• Category Archives Myth and Story
  • The Most Precious Treasure

    Winter and the Cold Moon

    Shabbat gratefuls: How do I feel? A mood changer. Thanks, Tal. Joan, such a bright lady. Alan in his tie dyed t-shirt for the Beatles shabbat. Luke’s dvar torah. His playing and singing in the service. A testament to his courage and growth. Breakfast at Dandelions, reopened under new ownership. Ackerman’s pick up of the couch. Reupholstering. Fixing Rigel’s deep hole. My son and Seoah.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Breakfast with friends

    One brief shining: Got the new menu for Dandelions, three of them, one for Alan and Joan and me, went back to the table and took my time with it since I was still alone, noticed corned beef hash as an entree, two eggs, found a side of berries, and I had made my decision so I slid my menu away from me, picked up the cream and added it to the coffee, waiting.

     

    A quote from the Zen calendar gifted me by Tom. From the Upanishads:

    “God made the senses turn outwards, man (sic) therefore looks outward, not into himself. But occasionally a daring soul, desiring immortality, has looked back and found himself.”

    Don’t know the context of this quote but by itself it tells a truth and a half-truth. The truth is this. Our physicality forces our attention out and away from ourselves. Oh, look! See that! Wow. Did you hear what she said? Hey, can you smell that? OMG. This is the best avocado toast ever. Yes, again. Right there.

    The half-truth is only occasionally is there a daring soul who turns to the inner cathedral, that alembic of memory and thought powered by the fiery heat of the emotions. And that when they do they seek immortality. Some may, of course, search for the secret to life beyond life. But most of us stumble through the doors of our inner cathedral when a shock like grief, major illness, addiction, rejection, or several days in a row of gloomy inner weather force us down the steps into our vast private universe. We all go there from time to time over the course of a life. And look back, in rather than out. Unknown how many find themselves.

    How can we learn from the experience? Socrates. The unexamined life is not worth living. I believed that the first time I encountered it and believe it now. That examen as the Jesuits call it is not for the timid; as any cartographer can tell you, here there be monsters. Yet it is those shadowy winged creatures of our soul who guard the real treasure.

    Which suggests to me that Gandalf might well be our guide. I think of him in his encounter with the Balrog in the mines of Moira. Gandalf could have turned and run or at least not advanced toward the menacing creature. Instead he walks onto the narrow bridge that will carry him straight into the Balrog’s path.

    Gandalf walked toward the bomb, toward the fight, toward the pillar of smoke and in so doing earned the opportunity to face a great obstacle rather than force it back down and away from consciousness. In the ensuing battle Gandalf the Grey dies but only after killing the Balrog. Later, he reemerges as Gandalf the White.

    Whether Gandalf or Virgil or Moses or Tiresias or even Ignatius of Loyola, we need a guide, a companion as we wander the labyrinths of our heart/mind. I found John Desteian who walked with me through the tunnels and traps of my 28 years. I’ve found Ira Progroff and his journal workshops. Now Moses and the Torah. I’ve found Gandalf and Virgil, too. But the key companion all along has been the then existing version of myself.

    I invite you to find the entrance to your mines of Moira. I invite you to take a deep breath and set your foot on the steps that lead down and in to your inner cathedral. Yes, there be monsters there, but they’re your monsters and they guard the most precious treasure of all: self-knowledge.

     

     

     


  • Surrender Charlie

    Samain and the Winter Solstice Moon

    Wednesday gratefuls: Heidi. The Dragonfly Sign. Colorado Supreme Court. Psilocybin. Nahuatl Gods and Mayan hieroglyphics. Surrender. Irv. Rider. Mt. Logan. Crooked Top Mountain. The Grandfather Tree. Park County 43. Buggy Whip Road. Hangman’s Road. Washington County Maine. Climate change. Shadow Mountain. The Rockies. The Front Range. Alan. Bastien’s Steak House. The Winter Solstice. Holimonth.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Colorado Supreme Court

    One brief shining: A cloth with Native American colors marking the four directions, circular, laid on it cut white Roses, small Pine Tree Branches, red Roses, Cinnamon, Coffee beans, Star Anise, Aspen Leaves arranged for a Peruvian gratitude ceremony in which I picked up a small Branch of Pine Needles, inhaled its essence three times and exhaled my love and gratitude before placing the needles gently in the center.

     

    OK, nation! See Colorado go. I loved living in Minnesota and in the Twin Cities for forty years. The North Woods. Wolves. Lake Superior. So many Lakes. Liberal to radical politics. Not perfect, no. Witness George Floyd. But no place is. And Minnesota seemed as close as they come while I lived there. Then Kate and I moved to Shadow Mountain.

    As the Dead said: What a long, strange trip it’s been. Many of you know my story over the now 9 years exactly since my buddy Tom and I drove straight through from the Twin Cities with Kepler, Vega, and Rigel in the back. And, yes, that story has its definite peaks and valleys. But that’s not my reference here.

    No where else in the country, this divided and often pitiful land of ours, could I have had a legal psychedelic journey on Crooked Top Mountain then come home to Shadow Mountain and read the wonderful news that the Colorado Supreme Court had called a crook a crook, an insurrectionist an insurrectionist and kicked Trump off our ballot. I mean, whoa! What a day.

    I shifted my inner identification a few years back from Minnesotan to Coloradan, my Mountain home become just that. Home. Yes, we elected a gay Governor. How bout that. And of course the wild Neighbors and the Mountain Streams and the Black Bears. The Snow and the spectacular Autumns with gold and green. Over the time I’ve lived here Colorado has shifted from red to blue. Not without some Western weirdness along the way, but that makes it interesting. All that’s true.

    But in one day to take a psilocybin journey with a good friend on property so evocative of a sixties commune and then learn we Coloradans had taken a firm stand, saying what all clear eyed non Trump bedazzled folks already know but somehow cannot communicate, that insurrectionists should not, in fact,cannot hold office. Well, I’m busting with state pride right now. Colorado is the California of the new Millennia. OK. Enough local chauvinism. Still, pretty damned cool. Gives this aging radical a boost.

     

    Short note on the psilocybin journey about which more later. Ate the mushroom after the gratitude ceremony. Mixed with a little lemon juice supposed to make it come on quicker and go sooner. Sat outside in the glass enclosed shelter where we held the gratitude ceremony, the others going inside. Watched the curved Snowy Bowl of Mt. Logan as my inner weather shifted under the power of the mushroom.

    Went inside and lay down on a heated pad. Soon Nahuatl Gods and Mayan hieroglyphics began to move across the ceiling. Sometimes two dimensional sometimes three almost down to my face. I love hallucinations. So fun. I told my guide I might be under utilizing the experience; it was so entertaining.

    Turned out no. I hadn’t. I had two intentions going in, the one I wrote about yesterday, how to live fully, and the second to continue my exploration of the sacred.

    During some brief conversation after being asked if we had any insights I said, yes, I had one. In living more fully I’ve pushed, thought about things to do, about acting in my life to live more fully. Answering Shakespeare, I have always chosen to take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them. Now I need to learn surrender.

    To live fully I need to open up, accept what’s coming. Greet the new year with arms spread wide for what it brings rather than what I can make happen. Well, not rather than. I mean, I’ll still take up arms, of course I will, but I learned yesterday that I have another option. To embrace, to wait, to listen, to let the world and its wonders come to me. As the Wicked Witch of the West might say, “Surrender, Charlie!”

     

     


  • Neverending Story

    Samain and the Winter Solstice Moon

    Thursday gratefuls: Marilyn and Irv. Good friends. Tom, always a good conversation. My son and compartment syndrome, the bloody treatment. Seoah shooting a 90 at screen golf. My son an 85. Two athletes. Plus Murdoch. Hamas. Israel. Palestine. The diaspora. The Joseph story. The Jacob/Israel story. The Abraham story. Bereshit, Genesis. Beginnings. Ganesha. Krishna. Vishnu. Shiva. Snow plows and their drivers. My mail carrier, Mark.

    (N.B. I capitalize words associated with what I consider the living world, a practice of honor I picked up from the Potawatomi in Braiding Sweet Grass. [except for humans] Also, I include in my gratefuls the dark as well as the light since both make up our whole life and contain a seed of holiness. I learn this from the sacred nature of reality as One. It does not mean that I love, say, Hamas.)

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Breakfast with Marilyn and Irv

    One brief shining: At Primo’s Cafe I scooched between a diner’s chair and a giant Santa, right hand raised in what I imagine is a greeting gesture though it looks more like he’s waving to other outsized folks like Johnny Inkslinger, Paul Bunyan, Babe the Blue Ox, or perhaps very large Reindeer, a Rudolf with a nose the size of a softball.

     

    Conversations. Tom. Marilyn and Irv. Diane. Alan and Joan. Luke. My life requires time alone the most, yet it also requires conversation, connection, the intimacy of knowing and being known. Yours too I’ll bet. The second one, I mean. Most don’t need as much alone time as I do.

    I’m lucky enough to have regular folks to meet over eggs, potatoes, and bacon in the breakfast spots available here in the Mountains. And others I meet in the cloud, that mysterious realm just on the other side of my computer screen that contains people I know. Like Tom and my cousin Diane, my Ancient Brothers: Paul, Mark, Tom, Bill. The Thursday mussar group. A blend of the cloud and IRL.

    Judaism contains its own cloud. What Christians often called that great cloud of witnesses, referring to the dead. In Judaism the Rabbis speak over the ages through the Talmud, the Midrash, and the stories of their lives.  The rituals and traditions of Jewish life, the Torah, the Kabbalah, even the blood of the ancestors carry their own message. As well as the history of the Jewish people. That great cloud of witnesses places my temporary life in a broader and longer context. Comforting and challenging.

    Each book I pick up becomes a dialogue between the author and me, between the story and me. In this way my life might be said to be a constant conversation with interlocutors living and dead.

    Then there is the world of my wild neighbors and the planets, Great Sol, and other galaxies. A conversation exists between that very young Mule Deer Doe that comes to eat grass in my yard and me. She looks at me through the window with gentle, puzzled eyes. Among those three Mule Deer Bucks who welcomed me here. That Elk Bull watching from the side of the road in the rainy night. Black Mountain and its changes. The running Streams and the Arapaho National Forest. Crows, Ravens, Magpies. The Snow as it marches across Mt. Blue Sky to Shadow Mountain.

    A neverending story you might say.

     


  • Aural Prompts

    Samain and the Summer’s End Moon

    Monday gratefuls: Val. Who I think may have been hitting on me. Bless her heart. Zojirushi rice cooker and its first brown rice. Equanimity. Silence. Faith. Middot. Mussar. Emunah and Clouds. Hearing the Voice of the Wind, of the Snow, of the Wild Neighbors, of the Storm. Life in its immediacy. Life as a temporary gift. To cherish. Renaissance music. Cool nights. Gregorian chants. Chiropractors. Ellen and Dick. Heidi. Mountain Jews, my community

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Right now

    One brief shining: The crucifix, bronze and distressed, hung high above the five singers dressed in white tops and black bottoms, two good friends, Irv and Joan, both Jews, joined I learned later by at least one other Jew, as they sang, paradoxically, a high mass from the time of Queen Elizabeth the First, the haunting medieval music somehow transcending time and faith to place us all outside the Episcopal Church in which they performed and in that pure realm of music’s ethereal and ephemeral reality.

     

    Went to St. Laurence Episcopal yesterday to hear the 27 minute performance of Irv’s Renaissance singers. One of its members referred to what they did as serious fun. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy medieval music, early music. Reminded as they sang evoking both a time long ago and yet a time relevant to the present moment. This music is, to my ear, sparer than most later music, focused on a spirituality, not only tonality. I could feel as I listened the voices of the thousands, millions perhaps, that had sung and will sing about the world we rarely see because we know not what to look for. Tibetan and Buddhist chants. Throat singing. Jewish services. Black choirs. Voices raised in cars and at home. We need these aural prompts to sharpen our sight, to encourage us to see what we are looking at.

    Afterward a wine and cheese reception at Marilyn and Irv’s. I got there a bit late because I went home to pick up a book for Joan, a contemporary Korean writer’s short story collection. When I walked in the crowd had already been hitting the wine, so the first hello Charlie got taken up by others, then everybody. Hi, Charlie! I felt well welcomed.

     

    And, no. No news on the testing front. Still “in progress.” I’m prepared to live into any result, continuing my life until it comes to an end, either soon or late. No, not resignation. The opposite. I’m not letting go of this gift until it decides to leave my body.

     

    Looking back a bit. Joan and Albert’s first yarhzeit. Seeing Lauren and Kat, the two bat mitzvah’s from Thursday. Their bat mitzvah service would have been on Masada, as my conversion would have been in Jerusalem. I missed it because of my appointment with Dr. Gonzalez. I gave them chocolate bars from Sugar Jones where I buy my weekly truffles. Ruth at the Blue Fin, smiling and laughing, caring. Irv and Joan singing. A buzzy happy crowd at the reception. A good weekend. A very good weekend. Not in spite of my lagging test results, but because of my life already under way.


  • Embodiment

    Fall and the Harvest Moon

    Thursday gratefuls: Deep, vulnerable conversation. Healing. Colon back to on guard status and off active duty. Yay! Jet lag still dissipating. Blue day. Bright Sol. Green Lodgepoles. Scat in my driveway. Probably Fox. Olives. Simchat Torah. One of my favorite holidays. Dancing with the Torah. Friday: Forgot this yesterday. Mary, my physical therapist. Polio. Sister Kenny. Mary, my sister in Kuala Lumpur. Mark in Saudi. Seoah and my son in Korea. Diane in San Francisco. My close, yet so faraway family. Kepler. Kate, always Kate. Jon. Ruth, a young woman. Gabe. Rigel. My Star in the night Sky

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Friends in Colorado, good friends

    One brief shining: A shiny blue Sky shone through the Bamboo mats on the Sukkah children’s hand prints on cloth decorating its slatted wooden sides, my Thursday mussar friends smiling as I came back after a six week absence.

     

    Interesting. Yesterday I sat in the Sukkah with the other mussar folks, Rabbi Jamie giving me a hug when I sat down next to him. We began the conversation with a meditation as we always do. And I got this feeling of sitting in one for thousands of years. As if this moment, the one I inhabited also, simultaneously, inhabited other moments in serial regression. A sensation of at-one-ment. Sukkot is an ancient harvest festival, the sukkah supposedly similar to the temporary dwellings farmers used during the hectic last days of the harvest before the winter rains. Probably not originally Jewish in origin.

    Jews, who incorporated this festival long ago-and Rabbi Jamie says it used to be the primary holiday, not Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Days of Awe-imagine these sukkah as also representing the temporary dwellings used by the Hebrew slaves during their forty years in the wilderness.

    I love Sukkot and the holiday that immediately follows it, Simchat Torah, rejoicing with the Torah. Simchat Torah is tonight. I’m going even though it’s a second night out for me this week. During this holiday the Torah Scroll is removed from the Tabernacle, completely unscrolled, and the congregation, using prayer shawls to grip it, dances with the Torah. It marks the completion of the reading of the entire Torah in the old year and the beginning of the new year’s reading in Bereshit, Genesis.

    Not sure why I find Sukkot and Simchat Torah so meaningful, but I have for several years. I love the physicality of them both. The sukkah and the unscrolled Torah. The dancing. Eating in the Sukkah. An embodied way of celebrating our connection to the holy, to the divine that manifests whenever we open ourselves.

    Perhaps that’s it. The embodiment. The whole of me involved. Not just my head. I find the High Holidays very heady and so not as meaningful. Odd for me to say, I know. But maybe I need not an out of body experience of the sacred but an out of mind one. Take me out of the theological and the ethical and the political and let me dance with the Torah. Hey!

     


  • Korea

    Lughnasa and the Korea Moon

    Monday gratefuls: The month of Elul. Cheshbon hanefesh. The month for an accounting of the soul. Rosh Hashanah. The New Year begins. Sept. 15, 5784. A day with Murdoch. Golf. My son and Seoah. Black bean noodles. Fried rice. Kimchi. Pickled radish. Fried pork. Back to exercise today.  The Ancient Brothers on what it means to be a good person.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: The scales of Anubis

    One brief shining: The door creaks a bit on its hinges, a crooked tail comes briefly into view, Murdoch slumps down against the wall, ready to spend an hour or so with me while I write.

     

    Yesterday was a travel day, as Kate and I used to name them. After a vigorous Saturday, I stayed home with Murdoch while my son and Seoah went out for another 18 holes. Wrote. Read. Watched some TV. Took a walk. Not a long one.

    And yet I remained in Korea. Far away from Shadow Mountain, CBE. Across the wide Pacific, past the international date line, on a skinny part of the easternmost edge of Asia. A peninsula. Not far from Japan and connected by land to the People’s Republic of China. Even Russia is not far away. The Amur River, Vladivostok.

    Of course the People’s Republic of North Korea lies between the bottom half of the Korean peninsula and a land route to either China or Russia. So no hopping in the family car for a road trip to see the famous Amur Tigers or maybe a visit to Lake Baikal.

    Though. Seoah’s dad did go on a trip just a week ago to the northern edge of North Korea, getting there by flying first to China, then onto the People’s Republic. A Mountain trekker all his life, he wanted to see Mt. Paektu.*

    As you can tell by reading the squib from Wikipedia, Paektu or Paektusan in Korean has a key role in Korean early history and in the hearts of all Koreans to this day. It’s one of the lesser known but nonetheless painful results of the Korean War that people from the South can no longer access it easily for pilgrimage purposes.

     

    Korean recycling has a lot more nuance than Shirley Waste offers to me at home. Paper. Plastic. Metal. Trash. Food waste. All different categories and all requiring government sanctioned bags or direct distribution into the appropriate container. Recycling happens on Sunday here at Poco de Sharp which means all of the apartments in this building have to retrieve their waste and carry it down by elevator to the area set aside in the parking lot.

    When I helped my son carry out the trash last night, what looked like a large children’s fort of cardboard boxes had a door like opening near the street. Inside it people put their bags of paper recycling. I guess the boxes were also recycling. Don’t know who put the fort together.

    Huge recycling bags hung on large metal piping and my son distributed the rest of the recycling to its proper spot, emptying his bags into the plastic or the metal big bags. Which, now that I’m writing this, makes me wonder about the need for government sanctioned bags in the first place. A mystery for now.

     

    Culture has profound implications for every aspect of life. Why I loved anthropology. In a sense culture is a particular people’s answer to the most important questions of life: who can I love? what is justice? what’s for supper? who does what kind of work? how do I get from here to there? how do I communicate with others? Who’s most important, who’s not? how can I tell the difference? And so many other issues big and small.

    It’s a privilege and an honor to be here for a month plus taking in the Korean answers to these questions. Or, at least, trying to discern their answers.

    Later on I hope to write some of my observations about Korean culture. A culture under a lot of pressure from technology, Western soft culture, geopolitics, and their own recent history.

     

     

    “The mountain has been considered sacred by Koreans throughout history.[33] According to Korean mythology, it was the birthplace of Dangun, the founder of Gojoseon (2333–108 BC), whose parents were said to be Hwanung, the Son of Heaven, and Ungnyeo, a bear who had been transformed into a woman.[34] The Goryeo and Joseon dynasties also worshiped the mountain.”


  • Go now, the play has ended

    Lughnasa and the Korea Moon

    Sunday gratefuls: The Trail to Cold Mountain. Performed to applause. Released. Packing started. Radical light this time. The company of actors. Acting. Alan and Joan at dinner last night. Cold Mountain. His poetry. The improv class’s Armando. Ginnie. Rebecca. Marilyn and Irv. Ruth. Jen. Gabe. Joan’s piece on the dybbuk. Alan’s on aging. Tal, a master teacher at 26. A chilly Mountain Night. Luke and Leo. Vince. The Parking Spot. TSA open at 4 am for precheck security. Korea. Israel. Taipei.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Live a Great Story (decal on a Jeep back window)

    One brief shining: This time there was a crowd when I walked out, confident in my piece, carrying the drinking Gourd and my parchment poems, dropped into Herme and Han Shan’s story, Great Sol gone unseen as Berrigan Mountain rotated west with the rest of us, a light breeze blowing.

     

    Go now, the play has ended. My first play has found an audience. What a rush. I finished saying, “Take the Trail to Cold Mountain.” And we all had. My performance was over. The work of the summer over. Ups and downs culminating in a work I was proud of and a performance I was proud of. Felt wonderful. Stretched in a healthy way past my comfort zone.

    Only will know later if my goal for the piece spreading the word about the Rivers and Mountains poetry tradition of China found its way into anyone’s heart. If I had written an artist’s statement for The Trail to Cold Mountain it would have been something like this:

    I want to introduce to a Mountain audience the Rivers and Mountains poetry tradition of China through the Tarot archetype of the Hermit. I believe most Mountain folks have a strong component of this archetype that led them here. We like the curvy roads, the cool Mountain mornings, living with Wild Neighbors on Forested Land. No, more. We need to live away from the World, to clear the heat and dust from our minds and be where the Wind sings through the Pines. So, too, in China. In the Andes. In all the great Mountains and Forests of the World. We are one people.

    Poetry and archetype, myth and legend. Religion. This has long been my realm. From one novel to the next, from one job to the next, even the motor behind the justice work. Now it speaks to where and how and with whom I live. In the Mountains, with other Hermits yet also linked in loving ways to a community, caring for them and being cared for by them. Still linked in deep heart connection with Minnesota made friends, with family far away and nearby, living my own life with them all, yet apart from them, too.

    Deepening the love. Burning away the dross.

     

    Coming home, late. Drove up Brook Forest and Black Mountain Drives. Realized a powerful raison d’être for experiencing the sacred. As I drive along the familiar ranks of Lodgepoles and Aspens, I look now for another glimpse, a brief appearance of the natural world calling to me. (Art Green, Radical Judaism, p. 120) I know that the opportunity, the chance to again see through a portal like the Rainy Night Watcher exists. Thus, I’m more aware of the sacred all along the drive.

    This is, I imagine, the reason others over the course of history have written down their experiences, collected the stories of others, and collected them in what we call sacred writings. Not to freeze those moment and make them rules against which to measure our lives, but as clues, as prompts to the possible moments when the natural world will reach out to us, to help us be ready to see what we’re looking at.

     


  • The Last Journey

    Lughnasa and the Herme Moon

    Tuesday gratefuls: Ruth struggling again. Still. Gabe and the last Rockies game of the season. Marilyn and Irv. A pale blue Sky. A cool night, but warmer weather coming. Kristie today. Robbie Robertson of The Band. Levon Holmes. Bob Dylan. Coltrane. Parker. Bach. Mozart. Hayden. The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Sarah and BJ. Kate, always Kate. Jon, a memory. My son, Seoah, and Murdoch.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Studying

    One brief shining: Rolled my chair to the built-in desk, turned on the study lamp, took out the sheet of questions for my first class with Rabbi Jamie, this one on Jewish Identity, began to read from Art Green’s Radical Judaism, Joseph Telushkin’s Jewish Literacy, and George Robinson’s Essential Judaism and noticed how much I still enjoy studying, writing answers, thinking deeply.

     

    Now it’s getting personal. Judaism, that is. No longer following the thought pathways the ancientrails of the Talmud and the Torah as an outsider, a camp follower. Reading about Jewish identity as one who will wear the kippah. Makes a big difference. Who is a Jew? What is common among all forms of Judaism? How does Israel define a Jew for the aliyah, the right of return?

    This is my third, and last, venture into the inner life of a distinctive religious community. Seminary at United Theological Seminary in New Brighton, Minnesota gave me four solid years of church history, biblical studies, ethics, homiletics, pastoral care, and a bit of Hebrew and Greek. Much later, in the early 90’s I did a self-study course in Unitarian-Universalism that took two years. This doesn’t count the four years I spent earning my Doctor of Ministry degree from McCormick Seminary in Chicago.

    In both of these earlier excursions I was not wholly engaged. All during my work as a Presbyterian minister, I felt apart from the main congregational life of the denomination. Because I was. My ministry was political and only became involved with congregations near its end when I worked as an organizational consultant for congregations in the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area. The UU time was a regression, an attempt to retain my ministerial role by switching to a less theologically restrictive community. In the end I found the UU movement too diffuse in its religiosity. And learned, again, that the role of minister did not fit me.

    Conversion to Judaism is different. This is something I want. As Joan Greenberg said, it just feels natural. No real dogma to cleave to. So many Jews identify as atheists or agnostics. Yet, a rich and old tradition of considering life’s most difficult questions. How do we live a human and a humane life? How do we connect with the call of the natural world, as Art Green puts it in his wonderful book, Radical Judaism?

    Kate found this path when she was 30. She led me to it. And my friendships at CBE have made it real. Here’s a secret wish I’ll put right out here in print. If it turns out I’m wrong and there is a heaven, I certainly want to be in the Jewish section where Kate is.


  • Nudges

    Summer and the Summer Moon Above

    Friday gratefuls: Kristen. An honest doc. And, sweet. Sammie, her nurse. A sweet young woman. Quest Diagnostics. My phlebotomist there, 50 years in the business. Also a sweet lady. Lucky me to have such a great team, along with Kristie and Dr. Eigner, looking after my health. Mussar. God is Here. Myths to Live By. Joseph Campbell. The book that made Jamie choose to become a rabbi. Tal. Herme. Janet. Rebecca. Ellen. Ann, a wonderful artist. Alan, breakfast at Joe Mama’s later this morning. Marilyn and Irv. Good friends. Brunch at their house yesterday. Licks and Lila, their two pups.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Friends

    One brief shining: Influences come into our lives often quietly unbidden sometimes unknown until they blossom into a nudge, a gentle tap on the shoulder or a dramatic push like Myths to Live By or that verse from Micah do justice love mercy and walk humbly with your God which took me from Appleton, Wisconsin to seminary.

     

    Got some insight on the two Charlies from yesterday’s post. Turns out I’ve become anemic since my last round of labs. Combine that with low T and my chemo drug. No wonder I’m dragging by mid-afternoon. No clear reason for it either. More labs drawn yesterday. The phlebotomist and I have become friends. I see her that often. Medical stuff. Necessary, but also a nuisance.

     

    At mussar yesterday Jamie talked about the one book that made him want to become a rabbi, Myths to Live By. A Joseph Campbell work. Haven’t read it so I ordered it. Put that book together with a Reconstructionist background and Rabbi Jamie comes into clear focus. A man driven by myth, the truest expression of human reality. A better and more solid, more lasting influence than mine. For sticking with the choice.

    Made me reflect on my own choice to go into the ministry. It wasn’t just this verse from the prophet Micah: Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God, but it was the core of the push. It was the beginning of the 70’s. The Vietnam War still raged its ugly way across that divided nation. While dividing ours, too.

    I met the Reverend Curtis Herring in Appleton. An insistent voice against the war in a very conservative section of Wisconsin [Joe McCarthy once represented this area in Congress and is buried in the Appleton Cemetery. As is Harry Houdini, btw] Reverend Herring convinced me to give seminary a try. I did.

    Like, I imagine, Rabbi Jamie once the decision to attend rabbinical school or seminary is made, no matter the original impetus, a certain amount of occupational socialization begins to occur. Yes, United Theological Seminary had a distinct and active left political student body. That drew me there and got me started, but the intellectual heft of a two thousand  year old tradition also captured my attention.

    Twenty years later I wandered out of the ministry in a haze, blessing the universe for having Kate show up at just the right time in my life. My initial impulse, a justice oriented ministry, had proved a great fit for me until I began to focus more attention on the church side of the equation. I no longer believed in the resurrection, the power of God, or the staying power of the church as an agent of social justice. In the Christian world that meant get out.

    Had I entered the ministry from Rabbi Jamie’s mythic impulse I might have stayed longer. Reconstructed the resurrection. The God metaphor. Found a way to ground the justice work more in local congregations. As it was, I had no choice but to leave an institution in whose root ideas I no longer had faith.


  • Worth the Journey

    Beltane and the Shadow Mountain Moon

    Monday gratefuls: The Rains. The cool nights. The Spanish Grand Prix. Those Nuggleheads. Max Verstappen, a phenom. Royal Gorge Railroad. Another rail journey with Tom. Israel trip becoming complicated. A bit. The Great Sol breaking up the gray Sky with Light. Brother Mark photographing his time in Hafar. Looks like a Nebraska small town with sand and Muslim architecture. Oh, and Arabic. Travel. Korea. A busy June. Life’s picking up its pace for me. And, why not?

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Cool nights

    One brief shining: Tried to figure out a way to make Chicken tenders edible so I got out the tenderizer and smacked them a couple of times each, put a poultry brine in a gallon Ziploc and stuffed them in, let them sit in the fridge for a couple of days, put chorizo to cooking in my cast iron skillet, added the drained Chicken tenders and some cut up cooked potatoes, a short time for the Chicken tenders to heat through, then plated them with the potatoes and some collard greens.

     

    Turned out well. The chorizo spiced up the bland Chicken tenders and the smacking and the brining plumped them up. Not overcooked, seasoned. A good meal.

    Ate it while watching the second half of the Spanish Grand Prix. Max Verstappen drives to the front of the field from the pole, builds up enough of a lead to ensure that a pit stop won’t cost him his position and starts lapping the field. He makes it look so, so easy. Yet he’s so far in front of the best drivers in the world, the perfect union of man and Red Bull machine. Red Bull has won all of the Grand Prix’s so far this season, Sergio Perez has won two and Verstappen the rest. Dominance. It won’t last though. In a sport as demanding as Formula 1 it never does.

     

    Looks like I may be in Israel on my own for five days before the group tour starts. I plan to fly in on October 27th, check in early to the group hotel. If a group trip to Petra happens before the trip, I’ll be on that, too. If not, more time to experience this ancient city. I love being on my own, wandering where I want, finding this and that, meeting locals, eating street food or in out of the way restaurants. This will be my first time in the Middle East, a place I studied extensively while in seminary and has been constantly present in my life since Joseph deployed to Bahrain, Mark started teaching in Saudi Arabia, and Kate and I joined CBE.

    With me on this journey will be memories of New Testament stories like the Mount of Olives, the sites of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection (The Church of the Holy Sepulcher), the garden of Gethsemane-that stained glass window in Alexandria First Methodist where my family sat all those years-as well as the Dome of the Rock where Muhammed landed after his night journey and then ascended to heaven. Jewish inflections too. The first temple site is coterminous with the Dome of the Rock. The wailing wall. The holocaust inspired push to create a contemporary homeland for the Jews. So much else of which I am ignorant.

    Not to mention the crusades. A key focus of medieval piety. And early anti-Muslim bigotry. Lots of historical streams running this through this one spot on the globe.

    Worth the journey.