Wondering about the Poem set to Music “Thing”?

This weekend, many Americans will gather with loved ones to commemorate our country’s heritage by firing up the grill, admiring some fireworks, and attempting to sing one of the most difficult songs in the English language. “Star-Spangled Banner” was adopted as our national anthem in 1931, and its soaring melody and densely packed lyrics have been tripping up those tasked with performing it ever since.

The song’s unusual syntax can be partially attributed to the fact that it was originally a poem, written by Francis Scott Key in 1814. Indeed, the leap from poet to songwriter seems like a short one, but this factoid about our national anthem got us wondering what other poems have inspired or been set to music.

It turns out many of our greatest poets have had their musical moment in the sun. Emily Dickinson’s poem “Because I could not stop for Death” was set to music by Natalie Merchant in 2005. The Shakespeare-penned song, “Under the Greenwood Tree,” which is performed by Amiens and Jacque in his play As You Like It, was covered by Donovan on his album A Gift from a Flower to a Garden in 1967. But the poet with a particularly deep musical legacy is Edgar Allen Poe. Poe’s work has been inspiring composers and musicians across a broad range of genres for over a century. In 2003, Lou Reed released an album called The Raven that features spoken-word interpretations of Poe’s writing from actors including Steve Buscemi and Willem Dafoe and references to Poe’s work appear in songs from artists ranging from Bob Dylan to the White Stripes.

What would Teilhard say to Adults caring for the Next Generation? by Ilia Delio

MONDAY, JULY 10, 2017

“What would Teilhard say? Evolve or be annihilated” by Ilia Delio

“In 1953, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote an essay on “The Agony of Our Age: A World That Is Asphyxiating,” in which he pointed out that after eons of slow expansion, the human species has entered a phase of compression. Every part of the globe is inhabited by the human species and we are all now confronted by a new reality on this Earth.
The internet and mass media have made the world even smaller by providing instant news every moment of the day. What we see is a wellspring of humanity competing for limited resources and land. This flood of sheer humanity, Teilhard wrote, is seeping through every fissure and drowning the rest of us. We are becoming enervated both intellectually and physically, from lack of solitude and of nature.
We find ourselves in a disagreeable closeness of interaction; a continual friction between individuals who are alien or hostile to one another; a mechanization of persons in the corporate collective mentality of big business; and the increasing insecurity of daily life with constant threats of terrorism and violence invading our waking hours. There are too many us in too little room, Teilhard wrote:
The truth is, it is just like a train in the rush hour – the earth is coming to be a place on which we simply cannot breathe. And this asphyxiation explains the violent methods employed by nations and individuals in their attempt to break loose and to preserve, by isolation, their customs, their language and their country. A useless attempt, moreover, since passengers continue to pile into the railway carriage.
Instead of being exasperated by these nuisances from which we all suffer, or waiting vaguely for things to settle down, would we not do better to ask ourselves whether, as a matter of solid experiential fact, there may not possibly be, first, a reassuring explanation of what is going on, and secondly, an acceptable issue to it?
He goes on to say that we are witnessing an explosion in the biosphere that has suddenly been released from the rest of the living mass and is now piling up, to the point of being crushed on the closed surface of the Earth. In order to escape the asphyxiation that threatens us, the remedies proposed are either a drastic restriction of reproduction or a mass migration to another planet. Since the latter is unlikely at this point and the former does not ensure a sustainable future, Teilhard said we must look for the relief without which our zoological phylum cannot now survive, not in a eugenic reduction nor in extraterrestrial expansion of the human mass but in an “escape into time through what lies ahead.” The one thing we hold together is the future and we must allow this reality to engage us together.
The fact is, we have not accepted evolution as our story. We treat evolution as a conversational theory or something that belongs to science, as if science is something separate from us and outside our range of experience. Politically, we have fiefdoms and kingdoms; socially, we have tribes and cults. Religiously, we have hierarchy and patriarchy. There is nothing that sustains, supports or nurtures human evolution.
By evolution, I mean simply that change is integral to life, that we are not static or fixed, but, as Teilhard often wrote, we are moving. We are becoming something that is not yet seen or known. To live in evolution is to let go of structures that prevent convergence and deepening of consciousness and assume new structures that are consonant with creativity, inspiration and development.
Evolution requires trust in the process of life itself because, from a faith perspective, there is a power at the heart of life that is divine and lovable. In a sense, we are challenged to lean into life’s changing patterns and attend to the new patterns that are emerging in our midst. To live in openness to the future is to live with a sense of creativity and participation, to use our gifts for the sake of the whole by sharing them with others. From a Christian perspective, to live in evolution is to make wholes out of partials, to risk, get involved, challenge the entrenched and fixed by finding new models of practice and beliefs that energize life in God.
There is something about this word evolution that frightens people, as if evolution renders us less human or less special as human. We do not talk in terms of evolution nor do we think in terms of evolution. Our everyday lives are conceived as static and fixed, as if it has always been this way and should always remain this way. But this type of thinking is completely erroneous.
A trip to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History will help relieve the delusion of a fixed species. In a large exhibit on human origins, the museum set up life-size reproductions of all species that preceded the human species and led up to our emergence. It is sobering to see our predecessors such as Homo neanderthalensis, Homo naledi and Homo australopithecus all sharing similar features and characteristics with us, Homo sapiens.
The truth is, evolution is not a series of radical leaps from one species to another but a gradual emergence of traits, along with genetic mutations and adaptations that result in new genetic identities and traits. The process of evolution reveals nature to be in a constant flux of openness to new forms, new relationships and new processes that not only sustain but optimize life in the face of environmental changes, especially climate change.
Evolution reveals that nature is much more interactive, creative and adaptive than the human species alone can attest. There is a constant urge in nature to transcend toward higher levels of complexity (degrees of relationship) and consciousness. Teilhard thought that evolution is the fundamental process of all aspects of life, leading him to assert that every system, if it is to survive, must now conform itself to evolution.
I am completely amazed how many people resist evolution, even though they buy wholeheartedly into the technological culture. We have our smart phones, iPads, iPods and computers, and with these devices we can access different worlds at the click of a button. Yet we treat technology as if it is something we create simply for our use. Gordon Moore, cofounder of Intel Corporation, predicted in the 1960s that the computer chip would grow exponentially; that is, every two years we would evolve to a new level of computing power – which is exactly what has happened.
But this growth in computing power has changed us significantly. If you were born before 1985, you might remember the phone on the wall with a cord. One could only walk so far with the phone in hand. I remember when the first cellphone went public. It was about a foot long and weighed a few pounds but it was completely novel.
Then came the laptop computer, another unbelievable innovation of human ingenuity, and then the anticipation of holding a palm-sized computer in hand. When I heard about the cellphone-computer back in the early 1980s, I thought it seemed incredible, if not impossible. Would we really be able to talk to someone and then send them a message, too, all with the same device?
Now, some people might say, these devices just make phone calls easier or communication faster. Technology shows us that evolution is a result of where our minds are and what we focus on. Mind and matter are woven together. If I dream of something and I focus my mind on the object of my dream and I create this object and make it real, then I can merge with the object of my dream and what was once a dream is now a reality. This is the human dimension of evolution.
Technology is an extension of biological evolution, indicating that human nature has an infinite capacity to imagine new things. And what we imagine, we find a way to create, and what we create is what we become. Our world is now smaller than ever because we are wired together – and while this affords new growth, it has also bred more competition and consumerism. Our attention spans are limited and diverted by extending our waking selves into our devices. The amount of information we are confronted with each day has exploded into an exhausting level of confused ideas because we do not know how to make sense of the copious information that is flooding our overworked brains. Essentially, we do not know how to think as people in evolution.
The challenge of evolution is essentially stifled by two main systems: religion and education. Religiously we have faith systems confined to old cosmologies and entrenched doctrines. In education, we are still operating on the scientific principles of the German university, where objective knowledge and specialization are not to be confused or mingled with subjective experience or spirituality.
We are educated to think as closed-system specialists, and we are religiously sheltered by medieval dogma. From these two main systems arise all other systems in the world. If we are thinking out of old boxes and praying to old Gods, it is no wonder that evolution frightens us and we resist its forces.
But I do not see this challenge of evolution unilaterally across age groups. Digital natives tend to be entrepreneurial and more creative. The post-millennial “digital native,” a term coined by Marc Prensky in 2001, is emerging as the globe’s dominant demographic. Digital natives, or those born after 1985, are wired differently from analogues, or those who grew up with wall phones and black-and-white television. Digital natives think like their networks and social media sites; they think in terms of connections and communication rather than across lines of ontological distinctions.
There is a greater sense among the post-millennial generation that things can change, that the world can become a better place and that we must use our gifts to help create this new world. This is evolutionary thinking. Resistance to evolution comes primarily from the older, “analogue” generations who fear being connected, that is, being closer together as different tribes of people, different religions, different cultures, different languages and different worldviews.
Yet, evolution is pressing in the direction of convergence and globalization and the political forces of the world are resisting this change at a high price. Anti-evolutionists want to remain stable, fixed, tribal and nationalistic. They want to avoid convergence, which includes shared space, shared resources, shared policies and shared power. Teilhard warned that we must converge by way of evolution or we will annihilate ourselves.
This is our threshold moment and we need to get on board with evolution. And if we get nothing else straight about our present moment, it should be this: Stability is an illusion. The only real stability is the future. Our moment of evolution requires revolution, and one of the main forces that must make a complete turnaround is religion.
At a U.N.-sponsored conference in 1975, a group of religious leaders drew on Teilhard’s ideas of planetization in their statement calling on world religions to come together to harness the spiritual energies of the Earth: “The crises of our time are challenging the world religions to release a new spiritual force transcending religious, cultural and national boundaries into a new consciousness of the oneness of the human community and so putting into effect a spiritual dynamic toward the solutions of world problem.”
Not much has changed among world religions in 47 years. Of course, one could name all that has taken place in the Catholic Church since Vatican II, but the fact is we still profess the Nicene Creed composed in the fourth century. Today, the church suffers from internal forces of resistance, as Pope Francis seeks to update the church’s presence in the world.
We are all complicit in the present forces of devolution by which we are thinning out our resources and draining our energies to converge. Our refusal to see, our inability to hear the new sounds of a new world arriving, and our refusal to rearrange our comfortable lives are taking their toll. We suffer the sin of fixity and stability. And the price to pay for this sin will be high because the tension of our current political situation is such that, at some point, the rope tautly drawn between big money and corrupt power structures will snap. We will not be able to hide in our glass houses because we will all be gasping for the little air left to breathe.
Thomas Berry summed up the problem of our age in a single sentence: “We will go into the future as a single sacred community or we will all perish in the desert.”
We are starting to feel the effects of perishing in the desert.
We must consolidate our efforts and come together for that which lies before us, the future, into which we are being fearfully but irresistibly drawn. This is the true test of our faith in the Almighty God who rules heaven and earth, because this God is the future.

URL  [Ilia Delio, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Washington, D.C., is the Josephine C. Connelly Endowed Chair in Theology at Villanova University. She is the author of 16 books, including Making All Things New: Catholicity, Cosmology and Consciousness (Orbis Books, 2015), and the general editor of the series Catholicity in an Evolving Universe.]

God: “Religion should be on the cutting edge of sciences and humanities…”

John Chuchman offers a reflection today on “that unnamable, non-dual Reality, the loving energy, in which we live, move, and have our being”. He says he is pro-God but questions the kind of God that biblical literalism encourages us to know and worship. He argues: “Religion should be on the cutting edge of the sciences and humanities, using the latest findings of each in its effort to make meaning and articulate purpose.” What he writes fits comfortably with some of the conversations that have emerged on our forum in recent days: how can we describe an unimaginable God in words? …Brian Coyne, editor


Religion flattens imagination
in service to literalism.
When prevented from thinking imaginatively,
people will inevitably think stupidly.

It is literalism in religion
that has primed us for fake news.

The religious are primed to be intellectually lazy.
Religion should be on the cutting edge of the sciences and humanities,
using the latest findings of each
in its effort to make meaning and articulate purpose.

When religion abandons reality
it risks becoming irrelevant to those who don’t.

I’m pro-choice pro-life,
and if forced to choose,
I choose the life and well-being of the mother
over that of her unborn child.

I’m pro-family,
and I define family by the quality of love between family members
rather than by gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation.

I’m pro-God,
and I understand God as that unnamable, non-dual Reality,
the loving energy
in which we live, move, and have our being
rather than any of the named Gods of religion.

Love, John

Common Sense by Reverend Paul Roberts Abernathy

I am sharing a wonderful Post by Paul Roberts Abernathy concerning a question many of us have:  



   Expect Nothing

Expect nothing. Live frugally

            On surprise

    Become a stranger

        To need of pity

Or, if compassion be freely

                Given out

    Take only enough

Stop short of urge to plead

Then purge away the need.

    Wish for nothing larger

Than your own small heart

    Or greater than a star;

Tame wild disappointment

With caress unmoved and cold

            Make of it a parka

                For your soul.

Discover the reason why

So tiny a human midget

                Exists at all

         So scared unwise 

But expect nothing. Live frugally

                On Surprise. — Alice Walker

                            Anything We Love Can be Saved


A Love Note from Your on-line Abbess


Dearest monks and artists,

“What is serious to men is often very trivial in the sight of God. What in God might appear to us as ‘play’ is perhaps what He Himself takes most seriously. At any rate the Lord plays and diverts Himself in the garden of His creation, and if we could let go of our own obsession with what we think is the meaning of it all, we might be able to hear His call and follow Him in His mysterious, cosmic dance.’” ~ Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

We live in the midst of chaotic times. As crises continue to build, we may find ourselves confused or fearful. We may want to gather in the upper room of our lives with our closest friends and close the door on a troubled world just like the disciples. Yet chaos always calls for creative response, it always beckons us to open to holy surprise.

Today is the feast of Pentecost, that glorious final day of the season of resurrection. The Apostles were together experiencing bewilderment over how to move forward when the Holy Spirit flows among them and breathes courage into their hearts. If we have stayed committed to our pilgrimage this far then we may still wonder why we have journeyed so long and still are do full of fear and unknowing.

It says that those who witnessed this event were “amazed and perplexed.” Some were confused, others cynical. Peter reminds the crowds of the words the prophet Joel declared, that all will be called to dreams and visions, all will need to be attentive to signs and wonders.

The story of Pentecost asks us a question: How do I let my expectations and cynicism close my heart to the new voice rising like a fierce wind?

In Benedictine tradition, conversion is a central spiritual practice. Conversion for me essentially means making a commitment to always be surprised by God. Conversion is the recognition that we are all on a journey and always changing. God is always offering us something new within us. Conversion is a commitment to total inner transformation and a free response to the ways God is calling us and to new images of God. Eugene Peterson describes it this way: “What we must never be encouraged to do, although all of us are guilty of it over and over, is to force Scripture to fit our experience. Our experience is too small; it’s like trying to put the ocean into a thimble. What we want is to fit into the world revealed by Scripture, to swim in its vast ocean.”

Several years ago I was going through an intense period of discernment. I had finished graduate school and found that my desires were no longer in alignment with the path I had initially imagined for myself. I spent long periods of time in silence and solitude, engaging all of the essential techniques for discernment I had learned in my studies and previous practice. I was taking this very seriously because this was my life path I was pondering. Then one night I had a dream about koala bears trying to get a map out of my hands so they could play with me. In my reflection time that followed I discovered a playful God who was calling me to take myself and my discernment far less seriously than I had been. I love to laugh but in my longing to discover the next path, I had forgotten what Merton reminds us in the opening quote: how playfulness is woven into the heart of the universe, how sometimes what God takes most seriously is what we easily dismiss.

Pentecost demands that we listen with a willing heart, and that we open ourselves to ongoing radical transformation. We discover that the pilgrimage does not end here, instead we are called to a new one of sharing our gifts with the world. Soul work is always challenging and calls us beyond our comfort zone. Prayer isn’t about baptizing the status quo, but entering into dynamic relationship with the God who always makes things new. Scripture challenges our ingrained patterns of belief, our habitual attitudes and behavior. Conversion is about maintaining what the Buddhists call “Beginner’s Mind.” St. Benedict speaks to this in his Rule with the call to always begin again.

To be fully human and alive is to know the tension of our dustiness, our mortality, to be called to a profoundly healthy humility where we acknowledge that we can know very little of the magnificence of the divine Source of all. The Spirit descends on those gathered together in a small room and breaks the doors wide open. We are reminded that practicing resurrection is not for ourselves alone, but on behalf of a wider community. Not only for those with whom we attend church services, but beyond to the ones who sit at the furthest margins of our awareness. Pentecost is a story of the courage that comes from breaking established boundaries.

We may limit our vision through cynicism, but equally through certainty or cleverness. Sometimes we fear doubt so much that we allow it to make our thoughts rigid, we choose certainties and then never make space for the Spirit to break those open or apart. The things we feel sure that God does not care about may be precisely the source of healing for a broken world.

Life isn’t about knowing with more and more certainty. This is the invitation of our creative practice as well, to move more deeply into the mystery of things. I find that the older I get, the less sure I am about anything and the richer my life becomes as I make space for unknowing, expansiveness, and possibilities far beyond my capacity for imagining. If when Pentecost arrives you do not find yourself perplexed or amazed, consider releasing the tight grip of your certain thoughts and make space for holy surprise.

With great and growing love,


Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE

John Churchman: We are among the first people to not broadly inherit…..

Seeking Spiritual Growth…
We are among the first people
in human history
who do not broadly inherit
religious identity as a given.

The very fluidity of this,
the possibility of choices that arise,
the ability to craft and discern
one’s own spiritual bearings,
is not leading to a decline in spiritual life,
but to its revival.

The growing universe
of the non-religious
is one of the most spiritually vibrant
and provocative aspects of modern life.

It is not a time
when spiritual life is absent,
resisting religious excesses
and shallows.
Times are wild
with spiritual passion and delving
and theological curiosity
with expressions in unexpected places
in unexpected ways.

Many people continuing to go to church
do not even know their own tradition,
keeping on with simple inertia.

They have lost touch with
the Desert Fathers and Mothers,
the visionaries like Benedict, Francis, or Ignatius,
whose spirituality emerged
at a distance from a Church
that had grown imperial,
and inwardly cold,
out of touch
with its own spiritual core.

At the same time,
people outside these religious spaces
seem intensely interested in spiritual questions
trying to think and work and live through them.

More and more people
are unwilling to commit themselves
to the dying religious institutions
yet are actively pursuing
Spiritual Growth
in life’s everyday experiences.

There is love;
there is hope.

Love, John

The Importance of bringing back HUGS


It is wondrous what a hug can do.

A hug can cheer you when you are blue.

A hug can say, “I love you” or

Gee, I hate to see you go.

A hug is , “Welcome back again”

A hug can soothe a small child’s pain

and bring a rainbow after the rain.

THE HUG. There is no doubt about it,

We scarcely could survive without it.

A hug delights and warms and charms,

It must be one of the reasons God gave us arms.

Hugs are great for fathers and mothers,

Sweet for sisters, swell for brothers.  And…

Chances are some favorite aunts love them more than potted plants!

Kittens crave them, Puppies love them.

Heads of State are not above them.

A hug can break the language barrier,

And make the dullest of days see, Merrier.

No need to fret about the store of ’em,

The more you give, the more there are of ’em.

So stretch those arms without delay

And give someone a hug today.

(Author unknown)




The Value of Unstructured Play





There has been plenty of hand-wringing in recent years about the “overscheduled child.” With after-school hours increasingly dominated by piano lessons, soccer practice, and countless other planned activities, many of us have a nagging sense that kids are missing out on something important if they have no time for unstructured play.

New research from Germany suggests these fears are justified. It finds people who recall having plenty of free time during childhood enjoy high levels of social success as adults.

A team of three psychologists from the University of Hildesheim, led byWerner Greve, conducted a survey of 134 people. Participants were presented with a list of seven statements and reported the degree to which they conformed with their own childhood experiences (that is, ages three to 10).


The statements included, “Looking back, I tried many things and experimented a lot by myself”; “From time to time, I set out on my own or with friends to discover the neighborhood”; and “My parents always were in fear that something could happen to me, so they did not let me do many things by myself.”

They also expressed their level of agreement or disagreement with 10 statements designed to measure “social success.” These included “Friends come to me for advice”; “My work is appreciated by others”; and “If something goes wrong, I have friends by my side that support me.”

Additional tests measured their ability to be flexible in light of life’s setbacks, and their overall level of self-esteem.

The researchers found a significant positive correlation between ample time for free play during childhood and adult social success. Free time as kids was also linked with high self-esteem and the flexibility to adjust one’s goals.

While “it goes without saying that child play is not the sole, nor perhaps even the most important predictor of social success … the correlation we found in this study was surprisingly high,” the researchers write in the online journal Evolutionary Psychology.

Free play, they argue, allows children to develop the flexibility needed to adapt to changing circumstances and environments—an ability that comes in very handy when life becomes unpredictable as an adult.

So parents may want to make sure their kids have the time and freedom to play and explore at their own pace. Tutoring and mentoring can be terrific, but as this research reminds us, there are many types of learning experiences—and some of the least formal can pay off later in life.