• Category Archives Commentary on Religion
  • A person of…

    Spring and the Moon of Liberation

    Shabbat gratefuls: The Morning Service. Bar Mitzvah. Snow. Cold. Moisture. Water. Air. Fire. Earth. Old physics. Physics. String theory. Twine theory. Thread theory. Quilts and quilting. Sewing. Matilda, Kate’s dress dummy. Kate in my dreams. Ancientrails. Diane. Art. In person. Judaism. My year of living Jewishlly. Outside my comfort zone. A lot.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Trains

    One brief shining: I looked out my window today, oh my, and there on the ground lay Snow, on the Branches of the Lodgepoles Snow, on the driveway Snow, and my Snow and Cold loving self looked at it and sighed, the calendar showing in less than two weeks, the fire holiday of Beltane, start of the growing season.


    Looking at myself. Some people. A man of money. Of power. Of racing. A woman of medicine. Of writing. Of the 100 meter dash. Of acting. Of music. Of whatever occupies prime location in an individual’s life story. I have to look at my story and be honest. I am a man of religion. Both small r and Big R. Individual and institutional. Can’t say I would have predicted this for me. Nor much of the time been aware of it.

    Yet. The deep questions of our species. Our search for meaning. For how to position ourselves in this, this whatever all this is. The folks and traditions who have explored these questions. My turf. Where I’ve lived much of my life. Oh, yes, their have been other enthusiasms: politics, art, writing, gardening, But somehow I always bounce back to the prayers, the songs, the sacred books. Not as a supplicant but always as a lover, one who presses his hand to the heart of it. Leans his head in and enjoys a quiet afternoon learning of the Greek Orthodox theological framework of reception. The Taoist wu wei. The Jewish Morning Service. Why Jesus prayed at Gethsemane. The Potawatomi writing habit of capitalizing the names of living things.

    One who rides through the Mountains looking for signs. Who walks down Mountain Valleys hearing the voices of the Creek, the Magpies, the wild Strawberries. Seeing in the gentle run of a Mountain Stream swollen by Spring Snows the path of all living things carried by this mystery, vitality. A man who cannot absent himself from the quest for what and why and where.

    Perhaps you, too? Do you read the sacred books and know their definite humanity, yet find within them the human desire to grasp the interconnectedness of things? Feel inspired to have your own moments of revelation? Perhaps, eh? That splash of color. That child’s laugh. The sudden sense that an injustice needs redress. The kisses of a small furry puppy or a three-year old child. A wondering about Buddha nature? About chi? About teshuvah? About Ramadan?

    You see my conviction is this. We are all people of religion. All born with wonder, imbued with awe, fascinated with the mysterious. Sure, some of us make a life of it, but all of us question. All of us see values and linkages. See them and need them. Yes, your path may be all of your own making, yet it can be informed by those who have chosen to retain the paths of their ancestors. As your path, your ancientrail, can inform theirs.

  • A Great Wheel look at Easter

    Spring and the Purim Moon

    Friday gratefuls: That white Water Buffalo in Bangkok. The museums of San Francisco. Amtrak. Ruth and Gabe. Mussar. Ginny and Janice. A week of meals with friends. Upcoming. Warmer weather. Still plenty of Snow on Shadow Mountain. Korea. Birth rates. Climate change. Dawn. Bechira and Kehillah. Jesus. Good Friday. Easter. Pesach.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Resurrection

    One brief shining: Mussar yesterday with Ruth on my left and Gabe on my right both participating, Gabe read, Ruth said you had to choose among your expectations of yourself and the expectations of others, not let either one have authority over the other, out of the mouths of teenagers.


    Brother Mark asked if I had any reflections on Good Friday.* Made me wonder what was good about it. See below. Not sure why I didn’t know that already, but I didn’t. The crucifixion. No thoughts on the crucifixion make sense without consideration of the resurrection. Related by blood.

    Let me put this out there, then go on. Good Friday and the New Testament account of it has led to most of the anti-semitism experienced in history. Jews in these accounts, the High Priest in particular, not only participated in the crucifixion but caused it. The crowds want Barabbas. Jewish authorities ask Pilate to crucify Jesus for blasphemy. These stories have shaken Jewish communities throughout Europe and the West. Deicides. God killers. Unfortunately the history of Jews in the West has taken place in parallel with the history of Christianity, so Jews have always been considered over against the Christian story. Wonder what the cultural reception of Jews could have been without this.

    OK. Bracketing those thoughts. It’s a profound and important religious mythology, the story of the dying and rising God. Osiris. Inanna. Dionysus. Jesus. The vegetative cycle writ in mythological tales. The death of the fallow time. The rising to new life of Spring. The growing season and its devolution toward harvest and the next fallow time.

    In other words all those good Friday services with the sorrow, the black cloth over the crosses, the recollection of the crucifixion itself, can be read as a ritual reenactment of plant death as winter approaches. Then, like Persephone Jesus descends into the fallow time, into death, into the soil, only to have a glorious waking up morning in late March or early April just as Spring arrives in the temperate latitudes.

    I find it interesting to see these holy days for Christians through this lens. Why? Because it underscores the powerful hold the cycle of vegetative life has on both our bodily life and on our mythic imagination. This is “real” religion, of course, not the pagan Great Wheel. Right? But what if it is the same story told with different actors?



    *’Good Friday’ comes from the sense ‘pious, holy’ of the word “good”.[10] Less common examples of expressions based on this obsolete sense of “good” include “the good book” for the Bible, “good tide” for “Christmas”… wiki

  • Makes me sad

    Spring and the Purim Moon

    Tuesday gratefuls: Vince and his helpers. Jill the needler. Acupuncture. Safeway and pickup. Furball Cleaning. Mailing taxes. The Equinox. Spring. A good Winter. Ruby in the deep Snow. The occasional frozen dinner. TV. Young Sheldon. True Detective with Jodie Foster. Deadly Tropics. Bull. The Furies. Alexandria First Methodist. Hometown memories.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: The calm after the Storm

    One brief shining: Take off all my clothes, get up on the table with the clean sheet, stick my face in the round bit built for it, wait for Jill, soon needles go in on my feet, along my legs, clustered on the right side of my back, this time some of them connected to an electrical device that sends current into my body, twitching and tapping my muscles greet it.



    The church I grew up in. Sold as a venue for events and making art and whatever else occurs to the new owners. Makes me sad I wrote to Mary and Mark. Sister and brother. Don’t expect the video will interest too many of you, but the very first part does show the church as it was before this woman and her husband bought it. The sanctuary is still mostly intact. My family sat in the third pew about halfway in under the large stained glass window of Jesus at Gethsemane.

    Another mid-America tale this one not so much the rust belt apres the foreign cars story as an older one of faith and sexuality gone toxic. Used to be the big church in town. The woman in the video says it has 24,000 square feet. I believe it. Alexandria First Methodist had the largest church building in town and probably the largest membership while I was growing up in the 50’s and 60’s.

    It survived Rev. Clayton Steele’s oh so stereotypical fleeing to California with the organist or choir director. It survived the tumult of the late 1960’s and early 70’s. But it did not survive the question of ordaining queer folk. Ironically one of the key supporters of LBGTQ+ ordination was the son of Clayton Steele, a local dentist. The entire Methodist church, once the biggest denomination in the U.S., fractured, too. So not odd that Alexandria’s franchise went as well.

    As a result, the church was on the market.

    I had Boy Scouts, Sunday School, Sunday worship in this building for the years I lived in Alexandria. Which were all but the one and a half I lived in Oklahoma as an infant. Through 1965. When I left for college. My mother had her stroke in that building. While helping serve a funeral dinner. Confirmation. Communion. Tenebrae services. Christmas Eve and Easter. Regular, weekly attendance. As significant a part of life as school.

    Once a month we had a church supper in the basement. To this day I remember Mrs. Stafford’s grapes. Green grapes coated first, I think, with egg white then rolled in sugar. Of course, fried chicken and mashed potatoes and peas. Jello, too, with a variety of foodstuffs embedded. My least favorite? Olives.

    Now that I see this video I understand for the first time desacrilizing a church building. The building is not the church. No, it’s the people. However. Over time, like the Velveteen Rabbit, if enough people love a building, worship and pray in it, experience weddings and funerals there. the building becomes real, too. And when discarded, as Alexandria First now is, its reality continues adhering to that pew, those lights, those night time immersions in darkness during the Tenebrae services.

    Protestants, with the exception of the Episcopalians, don’t desacrilize, but I wish they did. It would make this easier on my heart.




  • “Higher” Criticism

    Winter and the Cold Mountain

    Shabbat gratefuls: Parsha Beshalach: Exodus 13:17-17:16. Shabbat candle holders. Shabbat. Joanne. Alan. His BMW in Oxnard, Ca. Breakfast with Marilyn and Irv next week. Irv and his recovery. Jazz concert tomorrow at Alan and Cheri’s in Denver. Snow yesterday. 52 on Wednesday. Colorado. The Rocky Mountains. The Atlantic Ocean. The Pacific. The South China Sea. The Yellow Sea. Sailing.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: A day of joy

    One brief shining: A millennia ago I lived in student housing at United Theological Seminary in New Brighton Minnesota and walked through the then still fierce Winter to the classroom building a block away where I would go through the cafeteria, down past the mailboxes collecting anything to me on the way and the bookstore to the small stainless steel elevator, get in, push 3, get out on the top floor of the library, head to my carrel, sit down and sink into both the expansive view and my intent to learn. Ah.


    That was 1970. There were electric outlets at each of our outdoor parking places so we could plug in our engine block heaters. I recalled these memories because I added Parsha Beshalach to my gratefuls this morning. A through line between seminary and this Jewish life I’m now living is my excitement about study of scripture. I loved those “Old Testament” classes with Art Merrill and the New Testament classes with Henry Gustafson. A month or so ago I asked to have Torah study added to the adult education program at CBE. Of course, I ended up in charge of it. That’s the way of religious institutions. If you volunteer, you lead.

    You might think the several classes I took at UTS would give me some expertise for Torah study, but you would be mostly wrong. Not sure if I wrote about this before, but here are the big differences. First, Jews focus on the Torah, the first five books of the Tanakh which also includes the Nevi’im, the prophets, and the Ketuvim, writings. T for Torah. N for Nevi’im. K for Ketuvim = TaNaKh. The Tanakh has most of the same material as what Christians insist on calling the “Old Testament.” My education at UTS covered the whole of both Testaments, “Old” and New. So much, much less attention to the Torah itself.

    Second, the exegetical methods I learned, that is, the methods of getting at what the text meant and its interpretation (hermeneutics), differ significantly from the Jewish approach to exegesis. I learned redaction criticism, how the texts were edited; form criticism, whether the text had liturgical or other formal construction; textual criticism, how did the variant editions and translations differ; how to translate from the Greek and Hebrew for myself though mine was a limited introduction; historical criticism, what was happening at the time the text was written; and, reception criticism, how had the text been received and interpreted over church history.

    We learned two steps. First, exegesis using the best tools we knew, the various critical methodologies and any other analysis we could bring to the text. Second, the hermeneutical task, taking our best understanding of the meaning of the text, exegetical work, and applying that meaning to a contemporary situation. This usually meant writing a sermon.

    Third, a lot of what I learned about the “Old Testament” had a definite Christian inflection. That is, finding those parts of the Tanakh which prophesied the coming of Jesus, the Messiah.

    The Jewish approach is much different and I’ll go into that in a later post. Tomorrow if I remember.

  • Defy Tradition and Religion

    Winter and the Cold Moon

    Monday gratefuls: The Ancient Brothers. Cold. 3 degrees this morning. MLK. The Civil War. The new Civil War.  Heather Cox Richardson. Writing. Iowa. GOP primaries.  Wild Neighbors in the cold. Lodgepoles and Aspen, too. Built for it. A warm house. The mini-splits. Snow. Brother Mark’s ideas for warm places. Miami. New Orleans. Los Angeles. Upset stomach. Coffee. Water.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: The Gastrointestinal System

    One brief shining: Look up and Snow falls driven by a western Wind coating the Lodgepole Needles, raising the lev to  Snowy memories of Winters past, a smile and a gratefulness for all memories settle in for a beautiful January day.


    Wonder how the Texas grid is doing? It be cold outside almost everywhere in these disunited states. Even, especially, in Iowa. Brother Mark sent me a link to a video based on an old Paul Harvey story called And God Made a Farmer.  In this one it’s And God Made Donald Trump. I wrote back to my brother, as one of His former employees I call bullshit. Sure even 45 was made in God’s image but like any well-made product venality and hubris will invalidate the warranty. (OK. OK. Not really invalidate. I mean. You know. Teshuva. The return. Sort of the Jewish equivalent of redemption. Always possible.) But he whispered, highly unlikely.


    MLK. Malcolm X. So glad we have this holiday and now Juneteenth, too. Even in these benighted political times they shine a spotlight on where we still could go as a people, as a nation. Reading Heather Cox Richardson’s Democracy Awakening. She makes a strong case that today is a direct extension of yesterday. Both in terms of the populist racist anti-semitic tone of our era and in terms of the liberal consensus that lies just beneath the surface, one that agrees government needs to regulate business and support the commonweal.

    The most telling part of her book for me has been her recounting of the through line from William Buckley to Trump.  Buckley pushed tradition and religion rather than fact based decision making. I had not made that connection and it’s pretty damned obvious when you read her.

    His creation, Movement Conservatism, gained momentum after Kennedy through the machinations of a storied cast of characters including Roger Stone, Lee Atwater, Pat Buchanan, Roger Ailes, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and other political operatives. With their strategic help Newt Gingrich, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan, especially Reagan, took Movement Conservatism into the realm of government policy. George W. Bush pushed the ball forward too.

    We are now reaping the whirlwind of Buckley’s insistence that tradition (think white, wealthy, and racist) and religion (think evangelical Christian and rightwing Roman Catholicism) are the only anchors for a stable society. Ironic, isn’t it, that those very forces have created the most unstable and chaotic society I’ve known in my lifetime.

    It remains on us to join hands with MLK and Brother Malcolm. To defy the tradition and religion held close to the heart by those who would gut our democracy.




  • Shadow Mountain Christmas Morning

    Winter and the Winter Solstice Moon

    Christmas gratefuls: Hanukah. Bright, sparkly Snow. Flocked Lodgepoles. Black Mountain white. My son. Seoah and her family. Murdoch. Christmas in Korea. Shadow Mountain. My support and foundation. Tom and Roxann on Kauai. Washington County, Maine. Robbitson. Max. Paul and Sarah in Burlington, Vermont. Covid. Lingers still. Christmas. Incarnation. Imago dei. B’tzelem Elohim. Saturnalia. Christmas Trees and Yule Logs. Eggnog and Mistletoe. Holly and Ivy. Krampus. Great Sol lighting up Black Mountain

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: The almost full Winter Solstice Moon last night

    One brief shining: T’was the night before Christmas and I got up at 2 am before I could get up and go to the bathroom the scene outside my bedroom window caught my eye and in spite of the 3 degree temperature streaming in through the slight opening I left I could not look away as the Lodgepole shadows, the Arcosanti bell’s shadow, the shadow of the shed created negative space around the sections of sparkly snow between and among them. A scene in which, if Santa had landed, I would not have been at all surprised.


    Christmas morning on Shadow Mountain. 8-10 inches of fluffy, twinkling Snow. 3 degrees. Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney might swing by on a sleigh pulled by draft horses. Great Sol throws low angle sun beams at the Trees, lighting us up but not heating us up too much. Though. This is Colorado. We’ll see high thirties and low forties later on this week. Odd how a snowy, cold Christmas has been sold as quintessential for the celebration of a Levantine savior. That manger would not have been a safe place for a baby today in the Rockies.

    I’m listening right now to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. This King’s College tradition is a staple of the Anglican Church and a Christmas Eve program. A musical entrée into the long fate of a Jewish boy born millennia ago. Irony, too. The Anglican Church hollowed out decades ago though as a state church its clergy still fill its remaining parishes drawing a government salary. Read this week that about 10% of them have formed a union. Godspeed.


    I might go out later today for Chinese food. A Jewish tradition that Kate and I followed for many years even before moving to Colorado. Usually includes a movie, too. My hearing has declined enough that movies are not as much fun as they used to be. I miss a lot of the dialogue, making the whole a muddle. Much better to be at home with closed captions turned on. Thanks to Christmas there are several first rated movies available: Saltburn, Maestro, and Rebel Moon by Zack Snyder to name three. I’ll get takeout, come back to Shadow Mountain. I have the best seat in the house.


    Talked to my boy last night. His morning, Christmas day while I was still in Christmas Eve. Always weird. Learned that the painful tests he had for compartment syndrome last week were diagnostic, not a treatment. The treatment is a fasciotomy, a 30% success rate. And, the surgeon who would perform the procedure is passionately against it. It’s also very painful. Probably not gonna happen.

    Saw Seoah’s sister, Seoah in pigtails. Murdoch. The oldest boy came on the Zoom and looked at me for a long time. Not sure what that was about, though I did meet him briefly in September. A bit of snow on the ground in Songtan. A sorta white Christmas. Seoah’s family wanted to go on base for good tacos at Taco Bell and good pizza at Pizza Hut. Not common foods in the Korean diet. And just as well if you ask me.


  • Prismatic Truth

    Samain and the Choice Moon

    Saturday gratefuls: Gabe. Legos. Night 2, Hanukah. Lighting the candles. The electric menorah. Snow. lotsa Snow. Spaghetti. That free car wash. Blizzaks. Big O. Starbucks. Evergreen. Ruby in the Snow. Kate of blessed memory. Jon, who would have been 55 tomorrow. Mussar. Books, all books big and small. Stacked and unstacked. Read and unread. Reading. What a joy.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Ritual

    One brief shining: That Arcosanti bell Kate got so long ago on a visit to her Dad in Phoenix, the one we decided to use as a memorial bell for all of our dogs which now rings in the high Winds of the Mountains for her, too, and Jon, has a large white cap of Snow in the quiet weather of this morning.


    This holimonth I’ve been getting gifts from strangers. The Thanksgiving meal at Urban Farmer. Yesterday the car wash. An attendant flagged me through saying I didn’t have to pay right then. The owner said, I’m ok with free. However. Just looked up on my credit card and I did get charged. Well, it was nice when I thought it was free.

    Had my new Blizzaks replace the 4 mm tread tires on the back. Good thing. Right now there’s more than 5 inches, maybe more like 8, of fresh new Snow. Have to head over to Safeway for a pickup order which is delayed. I imagine fewer staff with the Snow.


    Spent a lot of time reading yesterday. Finished Zornberg on the week’s parsha, the story of Joseph and his brothers, part 1, in which they toss him in a pit, imply to Jacob that he’s been killed, and he gets sold into slavery, bought by Potiphar. That one. Zornberg’s commentaries lean toward the mythic and the psychoanalytical. She sees themes of dismemberment and the power of blood in these stories. I do, too, after reading her.

    Torah study is very different from the higher criticism I learned in seminary. In higher criticism the aim is to find the truth of a passage using language, history, the history of tradition and ritual, textual comparisons, how a text was originally received, to get at what was originally meant, then using that original meaning to comment on today.

    In Torah study the search is not for the truth, but for the prismatic truth each parsha contains. That sort of truth depends on the interpreter, on what they see or don’t see in the text. Different points of view are not only expected but cherished. Commentators on the Torah argue with each other and their arguments often take on a status equivalent to the parsha itself. The mishnah records Torah commentators since the fall of the second temple.

    In the Joseph and his brothers story for example Zornberg uses some of the mishnah as actual Torah text to make her arguments. And this is not unusual. The result is a playful approach that looks for things hidden, things inferred, things that have meanings because they intersect with the ordinary lives of Jews then and now.

    The patriarchs are far from perfect. Isaac gives Jacob his birthright blessing and underwrites it even after he learns he’s been deceived. Jacob fears his encounter with his now grown brother Esau whom he cheated out of both birthright and inheritance. Jacob’s sons dislike their brother Joseph so much that they try to get rid of him. These are not, in other words, exemplars of truth and wisdom, but people faced with difficult decisions and sometimes, even often, choosing poorly.

    This approach makes Torah study a much more human endeavor, not requiring the power of revealed truth, rather requiring careful and attentive reading done with both living company and the thoughts of long dead Rabbis.

  • Sacred. So Sacred.

    Samain and the Choice Moon

    Thursday gratefuls: Choice made and sealed. Gas. Retro, good ol’ gas for Ruby’s engine. Tinned fish. Morning darkness. Holimonth. Now, for me, November 28th. Choice Day. Part of my holimonth. Jacob at the Jabbok Ford. Wrestling with a man, an angel, God, himself. 311 E. Monroe, its kitchen. Mom. That Garden Spider. Finding the sacred at the breakfast table. Immersing in the holy Waters of the Mikvah of East Denver. Being with my sacred community tomorrow night.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Water

    One brief shining: Each morning I crank shut the window, stop my alarm, pick up my blinking save my life please pendant, turn off the oxygen concentrator, and wander out onto the oriental carpet Kate bought for her long ago condo, lie down, do my back exercises, pick up my hearing aid, oh more sound, then make my way to the kitchen for a can of cold water and a cup of cold coffee, climb the seven stairs to my office, sit down and start to write as I’m doing right now.


    A word about ritual.* If you read the short piece about ritual below, you will notice that it confidently ascribes the term sacred to the transcendent realm. If I have an original contribution to make to this millennia long conversation, it is this. No to transcendence. I know this would shatter my former UU heroes of the American Renaissance like Emerson, Thoreau, perhaps Emily Dickinson, but I find the idea of transcendence a fallacy of misplaced concreteness as Whitehead would have said. The very notion of a sacred realm beyond our experience, especially one transcending the universe or material existence, drains the magic from the world around us. The sacred is not here with us, it’s in that other place, far away or almost impossible to reach.

    No. I do not believe that. Might there be a realm beyond this one, different in nature and purpose? Of course. May there be one and may I have the good fortune to visit it some fine day after this life finishes with me. But it is not the location of the sacred. Or, at the very least, not the only home of the sacred. Not the home of God or the Gods or the spirits or the daemons. No. That home exists here with us, within our reach and accessible to our senses.

    Place your hand over your heart. The pulse of sacred life beats beneath your palm. Take the hand of a friend, a beloved and feel their warmth, both physical and emotional. The spiritual reality of the sacred exists next to you and within you. The Cat that walks across your lap, perhaps deigning to stay. The Dog, eager and loving, tail wagging. Greeting you when you come home. The Tree in your favorite park or along your route to work. The Lodgepole out my window. Sacred. And witnesses to the sacred for those who can see what they’re looking at.

    Transcendence carries with it a host of problems not the least of which is a hierarchical view of the universe. Think the old three-story universe. Hell below. Earth. Heaven above. No. The Sky above, the liquid center of this Planet below, and our surface world on Land, not even the dominant form of matter on the surface. That would be Water. We inhabit a sacred realm, right here, right now.

    Plant a Seed. Watch Birth. Experience an orgasm. Feel the warmth of Great Sol on your face. Embrace this sacred world for what it is, not for what it is in the reflection of a separate reality. We so need to do this. Right now.

    Well, got away from ritual. Another time.



    “Ritual behaviour, established or fixed by traditional rules, has been observed the world over and throughout history. In the study of this behaviour, the terms sacred (the transcendent realm) and profane (the realm of time, space, and cause and effect) have remained useful in distinguishing ritual behaviour from other types of action.” Britannica entry

  • Religion and Its Cultured Despisers

    Samain and the Choice Moon

    Sunday gratefuls: The Ancient Brothers. Tara. The Mikvah. Shema Yisrael. Adonai eloheynu. Adonai echad. Prayerful humility. Being a new Jew. The Sabbath. Jacob wrestling at the Jabbok Ford. Zornberg. Great Sol lighting up the Snow on the Lodgepole Branches. A crisp, clear and blue Sky. The Iliad. The Jacob cycle in Genesis. Israel. Me. Soon anyhow. In shallah. All the Dogs. And their human companions. Wild Neighbors.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Books

    One brief shining: Read an article yesterday about increasing nones, yes nones not nuns, in particular among Millennials and younger, which prodded me to remember Friedrich Schleiermacher and his book, Religion and Its Cultured Despisers, then to wonder why I, a man almost as far away generationally as possible from the new nones, chose to embrace a religion while others flee them.


    No. This is not a question of doubt about my choice. It’s firm and almost ritualized. Tuesday. It’s about those cycles of history when certain institutions get shunned, disbelieved, set aside as archaic, over with. It’s about me and my choices over a lifetime and why I’ve made them. Mostly though its about religion and those who would be nones. Not relevant to those who would be nuns.

    Three times I have rejected institutional religion. The first. After studying philosophy and finding Christianity’s arguments dissolved in the acids of logic. The second. After finding Christianity’s claims dissolved through love of my son. The third. After finding liberal religion, Unitarian-Universalism, had no there there for me. At that point I turned to the Soil, to the Bees, to heirloom Tomatoes, to Rhizomes and Bulbs, to Kate, to Dogs, to Great Sol and the Great Wheel. Became a pagan.

    On Tuesday I’ll make my fourth teshuva, return, to an organized old religious tradition. You could look at this and say why can’t he make up his mind? I mean, geez. Really? Fair enough. Although as I look at this pattern, I see something different. I see a man who could not let go of a search for the sacred, the holy. Who was not satisfied. But also one who kept his heart and mind and soul open, willing to learn, to see what he was looking at.

    Could I have gone on to my death as a pagan, devoted to the Soil and my Wild Neighbors, to the Great Mother who birthed us all and to whom we return? Yes. I could have. That’s why my pagan heart will still guide much of my search for the sacred and the holy. I will not stop listening to the Mule Deer, the Elk Bull, the crashing Waters of a Spring Maxwell Creek. I will not stop seeing the holiness in Black Mountain or in the wide Pacific or in Great Sol.

    Yet my heart, which guides me now more than my mind, could not escape this. I find the sacred, the holy, the divine, in other humans too. And so many of those humans: Alan, Tara, Susan, Joan, Jamie, Ellen, Dick, Ron, Rich, Cheri, Marilyn, Irv, Veronica, Mark, Lauren, Karen, Sally, Nancy, Ruth, Gabe, Kate of blessed memory, Leslie, Rebecca, Anne, Luke, Tal, Iris, Jamie Bernstein, Stephen, yes all of these and more I know but not well, are all Jewish. When I walk into the sanctuary for a service, it is my friends who make it holy. And my heart, this insistent and stubborn heart/mind-my lev said follow them further.

    Not only that. But, thanks to Kate, eight years of holidays, learnings, immersion in the Jewish world. Of seeing how dogma simply does not exist in a Reconstructionist Jewish frame. That these folks are seekers, searchers too. And willing to investigate, rethink, reimagine. Everything. Yet to still celebrate that search in a three-thousand year old vessel which carries great wisdom about how to be human. In other words, how to be sacred.

    I know. I admit I’m drawn to the prayers, to the rituals, to the careful and unusual hermeneutic of Torah study. That I find comfort and even solace in them. That’s the monk in me. Yet the pagan, the pilgrim still on the path finds food here, too. I am not alone in my insistence on finding the sacred and the holy in the Mountains, the Streams, the Black Bears and Mountains Lions. I am also not alone in finding the wisdom of the Rabbi’s, of the authors whoever they were of the Torah, of the whole Tanakh, a living stream, one way of seeing not only what I’m looking at but what I’m looking for.

  • Caverns Measureless to Man

    Fall and the Harvest Moon

    Tuesday gratefuls: CBE. Israel Trip meeting this morning. Mary, my physical therapist. Exercises. Exercising. Jet lag. A day per time zone. 15 time zones on MST. Oh. Israel. Hamas. Hezbollah. Iran. Palestinians. Two-state solution. The Pacific. The Atlantic. They Yellow Sea. The Sea of Japan. The Korean Peninsula. The Islands of Japan. The Rocky Mountains. Shadow Mountain. Black Mountain. Conifer Mountain. The Night Sky. Darkness. The season of darkness. Samain. The Winter Solstice.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: The Night

    One brief shining: Nash from the Schneider’s will include bagels, cream cheese, onion, tomatoes, and capers for us while we try to digest the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in Ashkelon and Gaza and Tel Aviv, and civilians both Palestinian and Israeli dying in their homes as we assess whether our trip to Jerusalem is as over as we all imagine it is.


    So. The news continues to shock, dismay. Photographs of bodies, burned out cars, wrecked apartment buildings, fences, military vehicles. I continue to have double vision. With sorrow and grief for Israel, its promise and its failure, its dead. With sorrow and grief for Gaza and Palestine, people herded into narrow spaces, walled off, virtually imprisoned. No winners here. Only the eye of history scanning back and forth for that moment when things begin to change. Will this be it? I certainly hope so. For the dream that is a Jewish homeland. For the necessity that is a Palestinian state. For both to be true and friendly.

    The enmeshed politics of the U.S., Iran, Russia, even Ukraine now threaded more deeply into the bloodied tapestry of the current Middle East. We support Israel. We support Hamas and the Palestinians. We support our Sunni brothers and sisters. We support our Shia brothers and sisters. We support. But support really means we are willing to kill those we don’t. Or, provide aid and comfort while our proxies do it for us. This part of the world is a nightmare for all who call it home and for all who have interests there. Yet for those who call it home it is just that. Home. I feel linked in sadness with all those who care for these troubled lands. All.

    It is strange to have a personal stake in these events. But I do. A couple of weeks in Israel beginning on October 25th. Doubt it now. Meeting at CBE this morning with a representative of Keshet, the Israeli travel agency organizing the group part of the trip. Probably will start to unwind. I didn’t buy travel insurance so I’m not sure what the financial impact of a cancellation will be for me. Whether the airline will let me have a refund or a credit. Also strange to consider personal finances while people are dying. I need to, but it’s still strange.

    Have to go get ready for the 8 am meeting at CBE. Our Keshet rep lives in Jerusalem so this will be first hand about what’s happening there. Keshet sent an e-mail to all of us yesterday outlining the financial commitments they’ve made to relief work as an organization. The needs are great and if you feel like donating there are many opportunities.