Thursday, May 31, 2007

Canceling Each Other Out

It's been a while since I took math in school, but I can remember the sheer delight and sense of "rightness" I had when I was first taught the idea of things canceling each other out. I thought it so cool -- I could simplify a seemingly complex equation by taking away things that were on both sides. As I remember this principle--and remember that it has been a while--it's that if it was on both sides it wasn't really important to the equation at hand and could be lopped off without making any real difference. And by simplifying the equation by removing the extraneous "noise" you could focus in on the real heart of the problem.

I was thinking about this recently while listening to Rush Linbaugh. He was bemoaning the Democratic/Liberal practice of sending out "talking points" to all of the liberal media outlets and talking heads so that there was a lock step presentation of a single perspective. (A perspective, by the way, which was crafted in weekly phone conferences with leftist environmental whackos.) He played clips from various news broadcasts and, sure enough, the same words being used over and over again.

Of course, when I was up in Maine and could get Air America Radio, Al Franken and others made the exact same claim about Republican/Conservatives. (Except that their talking points were crafted in weekly phone conferences with conservative religious wackos.) They showed the same rather convincing evidence.

So what do you say, guys? Can't we agree that these arguments cancel each other out? Wouldn't it be great if Republicans and Democrats (or Liberals and Conservatives, if you prefer) would stop accusing each other of doing the same thing they're being accused of doing? Stop talking about these things or, better yet stop doing these things! Then, maybe, we could focus our attention in on the heart of the problem.

In Gassho,


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Two Things Everyone Should See

I sometimes encounter something that I want to share with everyone in the whole world. Ray Charles' rendition of America, the Beautiful, for instance, or the energy that radiates from my children when they're really, really happy.

In the last couple of months I've come across two things that I'd like to share with the world. The first is an article titled, The God Fuse: ten things Christians and Atheists can--and must--agree on. (Thanks to my cyber guru the Rev. Roger Otis Kuhrt for once again pointing my browser to something really worthwhile.) This is one of those examples of clear and common-sense thinking that gives one hope for the human species. I wish every single person would take the time to read it with an open mind.

The second was a musical called Just Married (the musical). Jon Arterton and James Mack were married in 2005 ("and the sky didn't fall"), and have put together a beautiful musical that offers a palpable experience of their love, same-sex love, and just plain love. They performed the show at the church where I serve and it was something amazing. I watched as gay couples, lesbian couples, and straight couples were moved to stare into each others' eyes. And you know what? They all saw the same thing staring back--it turns out that love is love. With this, too, I wish everyone could experience it.

In Gassho,


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Is It Getting Hot In Here Or Is It Just Me?

The Times of London (online edition) reported back in March that Pope Benedict XVI had announced that hell is real and not merely a symbol. He wanted everyone to be clear that eternal damnation in everlasting fire is indeed in the cards for many of us, even if "nobody talks about it much anymore."

This would seem to put Pope Benedict XVI in conflict with his predecessor, Pope John Paul II who in 1999 declared that Heaven was “neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but that fullness of communion with God which is the goal of human life.” Hell, by contrast, was “the ultimate consequence of sin itself . . . Rather than a place, Hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy." (These quotes from the Times story.)

As a Unitarian Universalist I certainly align myself with my Universalist ancestors who argued (persuasively, I think) that a truly loving God would not consign any of His (sic) children to eternal damnation, just as no loving earthly parent would turn their back on their child no matter what she or he had done. If God is love, then God is all the things St. Paul says about love in 1 Corinthians 13. Such a God would send no one to hell.

But if Pope Benedict XVI's assertion has you feeling a little nervous about what's in store for you, I heartily recommend the book Go To Hell: a heated history of the underworld. It's by a guy I went to high school with, Chuck Crisafulli and Kyra Thompson. Chuck was a riot then, and I see he hasn't lost the sensibility that made him such a good friend. I'd also recommend (again) going to and checking out (especially) episodes 5, 7, and 10.

In Gassho,


The 485,460-Calorie Messiah

Here are a couple of stories I wanted to post a while back but got too busy to do so. These were both Easter themed stories, but are probably good anytime.

The first gives this posting it's title: The 485,460-Calorie Messiah. That's the title Esquire magazine gave its piece about the six foot tall, two hundred pound, anatomically correct statue of Jesus Cosimo Cavallaro sculpted out of milk chocolate. Cavallaro called his work, "My Sweet Lord." For other coverage, see the BBC, or CBS. (The Nutrition Facts box that the folks at Esquire put together is my favorite part of their story.)

So, is this a comment on how the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus have been reduced to Easter-egg hunts for chocolate bunnies? Is it a comment on communion?

As a side note: Cavallaro also repainted Room 114 of New York City's Washington Jefferson Hotel in melted mozzarella cheese back in 1999. He also once sprayed five tons of pepper jack cheese on a Wyoming home, and festooning a four-poster bed with 312 pounds of processed ham. You can check out his own site here.
In Gassho,

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Body of a God

Several years ago I saw a T-shirt with this message:

I have the body of a god. Unfortunately, it's the Buddha.

This got me thinking. Why do people assume the Buddha was, shall we say, hefty? Because in the popular mind he is often confused with Hotei, the so-called 'fat Buddha" who is, in reality, one of the Seven Lucky Gods of Japanese folklore. Like other religious traditions, when Buddhism moved into new countries it often incorporated the gods and goddesses of earlier religions into its own pantheon. The rotund Hotei was a symbol of abundance, of joy, of blessing; over time, naturally, he became mistaken for the Buddha.

Yet according to the stories of the various Buddhist traditions, young Siddhartha had spent six years engaged in the most sever austerities prior to his six days beneath the Bodhi tree. In fact, just before he embraced the middle way--not too hard, not too soft--he is said to have been subsisting on one grain of rice a day. That's why he is oftentime depicted as slender or, as in the Thai tradition, completely emaciated, so that one can see his spine through his abdomen.

Jesus, on the other hand, is usually popularly imagined as a slim, even gaunt, man, yet according to the Gospels he was accused of being a "glutton and drunkard." (see Lk. 7.34 and Mt. 11.19). Apparently Jesus never met a dinner party he didn't like.

So we have Buddha who is usually thought to be overweight yet was probably skinny, and Jesus who is thought to be skinny but may well have had a few extra pounds on him.

I don't quite know where to go with this--the issue of body image in Eastern and Western cultures?--but I find it fascinating. What do you think?

in Gassho,