Spiritual Being

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I am interested in religion.  Maybe curious about religion is a better characterization.

I have always said that I am spiritual because I fully believe that there is purpose to life (to love and care for each other), that good is meant to triumph over evil, that there is something so big and so glorious that it is not yet within my grasp or comprehension but that we will be joined in that gloriousness eventually.

Well, isn’t that special, as the Church Lady from SNL would say.

Even though I go to church, there are those who have felt free to, maybe even the need to, tell me that I am without religion and that spirituality without religion is the work of the devil.

I don’t mean to be rude right back, but this meme seems to cover it for me:

so-of-the-hundreds-of-faiths-in-the-world-the-one-that-your-parents-raised-you-as-is-the-one-true-religion-what-a-fortunate-coincidence-meme-18508okay, maybe I mean to be a little rude…

I understand wanting to be certain; it’s actual being certain that I don’t get.

Coming across this Bulldog Catholic (!) essay is what has me thinking about this today: Being “Spiritual But Not Religious” Carries Consequences.

SO:

*Claiming a spiritual aspect is equivalent to adolescent rebellion.

Can I understand that Mom’s and Dad’s teaching might be true even when they don’t always live it out? Can I grasp the reality that a person can truly believe in Jesus and still struggle to follow him completely?

 

But, Father Mike, don’t you grasp the reality that many nonChristian, nonCatholic individuals truly believe in loving, caring and kindness and still struggle to live out those qualities?

*Then there is that adolescent lack of mature thinking.

But I think there is another adolescent thing going on in this claim. There is the desire of “I want to do what I want to do.” If I have religion, then I am obligated to obey someone else’s will. But if I am merely spiritual, there are no demands upon me other than to follow my own sense of “this is what I currently prefer.”

Certainly that can be the case for some, but to attribute this view to everyone who feels the call of spirituality without the practice of an established religion is an egregious flaw of logic and good faith.  Jesus taught “do unto others as you would have done unto you.” That’s not a unique precept.  It is found in major world religions and even the godless can live this.

*Spiritual without religion is idolatry.

In this case, my “god” is me. I become the one who decides “this is what God would want,” rather than asking, “God, what do you want?”

Another statement that, when applied across the board, is a failure of logic and good faith.

*And this old saw:

On a semi-light/semi-serious note, there is a being in this universe who is spiritual but not religious. Satan, being a fallen angel, is a pure spirit. There are no creatures more spiritual than Satan. So being spiritual doesn’t necessarily put us on the team we want to be on.

Wow.  If you see the face of evil here:

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may God help you.

A Letter to my Senators

I sent this to Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator Bernie Sanders:

Recently, I received an e-mail requesting urgently needed action, writing my Senators in support of ACA. i will have to confess my reaction was threefold in a very short period of time. I felt complacency, followed a mean spirited crassness, and finally my own personal epiphany for change.

Complacency…I am so fortunate to live and vote in Vermont. I don’t have to contact my Senators urging them to do the right thing. I know that you will (and thank-you, by the way).

Grateful as I am to be a Vermonter, I am also fortunate enough to be able to slip away when the days start to shorten and the air starts to chill. I come to my Florida home and politicians here can irritate that mean spirited seed. Oh, Florida has the highest rate of people signed up for ACA. We can’t pull the rug out from under our constituents! What to do? Frankly, I thought about writing just to urge you to give them what they wanted so badly. Let the people who voted against their own interests understand the consequences. Crassness…I know that is not right and I know you would not take that low road.

My personal epiphany for change…This is not the time for complacency. My vote did not count just as the votes of the majority of those who voted in the presidential election did not count. Our voices need to be heard. This is not the time for mean spirited retribution. The underbelly of racism, inequality, hatred, and willful ignorance has been exposed. If nothing else is good about that, at least it is in the open. We cannot address what we cannot see. And address it we must, as individuals, as families, as communities, and as a nation.

The moral high ground has not been seized. At their most elemental, most if not all the world’s religions teach some basic principle very similar to “do unto others as you would have done unto you.” When that is the belief that leads our country, then it is that we will be great.

If you missed Meryl Streep’s emotional speech from the Golden Globes last night, it is well worth checking out here.

Resistance must not be futile.  The good fight must move forward in dignity and grace.

 

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History Lessons

Venice, Florida, will celebrate its ninetieth  anniversary  of citihood in 2017.  90 Years  — that’s infancy in the scope of history.

Of course, Florida was “discovered” by the Spanish hundreds of years ago.  Never mind that there were people spreading living here for over twelve thousand years.  Spanish rule ended and Florida became a state in 1823.

Those of us privileged enough to enjoy winter months in Florida refer to Venice as “Paradise.” You can get the bumper stickers, the tee shirts and the ball caps. Maybe the wave of settlers in the early 1800’s thought so too, but I have to believe they were a much heartier bunch than your typical Snowbird today.

Paradise, of course — like so many things, is all a matter of perspective.  Last winter I read:

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This book was published in 1942 and republished in the 1990’s.  Amazon called it a delightful and heartwarming memoir. I thought there were some interesting bits of history — mostly relating to the insidious nature of racism.

Perhaps I have too much of a tendency to always look within, but this book made me very uncomfortable.  I would hope it would make anyone uncomfortable.

Hope for a New Year

2016.  What can I say?

You reminded of the myth of Pandora, who in the view of the ancient, misogynistic Greeks, unleashed all that ails and pesters the human condition through her unchecked feminine propensity  to poke around where she was expressly forbidden to do so.

Well, after all the evils, sins, diseases and pain escaped and flew off to plague the world, Pandora heard a faint little knocking and a pitiful cry inside the box she had slammed shut a bit too late.  She tried to ignore it.  After all, she had caused enough harm.  Still the crying continued until Pandora opened the box once again.  This time HOPE flew out.

One little fluttering sprite meant to go out into the whole wide world and help humans endure their suffering.  With HOPE, they would manage.

220px-opened_up_a_pandoras_boxImage from Wikipedia, based on painting by F.S.Church

Personally, I am thinking we need more hopefulness.  It is surely time for the divine feminine to step up.  I wrote this poem several years ago.

The Gift Giver

In a swirl of dust, she arrived

bearing an earthen jar,

worn to a soft, coppery luster

that gleamed in the sun.

A maiden formed of clay and water,

from the earth she rose.

GIver of all gifts,

she was called Pandora.

“Come closer,” she waved,

and the people drew near

in both fear and wonder,

drawn by her gentle smile.

When the hill around her

was crowded with the women

who were in search of bits of

food to bring to their families,

Pandora opened the lid

of her ancient jar

and lifted out a pomegranate,

red skin split by the seeds within.

“Mothers, you are the givers of life.

I bring these gifts to you.

May you have abundant blessings

from wombs as fertile as my fruit.”

Once again, she reached into the jar,

then held aloft a grape vine,

heavy with ripened clusters

of its sweet purple orbs.

“Mothers, you are the tenders

of family and home fires.

May these grapes sustain you

so no one shall want.”

Then she lifted out a tree,

branches, twisted and gnarled,

thickly laden with olives,

green and spice-scented.

“Mothers, you are the keepers

of memories.  I anoint you

with the oil of wisdom, that

you may nurture a just peace.”

Pandora lifted her heavy jar

and shook out all the seeds

to dance in the arms of the wind,

then settle in hearts, open and pure.

Love, acceptance, courage, faith.

Mercy, strength, wisdom–

all these seeds and more–

Pandora’s gifts to the earth.

“O, women, keep these seeds

alive and growing. Let them thrive

through all who follow.

O, mothers. lead the way.”

BOUNTY

This time of year brings me gratitude for a bounty of blessings.

My son, my daughter, my granddaughter, and my grandson — to have them here for a celebration of  Christmas brings me joy.

So many treasured memories — I open them one by one, like carefully wrapped packages laid under the tree, placing ribbons and bows in pile to be used again.  Tears, of course, for those who are gone, but the tears  make the memories all the more precious.  Diamonds and pearls could not make me richer.

Friends, both near and far, who lend support with words and deeds or simple silent presence.

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(Of course, for some it is still all about the presents!)

Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice took place yesterday for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere.  Winter has arrived.

As it happened I was traveling from my daughter’s house to my own, my grandson in tow.  I started out at 4 p.m. when dark was gathering and arrived home at 6 when it was truly the black of night.

Ancient celebrants of the Yule, made bonfires to symbolize the clearing out of the old year and making preparations for the new.  We saw no bonfires, but white candles in some windows, many houses decorated with brightly colored lights, even a couple of laser light showers.  On such a dark night, it was easy to appreciate the need to add light to the season.  I felt a connection to ancient progeny and an appreciation for all the journeys of my life — the trip with my grandson in the moment all the way to ride on this earth as it has circled the sun for all my years so far.

 

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2016

Have you heard of Faith Popcorn?  She has been around for a long time — not a fortune teller, a futurist.  She is CEO of her own marketing firm BrainReserve and she has a very good record at predicting trends. Marketing strategists use her identified trends to target consumers.

Let’s take a look back at her predicted trends for the year 2016 as they appeared in Fortune magazine.  The key to marketing now? Playing on fears.

I think we will be very interested in comfort products and products that will guarantee our safety more. Maybe more protection products—911 numbers that really work, that we will pay for. Maybe more home schooling, maybe armored buses to take our kids to school, maybe schools will be more protected.

And someone, wanting to make our political system into a business, must have been well aware of trend and marketing strategies.

2016, the year that Atlas Shrugged.

“He was a man who had never accepted the creed that others had the right to stop him.”
-Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, Part 1, Ch. 3

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Aleppo

It hurts my heart and soul to watch the news.

  • Lines of people fleeing their homes. Bodies piled on the city streets, those not fortunate enough to be in a line of those leaving.
  • The blank terror in the eyes of children.  The bodies of children.
  •  Crumbed shells of buildings. Before and after.
  • And one is left to imagine the horrors of the sounds and the smells of this assault, the gut-wrenching emotions and the terror.
  • The irony of tweets and videos from people saying, “good-bye world.”  Technology has made the world smaller yet somehow disconnected.

My mind screams, “WHY?”

I understand the threat of ISIS, but this government against rebel forces, government against its own people — I cannot untangle the threads.  I am unsure whose side we are even on.  I am unclear as to the economic and political interests fomenting this disaster.

My heart screams, “Where is the humanity?”

It’s hard enough to watch out of control fires, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and crushing ice storms wreak havoc around the globe.  But, this manmade stuff, it has to stop.

Follow up on Tea Leaves

Maybe I live under a rock.  I had no earthly idea that there were very strong opinions about attempts to divine the future.*

The Islamic religion has a full out ban on fortune telling — crystal balls, tarot cards, astrology, palmistry, and so on.  More conservative Christians also view these activities as sins and fraternizing with Satan.  Some people just think ignorant people should be protected con artists intent on separating them from their money.

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In 2012, a Federal court struck down a Louisiana law banning all fortune telling activities as unconstitutional under first amendment protections for freedom of speech.

Lynchburg, VA, took a different tact.  They charge a licensing tax. Fair enough.

Sec. 36-126.42. Fortune-telling, astrology, palmistry, etc.

Every person engaging within the city in fortune-telling, soothsaying, palmistry, astrology, spiritualism, psychological readings, clairvoyance, horoscope, phrenology or a like calling or business, whether a direct charge is made therefore or not, and whether or not medicine or medicine remedies or other merchandise or services are dispensed or sold or prescribed at the same time in the same place, or another place, shall pay for the privilege an annual license tax of one thousand dollars ($1,000.00), not prorated. The license provided for herein shall not be transferable. Any person engaging in such calling or business without first obtaining the license required herein shall be guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor. (Ord. No. O- 96-319, 12-10-96, eff. 1-1-97)

Last updated date: 10/23/2006 4:15:21 PM

Here’s my take away:

  • A perceived smile made me smile and my day was better for it.  I choose to believe that like attracts like and that is how I choose to live my life.
  • I sincerely pray that the First Amendment does not become the pesky step child of the Bill of Rights.

 

*Yes, I am intentional in my word choice.  It’s my sick sense of humor.

Tea Leaves

My parents and grandparents were in the habit of drinking a cup of tea after the evening meal.  I can remember my grandmother making comments about reading the tea leaves, but since they used tea bags I don’t know that there was much to see at the bottom of their cups.  I don’t remember any predictions being made much less coming eerily to fruition.

Tasseography is the divination of symbolic patterns arranged by tea leaves — or sometimes coffee grounds or wine sediment — in the bottom of a cup.  The practice was common in Asia, the Middle East, and Ancient Greece.

Seriously?  Well, symbolism theories have been around in the study of psychology for a long time.  It may be a way for a contemplative sort of individual to get in touch with the subconscious.

I have no experience or training in the reading of tea leaves.  However, I was  drinking a cup of herbal tea for breakfast and I saw this:

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That’s clearly a happy face. It started my day with a smile anyway.