English-speaking Quakers today are in dire need of some new “spiritual” books, and I have a top candidate to recommend here. It is John Calvi’s How far Have You Traveled?
Amid all the wonderful stuff that’s in it, some of what makes Calvi’s book so excellent is what’s not in it.
For example — and this fact alone made me an instant fan — in its 200 or so pages, the word “transformation” occurs only once.
Further, the bogus cliche “spice” shows up only thrice – and each time, thank goodness, it’s part of “hospice,” programs that bring comfort and peace to the often painful work of dying; in his career John has very often been a two-legged hospice. “Spiritual journey” likewise is limited to three appearances.
For that matter, “theology” is mentioned only ten times, and then mostly not from John’s pen, but in quotes by one of his elders/mentors, the late Elizabeth Watson.
But be not deceived; How Far Have You Traveled? is indeed a Quaker theological work, a substantial and serious (while often hilarious) one. For one thing, while Calvi is pretty loose on doctrine, Jesus pops up about twenty times. The book is not academic. John is an avid learner, but school academics have not been his forte.
Instead, he introduces us to what I would call “un-systematic theology,” and without argument he shows compellingly why it is so much needed. Instead of riffing on the trendy banalities of much “devotional” writing, or wandering into the mazes of academic abstractions, John’s theology grows out of reflections on decades of hands-on work as a massage therapist. Continue reading John Calvi: Boon Companion for Spiritual Travel→
A year ago, on October 10, 2019, I had a stroke. And I saw a vision of my future.
It started in the living room, about 7AM. I was in my battered recliner, reading newspapers on an Ipad. Across from me, on our long couch, grandson Calvin was stirring. His mom worked nights at Waffle House, so he often stayed over. It would soon be time for him to head out for the school bus.
I glanced up at him, and then something else stirred to my left: A bright metallic blue curtain had appeared, and seemed as if it was being drawn to the right, across my field of vision.
There was no pain, in fact no unusual sensation at all. But clearly something was wrong. I called out to Wendy, asleep in our bedroom. “I think I’m having a stroke!”
Calvin had to get himself up and out that morning. Shortly I was walking into the Duke ER, which is barely a mile away. And immediately I discovered one of the upsides of my condition. Having spent many bleak and painful hours in that ER waiting room, when I calmly answered the reception nurse’s “May I help you?” with, “I think I’m having a stroke,” it was like waving Harry Potter’s most potent magic wand. Continue reading A Whole Year In One Stroke→
After last Saturday’s SAYMA Representative Meeting, Sharon Smith celebrated in a circular email:
How many people do you know, who can say they survived not just one, but two Quaker lynchings?
That’s the way I feel today, after that botched attempt yesterday. I am so proud of me . . . lol
But this was typical Sharon Smith gaslighting. Three important things happened at SAYMA’s Representative Meeting on September 26, but none was a “lynching,” real or metaphorical: one had to do with money, a second with minding the Light, and the third was about monthly meetings. The session delivered a lot of good value for SAYMA, if its officers and activists know how to take advantage of it.
The session followed its agenda, and when the action relating to Smith came to a decision point, the outcome she didn’t want is what happened: SAYMA declined to give Smith’s URJ Committee any more funds. That was its first major achievement.
The Catholic Church is not a democratic institution. Even in my lifetime, it called for and accepted government favor and authority when it could; and such struggles continue in places like Poland.
In the USA this call for official preference has been somewhat muted due to our First Amendment and (increasingly beleaguered) heritage of religious toleration. But the impulse has persisted, manifesting in various ways.
The worst example of this spirit is, of course, the massive, ongoing international conspiracy to protect the widespread priestly cult of pedophilia. This scourge, though increasingly unmasked and under siege, has nonetheless tainted many American church priests and leaders, and reached even the throne of Peter, including the papacy of “Saint” John Paul II and the reign of the Vatican’s current occupant. Continue reading Religious Freedom, the Supreme Court, & the Catholic Hegemonic Impulse→
Near the climax of his book Disloyal, Michael Cohen writes:
In the summer before the  election, I told a reporter for Vanity Fair, Emily Jane Fox, that I’d take a bullet for Trump, and I meant it.
But not if Donald Trump pulled the trigger. . . .
Which of course, Trump did, in 2018. In May 2019, the betrayal landed Cohen in the federal prison at Otisville, New York..
Cohen, like most cons, thought his prison sentence was grossly unfair. He only pled guilty to tax evasion, he says, to prevent his wife from being indicted as well.
That showed personal love and nobility; but Cohen had also lied to his wife about the money he took from their joint account to pay off pornstar Stormy Daniels for Trump; and it was his wife’s name on the account that made her vulnerable to indictment once the feds traced the money.
I’ve finished Michael Cohen’s book, Disloyal, but I’m not through with it.
In part that’s because the book itself isn’t finished.
Not that Cohen has shortchanged readers. He simply ran out of time to get the book out in the market before the coming election, and I don’t fault him for that. Nor has he, as far as I can see, skimped on damning details, especially about himself and the unbelievable journey to the dark side he was on for so long.
No, Cohen’s book isn’t finished because the story it tells is not finished. It charts his rise, and the wild, destructive, ego-tripping ride with Trump into the White House, and his sudden fall, when the feds collared him and Trump coldly dumped him.
After the fall came a dramatic personal turn. But we don’t yet know where that turn will lead Cohen. Perhaps he doesn’t know yet either.
In any event, the fall happened abruptly: on April 9, 2018, Cohen woke up in his luxurious Manhattan digs, had coffee and oatmeal, and saw his son off to school.
Then there was a knock at the door. Peeping into the hallway, he saw a crowd of men in suits, some holding up badges, and heard a line From so many mob movies:
Michael Cohen accompanied Trump on a number of trips to Las Vegas. A snippet from one such journey, from Disloyal:
Checking into the Vegas Trump Tower, I was summoned up to his suite to discuss the day’s events. Trump was in his underwear, white Hanes briefs, and a white short-sleeve undershirt, watching cable news on television. He barely seemed to register that it was unusual for a grown man to be in a state of undress in front of an employee, but there it was.
On this occasion, Trump was fresh from the shower and he hadn’t done his hair yet, as it was still air-drying. When his hair wasn’t done, his strands of dyed-golden hair reached below his shoulders along the right side of his head and on his back, like a balding Allman Brother or strung out old ’60s hippie.
I called his plane Hair Force One, for good reason. Trump doesn’t have a simple combover.
Michael Cohen describes the kickoff of the mutually self-serving “courtship” Between Trump & prominent evangelicals, who became a central pillar of Trump’s political base. From Disloyal, with rough language:
“So how did the amoral Trump come to be beloved by evangelical voters, a question that remains one of the abiding mysteries to this day?
Begin with the premise that Donald Trump hadn’t darkened the door of a church or chapel since the age of seven, as he would openly admit in his past incarnation. Places of religious worship held absolutely no interest to him, and he possessed precisely zero personal piety in his life—but he knew the power of religion, and that was a language he could speak.