Sunday, July 30, 2017

Spirituality Quote of the Week

Truth sees God, and wisdom contemplates God, and from these two comes the third, a holy and wonderful delight in God, who is love.

-- Julian of Norwich

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Spirituality Quote of the Week

Reasonable -- that is, human -- men will always be capable of compromise, but men who have dehumanized themselves by becoming the blind worshipers of an idea or an ideal are fanatics whose devotion to abstractions makes them the enemies of life.

-- Alan Watts

Monday, July 17, 2017

Sad Blindness

So if Buddha saw it and Lao-tzu saw it and Abraham saw it and Jesus saw it and the Prophet (PBUH) saw it, why can't we see it?

It isn't that we can't see it. It's that we won't let ourselves see it—"it" being the "kingdom of God," as Jesus would put it. Enlightenment. Awakening. Awareness of the currents of Tao flowing through our lives.

What a sad blindness.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Spirituality Quote of the Week

We can never underestimate the power of love, no matter how paltry, no matter how subversive. Much is going on in the shadows beneath dark and impenetrable walls.

-- Kent Nerburn

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Reading the Tao Te Ching

The way I read the Tao Te Ching these days is probably the way most people do. I open it at random and read a chapter. I'll usually read it a couple of times, then pick another chapter and do the same thing, and then maybe one more. I don't usually read more than three or four at one sitting.

At other times, I'll silently ask, which one?, and a number will pop in my mind, and I'll turn to that chapter and follow the same process.

Where the number comes from, I don't care. I don't worry about finding some deep meaning in the chapter, either. I just take it for whatever it is. At the same time, though, it's rare that I don't get something out of the experience.

I've learned to trust this.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Lao-tzu's Kingdom

About 15 or so years ago, I was rummaging through a pile of "last chance" books on a cart at a bookstore, and I happened on a copy of Stephen Mitchell’s “English version” of the Tao Te Ching. I picked it up, read a few pages, and decided to buy it.

Up to that point, I'd heard of Taoism, but I didn't know much about it. Mainly, I just knew it was an ancient Chinese religion and that the black-and-white, "yin and yang" circle was one of its symbols.

What I found when I sat down and read it was a beautiful book of 81 poem-like “chapters” supposedly written by a Chinese contemporary of Confucius named Lao-tzu.

But more than that, I found in its pages the kingdom of God. Lao-tzu saw what the Buddha saw. He saw what Jesus saw. He saw what anybody can see who looks and expects to see.

So do I see?

I see what I see, and what I see is enough. But only if I'm willing to believe my eyes.

Sometimes I'm not.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Spirituality Quote of the Week

Our little minds are part of the omnipotent mind of God. Beneath the wave of our consciousness is the infinite ocean of God's consciousness. It is because the wave forgets it is a part of the Ocean that it becomes isolated from that oceanic power.

-- Paramahansa Yogananda

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Independence Day

Over the last week, my hometown has made national news twice. Both stories were minor in the grand, national-media scheme of things, but they did show up on at least a few national news sites.

The first event happened a week ago on the grounds of the state capitol after workers finished installing a monument with the Ten Commandments engraved on it. Early the next morning, a car drove into the six-foot monolith and knocked it down, shattering it on the sidewalk.

The second event happened around 2:30 a.m. this past Saturday at a downtown nightclub called the Power Ultra Lounge. A gun battle broke out between different groups, and 28 people came away injured. No one was killed, but several of the wounded are still in area hospitals.

Both of these incidents are evidence of disunity -- of a breaking down of community. But these aren't the usual battles between different segments of society. They’re not conflicts between “tribes.” They’re conflicts within tribes.

The man who allegedly knocked down the monument wasn’t some hot-headed atheist or left-wing radical. According to news reports, he’s a self-proclaimed born-again Christian who's very serious about his faith.

The gunplay at the rap concert was apparently a continuation of a lethal feud that’s been playing out between two rival groups over the last six or eight months. Despite their enmity, both sides come from the same neighborhoods, the same socio-economic group, and the same subculture.

I see this same thing mirrored across America these days -- internecine conflicts within political groups, religious groups, and even families. We've always struggled to get along with those who are not like us. Now we're even struggling to get along with those who are like us.

It makes me wonder if we’ve reached another point in our history where we have to test the bonds that hold us together as a nation. After all, without community, there is no America. There's no great "American Experiment." There's no American Dream.

As I write this on the Fourth of July -- 241 years after we declared ourselves a nation -- do we still want to be The United States of America? Do we still want to be a nation at all? Do we still feel enough collective will to keep the experiment going?

I hope so, but I know it won't come from the top. And it won't rise up from the bottom, either. It'll have to come from the only place true change ever happens -- from within.

So here's my hope for my native land on its birthday. That we look around and recognize once again that one of the best things we have going for us as a nation is each other.

We the People.

Beats the hell out of Civil War 2.0.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Sister Fran, I

My wife's oldest sister (I'll call her Fran) is in her 70s and has spent most of her life in institutional care. For the last two-and-a-half decades since their mother died, she’s lived in a group home in Conway for special-needs clients, but she spends a night with us from time to time. The last time was Saturday night.

She isn't able to stay with us as often as she used to because she broke her pelvis back in September, and it's harder for her to get around now. She does okay, though, especially with the walker the group home got for her.

Getting to be around Fran is one of the joys of my adulthood. Coming to know her over the 13 years my wife and I have been together has been, and continues to be, enlightening on many levels. It makes me sad for all of those years before I met Fran when I didn’t know what I was missing.

It is the Frans of the world who can help us heal as a species. It’s the Frans of the world who force us to change the way we think. It’s the Frans of the world who teach us joy.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Making Tao Real

For Lao-tzu, following the courses and currents of Tao was the way to live one’s life. Simplicity. Humility. Silence. Stillness. Doing without doing. These help make that happen.

He knew there was more than could be seen or heard or smelled or tasted or touched. He realized that to get hung up in names and words like God and Tao and Holy Spirit just muddies the waters. It creates the illusion of divisions where none exist.

What Lao-tzu was writing about was experiential. What Jesus was talking about was experiential. What Buddha was talking about was experiential. We can’t transfer our experiences to one another. Only our limited descriptions of them and our acting out of the parts we can’t explain in words.

There is no Tao, no God, no Holy Spirit until you experience it. You can choose to believe it’s real because people you love and trust have told you to believe it’s real, but that doesn’t make it real. Only after you experience it does it become real.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Spirituality Quote of the Week

The ultimate purpose of the world lies not within the world but in transcendence of the world. Just as you would not be conscious of space if there were no objects in space, the world is needed for the Unmanifested to be realized.

-- Eckhart Tolle