We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Akedah

Lughnasa                                                                  Harvest Moon

Torah being read at a Bar Mitzvah

Off I went to seminary in 1971, knowing Minnesota not at all and the world of academic Christianity almost as little. When classes began that fall, there were full day and half day classes. Core curriculum subjects like church history, theology, ethics, and biblical study were full day. I don’t recall right now what subjects were half day classes, I think homiletics, liturgy, practical theology.

What surprised me was my fascination with biblical study, studies in the Old Testament (as we called the writings of the Jews) and the New. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been preparing for a mussar session on rachamim, compassion or mercy as a character virtue. In my preparation I’ve sought out particular Torah passages that typify or describe rachamim. I’ve found myself drawn again into this antique mythic world, one where humans and the holy shared day-to-day experience, a world Emerson called, “the revelation to them.” And I’m loving it again. All over again. Maybe more.

09 11 10_Joseph_0256Emerson wanted a revelation to us, “not the dry bones of revelation to them.” I agree. But how do we know revelation? What is it? Take for example the difficult, painful story Jewish commentators call the akedah, the binding, the binding of Isaac. It’s the sort of scene from which I would avert my eyes were it to play out before me. (Or, I would call child protective services.)

akedayYet, let me put it in personal context, the binding of Joseph. I’ve encountered this very dilemma as my son, the son of my heart whose small hand I held, whom I carried on my shoulders, took himself to his own Mt. Moriah, the USAF, willing to carry the wood for his own sacrifice on his back, much as I had carried him. How could I countenance this self-sacrifice? I couldn’t. Only a father who loves his son could entertain such a decision and so I can see the awful choice facing Abraham. A higher duty called him, a responsibility that he felt, a responsibility that cut into his own flesh.

Joseph has not yet been required to mount the altar, to lie down on the wood he carried and feel its flame lick round his feet, his torso, his hands. I am very glad. Perhaps there will be a ram caught in the bushes for him, too.

foolThere are in these stories archetypal truths. There are in these stories a record of how the ancient mind heard the inner voice, how powerfully their imaginations worked, a record of how careful attention to the soul could reveal a way to make the pilgrimage from beginning to end. I do not believe they were written with a holy goose quill, nor by a secret transmission through a sheet, then transcribed on tablets of gold. I do believe they belong with the Greek myths as some of our best sources for understanding this fool’s journey we call our life.

It feels like time for me to follow Paul Ricoeur into my second naivete with these texts, to spend much more time this next year in the study, following the parsha as they advance through the Jewish liturgical year, reading especially the works of Avivah Zornberg as commentary on them. Writing about them, listening to them, probing them for clues for how to see a revelation to us. These texts do call me. It is time I paid attention. Again.

 

Eternal Return

Lughnasa                                                                Harvest Moon

mabonLughnasa and the Harvest Moon. We are in the season of reaping what has been sown. From the first of August or so until Samain on October 31st gathering in is the main theme on the Great Wheel. The fall equinox, Mabon, is near. September 22nd. It comes with the Harvest Moon, that fluke of planetary dynamics that has lit up farm fields at just the right moment for as long humans have been farming.

No longer a Midwesterner, I don’t see the combines in the long rectangles of wheat, the corn pickers going through the tall stands of sturdy green, the hay balers saving alfalfa and timothy for feed. There are no ads here for hay rides through the apple orchards, no pick your own gardens for late season fruits. That sort of agriculture depends on rain and once past the 100th parallel, oops now the 105th as the arid West creeps eastward across the Great Plains, average rainfall becomes less, often much less than 20 inches a year.

Here fall and Mabon announce themselves in the gold of the aspen, jewel like groves set among larger stands of forever green lodgepole pine. Along the mountain streams Maxwell, Cub, Bear some dogwood flashes bright red. Low lying marshy areas turn a green gold and the cattail spikes stand proudly. Too, the mule deer and elk begin to come down from their summer fields, following food. There will be, in a week or two, the elk rut, with that strangled sound the bull elks make, a bugle. There will also be many more tourists here this week and next. The come for the jewels on the mountain sides, scenes I can see from my study window.

great wheel3The Great Wheel turns, but its turning is the original local expressing a universal. Here the golden aspen in the Midwest the great harvest machines lumbering through fields. In the Midwest stunning colors here a dichromatic palette. How the harvest season manifests depends on weather and here in the Rockies altitude. Pikes Peak and Mt. Rosalie near Bailey, for instance, have already had their first snow, passing out of the harvest season.

The expression of the season also depends on the plant species that have adapted themselves to a particular locale. One dominant deciduous tree, the aspen, makes our montane ecosystem much different from the remnants of the great woods that dominates the Midwest. Then there are the animals. Pheasants in the Dakotas and Nebraska. Elk and mule deer on the Front Range. Coordinates matter, too. Fall is different here at latitude 39 degrees than in, say, Warroad, Minnesota at 49 degrees. The other marker, the longitude, we’ve already referred to.

green knight

green knight

I celebrate the turning of the wheel, await its changes with anticipation. There is comfort, at least to me, in the regularity and predictability of the seasons. They tell me that time is not linear, that it is instead a spiral, cork-screwing its way through spacetime. They tell me that eternal return is written into the way of the universe, that even our life and its mayfly like time compared to the mountains on which I live, is, too, part of a great coming and going, a leaving and coming home. Somehow, through some mechanism now hidden to me, this life I’ve lived will matter and its significance, like your own, will revisit humanity, tempered and changed by the seasons of the universe. I suppose, in this way, we are all immortal, at least until the cold death of this cosmos. But, perhaps, even in that case, we will live on in one of the infinite multiverses, offering our harvest of human consciousness to feed other souls.

 

Sweet

Lughnasa                                                                  Harvest Moon

1514204356436Tomorrow, in our second religious school class, this one unscripted by Moving Traditions, we’re going to do a get to know each other exercise. Your life in 5 objects. Taking my cue from the American History in 101 Objects display at the Smithsonian, I’ll start with my own five objects: a newspaper, a globe, artemis honey and apples, great wheel, family picture.

I’ll ask the kids to bring their objects, 7th graders next class and 6th graders the next. My hope is that as they look back over their life they will begin to reflect on childhood, their childhood and childhood in general. The dominant theme of this year is the huge transition underway for them from childhood to adolescence.

This will also help me get to the know the kids better since they’re all unfamiliar to me beyond names right now. Looking forward to it since the barrier between never having done this and being a rank amateur has been breached. I’m now a novice learning how to help others learn. I can work with that.

20180910_101739Kate and I went in early yesterday morning to help prepare the board’s luncheon for those attending the Rosh Hashanah service. I peeled laser cut lox off salmon fillets while Kate put schmeer on tiny bagels. The lox went on the bagels. Lois and Fran were making egg salad bagels. We set up water, lemonade, coffee stations, put out trays of cookies, dressed round tables with flowers, cutup fruit and vegetables. A platter with sliced apples and honey is traditional for Rosh Hashanah, dipping an apple in honey is symbolic of a wish for a sweet new year.

The service is long, over two and a half hours, so folks are hungry when it’s over. Kate and I got there about 8:50 to help with the prep. That lasted well past the service’s 9:30 start. The prayers and chants, Jamie’s sermon, were all in the background as we worked in the social hall. When we finished, most of us went into the sanctuary. Folks get up and move around, go to the bathrooms, even chat during the service itself. It is, in that sense, more casual than most Sunday morning Christian services.

all dressed up with some place to go

all dressed up with some place to go

Bill Schmidt said something on our zoom session a couple of Sunday’s ago that keeps coming up. You may be more Jewish than you’re willing to admit, something like that. He could be right. I’m in this sort of hokey-pokey relationship to the tribe, one foot in and one foot out, then I shake it all about. I believe he made this comment when I said something like I’m becoming a Jew by osmosis.

We’ll see. I tell myself that I don’t want to join another religion, I’m happy with the earth/solar-centered focus of my own spirituality. And, I am. Further, I got sucked into Christianity by its unexpected (to me) intellectual depth, the beauty of its history. I can feel the same lure every time I encounter new things about Judaism, which is constant. My mind is so open that I can confuse excitement about learning new things with a personal commitment. The difference here, I suppose, is that I’m staying around, getting more deeply involved, not only because of the odd amalgam of tradition and anti-supernaturalism that is reconstructionist thought, but mostly because of the people.

Not sure where all this ends, but for now, I’m excited about my involvement at Beth Evergreen, happy to have new friends, and committed to this congregation. Beyond that? Not clear. Maybe there is no beyond that.

 

 

The Journey, It’s Always About the Journey

Lughnasa                                                           Waning Summer Moon

The first day of our Latin American cruise

The first day of our Latin American cruise

We may be inching toward a diagnosis for Kate’s nausea. As successive hunches and medical tests have identified nothing wrong with her G.I. tract, trés frustrating, one of Kate’s early notions might turn out to be correct.

She saw her rheumatologist, Dr. Westerman, yesterday and he conceded that gastroparesis may be the cause of her nausea. It’s a bugger. Something, usually unknown, causes the stomach to lose its motility. The result is that the stomach does not empty as well, sometimes, in severe instances, not at all. Weight loss, malnutrition, lack of appetite. All symptoms, all one’s she has.

Still, knowing the cause would mean we can begin to adjust things like diet for her. If gastroparesis turns out to be right, there are other things we can do, too, including possible experimental drugs.

this morning

this morning

Rain and chill here this morning, 43 and gray as the sky begins to lighten. All rain is welcome. Sleeping is much better with the cooler nights.

I zoomed again yesterday, this time with Jen Kraft of Moving Traditions (the b’nai mitzvah curriculum), Alan, Rabbi Jamie, and Tara Saltzman, director of religious education at Beth Evergreen. We were nailing down roles and expectations for the first night of religious school, tonight. My anxiety level has gone down as we approach the actual launch, which means I’ve prepared as well as I can. After that, inshallah.

hiit2Getting back to five days a week exercise. Always feel better. Trying to regain my former high intensity workouts on the off days from resistance work. These workouts increase cardiac fitness, important especially in the mountains. In my case I do two five minute sets, varying speeds each minute from medium intensity (30 seconds), high intensity (20 seconds), and as fast as possible (10 seconds), with a two minute rest between them. I like high intensity because it’s effective and short in duration.

625448_164319917056179_937468223_nLooked into stamina after last week’s exhausting day at CBE with Alan. Discovered that I’m doing, mostly, what can be done. The part I’d let drift away was the high intensity workout. So, I’ll return to that. But, the real message is that stamina decreases with age, even with good sleep, decent diet and exercise.

What’s happening for Kate and me, I think, is a difficult and grudging acceptance of certain physical changes. It’s easy, and understandable, to focus on what’s wrong, to look for the better tomorrow if only we can do this or that. Yet, and it’s a big yet, I feel there may be a tricky, more important, and nuanced reaction available. We need to also concentrate on what we can do well, even given the limitations of stamina and chronic medical conditions.

Back in the long ago faraway I went through a series of therapists, one a guy, Brian, I really liked. He was a former Catholic priest, insightful and well-educated. But, his approach, existentialist psychology, focused on what was wrong. Each session we would identify problems and seek solutions, changes in behavior or inner narrative. Each session. Problems, work for solutions. Always what was wrong, what needed to change.

Abandon all attachment to the results of action and attain supreme peaceI finally realized that a problem oriented therapeutic approach kept me trapped in a continuing circle of what’s wrong? What do I need to do? How can I change? In other words my life was always problematic. Like whack a mole for psychological issues. No relief, just unending work on what was wrong. What was wrong was me.

Nope. Needed to get out from under that weight, accentuate the resources I had, the strong parts. I needed a therapeutic approach (and, a concomitant approach to myself) that found strengths, that put my struggles in the broader context of a life that was not a problem, not a puzzle, but a human journey. Jungian psychology and John Desteian did that for me. What a relief and I finally got movement in my inner life.

yourselfKate and I, I think, are at a similar cross roads. We need to accentuate the resources, the strengths that we each have, and they are considerable. Loss of stamina and chronic diseases (which we both have) are part of our lives, yes, but they are not our lives. Our lives are about sewing, quilting, the board at CBE, old friends, grandchildren, sons, our life together. They’re about writing and teaching and hiking and reading. About filling our days with purpose and love. Death is a certainty, but we don’t have to reach for it. It will come for us, in its own time. Until then, carpe diem!

 

Pilgrimage

Summer                                                                                    Monsoon Moon

St. Croix River, September, 2016

St. Croix River, September, 2016

Returning to the auld sod. September of two years ago was my last trip to Minnesota, that one for a day long Woolly Mammoth retreat in Stillwater. This time it’s Groveland UU’s 25th anniversary and their acceptance as a covenanting community of the UUA. Kate and I were part of Groveland from very near its inception, meeting in the round upper room of the Highland Park Library. I had just left the Presbytery and needed a religious community that did not make my mind go into reverse in order to remain.

The UUA proved to be a caravan serai for my longer journey, a spot where I could consider the contradictions of monotheism in friendly company. Groveland gave me a chance, over the years, to write out and present a travelogue of my own soul. This was a rare and welcome opportunity, one where I could say out loud what would have been heresy in my Presbyterian robes.

Mom, Dad, Me

For a while in those years I thought I would return to the full time ministry, perhaps even settle as a clergy in a small congregation. My analyst, John Desteian, later helped me identify this wish as a regression, a return to my back then profession to pick up something I’d left behind. In the retrospectoscope of many years now I think it was a need to say goodbye to that world, the world of the religious professional, to acknowledge that I no longer belonged in it, perhaps never did.

The notion of vocation is powerful. When triggered, as mine was in a complex mix of politics and renewed interest in spirituality, it becomes self-defining. Called, some say. I never felt called to the ministry; though I did come to feel that the peculiar mix of politics and institutional leadership of my short, fifteen year, career was my vocation. Ordained first to my work as manager of Community Involvement Programs apartment living training program for the developmentally disabled, moving from there to the political work of the West Bank Ministry and finally onto Presbytery staff where I had broader responsibilities for mission and congregational development, I was able to pursue a commitment I made to myself during high school.

Industrial ruins of the Johns-Manville plant, 2015

Industrial ruins of the Johns-Manville plant, 2015

While working as a managerial intern for Johns-Manville corporation, the CEO of the factory where I worked offered me a full ride scholarship. In return I would work for the corporation as a manager for five years after college.

I needed the money because my SAT scores, though good, were not competitive for the best financial aid. I even found the work I’d done as an intern interesting. My summer project was to develop a diagnostic tool for the factory, defining and then developing a method to track what Jim Lewis, the CEO, called key operating indicators, koi’s. It was fun, digging around in the data to find a group of numbers that indicated the ongoing health of the work, then developing a method to track them on a regular basis.

When it came time to reply to Jim’s offer though, I had a very strong gut response. No. I would not, I said to myself then, ever work in a setting that compromised my values. At that point I was a strong labor advocate and attuned to the damaging, psyche cramping, even soul destroying power of corporate America.

Ye young radical, 1968

When I went to United Seminary in 1971, I gave myself a year. I wanted to get out of Appleton, Wisconsin, out of Fox River Paper company’s rag room. I needed to use my mind, not my back. When I got to United, I discovered a campus and, at the time, a profession, pushing back against the war in Vietnam, in solidarity with the civil rights movement, and intellectually rigorous. I liked my classmates and was able to continue the radical political life I’d begun, like so many, in the late sixties college movement against the war.

As I went deeper into the spiritual tradition of Christianity, I found contemplative prayer, long retreats, an inner world of great depth. Intellectual curiosity kept me coming back for more. And, that commitment I made was not challenged, not at that time.

It was only after adopting Joseph in 1981, five years after my ordination, that I began to find cracks in the metaphysics I’d accepted. If Joseph had been raised in his birth home, in Bengal, he would likely have been raised Hindu. And, as a Hindu, he would have been beyond the pale of salvation. No. The same sort of gut response I’d had to the Johns-Manville offer hit me. No. If I could love this boy now, I would love him as a child devoted to Shiva or Vishnu or Kali. And, if I could do that, and the god I served could not. Well.

09 11 10_Joseph_0271Was that the real trigger? I’m no longer sure. It was a contributing and significant one, that I know. I believe now that it was the rationale I could explain to others. The true inner shift was a different one, a result of the contemplative and spiritual work that I first found in seminary.

I read the Creation of the Patriarchy by Gerda Lerner when it was first published in 1986. It opened my mind and heart to the power of metaphor, how metaphor could be used as an oppressive tool, one so subtle that what appeared as spiritual might actually be enslaving. In particular Lerner’s work convinced me that transcendence, with its up and out of the body, up and away from the natural order move, reinforced, even helped create patriarchy. The best, the most sublime, part of us was not in our embodied form, but in our ability to leave the body for a higher spiritual plane, to merge with God. This was a move that reinforced that the three story universe where true power, the most real, was above us, literally, in the realm of God, the father. Heaven.

Instead, I came to believe that true power, the most real, was right here, in our bodies, on this earth, in the amazing web of life in which we participated along with the rest of the animate world. Transcendence became, for me, a concept that smuggled in a world ruled by men and kept the world that way through constant repetition and its anointing as the way to true spirituality.

IMAG0680croppedAgain, NO. See a pattern here? When I made the turn from up and out of the body to down and in, my religious worldview shifted permanently. My spirituality became an embodied one, one that found the universe in my hands, my feet, my skin, the very fleshy things that are of this world. When gardening and beekeeping and orchard tending occupied a lot of both Kate and mine’s time, it was easy to see the link between the soil and this embodied, non-transcendent spirituality.

This was the core move, the one I could explain theologically, intellectually, even emotionally through the Joseph story; but, which was in fact a metaphysical shift away from spiritual realms other than the one into which we are thrown at birth. I’m still in that place. I’m still anti-transcendent, pro-body, pro-earth. I find God an unnecessary idea, but, oddly, I find religion itself compelling. Still.

Judaism, reconstructionist Judaism, is, unexpectedly, a comfortable home. It requires no dogma, requires no belief, and has an establishing principle of skepticism toward the past, yet an acceptance of the power of tradition. Beth Evergreen in particular is a place that allows, encourages deep exploration of self, of community, of our obligations to each other as fellow creatures, and to the gritty world that supports us. All I ever wanted, really.

 

Fangs and Claws

Summer                                                                     Woolly Mammoth Moon

twilightModern technology is so wonderful. Over the last few days I watched all five of the much maligned Twilight movies. You might ask why, at 71, I would subject myself to all those teen hormones, questionable dialogue, and odd acting. First answer, I’m easily entertained.  Second answer, I’m revising Superior Wolf right now. Werewolves from their source. Also, a project I work on from time to time is Rocky Mountain Vampire. So, the Twilight saga is in the same genre as my own work, though aimed more at a young adult, tween to teen audience. Which is, I might add, a very lucrative market. Maybe, it just occurred to me, some of them will be interested in my work as a result of their exposure to the Twilight books and movies.

20180711_065526The supernatural is a dominant theme in my life, from religion to magic to ancient myths and legends to fairy tales and folklore. My world has enchantment around every bend, every mountain stream, every cloud covered mountain peak. No, I don’t know if there are faeries and elves and Shivas and Lokis and witches who eat children. I don’t know if anyone ever set out on a quest for the golden fleece or angels got thrown out of heaven. Don’t need to. We wonder about what happens after death, a common horror experience often and always. If we’re thoughtful, we wonder about what happened before life. Where were we before?

670HandbookAfterlifeOur senses limit us to a particular spectrum of light, a particular range of sounds, a particular grouping of smells and tastes, yet we know about the infrared, low and high frequency sounds, the more nuanced world of smells available to dogs. We’re locked inside our bodies, yet we know that there are multiverses in every person we meet, just like in us. We know we were thrown into a particular moment, yet know very little of the moments the other billions of us got thrown into. My point is that our understanding of the natural is very, very limited, in spite of all the sophisticated scientific and humanistic and technological tools we can bring to bear. Most of what exists is outside our usual understanding of natural, certainly outside our sensory experience.

The expanse of the wonderful, the awesome, the amazing, so vast even in our small human experience, is cosmic outside of it. That’s where the supernatural realm lies. Not only Just So stories, then, but What If stories, too.

Sure, there are gothic stories, horror stories, fantasy that are poorly conceived, poorly written and poorly executed. I’ve contributed to that slush pile, but at the same time there are stories of the supernatural that allow us to get outside our human chauvinism, to imagine, to wonder. The part of me that loved the Ring cycle as a fourteen year old enjoyed Tolkien, King, Wickham, Kostova, and Clarke.

I have a sophisticated, adult aesthetic, too, and I enjoy it; but, I don’t see why I have to leave behind my more childlike appreciation of things like Marvel Comics, the Twilight Saga, Harry Potter, Hunger Games. So, I haven’t. My inner tween/teen needs screen time, as well.

 

 

 

 

 

Mariposa

Summer                                                                     Woolly Mammoth Moon

Ruth at DomoSuch a sweet kid, that Ruth. When she left elementary school last year and entered Mcauliffe middle school, she was still a child, a fast maturing child, but still looking backward, not yet out of recess and whole day class with one teacher. Over the course of this last school year, she stopped being a girl and has become an adolescent, not quite a teenager yet, but definitely no longer a child. This last year has also moved her further and further from the immediacy of the divorce which has reduced her reactivity, allowing her to concentrate on her academic interests like math and Chinese.

When up here, she cooks, sews, makes art, watches TV, discusses politics, goes to Lake Evergreen for paddle boarding, comes up to the loft and sits in her chair. We talk:

Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
 

ruth-and-hair330As with Joseph, it’s a delight and a privilege to be part of this transition. It’s a miraculous moment, somewhat like a chrysalis. The Ruth that has emerged from childhood is different in substantial ways. More thoughtful. More adventurous. More eager to learn. More engaged with others. More on her phone. Bigger, taller. This turn, from elementary age to middle school age, is captivating. I can see why a teacher might want to focus on this age group.

She recommended that Kate and I watch Lady Bird. We did. What a perfect movie for her, for her time in her life. Lady Bird comes of age, has sex, chooses her own path. When the movies starts, she has a cast, a pink one, on her right forearm. It comes off part way through the movie, a symbol of her increasing growth. I could see Ruth traveling through Lady Bird’s transitions, just as, I imagine, Ruth could, too.

 

Will Wonders Never Cease?

Summer                                                                   Woolly Mammoth Moon

Happy to report that the two friends with critical life moments had good news, one through medical surveillance and one through a lifetime of work brought into clear focus. May the congregation say, Amen. Or, blessed be.

Under the Woolly Mammoth Moon two natural wonders continue apace. The 416 fire, though now reporting 37% containment, has increased in size to 47,000 acres plus and further information on the inciweb site for it indicate weather conditions are favorable for the fire to continue to grow. In addition to its location only 13 miles north of Durango, where my buddies and I spent a weekend, it’s also very close to Mesa Verde and the Canyon of the Ancients. This fire began on June 1st and has lasted into the difficult fire conditions of midsummer.

Cliff Palace of Mesa Verde, Mark Odegard

Cliff Palace of Mesa Verde, Mark Odegard

Back on the Big Island, Kilauea continues to erupt.

June 27 fissure 8 cone supplies lava to the ocean overflows

June 27 fissure 8 cone supplies lava to the ocean overflows USGS. The cone is now nearly 180 feet high.

June 28 Night view of the lava channel toward fissure 8 under a nearly full moon.

June 28 Night view of the lava channel toward fissure 8 under a nearly full moon. USGS

At the Kilauea caldera, Halemaʻumaʻu crater, home of the goddess Pele, continues to deepen and subside, the floor now 1,300 feet below what used to be the overlook area. The USGS reports that the popular parking lot next to the crater is no more, having fallen into Halemaʻumaʻu.

 

The Emersonian Turn

Summer                                                                     Woolly Mammoth Moon

winter solstice yalda-night-persian-calligraphy

winter solstice, Yalda night, Persian calligraphy

Well, it’s incremental. Down from 14:59 to 14:58 today but the needle has begun to move. By the end of the month daylight will have decreased to 14:56, but, by the end of July, to 14:16. August 13:05. September 11:49. December 21 9:21. That’s for Colorado, of course. Other locations will vary. A lot. But the trend is the same. And, on top of this mountain, welcome.

Started working on lesson plans, a first for me. My task involves the 6th graders of our religious school. Rabbi Jamie has a worksheet I’m using with four columns: Hebrew, Torah, Middah, and Mitzvah. Guess what? The first column is in Hebrew. That makes it a challenge for me. But, in this wonderful age of quick information access I can plug in the word to google’s task bar and get at least a clue quickly.

Glad I learned the quote, “Confusion is the sweat of the intellect.” After yesterday’s work on the lesson plans the metaphorical sweat came easily. It’s no easy feat stepping into another tradition, even one with which I have some familiarity. Yet, it is also rich, resonant.

Not a Jew, but a reconstructionist. That realization about my comfort level at Beth Evergreen has given me a broader insight. It’s a little strange, so bear with me, please.

Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde

Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde

I love definite, strong connections to the past, both Christianity and Judaism offer that to their adherents. So does travel. And reading. Among my favorite places to visit are ancient ruins like Ephesus, Angkor Wat, the Great Wall, sites of ancient Rome, Pompeii, Bath, Delphi, Delos, Cahokia, Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, even the castles of North Wales like Conway and Dinas Bran, encyclopedic art museums, and worlds created by writers like Ovid, Homer, Dante.

This could make me a conservative, a thinker and an actor with a preference for things as they were, a reluctance to change what works. But, oddly, it has had the opposite effect. I find in the ancient world a panoply of human possibility, ways of coping with this odd gift, life. How we think today, how we feel, has its roots in this vast web of life’s journey. We don’t have to experience everything as brand new, don’t have to figure everything out for ourselves. Others have loved, have doubted, have feared, have wondered, have hoped. So can we.

thoreaus_quote_near_his_cabin_site_walden_pondBut, and I might call this the Emersonian turn, we cannot use the offerings of the past without remembering his introduction to Nature: “The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?”

When we wittingly or unwittingly chain ourselves to the experience of others, especially those others from the distant past, we disrespect both them and ourselves. We disrespect them by claiming their authority as if something we had earned. We disrespect ourselves because we cheat ourselves of the present, of our own deep intuition, of our own revelations.

When we recognize though that those previous generations did behold God (bracket content) and nature face to face, that they did have an original relation to the universe, that they did create poetry and philosophy of their own insight, that they did create their religions by access to their own revelation, we learn an important, perhaps the important, lesson. We too live in this world with the same faculties, the same powers of observation and discernment that they had.

Gawain and the Green Knight

Gawain and the Green Knight

It was not those who had a religion of revelation to them that blinded us though. It was men, yes mostly men, of institutions, who tried to make the words of the past govern us. Those who declared scripture inerrant and infallible meant they knew what it meant, once and for all, and we had to obey. Well, I call bull shit on that. Those original beholders of God and nature opened themselves, in their present moments, to the awe and wonder all round about them. What a thing of beauty! Think how the mere record of their lives has effected us down to this day.

It is, though, the record of their lives. Only that. In our present, in this sacred moment, we have the same opportunity that they had, we have the same responsibility that they had. Think how the mere record of your life might effect others as distant from us in tomorrow as those are in yesterday.

Open up. Lighten up. Dance to the music of our time. Rip back the cloth from the temple gate in your life. Peak inside. Tell us what you see. We need to know.

Remember this. Always. “In the coming world they will not ask me—Why were you not Moses? They will ask me—Why were you not Zusya?” Rabbi Zusha of Hanipol

Good-Bye Mountain Moon

Beltane                                                                                  Mountain Moon

Black Mountain, Friday

Black Mountain, Friday

The mountain moon will disappear over the next few days; but, its impact, like that of the new shoulder moon, will continue. I’m now picking up mountain facts, art, poetry, science, including a lot of vulcanology. The mountains that I see everyday speak to me in new ways. See what you’re looking at.

Here’s an example. While on our way to Evergreen the other day, Kate said, “Oh, look. Leaves on the aspens!” This was near the entrance to the Cub Creek trailhead. Sure enough, a grove of aspen (clones of each other) had small bright green leaves. But. As we went further down Brook Forest Drive, the aspens were not leafed out. Their leaves were still furled, mostly colorless. Why? What about the soil, water, location with other trees made that one batch of aspen leaf out earlier than almost all the others we saw further down? Still don’t know.

Another. The last few days have been rainy and foggy. As we passed rock faces bare of trees, the fog and mist on them gave a perfect simulacrum of the Song dynasty paintings that I love, mountains seeming to emerge from and disappear into the clouds.

Another and ongoing aspect of becoming native to this place.

September 2018
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