“O spiritual soul, when thou seest thy desire obscured, thy will arid and constrained, and thy faculties incapable of any interior act, be not grieved at this, but look upon it rather as a great good, for God is delivering thee from thy self, taking the matter out of thy hands … The way of suffering is safer and also more profitable than that of rejoicing and of action. In suffering God gives strength, but in action and in joy the soul does but show its own weakness and imperfections.”–St. John of the Cross (noted in Dorothy Day’s diary for Friday, August 18, 1936).
“Let the Reader Beware”
a poetic disclaimer
To err is human. I am
Human. I made this blog.
May have errors. Beware.
I think, therefore I am.
I get paid to think,
Write, and otherwise
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The content of my soul
And this blog. Beware.
My employer is blameless,
For what you find here.
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Sorry. This is the way
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On occasion, the content
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Thank you, dear reader,
For spending your time
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Internet bog. Enough,
I say of all this due care!
Read on, dear reader, read on!
By Rose Marie Berger
I’m very grateful to Heidi Thompson for designing and managing the guts of this Web site and to Hilary Doran for creating the artwork/logo. This blog is a personal endeavor and is in no way related to my employer.-RMB.
In further thoughts on foodsheds, I once interviewed the wonderful farmer-poet Wendell Berry who said:
When you take away the subsistence economy, then your farm population is seriously exposed to the vagaries of the larger economy. As it used to be, the subsistence economy carried people through the hard times, and what you might call the housewife’s economy of cream and eggs often held these farms and their families together. The wives would go to town with eggs and cream once a week, buy groceries with the proceeds, and sometimes come home with money. Or they’d sell a few old hens, that sort of thing.
So that’s the first lesson to learn about agriculture, as far as I’m concerned: It needs a sound subsistence basis. People need to feed themselves, next they need to feed their own communities. That’s what we’re working for now. We want to develop a local food economy that local producers will supply and that the local consumers will support. It’s ridiculous that we should be importing food into this state while our farmers are suffering.
Living near 13th and Euclid Sts. in downtown Washington, D.C., means I buy my food from the Giant supermarket in all its pre-packaged glory. This summer I actually had a small pot of grape tomatoes that grew on my front walk. I’d pop one in my mouth on my way in and out of the house, trying to get to them before the little creepy-crawly guys.
After living in Columbia Heights for 22 years, I’m thrilled to see the influx of farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture projects that are available for all economic levels (ie they take credit cards as well as WIC cards and food stamps).
I also take vicarious pleasure in the new generations of “dumpster divers” with whom I am acquainted. Ryan is especially an expert at reclaiming delicious food from the trash at Trader Joe’s. (See The Tao of Dumpster Diving by Ryan Beiler.) He’s trained several other teams as well. The Harris Teeter that’s opened up in the next neighborhood over looks like it will be a great gleaning site.
All this reminds me of an exercise I’d love to explore one of these days…mapping my food shed. This is all part of the ongoing “practice of permanence” that I’m playing at as a faith discipline (see monastic “vow of stability”). Below is an excerpt that lays out the basic food shed idea:
The term “foodshed” is similar to the concept of a watershed: while watersheds outline the flow of water supplying a particular area, foodsheds outline the flow of food feeding a particular area. Your foodshed encompasses the farm, your table and everything in between.
The modern US foodshed includes the entire world. Much of our food traverses the globe to reach our dinner table. In fact, food can often travel back and forth thousands of miles to different processing plants before it eventually reaches you.
Here’s a good section from StopWaste.org in the San Francisco area also on mapping foodsheds:
Start exploring your own local food supply. Who is still growing food in the area? What about neighboring counties? What is it like to be a farmer? What are they growing? Where does their farm produce go? How long have they been farming? How do they care for the soil? How do they decide what to grow? Who does the farmwork? How are they treated? What about food products, such as yeast or roasted coffee beans, or value-added products, such as salsa, jams, tamales, or bread? Who are the local producers of food and food products? Are there any you can support? What does your local food shed need? What is missing?
Foodsheds are particularly useful in describing and promoting local food systems. When we look at our agricultural system in terms of the origins and pathways of our food items, then it becomes easier to expand these pathways and focus them at the local level.
Autumn is a wonderful time to do a little food mapping. Figure out the genealogy of your main meals. You’ll get a whole new perspective on who’s coming for dinner..
On January 14, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King took time out of his busy speaking schedule to travel to the Santa Rita prison to meet with and offer his support to anti-war activist and singer Joan Baez, her mother Joan Bridges Baez, her sister Mimi Farina, and others imprisoned for blocking the Oakland draft induction center. In an impromptu press conference outside the jail, King reflected on civil disobedience and the nature and cost of prophetic leadership.
“Henry David Thoreau said in his essay on civil disobedience that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. I do not plan to cooperate with evil at any point. …
“I’m not a consensus-leader. I do not determine what is right and wrong by looking at the budget of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference or by taking a Gallup poll of the majority opinion. Ultimately, a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but he is a molder of consensus.
“On some positions, cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.”–Dr. Martin Luther King (January 14, 1968, in front of the jail in Santa Rita, California)
Listen to the whole podcast here.
In Harmony With God
by Rose Marie Berger
When Jesus uses it, ‘perfect’ means to be in harmony with God. To be in harmony with that dynamic change that God made part of life. Life changes. So perfection is learning to be in relationship with the changes in life. To be human we have to undergo changes. The focus is not so much on physical change as it is on spiritual change. When we choose to move closer to God, when we deepen our love and we spend more time in those kinds of thin spaces, we get a deeper sense that God loves us. But we could also choose the opposite. We could choose to move away from God. We could choose to control a kind of static world, and we could live in such a way that we resist growth at every step. Because God’s love is without limits and because we are made in God’s own image, we can never, in our human love, reach the limit of our ability to love.
Source: Radical Grace, Vol. 19, No. 2, the Center for Action and Contemplation
Congress is moving rapidly to enact a gigantic taxpayer bailout of the financial sector, with a potential cost of $700 billion or more than $2000 per American citizen. The folks at PublicMarkup.org believe, as Justice Brandeis said, that “Sunlight is the best of disinfectants,” and that all legislation ought to be open to public comment and consideration in real-time, not just after the fact.
So, as a public service, they’ve posted for public comment the 44-page proposal currently in front of Congress from Senator Chris Dodd (Chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs) and the eight-page text of the “Legislative Proposal from Treasury Department for Authority to Buy Mortgage-Related Assets.”
Section 8 of the Treasury Department documents states: “Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.”
Isn’t it this lack of oversight and “just trust me” attitude that got us into this mess? “Budgets are moral documents” as we say at Sojourners, repeating the Hebrew prophets..
I had a wonderful time Tuesday night at the Servant Leadership School in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Thanks to Tim Kumfer, I was able to debut material from my upcoming book Who Killed Donte Manning?: The Story of an American Neighborhood. It’s due out in May 2009 from Apprentice House press at Loyola College in Baltimore.
I appreciated the response from the audience who asked the essential question of our day – and maybe any day: How do we maintain hope in times of despair?
Since we were talking about urban architecture and how it influences the soul of a community, I answered citing Mark 13:1-2 as an example. And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” and Jesus replied, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down.”
When we survey the “great buildings” around us – which we might understand to be the overarching architecture of despair – we hear Jesus saying: See this mighty facade meant to intimidate you and make you feel small and helpless? I say to you: Not one pebble of despair will remain because I will destabilize these monuments to might by cracking their foundations with hope.
Hope is a decision we have to make every day. Just like they say in A.A., you’ve just got to be hopeful for the next 24 hours. We are surrounded by a world that is addicted to despair. The addiction is to hopelessness, and therefore helplessness. But we can decide to resist that addiction by being intentional about choosing to live in hope. We make that decision every day, one day at a time.
One thing that helps us choose hope is by breaking down the architecture of despair into its component parts. Learn the details of the stories inside that architecture. In every way and in all places, the actual human stories within the facades will reveal – yes, terror, yes, great injustice – and also, always, human ingenuity, compassion, love, acts of kindness, an irrational acts of hope that crack the foundations of the architecture of despair..
On Tuesday, September 16, at the Servant Leadership School community dinner, Rose Berger will give a sneak preview of her forthcoming book Who Killed Donté Manning? A Spiritual Journey in Columbia Heights. Dinner starts at 6 and goes ‘til 7, with soup+sandwiches provided by The Potter’s House for $6. The Servant Leadership School is a program of the Festival Center, and is located at 1640 Columbia Rd. NW. Call 202.328.0072 and ask for Tim Kumfer for more information..
Joe Ross and I are very grateful to have our Cut Loose the Body: An Anthology of Poems on Torture and Fernando Botero’s Abu Ghraib Paintings mentioned in the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ study guide Torture is a Moral Issue. See the quote below and consider downloading the study guide:
Torture raced to the center of public attention in 2004 when startling photographs depicting prisoner abuse by American soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were published and broadcast widely.
While our primary, immediate concern in this discussion guide is about the possible use of torture by the U.S. government, an organization known as the Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition (TASSC) reminds us that torture currently is practiced by more than 150 governments of the world. Those who are tortured include the apolitical and the politicized, says TASSC. In chapter 4 of this discussion guide, we’ll listen to the voice of a survivor of torture who was taken captive because her work with poor children in Latin America was considered suspicious.
“We thought the word was gone.… We thought ‘torture’ belonged to a foreign language.… We were wrong,” write Rose Marie Berger and Joseph Ross, the editors of a book of poems and paintings about torture titled Cut Loose the Body (American University. Washington, D.C. 2007).
Is it surprising that in our third millennium torture has emerged as a matter of great public concern? Perhaps not, and we’ll discuss the reasons why as this chapter unfolds
It surely isn’t surprising either that Catholic leaders speak out about torture. Why? First, torture is a moral issue for the Church. Second, as a participant in its surrounding world, the Church wants to contribute to society in positive ways, by sharing insights and values related to the most pressing matters of the times.