Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The message

About half an hour ago I was somewhere else, then like a flat pebble skipping across a pond, rock meets water, each time I recover, a bit wet, but glad that I have touched the surface of depths that I know are more than my mere skimming the surface will allow me to enter, and I wonder, does the water think me cold and hard, do I disturb its tranquil surface, or does it welcome my unexpected, and perhaps unrefined, visit? Of course we may never know, for words are our only lasting memory of our brief encounter, and unless we utter words, utter thoughts, utter our souls, then the memory will be but concentric circles upon the surface while the depths remain untouched.

Bro. Bartleby


What does one do when the sun goes down and the candles are lit? Bro. Clarence pulled out a paper and read:

"What happens when a candle burns. The candle is made of solid paraffin wax. Paraffin wax has long, complex, chain like molecules made up from carbon atoms (C) and Hydrogen atoms (H). When the wax is heated by the candle flame, the long molecules break up and untangle. The solid candle wax turns into a thin liquid which soaks into the candle wick. The liquid wax breaks down into smaller molecules of flammable gas which mix with oxygen in the surrounding air. An oxidising reaction takes place which gives off light and heat to form a flame. The burning process converts the paraffin wax and oxygen into a mixture of gases, water vapour and small solid particles which we call smoke. The gases are mostly carbon dioxide - C02 and carbon monoxide - CO, produced when carbon from the candle wax combines with oxygen in the air. The smoke particles, or soot, are mostly unburned carbon (C). If you hold a polished metal spoon above a candle flame it will become stained with soot. Smoke contains water vapour which is produced when the hydrogen from the candle wax combines with oxygen in the air. A cold shiny surface held near to the candle flame will collect moisture from the flame."

"Life suddenly deepens and all the universe is present at the lighting of a candle." -- R H Blyth

"Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing." --William Shakespeare

"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared." --Buddha

Bro. Sedwick pointed out that the saying of the Buddha is similar to what is found in the Hebrew Midrashic teachings:

"Many candles can be kindled from one candle without diminishing it."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

An Electric moment

Okay, the purity of the experiment will be tainted, but nevertheless, a short moment on the Mac will be factored into the results. A few of the brothers are attempting a month without electricity, and for Bro. Clarence he is taking the experiment a step further, a month without electricity and without 'anything' produced with the help of electricity. So he is sporting a handwoven robe, his own handmade sandals (of yucca fiber), and is consuming candles at an alarming rate. So far the experiment is producing various reactions, from the early shock of how dependent on electricity we have become, and for Bro. Clarence the realization that modern humans are clothed and fed and transported and entertained and made comfortable, all by electricity, either nearly directly, or by extention. And how did humanity exist without electricity? Amazing that we need only look back a century or so to see, and here we are, today, captive in our newly discovered comfort. So is that what it is all about? Comfort? Well, I must extinguish this Mac before Bro. Clarence discovers my electric addiction!

The hand of God may well be all around us, but it is not, nor can it be, the task of science to dust for fingerprints.
--Biologist Robert Dorit

You don't look out there for God, something in the sky, you look in you.
--Alan Watts

God tells me how the music should sound, but you stand in the way.
--Arturo Toscanini

If you want me to believe in God, you must make me touch him.
--Denis Diderot

Because you cannot see him, God is everywhere.
--Yasunari Kawabata

Nothing is void of God, his work is everywhere.
--Lucius Annaeus Seneca

I did my best, and God did the rest.
--Hattie McDaniel

Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.
--Thomas Jefferson

If God can work through me, he can work through anyone.
--St. Francis of Assisi

I am unwilling to accept an existential universe without a God. It doesn't actually make logical sense. I feel that there has to be a higher level of compassion, of understanding, than merely a human one.

Just as the soul fills the body, so God fills the world. Just as the soul bears the body, so God endures the world. Just as the soul sees but is not seen, so God sees but is not seen. Just as the soul feeds the body, so God gives food to the world.
--Marcus Tullius Cicero

Small amounts of philosophy lead to atheism, but larger amounts bring us back to God.
--Francis Bacon

Hidden nature is secret God.
--Sri Aurobindo

The best way to know God is to love many things.
--Vincent Van Gogh


Bro. Clarence wants to clarify my statement, his experiment will not exclude the use of electricity produced by his body. I should explain, at the break fast table this morning Bro. Juniper, who is not taking part in the electricity-free month, thought himself clever when he questioned my statement that Bro. Clarence has taken the experiment a step further and would not utilize anything produced with the help of electricity with "Does that mean Bro. Clarence will not be thinking this month?" Of course he was referring to the electro-chemical processes of the brain. That produced laughs around the dining table, although my chuckles were quickly silenced when the electrical activity within my skull directed my eyes to Bro. Clarence and even more skull activity determined that his eyes were upon me, and even further sparks of electricity within my head wiped the smile from my face and caused me to utter an apology to the butt of Bro. Juniper's joke.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Inspired interpretation

Bro. Cosmo made an interesting comment, "Scripture does not 'speak for itself,' but must be 'lit up' from the inside out by inspired interpretation." Then continued with an interesting analogy, if I recall correctly, he said think of scripture as Beethoven's Ninth and it being played with a Jew's Harp. Often that is exactly how scripture is presented, without depth, without 'inspired interpretation.' Now think of that same scripture with the inspired interpretion of Arturo Toscanini. Ahhhh, ode to joy!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Shaped destiny

I recently watched a blacksmith hammering a piece of glowing red steel and everything seemed to fit, the fiery coals, the sweat of the brow, the muscular arm lifting the heavy hammer for a mighty smite as sparks flew and former hard and cold steel yielded for just a brief moment to allow an honest bit of labor to shape its destiny.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Notes in the sand

I admit, this may be a bit rambling, but nevertheless, I will ramble on. I’ve been thinking of borders, and what borders imply, demarcated territory. Borders are an interesting subject, for most creatures know borders very well, I may sit in the patio and feed a cute and pretty Blue Jay, yet not know that this patio has been claimed by that Blue Jay, and if another Blue Jay attempted to win treats from me, they more than likely would be attacked by the Jay that “owns” this patio. In zoology this is call territorial boundaries. Animals have various methods of protecting “their” territory, the Blue Jay may mark it by song (or squawk), some animals use scent (watch your dog raise its hind leg and spray and leave his scent, or your cat spraying the living room sofa!). So in this sense I think borders are older than humankind, for all or most creatures seek to mark their personal territory. And I think humans instinctively seek to do the same, as individuals, as groups, as nations. The current globe is a maze of human created territorial boundaries, and I would guess that those political boundaries had their beginnings in the boundaries marked by tribes in early cultures. I would also think that it is the big and powerful that first demarcate most of the boundaries in the world. For in the animal kingdom it is the big and powerful that defends its territory, that is until the elk becomes too old or weak to fight off the young and brash elk. I’m not saying borders are good or right or just, just that they seem to be part and parcel of life. I guess for some of us the question becomes, is a particular border just and fair? Was that property obtained fair and just. But when it comes down to it, it seems to me that most borders are drawn by the strong and wealthy, and that would include the strong and wealthy animal, person, tribe, or nation. And for good reason, at least from the point of view of the strong and wealthy, borders help to keep their wealth and necessary livelihood away from those on the other side of the drawn line. So the whole concept of property rights and our legal system springs from the need of those that claim territory to bring order and safeguard their claims. I would imagine that studies in evolution would find a great advantage for survival for those creatures that know how to establish borders, and importantly, those that know how to protect their established borders. Well, one final ramble. Isn’t it interesting how individual cultures deal with individual personal space, I think this is a microcosm of the larger picture of groups dealing with territory. For the most part, Northern Europeans have a larger personal space than Southern Europeans. I think if you observed a Greek in conversation with a Dane, you would see the Greek attempting to move closer to arrive at the ideal (for him) space between the two, but each step closer to the Dane, and the Dane would take a step back, for his personal space is larger and he feels uncomfortable when someone (the Greek) crosses the “border” into his personal space.

Did Jesus stake claim to property or territory? In one instance Jesus advises a rich man, “Go and sell everything you own and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Oh my! Everything? It would seem to me that if one then had no material possessions, then all boundaries and territories would sort of evaporate away. One would find oneself in a completely new and different world. And what would that be like? Scary? Liberating? I fear most of us fear to even think of what it would be like. But, did Jesus own anything? The way he constantly moved about seems to indicate that borders and boundaries and territories were something that no longer held or confined him. He once drew with his finger in the dirt, was he drawing a line, a demarcation? He did it when a woman was accused of adultery, the scripture only says that he drew “something” in the dirt and asked the crowd, “You who are without sin, you throw the first stone.” Of course no one cast the first, or any stones. So, was Jesus drawing a boundary line in the dirt? Was it a boundary line not demarcating territory, but a boundary line that one must cross when they choose to cross over and follow Him? Cross over from the world of territories and borders and confinement and into a world of ...

Scary? Liberating?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Sacred sand

Yesterday I took a rather long hike into the desert and came upon a sand dune and spent several hours just meditating upon this wind sculpted landscape of sand and it occurred to me that much of modern life is much ado about nothing. I recall reading an observation that Benjamin Franklin made in a letter to a friend, it was about how native Americans would leave their original lifestyle and become educated in the early American universities, and upon being "civilized" these newly educated individuals would at some point return to their people and return to their former lifestyle. One native American remarked that the white man overly complicated life and in the process became detached from the natural flow of nature. Which makes me wonder why we fuss so to modernize the world, to bring all the conveniences of modern science to all beings, and for what? To become aliens in our former garden? After countless eons of humans adapting to the natural environment, we have in a very short time detached ourselves from that environment, and have become overly complicated beings who have become lost and disconnected from what God and eons of evolution have made us.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Unbearable religion

It rather boggles my mind to imagine Jesus decorating himself with a mitre and dressing himself in lacy finery. Or to think of him as having pudgy and soft hands that wouldn't lift a finger to ease someone's burden. And these words from Matthew 23 certainly erase any thoughts of a preened and primped Jesus.

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.

“Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’

“Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

--Matthew 23:1-12