Thursday, March 22, 2007
Last night, while doing research for an upcoming sermon on humanism I stumbled along a series of hyperlinks that ultimately brought me to MR. DEITY. This YouTube series is laugh-out-loud-even-if-you're-by-yourself funny. I, personally, especially like the episodes about the "really big favor" and the "top ten list," but there was at least something in each of the nine episodes posted to date that really got me.
Monday, March 19, 2007
I'm a sucker for a subtitle. Over the past couple of months I've come across two books with truly wonderful subtitles and, even more exciting, they lived up to and exceeded my expectations!
I heard about the first one from my friend James Ishmael Ford (he of the great blog MonkeyMind and the double threat of being both a Soto Zen Priest and a Unitarian Universalist minister.) The book is by Soko Morinaga Roshi and is called Novice to Master. What really got me, though, is the subtitle: "an ongoing lesson in the extent of my own stupidity." How can you go wrong studying with a Zen master who has plumbed the depth of his own stupidity? And Morinaga Roshi does not disappoint. Reading his book I felt an excitement that I haven't since my first days reading Buddhist literature--I found new insights, and even familiar teachings came alive for me. I highly recommend this book. (If that's enough for you, here's the link to the book at Amazon.com.)
And then, I can't remember where, I came across a book by Anthony De Mello called Awareness: the perils and opportunities of reality. I'd already loved this Indian Jesuit from his earlier Sadhana: a way to God (Christian Exercises in Eastern Form). But reviews of Awareness claimed it to be a life-changing book and I'm always open to a new perspective on dealing with the problem of . . . well . . . me. And while I'm still reading it, so far Awareness seems as though it will live up to such hype. (Here's its page on Amazon.)
So, if you're willing to face the "perils and opportunities of reality," and consider "the extent of [your own] stupidity," these wise teachers may prove for you, as they have for me, true guides.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
I still read comic books.
Mostly I keep up with the Dark Knight--a.k.a., the Batman--and his compatriots in the DC Comics universe, but I grew up on the exploits of Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the Fantastic Four, so from time to time I will pick up one of the comics that spin their stories and those of their friends and foes in the Marvel Universe.
Since my move to Cape Cod, however, I no longer live near to a comic book store, so I sometimes get my comics news from unexpected places. This morning it was National Public Radio!
That's right, such august journalistic institutions as the BBC, the Chicago Sun-Times, USA Today, NPR, and CNN have all been covering the death of Steve Rogers, also known as Captain America. (In case you don't know Captain America, here's a link to his official biography.)
His death came at the end of the Civil War that's been raging in the Marvel world--following a particularly destructive battle, the United States government passes the "Superhuman Registration Act" which requires costumed crime fighters to register themselves (and reveal their secret identities in the process). Some think it's necessary to protect the populace, and others think it's a violation of their civil rights. The two groups fight. There are fairly explicit parallels to the battles raging in our country today around the question of how many freedoms can be sacrificed in the name of protecting freedom.
Pretty heavy stuff for a comic book. Although not unheard of. In fact, comics have often tackled some heavy things in their pages. (See the Wikipedia article on Registration Acts in comic books for some examples, or Wiki's larger article on the so-called Bronze Age of Comic Books during which many titles confronted issues such as drug abuse, racism, etc.)
Yes, a lot of heavy things were going on, still I'm struck by the death of such an iconic figure as Captain America. I put it up there with the death of Superman in 1993 and the breaking of the Batman's back in 1993-1994. These figures--each of whom I grew up with--were legendary, unstoppable, unbeatable; for generations they've been "living symbols" of strength that is good, and honorable, and indomitable. And in the last decade they've been knocked off their pedestals.
It's true that Superman came back from the dead, and the Batman's broken spine was healed, and we may well not have seen the last of Captain America, but we'll never again be able to see them as invincible. And if heroes such as these are not invicible, who or what can be? Perhaps this more acurately reflects the world we live in, but Cap . . . I'll miss you.