“Burn Baby, Burn”

Why would the American people vote a rapist into the office of the Presidency of the USA? Donald Trump is a rapist, by his own telling, by his own words we heard him speak. If you think all of his women accusers are lying you still have Trumps own words how he did it! Electing someone like that to be President of the United States would be an act of violence like a riot. We have all seen riots on TV. After the Rodney King beating in 1991 we all watched as Black people burned their own places and houses. White people watched and said, “Why would anyone burn down their own houses?” Maybe some of us finally saw that the riot was an act of desperation at injustice.

Voting for Donald Trump was an act of desperation by many people. They were burning down their own houses by electing him!! The terrible thing is, they may do it again! Even so, it took more than rustbelt pain to elect Trump. It took all the push Russia and Putin could give, and it took the desire of the super wealthy who wanted a President who would continue the neoliberal trend to bring public wealth into private hands. I don’t know how many Americans were really aware of what social philosopher Sheldon Wolin called “inverted totalitarianism” as a description of the true American ruling system, but they were certainly aware that corporations have assumed power over the people! Those in the rustbelt knew that fact in a gritty daily grind of painful life. Like the Black Americans who rioted after Rodney King’s beating, they set fire to America by throwing in the molotov cocktail of Donald J Trump, rapist, liar, conman, thief. They gave him the keys to the kingdom and said, “Here! Burn it down!!!” Only too happy to comply Trump has done exactly as they wished!!! Trump is the end of America for as far as the eye can see. His true guiding slogan is not “Make America great again.” It is “Burn it to the ground and burn baby burn.” I think all of this is still unconscious within the minds of millions of Americans, including many Democrats who have yet to really grasp the truth behind Trump! Inverted Totalitarianism cannot be fought at the ballot box. It would take national strikes and millions in the streets like the Occupy Wall Street movement began. Without that, a second Trump term with finish the burning of America and give us the dawn of a new dark age of Chinese/Russian primacy. It’s only check will be from the global collapse of climate change which will make habitation of this planet very difficult indeed for any human race.

My Life Will Have To Do!

I went to Southwest Baptist University and got an B.A. in a double major, Theology and Speech/Drama. For the latter I got elected to Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities. I did graduate work towards my M.Div at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I did a pastoral internship and became a licensed Southern Baptist minister. However, I was not very happy with that denomination because they were becoming very right wing and anti-intellectual. But it was in seminary that I received an “inner call,” not to be a minister but to be an opera singer. Without any formal training in voice I entered the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air in 1974 and won. I was given a two year apprenticeship with the Santa Fe Opera and made my stage debut there, then with the Tulsa Opera, which nourished me during my early years. I sang at the Metropolitan Opera in a Gala Concert in 1975 and was awarded the Gladys Axman-Taylor Memorial Award for being one of the ten National Winners of the Met Auditions. I moved to New York in 1975 and began studying with Jerome Hines and Cesare Bardelli of the Met and coached with Alberta Masiello, the head of the coaching department of the Met. For two years I had a mailbox at the Met because so many people were writing me there. Every day I would come in the side stage door and check my mail.  I made my New York stage debut in 1980 at the Brooklyn Academy with the Chamber Opera Theater of New York, in an opera by Sir William Walton called The Bear, based on the Chekhov farce by the same name, and received a great review from The New York Daily News. I became a member of Jerome Hines’ personal Opera Company and sang with him for 20 years. In 1981 I starred in the New York premiere of Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera, Mozart and Salieri, and received highly favorable reviews from New York critics as well as 100 critics from all over the world. From that point I sang leading roles in all the major opera companies in America and some in Canada and Europe. Some of the fun times were when I sang La Traviata  in Central Park with the New York Grand Opera. We also performed it at Coney Island and in Brooklyn. Also, in Lincoln Center, I sang a summer concert with the Guggenheim Concert Band.

I won several awards: Besides the Met Auditions, I won the national award for the WGN Auditions in Chicago and the Bruce Yarnell Memorial Award for Baritones in New York.

My European debut was in 1984 as Verdi’s Rigoletto which I played at the Belfast Grand Opera House as part of the Northern Ireland Opera Festival. One performance was broadcast over radio by the BBC. It was still dangerous over there then. We had a judge in the chorus who always had two body guards with him. The theatre itself celebrated Queen Victoria being named Queen of India and was ornately dressed with huge elephants all over the theatre, carved ones of course. The Director was the very famous Nicholas Hytner with whom I got along famously. Hytner went on to make many hit movies and became director of the National Theatre in England.

 

I was fortunate to sing with the great opera singers of that day who were international stars. I always felt my work in opera was to inspire my audience to look upward and ask the big questions in life: “What is Truth, Beauty, and Love.” Art cannot give the answers but it is very good at turning one’s gaze upwards. In short, I was trying to inspire people with my singing and acting. I felt that I could do it better on a stage than from behind a pulpit! But I did not lose my interest in theology. Far from it, I completed and finally received a legal Th.D degree in 2016 just out of my desire to finish something I started long ago.

I was Professor of Voice at the University of British Columbia, Indiana University, Perdue University of Indiana and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I am retired now but still teach a few students. It has been a long road from Carthage, and could have been longer. In 1982 I sang a concert based on war and peace, half in Russian (which I learned) and half in English, all high song literature on the subject, including Mussorgsky song cycle, “The Songs and Dances of Death” (sung in Russian). The sponsor for the concert,  which was to be held at Marymount Manhattan College in Manhattan,  invited the United Nations delegation from the Soviet Union and the delegation from The United States. The American delegates did not attend, but the entire Russian delegation came and filled the first three rows of the theatre. At the end of the concert, they rushed up on stage to thank me. The lead delegate said to me “That was real Russian you sang!” and we talked for a few minutes. He said he would try to get Goskoncert (the Soviet Art Agency, to invite me to perform in Moscow. All sorts of Congressmen recommended me to them including Rep Taylor from Missouri, but in the end it didn’t happen. In the course of my career I sang for US Representatives, Senators, Consuls, and Ambassadors. I almost sang for Jimmy Carter.  I met him in the elevator going down to my rehearsal! Stars of the Met became my good friends and even were my fans. At the Met, James McCracken, Jerome Hines, Ezio Flagello, Carlo Cossutta, Teddy Uppman, Gilda Cruz-Romo, Marilyn Niska were all my fans and I was their colleague. Those were the days!

Galina Vishnevskaya, the Russian soprano, who was exiled from the Soviet Union along with her husband, Rostropovitch, chose me to sing the leading Russian Baritone role in Tchaikovsky’s Opera, Iolanta, which she was to direct  at the Salzburg Festival. From hearing me sing, she thought I was Russian, so my Russian must have been pretty authentic. I sang the role of Boris Godounov many times in Russian. It was a role that fit me well, perhaps because I learned it from my teacher, Jerome Hines, who was one of the great Boris’ of all time. I received many reviews from world critics which placed me at the top of my operatic profession. But I developed personal enemies among the moguls who politically control opera because I would not depart from my goals to use opera to inspire people and uplift them. I would not do crazy things like wear a space suite and pretend to be singing on the moon, or sing totally nude! Such idiocies were creeping into opera even then. But I did the best I could to fulfill my dreams to use opera as an inspirational art. Hundreds of my performances are on youtube and have been seen worldwide now. I wish I could have done more, but the miracle is that I did all that I did fighting against congenital heart disease. I sandwiched my career in between three open heart surgeries.  My life will just have to do! 🙂

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Let us live in our Love and our Song

Let us leave the world of unforgiveness behind and live in our Love and our Song. The Song is not formal music. It is the eternal call to Home that the spirit hears in every rock and leaf, every grain of sand, every child’s face, every dog and cat’s response to our love for them. The Song is in you. I hear you singing it so sweetly. Oh precious Jesus how the world sings the song you know so well, the song of Oneness in praise of the Love that we are.

The world that was created by fear and anger we can now view through the eyes of newness. No longer must we see the world as separate factions fighting one another. We have forgiven the world of strife we created. Forgiveness now rests on our brows and on the world’s. Now can we see Heaven’s reflection made so perfect in the world. Now that Love has come into aching hearts, the need for time is almost gone. The One Song sings beautifully throughout a world which knew it not and all creation gives thanks to you and to the Creator. Now do we see the steps to Heaven’s gate on which you stand. Now we have no need for the world which served us so well with lessons to be learned. The time for learning is over. The time of the great rejoining has come and every tiny part of all universes has come to join the One Song we sing. And tears of joy come in recognition of the vast ages of time we have entered bodies to remember our eternal Self, One with the Creator, AND WE ARE ALL THE BELOVED. Gently do Heaven’s doors open to receive back its One Son. Gently does the Creator’s arm reach out and gather His Son back to Himself. Less than a tiny moment was taken to heal the tiny mad idea that seemed to set the Son on His long journey. The time for time is over. Now in eternity does all-encompassing Love flow unimpeded through a universe of spirit created by the Song. Forever shall we flow. And shall our little days as individuals be lost forever in Oneness? Oh no, dear ones. Every loving thought you ever had, every loving deed, is perfectly remembered within the Christ Mind that flows through Heaven. And now we say Amen for the time of learning is over and the time of rejoining has entered eternity, with you my loved ones, with you, and you, and you, and you, with your animals and children and every thought of love that lighted your little mind as an individual. Home safe we are, and we shall never leave again. No more dreams will enchant us. We are Home. Love has found itself at last…at last.

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Surviving a spiritual disappointment

Surviving a spiritual disappointment…It does sometimes happen in life that a spiritual leader we have trusted falls and when s/he does, it hurts a lot of people. It can happen in any religion. I think of a family I know who were devout Catholics. Everyone of their children were baptized by a beloved priest. Many years later it was discovered that that priest had been involved in child molestation. The entire congregation was hurt by this. But they did get help from others to understand that the fall of that priest did not negate God’s work in their lives. The offending priest was removed and the congregation has recovered with help. We have to realize that people can fail, but God cannot. Perhaps it would be better if we realized that the spiritual growth and healing we receive does not come from any special person but from God. All of us are children of God and all of us share the Father’s ability to extend His Love and help others. When healing comes, it comes from a family or congregation of people who extend love.

I once new a Baptist sponsored university in which one of the most beloved professors had a spiritual fall. Because all of his life had been directed to such good things and had helped so many people, that when he had his spiritual fall, people did not rush to judgment but looked to understand what psychological trouble he was having. Instead of firing him from the faculty, they made sure he got the counseling he needed to heal. In time he was able to back into teaching but at another college. Those who had been hurt by his fall were counseled and the impact on them healed.

Those of you who went to see John of God and had a blessed, loving, and even healing time, are now confused and hurt such the terrible fall from grace John has had. It may help to think of it the way I have discussed these other cases. God’s work was done by God, not by John. John the medium has been terribly damaged but in this case the medium is not the message. Many people DID in truth experience a wonderful healing time with John of God. Ram Dass even went to Abadiania to see John and he spoke about what a beautiful spiritual environment it was, so that he could compare to his own teacher in India. Ram Dass is not a man to be easily fooled. Dr. Wayne Dyer experienced a great healing through John of God and spoke to everyone about it. There was a time when good was there.

John the man has fallen and his falling has confused and hurt many people. People can fall. The Apostle Paul said,

“But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit]. The Amplified Bible
1 Corinthians 9:27

People can fall. Let us not. Supposedly the wisest man in the Old Testament was Solomon. His writings even became included in Scripture. But the last thing we hear about Solomon is that he fell from the faith of Israel having gone off to worship other gods and taking foreign wives. (I Kings 11:4)

If you have been tempted to reject altogether the good experience you received under a minister who later fell, examine your heart and see if that is what God would have you do? Keep in the Light. Remember all the loving things and the love will eventually heal the pain. 

Birth and Spirit

When your mother was carrying you, you were hovering around, sometimes nearby, sometimes following where she went and always looking in on the baby inside her. As a spirit you thought about your many lives you have lived before and your decision to live again, this time with this mother and father and the history you would be a part of. Even before you made the plunge and joined that little body inside her womb, you felt your mother’s love for you. You felt her little pats, the hugs of her body as she carried you. You watched what she ate and enjoyed her pleasure at eating those dill pickles. As she walked through the park you went with her, flying just over the tops of the trees. You weren’t quite ready to make the plunge yet and enter that tiny body. (In Dr. Joel Whitton’s book, Life between Life, hypnotized patients recalled their experiences like these before they were born.) You watched your father too and got a good feeling for him. It was the quality of the love shared by your mother and father that sent a message into the spirit world which you applied to accept, to come here again and have another lifetime that would give you lessons you need to learn. Your mother provided so much of your early training. Her breast milk would feed you, not just with nourishment, but with oxytocin, the love neurotransmitter. You would learn love from your mother’s breast milk. But nine months before that oxytocin played a huge part in your process. When your father sent his sperm to join with your mother’s egg, oxytocin was released with his sperm! See, there is just no way, you can get away without love! 
Then came the big day, probably somewhere around the last trimester, and you decided to join that little body in mother’s womb. There were angels around you helping you take a deep breath and jump! Your mother felt it when you landed into her! She called to your father to tell him. He ran over to your mother and placed his hand on her tummy. More oxytocin was released!!!!!! You settled down in that little body in the womb and sort of took a cat nap, aware but comfortable, like you remember a former life, being in your jammies in an old chair. Boy (or Girl!) did you get to know your mom!!!!!!!! Every thought she had. Every feeling, every hope, every joy and every fear. That’s OK as long as there was not too much fear. You had a chance to sympathize and empathize with her during that last period before the BIG DAY! BIRTH!!!!!! You had been floating so nicely, bobbing and weaving within that nice pool of amniotic fluid. But now earthquakes!!! The sides were shrinking and you were being pushed down. Your mom was getting a little scared but dad was there smiling like everything was cool! You were being pushed and shoved through a tunnel but there was a light at the end of it. There was only one way you could go, like you were being flushed!! Out you came flying like a greased pig at the fair! Then this alien in a white space suit grabs you and spanks your bum!! It hurt and you began to cry!!! But then the big alien guy layed you on your mother’s chest and you just knew those nipples were made for you! You docked on and out came the best oxytocin you have ever tasted…and the milk was great too, as sweet as cotton candy and plenty of it! That was day one of your new life on earth! Wow, back another time for another go round of tests and lessons! Another chance to learn to love yourself and others. Another lesson simply to learn to be kind to everyone. You may get 60 or 70 or 80 years to learn this so pay attention! The time will fly away.  Then you will fly away too but the love you have learned you get to take with you! 

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A Letter to the Father

Many of you know the story of how I went to seminary and intended to be a professor; how I felt deeply I was in the wrong place but didn’t know where the right place was. One of my dorm mates was an opera buff who had every opera record under the sun and listened to them morning, noon, and night. I listened with him for the year and a half I was there. Something about those great voices grabbed me down deep somewhere in my psyche and I bought some and began listening to opera while I was studying. Then one evening, a strange thing (for me then) happened. I clearly heard an inner voice say to me “your characters could be your sermons; the stage could be your pulpit; the theatre could be your church; the audience could be your congregation.” Now go put feet to your faith.” This shocked me! Baptists do not hear voices! Maybe Pentecostals do but not us Baptists. You have to understand that I had never had any serious voice lessons. I sang in choirs and sounded no better than anyone else. But just before I heard the voice, I remember praying almost through tears, “Father please tell me what to do. I don’t feel like I belong here.” Maybe that is why I believed it. I took a little step by faith. This was a new kind of ministry. I left seminary and got a job. When I wasn’t working I was listening to opera. This went on about six months until finally one day I opened my mouth to see if I could make a sound like those guys on the records, and out came the operatic voice I have had since! A friend came by and said “Hey, you’ve got quite a voice. You ought to enter the Met Auditions.” I didn’t know what they were but I said sure. I filled out the application, got some music for some hard bass arias and set to learning them by listening to records. I went down to sing the first level of the Met Auditions in Tulsa and had no expectations. I just sang and was named one of the winners. I was even given an apprenticeship with the Santa Fe Opera and the Tulsa Opera sponsored me and gave me grants. I thought to myself, “Gee, this opera business is a snap.” I had absolutely no social preparation to help me deal with this new profession. And I found out that not everybody would like me. I would have real enemies to fight. But I did my best, sang big roles in big houses. I made some mistakes and after singing in this world 11 years I made a personal mistake that took me off the stage. I kept thinking I would find a way to get back on, but I never did. I became a university teacher instead. But all through this era my heart was aching that I had failed in this new ministry that I had been divinely given. Friends were well meaning when they said, “It’s all in the past. Just move on!” But they didn’t understand the miracle I had been given and how deeply it had hurt me to feel I had not fulfilled what I had been given. I was still a minister at heart even when I was an opera singer.

Today, I wrote a letter to God and made a little boat with my recordings in it and my reviews, and I set it on the ocean when the tide was going out. I am going to share with you that letter.

Dearest Father,
I know that you know my thoughts and that you are here now as I type these words, but it is good for me to write to you this way. I love you with all my heart Father even though I scarcely know how to love, even scarcely know what it is. But you know me and knew me since before all time when I was and still am a part of you. I am a thought in your mind. It feels like I have been away from you a long time, but I know that is not true. I have just been dreaming a dream which to me seems long, but it really was over a long time ago. I am not making very much sense am I? I feel your heart in mine, dear Father. I have almost come for the time to leave this body and set sail again within the world of spirit. It is all a part of the dream which you can’t know because you know that I am safely inside your Mind. Thoughts leave not their thinker. But the Holy Spirit came with me into my dream. He witnessed my birth into this imaginary world. He saw how I so often thought of you. He saw as I viewed my part in my dream as a hero who would help people to remember you. He saw our Song awaken in my heart and formalize itself into a singer in this dream world. My career as an opera singer was the most important thing in my life because you gave me the gift to sing. Your Holy Spirit told me in Seminary that “my characters could be my sermons; the stage could be my pulpit; the theatre could be my church; the audience could be my congregation.” Then your Holy Spirit said to me, “Now go put feet to your faith.” I believed it Father. I knew it was True and that it came from you. I went into this strange, cruel, but wonderful world of opera and I sang with all my heart. I was surprised when some people didn’t like me, because my voice was from you. Along the way I sang as best as I could and I thought of you every time before I went on stage. I made some personal mistakes which I know you have forgiven me for. But I had a hard time forgiving myself for them. They took me out of the world of opera and took away my stage where I had my church. I felt like such a failure. I so wanted to use my voice to help others awaken. I thought my tears would never end for the loss of my career as a singer. You could not know my dream, of course, though you knew I was dreaming. But the Holy Spirit saw and felt everything that happened to me. He saw my tears and my broken heart. He saw the way I had to work in a cruel, cruel world of opera where the men who ran it were asleep in their own dreams of indifference, hatred and usury.
But Father, after the dream of opera changed, I learned more and remembered more. A new dream of awakening into love’s Presence came to me. On the shores of Burnaby Lake with beautiful ducks and geese, birds and fish, water and flowers, I remembered us more. That dream of awakening is still playing out in me. Father, I loved singing, but I give it back to you now as my gift to you. Here in this little boat that I have set adrift to the ocean, there is a computer stick, with all my songs, and all my reviews. They are my gift of thanks back to you for the song we share. Now I will finish the work I began at Burnaby Lake. I will fully remember you and see the face of Christ in all my brothers, even the dark ones who dream nightmares, and who will laugh at the silly old man who writes to God. But that is OK. I do not care. We can speak now all the time if you want Father. I have nothing on my mind but you…and my brothers because I keep seeing the face of Christ in them!

Your Loving Son,
Joseph

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The Body was made as a place God could not Enter.

You who made the body made it as a little temple for illusions. Believing it a place where God could enter not, you created it to house all your illusions. Every little pain and thought of separateness you hid within its tissues. Every horrible thought of a world without love you poured into the mold of the body, and thinking each thought safe from investigation you left it there and denied it. Every thought of fear and attack found its home within this sickly little temple you made to pain. This sickly little temple to pain cannot abide Love’s Presence. It would move through each sad tissue of the body with loving touch and release those illusions that you believe in so dearly. Every memory of abuse you suffered and the image of your abuser would have to go with the entry of Love’s Presence. And so you have gone through the years, holding your illusions and their painful presence, wrapped tightly within the tissues of this little temple, almost forgetting them, except when they escape from a Loving touch, a sweet smile, a caring thought from others, the touch of a cat that loves you so much this little brother has chosen to live his life with you. At their release the body for the moment feels weakened, so accustomed to being the bearer of sadness, and so sure that it is a victim come here to this life to stagger and die. Now do you see how deeply you have been misled by illusions of pain and evil. They have lived within the sinews and muscles of this body temple, asking for release, and you denied them. Letting them go seems too much to you. You fear that the body could not live without them. And yet there is a welcome little touch that would allow them to quietly leave and make room for Truth. You have not yet felt the Truth for which you seek, that you are still as God created you. “The body was not made by love. Yet love does not condemn it and can use it lovingly, respecting what the son of God has made and using it to save him from illusions.” Touch someone today with Love, a little pat, a touch of the hand, or maybe more. God’s son is waiting for someone to touch him and begin the flood of release that will save him, and you with him.
bench into eternity