Saturday, June 22, 2013

He (Might Be) Heavy . . .

There are all kinds of heaviness.  There's the obvious -- physical heaviness.  As a people, we in the "developed" world have . . . well . . . develped into a severly obese people.  It has been said that this is the first generation of children expected to live shorter lives than their parents.  And this is largely because of the epidemic of obesity, and the myriad of conditions associated with it -- diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc.

But there are lots of ways to be heavy.

Some of us are carrying the weight of guilt and shame.

Some of us are weighed down by depression.

Some of us are lugging around a few extra worries.

Some of us have packed on problems and pressures that are crushing us.

When I was in high school I was in just about all of the school plays.  I remember that one night -- an opening night as I recall -- I had a 106 ˚ fever, but I went on anyway.  "The show must go on!" and all that.  After the show was over I was a bowl of jello, of course, but no one in that audience (except my parents) had any idea that I was feeling anything but 100%.

Right now, at this very moment -- or soon, very soon -- you will cross paths with someone who is acting in just such a valient effort to keep the "show" going on.  Perhaps it's someone you know well.  Maybe it's just an acquaintance.  It could be someone you don't know at all yet whose life will be intersecting with yours, if only for a moment.  And, of course you might be this person, weighed down in ways no one else can see.

To all those whose "weight" is not as visibile -- blessings on your day.  Remember that you are not alone (no matter how much you might wish it!).

Pax tecum,


Friday, June 21, 2013

And Not Only Dolphins . . .

Playing in surf. Photo:
License: Creative Commons attrib/noncom
The title of this post came from something I'd posted on FaceBook.  I'd been with my elder son on his 5th grade field trip to Virginia Beach. (Cool, right?  I love VL Murray!). We'd gone out on a dolphin watch cruise, and I'd posted a couple of photos of the dolphins we saw.  I titled this post "DOLPHINS!"

On the way back in we were treated to the practice session of a squadron of planes for an air show later that weekend.  For a couple of their runs they went directly over our boat!  When I posted about this I wrote, ". . . and not only dolphins!"  One of my friends remarked, "I like any post that begins, 'and not only dolphins!'"  Another suggested that it'd make a great book title.

I'm thinking, maybe, a children's book   One looking at the miracles that surround us every day, those tastes of life's goodness, what a friend of mine calls "love letters from God."  

So, of course, there's the sight of of a family of dolphins, frolicking in the waves.  And not only dolphins, there's:
  • The sight of a  group of Japanese macaques sitting in the hot springs with snow falling around them.
  • The feel of a cup of hot chocolate warming your hands after a long day in the snow. 
  • Sun on your shoulders and a cool breeze on your face. 
  • The smell of salt at the beach. 
  • Getting into bed with fresh cleaned sheets
  • The smell of baking bread . . . or cookies. 
These are some of my ideas.  What are some of yours?

In Gassho,


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Walking Around Shining Like The Sun

Today I got to live out one of my dreams.

I know that even the best of us are, well, like the rest of us -- each and every human being has the potentials for greatness, and each and every one of us has gifts that are only ours to share.  No person is worth of "worship."

And, yet, there are some people who have a profound effect on individuals . . . or on the world.  To me, Father Thomas Merton is one of those people.  And today I stood on the street corner in Louisville at which Fr. Merton famously had an epiphany.  This is how he described it in his book Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander:
“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness… This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud… I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

I can honestly (yet I hope humbly) say that I've had this same revelation; I believe I know exactly what he was experiencing.  And that is one of the many things that makes Merton such a powerful teacher for me.  So the opportunity to stand where he stood?  One of the things I've long wanted to do.

After this, though, it got even better.  My friend James Ishmael Ford (whose on blog, Monkey Mind, is well worth following) drove me about an hour out of town to the Abbey of Gesethemi.  This is the monastery where Merton lived . . . and where he's buried. It was, as much as any place on earth, his home.

As a way of thanking this teacher -- not only of me but of millions -- I placed a set of my prayer beads at the base of his stone.  I got to live out one of my dreams . . .

In Gassho,


Sunday, June 16, 2013

And So It Goes With God . . .

A couple of nights ago both of my children were sleeping over at a friend's house, so my wife and I fired up the DVD player and popped in something I'd seen in the cinema but which she'd not seen yet -- The Life of Pi.  (I saw it originally when I'd taken my kids to watch Wreck-It Ralph.  We got there we saw that Ralph was sold out and I suggested that we go to Pi instead.  Turned out to be not exactly a one-for-one trade!)

At the end of the movie, and apparently the book as well, after telling two very different versions of his tale the main character asks which is the better story.  When the journalist (in the movie) chooses "the one with the tiger," Pi responds, "And so it goes with God."

I've heard several interpretations of what this line is intended to convey, but here's what Yann Martel, the author of the book and, so, the line itself, as said:
". . . Pi makes a parallel between the two stories and religion. His argument (and mine) is that a vision of life that has a transcendental element is better than one that is purely secular and materialist. A story with God ("God" defined in the broadest sense) is the better story, I argue, just as I think the story with animals is the better story. But you choose." 
(I found this in a transcript from the ABC's Good Morning America Q & A with the author as part of their "Read This!" book club.)

A lot of time and intellectual energy by a lot of people has gone into the project of coming up with convincing arguments for a belief in God and here Martel, through his character Pi, is essentially saying that the reason to believe in God is that it makes for a "better story."  And he acknowledges that it is, fundamentally, a choice.

I've thought this for a long time.  It's not my only answer to the question of why I believe in God (and, as Martel says, "defined in the broadest sense") but it is one of my favorites.  And last night, coming across this "argument" again I remembered two of the sources that long-ago influenced my thinking.

One is the wonderful book Illusions:  adventures of a reluctant messiah, by Richard Bach.  Bach had gained huge fame with his earlier Johnathon Livingston Seagull, but it was Illusions that really grabbed me by the collar and has refused to let go.  It tells the story of Bach himself, during one of the summers he spent barnstorming around the country in an old biplane.  The story tells of his meeting a man named Donald Shimoda who, it turns out, is actually the Messiah who had returned to earth but had essentially quit that job when it became clear that people really didn't want to listen to his message.  Still, one doesn't quit being Messiah too easily and, so, he agrees to teach Bach what he knows about the meaning of life.

Word eventually gets out about this mysterious stranger and the wonders that seem to follow him, and he gets interviewed on the radio.  After sharing some of his teachings the host asks him why he believes such things.  Instead of saying, "I live my life this way and it works" or something even faintly convincing like that he says, simply, "I believe it because it's fun to believe it."

This is, I think, echoed in another book that shaped me -- The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castenada.  One of those teachings has to do with "the path with a heart."
"All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long long paths, but I am not anywhere. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn't, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn't. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you."
All paths are the same -- they lead nowhere.  Still, you need to chose, and so you might as well chose the path witha heart.  The path with a heart will be more fun.  It will make for a better story.

And so it goes with God.

In Gassho,


Sunday, June 09, 2013

Vice Versa

I can no longer remember who I was reading at the time, but a Christian author made the following assertion:  in every encounter each of us has we have two options -- to see Christ in the other person, or to be Christ for the other person.

I've been thinking about that a lot for a while, trying hard to remember it.  (Although, I'll admit, I've probably only gotten to the point of trying to try to try to remember it, if you know what I mean.)  Yet while this particular phrase resonates with me, I realize that it may well be "too Christian" for lots of folks.  So here are some alternatives:
In every encounter you have you will have the opportunity to be either a teacher or a learner.

I every encounter you have you will have the opportunity to either be a healer or receiving healing.

In every encounter you have you will have the opportunity to either rise to your best self or to help someone else to rise.

This last one kind of gives it away, doesn't it?  I mean, it's hopefully become obvious that these are not really two things.  Truth is, there's only one option.  Because . . .
if you rise to your best self you will naturally help others to rise as well;

and if you are a healer you will receiving healing in the process;

and there is not a teacher worthy of the name who is not also a learner.

Naturally the inverse of each of these is true as well -- learners are always teachers, those who receiving healing themselves offer healing, and those who help others to be the best have already become their own best selves.

But what of that first one?  It works this way too, because the surest way of being the Christ for another is seeing it in them . . . and vice versa.

Now maybe because I've written it down I might remember.  If I do, I'll remind you;  if I forget, I'm counting on your.

In Gassho,