Monday, April 26, 2010

I and Thou

     In the previous post, I highlighted Taylor's writing about encountering your neighbor as the main character in her or his own story. Her ideas remind me of Martin Buber's book I and Thou. Buber (1878-1965) was a professor of Philosophy at the Hebrew University in Palestine and wrote in the early 20th century about similar ideas.
     He noted how we tend to treat the world, whether objects, animals, or people, according to their function, according to what they can or would do for us. He termed this way of relating "I - it". Such interactions are characterized by self-protection, by preconceptions of response, by expectations of getting something from the other. Taylor would say by making them a supporting character in our story.
     But when we place ourselves fully in the moment with another, when we are vulnerable and mask-less, when we release preconditions, we might experience "I-Thou" moments with another person. They are moments of enlargement...when both are enhanced by the being of another.  The result is pure dialog, even without words, especially without words. 
     For Buber, God is the "Eternal Thou," and so our relationship with him, like our encounters with other persons, shouldn't be preconditioned or self-protective. Rather we should remain open and available. Buber wasn't necessarily a mystic. Like Taylor, he believed that often the most profound I-Thou relationship with God occurrs through an I-Thou relationship with other people and the natural world.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

narratives and the practice of encountering others

Taylor (in An Altar in the World) titles her chapter on community "The Practice of Encountering Others." I found the chapter particularly insightful. She writes:

What we have most in common is not religion but humanity. I learned this from my religion, which also teaches me that encountering another human being is as close to God as I may ever get -- in the eye-to-eye thing, the person-to-person thing--which is where God's Beloved has promised to show up. Paradoxically, the point is not to see him. The point is to see the person standing right in front of me, who has no substitute, who can never be replaced, whose heart holds things for which there is no language, whose life is an unsolved mystery. The moment I turn that person into a character in my own story, the encounter is over. I have stopped being a human being and have become a fiction writer instead (p. 102)

How often do I turn other people, from my family and friends to those I may encounter in my daily life, into foils in my story? Every time I get mad because the person in front of me is driving too slow or I get frustrated because a family member doesn't see the dishes that need to be washed or the floor that needs to be vacuumed (as opposed to my asking for help) or every time I try to convince someone else that my thought on an issue is the only thought or the "right" thought, I become that fiction writer.

Taylor is not saying (and neither am I) that we should allow another person to turn us into a supporting character or a foil, to become a nominal character in someone else's made up story. We tend to call such behavior co-dependent or passive aggressive and actually de-values the humanity of both of you.

Rather, Taylor connects the ancient commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself to this practice of encountering others. If we value others as protagonists in their own narratives, we are loving them as we love ourselves. The goal, Taylor says, is to "love the God you did not make up with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and the second is like unto it: to love the neighbor you also did not make up as if that person were your own strange and particular self."  In other words, a valuable and unique main character, just as you are, just as I am, just as we all are.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Veggie Cheese Lasagna

1 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup veggie broth
2-3 carrots, sliced and steamed for 1-2 minutes in microwave
2 jars (24 oz. each) spaghetti sauce
1 T. lemon juice
1 t. dried oregano
1-2 t. dried basil
1/8 t. nutmeg
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 T. dried parsley
3-4 oz. of fresh spinach leaves
12 whole wheat lasagna noodles, cooked to al dente.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat olive oil over medium high heat until hot. Add garlic and chives and saute for 1 minute. Then add carrots and veggie broth and simmer over low for 5 minutes. Stir in spaghetti sauce, lemon juice, basil, oregano, and nutmeg till hot. In a separate bowl, combine cream cheese, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses. Stir in parsley. Place 4 noodles in bottom of 13 x 9 pan. Spread 1/3 of cheese mixture over top. Top with 1/3 of spaghetti sauce mixture and 1/3 of spinach leaves. Repeat layers 2 more times: noodles, cheese mixture, sauce mixture, and spinach leaves. On last layer, sprinkle about 1/4 cup of parmesan and 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes until bubbly. Take out of oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

This vegetarian lasagna is packed with healthy vegetables and delicious cheeses. I think zucchini squash would be delicious as well (substitute for carrots or spinach). And ricotta would probably be excellent instead of cream cheese, although the cream cheese was yummy! The family agreed it is a new favorite!

For dessert, I made a sumptuously rich white chocolate and blackberry pie (recipe adapted from anecdotes and apples). I used a store bought graham cracker crust, Greek yogurt (about 1/3 cup) instead of silken tofu and covered the blackberries with whipped heavy cream sweetened with 1 T. Agave Syrup.  Chilled in the fridge, it was perfect for this sunny, warm Sunday.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

April Snow

       Easter lilies with a backdrop of snow
We awoke to first a 2 hour delay, then a snow day....serendipitous in my book (though I am ready for sun and warmth). I do love an unexpected day at home!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter-- paying attention

--from German theologian Johann Baptist Metz on the practices and teachings of Jesus:
In the end Jesus did not teach an ascending mysticism of closed eyes, but rather a God-mysticism with an increased readiness for perceiving, a mysticism of open eyes, which sees more and not less. It is a mysticism that especially makes visible all invisible and inconvenient suffering, and—convenient or not—pays attention to it and takes responsibility for it, for the sake of a God who is a friend to human beings.
                                 A Passion for God: The Mystical-Political Dimension of Christianity, ed. and trans. J. Matthew

--and well known words from Pedro Arrupe, the beloved Jesuit priest known for his passion, his heart, his work to see and relieve suffering :
Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.

    --and from Daniel Berrigan:
It all comes down to this: Whose flesh are you touching and why? Whose flesh are you recoiling from and why? Whose flesh are you burning and why.
in Barbara Brown Taylor's  An Altar in the World. 

(thanks to Dr. Beck's post "Love will Decide Everything"  for the reminder about Arrupe).

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Food Rules

One of the blogs I love to read is PreacherMike because his interests are as varied and random as mine. You can find sports updates, theological reflection, adoring grandpa, travel, humanitarian issues, excellent book reviews, and this last food! (combined with a book of course, Michael Pollan's Food Rules: an eater's manual). Here are some of my favorite rules...they are not only true, but  funny! 
From Section 1: What should I eat? (Eat food.):
  • Rule 13 -- Eat only fodds that will eventually rot.
  • Rule 21 -- It's not food if it's called by the same name in every language. (Think...Cheetos...)
From Section 2: What kind of food should I eat? (Mostly plants.)
  • Rule 24 -- Eating what stands on one leg is better than eating what stands on two legs, which is better than eating what stands on four legs.
  • Rule 36 -- Don't eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk.
From Section 3 -- How should I eat? (Not too much.)
  • Rule 57 -- Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does.
And speaking of healthy eating, how would you like to attend one of these dinners? (link from a cup of jo)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

I didn't attend a Maundy Thursday service this year, though for the past 2 years I have and have felt the weightiness of it. From a past year I wrote:
     Tonight was the Maundy Thursday service, my first. I didn't know exactly what to expect, though I anticipated communion and perhaps foot washing. Both were present. What powerfully struck me, though, what stunned and shook me was the emphasis of betrayal. Though the service was begun in contemporary praise, almost celebratory, the bishop's sermon emphasized that Judas accepted the footwashing of his master, ate the passover with his lord, all the while knowing he betrayed him, all the while perhaps even thinking how he would spend the 30 pieces.
     Then 4 basins were placed at the front, 2 in the center from which the 2 bishops wash and 2 at the sides for anyone else to use. This community quietly washed each others' feet...from the bishops washing the members' to the young men washing the bishops' feet...husbands and wives, fathers and children...friends. One of the most moving was a young girl, about 10 or 11, who took her daddy up to the side basin and washed his feet. She was weeping. She then crawled in his lap.
     Then the greeting of "Peace to you" and the feast...communion given to us by these servant leaders, the Bishop saying: "Christ's body broken for you"as he placed the bread in my cupped hand.
     The service ended with sudden harshness. There was total silence, no background keyboard or guitar, no choral reading. We had just finished communion, and the bishops forcefully stripped the communion table and tugged off their robes. Only the cross was left at the front with a bare table in front of it. The bishop threw a black cloth over the cross and abruptly pushed over the table. It thudded as it hit the ground. He ran off stage and turned and looked at the sound of a stake being struck several times. Then he ran out of the room, a look of anger on his face. 
     There was no movement, no sound as we all realized the implications. We, who just washed each others' feet, who just participated in the Feast together, were all the betrayers. Every last one of us, from the Bishops to the young girl. We were all Judas. We left the church in silence, no benediction, no blessing.

Then a later year, another Easter this:
     I didn't understand before what struck me so forcefully this year: the act of footwashing is done by the betrayed to the betrayer, by Jesus to Judas, by Jesus to me.
     And we are called to do the wash the feet of those who betray us and to allow those we have betrayed to wash our feet. I had this terrifying vision of the people I had betrayed washing my feet. Harder almost than Jesus ...with Him I know acceptance, I know vulnerability, I know He dived into the mess I was in and walked through it with me.
     But with others, I don't know if they really forgive...maybe because I don't forgive myself? Could I wash the feet of  people who have betrayed me? I hope so, I hope I do...Why is it so difficult to be that vulnerable with each other, when we are all betrayers of Him and each other?
     I do have more hope this year...more hope that it all is leading somewhere. More hope that there really is healing and maybe even restoration. And more assurance that we're not alone, will never be alone, no matter how lonely we sometimes feel.
     The pastor said on this snowy Easter morning, while huge flakes looking like doilies floated lazily down, that "more was gained in the Resurrection than was lost in the fall."
the fortunate fall...
And this year my thoughts are lingering on words from Taylor's book...the one about wearing skin. She says: 
     In the case of the meal, he gave them things they could smell and taste and swallow. In the case of the feet, he gave them things that were attached to real human beings, so that they could not bend over them without being drawn into one another's lives.
Then she imagines their thought process: 
     Wow. How did you get that scar? Does it hurt when I touch it? No, really, they're not ugly. You should see mine. Yours just have a few more miles on them. Do you ever feel like you can't go any further? Like you just want to stop right here and let this be it? I know, I can't stop either. It's weird, isn't it? You follow him and you follow him, thinking that any minute now the sky is going to crack open, and you're going to see the face of God. Then he hands you his basin and his towel, and it turns out that it's all about feet, you know? Yours, mine, his. Feet, for God's sake. (p. 44)