August 6, 2015
At a resent Quaker meeting I attended, someone mentioned that a set of principles for a just society, called “Foundations of a True Social Order” was adopted by the Quakers in Britain in 1918. The speaker hoped that Quakers would come up with a new set of principles next year when the political parties are issuing their platforms. Today I meditated on this and came up with a set of problems that any principles of a just society must address. These include:
- Lack of integrity in those responsible for governing
- Differences in race, religion, social stats, sexual preferences and all other areas that divide mankind – and the exploitation of these differences for selfish ends
- Climate change and its far-reaching effects
- Diminishing supplies of fossil fuel
- Our response to those who would use violence to gain political, social or economic ends
- An economic system which concentrates wealth and power in the hands of a few people
- How to produce that change of consciousness that will make a just society a reality
Right now I am working with other Quakers to come up with programs in which people of all faiths and no faith can come together to envision a just society and work on the principles that such a society would have. Watch this blog for further information.
June 19, 2015
Last Saturday, we took another step in our development of the Pavilion of Imagination at Easton Mountain. My friend Dave hooked up a solar panel, controller, battery and convertor. When he clicked a switch, we had light.
This has led me to think about my own vision concerning the Pavilion of Imagination: as a place where men might take workshops, such as “Drawing What You Love” (described in my post of February 18) – as a place where they might draw and paint from their imagination – as a place where they might create video that would be part of my Vimeo channel, “Erotic Imagination“…. This is some of the creative activity I’ve envisioned for the Pavilion of Imagination.
But I realized, as I thought about the event of that day, that this project has been part of another vision I’ve had – that of Easton Mountain reducing its carbon foot-print nearly to zero. Carbon foot-print is “the total sets of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an organization, event, product or person” (Wikipedia). In practice, it is used to indicate the theoretical amount of carbon from fossil fuel that each person and institution consumes. We in the United States have a very high carbon foot print. Other countries have taken steps to reduce theirs. A jungle native has a carbon footprint close to zero.
My own involvement in efforts to create a world where everyone has a reduced carbon footprint has waxed and waned. I’ve attended workshops, marched in the People’s Climate March, posted on this blog, written for a Quaker publication, and registered for the coming Parliament of the World’s Religions, which I hope will make a strong statement on the necessity of combating climate change.
In the seventeenth century, Quakers were thought of as strange people – and we might find those Quakers strange today. They addressed people with “thee” and “thou,” words reserved for close friends and servants; they wore simple clothes; they refused to take oaths, pay tithes to the established church, or to haggle over prices – and with these simple actions they were a major force in bringing about freedom of religion, equality before the law, and integrity in business. Many Quakers today look to civil disobedience as a way to change the direction of society. Within my own lifetime they were part of sit-ins in segregated southern restaurants.
The problems of today may need new practices that will lead the world to a reduced carbon footprint. What will these practices be? They may be something as simple as the practice of keeping a hat on was in 1650. But I find myself wondering if we will find these practices before humanity suffers from a drastic climate change that could lead to the extinction of the human race.
Solar energy for the Pavilion of Imagination is one tiny step – but it’s part of my vision for a restored planet. Here are groups I’ve joined on Facebook that relate to my vision of a restored planet.
Please share your vision on Facebook, on your own blog, or as a comment to this blog.
June 12, 2015
In my post on June 6, I spoke of two workshops that I will offer at Easton Mountain during our next Summer Splash weekend, June 26-28: “Infinite Imagination” and “Video from Your Smartphone”
“Infinite Imagination” will be incorporated into the Friday-evening opening circle and will set the tone for the weekend. The video workshop will be on Saturday morning and will provide a background for those who want to create video later in the day. If you’re interested in video, check out the Erotic Imagination Channel on Vimeo.
In addition to these two workshops, Saturday morning will start with an hour of stretching and dancing that I call “Listening to Your Body (Sarong Dancing).” Two or three times a week, I spend a half-hour either alone or with others, letting my body tell me how it wants to stretch and move. Usually I start with ten minutes of stretching without music, using yoga stretches if I feel that’s what my body needs, or improvising my own yoga in the moment. I also let my body tell me what clothes, if any, it wants to wear. One time I was wearing a sarong tied in a knot. I loosened the knot and the sarong fell off. I picked it up, began tossing it in the air, and then seeing how many dance movements I could come up with that incorporated the fabric. The result was something like flagging, but not the same. I’m looking forward to seeing what the results will be when we try this as a group on Saturday morning.
One possibility for this weekend that excites me comes from two women who have an on-line magazine called “MAKE8ELIEVE” – yes, that’s an “8” in the middle of the name. They have issued an “open call for art/design/sound/video/action” with a theme of Homoeroticism (for their issue # 9). They have invited Arthur Gillet, a gay artist from Paris, to help curate this issue. You can read more about this on their call. If anyone coming to Easton Mountain is interested in working on something to submit to MAKE8ELIEVE, I suggest doing the exercise that’s part of my April 30th post. Indicate your interest as part of your answer to the question, “What fields of art interest you?” Even if you can’t attend the June weekend, if you do this exercise we may be able to incorporate your imagination into something for MAKE8ELIEVE.
June 6, 2015
In my posting on February 18, I spoke of a possibility of a sequel to my workshop, “Drawing What You Love,” which was offered at Easton Mountain earlier that month. There are now two workshops on the schedule: “Kink Imagination” will be part of the Kink Odyssey weekend, June 18-21 and “Infinite Imagination” during Summer Splash, June 26-28.
My ideas about erotic imagination have developed during that time – and an important impetus for that development has been some of the video’s on Vimeo. I’ve put a number of these videos on a channel called “Erotic Imagination.” In general, I’ve selected videos that go beyond just showing a naked figure posing or doing ordinary activities. I’ve included videos that have elements of art, dance and other disciplines. Some are there just because I thought what was shown might be tried at Easton Mountain. There’s a crazy boxing match from a Danish Music Festival that’s an example of this.
I’ve put my ideas about erotic imagination into a video.
While video certainly isn’t the only possible medium for expressing imagination, it is tool that, with new smart phones and apps being written for them, that is now available in to a much wider group of people than ever before. In addition to my workshop “Infinite Imagination,” which will focus on all types of expression, I’m also planning a workshop on what can be done with a smart phone or other readily available video tools.
April 30, 2015
In my February 18 posting, I described a ninety-minute workshop I did during Easton Mountain’s Winter Gay Spirit Camp. The last paragraph of this posting described a possible sequel workshop – Erotic Imagination. That idea has been expanded to include all types of imagination. The workshop Infinite Imagination will be part of the June 26-28 Summer Splash weekend at Easton Mountain.
You can help me create this workshop by doing a simple preparatory exercise. In this exercise you will create a set of instructions for you or someone else in the workshop to follow. Here’s how to do it.
Write three imperative sentences or three paragraphs each beginning with an imperative sentence. The first sentence or paragraph should begin with the word “Contemplate”; the second, with the word “Visualize”; and the third, with the word, “Express.” The third sentence or paragraph should not specify a mode of expression – like writing, drawing of movement – but rather focus on what should be expressed. It might simply be, “Express what you visualized,” or “Express how you feel when…”
I will transfer your three sentences or paragraphs to a five-by-seven index card. In an upcoming workshop, participants will be asked to select a card at random from all answers submitted and use the process of contemplate … visualize … express to create a drawing, painting, song, movement piece, poem, essay, sculpture or collage. Participants will have the option of working with their own card.
To make it easy for you to take part in this project, I’ve create a form for you to
- express your interest in this work and
- send me the results of your doing this preliminary exercise.
Click here to participate in the preparatory exercise. Your imagination will contribute to our work, even if you can’t be at Easton Mountain, June 26-28.
February 18, 2015
Eighteen guys responded to this invitation to participate in a ninety-minute workshop:
Drawing What You Love
Small cocks, large cocks, thin cocks, fat cocks, tight balls, dangling balls – we love them all. This is an opportunity for you to have fun creating simple line drawings of male sex organs. You’ll start with reference photos and move on to drawing real cocks. You’ll have the opportunity to have another man draw your cock. Some people think of drawing as a kind of meditation, so this workshop can be considered a meditation with paper, a drawing implement, and a subject that holds your attention.
I had the men at two tables, with two easels at one end of each table. After some preliminary drawings, I asked for four men to stand at the easels to draw each other’s cocks, while the men at the tables drew the cocks of the standing men. Since the men at the easels would have to at least take their pants off, I suggested that they would be more comfortable if everyone stripped – which they did. Almost every man took a turn at the easels.
There was quite a range of background in the graphic arts, including one man who was an art teacher. I told the experienced men to ignore my instructions. For those with little or no instruction I encouraged them to make simple line drawings and to have fun.
I asked the men to select their best drawings. Here are some they selected.
All the responses at the end of the workshop were positive. Some said it was too short. Others wanted more evaluation of their work, but no one said they were bored or didn’t have fun.
I’ll be doing this workshop again at some upcoming weekends and week-long camps at Easton Mountain. I’m also contemplating a sequel workshop, “Erotic Imagination,” that will include other areas of expression – such as writing, music and performance – in addition to visual art, with each participant choosing which area(s) will be his focus. I’m in the process of setting up a trial run of this work, possibly at the March 20-23 retreat for gay men, “Spring Awakening.” I’m also exploring the possibility of offering an opportunity for women to come to Easton Mountain to create something from their erotic imaginations. If you’re interested in being a part of this work, please fill out the “Erotic Imagination Interest Form.”
February 1, 2015
I’ve recently received two emails. One brought me despair, the other hope. The first was a review of “American Sniper,” a move that made a record-breaking $105.3 million over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday long weekend. The reviewer, Chris Hedges, describes it as a movie that “lionizes the most despicable aspects of U.S. society—the gun culture, the blind adoration of the military, the belief that we have an innate right as a “Christian” nation to exterminate the “lesser breeds” of the earth, a grotesque hypermasculinity that banishes compassion and pity, a denial of inconvenient facts and historical truth, and a belittling of critical thinking and artistic expression.”
The second email was from the team organizing the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions. Like Hedges, they also noted that “hate, anger and fear is rising in our country,” but their response is that “people of love must rise with stronger relationships.” The organizers are calling for “a joint declaration on this critical issue before we all make commitments to what we will be doing to counter it.”
My own feeling is that the Dalai Lama (scheduled to speak at the Parliament) alone cannot convince the world to give up hatred. Pope Francis alone cannot do it. No single religious leader can. But perhaps the collective voice of all the religious leaders of the world can.
That’s why I’m one of the 3500 already registered for the Parliament. That’s why I encourage you to check out the Parliament and then go within and look at how God may be leading you. If it’s to Salt Lake City for the Parliament in October, I look forward to seeing you there.
January 10, 2015
Radical Faeries have something called a “heart circle.” They use it as a way of connecting and as a way of focusing on problems. They sit in a circle and a talisman is passed around. Only the person with the talisman speaks. In many faerie groups, the talisman is passed until it goes once around wiht no one speaking.
Quakers have a similar way of focusing on problems. They call this way a “meeting for discernment.” The organizers format one or more questions for consideration. Participants sit in silence. One by one, they speak their thoughts about the questions asked. This differs from Quaker worship in that it is not necessary to be convinced that your words come from “that of God within you.”
I have had an idea that current social media may, at times, be a global heart circle – a global meeting for discernment. Am I being too idealistic? Maybe, but I think of this as a way of looking at all the comments of all the women and men who are deeply concerned about the issues of our times. I thought of setting up a group on Facebook for a world wide heart circle on climate change, but there are already so many pages on Facebook and on many other sites that accept comments.
Tomorrow, I’ll be leading a meeting of Quakers from my area. We will focus on three questions:
- What am I called to do in order to protect and restore the earth?
- What is our Meeting called to do?
- How can our Meeting reach out to other faith communities to protect and restore the earth?
I’m making it possible for those attending to videotape statements, and will be putting these statements into the global heart circle that is the internet.
November 21, 2014
Recently, I have been studying The Gospel of John using a two volume translation with extensive commentary by Raymond Brown – part of The Anchor Yale Bible. I see John as a man who had a profound relationship not only with the historical Jesus, but with the inward Christ, the spirit of God within himself. It is this Spirit that I sense as I read the Gospel – and this is in full harmony with my own Quaker tradition, which looks not to scripture as authority, but to the Spirit through which Scripture was created.
Brown, according to the notes on the book’s jacket, is “internationally regarded as the dean of New Testament scholars.” As a scholar, he is surely familiar with William of Occam, a fourteenth century philosopher best known for the principle of “Occam’s razor” which states “that the simplest of two or more competing theories is preferable.” Brown doesn’t follow this principle. He postulates an original author, who probably was John, but then thinks that the gospel went through several revisions and finally was placed in its present form by an anonymous editor. He has examined the ancient documents relating to this Gospel far more thoroughly than I. Still, I feel drawn to stating my own theory.
There are only a few references to John in Acts – and in one he is described as “unlearned and ignorant” (Acts 4:13). Like Peter, John was a fishermen when Jesus called him to be an apostles. A scribe was needed to write down what he said. Furthermore, Jesus and his disciples spoke Aramaic, while the New Testament as we have it, was written in Greek.
It would appear that John did not travel widely, but may have settled in Ephesus or another community in the Near East There he ministered to a flock that was probably mostly Jewish believers in Jesus. He would recount episodes in Jesus life that would be orally translated into the Greek. There is a reference in the twelfth chapter of the Gospel, “Now among those who had come up to worship at the feast there were some Greeks.” (John 12:20) We know that in Egypt, Judaism enjoyed some popularity, and its scriptures were translated into Greek about a century before the birth of Jesus. Philo of Alexandria was a Jewish contemporary of Jesus heavily influenced by Greek thought, and reference to “the Word,” in the first chapter of the Gospel, shows an influence of Hellenistic Judaism that has parallels in the work of Philo. The Greeks mentioned here may have become members of John’s flock.
John’s community came to be in strong conflict with the established Jewish institutions. Those who would follow Jesus were expelled from the synagogue and disowned by their own people. Because of this, the emphasis on the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees became a conflict between him and “the Jews.” That conflict was probably in full swing at the time John died.
After his death – maybe immediately after, maybe after a number of years – members of his flock came together, and had a scribe write down the words that they had heard repeated many times. Those who told the words of John didn’t have the sense of time and place that John himself might have had, just as parishioners in a church who had never had a college class in the Bible would know the stories of the life of Jesus but not know the order. That several speakers were involved may account for stylistic variations in the passages. They also may have added some commentary to their accounts. An example of this: in the twelfth chapter, versus 20-22 recount an incident between Peter and Jesus where John was present:
Then Peter turned around and noticed that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following …. Seeing him, Peter was prompted to ask Jesus, “But Lord, what about him?”
“Suppose I would like him to remain until I come,” Jesus replied, “how does that concern you? Your concern is to follow me.”
Verse 23 appears to be a comment by those who were putting the Gospel into written form:
This is how the word got around among all the brothers that this disciple was not going to die. As a matter of fact, Jesus never told him that he was not going to die; all he said was: “Suppose I would like him to remain until I come.”
The death of John must have had a profoundly negative impact on those expecting an immanent return of Jesus, so this passage seems to have been added for “damage control.”
As I continue to study the Gospel of John, I expect I’ll have other insights to write about in this blog.
October 29, 2014
In less than one week we will have elections. I don’t expect the gubernatorial candidate I vote for on November 4 will win, because I can’t bring myself to vote for either the Republican Party’s candidate or the Democratic Party’s candidate. I will vote for the Green Party candidate, Howie Hawkins, and my hope is that he will get enough votes that it will show the major parties that environment and climate change is the issue of the twenty-first century. If we don’t have a planet to live on, nothing else matters.
But no matter who is in power, if we as individual citizens do not curb our appetites for fossil fuel, even what the most environmentally friendly government can do will not be enough – but if we can find a way to move to renewable energy, nothing that the most environmentally unfriendly government can do will stop us from building an economy that’s not dependent of fossil fuel – an economy that works for everyone.
On November 17, I will be at the 15th Street Quaker Meeting House in Manhattan, for a workshop on how neighborhoods and small communities, through a series of small group meetings, can learn to reduce their use of fossil fuel and become more resilient. I have more faith in what citizens can do than what the government can do, so for me I expect that November 17 will be the more important day in the process of preserving and renewing economic, social and environmental justice on this planet.