Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Writing Life

The Writing Life at Esalen, Big Sur, CA January 24-29, 2009
Esalen itself perched on a mountainside sweeping down into the sea is gorgeous. The blue-gray sky and the green blue sea seem to stretch to eternity. The grounds are green grassy, winter flowers of red and lavender peek out here and there. The sound of the sea and nattering of birds are a constant background noise.
The lodge and cabins are gracefully ageing but comfortable and warm. The food is superb, heavily vegetarian. (I rushed home and bought a Safeway steak for dinner last night.) I did buy the Esalen Cookbook, as the soups are splendid.
The writing workshop was well taught by the delightful Ellen Bass, poet, novelist, and fine teacher. She has curly graying hair, slender build, ready smile and encouraging style inspiring us to want to write more. She lectured for an hour in the morning at 10:00 AM and we learned about writing details, scenes, dialogue, description, “show, don’t tell,” surprise the reader, action, story and lots more. Then we were free to write and then at 3:45-6:45 PM we read some of our work and listened to feedback from members of the group and then Ellen always had something to say about our short pieces. Her concentration on each of us and her insights into our works were remarkable and very helpful.
There were twenty in the group, five men and fifteen women. Stories of dying parents, abuse by an RC priest, tyrannical mother now with Alzheimer’s, murdered brother, divorces, crazed children – all heart rending and emotionally charged. I had never written any poetry before so I wrote three poems. It was rather fun and made me think about writing in some new ways.
We had two days of rain and three of sunshine, not bad for late January. The 172-mile drive down and the same back to San Francisco were easy and fast. The last hour of the journey yesterday was in drenching rain so it was slow going.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Not Political Enough

The writer of a letter to the Editor of The Living Church, a magazine of the church, said the Episcopal Church has lost members because it is too political.
Here is my response.

To the Editor of The Living Church:

Over the years General Convention has passed many resolutions that are political. African-American, Women's, Lesbian and Gay rights have been supported. Issues of abortion, peace and poverty have also been debated. They all have had plenty of media attention. On the local level most parishes and even dioceses have not followed through with programs, education, sermons and articles supporting these issues or even dealing with them at all. In the recent movements toward health care reform and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, local parish discussions of these issues have been minimal, even here in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the most liberal areas of the United States. Going to parish churches and reading Diocesan newspapers and on-line resources, the great issues of the day are seldom even mentioned. Recent issues of The Living Church seldom if ever recently have dealt with war and health care. When newcomers attend church they do not hear sermons or read bulletins that relate to the daily social, political and ethical issues that lay people are deeply concerned about. Church attendance has fallen off because the church appears irrelevant to the great issues of the day.

Here are some replies:

Amen. Well said. Life is political. Jesus was political. So political that the established powers had him executed. But he stood up for peace and justice. If the Episcopal Church can’t do that, it should fold its tents and cathedrals.

Sadly true. That is an excellent letter to The Dying Church. I hope they print it.

I agree. If only our church would discuss issues there'd be a lot more people there!

Indeed! And...because they don't offer solutions any better than your average nonprofit (and less effective than most). Why? Because they have failed to give themselves the only real strength and courage available -- a rich personal and communal experience of Jesus Christ -- the one who destroys the status quo. In other words, the REAL revolutionary. We will be relevant and effective in creating injustice-smashing change in direct proportion to how well we build our faith in him.

Good letter! I'm always impressed that you continue to fight the good fight. Many days I feel like giving up and moving to a cabin in the woods. I wish I live right in the neighborhood of a church I like. I do mostly enjoy the times I go to St. John's, but it is a bit geographical undesirable for me--of course, if I were more committed, I suppose that wouldn't make a difference.

People in the pews are there either because they want to follow the Path shown by Jesus on this our earthly home, or because they are seeking assurance of their place in some eternal Hereafter either of their imagining or the organized Church's proclamation. Maybe both, but we tend to lean sharply to one side or the other. The conundrum is that following along the Path might well lead to the Hereafter, but the reverse doesn't hold true. So we end up with pews filled (spottily these days) with folks who get mighty irritated because we keep insisting on exploring the Path and its demands made on us NOW.

Yes and no.

I believe that God wants us and our faith communities to be right on top of political thought and action. This could indeed make our religion more relevant and interesting to more people.

On the other hand there are many people who want their religion to be an escape from the cares and concerns of the world and would not like a politically thoughtful church. I would say that this is precisely the appeal of Roman Catholic piety and Protestant mega-church enthusiasm. Their religion's political positions are the cut-and-dried over-and-done-with old time social conventions that none of their members are invited to think about, just to angrily support.

My God, I couldn't agree more. Thank you

Thank you for the message. I find it impossible to hear a homily outside of the Calif. diocese. My experience of hearing about the real issues of the day is only heard in a more progressive church. In other words, we don't hear about the very real issues of todays living. That's why I like your homilies so much. You are truly blessed and have tremendous insight to the very real issues today.

Right on, Robert!

And, because they have, by and large, refused to deal with the serious issues around the the Articles of the Christian Faith and contemporary thought; fundamentally, does creedal theism reflect reality in any way.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Enjoying the SF Public Library

The San Francisco Public Library Main Branch

Larking at Grove Streets, San Francisco

I am a newcomer to the library. When I retired seven years ago I decided to get books, CDs and DVDs from the library instead of buying them since our income is cut in half. The library’s collection certainly meets my needs and wants.

I was shocked at first to see so many street people, poorly clad, sometimes dirty and disheveled. Then I thought how wonderful that people much poorer than I find good use of the library facilities. The tables and chairs have men and women reading magazines books and using their own laptops. Occasionally someone dozes at the table head down.

The building itself is full of natural light, high ceilings, open stairways and balconies overlooking the atrium of the central main entrance. Curved spaces, green walls, silver railings are an uplift to the eyes and spirits. Four elevators are available to get us to the floors above and back again. Brightly colored flyers announce a myriad of classes, lectures and exhibits for people of all ages.

The fifty library owned computer screens are always busy with people watching DVDs of old movies and TV shows. People waited their turn to use a machine sat in a long line of wooden chairs.

In the mezzanine where the daily papers and all the magazines are kept, the tables are most filled with readers and occasional nappers. All through the library the tables for writing and reading are well occupied with all sorts and conditions of human beings using the resources of this public institution.

The toilets on the ground floor are always busy with many people walking in and out using those facilities and not stopping to view books. What a blessing it is for many people who are homeless or just caught short to have a clean safe place to use toilet facilities. They are clean and regularly maintained. This a great boon to the people of the city, the aged and infirm and anyone who simply needs a toilet.

The library staff is inevitably friendly, yet business like with the many requests for books, information and use of the technical equipment to facilitate the use of the library. I admire their patience with the loud talkers, the demanding, those with a sense of entitlement and the totally confused. One can return and check out books, CDs and DVDs with ease automatically.

I talked with an acquaintance who said he won’t go to the library because of the kind of people that go there. It is quite safe in the Market Street library area. You will get into trouble if you are looking for sex and drugs. You may see and hear some of the walking wounded that are off their meds or not in institutions of which we have too few to care for the numbers of disturbed people on our streets. Otherwise people leave each other to mind their own business.

I like the diversity of age, economic status and costuming of the those who go. There are always little children holding hands, looking wide-eyed on their first trip to the library. I almost always wear a hat. I get more comments like, “Dude, I love your hat,” at the library than anywhere else. The public library is like the church; it has to accept anyone who comes in. Sensible standards of decorum are expected. It is a public library; it is a people’s library. I love to go there and thank the public and the people who make it happen.


Papal Enema

His Holiness gave a gigantic enema to the Church of England and The Episcopal Church draining out the bile of extreme of Anglo-Catholic and Right-wing/Evangelical clerics.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Media Abets Violence

"Budget Battle Begins" is today’s headline in the San Francisco Chronicle

Smart men and women, elected by the citizens of the State of California, sit down and work on a budget. They are courteous, thoughtful and enter into discussions, compromises and exchanges based on party lines and constituent pressures. The media portrays these discussions as budget battles. They are portrayed as wars, conflicts and fights. Harsh words and threats are not the rule but the exception in budget discussions.

Reporting of congressional debate on health care reform, federal budgets and what to do about the wars are depicted as battles and wars.

Is it any wonder that family discussions become mayhem, when the media portrays political debates as battles? Why are we surprised when street kids resolve differences battling with guns and knives?

Film and TV add violence as the way to resolve differences. Human nature itself has a drive toward war and conflict. The media feeds such drives with its endless glorification of life as a battleground.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Hubris and Schwarzenegger

I actually felt a little sorry for him as I read of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s final State of the Union address. He is a man of hubris, with “overbearing pride and presumption and arrogance.” He faced the enormous complexity and intransigence of the powers that run and influence the mechanics of the State of California. His sweeping agenda and efforts for change had minimal success. He put on a brave face and soldiers on, hubris hardly diminished.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Conservatives and Liberal

Conservatives want to make good people. Liberals want to make a good society. I suspect conservatives want to make a good society too but they want it done in a free enterprise capitalistic society. Liberals want to make good individuals too. I think the best way to create good individuals is when they are products of a good society. For instance, good schools are good societies and they produce good individuals. Good families are societies and they produce good individuals.