Press Release: Cornell University Scientists Collaborate with NSA to Identify Mr. Jasper H. McGillicuddy of 64 Snossberry Lane in Ithaca as Perpetrator of Unclaimed Dog Poop Bag Left in Cornell’s Otherwise Lovely Botanic Gardens

November 18, 2017

In a remarkable breakthrough, Cornell University scientists working in collaboration with the NSA as well as loyal Botanic Garden volunteers have discovered a new way to identify the rightful wrongful owners of dog poop left in unmarked bags alongside the majestic walking paths of Cornell’s Botanic Gardens. Cornell Professor Dr. Penelope “Peeny” Foshills of the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics describes the situation and what led to the breakthrough.

“I’m an inveterate walker,” Dr. Foshills said. “Any number of my most important scientific breakthroughs have come when I have left the cramped quarters of my laboratory and headed out past Beebe Lake and into the incredible beauty of the York Herb Garden. Usually a sniff or two of  the many herbs at the York garden will awaken my creative senses and I’ll double back to the lab and have my problem solved. On occasion, when the problem is particularly challenging, I’ll need to make my way through the Mundy Wildflower Garden, cross Caldwell Road and amble up to Newman Overlook. One look at the light dancing on the ponds down below and my mind relaxes and the inspiration I need comes almost immediately. So you can imagine my dismay when the other day as I was deep in thought, I stepped into the most prodigious pile of dog poop imaginable. Some ninny  dropped it on the path in one of those biodegradable doggie poop bags the Botanic Gardens are so nice enough to provide our many dog walkers. The smell, let us say, was no bed of petunias.”

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Mr. McGillicuddy’s dog Pickles could not be reached for comment

Dr. Fosshils then went into considerable detail about the dog poop extraction process she followed and which we will spare our reader.
The unfortunate event inspired her rather unusual scientific mission. “I was telling my horror story to one of my colleagues, Dr. Clatterpop in Veterinary Science,” Dr. Foshills added, “and Sylvia began telling me about the most remarkable breakthrough in her own lab. It seems that dogs, of which I am not terribly familiar, have an irresistible need to lick the faces of their humans.” The Nobel Prize winning geneticist made a scrunchy face. “Dr. Clatterpop shared with me that minute traces of the facial skin cells removed by such behavior can be detected even in the… “ Dr. Foshills paused and proceeded to smile like the Cheshire cat. “I didn’t let her finish the sentence.”

Back in the lab, Dr. Foshills ran the specimen through her Licor 4200 and soon enough had extracted the human DNA from her smelly sample. This is where the NSA came in. “So I had the perpetrator of the dastardly deed’s DNA,” Dr. Foshills said, “but no way to identify it.” That’s when her other friend, Professor Gregor Blazanov in Poly Sci came to her rescue. “Gregor is a real card, but he’s got a few friends in the Trump Administration.   “”Peeny!’ he exclaimed, ‘Peeny, don’t you know the NSA has all of us on file?’ Well, Gregor owed me one and before I’d even finished my daily stretch break in the Minns Garden, he’d called me back on my cell with the positive ID.” Mr. Jasper H. McGillicuddy was subsequently contacted and is now doing community service picking up poop bags on the Treman Woodland Walk for a month of Sundays.

Reached for comment, Mr. McGillicuddy offered the following thoughts in addition to his heartfelt apology to Dr. Foshills for his bad behavior. “I had no idea the gardens were so beautiful! I’ve been walking these trails with my dog for years, mostly talking and texting on my cell phone. If this is punishment, give me more. Did you know about the Japanese primroses??”

Dr. Foshills, pleased to learn of Mr. McGillicuddy’s new leaf, offered one final thought. “Dog walkers, enjoy the gardens, keep your dogs on their leashes, and their poop on your person. Oh, and consider yourselves warned.” She smiled impishly and then turned and headed off with deliberate speed down the Kienzle Overlook trail.

Dr. Foshills declined to be photographed for this piece. Instead she offered this snapshot of her twin kitty cats Helix and Felix

Audio Sermon: Eternity in a moment

Audio Sermon on Racism at Cornell and Joseph’s witness

This weekend at Cornell, an African-American student was subjected to repeated racial slurs and then attacked violently resulting in hospitalization. In the face of this and the increasingly violent racism in our country, silence is not an option.

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Bearing the Armor of Light

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Sermon at Church of the Epiphany in Trumansburg, NY

The epistle was Romans 13:8-14

 

 

 

Fear and Shame in the Wake of Charlottesville

 

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This was in the background of my sermon 

Artistic Vision Requires Community

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Sudden Illumination

 

This post continues a line from my previous post about seeing the foundation of the Christian community as an act of artistic vision and commitment.

God’s call to new life and creative innovation  always happens in community no matter how much we as individuals experience this creative energy stirring very personally in our own hearts.
So in the crucial story in Acts 10 of God’s calling of the church to open its mission for the first time to the gentiles, both Peter and Cornelius have visions of remarkable power and personal impact that cause radical changes in their ways of seeing the world. What they have seen in their visions is undeniable, and they must act on it, yet, as Luke puts it so wonderfully, they remain “puzzled,’ about what their visions portend.*
Luke makes it very clear that neither actually sees what God’s call is apart from one another and apart from the gathered community. Even Peter and Cornelius meeting alone would not have been enough to clarify things. Though we often think of artists working in isolation, or romanticize art as the lonely call of a ‘genius’ hearing intimate things no one else can hear, the truth is that all art is communal of its essence, as it is about opening the aperture of a community’s heart to new things–it aims to communicate something fundamental about community and its blindnesses: “This is what I see, I don’t know quite what to make of it. What do you see?” If I as an artist see something previously unimaginable, I  work to bring this vision to life in order to have the community help me see what it means, what it intends, for all of us.
Art lives then at the intersection of profound insight and radical unknowing and is an inherently political act when we understand politics in its root meaning as the art of living together in harmonious creative play.
Because vision requires this shared discernment even as we have powerful intimations that God is doing something new and in a unique way with us each as individuals, we must gather and listen together to the word, behold the vision. This is actually the most important reason why the church gathers regularly each week and sometimes more often and why it is simply not possible to be a Christian or a spiritual being apart from some kind of gathered community. We don’t know the communal meaning of what we see otherwise.
What Acts 10 tells us is that we should be careful of defining that artistic spiritual community too narrowly, for God has a way of bursting open doors we didn’t even know were there!
“Then the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the Word.”
* for you philosophy types, the greek word here for puzzled is διαπορέω [diaporeo] a variant of the verb ἀπορέω from which we get the word aporia.

St. Peter’s Artistic Vision: The Spirit of not quite knowing who we are

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Gurdon Brewster’s Jesus and Buddha dancing ecstatically. Are you sure you can tell who is who? St Peter would be proud I think!

“I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance ἔκστασις I saw a vision.” –Acts 11:5
We celebrate the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul today. To Peter we owe our militant refusal to identify God’s ways with our own. When he insists that we not judge or criticize God’s re-making of our very identities, he becomes the patron saint of all artists.
For art is above all the ‘ecstatic’ science, one that takes visions with ultimate seriousness, even when these visions undermine who we thought we were and where we thought we were going. True art is fearless, seeing possibilities for new life even in the monstrous mixing of categories, identities, and story lines. So Peter took and ate the unclean animals and his spirit was nourished and expanded. It is hard to underestimate the radical nature of Peter’s faithfulness to this vision, one which revolutionized the church’s mission and opened it up to continual revisioning and spiritual leaps of creative and often improbable connection.
His friends who wanted to keep everything in its proper place criticized him (διακρίνω) and insisted on being reasonable above all else–surely a vision by a man literally out of his mind cannot be the basis upon which we are to be reborn? We are who we are, who we always have been, and to suggest otherwise is to be more than ecstatic, it is to be a revolutionary. For some, he was undoubtedly seen as quite beside himself and mad. That’s our Peter, church. Are we so bold as to follow?
Peter insists that the vision he has seen is of God and then he holds relentlessly to the discipline of re-building his life and the life of the community around this vision. It will be hard work, full of mistrust, desires to clarify and codify and delimit what is a whirlwind, a colorful mixing of metaphors, not to mention  families, languages, peoples,  and nations. We will be tempted to cleave to the safe shore of our familiars, but Peter the artist will boldly lead us into the blooming and onto the whirling wheel of life.  “The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction (διακρἰνω),” Peter insists.
When we think of that rock of the church,  Peter,  as a spiritual artist then we can begin to see art and artists in a different way.  Artists are not, as is often thought, impulsive dreamers, rogues, or ne’er do wells (well, okay, sometimes they are ;-)) but principled and discipline followers of visions and promptings of the spirit, and they tend to contemplative silence and communities of radical hospitality.  The are protean in their willingness to be re-formed, de-formed, and in-formed by their vision, and so they are often allied with the mystics and the misfits of society. But they are seriously grounded, as Peter was, upon the reality of what they see which is why they align with other scientists in their insistence on being true to what is seen and heard. Artists learn the hard way to either get out of the way of the work or be damned to ugly narcissism.
Contemplative silence is therefore crucial, a prayerful attentiveness in which self-aggrandizing distinctions, premature criticisms, and risk-averse judgments have little place. Vision and discipline together lead to humility and awe before the ways our creator gives us the task of extending the creation in our own lives.
And so we should not be surprised that Peter’s words lead to this outcome:  Hesychia (contemplative silence) and praise. All truly spiritual art begets more of the same.
When they heard this, they were silenced (ἡσυχάζω). And they praised God. —Acts 11:18
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