“I think love is the only answer.” – E . Glenn Hinson [Part One]

The Only Love Project’s Bill Murphy and his wife Beth spent an extraordinary two-and-a-half hours on May 5th, 2016, with Dr. E. Glenn Hinson, author, scholar, teacher, and former friend of Thomas Merton, the world-renowned Catholic monk and contemplative. After introductions and a trading of hellos from mutual friends, we settled down in Glenn’s enviable home library for a conversation that ranged far and wide – and was never less than fascinating. What follows is what transpired.

NOTE: Because of the length of this interview, we are publishing Part One today. In a couple of weeks, we will publish Part Two.

Enjoy!

BillGlennLibraryBM: I appreciate your time today. We can start with the questions I ask for the Only Love Project web site: Please briefly tell us your background. What would you like others to know about you?

MiracleOfGraceGH: Well, I think of my life as a miracle of grace, which is the title of my autobiography. I was born into a family of conflict. My father was an alcoholic, and my earliest memories of anything are of my mother and father fighting verbally and physically. In 1937 we moved to a farm in Sullivan, Missouri, and shortly after my father left, and I grew up in poverty in the Missouri Ozarks. It was one of those areas, which – during the Depression – people made $50 a year, especially farmers. Of course, they could survive on $50. They could grow a garden and do things that kept them going, but what has happened in my life has just been miraculous in a way.

When I finished high school, I went to Washington University in St. Louis, and then during that period I experienced a calling to ministry of some kind; not very clear what kind that would be. As it turned out I have been an academic my whole life, my whole public career, but I came to Southern Seminary. My mother remarried, and my step-father was stationed in the Coast Guard here in Louisville, and we lived here for one year and then moved back to the farm in Missouri, and it was a natural choice for me to come to Southern Baptist Seminary which at that time was a very prestigious school. Today it has fallen far from what it was at that time. It was one of the leading theological institutions in the United States.

IMG_3933As it turned out, I decided to pursue graduate studies in New Testament, and I taught New Testament for one year, and then I was asked to switch to church history mainly because of my language facility. I could read the languages required for teaching church history. The first year I taught church history, I did this foolish thing. I took the class to the Abbey of Gethsemani in 1960. I didn’t take them to meet Thomas Merton. I took them to expose them to the Middle Ages. And they were exposed to the Middle Ages. But Merton was our host, and he talked to us about the monastic life and then asked if we had questions. One student asked what I feared one would ask. “What is a smart fellow like you doing throwing his life away in a place like this?”  Well, I waited for Tom to open up his mouth and eat that guy alive. He didn’t. He just grinned a little and said, “I am here because I believe in prayer. That is my vocation.”  You could have knocked me over with a feather. I had never met anyone who believed in prayer enough to think of it as a vocation.

IMG_3878Well, at any rate from that time on I took students every semester to Gethsemani, and Merton invited me to klatches that he had in his hermitage. I was in the first one, June 10th, 1961, and he asked me back a number of times with little groups – ministers, professors, and various others from the area. That was to be really determinative for a second calling I think that I had as a teacher. I began as an academician, church history, and I went on to get a Ph.D. in early church history, patristics (“the study of the early Christian writers who are designated Church Fathers”) at Oxford University. I had a very deep interest in that, and Tom Merton was very interested in patristics, too. He often asked me questions when we went down. At that time, though, I didn’t know very much about monasticism. Monastic history is something Protestants didn’t touch. We weren’t interested in places like Gethsemani. But I have to confess Continue reading

“My approach to love is action, bringing love into the world through loving kindness, compassion, what we do.” – Dan Millman

DanBestPortrait copyIn March, 2016, The Only Love Project’s Bill Murphy conducted this phone interview with Dan Millman, author of Way of the Peaceful Warrior (among with 16 other books).

Thank you, Dan, for packing a tremendous amount of wisdom into a relatively short period of time.

DM: Hi, Bill. How are you doing?

BM: Dan, doing well. How are you doing?

DM: Well, I am fine, yeah. Just looking forward to our time together.

BM: As you know from my lengthy interview inquiry, I got to be doing what I am doing mostly through observation. I saw a lot of contentious anger, volatility, rancor, on Facebook primarily. It didn’t matter which group was doing it, conservatives, liberals, Christians, atheists – didn’t matter. It was angry no matter what people proclaimed as their religious or political foundation. So I thought, “What could solve this problem?” That’s when I started to look at the traditions of love, and thought, “I think we missed something along the way.” So that’s how this project came to be. I have been studying this for about a year and a half, two years now. I interviewed a lot of people and gained some insights and even helpful direction from a few of them – suggestions I really have appreciated. Your books, and the Peaceful Warrior movie, all you do seem tailor made for this project, so I am really excited to chat with you today.

51Z2Plm-yHLDM: Well, happy to do so. I will just follow your lead and I like an improvisational approach.

BM: Excellent. For The Only Love Project web site, I ask everybody the same eight questions. You can answer any way you wish. Depending on what you say, I may follow up with a question. But, more often than not, I just let the person I interview speak his/her mind.

First question: Briefly tell us your background. What would you like others to know about you?

DM: Well, for those unfamiliar with my work, Bill, I started – I woke up. I was born, let’s say, a second time when I discovered an old trampoline in summer camp, and I could have never ever guessed how just jumping up and down on a trampoline might lead to the rest of my life, but I got pretty good at it. Eventually won a world championship in London in 1964, and that led to Continue reading

“Religion without love is like breathing without oxygen…God is love.” – Carl McColman

In October, 2015, The Only Love Project’s Bill Murphy (BM) spent an enjoyable and fascinating hour on the phone with author and columnist Carl McColman (CM) CarlMcColman whose latest book Befriending Silence: Discovering the Gifts of Cistercian Spirituality will be released on November 20th, according to Amazon.

Carl has written over a dozen books on spirituality, blogs regularly on the popular Patheos web site, and is a seemingly inexhaustible source for both encouragement and information – all presented with self-deprecating humor and keen wit.

Many thanks to Carl for his time and insight!

BM: The first question is, “Briefly tell us your background. What would you like others to know about you?”

CM: How do I do this briefly? That’s the tricky part. I think you could call me a seeker.  I was raised in a Lutheran home, and I in my mid-50’s now. Over the last 40 years I have really kind of wandered. I got involved in Charismatic spirituality for a while. In college, I gave up on Christianity and did sex, drugs and rock and roll for a few years. Yes, you can quote that. It’s a little embarrassing, but there it is. Then I washed up on the shore of the Episcopal church and was an Episcopalian for a decade. I have been interested in interfaith dialog since I was in high school and from the Episcopal church I went and spent several years exploring Neopaganism, and did that for seven or eight years until that path ran out of gas for me, and then I revisited something that I had also been interested in since high school — the contemplative tradition of the Christian faith which for me really meant connecting with Catholicism. So I was received into the Catholic church in 2005.  It’s been over ten years now, and I am still a Catholic. Like many Catholics, I do struggle with being a Catholic, but I love being a Catholic so that’s where I am. In 2007, I entered into formation as a Lay Cistercian and made my life promises in 2012 which means that I am under the spiritual direction of Trappist monks and am part of a community of lay people who follow the spirituality of the Trappists and apply it to our lives outside the cloister. I am still very interfaith. I hang out with Buddhists a lot. I hang out with Muslims. I am very involved with the Atlanta interfaith community, but I am grounded in the Christian tradition. I guess I could call myself a contemplative. I think there is a little bit of pride in doing that. Let’s just say I am a student of the contemplative path. That is a humbler way to put it.

BM: Yeah.

CM: I am also very much committed to engage in the spirit of Vatican II, to engaging people of other traditions to learn from them, to be their friends, and hopefully to work together to build a better society, so that’s it in a nutshell — and I am an author and a blogger, so people should all go visit my blog.

BM: Absolutely, and I will link to it. I will link to not only your website but your blog as well. [Which I did in my introduction above.]

CM: Yeah.

BM: So the second question I pretty much believe we have covered, but “Would you consider yourself a spiritual person?”  [Laughs.]

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 11.48.25 AMCM: Well, you know, that’s kind of a loaded question.  As you know there is a kind of a big phrase out nowadays: “I am spiritual but I am not religious.”

BM: Yeah.

CM: And that’s not me. I am very comfortable having identity as a religious person, so I have a narrow definition of spirituality. For me spirituality means that as a follower of the Christian faith, I take the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life seriously.

BM: Uh-huh.

CM: And I am not a fundamentalist Christian. I don’t subscribe to the idea that only Christians go to heaven, you know, and that only Catholics only go – or any of that kind of nonsense. I think the Holy Spirit touches people in many, many different ways and shows up in many, many different guises or names if you will. Earlier today I was Continue reading

“I aspire to be an example of what love looks like.” – Saij Miller-Wildsmith

NOTE: This interview with Saij Miller-Wildsmith [SMW] was conducted by The Only Love Project’s Bill Murphy [BM] on April 20, 2015. Original artwork from Saij. Enjoy the interview!

BM: Briefly tell us your background. What would you like us to know about you?

SaijSMW: What I would most like people to know about me is that I am a mother, and I say that because I try to think of my legacy a lot with my children and how I want them to view me when I am gone, what they will sit around when they are older with their children and talk about “mom” and how they will refer to me and the memories that they talk about. So a lot of my decisions and a lot of the things that I do and the way I move forward in my life is based on my two boys and how they view me and how they look at me and how they look up to me and me being their role model. So that is the biggest part of my identity that I would want people to know about me.

Other than that I am a lot of different things. My background is – I think about me – currently my faith, my Buddhist faith. I am a vegan. I am a partner. I have been in a long-term relationship for almost nine years. I am an artist. I am a writer, and a big part of my background has to do with my evolution through my spirituality and my views of the world, just the growing up of Saij and the way I have changed as an adult from a Catholic girl growing up in Nebraska to a Zen Buddhist priest in East Tennessee who is gay and vegan. That is not something you see a lot of in East Tennessee. [Both laugh.]

BM: That’s quite a jump from a Catholic girl in Nebraska to a Zen Buddhist priest in Tennessee. That’s a huge transition.

SMW: That’s a huge transition. It absolutely is. It’s quite a story. It’s quite a story.

BM: Well, it’s a good story. I like that. Anything else you would like to add to that?

SMW: Well, I guess my background being a girl from Nebraska — I have a sister. We grew up in a very strict Catholic home, and I think that a lot of the basis for how I view life and how I changed so much was based a lot in that little Catholic church I grew up in and the dogma and things that were – and the ritual attached to Catholicism and the strictness of my home life I think formed in me anyway this need to break free. I think I have spent the majority of my adult life leaving home at 18 seeking for what that looks like, leading to where I am now. The evolution from that to going to every different kind of church known to man trying to find where I fit led me on a direction that has spanned some 30 years, and it’s evolved from Catholicism to herbalism, Reiki, martial arts, yoga, atheism, just a gamut of different belief structures and systems that eventually found its way to Continue reading

“If you love you are not going to want to hate. It’s just not going to be compatible.” – Br. Paul Quenon

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Merton.

Merton (1915-1968) was a writer, contemplative, mystic, social activist, artist, photographer, and Trappist monk at The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani not far from Louisville, Kentucky.

Despite living in a cloistered monastery – eventually living by himself in a small building called The Hermitage about a mile form the monastery – his influence extended around the world…and continues to this day.

We were going to wait until the exact BrotherPaulday of Merton’s birth [January 31] to post this interview; however, what Brother Paul Quenon, a former student of Merton’s, had to say couldn’t wait any longer.

NOTE: This interview with Br. Paul [BPQ] was conducted by The Only Love Project’s Bill Murphy [BM] on October 28, 2014, at the Abbey. All photographs (except for the Merton book cover, the Casey book cover, and the photo of Father Louis) were taken by Bill.

BM: Please tell us your background. What would you like others to know about you?

BPQ: Oh, well, I am a monk, and I have been here [at the Abbey] most of my life. I love singing, and I do pretty well at that — get a lot of energy out of choir — and I like to read and read pretty broadly, and do a little bit of writing. I don’t write whole lot, but I have published six books of poetry, yeah, then produced a few anthologies, so I think some influence from Father Louis could be seen there. I refer to Thomas Merton as Father Louis because that was his name here in the monastery, so you will just have to bear with my habits.

BM: That’s great.

BPQ: And I cook and love being outdoors, and if I can’t be Continue reading