Thursday, January 2, 2014

Now is Winter

Now is Winter: A Chicago run

Stepping into a familiar alley,
I pause at a neighbors garden
put to bed with a comforter of snow
covering vegetable labors, sleeping in the cold
I pad to the treed street and slip into sidewalk stride
cornering towards the east, to the lake
greeting the dollar store, dentist, restaurant and bus stop
and people
hurrying in their need to be somewhere else
somewhere warm
past languages and accents local and from a world away
I smile at living in such a place
where street people and nobel medalists
queue for the same bus
that's late...
I turn from my usual route
easier to go with the wind i think 
and fly into friends, 
warning me of the wind and cold they've endured
to walk to and from breakfast
they say "now is winter!"
while anchoring me for a moment with warm hugs
we part with a gust
them to home and defrosting
me, into the damp wind looking for the lake
my hat stays on, barely
the ear warmer come out of a pocket
zipper pulled up tight on the running shell
and thin gloves, with hands inside
pulled up into sleeves
I lean into the wind
but it is all treachery, push becomes pull in an instant
buffeted from all sides it steals my warmth
If I don't protect it
still I run,
I see the water now, goal in sight
I plod on 
playing a game with the flying air
shadows of buildings my refuge, 
a moment of safety 
then I am reminded that nature is in charge
and shadows of calm become maelstroms
my hat is at risk again and again
swirling bags and handbills follow me
as I run from shadow to shadow
between rapids of air and finally
under the drive that divides lake from city
a tunnel boundary into nature's gift to see
the inland sea is playing with its windy cousin
whitecaps dancing and splashing onto the shoreline
making frozen sculptures like a child with clay
promising to do the same to me 
as I fumble to take a picture
coming out of my shell is a mistake
but one I'm happy to make
life is not just warm
it is also cold
and alive 
dancing with the wind and wave 
not to be missed
still in my fingers as I write this
still in my body somewhere
to be drawn upon when the dance is of heat
of relentless sun...
but not now
now is winter
now the leaves are swirling in towering dervishes
not from heat
but rushing cold 
waves of arctic air washing across the city
across my body
in my mind
now is winter

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

the Search Poem or "Let Me Tell You a Story"

This is the poem/homily I wrote for my ministerial fellowship committee appearance, and I've shared it with my Interim congregation as well as for colleagues.

It is personal, and yet it has the feeling of journey, of search, that many people such as Unitarian Universalists have or are going through in their religious life. It is not finished, and I hope to continue to build on it as I learn of other ways to enter religious journey by being a minister to the society.

Let Me Tell You a Story
by Rev. Jim Parrish (all rights reserved)

Let me tell you a Story!
It’s not very long,
And from me a little story
Is so much better than a song!

It’s a story about a young man, or woman, 
or other,
our seeker, if you will
Who ponders the stuff of the universe
Or verses the stuff of ponds and windmills

Either way, it is a wondering done
about God, or Buddha or trees
lots of thought about love and war
And some questions about the workings of knees

There was trying to make sense of biblical lore
Which seemed kind of fanciful, sexy and sad
Because the God therein was loved by its people
though they couldn’t tell if he was happy or mad

And Jesus was a Rabbi who rocked the boat
filling the Mount and Plain with ancient words
Love thy Neighbor as Thyself…
But the neighbors were Roman Curs...

So his life was shortened to minimize the pain
But the damage had been done
God as Love became a Gnostic sermon
and Christ followers worshipped in common homes

But God as love was too universal
speaking to power in a passive voice
and arguments broke out about theology
with unity and trinity as opposing choice

So Christianity became complex and loud and bold
with theologians competing for a Patron
Emperor Constantine was looking for an army
it seemed a marriage made in heaven

Now, The joining of politics and religion is very old
The power of state held by goddess or god
its been all the rage and fashion for us
since humanity started breaking the sod

So even with a reformation, the seeker thought
And Enlightened the west became
Religion and state - state and religion
was a state we couldn’t declaim

So in our story the testaments surrounded our seeker
its gospels culturally embedded
Which made for a great deal of confusion
In knowing just where they were headed

Religion and God had so many meanings
for war, for peace, for science
it was hard to decide which banner to follow
which dogma, or creed to be compliant

Discouraged our seeker thought, and exclaimed
What about the East?
Maybe some enlightened thought to find
to sit with in silence - give my soul some ease

Becoming a Buddha seemed a natural goal
A quest to a higher station
And our seeker, in a religious whirl
Could use some quiet meditation

It made sense that all life is suffering
that suffering we would sit and reduce
grasp hold and use the eight fold way
begin to peacefully walk life through

But our seeker also has a fire inside
that wants to right some wrongs
and Buddhist thought struggles sometimes
to be an active force in the throng

So try as our seeker might
to float peacefully through this world
something inside called out for action and change
like a flag in the wind unfurled

So what is Religion… our seeker cries
Why is there no easy meaning
something that I can hold in my emotional breast
and yet… to my head not be so demeaning?

Why can’t I have action in Love
while attaining inner healing?
Why do the religions fidget so much?
Don’t they all have the same meaning?

but religion seemed to mean so many things
To so many of those around
That our young seeker twirled and whirled
and went falling, falling, stunned to the ground

Yet, while down, down with face in the turf
some marvelous things were discovered
The earth felt, well earthy, smelling rich and alive
and our seeker began to recover

What if god were here, thought our seeker, in the earth where I lay
god evolved from the very dust as we?
That would mean we are part of it
and all of it is part of me

And if this earth is who we are
and what we are going to become
then a question, the question must be asked
Where, where did this dust come from?

Then our seeker turned over and gazed up, out and away
into the far burning stars above
and fell into the yawning universe
falling deeply, deeply  in love

To lay grounded and flying all at once is fantastic
floating high while holding onto the earth
with stardust falling all around and around
our seeker’s heart and mind almost burst

My science classes, the seeker exclaimed!
I remember, I remember it all now
there is so much more that we do know and claim
more than many religions will avow

How we evolved from the very dust I lay
into creatures great and small
Everything is related to everything else
and us related to all

How marvelous a happening
An unfolding evolution to behold
mysteries of Trees and knees were answered
and secrets of life were told...

but science didn’t answer all of the questions
like why love and war still fought
why the universe was flying apart
and how a brain might have a thought

Again our seeker was perplexed
with life’s answers still incomplete
science told the truth,  but religion held love
and sometimes both cried... deceit!

So, discouraged that no answer from all the above
came no closer than  42
our seeker wondered if life is just a long, lonely journey
with no destination we might come to?

But “wait” our seeker sighs,
if there is one thing on this journey I’ve learned
is that I hold both religion and science
in my body and my souls concern

I’ve learned that religion can be true
and that love can be science
And that politics, if it were to make any sense
must listen to the technician, and the pious

I see that Love is found in relationships
As Jesus was trying to tell
and a most important connection there
is knowing ones own Buddha-self

So my journey as a human being
Is to find a way to bring
all of my ways of seeing the universe
into focus and esteem

To not dismiss a religious myth
because it is untrue
but let its lovely human story
hold my hand in life’s ado

To let truth become my starry guide
with love to provide it substance
I’ll pay attention to the inner self
so my relationships have my full essence!

With this resolution in our seeker’s heart
the journey was nearly done
but a story is sometimes  incomplete
without a riding into the sun

We visit again our young ponderer,
who is now a little old
but has never given up the seeker’s quest
to find the human soul

This seeker found that the journeys road
was life itself, you see
that answers led to questions, questions to answers
so that the journey - the journey was the key

But seeing is not as easy as being
And being is sometimes a thorny crown
if your questions are a little different
and you’ve never conformed to the crowd

The pursuit of the “why” of life
can become wearying, and lonely
So our seeker Sought company,
someone who might share an "existential interrogatory"

But where might this community be?
One that respects questions profound
But doesn’t limit its search
To one book, or prophet, or tired old blood-hound?

That place, I suggest, in this story at least
is one that we in this UU movement might offer
a respite from the seeker’s journey
yet many more questions to proffer

A place, or a gathering of seekers, of doubters,
to whom a small truth is a golden heart,
who see the question as only the beginning of life
and love the journey that it starts

And I hope, beyond hope, that the seekers will find us
so they are not wandering alone
that we can learn from their unique journey
and the seeker can have a home

And I hope again that we as a community of seekers
Haven’t the full journey forsaken
By clinging to our own pathways so tightly
That our world cannot be shaken…

 (to the congregation)
Look around you… there are many seekers here today
With many different poems describing their journey

A journey that takes us from birth to death
A human adventure in living fully in this universe

Shall we continue on that journey together
Covenant to hold each other in love
As we continue our traditions dialogue

Dialogue between seekers at the edge of understanding
At the edge of Religion and Science
Learning and practicing love and inclusion
So that we may lead ourselves and humanity to a better way

Let us step on that path, again and again and again
And I promise to be a companion on that path
What else could I do that could be more important?
What else could I do?

So may it be

Closing Words:
As my meditation master said every day at 5am, 9am, 1pm and 6pm for a week, 
momentarily breaking the silence surrounding us…
You must practice… 
Begin again, Begin Again, Begin again

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thoughts on Fall Wind

Wind I

Falling leaves dance above the pavement
in spiraling yellow and orange
a single leaf defies gravity
riding an updraft
serenely floating, almost stationary
except for a lazy spin that captures me
in its other world

Wind II
Grey air full of mist
blown south to north under full clouds
challenge my wipers to a contest of sight
in the brief clarity of an arc shows
a darker cloud in the sky above
a fluttering flag across the highway
one end attached to a power line
the other waving wildly free
then the starlings
blown struggling from their roost
regain their composure
rein in their companions
and furl the flag into a black line on the wire

Jparrish 2013

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Walk in the Dark

I took an evening walk in the park across from my apartment complex last night and as I strolled in the dark remembered a "science fiction" story I read when I was young. It was a story that I didn't quite get. Oh, I enjoyed it as a modern reading of Vampires and other Creatures of the Night story, but the plot twist didn't impress me completely for some reason. In this story it seems Dracula had come alive in a distant future where children, nor anyone else, were afraid of the dark! There were no street lights in neighborhoods, and children played into the night. Dracula, and the other scary creatures that showed up in this darkness thought this was a perfect environment for them, and yet, they had no traction with the children, no "scare cred!" They were just people who were different, and no fear could be found in these kids, which threw Dracula's game right off... had to re-think his whole schtick! So he and Franky (you know who) eventually just gave in and they all played together until the kids had to go home. At least that's how I remembered the ending. 

Why wasn't I so impressed with the story? Well, it struck me as I walked in the dark... I grew up on a farm where artificial light was not the norm at night just like those kids! I understood how they felt from an experiential standpoint. Nighttime, or darkness, did not scare me so much. At the very least I had to deal with night as a part of everyday life so it was not a wonder, but a fact I could understand. I did know about those “forces of darkness" the children were seeming ignorant of as I knew those stories as they had not, and so I did marvel at the twist of fate this "monster" narrative presented.

So as I walked in the darkness last evening, I wondered how many people might not be able to do so. Might not be able to savor its emptiness that invites speculation, as a place to play, but as shadowy invitations filled with an apprehension or fear that they grew up with, or create themselves. 

A story like this leads me to think that as we mature, we need to be stepping into our shadows, our places of fear and darkness, and deal with them as their owners and creators. When we recognize a place of fear inside of us, of people, places and ideas of difference, let it be an invitation of discovery, hopefully to find that if we do not give that place in us the power hurt, it has none of its own. You may want to invite a friend or counselor in this play, because shadows have meaning, and playing in the darkness becomes part of our discovery of self as we exercise and stretch who we might be. And eventually we'll go home, and the creatures of the night will wander off, puzzled and changed also, maybe to return as a friend.

Just a thought to share on a dark night.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Begin Again, Begin Again, Begin Again...

My vipassana meditation teacher would say at the beginnings of our sitting:

"begin again, begin again, begin again" 

So we would settle into our breath and body and mind... some might say soul, observe and learn to return to ourselves, our practice, as best we could. 

Good lessons. 

I stumble into "begin again," and restart my practice of "Theoluugy."

Friday, July 19, 2013


Early on the lake
awake with the sun,
lighting the air with dragonflies
darting about in their serious flight
expert aerialists
I fantasize an aircraft as deft,
as crazily capable of hover and zoom
as these iridescent pilots
plucking breakfast out of the air
in clouds of acrobatic showmanship
four wings, how wonderful!
I fly with them briefly
in the early light
on the lake

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Our Culture and Bin Laden's Death

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

We shake our head and think how "uncivilized" or "fanatical" others in the world are when they overtly celebrate an event embarrassing the U.S. But we are not much different are we. To lead a world to peace and democracy we must be thoughtful in our actions and humble in countenance. Celebrate what is comely and true and mourn when violence is done, even in the course of justice. Because an injustice was deeply built into the violence, into the need for justice, probably too deep to remember the original slight.

I suggest a culture of candle light vigil and meditation to note events of importance like the killing of Bin Laden. If Times Square was lit with thousands of candles singing "We Shall Overcome," the mingled joy from the relief of  years of an unfulfilled expectation would be tempered with the realization of the huge costs in lives violence causes. We would come together knowing that events of great joy and those of great sorrow are not so far apart in the circle of our lives.