Sunday, March 31, 2013


The bird sang,
singing to the beauty of day and light,
from the afternoon through the night,
and this sweet music was the very last,
the most utterly sweetest collection of sounds of all,
and why Jesus wept.

Hearing the sweet song,
he remembered the time before time,
he remembered the Artist forming time
and all being, and being formed within and from it all
—and though he knew that the bird could not know this,
he and the bird and the song would meet in Paradise.

And thus it was that,
on the third day,
the sun rose,
and the bird sang for joy,
and the bird’s song was heard
both in this world and all the others.

© 2013 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Day That Got Away

A festival:
a day of joy,
of laughter and song,
and girls strewing flowers
before an endless procession
of light and laughter
mixing with gentle breezes
to fill the air with community.

the noonday sun clouded over,
and the day started to get away;
tensions flared,
fights broke out,
blame was laid,
a friend accused falsely.

The procession,
now hostile,
led by police,
marched the prisoner
from one place to another;
tried by officials,
tried by the public,
the prisoner soon convicted
by opinion,
then summarily executed
for the public good. 

Can an idea
(of compassionate community)
really be so wrong?

Gentle breezes
continue to fill the air
of our public square,
empty now and quiet;
that day of joy
has now become
a day of mourning.

Even so,
flowers continue to bloom
under the watchful eye
of a blameless sun.

© 2013 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ubi Caritas Et Amor

What could be more Divine
than Loving Community,
where we are gathered
to be for one another?

Let us be joined,
braided in love,
filled with, and renewed by
and thanksgiving.

If indeed it is Holy
that we are gathered as one,
let us not be given to quarrel;
may no unkind thought enter
to divide us from the dignity
to which each of us is equally due,
in the name all that is Holy.

Within the due completion
of every compassionate act
of love and understanding
is the reminder
of The Artist’s exultation:
It is all Good!

Since we are together,
may we ever be joined
and braided in that union,
renewed and fulfilled,
and kind.

To be for one another
is the reason that we were made,
that we might, that we must
gather in Loving Community,
now and eternally;
Therefore, let us always be found here,
in celebration, in service, in joy!

© 2013 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Saturday, March 16, 2013


by my lady, Python,
it was a sacred bridge
over a toxic chasm;
those rising vapors,
that did not dull or kill,
to the adept.

Then, someone said:
if such knowledge is power,
they should not have it;
it should belong to us

First came one hero,
who slew Python
and kept her skin
as a trophy.

Then came another,
who stole Tripod
and kept it
as a trophy.

Then they made copies of it,
to give away
at the games
—(the rude joke:
it should be ours, anyway;
it has three legs
as a trophy.

In sum,
the tool was taken
by those who had no use for it,
to become a symbol

The mistake,
in all of this,

was taking the tool
to be equal
to the act
of opening
to the holy granting
of knowledge,

was taking the sacrifice
to be a formula
that could be repeated
and reenacted,
written, embellished,
—even redacted
and gutted,
like the snake—
as if the ritual
would always result
in the holy grace.

Deafness and blindness
are the modern trophies
of such hubris;
beyond this truth,
Oracle continues to hear,
but will not speak.

© 2013 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Meditations on Institutional Dilemmas

Religion is all about promoting ethical action. Government is all about promoting justice.

Or are they?

Senior clerics in Iran criticized President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for consoling Hugo Chavez’s mother with a light embrace at the state funeral for the deceased leader; physical contact between unrelated men and women considered sinful according to current Islamic codes of behavior.

Prominent Cardinals are now in Vatican City participating in the conclave that will select a new Pope. Several of these Cardinals have been implicated in covering up child abuse scandals, or financial or other improprieties—yet they do not recuse themselves from participation in the conclave that will select the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

Westboro Baptist Church, of Topeka, Kansas, has actively protested against homosexuality, abortion, Judaisim and Islam, and Roman Catholicism, and hosts of other things. Protest is one thing; hate-filled vitriol being poured out as free speech is another.

Here’s the thing: Religion is intended to guide people toward ethical interaction. Government is supposed to insure justice. What is all too apparent is that the humans who lead these institutions are not always following the intent that has been laid out in the scriptures or laws they are supposed to be stewarding.

This leads the average person to confront a huge moral dilemma: Follow institutional interdiction just because someone at the head office says so, or do what is right and just despite the interdiction.

The real-world results of this dilemma create a huge psychological mess, not to mention a whole lot of civil litigation. We are all riding two horses, at various times. It is a world-class case of cognitive dissonance of crowds!

Hillel the Elder is quoted in the Talmud as having said “What is hateful to you, do not do to another”, and likewise, the second century Rabbi Akiva cites Leviticus 19:18 as the greatest commandment in Jewish doctrine: "'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”  The Christian Gospel message of Jesus is “Love thy Neighbor as thyself.” The Quran clearly defines moral standards in Chapter 17:22-37, and Islamic jurists of the Middle Ages introduced many modern seeming civil rights concepts and freedoms, even for women, that have appeared in constitutional law during the past two hundred years.

That rights and freedoms are restricted, that “neighbors” are infringed upon and excluded, that civil rights are not being upheld for all individuals, such are amoral and unethical actions, and yet is so transparently visible among those who have been assigned moral authority.

When the institutions have been hollowed out by immoral and unethical authoritarians, who act contrary to the standards they are meant to uphold, what is the “believer” to do?

The case of the Pussy Riot punk rock group and its public political protest against the cult of Vladimir Putin and his governmental repression on Russia, particularly from the standpoint of women’s issues, from within the sanctuary of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow is very interesting. The Putin regime has been befriended and supported by the Russian Orthodox Church. In support of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Putin regime has suppressed and restricted Protestants, despite the fact that the post-Communist Russian constitution allows freedom of religion. Protestant churches have been closed, with charges of spying or money laundering or other impropriety; Protestant denominations have been labeled “cults” and have been spoken against by church leaders in media. Democracy is not being demonstrated in such actions, and neither is Christian charity. Good old-fashioned authoritarianism is apparently alive and well in Russia, but not only in Russia.

What is an ethical person to do when the authorities are corrupt? Does corruption irreparably taint the institution? What happens when good people follow bad leaders and false precepts?

I do not have an answer for you. If I had an answer for you, I would not want you to follow it.

You must follow what your own heart and mind tell you, what your connection to the Divine speaks in you or your sense of what is right tells you.

I can tell you that I long ago answered that question for myself, and the answer is illustrated by the following story from the Buddhist tradition.

Once there were two monks traveling when they arrived at a river. At the river they discovered a woman struggling to get across. Without a second thought, the older of the two monks asked the woman if she needed help, then swiftly picked her up and carried her across to the other bank.

For Buddhist monks, especially in ancient times, any contact with the opposite sex would be strongly frowned upon, if not forbidden. The actions of the older monk greatly troubled the younger monk, who allowed his feelings to fester for several miles, as they continued their journey.

Finally, the younger monk confronted the older monk, "How could you have done such a thing? We are not even supposed to be in a woman's presence, but you touched her, carried her even!"

The older monk calmly replied, "I put that woman down miles ago, back at the river. But you are still carrying her."

The younger monk realized the older monk was indeed correct and they continued on their journey.

Monday, March 11, 2013


When silence,
core and center,
light and shadow,
motion and color
to speak,
heavenly murmurs arise.

music flows,
softly, subtly,
from this stream of vibrations,
radiating omni-directionally,
braiding forward and backward,
weaving up and down,
spinning and creating

as we are,
in patterns sonic
and bright,
it is difficult
to know, to see, to feel
how it all came to be,
or to apprehend
that where we
all come from
is one place.

© 2013 Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Friday, March 8, 2013

Thoughts on International Women’s Day

Today is International Woman’s Day. This is not a day I celebrate; it is a reminder to me that, while “Baby” (Wow! Remember that patronizing Virginia Slims ad slogan?) has come a long way, there is still a huge distance that needs to be crossed before there is anything remotely like equality among genders, let along among races. This kind of recognition day seems a hollow sort of political lip service, not a day of genuine respect and honor.

Here is brief rundown of a few of recent international news items that prove the dream of gender equality and mutual respect is still a dream:

  •  Todd Aikin, former republican member of the House of Representative, serving Missouri’s second district declares that women who are “legitimately raped” do not get pregnant.
  • A female medical student in South Delhi is gang raped, her male companion beaten. This woman died of her injuries. In Delhi, incidents of rape are reported to authorities every two hours.
  • Rainer Bruderle, a pro-business Free Democrat in Germany reportedly commented how well one female journalist could “fill out a dirndl.”
  • An Indonesian high-court judge, interviewing for a position on the Indonesian Supreme Court, suggested that women might "enjoy" being raped. (He did not get the appointment he sought.)
  • A Vatican assessment found that The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, whose members represent 80% of Catholic nuns in the United States, have fallen under the sway of radical feminism and needed to hand control of their group over to a trio of bishops.
  • Malala, twelve-years-old student and education activist from Pakistan is shot in the head.
  • Ireland has only just acknowledged and officially apologized for governmental complicity in consigning women who had been labeled as “fallen women” to prison-style laundries run by Catholic nuns, where they labored for no pay. More than 10,000 women worked in 10 laundries from 1922 to 1996.
  • Medical research tends to focus on male research subjects.

I could report more, but I think that is unnecessary. Women of today, if they are allowed to work, earn between 20% and 30% less than men for the same work. Women are frequently denied reproductive, as well as other, health choices and resources. There are governments and religions that do not allow women to work outside the home, to receive education, to show their faces in public, to be seen in the company of men other than male relatives. The women are told that these policies are made out of respect for them, that men were made to serve women; however, if disputes occur where there is a woman involved, it is always alleged to be the fault and responsibility of the woman, and the woman is made to suffer abuse and punishment at the hands of spouse or other male family members that is either condoned or ignored by officials. Millions of women and their children, worldwide are endangered by domestic abuse, war, trafficking, slavery, pollution, political and financial inequity.

The celebration of the beauty, strength and bravery of women should happen everyday. Likewise, men need to be celebrated, too. I am grateful for the many women in my life, starting with my own mother, who have shaped me as a person by being strong role models, pioneers and trail blazers. And I am grateful for men who have been role models, pioneers and trail blazers.

I would rather see all such recognition days fade away into the kind of world community that offers mutual respect as a primary motivating force within a Commonwealth of Humanity.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

On a Wooded Path

                     for Emily and Ian on their 13th Birthday
gentle rain
on a wooded path.

Two drops
sought safe harbor
on a mossy leaf.

They gleamed like gems
reflecting light upward,
from whence they came.

The clouds saw,
they smiled,
and they sang.

The leaf trembled,
the gems shimmered,
all joined in dance.

No better music
can ever be
than this.

© 2013 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen