Sunday, May 31, 2009
Today is Pentecost Sunday in a lot of Christian churches -- the celebration of the birth of the church. According to the writer of "Acts" in the New Testament, it was on Pentecost that the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus' disciples and they began to preach the "good news" of salvation through Jesus. Many of those in the audience believed what the disciples were saying, and suddenly, Peter and the other disciples had a church on their hands.
This is how massive human endeavors start -- with a small group of true believers. As Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
Big isn't always better, though, so it's important we keep ourselves open to our own pentecosts -- those moments when all boundaries disappear and we discover the Tao within all.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
Rituals are one of the ways we mark our individual and collective journeys through life. They give us little set-pieces of consistency that we can trust to be the same (more or less) each time we go through them.
They also help us connect to one another both as individuals and as a community. When we celebrate a friend's birthday, we're also recelebrating our own birthdays. When we celebrate a national holiday, we're also reconnecting ourselves as a national community.
Rituals show us where we are at a given time and place. Knowing where we are helps us know what step to take next.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
When music is soft on the ear,
it calms the restless mind.
When water is soft on the hand,
it cools the calloused skin.
When light is soft on the face,
it soothes the burning eyes.
When the Tao is soft on the spirit,
it balances the firmness of the mind.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
I like the idea of Christian Taoism. I'm not exactly sure what it means, but I like the idea of taking the best of what I found in my long life as a traditional Christian and mixing it with what I'm learning about Taoism.
Of course, the "best" of Christianity -- things like compassion and selflessness and hope -- are at the core of the world's other great religions, too, but Christianity has been my path into these things, so that's why it's Christian Taoism for me. For somebody else, it could be Jewish Taoism or Islamic Taoism or Atheistic Taoism or maybe even Taoist Taoism.
The Tao bears each of us along a different path. We each have our own spiritual journey to travel.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
We don't have to deify Jesus to gain insight and benefit from his teachings and his life. He was a seeker from very early on, and his seeking led him to provocative insights. He recognized his divinity and tried to help us recognize our divinity, too.
When we recognize we're divine, we live in peace with our neighbors and in harmony with ourselves, and with a prayer of gratitude always on our lips.
Monday, May 25, 2009
There is that which is within,
and there is that which is without,
and there is that which simply is.
We are each a great circle.
When we travel out of ourselves
along that arc, we discover
a universe that just keeps unrolling.
When we journey along that arc
into ourselves, we discover
the same universe within.
When we discover the universe,
whether within or without,
we realize how much more
there must be.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Most of the people I know who believe in God believe God is perfect.
But does God really have to be perfect?
Well, yes, we want God to be perfect. In fact, we need God to be Perfect. Otherwise, we're fucked.
We recognize this once we gain enough self-awareness to realize we didn't make all of the stuff around us -- mountains, sky, water, sparrows, lilies of the field. We didn't even make ourselves.
So we discover God, the Creator of the universe.
God becomes our fountainhead of help for any problem we cannot solve or any task we cannot carry out. God knows the unknowables: "What is life?" "Why am I here?" "What does all of this mean?" God knows the number of hairs on every head. God knows how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. God knows all of these things and much, much more.
God also knows what dirty little imperfect shits we are under the skin. God knows all the reasons we should be cast into hell forever. And God has the power to destroy us in the blink of an eye.
This is why we need God to be Perfect (capital G, capital P). After all, if God has all of this innate knowledge and power that we don't have, then God can treat us any way God wants -- and there's nothing we can do to escape or resist. In the end, God gets whatever God wants. God is God, after all. If this is how we see God, then it becomes critical to us that God be a Perfect God.
Ahh. A Perfect God.
A Perfect God is the best thing you can have. A Perfect God is THE BEST THING IN THE WORLD. A Perfect God will save you from the guilt you bring down on your head when you harm somebody else. A Perfect God will forgive you and pour out mercy on you like a balm.
A Perfect God loves you. A Perfect God is the original nurturing parent. A Perfect God will be there to help you when you face trials and tribulations. A Perfect God offers you grace and compassion and healing in whatever measure you need. A Perfect God will not allow you to be tempted beyond your capacity to withstand.
But what if a Perfect God turns out to be irrelevant in the end?
What if in God there is no separateness? What if God is boundless. No limits, no lines, no divisions, no borders, no "other"? What if we discover that when one person injures another, both suffer?
Maybe that's why so many spiritual paths end at love. We are all connected. We are all one. That's why compassion comes back to us -- like karma, like a boomerang of perfection. We already possess all of the perfection we'll ever need. We discover this by reaching across the space that separates us. To connect with one is to connect with all.
Maybe that's the Perfect God we've really been hoping for all along.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
I was shopping for a present several years ago when a thunderstorm rolled across the city. I was at Park Plaza, an enclosed mall where the stores open onto a three-story atrium topped by a vaulted, glass roof.
As the storm moved in, the sky grew dark, and the rains came down hard. For a time, I could hear hail hitting the glass. The noise was so loud that everybody around me stopped talking in mid-sentence and waited for the storm to pass. It was too loud to shout over.
I walked out to the atrium and looked up at the dark windows, then I looked down at the food court one floor below. I saw two young women sitting across from each another at a table, both animated and talking as if it were a bright and sunny day.
They were speaking in sign language, and they were the only people in the whole place who weren't being drowned out by the storm.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Religion is about the community. Spirituality is about the person.
When it works well, religion is a coming together of people who are traveling similar spiritual paths. Through religion, like minds can find one another, compare notes, encourage one another, and support one another. When they share their experiences with each other, sharers and listeners both benefit.
When it isn't working well, religion becomes about power and control. It becomes divisive and exclusionary. Its goal becomes self preservation.
This is not in keeping with the Tao, as Lao tzu would say.
Spirituality is about our individual spiritual journeys. I am the only one who can travel my spiritual road. You are the only one who can travel yours.
But that doesn't mean we can't help one another through the rougher parts. That's one of the reasons we invented religion in the first place.
To help one another.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
What can I do?
How I answer that question will determine a lot of things about my life. If I don't think I can do much, then I won't. If I think I can do a little, then I'll do a little. If I think I can do a lot, then I'll do a lot.
One of the ways we discover who we are is by asking questions of ourselves then listening to the answers we give.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I still call myself a Christian even though I no longer believe what Christians are supposed to believe. I consider myself a Christian because Jesus was my first way into an awareness of my own spiritual nature. And because he spent his life on one long spiritual journey.
Taoism has taught me that life is what it is. After my parents died when I was in my 20s, I couldn't go to them anymore for answers to the questions I kept having about this spiritual life they and the church had given me. So I had to go looking for answers on my own.
Somehow, that has led to my current project -- seeing what happens when I rub "Love thy neighbor" and Taoism together.
Not that they were ever separate to begin with.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
I come from a deeply Christian family. My mother was born and raised in the Church of Christ by a God-fearing Church of Christ mother. I don't know about my mother's father because he died when she was 17.
My father came from a family of Southern Baptists. At some point early on, he moved over from his Baptist upbringing and joined the Church of Christ, so my sister and I were raised in it, too.
Our preacher became more conservative in an already conservative church as the years rolled by, and I was there to soak it all up, week after month after year. We went every time the doors were open, as they say. There was no way I could have avoided church or its influence on my life.
And in a lot of ways, I didn't mind that.
I'm not a member of the Church of Christ anymore. I left it when I was in my late 20s -- after both of my parents had died. My mother died when I was 22. My father died four years later.
If either of them had survived, my spiritual journey would have taken a much different path.
Monday, May 18, 2009
The Christian concept of an angry God casting people into everlasting torment in hell just doesn't work for me. I know Christian fundamentalists will shake their heads at that and say it's not about me -- and it's not up to me. And they'd be right. It's not about me, and it's not up to me. Hell that is.
At the same time, though, it doesn't make sense that a loving God would create us and give us "free will," and then waterboard us for eternity just because we fuck up during our lives and make some bad choices. What kind of "loving" God is that?
But that's what Jesus was sent to fix, I'm told. Our fuck-ups and bad choices.
Okay, but that doesn't explain why God would create hell in the first place. And if God never created hell in the first place, then why does Jesus have to be a savior? What's he saving us from?
Sunday, May 17, 2009
I grew up being taught I had to believe certain things were true or I risked spending eternity in horrible torment in hell after I died. I was taught this from early childhood, and it was reinforced week in and week out at the church services I attended with my parents and younger sister.
When you're taught something consistently throughout your formative years, it takes a lot of pain, will, or energy to stop believing it -- even as an intelligent, independently minded adult.
Such is the power of faith.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Our children are like lamps
we hold out before us to light
the path we’re on. The path
runs away into the darkness
and disappears just beyond
their glow. It is ironic that
we keep walking into the forest
for their sake.
Friday, May 15, 2009
I grew up believing everything in the Bible was true -- literally true. In my late 20s, I realized I didn't have to believe that anymore. It's a freeing experience.
I still read the Bible, but more often the Tao Te Ching. I find great stuff in both of them. I've come to see them as tourbooks for the spiritual seeker. They can be great guides, but the journey itself is up to me, not a book.
If I think I'm undertaking that journey alone, then I'll make it in fear. If I think I'll get the help I need when I need it, then I'll make the journey in confidence. The journey I'm on is the journey I think I'm on. Am I in the wilderness all by myself, or am I traveling with the tribe?
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Are we created by it? Or do we arise from it the way a tree might grow out of the ground?
Or do we already exist, and it just digs us out of itself and sets us loose in the world?
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
God. Tao. Christ. Jehovah. Allah. Yahweh. Higher Power. Gaia. Money. Sex. Drugs. Rock and Roll.
It doesn't matter what you call it. No word can point to all of it. Since we find ourselves needing to talk about it at times, though, we have to come up with something we can use. Personally, I grew up calling it God. These days, I don't know what to call it, so I'll just call it The One.
In the beginning, there was The One and nothing else. Now there's everything, and still just The One.