Habits Are the Death of Us. Beauty In Our Aging. Rumi’s Tale Is a Lesson For Us All. Julie Andrews as Theologian? The Poetry of Possibilities. Fathers and Sons and New Forms of Love.

Monday, March 30, 2015 - 9:15 am

Habits Are the Death of Us. Beauty In Our Aging. Rumi’s Tale Is a Lesson For Us All. Julie Andrews as Theologian? The Poetry of Possibilities. Fathers and Sons and New Forms of Love.

A woman meditates in a public space. (Minoru Nitta / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).)

“May I see what I do. May I do it differently. May I make this a way of life.”

When we get too attached to habits, we risk losing our sense of wonder and our potential for catalytic experience. Courtney Martin’s encouragement for the job of being alive. Read on, my friends, read on.

(Alex Proimos / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).)

How do we celebrate our diminishment as we age? We look for beauty in “that which the world rejects as ugly.” Yes, we’re messed up about beauty, but Parker Palmer offers some wise words and a poem on how our culture shouldn’t look to fashion magazines.

An Iranian Shiite Muslim couple attends a ceremony in Tehran during the early hours of July 19, 2014 to commemorate the death of Imam Ali bin Abi-Taleb, who was assassinated in 661 AD. (Behrouz Mehri / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images.)

The photo above may seem a strange choice, but once you read Omid Safi’s latest column you’ll understand why. Its source? A brilliant story from Rumi that illuminates the paths we all travel from brokenness to healing, from feeling worthless and cut off to being wholehearted:

“I wonder about our own world.
I wonder about so many of us, alone.
I wonder about the enmity in our families, anonymity in our workspaces, tension in our communities.
I wonder about war, occupation, poverty, racism.
I wonder if we are willing to commit ourselves to this path — cleansing our hearts of ego, of lust, of anger.
I wonder if we are ready to do so as individuals, do so as communities, do so as nations.
I wonder if we are willing to put our swords (airplanes, tanks, bombs) back in their sheath.
I wonder if we are ready to look at each other in the eye, and see our own humanity reflected in one another.

If we do. When we do. We would be fully human. And then, just maybe, divinity would be fully present.”

Julie Andrews as Maria in The Sound of Music.

“There’s something about Maria’s journey, about those Alpine meadows and knowing nuns, that has inspired us in a way that sacred texts can’t always achieve. We recognize the courage it takes to leave the abbey and return to the Von Trapp estate — the same courage we need in our own lives as we ask if we’ve been true to our gifts.”

Most of us chant tunes from The Sound of Music, but have you considered the spiritual lessons that this classic film offers? Playwright Norman Allen with this week’s featured guest submission on its theology.

And here he is! As fortune would have it, I was lucky enough to meet Norman while at Wesley Theological Seminary last week for a panel discussion on having more fruitful discussions on race. Look for a video of the event in mid-April.

The photographer with his 98-year-old father, who lost his short-term memory. As an act of remembering, the son documented his final time with him in "Days with My Father."

The photographer with his 98-year-old father, who lost his short-term memory. As an act of remembering, the son documented his final time with him in “Days with My Father.” (Phillip Toledano)

Remember this photograph by Phillip Toledano? It’s the lead image for last week’s episode on Alzheimer’s, memory, and identity. It’s part of an incredibly moving photo essay about a son getting to know his father again. “Days with My Father” is a gateway, really, helping us reflect on relationship and memory, absence and loss, and the the frail, tender love between family members. The simplicity of Toledano’s prose is as fine as his photos — and, yes, you’ll shed some tears, and chuckle too. It was eventually made into a book, which I bought and now read to my two young boys, who find their own sense of meaning in its narrative.

We hear from so many people who love listening to the written word spoken aloud, especially poetry. Today I offer you a duet, of sorts — the first, a poem by Wislawa Szymborska titled “Possibilities,” is read by the incomparable Amanda Palmer; the second is “Rembrandt’s Late Self-Portraits,” a poem by the English poet Elizabeth Jennings and recited by the poet herself before her death.

Picking up on that father-son thread, a hearty congratulations to our brother in arms, Paul Raushenbush, who is now a proud new papa. He’s written a lovely piece reflecting on the birth of his son Walter. Non-parents and parents alike will be well-served reading:

“My experience with love has, on some level, been transactional. Whether with family, or friends, or partners, the formula was something like — you love me, I love you, so we are “in love.” My understanding of love has been based on a mutually agreed upon and beneficial exchange of emotion — a connection that requires maintenance and expects responsibility of all parties.

Walter has expanded my understanding of love to be more like the Greek word “agape,” used in the New Testament to signify how the Divine loves us. A sacrificial love that endures no matter how much or little we can give back. Which is what it means to be a parent.”

Is this email too long? Too short? Lacking in something? Just right? Please let me know. My email address is tgilliss@onbeing.org. My Twitter handle: @trentgilliss. Contact me anytime!

May the wind be at your back.
Trent

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is the cofounder of On Being and currently serves as publisher & editor-in-chief. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on “The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi” and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent’s reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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