Category Archives: This moment

The Journey

The Journey

“From the day we set out on our journey there has been no place to seek….Student and master have never been separate, never. And yet we must journey to reunite them.” – Daijaku Judith Kinst

Who is God?

Have you ever heard – or experienced – the saying, “The only thing that’s really permanent is Change”?

That’s emblematic of this thing called Process Theology.

I won’t try to explain it, as it’s mind-bending and maddening stuff (though, show me anything someone has written about G-d that isn’t).

Suffice it to say that the first notion of this idea was with Heraclitus.

“No man ever steps into the same river twice.”

It’s been refined, changed, and argued ever since, but Alfred North Whitehead comes up more often than not when discussing it. The general gist is that everything is a process – an event, if you will, instead of a thing. (You, reading this, are not a person but an event in time).

The one line I wanted to share with you from the day’s brief overview comes from (of all things) the rock opera Hoop of Flame that was written about the subject by John Mabry and his band, Mind Furniture. In the opera, God has been put on trial because, well, you know… if I may be so bold, there’s a lot of fucked up shit that goes on, no?

Anyway, to hear John tell it, God finally gets to testify in God’s own defense and we find out that God isn’t all-powerful after all. (It turns out that in Process Theology, we’re all a part of God… sort of like the cells in our bodies are all part of us. We can take care of our body, and we can try to create the right conditions for everything to flourish, but despite our loving best intentions, shit sometimes happens, right? Cells die, organs get diseased, we get sick…)

The only thing God can do is whisper to all of existence. I think of it as intuition. What if intuition is really something more important? From the *human* end of this divine phone call, we can choose to listen to the whisper from beyond, or we can choose to have another drink – or turn Netflix back on for the 26th consecutive episode of…

So here’s God on the witness stand testifying in his own defense:

I can’t pluck planes from the sky

I…. can only whisper

I can’t stay any arms

or prevent anybody harm

If you won’t listen.

I know it’s not much help,

and I don’t mean any harm.

It’s just that the only hands I have

are at the ends of your arms.

I came here (to seminary) to find the meaning of life.
I came here (chip firmly glued to shoulder) to prove once and for all the hypocrisy of all the various images of God/god/Allah/Adonai/Buddha/Krishna/Vishnu/etc. that are in the world.

What I’m finding, instead, is a sense of commonness with all these flawed attempts to describe where it is we come from, where it is we go, and what the hell we’re supposed to be doing while we’re here. I admit to being so gloriously lost and tangled up most of the time it’s stunning.

The God that says pleadingly “…the only hands that I have are at the ends of your arms.”  

gulp.

*chip falls from shoulder*

Who are you?

Religion – does it separate or unite?

Interesting fact:

By what name do 2 million Christians refer to God?

“Allah”

It’s Arabic for “the god” – or more correctly, “The God” or “THE God”.

It’s also Aramaic – the language of Jesus (“Allah”, “Elaha”, “Elaw”).

Is it not interesting how we conflate religious meaning with political & cultural meaning?

Is it even important what we call God? Is it even important that there is a God?

Here’s an article that that got me thinking about all of this. Meanwhile, I think I’ll try “Trixie” for awhile instead of God or Allah. I met her last week while on vacation with my wife and daughter. I’ll attach a picture.

You read this while I go have coffee with Trix.

All of us enjoying what Trixie hath made.
All of us enjoying what Trixie hath made.

 

We are more alike than different

A brief update from seminary…

I have long thought that all the people and religions of the world have laughably little that separates them. Of course you could rightfully say there is nothing laughable about the shitty behavior we perpetrate in the name of our religions, but early in my theological studies at seminary, I am heartened by the similarities I find in all of the major faith traditions.

In preparing for an upcoming intensive on Hinduism I am reading the Bhagavad Gita. “Song of God” is what Bhagavad Gita means. How beautiful, no?

Here is a quote from the forward that Aldous Huxley wrote in 1944 (During World War Two) for the version I’m reading. Huxley was an English writer and pre-eminent intellectual of the early 20th century.

He says:

“There will never be enduring peace unless and until human beings come to accept a philosophy of life more adequate to the cosmic and psychological facts than the insane idolatries of nationalism and the advertising man’s apocalyptic faith in Progress towards a mechanized New Jerusalem….”

“….happily there is the Highest Common Factor of all religions, the Perennial Philosophy which has always and everywhere been the metaphysical system of the prophets, saints, and sages. It is perfectly possible for people to remain good Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, or Moslems [sic] and yet to be united in full agreement on the basic doctrines of the Perennial Philosophy.”

Huxley published a book titled The Perennial Philosophy as a comparative study of the mysticism from Eastern and Western religions about this same time. I presume he found them to all be speaking of the same thing. Hmm… I think that’s where I started this post?

Guess that’s one more book for the reading list.

Later, my friend.

Be well.

What did you just call me?

I’m in seminary.

This is from the “Andy’s Hangups” file:

I had to look up the word Minister today after someone called me one.

I almost said, “well F you too!” but noticed she didn’t seem to think it was an insult.

Turns out, minister can be a verb that means “to give service or aid to someone.”

In other contexts, it can be a political representative or government functionary, i.e. “Minister of Education, or Minister of Magic.”

Disclaimer *This is my blog, and as such, is a repository for my take. My thoughts and opinions are just that - my own. I come in peace, and am doing my best to make sense of it all just like you are*

I thought it meant sweaty, hypocritical asshole.

Oy vey.

I promise I’m trying here. When will I be discovered as a fraud?

I just want to make the world a little better place and understand why we’re here.
Why I thought learning religion might help, I have no idea. That certainly wasn’t my experience with it growing up.

Until next time… Gotta go learn about how to preach.

-Andy

p.s. I don’t actually think this about all ministers. I took a little license to illustrate a point. I have serious hangups around language. I feel like some words have been taken from me – from all of us, really. I’m in the midst of a journey to try to reclaim them. Am I alone in this?

This moment: Friendship

This post is an installment in my 30 day writing project called “This moment” – where I put pen to paper and write whatever comes to mind starting with the statement This Moment… If you want to know more, this post explains a little more what I’m up to.

This moment.

This moment I am thinking of you, friend. How our friendship is like a dance. The way you dance with me. Unsure of each other, yet kind and knowing it so we continue to walk trusting that each will step when it’s time to step, stand when it is time to stand and sway when it’s time to sway. Friends are like Ansel Adams cacti on the landscape. All around with arms stretched wide so to catch me when I fall, but not without their thorns. Precious few at times, but they let me give voice to the scary bits, never judging, always knowing they’re there. The warmth of their presence reminds me that all is well with creation, with the universe. I honor the arms and I love them for their thorns that make be bleed.

And what is this universe, if not a web of friendships? Relationships at least, but who is the judge of a relationship and its name? I say, I am friend to that mosquito who just took my blood so that she may walk her path as I must mine. The tree that shades my Florida house in the relentless July sun? She is my friend. The Sun is my friend too, I need her, but have been hiding when she comes to call. Too much, I say. Overbearing. Oppressive her friendship. I’ll need her again though, so I take her call though it pains me.

The man who hurts me – is he friend too? I think yes, though I feel the thorns more than the arms. What about tougher stuff? Fire? Rapists? Can we be friends? Space that is vacuum and inhospitable to me would blow me apart. Is it my friend too? What is my relationship with all of this?

I think that I am here in this form to learn something, to accomplish something. I am in this body so that I may have arms to catch someone else falling. Who shall I lift up? Myself? “Charity starts at home,” the saying goes, but my elbows are wrong for that. These arms are made to hold another, not their owner. Is there a god? If so, would She be so cruel or so loving as to create us with arms that only bend to hug another? I can touch and pat my own back, but it isn’t the same. A dance with you, my friend, always feels right.

I’ve stepped on toes as I’ve danced, I’ve stood and sweated and smelled and made bad conversation while life’s music played. My cactus arms are thorny as any. I’ve been clumsy dance partner to many. Here I am though–Black tuxedo, navy blue socks, pilled white shirt and a smile – ready to dance with you. Will you dance with me? It may be our last chance, though I may see you again as a cactus. Will you remember me then? Ansel did.

This moment: Writing with your bones

This moment.

This moment I’m exhausted, wrung out. I’m tired like you don’t feel that often. Neck, eyes, fingers, all of it.

Outside my window is laughing at me. It’s all green and waving in the breeze while I breathe this canned air. I stare at a glowy flat thing all day and tippity tap on another flat thing with little square things all over it and call it work. Would my forefathers know this work? Cave paintings and pyramids and wars with gods. Harrumph. I think that they’d say harrumph.

Them all slaying cyclops and flying too close to the sun and pushing that rock up that hill and here I sit tippity tap typing on my little shiny one thing and staring at my little glowing other thing telling myself it’s work. Is it? I think I push that rock too. Mine just glows and beeps and blinks back at me. Moss on this rock rubs off on me like green knowing. It falls off a little at a time as I scrape back the layers. I peel and scratch and fight to dig out what’s underneath and little by little something comes into shape and view from beneath. I find a corner. I rub and fuss and scrape and dig some more and finally I pull it out. There. A tooth. A rib bone, a jaw. A letter. A sentence. A story.

I dig deep in that bone yard that smells all musty and scary and who knows what I’ll find. I don’t know until I find it either, but I’m always surprised what comes up from the earth. The things the world has kept alone to itself forever. Until now. Until I came along. Is that what I’m here for? Am I a maker or a doer or just a teller? Am I the narrator of some story that you wrote? That the worker bees go build and leave to the scribe to record and pass on? I’m the grave digger. The archaeologist digging up the bones you made- the ones you fought and died for and here I sit, pulling them up and pretending I know what they mean and putting them together like building blocks that you never intended. That’s the hazard of what I do. Better to get it right or just get it at all? Make you think, make me work. Tippity tap. Tippity tap.

You go hunt buffalo. I’ll sit here and paint on the cave wall about it with your bones as my quill.

Hunting

The salad knows…

This moment.

This moment I am eating grapes. Sour fat green ones that seem to huddle together for protection from something – me. I imagine them cringing and shrinking away into raisins from my searching fingertips in the bag.

I grab one. It’s fat, green, and afraid as I pull it from the arms of its family. Cold and glistening with water droplets that quiver from something I don’t recognize, but I recognize delicious.
The grape feels cold between my lips as I put it in my mouth and BITE.

Ouch!

Zap!

What is that? Eyes closed and glimpses of lights flashing as tart becomes–sour–becomes near painful. Little grape weren’t going down without a fight.

A fight I’m always ready for, so I grab his partner. She’s the one crying right next to the hole where he came from. Just as refrigerator-cold but more stubborn I think. She brought mother’s arm with her, clinging to the last. I pull the woody bit away from her hands and she painfully, grudgingly gives up her purchase. Into my mouth she goes and WHOOSH. The sour burst she learned from her litter mate.

I wonder if grapes are all like this or I got the only ones who could think and tell me how they feel. Then my mind wanders to berries and all summer’s floral bounty. Is it all a farce? They all know. They feel pain, they want things and know things and hope. They hope.  Dear god of it all… here I sit with a refrigerator full of them. All colors from the deepest reds, to pretty greens, heavy, gravid summer squash and melons and the kale, oh the gaudy kale. From the kohlrabi to humble broccoli. His fancy italian cousin broccolini with his jaunty hat and his sophistication. They all know. I’m coming for them.

How must it feel to be relegated to this fate? At least the fauna have legs or wings or hooves and a chance…. a chance of evading, eluding me. The plants just sit and cringe and wait for my clumsy, fumbling fingers to seek them out. Perhaps each time hoping – praying?–that theirs isn’t the firm, wet, nourishing body I pick from the crowd.

The horrors. Blanched. Pickled. Stir-fried. Creams, soups, garnishes. Our mothers happily and self righteously feeding them to their children like the children are kings and queens. Somehow our children matter but the plants don’t. They aren’t kings and queens. These crispy leafy serfs suffer on in silence and in salad.

Or maybe they don’t.
POW.
Another grape lets me know what it thinks of me.

Smoothie, anyone?