Hold It All

Share the Wealth with Maggie Needham: From Treating Harry Potter as Sacred to Treating Each Other as Sacred

Last January, I started a discussion group based on one of my favorite podcasts, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. This January, I was hired on by the podcast to help manage dozens of local reading groups similarly inspired by the show. (The world is weird.)

Harry Potter and the Sacred Text aims to treat a secular book series as if it were sacred, using traditional religious reading practices and applying them not to the Bible or the Torah, but to J. K. Rowling’s fantasy series. The hosts, Harvard Divinity School grads, say that treating a text as sacred requires three things: trusting the text, rigor and ritual, and reading in community. I loved the podcast, but listening to others do sacred reading wasn’t the same thing as doing it in community, so I gathered other listeners and we began using the podcast’s methodology ourselves.

The weekly discussion group has bridged so much for me: the sacred and secular, my love for fantasy novels and my love for justice, inner spirituality and community growth. In this Share the Wealth, I’ll share what I’ve learned from a year and a half of intentional, rigorous sacred reading, connect some dots between Harry Potter and religion, and maybe try out some spiritual practices with you all.

Me, second from the left, with friends from my discussion group and the hosts of the podcast.

I’m a SLU grad (‘15) currently working at a literacy nonprofit in Chicago and working for Harry Potter and the Sacred Text on the side. I drink lots of earl grey tea and bake sourdough bread.

Join us
Sunday 28 April
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Maggie begins sharing at 6:45 p.m.
At the home of Chris Wallach
5 E. Lake Road
Fenton, MO
63026

From Chris: Directions from Google will take you to the mailbox at the end of my gravel road. Follow the gravel. When you see a three car garage (my mother’s house) look to the right for a right turn. Follow that down to the bottom of the hill and you will arrive at my house.

Text me if you get lost–314-807-8769 (Mark)

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We, Unsubsidized and Unbridled

And it is my firm conviction that a man can learn more about poetry by really knowing and examining a few of the best poems than by meandering about among a great many.

Language is a means of communication. To charge language with meaning to the utmost possible degree, we have, as stated, the three chief means:  (1) Throwing the object (fixed or moving) in to the visual imagination. (2) Inducing emotional correlations by the sound and rhythm of the speech. (3) Inducing both of the effects by stimulating the associations (intellectual or emotional) that have remained in the receiver’s consciousness in relation to the actual words or word groups employed.

A: Books a man reads to develop his capacities: in order to know more and perceive more, and more quickly, than he did before he read them.  B: Books that are intended and that serve as REPOSE, dope, opiates, mental beds.

Until you have made your own survey and your own closer inspection you might at least beware and avoid accepting opinions: 1) from men who haven’t themselves produced notable work. 2) From men who have not themselves taken the risk of printing the results of their own personal inspection and survey, even if they are seriously making one.

There is one quality which unites all great and perdurable writers, you don’t NEED schools and colleges to keep ‘em alive. Put them out of the curriculum, lay them in the dust of libraries, and once in every so often a chance reader, unsubsidized and unbridled, will dig them up again, put them in the light again, without asking favors. Read the rest of this entry »

Assange by Andrew Wimmer

There are several journalists worth reading in order to understand what is happening with Julian Assange and what is at stake. I’d suggest, too, that you avoid all media coverage, at least until you have read and digested these few pieces.

Julian Assange sought political asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in London because he feared extradition to the United States for having published the video dubbed Collateral Murder that had been provided by Chelsea Manning. Now we see that he was correct in his fears.

1. Watch the video to remind yourself of where this all began and what is really at stake.

2. Jonathan Cook. Premier British reporter with excellent history of coverage of the Middle East. His two blog posts explain the history of Assange’s struggles and outline current maneuvering in the UK. Start with him.

3. John Pilger. Australian reporter and documentary filmmaker of outstanding courage and clarity. Read him to understand the implications for press freedom.

4. Daniel Ellsberg. Our Pentagon Papers whistleblower and consistent public defender of Assange and the whistleblowers who have used WikiLeaks to publish their information. Listen to or read this interview with him.

Andrew

Five Poems, Five Passages

Ezra Pound and Marcella Spann, ed.
From Confucius to Cummings: An Anthology of Poetry
New Directions, 1964

Guido Calvacanti, Sonnet 7
Saint Teresa d’Avila, Bookmark
Elizabeth I, When I Was Fair and Young
William Butler Yeats, Down by the Salley Gardens
H.D., “Never More Will the Wind”

___________________

What matters in poetry, as Coleridge would have agreed, is the intensity of the emotion, and the depth of comprehension registered by the writer.

My efforts to indicate part of the quality of Chinese metric have been sabotaged by the lethargy , or worse, of America endowments for the suppression of the life of the soul.

W.D.H. Rouse notes that Golding’s version [of Ovid] was one of the six great books that Shakespeare had read, as perhaps no other man ever will.

Shakespeare’s lyrics if not the absolute fountainhead are at any rate the channel from which almost all later melodic and rhythmic variety in song-strophe has flowed into English and American verse.

Nineteenth century rhetoric books used to recommend: clearness, force, and beauty. Medieval Latin gave it: ut doceat, ut moveat, ut delectet, that it teach, move, and delight.

Finding One’s Lost Mind

Julia Ching, The Philosophical Letters of Wang Yang-ming
University of South Carolina Press, 1972

I previously studied with delight Julia Ching’s To Acquire Wisdom: The Way of Wang Yang-ming. Wang was the towering philosophical figure in the Ming Dynasty, one whose teachings and poems I took to heart. In this collection of letters, I am reminded of the simplicity of his way—the “extension of liang-zhi.”

Useful Phrases
“our firm determination to become sages” 6-7

having a single purpose, being undivided 41

recover your original determination 43

Mean: Keep always to the Mean; practice discernment and single-mindedness. 49

“the stimulation of the mind, the strengthening of human nature, the practice of polishing and perfecting oneself” 51

“to have a humble mind and to maintain a constant sagacity” 60

“conquer yourself and recover propriety [li]” 74

Confucius recommended, “learning with constant perseverance and application” 89 Analects 1:1

“unfolding, energetic, firm, and enduring” —Doctrine of the Mean 31, 110

 

Major Themes
Learning: the gentleman can find himself in no situation in which he is not himself, since whatever he does is, for him, learning. 105

Liang-chi: To develop the innate moral knowledge in the mind is, for WYM, the only thing necessary in the pursuit of sagehood, while Chu Hsi and said that one ought to investigate the principles of all things. 31

Liang-chi: l-c contains all truth 48

Liang-chi: All [people] have this moral ability to judge between right and wrong. This is what we call l-c. 68

Liang-chi: True spontaneity refers to the substance of mind not being hindered by unruly desire, so that she finds herself in no situation in which she is not herself. 79

Liang-chi: For this l-c, to eliminate carelessness and pride is to investigate things. The extension of this knowledge is the secret transmission of the ancient learning of the school of sages. 83

Liang-chi: l-c is mindfulness 88

Liang-chi: The only effort required is to learn constantly, and the essential of learning constantly is to watch over ourselves when we are alone, and this vigilance in solitude is precisely the extension of l-c, while l-c is nothing other than joy-in-itself. 90

Liang-chi: A scholar who has already determined to become a sage in order to gain insight needs merely to extend his l-c, in its intelligent and conscious aspects, to the uttermost, proceeding gradually and naturally day by day. 94

Liang-chi: To accumulate righteousness is only to extend the l-c. 96

Liang-chi: When l-c awakens, it is as though the bright sun has arisen, and ghosts and spirits naturally disperse. 117

Mindfulness: If we only guard this mind and not allow it to become dispersed, the principles of reason will mature themselves. 8

Mindfulness: Mengzi said, ‘There is naught else in learning outside of finding one’s lost mind.’ 87. Mencius, 6A:11

Mindfulness: sweep your hearts clean of the bandits inside .. and restore inner clarity and peace and calm 45

Mindfulness: The mind’s substance is tranquility; the mind’s function is activity, 58

Path: “abandon the path of honors and reputation, purify your mind and your desires, concentrate on the learning of the sages” 65

Polishing: See Platform Sutra on polishing 10

Sages: [they need to ] have the sincere determination to becomes sages, and to devote themselves to being ‘discerning and single-minded’ 102

Sages: The l-c of hsin is sagehood. 113

 

Vocabulary
hsin = the heart of mind, the seat of consciousness

T’ien-li = heavenly reason, principle of Heaven

Ch’i = breath, ether, force, temperament

Liang-chi = knowing the good, knowledge of the good.

Jen = literally, kindness, benevolence, humanity, goodness, love

Shen-tu = watching over self when one is alone 121

Tao = the Way, for Confucians, virtue, authentic doctrine of the sages. 125

Share the Wealth with J’Ann Allen–Entrusted with Poetry: From the Land of the Morning Calm

Sometime in early January I pulled out my collection of Korean poetry in translation and began reading, skimming is a more accurate description. Our granddaughter Michelle, three-fourths Korean, told me she wanted to take a Korean class as part of her curriculum at the local community college. I’d been thrilled. We adopted her mother, Julia, at age 14, when we lived in Seoul, South Korea during the 1970s. I tried, during those two years, to learn Korean and found the language most challenging.

Wanting to find our daughter Julie’s birthmother, we decided, at the invitation of a Jesuit friend, to return to Seoul to teach at Sogang University in the spring of 2001. And this is when Brother Anthony of Taize and a Korean female colleague gifted me with several Korean poetry books in translation.

Yes, two of our daughters are Amerasian: Julia and Julie, but my interest in Amerasians began when, at 13, I first read Pearl Buck. I’ve been intrigued by the Asian culture most of my life, but it’s my recent readings and reflections and how I came to them, I’ll share Sunday night. We’ll probably start by reading a few Korean poems, in translation. If you have one or two Korean poems you’d like to share, please bring them. If you have time, go here.

Join us
Sunday 7 April
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
J’Ann starts sharing at 6:45
At J’Ann and Jim’s home
4519 Oakland Avenue
Forest Park Southeast
63110

 

Four Analects, Five Translations

1.1

The Master said, “To learn, and at due times to practice what one has learned, is that not also a pleasure? To have friends come from afar, is that not also a joy? To go unrecognized, yet without being embittered, is that not also to be a noble person?”
—Irene Bloom

The Master said, To learn and rehearse it constantly, is this indeed not a pleasure? To have friends come from afar, is this indeed not a delight? Others do not know him, yet he feels no resentment, is he indeed not a superior man?
—Daniel K. Gardner

The Master said: “To learn, and then, in its due season, put what you have learned into practice—isn’t that still great pleasure? And to have a friend visit from somewhere far away—isn’t that still a great joy? When you’re ignored by the world like this, and yet bear no resentment—isn’t that great nobility?
—David Hinton

He said: Study with the seasons winging past, is not this pleasant?
To have friends coming in from far quarters, not a delight?
Unruffled by men’s ignoring him, also indicative of high breed.
—Ezra Pound

The Master said, To learn and at due times to repeat what one has learnt, is that not after all a pleasure? That friend should come to one from afar, is this not after all delightful? To remain unsoured even though one’s merits are unrecognized by others, is that not after all what is expected of a gentleman?
—Arthur Waley

Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth Sunday 31 March: Three Vietnamese Voices

In 2012 President Barack Obama In 2012 President Barack Obama signed on to a Congressionally approved on-going 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, for each year of the war’s duration. We are currently commemorating 1969.

Though we call it “the Vietnam War,” U.S. Americans are, obviously, at the center of our remembrance. We recall our veterans, our leaders, even, now and then, our dissenters.

I will explore how we can learn about ourselves and our former allies and enemies by considering reflections from three Vietnamese people intimately familiar with the war. Many of us know of the Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. He lived in then South Vietnam until he went into exile in the mid-1960s. Far fewer people know of scholar and writer Viet Thanh Nguyen, who was born in South Vietnam and came to the U.S. with his family as refugees in 1975. His novel The Sympathizer won a Pulitzer Prize in 2016. I venture that hardly anyone knows of Dang Thuy Tram, who was a doctor from North Vietnam who went South to assist in the struggle against the U.S. invaders. Her diary, Last Night I Dreamed of Peace, was published posthumously and came out in an English translation in 2007.

Please join us
Sunday 31 March
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00
I begin sharing at 6:45
At my home 4514 Chouteau Avenue
Forest Park Southeast 63110
Please park on 4400 block of Chouteau or on Taylor Avenue as I have limited parking passes for our block!

Photo: with Dinh, Mai, Na, and Nga; Middletown, KY; circa 1987; Mai’s watercolors are hanging on the wall.

Share the Wealth with Andrew Wimmer: “Where Can I Invest My Life?”

As a young graduate student, I had the good fortune to be exposed to the thinking of Bernard Lonergan. Lonergan, who died in the mid-eighties, was a Canadian Jesuit philosopher and theologian. Many of my teachers had been students of Lonergan, and through them I had my eyes and heart opened by what Lonergan called his “method.”

There is a certain mystique around the man, often lauded as the finest philosophical mind of the twentieth century, etc., etc. But he wasn’t interested in any of that, and said simply of his big work Insight, that it is “a way of asking people to discover in themselves what they are.”

And what we are, he believed, are creatures born with “a pure and unrestricted desire to know.” A desire that gets thwarted, screwed up, and shut down in all sorts of ways, but which always wells back up in us in the form of questions.

As we’re bombarded by propaganda (and so-called fake news) from every direction, we might find ourselves asking, “How the heck can I know what’s really going on?” “How can I evaluate the competing narratives?” and “What can I do about anything?” or “Where can I invest my life?”

These are Lonergan’s questions. And he offers a concrete, practical, and I would argue life-changing way of moving through them, beginning with his first precept “Be attentive!”

Lonergan taught that self-discovery demands considerable individual responsibility and that honest care for the world is always rooted in self-transcendence. “Concern for the future supposes rare moral attainment,” he wrote, “It calls for what Christians name heroic charity.”

I will enjoy sharing how Lonergan has shaped my own thinking and being, and look forward to seeing how each of you responds to what he has to say.

Join us
Sunday 24 March
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Andrew begins sharing at 6:45
Point your GPS to 1077 S. Newstead, 63110. Park on Newstead. House is on SW corner of Newstead and Arco. Enter front door at 4400 Arco.

Seventeen Quotations from Glenn Gould in Kevin Bazzana’s Wondrous Strange

“Dying was a great career move for him.”  

—Kevin Bazzana, Wondrous Strange:
The Life and Art of Glenn Gould

 

  1. “I gather my inner resources from the outdoors.”  
  1. “Behind every silver lining there’s a cloud.”
  1. “My ability to work varies inversely with the niceness of the weather.”
  1. “From the time I was about 12, I was forced to do a complete analysis and to memorize any work I was going to play before actually going to the piano and playing it. When you are compelled to do that, you get a kind of X-ray view of the score, much stronger than any tactile imagery the piano might create for you.”
  1. “I happen to believe that competition rather than money is the root of all evil.”
  1. On Tureck: “Her records were the first evidence that one did not fight alone. It was playing of such uprightness, to put it into the moral sphere. There was such a sense of repose that had nothing to do with languor, but rather with a moral rectitude in the liturgical sense.”
  1. “I love Tristan. I was fifteen when I first heard it, and wept.”  
  1. “The greatest of all teachers ix the tape recorder.”
  1. “You owe nothing to your public.”
  1. GG on Strauss: “I’ve always been addicted to his music the way some people are addicted to chocolate sundaes. I find it absolutely irresistible. “ 
  1. “Isolation is the one sure way to human happiness.”
  1. “I see nothing wrong in making a performance of out of two hundred splices, as long as the desirable result is there.”
  1. “It’s true that I’ve driven through a number of red lights on occasion, but on the other hand, I’ve stopped at a lot of green ones but never gotten credit for it.” 
  1. “Music is my ecstasy.”
  1. When asked what one must do to be a professional artist: “You must give up everything else.”  
  1. “One does not play the piano with one’s fingers. One plays the piano with one’s mind.” 
  1. “One of these times I’ll write my autobiography, which will certainly be fiction.”