“Sonnets from the Portuguese:” Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Valentine to the World

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Sonnets from the Portuguese” has nothing to do with Portuguese or translations therefrom, and everything to do with Browning’s attempt, on behalf of ardent lovers the world over, to put into words what they often experience as the overwhelming, uniquely frustrating desire to bottle the wind, capture a star, cavort with the moon, and fully articulate the welter of emotions coursing through them at the sound, sight, touch and smell of their beloveds.

“There are no words…” lovers often say (if they are lucky), trailing off as they rock and roll, like an ocean liner atop roiling seas, with the emotion that both demands and makes impossible their word-bound expression...

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“Defending Democracy”: A Guest Post by Reverend Jim Burklo

The blog post below by my longtime friend and United Church of Christ Minister Jim Burklo so well encapsulates many of my concerns regarding the challenge to our Constitution and standing in the world posed by President Donald Trump that it felt redundant to fashion my own treatment of this same basic subject matter. Jim is the associate dean of religious life at the University of Southern California, the author of three books, a former church pastor, and prominent spokesperson for the movement known as “Progressive Christianity.” The only addition I will make to his essay below will be to add to the end of his quotes from President Trump a fourth one from the current (February 13 & 20) edition of The New Yorker magazine, which places in highly sobering context the seriousness of the concerns many millions of people across the country have after the troubling first three weeks of the new administration.

*...

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On the Inherent Worth and Dignity of Every Person

The gist of the headline above represents the first of seven principles that lie at the core of my Unitarian Universalist faith tradition. During my congregation’s church service this morning, I delivered the following reflection on the subject.

I have always loved the human pageant. I remember as a young man sitting in coffee shops or on park benches, admiring the passing parade, the ceaseless flux of humanity like the most gentle and warm tides. Lovers strolling slowly by, kids gamboling across the grass like lambs in spring, and over yonder, a spirited soccer game between Ecuadorian and German immigrants.

I look into those wild frightening eyes, and I ask, ‘Is there some scintilla of worth and dignity in there? Is there anything recognizably human and good within that shell of a body and a life gone so horribly wrong?’

It’s easy to feel an almost overwhelming love of humanity in such settings...

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One More Thing I Was Wrong About: Bernie Would’ve Won

So yes, we wuz robbed:

Fidelity to an antiquated, fatally flawed electoral college system that violates every tenet of one-person, one-vote.

Active voter suppression efforts in key Southern states.

Russian hacking.

Fake news.

James Comey.

But we were also wrong.

So, so wrong.

***

When Donald Trump announced his candidacy, a couple of friends and I engaged in a long-running email laughfest that treated him as the joke we thought he truly was. Surely, such an obviously uninformed, narcissistic buffoon and royalist billionaire had zero chance of becoming president, but we would at least enjoy the comic value of his candidacy while it lasted.

So, so wrong.

On the other side of the aisle, Bernie Sanders rode some of the same heat of anti-establishment rhetoric as did Trump, but with the key difference that he was actually informed and articulate...

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Hungary and Syria: A Tale of Two Diasporas

We are born into a particular place to particular people, absorbing the world we find and then habituating to its rhythms and requirements. The routine of being cared for intimately in a state of comfort and stability is our natural desire and need; children cannot thrive without it.

That said, human beings grow to become curious, adventurous and mobile creatures, often, though not in every case, ranging far from our original habitats in voluntary pursuit of economic betterment and new experience.

There is an involuntary shadow side to our mobility, however. Sometimes, life confronts us with forced relocation when famine, political upheaval or war (those three are often related) give us little choice but to leave our nests and strike out, in desperate circumstances, for the great unknown.

When this involves great swaths of a population, it merits the biblical term “diaspora.” (Deuteronomy 28:25, from ...

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