We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Cliff Palace

Beltane                                                           Woolly Mammoth Moon

The Quadruplets

The Quadruplets

We drove yesterday where others walked long ago. The drive from the visitor center at Mesa Verde to the Cliff Palace where we went on an hour long tour took a long while, maybe 30 minutes up an incline. The land at Mesa Verde slopes up at an angle with fingers of land separated by eroded valleys. At the end of these wide fingers the land slopes down again, gently. As a result, according to an exhibit at the Spruce Tree dwelling museum, Mesa Verde is not a mesa at all, but a cuesta. Mesa’s have sharp cliffs while cuesta’s slope, as they do here, toward the lower ground.

20180616_113852

Paul and Mark descending

The route down to Cliff Palace (I’ll post pictures when I get back home) was the same one the cliff dwellers used, narrow steps cut into sandstone, augmented a bit by the occasional iron railing. There was, too, a ten foot ladder on the way down and two ten foot ladders on the way out which also followed a cliff dweller path. It would have been a fun place to grow up as a kid, scrambling up and down over rock and ladders, a more or less level surface above the home site where games could be played.

As at many sites where rock was a primary building material, the skill level was high with walls that were plumb, right angles, and a mortar that both bound the rock together and allowed water to seep through without loosening.

20180616_104310

Cliff Palace

Mark asked an interesting question about wall coverings. These rocky appearing structures would have had several coats of plaster on them and would have been painted. That means they would have looked much different than they do now.

A ranger at the visitor center compared Mesa Verde to Giza and other World Heritage sites. When Tom asked him what was good about working there, “We get visitors from all over the world.” Another Ranger I talked to, Doug Crispin, had an obvious reverence for this Park. He was a first generation immigrant and said, “This is an American story. I’m honored to be here to share it.” He and I mused over a thousand years from now, “Will anyone be coming to look at the ruins of Durango? Probably not. But Mesa Verde will still be here.”

Right outside my hotel room is a small balcony with two chairs, a small table and a view of the Animas River. Had I been in this room on April 7th of 2015 the Animas would have been a sickly, mustard yellow thanks to the toxic spill from the Gold King Mine upstream from here. It’s clear now, with people kayaking, long  boarding, even fishing, but it took a long time. Here’s a hardly reassuring couple of paragraphs from the Durango Herald, April of this year:

Spruce Tree House

Spruce Tree House

San Juan Basin Public Health said water samples taken throughout the Animas River indicate there’s no risk to human or environmental health from normal use of the waterway.

However, the health department suggests people who come in contact with the river to wash with soap, keep a close watch on children who are more susceptible to unintentionally swallowing river water and treat water before consumption.

Meanwhile, the 416 fire, from the same newspaper, an hour ago: “The 416 Fire hasn’t exhaled its last column of smoke yet, but steady rainfall Saturday did help tame the 16-day-old wildfire and allow firefighters to increase containment lines around the 34,161-acre blaze.

20180616_122340I slept last night with the patio door open, screen closed. I could hear the Animas, the river of souls, running. When I woke up this morning, it was raining. My ear was eager for the sound, found it soothing, familiar in a humid East, Midwestern way.

Being with Tom, Paul, and Mark has reminded us all of the depth our long time relationships has nurtured. We move together through the day easily, listening to each other, making decisions, continuing lines of thought, sparking new ones. One of Paul’s hopes is that this trip might encourage us to use a meeting app like Zoom to get together even while far apart physically. I’d like that and hope we can make it work, too.

Kate says the stump grinder got a lot done in 2 hours. I’m excited to see it. An outdoor room. Later we’ll have him back to do the front, leaving widely spaced trees with no stumps.

 

Traveling Mercies

Beltane                                                                                Woolly Mammoth Moon

about+friendship+best+fMario is already in town, taking wildfire pictures with his usual acumen, traveling over mountain passes. Tom and Paul fly in today and we’ll have a slow cooker Irish stew up here on Shadow Mountain, all of us. These are friends of well over thirty years, men with whom I shared twice monthly meetings over that time, plus annual retreats. That bond was the toughest thing to leave behind when Kate and I moved out here.

This was a men’s group in the old style, one supported by, though not directly part of, the Men’s Movement. Robert Bly, the well known poet who lives in Minneapolis, was a key figure in that movement and a friend of several Woollies. He and the early Men’s Movement folks rooted the movement in Jungian psychology, considering archetypes in particular. Our group, the Woolly Mammoths-“We’re not extinct yet.”-, went in that direction, too, discussing fathers and mothers, dreams, career, love, pilgrimage and many other topics with vulnerability prized rather than shamed.

left to right, back row first: Jim, Bill, Paul, Tom, Me, Mark, Warren

left to right, back row first: Jim, Bill, Paul, Tom, Me, Mark, Warren

I’ve been gone three years now and I felt the loss keenly in the first couple of years. These were my confidants, my friends, an external ballast that helped steady the little barque that is my life. Due to illness and divorce (Jon’s) our first years  here have focused on recovery and left little money or time or stamina for travel. There were visits here, which I appreciated very much.

Now Paul, Tom, and Mark will be here for a trip to Durango, current site of the 416 fire, and jumping off spot for seeing such sights as Mesa Verde and the Four Corners in addition to the Durango/Silverton RR, closed due to the fire.

I feel so happy that these guys are coming out here, that we’ll have time together, to talk, to go deeper in the way only long time friends can do. Seeing more of Colorado, all of which will be new to me after Fairplay or so, is also exciting. Looking forward to a memorable few days.

 

Beginner’s Mind

Beltane                                                                               Sumi-e Moon

20180315_080258Odd things. First, a small group of folks at Beth Evergreen, mostly qabbalah students like myself, report seeing me as an artist. A visual artist. This is based on my last two presentations, the first being Hebrew letters with quotes relating to their deeper meanings and the second, last Wednesday, that used the sumi-e zen practice of enso creation. Now I’m far from a visual artist, I have two very good ones in my immediate family, Jeremiah Miller and Jon Olson, but to be seen even modestly in their company is a real treat.

repair2Second. Damned mower wouldn’t start. As I said earlier. Put in fresh gas. No joy. Hmmm. You Tube. You Tube, that Chinese patron saint of the do it yourselfer. Looked up mower won’t start. Found a video of a guy. One with a small wrench who showed how to take apart the carburetor, poke wire into various holes and then, voila, vrrooom. Didn’t look too hard.

Took the mower out, put it on the deck so I could reach the carburetor easily, found a wrench, took off the cap, got out my wire, poked the holes in the thingy four or five times and put the cap back on. Oh, I forgot. I did the video one better. He said you had to drain the tank or gas would flow out. I’d just changed the gas and don’t like siphoning. Yuck. Gas not taste good. Thought of surgical clamps. Got a vise grip, tightened it down on the fuel line and Bob’s your uncle, no drip!

fix itBest of all, when I yanked the starter cord after closing the carburetor back up, the mower started. To those of you with a mechanical gene this no doubt sounds trivial, probably very trivial, but to me. Wow. I fixed it myself.

I mention both of these because they relate to each other. I like to challenge myself, see if I can do something I previously thought I couldn’t do. Exercise was one such challenge, now over 30 years ago. Still at it. So was Latin. No good at language. So? I’ll give it a try anyhow. Then in my recent melancholic phase I realized I needed more touch, more tactile experience in my day. That led to the sumi-e work and prompted me to see the non-starting lawn mower as an opportunity.

beginners mindI’m not an athlete, not a Latin scholar, not a very good visual artist and definitely not much of a mechanic, but I have an amateur’s capacity. Trying these things makes my heart sing, keeps life vital. I suppose, going back to yesterday’s post, you could say I have faith in myself. Not faith that I can do anything I try, that’s just silly, but faith that if I try I can learn something new, maybe introduce something important to my life.

Who knows, maybe someday I will be a visual artist. Nah. Probably not. But, you never know.

 

 

Remember the Shark

Beltane                                                                           Sumi-e Moon

  • I know how well you have succeeded in making your earthly life so rich and varied, that you no longer stand in need of an eternity. Having made a universe for yourselves, you are above the need of thinking of the universe that made you.
  • On every subject, however small and unimportant, you would most willingly be taught by those who have devoted to it their lives and their powers. … How then does it come about that, in matters of religion alone, you hold every thing the more dubious when it comes from those who are experts?
    • Friedrich Schleiermacher, On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers, 1799

AbrahamSacrificesIsaacIcon_smFaith. The middah of the month for Beth Evergreen. Emunah. Last night at MVP, the mussar vaad practice group, we talked about emunah. Rabbi Jamie and Marilyn said that in the early days of mussar classes at Beth Evergreen, some time ago, the middah that caused the most consternation was this one.

I can see why. Faith is a word often used, but little understood. Faith is also a word often abused both by religion’s adherents and by religion’s cultured despisers. (Friedrich Schleiermacher) Faith is a sine qua non inside any mega-church in America. Either you have faith or you don’t. Black and white. It was true for me as a clergyman in the Presbyterian church. When I could no longer claim with authenticity that I had faith in God (whatever conception of God I was using at the time), I could no longer serve in that role.

Religion’s cultured despisers, a term coined by Friedrich Schleiermacher in 1799 in his book of the same name, often use faith as a straw concept with which to flog the irrational religious. Faith makes people blind. Faith makes people malleable to cult leaders. Faith makes people believe in a magical world. Faith blots out a person’s capacity to see the world as it is.

universe has your backOne of us in the group last night said, “The universe is for me.” I have other friends who believe the universe is a place of abundance, or, as author Gabrielle Bernstein titled her book, “The Universe has my back.” I don’t buy it. This abundant universe will kill you. It will kill you. This is not a matter of faith, but of oft repeated experience. The universe offers up all we need to live, then takes it all away.

I don’t believe the universe gives a damn. The problem for me is placing a value judgment on the actions of this vast context into which, thank you Heidegger, we were thrown. I don’t believe the universe is out to get me; nor do I believe it has my back. I’m a part of that universe and I can choose to live into my part, follow the tao as it manifests in my life, or I can resist it and struggle, but in either case the universe will keep on evolving and changing. Maybe what I’m saying here is that I’m not willing to shift the religious notion of God’s agency to the universe, no matter how construed.

If the universe is, as I believe it is, neutral to us and our lives, or, said another way, if we are no more privileged than any other part of the world, the cosmos, then what can faith mean? What is there in which to have faith?

nightdiving_titleTurns out quite a lot. Another of us last night told a story of night diving. A favorite activity of hers. She said she turns off her diving light and floats in the night dark ocean. While she’s in the dark, she imagines a shark behind her. The shark may kill her in the next moment, but until that moment she is keenly alive. This is, for me, a perfect metaphor for faith. Each day the shark is behind us. A car accident. A heart attack. A lightening bolt. A terminal diagnosis. Yet each day we float in the dark, suspended between this moment in which we live and the next one in which we are dead. And we rejoice in that moment. There is faith.

SharkThis is the existentialist abyss of which Nietzsche famously said, “If you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you.” Living on in spite of its direct glare, that’s faith. This sort of faith requires no confidence in the good or ill will of the universe, it requires what Paul Tillich called the courage to be. I would challenge that formulation a bit by altering it to the courage to become, but the point is the same.

Here’s the interesting twist. Doubt and faith are partners. As a quote Rabbi Jamie offered last night says, they live in the same apartment building. Here’s the big learning I got last night. Doubt is the true sine qua non for faith. And to the extent that we have doubt, I would identify doubt with awareness of the shark, we have faith. There is, and this is the aha for me, a frisson between doubt and faith that makes life vital.

sacred tensionSo. My practice for this month involves, in Rabbi Jamie’s phrase, sharpening my doubt. I will remember the shark as often as I can. I will recognize the contingent nature of every action I take, of every aspect of my life. And live into those contingencies, act as if the shark will let me be right now. As if the uncertainty of driving, of interacting with others, of our dog’s lives will not manifest right now. That’s faith. Action in the face of contingency. Action in the face of uncertainty. Action in the face of doubt.

I want to sharpen doubt because I want to taste what it feels like to live into doubt, to choose life over death, to have the courage to become. If I only use the automatic responses, make money, achieve fame, watch television, play with my phone, immerse myself in the needs of another, or several others, then I blunt the bravery, the courage it takes to live. I do not want a life that’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage. I do not want a life that is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. (Macbeth, Act 5, scene 5)

I want a life that flourishes not in spite of the uncertainties, the contingencies that are all to real, but because of them.

 

How I Got Here

Beltane                                                                           Sumi-e Moon

(for Tara)

Rev. John Ackerman, my spiritual advisor in the mid-1980s, now dead, said to me during a session with him, “Charlie, I think you’re a druid.” This was while I was still an Associate Executive for the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area, responsible for urban mission and congregational development. That made me pause.

I had just started a Doctor of Ministry Program that I had organized and brought to the Twin Cities, one taught by professors from McCormick Seminary of Hyde Park, Chicago. The full program was largely unremarkable; but when it came time, three years later, to write my doctoral thesis, one documenting the decline of Presbyterian membership over the century, I sat down one day and came up a week or so later with 40,000 words of my first novel, Even the Gods Must Die. That surprised me.

Raising Joseph, born in Calcutta, was also challenging my theology. I was always suspicious of monotheism, if there are more than one one God, doesn’t that negate the whole idea, but with Joseph my suspicion had an existential bite. If Joseph had been raised in the rural village of Bengal from which he came, he would likely have been Hindu. And outside the pale of salvation. I loved him and would have loved him as a Hindu, too. If Christianity would not have allowed someone I loved into eternal peace, then Christianity was wrong.

All this was problematic for continuing to work as a clergyman. In Christianity, unlike Judaism, belief in God is a job requirement. Otherwise we’re in Grand Inquisitor territory. Kate (not fate) intervened. I was already on my way out of the Christian ministry, but I couldn’t figure out what to do next. I was 41, mid-career, and leaving the only long term job I’d ever had, while being responsible for raising Joseph, seemed impossible.

Kate allowed me, in a move that was typically generous of her, to resign from the Presbytery and take up writing. Those novels had me pretty excited. I left the Presbytery on good terms. I’d moved away from Christianity, but I didn’t bear the church any animus. I had, I guess you could say, fallen out of love, but I remained friends with my ex-faith.

Later, when I had trouble selling my writing, I regressed and transferred my credentials to the Unitarian-Universalist Association, thinking I could pick up work familiar to me in a context friendly to my changing, evolving theology. In 1996, in Phoenix, I became a fellowshipped clergy in the UUA. I say regressed because I was done with church leadership, but wasn’t ready to admit it. I preached on occasion for a small UU congregation, Groveland, sometimes frequently, and I enjoyed that opportunity to write about my religious thinking.

When we moved to Colorado in 2014, I delivered a final sermon at Groveland, in my mind ending my ministerial career at last. That was 44 years after I entered seminary.

Influenced by the feminist reimagining movement in Christianity from the 1980’s, I decided to reimagine the idea of faith itself, a project I’ve worked on in spurts for 15 years. At first I thought I would create a new theology, something I called for a while, Ge-ology. My idea was to find a way to express in a coherent system the kind of sentiment underlying Thomas Berry’s Great Work.

Berry was a Passionist monk, a deep ecologist and author of a little book called, The Great Work. In it he proposes that the great work of our time and, in specific, the great work of our Western civilization, as creating a sustainable human presence on this planet. It’s important to note that this is not about saving the planet. The planet will be fine. The question was, and is, can we humans devise a way of living here that does not destroy our species.

What, I wondered, would faith look like if we could focus it on that which sustains us. What sustains us? The sun. The sun and plants. The sun, plants, and the soil. The sun, plants and the atmosphere they supply with oxygen. All these and the animals which nourish us, but are themselves also nourished by the plants. Yes, we humans have a rich inner life, one that allows us to imagine gods and heavens, but as animals, we can only have that rich inner life if we live. And living requires these complex interrelationships we call the web of life.

Over the years I’ve generated bits and pieces of a reimagined faith and added to reimaging, reconstructing and reenchanting. Reenchanting means becoming aware and responsive to the forces and powers that sustain us, but as beings in and of themselves. When the residents of the Big Island refer to the new Kilauea eruptions as the work of Pele, the Hawai’ian goddess of volcanoes, they have been enchanted; and for many, haoles (non-native Hawai’ans, often white people) and native Hawai’ians, reenchanted.

Another example of reenchantment was the visit I had from three mule deer bucks in October of 2014. I had come here for the closing on our purchase of the house on Black Mountain Drive. I went out in the yet unfenced back yard and encountered the three bucks about a hundred feet from the house. They stood there. I stood there. We looked at each other and I felt a distinct connection with them. The connection felt reciprocated. After a while, they left and I went back to the mechanics of taking possession of the house and property.

On reflection I felt I had been visited by the spirit of the mountain, that I had been given permission to live here among the forests and wildlife of the Rocky Mountains. The mule deer were the messengers, the angels, of this new world into which we were moving.

Or, bee-keeping. I kept bees for six years in Minnesota. It was early in the process that I felt a partnership with the bees. The colonies themselves and the surplus honey they produced that Kate and I could harvest was a collaboration. We were working together toward a common end. The closer I got to the bees, the more I understood the mystical nature of the hive, a super-organism created from apparently individual bees engaged in the world as one entity.

The final R of my new 3 R’s, reimagining, reenchanting and reconstructing, I have borrowed from Congregation Beth Evergreen. Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, said, “The past gets a vote, but not a veto.” In the Jewish ambit within which he remained though a convinced non-supernaturalist that meant taking the tradition and reconstructing it for contemporary life.

Reconstructing faith is, in my current understanding, a similar work. The traditional religious faiths get a vote, but not a veto. We can pick up strands from various traditions and rebuild them into a new faith, what I call an ur-faith, one we can all embrace, not as a replacement for our tradition if we don’t want that, but one expressing a new/old faith, one that trusts in the sun, in plants, in photosynthesis, in the sustaining powers of the soil.

Or, without visiting the old religions, we can create this new faith inductively from our lived experience. The miracle of new plants each spring. The wonder of soil complexity and its role in sustaining that miracle. The snow and the rain that bring fresh water to us, to replenish our rivers and aquifer. Consider the tomato on your table or the steak on the grill. They both store the energy of the sun and pass it on to us through the true transubstantiation as food becomes our body. The close, intimate bond between humans and animals that live with us like dogs and cats.

Stand outside at night. Look up. Stars and galaxies and planets. All there. So far away. Yet we are a part of them and they are a part of us. We need no other mystery, no other miracles, no other metaphysics.

Life Improving

Beltane                                                                                                 Sumi-e Moon

Pulled a couple of t-bones out of the freezer yesterday. Two inch thick. But chewy. Still, the flavor was good. Mashed potatoes and corn on the cob. Saturday night meal with my sweetheart.

20180513_105811Kate looks and feels so much better. The pain is gone in her right shoulder which created a lot of stress throughout the day and made sleeping difficult, requiring vicodin from time to time. She’s exercising regularly as she goes through her p.t., using the pulley we set up in her sewing room, using a walking stick for two-handed shoulder movements, rolling an exercise ball.

Sjogren’s, right now, is manageable, which it seems to be in the absence of a flair. Her weight is headed up, zigzagging, as weight can, but moving in a positive direction. Her energy level and stamina are both much improved. She’s sewing favors, mug rugs, for a Bailey Patchworkers event in August for which she is the food chairperson.

20180414_162058Jon, too, has positive news. He bought some appliances, a Viking cooktop and two wall ovens, a microwave and dishwasher. He also had a date which he described as amazing. Ruth is out of school, Gabe is next week and I believe Jon finishes the week after. He has the summer for working on his house, something he’s looking forward to. I plan to help him with his landscaping.

SeoAh had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic and ended up in the emergency room. She’s better now. Joe’s doing major things. Murdoch continues to get bigger.

I’m doing well. Back at Jennie’s Dead, closing in on 50,000 words, printing out Ancientrails. I’m only up to April of 2008, but I’m making progress. I named this moon sumi-e so I can get a more organized approach to working with the brushes, learning instead of just playing. Which is fun, too. Reading a lot. Finished God Save Texas and went on from that to Rovelli’s Order of Time which I also finished. Right now I’m reading short stories by Robert Aickman. He’s weird. Surprised I never heard of him before now.

The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition runs from March 16 to Sept. 3, 2018 at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. The exhibition showcases ancient artifacts predominantly from Israel. Photo courtesy of Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

Today 24 of us from Beth Evergreen are going in to see the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Rabbi Jamie’s brother, a Ph.D. in Hebrew Studies, will give us a personal tour.

Speaking of stress reducers, we’ve had rain and even snow yesterday, for the last few days. More on moisture ahead, too. Tamps down fire risk. Also makes the mountains atmospheric. Lots of mist and fog, partial glimpses. Black Mountain as Gypsy Rose Lee.

Hard Copies, Hard Work, Hard to Understand

Beltane                                                                     Sumi-e New Moon

hard copiesStarted a long project yesterday. I’m printing out all of Ancientrails. Been wanting to do a total backup and I will at some point, but if it’s going to be useful to my ongoing work, hard copy is better. Besides, think how satisfying it will be to hold a copy of all this. Then, I got to thinking. Oh, but a fire! I’m going to make a copy of the copy when it’s done, then make copies of all my hard copies of my novels. I’m going to ask Jon if I can store those copies in his garage in Aurora. Yes, all the novels are on flashdrives (and in a safety deposit box, all except my work on Jennie’s Dead and Rocky Mountain Vampire) and all of Ancientrails is in the cloud, but the hard copies are important, too. The things that come up before we fall asleep.

Haven’t mentioned the dishwasher in a while, certainly not the Samsung of late and unlamented memory, but that’s because the Kitchenaid works. It has eased a burden. Dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer, gas/electric stove and refrigerator. All really are labor saving appliances. No ice delivery. No need to fell trees and split wood. No hand washing of dishes and dirty clothes. No hanging clothes out on the line and bringing them back in. We don’t think about these wonders unless one ceases to work, but they do free us up for other more important matters like facebook and texting. Ha.

similar to the one I used back in 1974

similar to the one I used back in 1974

I have felled trees and split wood to use a wood cook stove and to heat a house with an airtight wood stove. I have washed dishes by hand as a matter of course. No scrub board and clothes line in my past though. Laundromats. I’ve never had an ice box though that was the go to word for the refrigerator when I was a kid. My grandmother called all cars, the machine.

As always we live in a time between this moment and the past, between this moment and the future, never fully leaving behind the ways and memories of the past and never fully engaged in the ways and possibilities of the future. It is in precisely this sense that the present is both past and future, at least in the only useful understanding of them.

By the qabbalah class this evening I’ll have finished Carlo Rovelli’s book, The Order of Time. I rarely read books twice, too much to read, but I will definitely read this again. A lot of it is clear, understandable, but so counter-intuitive that it’s hard to recall, hard to assimilate. For instance, according to Rovelli, whose field is quantum loop theory, time is not a dimension at the quantum level. It’s not necessary for the equations that explain quantum mechanics.

quantum2If I’m understanding his primary argument, time at the Newtonian level is a result of blurring. This may seem like an odd idea, and it is, but it’s not so hard to grasp if you think about the blurring that is necessary for us to perceive the world around us. Example. If you shrank to the atomic level and tried to walk across a table top, you’d fall in. It’s blurring of the quantum world that makes the table seem solid to us. Time is a result, again if I’m getting this, of the blurring of the transitions from event to event which, at the quantum level have no prescribed order.

Anyhow, to really comprehend Rovelli’s work, I’ll need to go through it again having the whole as context for the parts.

 

 

Tennessee Rebbe

Beltane                                                                       Mountain Moon

RamiRabbi Rami Shapiro is here from middle Tennessee. He’s a prolific author, 36 books, and funny. Kate and I heard him at mussar on Thursday. He offered a paradigm from somebody whose name I didn’t catch, but it represents the human as living on five levels simultaneously. If you imagine a spiral spun out at least five whorls, he puts the body at the center, then the heart, the mind, the soul and spirit.

The first two operate below the level of consciousness. He referred mostly to the autonomic functions of the body: breathing, heart beating, all those things the body does on its own, that we couldn’t control even if we decided we wanted to. The heart in this model is two emotions love and fear, both of which arise unbidden and with which we then have to contend at the level of mind.

The mind, the ego, focuses on survival, on navigating the body and the heart through the visible world. The mind, in this paradigm, wears masks (but not in a pejorative sense) as it expresses itself to the world. Soul and spirit are, like body and heart, operating out of the realm of usual consciousness, but they can be accessed. In meditation we can reach soul as we are living it right now.

Rami cbeAs soul we become aware of our direct links to other people, to the world we live in and we understand them as part of us and ourselves as part of them. Shapiro says that such dictums as love thy neighbor as thyself become axiomatic at the soul level. When we know the true face of the other, which we can do at soul level, then we have to treat them with loving kindness. This includes the earth.

Spirit is inaccessible through our actions, but in meditation we can come right up to it. Grace has to pull us over the boundary. Once in the realm of spirit our sense of connection becomes total. We know, without effort, the interconnection and interdependence of all things, from the tiniest fly to the furthest galaxy and beyond.

It’s an interesting paradigm in its insistence that we live on all five of these levels all the time. We are always, then, in the realm of the spirit, accessing universal bonds, and the level of soul where we know the true faces of all around us.

Something about it seems a little hinky to me though and I can’t quite identify it. As a heuristic, I believe it has a great deal of value since I do believe we live on several levels all the time. At a minimum it reminds us of that.

Rami holy rascalsHe refers to himself as a perennialist. Here’s what that means:

“I am a Jewish practitioner of Perennial Wisdom, the fourfold teaching at the mystic heart of the world’s religions:

1. all life is a manifesting of a single Reality called by many names: God, Tao. Mother, Allah, Nature, YHVH, Dharmakaya, Brahman, and Great Spirit among others;

2. human beings have an innate capacity to know the One in, with, and as all life;

3. knowing the One carries a universal ethic of compassion and justice toward all beings; and

4. knowing the one and living this ethic is the highest human calling.”

 

 

Just in Time

Beltane                                                                                           Mountain Moon

Time The_Persistence_of_Memory By Image taken from About.com, Fair use,en.wikipedia.org w index.php curid 20132344

The Persistence of Memory, Dali, 1931.  By Image taken from About.com, Fair use, en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php cur id 20132344

Time last night. Qabbalah. Does the past exist? Oh? How do you know? Key learning, something I have to learn and relearn, the past exists, yes, but only in the present. Just like, oddly, the future. Why? We never have any time other than the present. Never. We can pull ourselves away from awareness of the present by being focused on the past regrets, anger, guilt, yet we can only experience the past in the present. So, whether it has any ontological reality or not, we cannot know it except as a ghost that we carry forward with us.

Likewise, the future never arrives. Free beer tomorrow. Our dreams or fears or hopes or anguish about a future event can affect us, but, again, only in the present. Now is all there is, and, again oddly, the moment we think of the now, it is past.

Kilauea Leilani May 5 lava fountains 230 feet high, USGS

Kilauea Leilani May 5 lava fountains 230 feet high, USGS

Moment to moment the Reconstructionist prayer book says, the process of creation is renewed. Creation continues. Revelation continues. Tradition changes. This seems right to me and offers us substantial hope. We are not bound by past. This moment is new and we can choose in it to experience the past differently, to change the narrative, to reframe. In the same way we can choose-this is very existential-to reframe our future hopes and fears.

Time nowIn the present, which has never existed before and will recede as if it were never there, all things can be made new. This is a subtle idea, at once obvious and at the same time almost impossible to grasp. Yet it is true that the 71 years of my life have passed in moments, always in the now. Even in 1947 my life passed moment to moment in increments, the very same as the increments I experience today in 2018.

Reb Zalman, founder of the Jewish Renewal movement, and a resident of Boulder until his death, talks about sin as a remnant of the past that is no longer useful, a story whose narrative obscures our ability to be in the present and, therefore, to make choices in the present. I really like this idea since it removes sin from morality and certainly removes it from any stain on the essence of a person. When we discussed this last night, I offered a metaphor from gardening, “A weed is a plant out of place.”

Technical Problems

Beltane                                                                          Mountain Moon

The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition runs from March 16 to Sept. 3, 2018 at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. The exhibition showcases ancient artifacts predominantly from Israel. Photo courtesy of Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

Photo courtesy of Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

On Sunday I reached some sort of odd apotheosis, presenting a series of video lectures on the Dead Sea Scrolls at Beth Evergreen. In the audience of 20, larger than I had expected, were 4 people from Idaho Springs and Georgetown, Christians invited by a biblical scholar who is a member of Beth Evergreen. That meant that in answering some of their questions, even haltingly because I don’t know the field very well, I, still an ordained Presbyterian clergy, represented a Jewish perspective to Christians on subject matter that altered both faith traditions. Weird.

It could have been better. Two weeks ago I checked out the A/V setup I would use. Though I had a DVD, my laptop, a Lenovo has no DVD player. Not a problem because I could stream the lectures off the Great Courses’ website. The link to the synagogue’s wifi was fine, as was the hdmi link to the projector set in the ceiling. Rabbi Jamie and I fussed around with the sound board, unfamiliar to me, linking the computer to it. We did get the sound to work and I thought I had it down.sound boardTurns out I missed a key move on powering up the sound board.

Kate and I got to Beth Evergreen at 1:15 since she had agreed to handle the food (which she did in typical splendid fashion) and I wanted to have time for tables and for making sure my setup would deliver. With some satisfaction I soon had the lecture displayed on the screen. But. No sound. Hmmm. I have plenty of time, that’s why I came early.

After looking carefully at the soundboard, being sure it connected to the hdmi feed, a few people began to show up. Uh oh. I really had to get this to work. Finding the power buttons, I got the sound board to light up, but still no sound at the screen. It’s been a long time since I got sweaty palms, but I did on Sunday. Folks kept coming. I kept having no sound. It was ten till 2, the start time, and being an unreconstructed Northern European the thought of starting late literally made me sweat.

GreatCoursesLogoI had to call Alan Rubin, a new Beth Evergreen friend, who is the A/V sage. He said he was sitting by his pool enjoying the weather. It was a blue sky, white cloud, warm but not hot, Colorado day. After some false starts, Alan isolated the problem, I poked a button and, right at 2, the sound. Whew.

andragogy-5-638However. All this meant I had not had time to arrange the tables for folks to take notes, so they sat in chairs looking up at the screen. I also had not given sufficient thought to the pedagogy of the afternoon. How would we interact? What questions might prompt discussion? The fact that everyone faced front rather than seeing each other across a table made getting a conversation started difficult. Though I don’t think the audience cared, I’d hoped for a more interactive event and I didn’t facilitate that.

This was the first of what we hope to be many more online type offerings by the adult education committee, so I’ll get a chance to get better at it.

Sunday’s session anticipated a May 20th trip to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science for a tour of the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit currently there. Russ Arnold, Rabbi Jamie’s brother and professor of religion at Regis University, Denver, will lead the tour.

June 2018
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