We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Ruth

Samain                                                                        Bare Aspen Moon

Conversations with Ruth. Yesterday Kate wasn’t feeling so well in the a.m., nausea that plagues her mornings on occasion. So I was the breakfast guy for Ruth and Gabe, who stayed here starting on Sunday evening through last night. Ruth came down first, unusual because Gabe is usually the early riser. She fixed herself some ramen, she’s a good cook all on her own, learned from Grandma.

mcauliffe_masthead1_M_r32

We started talking. She loves her new school, Mcauliffe. It’s not in a modernist soul stealing box like Sweigart, her elementary school. It has ornamentation, having been built in 1914, which she described in some detail. Gothic arches over drinking fountains, molding with inlays, stair rails with decor under the polyurethane, big windows and the exceptional cupolas visible in this photograph. She’s an arts oriented girl, very aware of the design of her surroundings. We both like this older, more whimsical era of architecture.

Ruth, Wilson, Kate at a cross country meet

Ruth, Wilson, Kate at a cross country meet

Mcauliffe also has periods, unlike the daily grind in an elementary classroom where you only leave for recess and lunch. The freedom that grants her between classes means a lot to her. She’s taking Mandarin, robotics, math, language arts, gym, earth science and art. It’s a more challenging environment for EGT’s, extremely gifted and talented, which she’s finally beginning to embrace as describing herself.

Polaris is the GT middle school, but she chose Mcauliffe because all save one of her friends from Sweigart chose it, too. Her bffs Wilson and Annika in particular are at Mcauliffe. Annika is a competitive climber, traveling the U.S. to participate in timed ascents of climbing walls. Wilson ran cross-country as she did. They spend a lot of time together outside of school.

This transition to middle school, along with declining stress from the divorce, seems to have allowed her to open up, blossom in ways that are beautiful to see.

We also talked about books. She’s a voracious reader, currently focusing a lot of her reading on Jodi Picoult, though she just started Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Of course, she also has books to read for school, the humorous part there being that the first book assigned to her she had already read. In the third grade.

20171027_152110She wanted to know who my favorite authors were. Always a stumper for me since I’ve been reading much like Ruth for over 60 years. Lots of typeface over the eyeball transom, not all of it stuck in the memory banks. Yesterday I went with Herman Hesse, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and William Gibson. Asked today I would add Philip Kerr, Kim Stanley Robinson, Kafka. Tomorrow another group. Not to mention poets and classical authors, playwrights and non-fiction writers.

I put together an Ikea reading chair for her and an almost identical one for myself. She sat in hers, me in mine. She also loves art and wanted to know what my favorite piece of art was here in the loft. I have an Andy Warhol print of soup cans that I like a lot. She likes my Mike Elko print satirizing the Bush terror propaganda.

She’s a young lady with many interests, including alpine skiing. She’s been skiing since she was three and at this point is very accomplished. She and Jon are going to ski on Friday at Arapahoe Basin, or, as it is more usually known here, A-basin. She also loves to cook. Yesterday she made banana bread, rosemary bread, a pecan pie and cut up the yams for caramelized sweet potatoes. Today she’s making deviled eggs to bring to Thanksgiving tomorrow.

2011 01 09_1223She’s still very tender on matters related to the divorce, not yet ready to sort out how she feels about it. The more I see her on this side of it, the more I believe the negative effects of Jon and Jen’s explosive fighting were awful for her. She has an inquisitive spirit, is very observant, and, unfortunately, is not inclined to talk about her feelings. All of these facets of her personality have made processing the turmoil of the last few years difficult for her. In the extreme.

It’s exciting to see her beginning to know herself, to gain agency in her life in a positive, not angry way. I’m grateful to have her as a grandchild, one I see frequently.

 

The Holiseason Zone

Samain                                                                          Bare Aspen Moon

Getting ready to cook

Getting ready to cook

You have entered the holiseason zone. Of course, it’s well underway since it begins now with Rosh Hashanah, but Thanksgiving, with its grocery shopping, tablescaping, bedroom preparing and gathering of family is a key moment, the holiday that marks the start of a remarkable run: Advent, Posada, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Saturnalia, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s. Wow. The metaphysical crackling in the air gets intense with lights and ideas and gods and astronomical night. It’s my favorite time of the year.

The Thanksgiving project for me is a golden capon with pancetta and fig stuffing. A lot of oranges are involved, too. The challenge of finding a capon found its match in finding fresh figs. A nice man at Whole Foods explained that northern hemisphere figs are available in the summer and southern hemisphere figs just before Christmas. Oops, not in time for Thanksgiving. Then, a Thanksgiving miracle! Kate found them at King Sooper after I’d called specialty stores like Whole Foods, Sprouts, Natural Grocers and gotten nada. Yeah.

thanksgiving-farm-harvest-postcardThe whole gathering in of items for pecan pies, Ruth made ours last night, and yams and green beans and potatoes is a simulacrum of growing it all, or hunting and gathering for the feast. And, yes, our finding a retailer with figs and capons is no match, but it did add uncertainty and joy in discovery.

A mountain Thanksgiving is like others, but with a lot more altitude.

 

The Spinning of the Wheel

Samain                                                                    Bare Aspen Moon

Tony's

Tony’s

The capon is in the house, 7.8 pounds of frozen, atesticular rooster glory. Kate and I went to Tony’s Market yesterday, Gertie and Rigel in the back. Tony’s is the sort of grocery store where the pounds fly off the shelves and around your waist even before you check out. It’s a gourmet shop, full of Devon custard in a can, various pickled vegetables, cases filled with ahi quality tuna, plump white scallops, seasoning rubbed filet mignon, frozen bearnaise, hollandaise, au poivre sauces made in house, expensive salami, and puff pastries created with only filo dough and powdered sugar. One of those ten minute super market sweeps from the 1960’s would yield a cart full of scrumptious and clock in well north of a thousand dollars. A good place for holiday shopping.

sephirothshiningonesI spent time before the trip to Tony’s working on my kabbalah presentation for December 6th.  This will take some doing since kabbalah is a quintessentially Jewish discipline and I want to focus, somehow, on the Great Wheel. According to the Tree of Life, the sephiroth (spheres) arranged as in this illustration reveal a path by which the sacred becomes actual and the actual becomes sacred. The bottom sephirot malkuth is the world which we experience daily, the place where all the power in this universe (there are many others), funnels out of the spiritual and into the ontological. It is also the realm of the shekinah, the feminine aspect of god. In kabbalistic terms malkuth is the place where the limits of things allow the pulsing, living energy of the other spheres to wink into existence.

great wheel3In one sense then the Great Wheel, focused as it is on this earth, can only be of malkuth, that is, of the sphere of the actual, the bottom circle below the hand of the kabbalist in the illustration. In another sense, since all sephiroth contain all others, what is of malkuth must also be of the others, the spiritual dna of the whole universe. So, if we take the Great Wheel as a metaphor for the creating, harvesting and ending of life, a cycle without end, then the Great Wheel is, too, a Tree of Life. That is, the inanimate becomes animate, the animate lives, then dies, returning its inanimate particulars to the universe which, through the power of ongoing creation, rearranges them in living form so the cycle can go on.

The Great Wheel has a half circle for the growing season and a half circle for the fallow season. It can be seen as half day and half night. It can also be seen as the cycle of the virgin goddess who, impregnated by the god, gives birth to the growing season as the Great Mother and then, during and after the harvest becomes the crone. The life cycle of each of us.

Not sure yet how I’m going to articulate this for the class. Still in the gestation period.

 

The Raw and The Cooked

Samain                                                                           Bare Aspen Moon

The Raw and The Cooked, French Edition

The Raw and The Cooked, French Edition

After a very busy week, a good busy with friends and Hebrew, kabbalah and time with Kate, yesterday was a rest day. Wrote, did my workout (which takes a while), napped, had a wonderful lamb supper cooked by Kate, who’s a wizard with meat. Watched some more of the Punisher on Netflix. On seeing that on the TV as she went to bed Kate said, “I don’t like your choice of programs.” “I know,” I said. Eating red meat and watching TV are hangovers from my Indiana acculturation, neither of which would I recommend to my children or grandchildren, but which I also thoroughly enjoy. No excuses.

Admitting to liking television in the crowds in which I tend to run is like admitting you enjoy belching or farting in public. Declassé. And it is, I suppose. My rationale (or, perhaps, as is often the case with rationales, my rationalization) is relaxation, in particular relaxation from a day usually spent in intellectual and physical activity. I love stories and TV, especially right now, is full of good storytellers who use visuals to enhance their storytelling. I’m sure there’s a sophisticated psychology explanation for this habit, but TV serves a purpose in my life. So there.

Thanksgiving this week. I’ve got a Martha Stewart recipe for capon with pancetta and fig stuffing. Which, of course, requires finding a capon, a mystery meat, as I said yesterday, to Colorado butchers. Tony’s Market. I ordered one and I’m going to call them today just to make sure it’s really coming. I did try to find a capon on which to experiment, but the only one I could find was $63.00. Ouch. Thanksgiving will be the experiment.

capon2I really like cooking, used to do a lot more. It requires mindfulness and produces a meal for others to enjoy. Just popping up from my days of anthropology: The Raw and the Cooked, by Claude Leví-Strauss. In this book the French anthropologist talks about the binary of raw food to cooked, prepared food, seeing the development of cooking as fundamental for the human species, a key movement leading toward civilization. (I’m not going to go into it here, too complex, but if you’re interested in dialectical thinking, the raw-cooked distinction is an example of binary opposition, a distinctively French version of dialectical thought which underlies Leví-Strauss’s idea of structuralism, a short introduction to it is here.)

My point in this last paragraph is that cooking is central to being human; so, engaging in it, at any level, links us directly to the story of human evolution. In that way we can look at Thanksgiving, or any big holiday meal, as linking a key step in our change from merely animal to animal with culture, to another key step, the abstraction of particular days, the elevation of particular moments in time, into holidays. The other night I realized that for dogs all days are the same no Tuesdays or passovers or superbowls, no Guy Fawkes or Mexican independence days, rather sequences of day and night, with food and friends, human contact.

EmersonWe’re not like dogs in that fundamental sense. As Emerson observed, “The days are gods.” Another binary opposition is the sacred and the profane, like the holy and the secular, ordinary time and sacred time. We imbue, out of our speculative capacity, the passing of time with certain significance. The day we were born. The yahrzeit notion in Judaism, celebrating the anniversary of a death. A day to celebrate the birth of a god, or to remember a long ago war against colonial masters. We identify certain days, a vast and vastly different number of them, as new year’s day, the beginning of another cycle marked by the return of our planet to a remembered spot on its journey.

20161229_161617_001When we merge our speculative fantasies with the chemistry of changing raw food into a beautiful cooked meal, we can have extraordinary times. The natural poetics of wonder join the very earthy act of feeding ourselves to create special memories. Very often on those days we gather with our family, a unit that itself memorializes the most basic human purpose of all, procreation of the species. We don’t tend to think of these most elemental components, but they are there and are sine qua non’s of holidays.

So, cook, pray, celebrate. Laugh. With those you love. If you care to, take a moment to consider these amazing things, too. That we know how to transform a neutered rooster into something delicious, something that will undergo the true transubstantiation, the changing of soil chemicals, the bodies of animals and plants into a human body. That we have the idea of Thanksgiving, or the idea of Hanukkah, or the idea of Labor Day and mark out a chunk of the earth’s orbit as special for those ideas. That we choose to gather on them with our small unit of humanity’s long, long ancientrail of development and critical change and doing so honor all of these elementals.

 

 

 

Over the River and Through the Woods. To the meat locker.

Samain                                                                              Bare Aspen Moon

13 degrees here this morning. About an inch of snow overnight. Thanksgiving, requiring the horse to find the way to Grandma’s house, is almost upon us.

Over the river and through the woods,
To grandmother’s house we go;
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh,
Through (the) white and drifted snow!

Yep. They’ll cross the Platte and Cherry Creek and the Mississippi (in the air), drive through valleys and up mountains to get here.

Over the river and through the woods,
Now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

Grandmother sans cap

Grandmother sans cap

And, yes, we’re going to have a capon. Capons are mystery meat to the clan of Colorado butchers. Even at Elizabeth Meat Locker yesterday a worker there looked blank when I asked about capons. “What are they?” “Chickens with their balls cut off. They get fat.” Oh.

Guanella Pass, an ancientrail. Friendship, an ancientrail

Guanella Pass, an ancientrail. Friendship, an ancientrail

After having breakfast and goodbye with Tom and Bill at the Lakeshore Cafe in Evergreen, I picked up Kate and we took the grand circle route to complete two errands. They both required our presence in the physical world, something I note with greater frequency these days. There are things that absolutely require showing up in person and they often involve physical objects that have to be picked up and moved from one place to another.

In this instance, Diana had finished her work on the cushions for the Jon built benches in our dining area and the Elizabeth Meat Locker had finished carving up our quarter of beef. Diana is in Lakewood, off Sheridan Avenue, a left hand turn from Hwy 285. She’s a friendly woman, proud of her work. And, the cushions look good. Not installed quite yet, due to cleaning required first, but they will support Thanksgiving guests.

ColoradoAfter carrying the two cushions and the remaining fabric, about 3 yards, out to the car, Kate and I drove off in a southeasterly direction toward the high plains town of Elizabeth. We turned east at Castle Rock on Colorado 86. 86 heads resolutely away from the mountains, which are in the rearview the whole way. Elizabeth is a small agricultural town, known to any Midwesterner in its general outline and types of stores and shops. That’s why I said not long after we moved that the Midwest washes up here against the solid reef of the Rocky Mountains and finally disappears. In Elizabeth Kate and I were on familiar turf.

The Meat Locker has several letters missing in its sign and the building could use tuck pointing over its entire surface, but the folks are friendly. They butcher locally raised (Jefferson and Park County being local in this instance.) grass fed animals. The guy who didn’t know what a capon was helped us load our quarter of a beef into the truck using three cardboard trays with handles. We’ve almost finished last year’s beef so this amount seems about right for us.

On the way home Grandma rested, her feet placed over the vent which blew cool air. “The bee’s knees,” she said.

Brick Mortar vs Online - BannerCushions, a frozen beef quarter, groceries these are a few of the physical objects that we still use our truck to retrieve. I imagine at some point we’ll have an economy that divides itself between physical objects that have to be moved, including your own body to doctor’s appointments, for instance, and physical objects that can be purchased online and delivered. I know we’re already there with online sales, but I mean a situation where the economy consciously organizes itself by these categories. Right now we have a transitional situation between brick and mortar businesses built under the old, we have to go there to get it paradigm, and an online retail economy powered to our homes by the USPS, Fedex or UPS. It’s clumsy and not always transparent which is better, online or physical shopping. I think that will sort itself out over the next decade or so, maybe a bit more.

 

Holiseason Well Underway

Samain                                                                        Joe and SeoAh Moon

caponDrove to Wheat Ridge yesterday to Edward’s Meats. Hunting for capon. Capons are surprisingly difficult to find here; even more surprisingly, the first two butchers we asked for one gave us a blank look. Huh? What’s that? Butchers. Geez. Tony’s Market in Littleton, a very upscale butcher and speciality grocery store, did not have any but had an order coming in for Thanksgiving. I ordered one.

But I wanted to experiment with a cooking method before we put that one in the oven for Thanksgiving. That’s why I went to Edward’s. And, yes, they had a capon. $63.00. Sticker shock on my part. In spite of my desire to experiment with the pancetta and fig dressing and a way to create a golden, moist bird for the table, I left with a package of Edward’s all beef wieners and some cheese  curds.

Guess we’ll experiment on a big chicken, non-caponized.

When Kate bought four caramel apples just in case we had trick or treaters (we didn’t, as has been the case all the years we’ve been here), she kicked off holiseason. Hunting for recipes for thanksgiving, and capons, puts deeper into the season. We had Jon clear his stuff out of the guest room and kid’s room by November 1st so we could get the guest room ready by Thanksgiving for Annie, Kate’s sister, and for Joe and SeoAh, who plan to be here over Christmas. More prep.

festivals

We’ve also spent some time putting up lights. Kate strung rope lights on the loft deck and the stairway leading up. I strung some outdoor retro bulbs on the front of the house and another string arrives tomorrow. Needed a few more for the right effect. Though holiday decorating tailed off for us a while ago, these areligious lights are our contribution for the festivals of light.

This is my favorite time of year. The weather grows cold, snow comes. The land and its plant life rests. The many holidays that punctuate this very difficult time for temperate latitudes in times past bring families and friends, whole communities, together. Gifts are given, songs sung, wassailing is common. No matter the commercial spin of these months. That’s just humanity trying to conceal the struggle for depth, for powerful connection with the unseen.

20171109_170458Finding our way in the hiddenness, in the dark wood of Dante’s Divine Comedy, consumes our lives right up until our death. Most of the time we use the day-to-day as cover, pretending that going to work, cooking, paying the bills, watching television, going to the movies is all there is. But we know it’s not. Death serves as the big revealer, the sacred text this earth has given to all life. Life is temporary, a place, as the Mexica say, between a sleep and a sleep. The holidays give us a chance to glimpse the hidden, to see behind the veil that separates the ordinary from the wonder which suffuses it. Yes, that chance exists every day, in all parts of our ordinary lives, but our capitulation to the mundane, seemingly necessary for our sanity, makes it very hard.

diwali-660_110313050526That’s why on Samain we celebrate the thinning of the veil between the worlds. That’s why on Thanksgiving we give ourselves over to gratitude and to family. That’s why Diwali, Hanukkah, and Christmas have us lighting up our homes, our streets, our businesses. That’s why we sing brave songs, remember the birth of a god in human form, the wonder of a light that wouldn’t go out, light the small earthen diyas filled with oil that represent enlightenment driving out ignorance, the wick, the human soul, burning up the oil, hate and ignorance. We could us a few diya’s lit here in the U.S. right now. More than a few.

Holiseason gives us a chance to pull open the curtain on the Holy of Holies and see inside. I hope you find an opportunity to witness, even if for only a moment, the true majesty of this cosmos in which we are embedded.

 

Behind the Texts

Fall                                                                            Harvest Moon

20-the-map-is-not-the-territoryThree nights in a row at Beth Evergreen. Challenging for this early to bed, early to rise guy. Though. Kabbalah fascinated me. I’m beginning to feel my way into the occult, again. The hidden wonders. This time around I may be able to actually hold at arm’s length the cultural vehicles and not resist the message because of the messengers. That is, kabbalah, in particular, has a poetic, evocative, confounding approach that speaks to my sense of absurdity. And, my in but not of relationship to Judaism also allows me a critical distance that I find very helpful.

At the mussar vaad practice group last night we had a discussion about the character trait kavod: honor, respect, dignity. It focuses on realizing the worth of each individual, of self and other, the god-in-me bows to the god-in-you.

There is a distinctively Jewish way of taking up this idea. For instance, a story in the Talmud has rabbi’s discussing whether a man on his way to hear the megillah, scripture written on a scroll (megile) but not part of the Torah, the story of Esther read at Purim being the usual example, must stop to bury a corpse he finds on the road. Yes, the rabbi’s conclude, he must bury the body rather than go hear the reading of the miracle of Esther. Why? Because of the honor due to any person, even their corpse. That transmits the message about kavod in way that’s hard to ignore. Teaching stories are a significant part of Jewish civilization.

BlakeThis story works for me. The imagery is something I can relate to because I’m human. Honor is so important and so often gotten wrong. Think, for example, about the instance of DJT honoring America First; just as Kim Jong Un honors himself and North Korea first. Or the gang member who feels dissed, disrespected, dishonored. A sense of kavod would have prevented the shooting in Las Vegas, the holocaust. It would prevent child abuse and domestic violence. Harming another whose dignity and respect is as worthy as your own is just not possible.

How we honor ourselves and, in turn, honor others is, therefore, a critical issue for our daily lives, our communal lives, our global lives. The kabbalistic conversation about Paradise hidden behind the wilderness of language allowed me, in a way I can’t explain, to peel away words and constructs and feel my way into the place where all pulses and throbs and lives and knows neither time nor space. The words for god, gods, goddesses point to this place, but like Hotei pointing at the moon, they are just fingers, not the moon itself.

Long ago, during the height of the sixties, many of my friends and compatriots were turning to Buddhism, to Hinduism, think Hare Krishnas and Zen. You might think, with my Asian bent, that they appealed to me immediately. No. I wanted, I said to myself, to go where they were going, but with Western cues, ones that were already woven into the fabric of my cultural inheritance. I was studying anthropology at the time and keenly aware of the way culture subtlety shapes our reality-the wilderness of language being no small part of it.

Abraham

Abraham

That’s how I ended up in Seminary. Eventually. And there were moments during sem, moments later during my time in the Christian ministry, when certain Christian traditions pulled me in in a manner similar to kabbalah: the Jesus prayer, lectio divina, contemplative prayer, retreats. The mystical side. As kabbalah is an important mystical tradition in Judaism. I got sidetracked, and yes I believe it was a side track, though, by my political commitments, by my nurture the institution commitments, by my always soft, but extant, commitment to the textual underpinnings of Christianity.

The quasi-Scholastic nature of the religions of the book, and most religions are, in one way or another, religions of the book: buddhist sutras, the tao te ching, the vedas, the koran, the bible, the tanakh, however, pushed me away, as it did Emerson. I want a religion, like him, of a revelation to us, not the dry bones of theirs. So I chose to read the book of nature, to step outside the textual traditions and the wilderness of their dogma, their stories. I’m still out there.

But. With the help of Beth Evergreen and the spirit of reconstructionist thought I’m once again able to be fed by those same texts without immersing myself in their interpretive world, at least not in a, I’d better get this or I’m lost (in the sense of geographically lost, not the metaphysical idea of salvation) sense. This is freeing for me, and Beth Evergreen has made it possible. I can take those cues from our Judaeo-Christian cultural inheritance and hear their powerful messages without becoming entangled in them, enmeshed.

As Leonard Cohen might say, Hallelujah.

Who is God’s Rothko?

Fall                                                                     Harvest Moon

Been thinking about a new analogy for reimagining/reconstructing faith: the transition from representational to abstract art. I like the analogy because it reaches deep into prehistory to the cave art of Lascaux and Chauvet of 40,000 years ago. This tradition developed so powerfully that its underlying assumptions were simply not questioned.  What would art be about but the reproduction of the human world in two-dimensions? Then, in 3, but still a man, or a god, or an animal. The introduction of perspective reinforced the representational, but did, I imagine, to the sensitive eye, give an inkling of the manipulation of space and color that really underlay art making.

No. 118 1961 by Mark Rothko

No. 118 1961 by Mark Rothko

So called modern art was a radical break with this tradition. It happened as artists in many places looked at painting and sculpture with fresh eyes. They asked about the purpose of art, the purpose of paint on canvas, the purpose of reshaping wood and stone. What are the primary elements of the work? Color. Paint. Form. Space. Negative space. And perspective, did it have to be mathematical? Was there a perspective that developed simply through the use of color? (Cezanne) Did perspective have to be singular? (Picasso) Could a painting be nothing but color? (Morris Louis, Rothko, Kandinsky) What about painting or sculpting things that could not exist? (Man Ray, Dali, DuChamp)

mao trach dong

mao trach dong

As artists began to consider the fundamentals, the unexamined assumptions of making art that had shaped its global expression since humans began making marks, though, that other tradition, the old representational one, did not die out. There were still portraits, still landscapes, still still lifes, sculpted men and women and animals and mythical beings of all sorts. This reimagining, reconstructing of art itself seemed to displace the older way, but only because museums became so dominant. There were modern art museums like the Walker and the Guggenheim and the Modern and the Tate which seemed to position the older, encyclopedic museums like the MIA, the Metropolitan, the Kunsthistorisches, the Louvre as showplaces of what used to be. Even the development of ateliers, who imagine themselves as the heirs to the older tradition, seemed to be an admission that the reimaginers had swept the field.

danceSo what I’m proposing is not another religion with a different origin story, a different set of scriptures, different roots from, say, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Islam. And what I’m definitely not proposing is a reductionistic attempt to find out what all religions have in common, nor am I proposing a sort of tolerance for all faiths, an attempt to learn from each of them (though this is a good thing to do) and out of that shape a new faith.

No, I want to play with the fundamentals of religion, those things that underlay the tradition of religious thought and practice. I say play advisedly because I think it was the playful aspect of the artists who questioned their tradition that made their work bearable. And, in making it bearable, made it accessible enough to thrive.

Criteria by Bruce LeeSo, what are some of those fundamentals? Prayer, worship, gods, ritual, art, revelation, congregations, sacred space, the notion of sacred, divinity, after life, morality and ethics. How might a radical approach take the long history of prayer, for example, and reshape it, reconfigure it, reuse it for the person who chooses to stand outside particular traditions, but still wants to paint? Or, what about gods? How does the notion of powerful, unseen entities with various agendas fit into the life of persons no longer monotheists, no longer willing or able to see many gods?

I don’t even want to do what Emerson proposed. That is, have a religion of revelation to us rather than the dry bones of theirs. I want to examine revelation itself. What is revealed? Why is hiddenness so important to religion? What is revelation in a quantum mechanical world? Where is revelation? How are things revealed? How have things been revealed all along, but we didn’t notice? And why do we care about a world beyond the one we experience effortlessly?

 

 

Life’s Rhythms

Fall                                                                                 Harvest Moon

April, 2016, Songtan, Korea

April 2016, Songtan, Korea

Road trip! I’m planning a visit to see Joseph and SeoAh over his birthday weekend in late October. Since they’re living on base, I’ll get a chance to see Robins AFB from the inside. I saw Joseph on Shavuot, June 1st, when he came on a sudden trip to Colorado Springs, but I’ve not seen SeoAh since the wedding, now a year and a half ago. I’m excited.

Yesterday was a rest day from working out, so I used the morning to pick up and rearrange. My work habits leave papers and books scattered in many places, for many different reasons and every once in awhile restoration is in order. I got most of that cleared away yesterday, leaving now the more demanding tasks of moving a whole shelving unit and changing the location of certain books, especially those relevant to reimagining/reconstructing faith. It took a couple of years to find an arrangement of furniture up here that suits me and the books got shelved before I found it. A process.

Kate and I had our business meeting at 3 Margaritas. Though somewhat strained the last year by Jon and the grandkids, our finances are in good order. That makes life easier. We look out ahead at upcoming expenses like the Georgia trip, that quarter of beef from Carmichael Cattle Company, a boiler inspection, Jon’s work on the bench. We talk about matters that need attention at home like sealing the bathroom’s stone work, moving the Arcosanti bell, yard work. Cooking. We also talk about how we’re feeling, physically and emotionally.

for example

for example

Kate’s various ailments make keeping her energy up a challenge, but she’s developed routines that mitigate the worst effects of Sjogren’s Syndrome, has the Remicade infusions for rheumatoid arthritis and manages her lower o2 saturation at night with the oxygen concentrator. She’s gained weight, which is a big positive, though the irony of having to gain weight is never lost on her.

Jon’s working on his new house. He has the kid’s beds set up and spent the weekend painting. He says painting here can produce an intermediate phase where the low humidity causes the paint to dry prematurely, making it sometimes strip off in panels when he goes back to touch up. Frustrating. His kitchen and bathrooms will require more work than he initially imagined, but he’s skilled in these matters.

He came up last night. We had chili from the last of last year’s quarter beef’s hamburger. He’s adjusting to the new schedule, but discovering what all divorced people do. That is, all the responsibilities you used to share are now your’s alone. That can be overwhelming, but he’s handling it by choosing where he spends his energy, the only real solution.

plutarch-quote-there-are-two-sentences-inscribed-upon-the-delphic-oracWe’re in the middle of the days of awe, between new years and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement when the book of life is sealed for the last year. Life demands examination; the ancient Greeks had it written over the Delphic oracle’s doorway in Apollo’s temple: gnothi seauton, know thyself. This annual juxtaposition of the new year and a time of seeking forgiveness for wrongs committed in the past year, both from others and from the sacred Self which links us to the whole, is in a sense a reminder of a rhythm that examination requires.

We fall short of our best selves, both in our relationships with others and in our own inner life, but Judaism and its liturgical calendar reminds us that this is neither extraordinary nor indelible. We seek repentance, then move on, being trapped neither by the past nor by anxiety about how that past will determine our future. That’s the human message of the days of awe. And it’s a good one, one from which us non-Jews can learn.

 

 

 

Fall, 2017

Fall                                                                           Harvest Moon

Today is the autumnal equinox. As the great wheel rolls on through the year, this is a day/night of balance, of night and day roughly equivalent. Here in the Rockies, on Mountain Time, the earth and sun are not, at the equator, tilted away or toward each other. The moment when this is true occurs at 2:02 p.m, MST. The day itself will be 12 hours and 9 minutes long. The 12 hours and 1 minute day doesn’t come until September 25th this year.

The notion of equinox though, equal day and night, reminds us that this astronomical event, sun and earth’s midpoint lining up, does mark a significant change. The light gradually increased from the vernal equinox to a maximum day on the summer solstice. Darkness gradually increases from September 25th to its maximum at the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year.

For reasons I don’t fully understand, I prefer the six months of the year when darkness dominates. This period between autumnal and vernal equinoxes is my favorite half of the year. Here in the temperate latitudes-we’re 4 degrees north of the 35th latitude here in Conifer and temperate equals 35 – 55 degrees of latitude-this six months goes from the tail end of the growing season’s warmth to the slow release from winter’s cold that usually happens in late March.

Equinox-SolsticeHere in the mountains the streams have long ago drained off last winter’s snowfall; the aspen have turned golden. The cervids have begun their annual procreational dance. Sex is in the air. We have snow in the forecast for Monday and night time temperatures are in the good sleeping weather range for Kate and me. In Minnesota we could hear the Andover marching band practicing and here the high school football season is already well underway. Coats become an item of consideration when leaving the house.

It’s a time to consider the balances in your life. Has anything gotten out of whack that needs adjustment? Working too much? Seeing too little of family and friends? Or, too much? How about the diet of your choosing? Too much or too little exercise? Television? Social media? What other dialectics in your life might you examine?

Holidays-3-paganism-18189677-470-432

Consider taking a cup of coffee (beverage of your choice) on one of these days with a just right temperature and going somewhere quiet. Investigate your life, probing for parts of it that may not be nurturing you right now. What are they? How can you make gradual, not sudden, changes that will help you become the person you already are? It may be that some of that work involves cutting something back or increasing something else, just like the temperate latitudes do with their light menu.

We can learn from the rhythm of day and night over the course of a year that each one, light and dark, nurtures different things, sometimes drastically different. Summer grows our food while Michaelmas, September 29th, is known by some as the springtime of the soul.

What will you learn, this day?

 

November 2017
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