in the intellect, for the birth of our authentic selves. That happens in the manger of our most humble places, with lots of angels, i.e. thoughts of God, all around.

Something happens in that quiet place, where we’re simply alone and listening to nothing but our hearts. It’s not loneliness, that aloneness. It’s rather the solitude of the soul, where we are grounded more deeply in our own internal depths. Then, having connected more deeply to God, we’re able to connect more deeply with each other. Our connection to the divine unlocks our connection to the universe.

According to the mystical tradition, Christ is born into the world through each of us. As we open our hearts, he is born into the world. As we choose to forgive, he is born into the world. As we rise to the occasion, he is born into the world. As we make our hearts true conduits for love, and our minds true conduits for higher thoughts, then absolutely a divine birth takes place. Who we’re capable of being emerges into the world, and weaknesses of the former self begin to fade. Thus are the spiritual mysteries of the universe, the constant process of dying to who we used to be as we actualize our divine potential.

. . . [T]his is the season when we consider the possibility that we could achieve a higher state of consciousness, not just sometimes but all the time. We consider that there has been one – and the mystical tradition says there have also been others – who so embodied his own divine spark that he is now as an elder brother to us, assigned the task of helping the rest of us do the same. [He] doesn’t have anything we don’t have; he simply doesn’t have anything else. He is in a state that is still potential in the rest of us. The image of Jesus has been so perverted, so twisted by institutions claiming to represent him. As it’s stated in [the book] The Course of Miracles, “Some bitter idols have been made of him who came only to be brother to the world.” But beyond the mythmaking, doctrine and dogma, he is a magnificent spiritual force. And one doesn’t have to be Christian to appreciate that fact, or to fall on our knees with praise and thanks at the realization of its meaning. Jesus gives to Christmas its spiritual intensity, hidden behind the ego’s lure into all the wild and cacophonous sounds of the season. Beyond the nativity scenes, beyond the doctrinal hoopla, lies one important thing: the hope that we might yet become, while still on this earth, who we truly are.

Then we, and the entire world, will know peace.

Marianne Williamson
Excerpted from "Christmas for Mystics"
The Huffington Post
December 14, 2012

On the evening of Saturday, December 23, my good friends John and Noelle invited Brent and I to be part of their family's annual Christmas tree decorating ritual.

Brent (above) and John (below) helping little Amelia decorate the tree.

Above: Noelle and her granddaughter Amelia – December 23, 2017.

Left: Noelle and John's daughter Alicia and her husband Scott (little Amelia's aunt and uncle).

Above: Uncle Scott and Amelia decorating the tree.

Above and below: John and Scott putting the Christmas Angel atop the tree – December 23, 2017.

As a Quaker who believes that “there is that of God in everyone,” I know I’m called to share in the risk of incarnation. Amid the world’s dangers, I’m asked to embody my values and beliefs, my identity and integrity, to allow good words to take flesh in me. Constrained by fear, I often fall short – yet I still aspire to incarnate words of life, however imperfectly.

Christmas is a reminder that I’m invited to be born again and again in the shape of my God-given self, born in all the vulnerability of the Christmas story. It’s a story that’s hard to retrieve in a culture that commercializes this holy day nearly to death, and in churches more drawn to triumphalism and ecclesiastical bling than to the riskiness of the real thing. But the story’s simple meaning is clear to “beginner’s mind,” a mind I long to reclaim at age seventy-five.

An infant in a manger is as vulnerable as we get. What an infant needs is not theological debate but nurturing. The same is true of all the good words seeded in our souls that cry out to become embodied in this broken world. If these vulnerable but powerful parts of ourselves are to find the courage to take on flesh – to suffer yet survive and thrive, transforming our lives along with the life of the world – they need the shelter of unconditional love.

For those of us who celebrate Christmas, the best gift we can others — whatever their faith or philosophy may be – is a simple question asked with heartfelt intent: What good words wait to be born in us, and how can we love one another in ways that midwife their incarnation?

Parker Palmer
Excerpted from "The Risk of Incarnation"
On Being
December 24, 2014

Above: With Brent – Saturday, December 23, 2017.

Let us be at peace with our bodies and our minds.
Let us return to ourselves and become wholly ourselves.
Let us be aware of the source of being,
common to us all and to all living things.
Evoking the presence of the Great Compassion,
let us fill our hearts with our own compassion –
towards ourselves and towards all living beings.
Let us pray that we ourselves cease to be
the cause of suffering to each other.
With humility, with awareness of the existence of life,
and of the sufferings that are going on around us,
let us practice the establishment of peace
in our hearts and on earth.

Above: Christmas Eve lunch with my dear friends Carol and Ken.

At Christmas, time deepens. The Celtic imagination knew that time is eternity in disguise. They embraced the day as a sacred space. Christmas reminds us to glory in the simplicity and wonder of one day; it unveils the extraordinary that our hurried lives conceal and neglect.

We have been given such immense possibilities. We desperately need to make clearances in our entangled lives to let our souls breathe. We must take care of ourselves and especially of our suffering brothers and sisters.

John O'Donohue
Excerpted from the unpublished collection of John O'Donohue

The Christmas story is about learning how to be human, about kneeling before a newborn infant who is helpless, vulnerable, despised and poor. It is about inverting the world’s values. It is about understanding that the religious life – and this life can be lived with or without a religious creed – calls on us to protect and nurture the least among us, those demonized and rejected.

. . . The story of Christmas – like the story of the crucifixion, in which Jesus is abandoned by his disciples, attacked by the mob, condemned to death by the state, placed on death row and executed – is not written for the oppressors. It is written for the oppressed. And what is quaint and picturesque to those who live in privilege is visceral and empowering to those the world condemns.

Jesus was not a Roman citizen. He lived under Roman occupation. The Romans were white. Jesus was a person of color. And the Romans, who peddled their own version of white supremacy, nailed people of color to crosses almost as often as we finish them off with lethal injections, gun them down in the streets or lock them up in cages. The Romans killed Jesus as an insurrectionist, a revolutionary. They feared the radicalism of the Christian Gospel. And they were right to fear it. The Roman state saw Jesus the way the American state saw Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Then, like now, prophets were killed.

The radicalism of the Christian Gospel would be muted, distorted and denied by the institutional church once it came to power in the third century. It would be perverted by court theologians, church leaders and, in the 20th century, fascists. It would be mangled by the heretics in the Christian right to sanctify the worst aspects of American imperialism and capitalism. The Bible unequivocally condemns the powerful. It is not a self-help manual to become rich. It does not bless America or any other nation. It was written for the powerless, for those the theologian James Cone calls the crucified of the earth. It was written to give a voice to, and affirm the dignity of, those being crushed by malignant power and empire.

Chris Hedges
Excerpted from "What Christmas Means"
December 24, 2017

On Christmas Eve my friends Matt and Joan (right) hosted a lovely dinner at their Mendota Heights home.

Pictured above from left: Tykia, John, George, Ian, Matt, Zach, Kimaria, Joan, Ben, Kelly, and Avery.

Above: Tykia beside Matt and Joan's beautiful Christmas tree.

Above: Tykia, Ian, John, and George.

Above: With Joan – Christmas Eve 2017.

Christmas is where Christianity begins, and, as Søren Kierkegaard observes, it is rife with the strange and unexpected. Optimally, then, it should serve Christians as a time to mine tradition and practice not for their most tired applications, but for those that are unexpected and those that lead us in our pursuit of the unexpected.

There is, after all, something revolutionary in Christianity – a tendency to upend, reverse, and radically transform. In Mary’s Magnificat, the song of praise she offers at her meeting with her cousin Elizabeth, she proclaims, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant [. . .] He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” This list of upsets issues from the mouth of a peasant girl who has been promoted to an almost unimaginable status. That the radical reversals of Christmas are enumerated to us by a young woman of no particular social standing is itself an incredible bit of turnabout.

The revolutionary character of Christianity is usually washed out and mostly confined to specific political moments when it’s useful to refer to it. But this selectivity, too, should be upended. Christianity is at all times concerned with the poorest, the most vulnerable, the most oppressed; it is permanently interested in reversing this order, in aiming at and accomplishing the unexpected. Christmas, the moment when time is invaded by eternity, is the moment when the reversal of all oppression becomes not possible but necessary. The unlikeliest upsets of order become, in the moment of Christmas, the beginning of Christianity itself, and remain essential to its character.

There is no Christianity, therefore, that is not revolutionary. It is possible to construe Christmas as another one of those soothingly cozy Christian celebrations, but it is more accurate to construe it as a call to revolution. From this moment on, nothing of the old order can be left intact: Christ has come to uplift the poor and bruised, and his example is Christianity’s command.

– Elizabeth Stoker-Bruenig
Excerpted from "An Unexpected Revolution"
Democratic Socialists of America
December 24, 2014

Above: My friend Phil (with Gordie) – Christmas Day 2017.

Right: Noelle and Ben.

Above: A Christmas game of chess!

Christ's birth reminds us of the eternally new beginnings God offers to humanity. The grand irony is that we do not have to travel far to discover the Light that animated the Magi's quest. We have only to embrace our highest Selves, and realize humanity and divinity have never been separated. This is the cosmic truth heralded by Jesus of Nazareth's physical manifestation – we are all divine expressions of humanity; capable of being vessels full of grace, truth, love, joy, and peace.

May we allow the Incarnation to illumine our minds, and awaken to the reality of the marvelous presence of God in all things.

Phillip Clark
via Facebook
December 25, 2016

Christmas can help us readjust, help us see the Divine more transparently in life, in places where we would least expect. A barn, for example, a baby. The Incarnation we celebrate at Christmas is a call, our belief in it a commitment, to seek awareness of the Divine free of the impediments of culture, class or even catechism. That process calls for a degree of openness most of us rarely embrace or even know as possible. Yet I have a feeling the Divine is so imminent, so within the essence of things, that it is only a matter of learned blindness that keeps us from seeing. It is not something natural to us to be so dense. We can do better. We can break through.

– Angie O'Gorman
Excerpted from "The Divine is Greater Than Our Dogmas"
National Catholic Reporter
December 23, 2011

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Christmas 2016: Reflections and Celebrations
Christmas 2015: Reflections and Celebrations
Christmas 2014: Reflections and Celebrations
Celebrating the Coming of the Sun and the Son
Christmastide Approaches
No Room for Them
The Christmas Tree as Icon, Inviting Us to Contemplate the "One Holy Circle" of Both Dark and Light
Quote of the Day – December 1, 2014
Something to Cherish (2012)
A Christmas Message of Hope . . . from Uganda (2011)
Quote of the Day – December 26, 2010
Christmas in Australia (2010)
John Dear on Celebrating the Birth of the Nonviolent Jesus
A Bush Christmas (2009)
A Story of Searching and Discovery
The Christmas Truce of 1914
Clarity and Hope: A Christmas Reflection (2007)
An Australian Christmas (2006)
A Christmas Reflection by James Carroll

Images: Michael J. Bayly and friends.