To Err is Divine

Matthew 9:9-17

Karl E. Peters writes: “To err is divine.”

This phrase feels uncomfortable to most religious practitioners in the Judeo-Christian tradition. We have been conditioned to think of the Divine as an all-powerful being who has established unchanging standards of truth and righteousness in the world. Peters, on the other hand, identifies “God” as “the creative process working in our midst.”

Biological evolution happens by mistake. Mutations are copy errors in an organism’s genetic code. Most genetic mutations have a neutral or adverse effect on an organism’s chances for survival, but some of them turn out to be beneficial. When a mutation gives an organism a survival advantage, that error gets incorporated into the genetic code and is more likely to shape future generations.

Cultural evolution happens in much the same way. When Jesus invited outcasts into his grassroots movement and challenged established moral and theological standards of his culture, the leaders of his culture regarded his actions as mistakes. The appointed guardians of tradition branded Jesus as a dangerous heretic because he did not practice his spirituality in the “right” way or with the “right” people.

The early followers of Jesus incorporated his tendencies toward inclusion and innovation into the cultural DNA of their movement. These cultural mutations gave that community the independence it needed to survive and thrive after the Roman Empire razed the second Jewish temple in 70CE. Other religious movements survived because they centered their faith and practice in the study of the Torah, rather than the rituals of the temple. These two movements evolved into the religious traditions we now recognize as Judaism and Christianity.

The following questions arise: What creative mistakes are we making in our lives today? How might today’s heretics become tomorrow’s leaders? How might “the creative process working in our midst” be adapting our communities to include new voices and invent new ways of doing things?

Peters asks:

“Are these mistakes mutations in religious thought that ought to be destroyed or might they be something else, a new and helpful way of portraying the sacred? That will be determined not by what I am saying. It will be determined only by how you and others respond, by whether these ideas help you make sense of your own experience in living.”

Karl E. Peters. Dancing with the sacred: evolution, ecology, and God (Trinity Press International: 2002).

Now
is the space between
what is known and
what is new.

It is a constant
coming into existence.

No respecter
of who belongs
or how it’s done.

Some mistakes
turn out to be correct
and vice versa.

Some heretics
turn out to be prophets
and vice versa.

Anaesthesia

You were looking the other way
while I was distracted
by stacks, and stacks, and stacks
of things.

Disconnected,
just a highly organized
pile of rubble,
really.

Grasping
for some sense
of control,
I ask for information.

Scheduling
my death
as a dentist appointment.

Endings, you say,
are not so important
as sustained beginnings
in a single direction.

Pain
is how life
comes into the world.

Looking away
to not see
blood is the path
that leads to bloodshed.

Bear
with life
and all
it offers.

Then,
and only then,
will you begin
to make an end.

O Restless Heart

O restless heart, who knows the way
that wanders not, but seems to stray
from end to end, by many means,
as each new crossroad intervenes.

A promise made on one’s behalf
had carved in stone the epitaph
before a babe a word e’er spoke,
or strength from weakness had awoke.

The frailty of a father’s will
bade not the peregrine be still,
for silence would not silence keep
till ev’ry song its harvest reap.

So, following the ancient way,
by trails unblazed in light of day,
from deep to deep, the altar call
makes three in one the all in all.

 

-Memorial of St. Odo & the Holy Abbots of Cluny

 

Photo credit: Jan Sokol (self-published work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Eighteen Inches Down

There’s nothing wrong with me
a slip on ice won’t fix.
A view up close, from down
below, within the mix.

In woods, a fallen log
homes life in midst of death.
In space, exploding star
births atoms with her breath.

In cloud, I see a shape.
In night is not the dark.
The there is ever here.
At home, shall I embark.

In silence is a sound,
unknown to neural net.
From eighteen inches down
flow words both wild and wet.

I see together hang
the cords unbroken still,
the dangling of the spheres,
not thrust by might of will.

Upon this ground, I lie,
upheld a billion years,
while trust unknown will sound
the song that charms my fears.

There’s nothing wrong with me
a slip on ice won’t fix.
A view up close, from down
below, within the mix.

There is a Vastness…

Paternoster

There is a vastness,
beauty,
and logic
in the cosmos
that defies imagination.
I stand in awe
before it
and within it.

Something inside me
yearns
for the same greatness,
beauty,
and logic
to be made real
and observable
in my short life
on this tiny planet.

All I have,
and all I am,
is a product
of this vastness,
and beauty,
and logic.

It sustains me,
even when I forget
and take it for granted.
Perhaps then,
I can find the strength
to let go
of resentment
when others forget
and take me for granted
as well.

I remember this
in moments of peace,
that I might remember it
in days of stress,
and thus be freed
from anxiety:

This vastness,
beauty,
and logic
does not come from me,
did not begin with me,
and will not end with me.

It never has,
and never will.

The Dark Phoenix

Out of the ashes

of fear and conflict

rises the dark phoenix.

With an enemy’s face

and a mother’s heart.

Feasting on death

to nourish new life.

She beckoned me in,

not knowing what I was in for.

Her house

a home.

That which I should shun,

a liturgy of light.

That from which I run

is become a friend.

She has spread a table before me

in the presence of mine enemies.