Noblesse Oblige

By Matt VanScoik

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I recently had the opportunity to go to Rome. Gary Krupp, an author I work with through the author publicity division at my company, Bohlsen Group, used to build medical facilities in New York, but his life has taken a more esoteric turn. For the last few years, Gary and his wife, Meredith, have been running a non-profit called Pave the Way Foundation, whose main goal is to build relationships between religions. They helped the Vatican digitize its archives, are helping to re-open the Orthodox Halki Seminary in Turkey and regularly help arrange interfaith tours to Israel, among numerous other things.

One of the projects they are working on now, be it by providence or happenstance, ended up being assigned to me. “Pope Pius XII and World War II: The Documented Truth” is a compilation of primary-source international evidence that reveals the wartime acts of the Vatican.

“The most noteworthy part of my trip was of course meeting Pope Francis himself.”

The Vatican has had more than its share of public relations problems, and I had always heard, as many have, that Pope Pius XII was either silent during the Holocaust or even complicit. As I began to review the evidence for myself, cracks began to form in what I thought I knew to be true.  Although it still seems to me that the Vatican supported Fascist governments to an extent, it is abundantly clear to me that the papal household and the Nazis had a deep gut-wrenching hatred for each other.

Among the interesting things t4295-06928hat you can read on Pave the Way Foundation’s well-organized library of 76,000 pages of documentation are: Nazi intelligence documents that name Pope Pius XII as a collaborator in the famous Valkyrie plot to assassinate Hitler, Nazi plans for the invasion of the Vatican and the assassination of Pius XII, and documents that show how Pius XII used his own life as leverage to halt the arrest of the Roman Jews.

Every day of this trip to Rome got more and more exciting to me as someone who is interested in military affairs, history and religion. At one point I told Gary that I needed to find a basement, because these jaw dropping experiences required me to find something deeper than floor level to facilitate the further extension of my dentition.

The most noteworthy part of my trip was of course meeting Pope Francis himself during a public audience where we presented him with a coin to commemorate a trip he had made to Israel.  I spoke some broken Spanish to him and he shook my hand with the tired but bright eyes of a man carrying the burdens of being both a political and spiritual leader who is trying his best to make a difference in a chaotic world.

“Noblesse oblige,” is a phrase I kept hearing during my trip. It means with nobility and station, comes great obligation.

Self-care: First step in the journey toward healing

By Dan Carpenter

“I am the most important person in the world.”

For many of us, all it takes to utter that proclamation is a little brass or a sense of humor.

For those on the journey to recovery as codependents of persons addicted to alcohol or other drugs, it is an act of liberation and of courage.

For the codependent, the journey upward and forward must first be a step back and a look inside.

For the codependent, the addiction is The Other – he or she who is out there God knows where doing the Devil knows what, and taking family and friends along for the ride to destruction as helplessly as he himself or she herself is carried.

The alcoholic, knowing better, takes one drink. Back home, the wife, the father, the lover, the friend worries, waits up, works the phone, prowls the bars, pays the bail and the bills, issues the ultimatums, shouts the indignation, pleads for common sense, makes excuses to the drinker’s boss, concocts lies for the neighbors, and generally sacrifices health and happiness to the cause of saving the life for which the codependent feels responsible.

Knowing better.

“For those on the journey to recovery as codependents of persons addicted to alcohol or other drugs, it is an act of liberation and of courage.”

Knowing, if he’ll just review his own record and consult the wealth of literature and the vast experience of others in his fix, that it doesn’t work.

Not helping the alcoholic hurts those of us who love him. Hurts like hell. And guess what? Helping the alcoholic hurts him. Often, to hell.

Freeing the alcoholic to find his own path to sanity and a decent life means overcoming one’s own aversion to feeling selfish. It means embracing self-care. It means stepping back to accept the futility of denying one’s powerlessness, and looking downward to find the sources of one’s impulses to control, to cure and to play the martyr.

It’s scary, just like the fundamental change that the alcoholic must undertake in order to escape the opposite trap of self-absorption. In each case, the most important and most avoided person in the universe must be confronted at last – the true self, warts and all, needs and not-really-needs.

In neither case can the journey be made alone. Just as not drinking and not using have proved impossible without the fellowship of love and without a surrender to a Higher Power of some definition, so goes the challenge of learning to sleep with the phone turned off, to spend the lawyer money on a long-overdue vacation, to tell your husband’s boss nothing and your own boss you’ll be happy to take on that time-intensive extra project. Oh, and did I mention Al-Anon and Alateen and meetings, sponsorship, meetings, prayer and meetings? Just like “your” alcoholic and his/her program. Only from this foundation of honesty and self-worth can real generosity be accomplished.

And guess what? “Your” alcoholic is very likely to feel, not resentment, but riddance from a resentment that codependence has only aggravated. That’s in the experience and literature also. In other words, you’re not alone as Number One. Go for it.

 

Dan Carpenter is a former columnist for The Indianapolis Star and the author of two books of observations and opinions from his long journalism career, Hard Pieces and Indiana Out Loud.   

Join is Nov. 8, 2014 at Fairbanks Recovery Center for Spirit & Place Festival event, “From Addiction and Loss to Wholeness.” Learn more

To Make Sure You Get There Alright

 

Matthew-BoultonBy Matthew Myer Boulton

Maybe it’s because of our location, once described as the country’s frontier and now as its heartland, “the crossroads of America.”  Or, speaking of roads, maybe it’s because our signature sporting event is a celebration not only of speed but also of the very idea of a 500-mile journey.

Whatever the reason, the notion and experience of a journey has always been close to the Hoosier heart.  Some of us travel far and wide.  Others of us basically stay put, welcoming travelers with that legendary Hoosier hospitality.

I say this as a relative newcomer, my family having moved to Indianapolis from Boston just a few years ago so I might serve as president of Christian Theological Seminary.  Now, Boston is a friendly place – but there are differences.

“The notion and experience of a journey has always been close to the Hoosier heart.”

My very first week here in town, I found my car nearly out of gas, and so asked a stranger for directions to the nearest gas station.  After providing them he offered to follow me.  A bit taken aback, I said, “Why?”  I’ve never forgotten his answer.

“Well,” he said, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, “to make sure you get there alright.”  Still a bit off-balance, I declined his offer – but as I drove to the station, I smiled all the way there.

We still have a long way to go on this journey we call “Indiana.”  There are too many hungry kids in our neighborhoods, too much violence in our streets, and in our homes, and in our hearts.  The great teachers and traditions often turn to the theme of journey in their stories and instruction – and this is no accident.  It’s part of the genius of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, for example, that the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, end not in the promised land, but on the verge of it:  in sight of the land of milk and honey, but not there yet.

We’re not there yet either, and we need the best in our traditions to propel us and challenge us to take pride not only in the distance we’ve traveled, but also in the distance we will travel today and tomorrow.

“We’re not there yet either, and we need the best in our traditions to propel us and challenge us to take pride not only in the distance we’ve traveled, but also in the distance we will travel today and tomorrow.”

One of the most beautiful ideas in the Christian tradition is the idea of vocation or “calling,” of living life as an answer to a kind of summons.  Dag Hammarskjold, former secretary-general of the United Nations and a man of extraordinary spiritual insight, describes it this way:

“I don’t know Who – or what – put the question, I don’t know when it was put.  I don’t even remember answering.  But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone – or something – and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.”

Which is to say, his life became:  a journey, a great adventure of discerning and living out what we are meant to do, what we are inspired to do, what we are drawn to do – drawn as if by a magnet outside of us that pulls on something deep inside of us, something that’s been there all along.

What we may need most are intentional, extraordinary conversations about this kind of journeying, and this kind of purpose.   Not only so we can each clarify our own callings but also so we can support each other along the way:  whether we find ourselves at a crossroads, or turning around a great track of 500 miles or more that always, in the end, brings us back home.

So let every Hoosier follow his or her own path – but let us also take care of each other, all of us, as we go.  And if any of our fellow travelers ask us why, we can always say, “Well, to make sure you get there alright.”

Matthew Myer Boulton is the President and Professor of Theology, Christian Theological Seminary

In The Beginning

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy John J Domont

It is said that the journey of 1000 miles begins with the first step.

My first step was an experience of awe.

At the ripe old age of 15, I was playing football with some friends one autumn afternoon. It was a normal day of cool temperatures, deep long shadows and fading light.

At one point the ball bounced out of play. I went to retrieve it. As I picked it up and turned around to go back to the field I was confronted with and struck by a moment of universal reflection. In simpler terms, it was if the sky cracked open and I became aware of being aware and in commune with the greater consciousness of life. Martin Buber’s Ich und Du, (I and Thou)

I returned to the game and asked my friends, “Do you not feel that something is missing?” “Throw the ball and play,” was the response.

“My practice is my journey and my art is the expression and revelation of its moments, lessons, deeper experiences of contact, and intimacies.”

This experience transformed my life and set me on the path of “searching.”

That day has strengthened me by giving me perspective. This has affected my entire life and set the tone for what I value in myself, and others. It guides me in knowing that we are all on our journeys, our paths of unfolding and awakening. We are often (and naturally so) unaware of the lessons and layers we are learning and being grown by. Seeing towards the universal allows me to have a sense of compassion and empathy for everyone.

My life has been one of searching, contacting, and expressing. I am not here for the mere pleasure of it all, we learn, we grow, we care, we transform. I am not here merely for the role of “survivor.” The story, the journey, the river are stories and opportunities for intimacy. Intimacy with self, others, place and experience. The practice of making art is my place in the human community and this sets the vector of my offerings, whether they are creative or reflective. My practice is my journey and my art is the expression and revelation of its moments, lessons, deeper experiences of contact, and intimacies. For me it is this path of acknowledging and being open to the continual experience of “unity” with the whole that guides and fuels my living.

 

John Domont is an award-winning visual artist who has exhibited worldwide. He is the recipient of a Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship from the Arts Council of Indianapolis and has served as United States Artist Ambassador to Thailand and Peru.

Journey

Abbey MacPherson-StolenBy Abbey MacPherson-Stolen

When my parents asked me if it was okay to take part in the court case that would be suing the State of Indiana, I was shocked. First I couldn’t believe that we were asked to take part in such a huge event, but then I was so excited and couldn’t wait to help out.

“People often ask what it’s like growing up with two dads.”

People often ask what it’s like growing up with two dads. In fact, it’s probably the most common question I get. Having no other experience to compare it to, I often find myself at a loss of words. I mean, it’s not like we have a nightly gossip circle around a bowl of popcorn right before we go to bed about the make-up of our family. We honestly do the typical, boring things that every other family does.

So, here we are, a normal family taking part in suing the State of Indiana for equal protection rights. I went with our group of plaintiffs up to the 7th Circuit court in Chicago in August. It was really fun. They asked me to speak in front of the crowd when we went to the rally. I honestly don’t remember what I said, just that I tried my best not to mess up in front of the huge crowd of people, especially when there’re TV cameras in the back.

Some people are proud of me for what I’m doing, saying that it takes a certain amount of courage to go up in front of the world and share my story with them. What I’ve learned about myself is that it doesn’t. I’m just doing what I would hope others would do in my position. In this case, I have a chance to help so I’m going to take it.

“I’m glad that other children won’t have to grow up in that mix of confusion and anger.”

The ruling of the courts won’t make too much of a difference in my family because we know who we are and are comfortable with our lives. I have learned and truly believe this is way more important to others and the other same-sex families with children. I know what it’s like growing up and the confusion of not having your family recognized by your home state. It was really confusing for me when I was younger and I just didn’t understand. I’m glad that other children won’t have to grow up in that mix of confusion and anger. That is the main reason I’m glad to be a part of this court case and why I strive to make a difference.

Abbey MacPherson-Stolen is a student at University High School.

Play’s the thing

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By Bernie DeKoven

“The play’s the thing,” says Hamlet, “Wherein I’ll catch the conscious of the king.”

“Play’s the Thing,” (without the “the”) on the other hand, is the name of a, well, play. A very playful play. About playfulness itself. So it’s not really play that’s the thing, but playful play.” Think of it as a playful play in which everyone plays, playfully.

The actors are very playful people in deed – all members of CSz Players. They’ll be playing, all right. Games. Playful games. Playful actors playing playful games playfully. Then there’s the storyteller who’ll be telling stories, also playfully, about playfulness.

The stories, which are taken from storyteller Bernie DeKoven’s books and websites, are all about pursuing whatever journey you are on, in whatever stage you find yourself, playfully.

The two experiences, the games and the stories, augment each other, giving each more depth and more relevance. The goal is to help you remind yourself of your capacity for playfulness, and how you can use it to build a better life, a better community, better health, richer spirit, deeper truth.

Bernie has been teaching playfulness for over 40 years. He was one of the co-directors of The New Games Foundation. His two most recent publications are The Well-Played Game, and A Playful Path

The first theatrical performance will take place, more or less coincidentally, Nov. 16 at 1 p.m. at Comedy Sportz Indianapolis.

You are so invited to be part of the fun: fun that you’ll be sharing with the actors, with the audience, and, ultimately, with everyone who is lucky enough to meet you.

You’ll find Bernie’s websites here:

A Playful Path
Deep Fun

A Boy Who Finally Spoke Out

Norbert image1By Norbert Krapf

There was once a boy in a German-Catholic town in southern Indiana who was sexually abused by his pastor.  So were many other boys in this parish, but they could not tell their parents.

Why not? Because their parents revered the priest who founded their new parish. The boys knew no language in which they could tell the horrible story of what this respected priest was doing.

The boy kept this ugly story to himself through high school, college, grad school, and beyond. When the boy married a Cajun girl who had been a member of a religious order in Louisiana, he told her a priest had abused him, but no more.  He wanted to move beyond the trauma, bury it, move into the light.

He kept his secret through the decades he taught at an East Coast university, a college of further education in England, and two German universities at which he taught American poetry on Fulbright grants. He wrote narrative poems telling the story of his family’s history, their roots in Germany, and his childhood and adolescence.  But never the filthy story of what the priest did to him. His poems were published in magazines and anthologies, chapbooks, full-length collections, and won some prizes.

“For fifty years I stayed in my safety zone before crawling down into the darkness, to let the gutsy blues rise up into my mouth to begin to heal myself and others.”

Every time this boy-man read in newspapers about boys abused by priests, however, he became upset. These stories reminded him of his secret past. Something changed when he retired from teaching at sixty and moved back to Indiana.

When he returned closer to the scene of his abuser’s crimes, memories came rushing. When a newspaper told about a priest who abused boys in three parishes in Indianapolis and was transferred to a parish in southern Indiana, it became clear. The man had to speak the boy’s truth.

● ●  ●  ●

Yes, this is my story, told as a folk tale. Why was I wrong to remain silent? Since the 1960s, some of my greatest heroes have been the Old Testament prophets and the great blues masters, because they told stories of pain, hurt, and injustice, to help others heal and live better lives. I had to find a way to tell my story.

I worried about the invasion of privacy that might victimize my wife and children if I exposed the abuse, but soon the decision made itself and poems started erupting. Like a volcano, 325 in one year. The poems came as a dark gift from the subconscious, but it took seven years to get the poems, myself, and my family ready for publication.

When Catholic Boy Blues: A Poet’s Journal of Healing appeared, many people wrote or told me their stories of surviving child abuse.  Other readers, I knew, kept silent. Some were angry because I poked into old wounds they felt should be left untouched.

One reader told my publisher the book was “just pornography,” because I several times used the “p” word (not pedophile, pedarist, or predator) that names the male member. If only she could get this book banned, I thought, everybody would read it and many children would be saved. After holding the beautiful baby boy my adopted Colombian daughter gave birth to after the book appeared, I sobbed to think my grandchild could be as vulnerable as I once was.

But I understand why anyone would find it hard to tell a story that makes readers uncomfortable. For fifty years I stayed in my safety zone before crawling down into the darkness, to let the gutsy blues rise up into my mouth to begin to heal myself and others.

 

Author Bio

Norbert Krapf, a Jasper, IN native, is a former Indiana Poet Laureate and a 2014 winner of a Glick Indiana Author Award (regional). Emeritus prof. of English at Long Island University, he directed its CW Post Poetry Center. His 26 books include eleven poetry collections, such as the recent Catholic Boy Blues: A Poet’s Journal of Healing, Bloodroot: Indiana Poems,  Songs in Sepia and Black and White , and a childhood memoir, The Ripest Moments. He has a jazz and poetry CD with Monika Herzig, Imagine, and collaborates with bluesman Gordon Bonham. With poet-therapist Liza Hyatt, he has created a new workshop based on Catholic Boy Blues and her recent The Mother Poems, Mining the Dark for Healing Gold: Writing About Difficult Relationships.