indistinct intimacy

I wrote a poem while at a church fine arts retreat this past weekend, inspired by the warm sunny weather and my sun-drenched skin. The pictures are from my retreat in Nanaimo last week, a fantastic tree and some bright pink sea anemones. Enjoy.

Standing outside, stopped and subdued by the solar glory of the morning, I give over to a power greater than me.

Warmth kisses my cheeks, saturates my skin, seeps beneath through layer upon layer of flesh into the depths of my being.

The smoldering heat ripples through me until even the darkest, coldest shadow place begins to loosen the tightness that defends itself from lack of heat.

As the colour rises in my face my heart too rises, lifting my chest towards that fiery ball that uses light to tease life out of even the most unlikely of places.

Like an anemone that befriends algae to drink in the life that gushes out from that radiant celestial outpouring I extend my arms and befriend the air that gently filters the golden goodness cascading upon the earth.

In the indistinct intimacy of this moment there is no me, there is no sun, there is only a hot, bright embrace, so tight that I cannot tell where I end and the rest of the universe begins.



A Butterfly

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.

– Chuang Tse


For as long as space endures
And for as long as living beings remain
Until then may I too abide
To dispel the misery of the world.

the way of the bodhisattva – shantideva – 8th century

what is a metaphysic and why does it matter?

If I were to say that there is evil power at work in our world at a level that threatens to overcome the power of goodness you might wonder “who is this writing, and what has she done with our dear Ms. erosophy, Shannon?” But if I said that there is a great deal of injustice in the world and work toward peace and justice often seems futile since the problems are overwhelming, you probably wouldn’t blink an eye.

So what difference does it make if I frame the discussion in terms of good and evil power? Why might that rhetoric make people uncomfortable? Why does using that rhetoric make any difference at all? Well a good deal of this depends on how we define words like “good” and “evil” and, more importantly, the word “power”. And how we define those words depends upon what we believe about how the world works. What we believe about how the world works is called a “metaphysic”, the study of it “metaphysics”.

For the most part, metaphysics function invisibly on a day-to-day basis, we are rarely aware of the way we look at the world, we just assume that the world just is the way we see it. Metaphysics tap us on the shoulder when we discover a difference between how we and another experience the world, or when someone describes their experience of the world in a surprising way that we’ve never thought of before.

Our metaphysics are formed by a myriad of different forces, and for those of us in contemporary western cultures, those different forces even conflict with one another. Once force (Newtonian science) tells us that the world functions according to certain natural laws, another force (religion) tells us that supernatural miracles that disobey those laws can take place. One force (what you perceive as your senses) tells you that you are sitting on a solid chair, another (quantum physics) tells you that the chair you sit on is made up of more empty space than filled space and that there is a small but distinct mathematical probability that your chair might not actually hold its form beyond this moment.

Consciousness of this play of metaphysics allows us to make intentional choices about how we will see the world. I can say that powers of good and evil are at work in the world because I have chosen to make sense of the world using the metaphysic provided by Process Philosophy. There is a great deeal of power at work in the world, and each of us have a great deal of power at our disposal. That power can be used in good or evil ways, thus perpetuating the proliferation of good or evil in the world. Choosing a metaphysic can help us make constructive sense of the world, making space for different perceptions of events. Lack of consciousness about the way we see the world and how that affects the way we function perpetuates misunderstanding and miscommunication.

We assume that when we communicate the other person has the same worldview as we do, but this is rarely true. How do you see the world, how does it work? How does God work within your worldview? What power do humans, the environment, God have within your worldview? Until we can talk about these questions, talk about what we believe and why will be at a mere surface level, with deep metaphysical assumptions functioning invisibly underneath.

salvation is here

Salvation is a subject that doesn’t get a lot of airtime in many liberal Christian circles. You might even be troubled to see me use that word – salvation. But I’m a big fan of rethinking what we mean when we use certain words, so today I would like to redeem this word “salvation” for a bit. I’d like to propose that we are saved when we accept peace and live from a space of calm, not allowing ourselves to be caught up in the demands of our go-go-go world.

Several years ago while I was working on my Master of Divinity I struggled with a book that refused to leave room for salvation, though it used the word “redemption” instead. I liked a lot of what the book said but could not go as far as it could in saying that there is no room for redemption, why, I wondered, did I have this deep discomfort with leaving that out? I decided to go talk to my teacher about this and as she listened and asked questions we discovered that I was just dealing with a different notion of redemption or salvation than the book conceived of. I and the book agreed that it is not possible to find ultimate and final redemption or salvation because the world is constantly in process and never does and never can come to some final static, resting point of redemption or salvation. I, however, don’t think of salvation or redemption in those sort of ultimate or final terms. To me, salvation is fleeting, it is the glimpses of grace that we see on a daily basis. There is salvation and redemption in a chord sung so perfectly by a group that we all feel deep down in our beings a sense of unity and satisfaction. There is salvation in resting in a moment of silence that holds my centre. There is salvation in the arms of one that I love.

I’m purposely trying to reframe how we look at salvation here because I think it is a powerful concept for understanding the profound difference that is made when we choose to walk a path of love, devoting ourselves to nursing the flourishing of the world, rather than getting caught up in the demands of our culture.

Salvation and redemption connote transformation, a change in life that is profound. In order to facilitate the building of a more peaceful world we need to transform our lives, we need to step out of our comfort zones, we need to risk living more simply, giving more generously, loving more lavishly, and living more peacefully.

We can all be witnesses to resurrection, to the joy of letting go, to living by dying, to new life through a peace that passes all understanding, to grace abundantly and freely given.


“Why do we focus so intensely on our problems? What draws us to them? Why are they so attractive? They have the magnet power of love: somehow we desire our problems; we are in love with them much as we want to get rid of them . . . Problems sustain us — maybe that’s why they don’t go away. What would a life be without them? Completely tranquilized and loveless . . . There is a secret love hiding in each problem . . . .”

– James Hillman, The Essential James Hillman: A Blue Fire, edited by Thomas Moore. Via Rob Brezsny