Tuesday, April 21, 2015

On Rituals

When it comes to the world of institutionalized rituals, it doesn’t get any better than Catholicism. With the vestments, bells, gongs, candles, incense and the choir, if the believer is following the ways of the rituals, he is engaging in the “the step before devotion,” as a friend once called it. It’s true. If the participant is really involved in the ritualistic calls, she cannot fail to be drawn inward to inner contemplation. The Muslims aren’t too far behind either. The charismatic call of the muezzin brings the worshippers to their knees five times a day in prayer, all so that the believers may turn to Allah.

Any number of small, sweet rituals...

But if we’re not into formalized rituals, don’t think that it does not play a part in our lives. There are any number of small, sweet rituals that get us out of bed in the mornings. Families follow certain rituals as they arise so that they may get the day going. Those who quietly meditate often do so at the same time of day, and mind and body prepare for it. Even the church I ministered to, as devoid of formal ritual as it was, had an order that people could count on, and I noticed that some people did not arrive at the start of the service; they arrived at the place in the service that they was important to them, and they knew when it would take place.

Small "salvations" to be found...

I think there are actually some small “salvations” to be found in daily rituals. If a sudden shock comes along or a great sense of loss, our inclination to turn to the next order helps to stabilize us so that we can regain our footings. I have watched people fight to be able to do this.

They are to be cherished...

And then, there are private rituals that are dear only to us…the piece of chocolate after breakfast (or maybe before), the wearing of a favorite scarf when we are doing something important, reading the paper in the morning (if we still handle paper!). I think these are little touches that help us find ourselves during the day…and they are to be cherished.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ode to Roxanne

As I write this blog I am looking at my great, green plant as it hangs from a ceiling hook in front of my bay window. Actually I should say that she hangs from a hook because my great green is a female. Named Roxanne. She is an oak leaf ivy with spreading, many-fingered leaves that are now beginning to cascade downward toward the floor. When I saw Roxanne at the nursery a few months ago, I knew she was female, neat, tidy, newly planted, and she silently sighed, “Buy me.” So I did, and I also did something I've never done before, at least not in the world of green things. I gave her a name. Roxanne seemed just right for such a youthful, well-formed little thing.

Bring on the good stuff...

At this point Roxanne has grown to three times her original size. Who wouldn’t with so much ambient light and loving care? Any other kind of female would be upset at such a rapid increase in fatness, but not Roxanne. She just keeps silently commanding, “Bring on the good stuff.” We have become good buddies, Roxanne and I. I talk to her every day, tell her how beautiful she is, and she just smiles…and grows.

They will thrive on our bossy care...

The reader might well ask: Is there any practical or even subtle value to this blog? Maybe not, but on the other hand, it does let those of us devoted to control know that there are some living things we can absolutely have our way with...green plants, for one thing.  Green plants will not give us any flack, no matter what we do. They will not get all upset because we are "in their space."  They will not have a hissy fit because we are smothering them.  Actually if we really know what we are doing, they will positively thrive on our bossy care on their behalves. They resist nothing and reward all and who else will do that? (Roxanne, by the way, is a who, not a what.)

Conrol freaks, take heart!

So…control freaks, take heart! There are some things we can utterly control without leaving behind a trail of broken bodies. Just ask Roxanne.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

On the Rosiest Dawn Ever


One recent morning I got out of bed to a sky that was blasted with a gold-tinged pink dawn. It was so pervasive that it crept around our window shutters and scattered pink all over the bedroom walls. The sky was so smitten, it seemed it could not bear to part with it, but, of course, it did. Dawns never stay; they make their startling entrances; flash their magnificent morning announcements, and then quietly fade away. I think they are very fickle; it may be that there is a feminine element to their characters… (La donna e mobile’, and all that)…and they are never the same.

Sumptuous sunrises...

Of course there have been other sumptuous sunrises, and there will be again, but I chose to celebrate this particular one. Probably because it reminded me of how nature, left to her own devices, can out-gorgeous just about anything humans can produce.

Some beautiful things simply show up...

What has this to do with the state of world affairs? Not a thing. I just think it is a good idea to remember that some beautiful things simply show up…lush, unasked for, free…we could not summon them, even if we wished to…to grace our lives, no matter what may be going on.

Some of the gifts of the spirit perhaps.

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You might also enjoy "On Desire"

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

On a New Morning

For those of us raised in a traditional belief system, the passage of time and new knowledge may have eroded some of the old meanings. They may no longer seem either reasonable or complex enough for the ambiguities of the 21st Century. Still I think that spiritual themes remain that have value for us. We are approaching Easter, a season that many may now reject because its story seems more mythological than meaningful, but let’s not forget the recurrent theme that can apply to anyone. It tells the story of waking up, of rising up into a dawning sense of who we are as spiritual beings, and this is a more vital, internal activity than trying to work around the story of one special Son.

Doorways to peace....

So, with some consideration, we do not have to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” The great spiritual themes of Easter, Christmas and other religious seasons have vitality because they are lodged in general human consciousness and have been so for eons of time. We can resurrect them as launching pads for greater inner growth. They can be doorways to peace, acceptances of self and others, and continuous awakenings.

A divine relationship that is ever with us...

The old stories point to a divine relationship that is ever with us. Now we can grow into it with more of a sense of adventure and the creation of a new story that is deeply personal to us. We have the chance to wake up to a new morning, not just one day a year but every day.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

On Growing Up


I’ve been growing up again. I do this periodically. Technically I grew up many moons ago when I arrived at 21 years old, grew boobs, and thought I knew everything. This, of course, was laughable. Of course we all grow physically (and, in due course, hopefully, stop growing, but this is not a given…), but then comes the ever-increasing need to grow up mentally. Well, I thought I had done that as well. Went to school. Got degrees. But that seemed not quite enough, and most of my prized knowledge got outdated anyway.

...learning how to share...

I will say that marriage and family does demand a certain amount of growing up. After all, you have to least make the attempt to stay ahead of your kids for a while anyway. And living with a spouse does demand learning how to share.

Death grows you up in a hurry...

Death grows you up in a hurry, I found. When people you love die, I discovered that I did learn to live without them, even though I thought I never would, and pain does heal, even though missing them goes on. What became really interesting about death was when the people dying began to get closer in age to me, and suddenly I began to feel a little less immortal. This growing up is definitely not for sissies!

I have perspective...

Now when I grow up, I want to be like Angela Lansbury. I want to be able to contribute, to be artistic, to be creative, to have all my marbles like she does. There is nothing like a good role model when gravity is becoming a concern! And suddenly I discovered I have perspective, something I didn’t know much about when I was young. Now I can impress all the younger folks with it.

After all, there has to be a good reason for getting older!

You might also enjoy "On Noticing"

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

On Letting Go


What is so difficult about letting go? There is a wonderful old spiritual adage that states very simply: Let go and let God. This is some of the best, most thoughtful, practical advice there is…and we hardly ever take it. It is almost as if we have to have the person, situation or the thing ripped from our clutching fingers before we will relax our grip. And then if we’re not careful, we’ll want to snatch it right back.

 Losing control.....

I wonder…could it be that we’re so afraid of losing control that we must have every person, place and thing under our hand all the time. Or are we just afraid of losing control…period! I have found that, the more things seem to get out of hand in world situations, the more I want to know that all my chicks are all accounted for. And I’m not sure whether it’s world problems…there is always something going wrong, after all…or if I feel I’m losing my grip with the passing years.

A great trust...

I really do believe in letting go and letting God, even if I sometimes seem reluctant to do so. Then again, I have developed a great trust in greater wisdom than mine, so it is mine to practice letting go. The days will continue to pass; the sun will rise each morning; the moon knows how to do its thing, and my chicks all arrive home at night.

The life in us knows how ...

It really does not have to be this difficult, does it? Some people are good at letting go, not many maybe, but some. They just let things slip right on by when it’s time. When I grow up, I want to be like that. The life in us knows how to be lived; therefore, letting go is up.

Better get on with it.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

On Questioning

I think of the daughter of one of my former congregants. As a vital, young woman, she turned to her father and asked, “Are we kidding ourselves? Are we making this up?”, a natural inquiry as far as I am concerned, into the durability of our very existence. Some might consider it blasphemous to question so, but I don’t. I think that the more we ask, the more we can know. And as people who are spiritually minded—and any who reads these blogs are—we will ask.

The "know-ability" of the subject...

I recently watched a series of lectures on Understanding Gravity—Black Holes, Tides and Curved Spacetime. The mathematics escaped me entirely, but not the “know-ability” of the subject. Is it not amazing that minds on an infinitesimal speck of a planet in an infinitesimal speck of a galaxy in a jinormous cosmos can dope out the connectivities that consistently unfold in something that cannot adequately be measured? Sometimes it is enough to ask questions that will get answered down the road like Galileo, Newton and Einstein did. I am content with the “know-ability” of that which I do not yet know.

Evidences rather than proofs...

Or maybe enough with rationalizing! Maybe we could do what the religieuse—priests, nuns, people who join holy orders—do and follow spiritual practices that focus upon God-like ideas. Perhaps the inner invitation brings some light and enough “knowings” to keep us going, for some will feel a response to the invitation. I think that we will need to be satisfied with evidences rather than proofs. The evidences will be unique to the one who questions since no one can know for us what only we can know for ourselves.

Keep up the questions...

I think we should keep up the questions, though. What I did learn about black holes was that they can be dangerous and things that fall into them never come out. Better to keep up the inquiry rather than fall into a mental black hole that forms through disinterest and discouragement.

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