Welcome to the Fellowship of Comparative Religion


Celebrating diversity.
Promoting peace, tolerance, and mutual respect.
Providing religious, educational, and humanitarian resources.
Honoring the sacred wisdom to be found in all spiritual traditions.

We hope that you will find here information that will encourage and inspire, inform and enlighten.

Use the buttons in the menu above to learn more about the Fellowship and find many articles to educate and inspire.

Below, find our most recent blog posts; please join in the conversation by leaving a comment.

Listening

By Glenda | January 19, 2015

“All things and all people, so to speak, call on us with small or loud voices.  They want us to listen.  They want us to understand their intrinsic claims, their justice of being.  But we can give it to them only through the love that listens.”  Paul Tillich

The Tragedy in Missouri

By Glenda | November 25, 2014

Missouri riots bbc pic _76991219_76991218

The gift of age can be to have a long view of things, allowing one to assess current events in the light of one’s history.

The present tragedy in race relations, unfolding before our eyes on television, reminds me so much of the 1960’s during the upheaval of the civil rights movement. This similarity sometimes causes me to feel hopeless, given that these deep wounds remain so unhealed.

However, as painful as it is to see that prejudices and outrages and terrible reactive behaviors endure, disastrous as ever, I am brought up short when I see that the president who is coming on television to comment on the situation is black, agony in his face, to be sure, but president he is, the president of all the people on all sides of this situation.

That, in itself, is an amazing thing that, though it is obviously not enough of a change, is, indeed, something that, frankly, in the 1960’s, I wouldn’t have believed could have happened by now. We have, in fact, made amazing progress, and so I can bring myself to believe that a better future is yet possible.

Recognizing all this, I myself have taken time overnight to face my own inner demons that want to hold absolute one-sided judgments, to condemn, to imagine revenge—all in an attitude of righteous indignation.

Indignation may be appropriate. But age has taught me, if anything, that righteousness is a state more imagined than realized by most humans, including me, and, further, that recognizing the absolute “right” and therefore the righteousness in any situation is a many-faceted thing, requiring an all-seeing clarity that is beyond most of our abilities to encompass.

The actions of every individual in Missouri and anywhere else is likely a product of the shaping of genetics, environment, and the randomness of life itself. If I were in the life scape of any one of those individuals I would better understand why they are doing or have done what they do. It behooves me to be humbly attentive to my own demons inside, while, certainly, at the same time, doing all I can to establish everywhere peace, tolerance, justice, etc.

Whatever one’s opinion, on either or all sides of the situation in Missouri, we all must surely feel a need to bind up the wounds, to heal the injured, to right the wrongs, to embrace true justice with mercy, to practice forgiveness—even self forgiveness—and, certainly, to work to make the agencies of our government and our laws ever closer to the service of peace and freedom everywhere.

It is true that observing the long span of history teaches us much. Part of what it teaches us is to take time to be gentle, with ourselves, with others, even with whatever we refer to as “God.”

There is work to be done, good work, important work. Let us not waste our energies in adding fuel to the fires of intolerance by our own proclamations or actions, however momentarily gratifying they may feel.

May we use our energies instead in immediate constructive actions for good, especially in the arenas in which we ourselves live, surrounded by serious issues that beg for our commitments to the betterment of the world.

May the peace that passes understanding be with you this day, and always.

Naming the Essence

By Glenda | November 13, 2014

Mesa Verde (640x480)The following excerpt concerns a people and a place about which I personally know almost nothing, but about which I have long been deeply interested and to which, somehow, on a spiritual dimension, at least, I feel connected.

The quote comes from a book given to me recently by a friend who feels, as I do, that honoring the ancestors as well as honoring with respect the history, taboos and protocols of individual spiritual traditions, while yet seeking the bedrock wholeness of all things, is vitally important.  Whenever I can, I like to foster this awareness among my own scattered “tribe,”  and it seems to me that this book does just that.

The quotations that follow speak for themselves in this regard.  They are from House of Rain, by Craig Childs.  This fascinating read is an autobiographical exploration of land and people, history and prehistory  that is fashioned by a man imbued with respect and indeed love for his subject, both the land itself and the ancient peoples whose pathways the writer is following on a life-long and often arduous trek.

Childs writes in his introduction:

“…The Colorado Plateau is…a 150,000-square mile blister of land that rises across the dry confluence of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico.  Its surface is incised with countless canyons and wrinkled into isolated mesas and mountain ranges that stand suddenly from the desert floor up to 13,000 feet in elevation.  The combination of irregular topography and infrequent rainfall gave rise to the Anasazi, an indigenous people who knew how to move.  Small family groups and clans readily skirted around climate changes, transferring their settlements to high, wetter mesas or down to the sunbaked lowlands whenever the need arose….”

In later parts of the book, Childs echoes the most recent consensus among “experts” that the “mysterious abandonment” of literally countless ancient sites like Mesa Verde and others was not simply a one-time thing, and not, at least until the very last, simply because of sudden devastating circumstances, but was rather an amazingly organized and ritually orchestrated cooperation of an incredibly observant people with their always changing environment.

He points out, for example, the roads, radiating straight out from Chaco Canyon in all directions for hundreds of miles, with beacon towers perched atop the highest spots or built of masonry on man-made mounds along the way, so that an almost instant communication was possible over vast distances.

This, and much else, on many topics, fascinated me about Child’s book, and I highly recommend it.

But the excerpt which follows, as I came upon it this morning in my reading, became the important bit I felt it my duty to pass on.  In the chapter “Antelope Mesa,”  Childs writes:

“…As Yeats and I walked through the ruins, I asked him about ancestry—the relationship between Hopi and Anasazi.  But when I used the word Anasazi, Yeats put his hands in his pockets and looked uncomfortably at the ground.

“’I’m sorry,’ I said.  ‘I wasn’t thinking.’

“Yeats shook his head as if to say it was nothing, but I knew better than to use that word here.  Yeats reminded me that the Hopi prefer the word Hisatsinom, a Hopi term for their ancestors.  Anasazi, I knew, was an insult.

“The word Anasazi was crafted by the Navajo, who in the 1800s were paid by white men to dig skeletons and pots out of the desert.  The Navajo who came up with this name probably did not arrive in the Southwest until the sixteenth century, nomads from present-day southeast Alaska and British Columbia moving into a land left mostly empty by the departure of the previous civilization.  Their reservation now dwarfs the Hopi reservation and surrounds it on all sides.  Understandably the Hopi do not like having their ancestors named by the Navajo.  For a long time Anasazi was romantically and incorrectly thought to mean ‘old ones.’  It actually means ‘enemy ancestors,’ a term full of political innuendo and slippery history.

“In Navajo, a notoriously complex and subtly coded language, ‘Ana’I’ means ‘alien, enemy, foreigner, non-Navajo.’  ‘Anaa’ means ‘war.’  Sazi translates as something or someone once whole and now scattered about—a word used to describe the final corporeal decay as a body turns to bones and is strewn about by erosion and scavengers.

“’You understand why it is an unpopular term,’ Yeats said.  ‘It is not a name the Hopi chose.’

“I understand,” I told him…”

“…I told him that I could find no easy solution for what to call these people I was following, that I understood naming the past can either connect people to their ancestors or alienate them.  I politely suggested that although Hisatsinom is an adequate word for the Hopi, like Anasazi it does not take into account other names and languages.  How do the Zuni feel about using a Hopi word for their ancestors?  What about…” (all the other Pueblo peoples).

“…Among those language families are numerous dialects, some of which are mutually unintelligible even if they belong to the same family.  The linguistic background of the Pueblo people points to incredibly different histories, which are glaringly oversimplified by the word Anasazi. 

“I spoke to many people—natives, scientists, wilderness travelers—in search of a consensus about what to call these ancestors, but I found none.  Most archeologists and Pueblo people implored me to switch from Anasazi to Ancestral Puebloan.  One could argue that this rather bleak term is a combination of English and Spanish, neither having linguistic roots in the Southwest…

“…Each name is history—or prehistory—seen from a particular vantage….”

“…Each is a tool with its own limitations—inadequate in some senses, revealing in others.  The most common denominator is the name Pueblo.   Referred to now or a thousand years ago, these are the Pueblo people, a culture based on corn and kivas, their masonry rooms butted against one another, forming compact pueblos, an architectural hallmark.  Though it is a Spanish word, an outsider’s term, Pueblo reasonably encompasses both history and prehistory, telling of a people who have been here from the beginning.

“Yeats stopped atop a hill of broken pottery, at the peak of this buried pueblo.  We stood beside each other gazing south across dry, maize-colored washes, a brindle expanse.  He said, thoughtfully, ‘Maybe it’s more than Anasazi you’re looking at.’

The desert spread a hundred miles into the distance.  Everything looked so deathly dry that it seemed no one could possibly live here.  Yeats is right, I thought.  This was not a mere culture I was following, at least not in the common use of the word.  It was a form of organization carried across a landscape, a means of orchestrating a mobile civilization in the face of a marginal, unstable climate where geography presents boundless possibilities.  It was an umbrella covering many heritages and clans, something that could be traded, incorporated, fought for, resisted.  It was a time, a place, and a way of living…”

Thoughts Concerning Halloween, Ancient and Modern

By Glenda | October 27, 2014

Thoughts Concerning Halloween, Ancient and Modern

This week many of us in our culture will celebrate Halloween with pumpkin carving, gift giving, trick or treating, and many other joyous ceremonies.  When we do so, we will be only the latest among many thousands of years of people who have marked this occasion, not necessarily in the same way, but certainly with intentional ceremony.

Halloween is a word derived from the Christian traditional calendar, being Hallows Evening (the “hallowed” referring to the holy or blessed dead souls).  On this occasion the church remembers in prayer and ceremony the spirits of the dead.

But this ceremonial occasion goes back much earlier than the formation of the Christian church.

There is evidence that as long ago as 150,000 BC, human beings honored their dead with ceremony, and the ancient burial sites indicate a belief in the survival of the “spirit” of the dead in some manner.

Further, the belief among early peoples that the spirit of the dead relatives or ancestors are still related to the lives of the living in a meaningful way has resulted in all sorts of ceremonies—preservation and ornamentation of skulls, ceremonies of propitiation or exorcism, rituals of aiding the spirits of the deceased to move forward into new life, etc.  These are probably the oldest religious ceremonies known to the human race.

Also common was the belief that, in the time of the year when the vegetation appears to be dying back as autumn comes on, as the cold of winter approaches, and as all the ancient people began to come together for mutual support and security during the winter months, the “ghost” of the dead also would return to the family hearth.

So, in the course of time, the ceremony of the “first new fire” of the season was solemnized.  That particular night, then, became the ceremonial time for remembering the dead.  The Christian church simply incorporated this ancient rite into its calendar of saint’s days.

And so, from this honoring of the dead, we derive the “ghosts” and “goblins” of Halloween costumes—a debased remnant of the ancient honoring of the departed once a year.

In the olden days, and in certain places today, the occasion of the building of the first fire and welcoming home the spirits of the ancestors was not necessarily a “spooky” experience, but rather could be a joyful time of reconciliation with the fact of death and the uniting of all energy or “spirit” in meaningful kinship.  So it is appropriate, perhaps, that the children enjoy the holiday, and by wearing the costumes, take some of the fear out of the idea of death.

But death has always held a necessary awe for us.  In the “ghost stories” and teaching stories for many generations, the threat of being captured or punished somehow by an unsettled “spirit” led to such things as the Baba Yaga of children’s stories, as well as to the many other personifications of the dead who are not at peace.

So other ceremonies have been held, as I said, to aid the departed in certain ways.

The fact that “witch” costumes are worn on Halloween reminds us of the thousands and thousands of women (and some men) who were killed because they were accused so randomly and tragically of “witchcraft” in a time when narrow-minded ignorance often shaped the Christian church’s doctrine concerning such things.  I personally have chosen to remember on Halloween those many burned and tortured “witches,” praying not only for their souls, but also for an always-needed opening of the minds and hearts of our own people that will allow us to cease to demonize any group, either with a “witchy” title or by harming them in tragic ways.

These Halloween rituals can always involve remembrance of our personal family linage, those on whose shoulders we stand, those who went before us.  In our modern global and digital world, we can all easily find out about our genealogy, and many of us are being blessed by learning more and more about ourselves and our history in this way.

Through the years, as my children were growing up, we created ceremony on Halloween, waiting, no matter how cold it got, until that occasion to build, ritually, the first fire of the season in our fireplace (that it often gets cold a couple of weeks before then and we must go around in sweaters adds to the meaningfulness of the ritual).

And on Halloween, after the children’s secular trick or treating, we would have our family ceremony honoring our ancestors and relatives who had died.  We set out in the living room some of the items that had belonged to any of our deceased relatives, along with photographs of them.  We got out the family tree and studied it, telling stories.  This helped us all to feel deeply rooted in a history that is meaningful and powerful.  Each of my daughters was named, for example, for an ancestor, and the stories my girls learned about their namesakes added to their sense of their own depth and possibilities.

Certainly we know that in some ways our ancestors have by now dissolved back into the void and into the earth, but we also know that their “spirits” do return, inside of us, as we remember them, and my family has been helped by this ceremony to know who we are and from whom we have come.

And we usually concluded our ceremonial time by remembering that our ancestors actually go all the way back, back to the early homo sapiens who were ancestors of all humans, and so we remember that we are related to everyone, we are all related in that essential way.

And we always remark in closing that we go back even farther, to the mammals, to the earth itself, to the atmosphere, to the Super Nova star that exploded—in short, we remember that we are part of the great Family of Life Itself, that we belong here, that we are not alone and never can be.

May your own Halloween be Hallowed and Holy.  May you find deeper connection to your family’s roots and to the concept of a loving concern for all the generations, both those who came before and those to come after you.  I consider you part of my family, and I send you greetings in this sacred season.

 

Glenda Taylor

Earthsprings, 2014

Common Ground

By Glenda | October 1, 2014

Common Ground:
“Stay away from those who consider themselves to be learned.  They walk around in fine clothes and like to be noticed so that they might be honored in public.  They take seats of honor in synagogues, and at feasts.  These hypocrites steal from widows even as they repeat long prayers. The judgment that comes upon them will be great. ” Christian. Gospel of Mark.

“Those who perform spiritual practices in public so that they will be noticed and praised with honor and respect are unbalanced; their ostentation will come to nothing.” Hindu. The Bhagavad Gita

“Monks who seek recognition in order to gain influence and admiration, and monks who overwhelm others by insisting on their own point of view, only increase pride and passion.” Buddhism. The Kevaddha Sutra.
“Follow the Way; but boasting and seeking recognition is not of the Way. One who is arrogant has already failed. There is no reward for those who are conceited, and no one can become a true leader by puffing themselves up.” Taoism. The Tao Te Ching.

Ever Complex

By Glenda | September 10, 2014

I have been thinking about nuance.  Webster:  “Nuance:  a slight or delicate variation in tone, color, or meaning;  shade of difference.”  Hmm.  Shade of difference. So a nuanced statement would acknowledge and incorporate shades of differences.

And then there’s complexity.  Webster: “Complex: consisting of two or more related parts;  involved, complicated, intricate, not simple.”  (I note that the Latin roots of the word complex involve “weaving “or “twining together; braiding.”)

How do those differ from contradictory?  Webster:  “Contradict:  to assert the opposite (of what someone else has said); to deny the statement of a person; to declare a statement to be false or incorrect, to deny; to be contrary, to go against, to oppose verbally.”

Living as I do in the “information age,” when news media, social media, and various other media provide us with instant opinion and analysis with mandatory contradictions, when economists refer most frequently to the “bottom line,” when politics is often ruled by a poll taken on any given day, it seems to me that nuance and complexity are sorely disregarded.

Not new, of course.  Any religionist can tell you that Jesus was crucified by those in contradiction to his views, those with no appreciation for circumstantial nuance.  What do I mean?  Well, let’s review the complexity (or, if you are in for instant analysis, the contradictions) of some of the statements attributed to Jesus in the Bible.  He is quoted as having said:

On the one hand:  “Honor thy father and thy mother…”    Matthew 19:19

On the other hand:  “Whosoever shall not forsake his father and his mother and his brothers and sisters does not follow me… Matthew 12:48

On the one hand:  “Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other cheek; …Blessed are the meek…”  Matthew 5:39; 5:5

On the other hand:  “I came not to bring peace, but a sword.”  Matthew 10:34

On the one hand:  To one who was healed:  “Go and tell no one…”  Luke 5:14

On the other hand:  To another who was healed:  “Go home to thy friends and tell them what great things the Lord hath done for thee.”  Mark 5:19

On the one hand:  “Judge not, that you be not judged.”  Matthew 7:1

On the other hand:  “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites….ye serpents, ye generation of vipers…”  Matthew 23:23

On the one hand:  “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you…Forgive and you shall be forgiven.”  Luke 6:27; 6:37

On the other hand:  “And whosoever shall not receive you nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them.  Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment than for that city.”  Mark 6:11

And again, on the one hand:  “When thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth, that thine alms may be in secret…”  Matthew 6:3

On the other hand:  “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father which is in heaven.”  Matthew 5:16

Now.  Why do I bring up these statements that are apparently contradictions in what Jesus said?  Do I mean to imply that he was hypocritical, ambivalent, etc.?  That might be what the current run of pundits might do, those who love to play “Got You!” But my intention is the opposite.

My intention is to show that, as poet Richard O. Moore said, “Simplicities are enormously complex.”

Jesus was attuned to nuance, responding to specific details of any given situation and placing those details in a larger context. For example, take the first quotation above, “Honor thy father and thy mother,” which he said to a young man who asked him how to be good, how to achieve eternal life, and Jesus responded with the ancient Hebraic ten commandments, including this one.  But in another situation, where Jesus was questioned by the Pharisees about why the disciples of Jesus ate forbidden food at certain times, Jesus reprimanded the Pharisees by pointing out to them how the Pharisees themselves dodged the commandment of honoring their parents by saying that in certain circumstances this was allowed, yet they did not have the same flexible attitude in assessing the disciples’ behavior about eating.

Some might call this “situational ethics.”  And that too may be an over-simplification.

Labeling something, (such as calling this “situational ethics”), can be useful and it can be dangerous.  As writer Arthur Miller once said of psychology, “You think that by naming something you have done something about it.”

Labeling, or “tagging,” (an activity so popular and even valuable on the internet) is an aide, to be sure, but ultimately its usefulness must depend on how much or little reflection we bring to the broader context of what has been so succinctly labeled.  Certainly we all know that if we Google any word so ever, we will likely find definitions and statements on all sides of the meaning of that word, and we will find it “tagged” in all sorts of often contradictory directions.  We do well not to stick with the first tag we encounter.

Where am I going with this?  Am I implying there are no facts?  Should we throw up our hands and give up on “truth,” if it is actually many sided?  Or do we take the time to find a legitimate nuanced understanding, to “braid” together everything we can to get a broader and clearer tapestry of nuanced meaning?

Why do I bother to write about this?  Especially when the grammarians, the politicians on either side of the polarized world, the religious extremists—all these could easily rise up to fuss with me and disturb my peaceful meditations?  Because it matters!  It matters big time!

We are at risk of losing something in our culture so valuable I cannot begin to imagine what the future may hold without it.  Already we seem to have put aside Aristotle’s notion that “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

Perhaps we still pay lip service to Socrates’ refrigerator-magnet quote: “True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”

But do we actually slow down long enough to entertain the nuances and complexity of any situation, any statement no matter who makes it?  Or do we rush to judgment, jump on the bandwagon, jump to conclusions, accept as truth whatever we hear from those on “our side” of things?

Or (please let it be so), do we seek to discover and learn more, so that we may “weave together” the various and seemingly opposite elements of any situation to come up with a more perfect clarity?

And, most important, to me, do we leave our minds open at the end of our analysis to continue to receive new information, new ways of seeing things, instead of making an absolute out of our current findings or opinions?

David Bohm, the quantum physicist who made significant contributions in the fields of theoretical physics, philosophy, and neuropsychology, has said, cited in Wikiquotes:

“We often find that we cannot easily give up the tendency to hold rigidly to patterns of thought built up over a long time. We are then caught up in what may be called absolute necessity. This kind of thought leaves no room at all intellectually for any other possibility, while emotionally and physically, it means we take a stance in our feelings, in our bodies, and indeed, in our whole culture, of holding back or resisting. This stance implies that under no circumstances whatsoever can we allow ourselves to give up certain things or change them….”

Congress and gridlock.  Yes, that problem.  Nations at war.  Always that.  Religious ambiguities.  Oh, yes!  Does all this matter?  You bet!

For some reason, lately, books and documentaries about Nazi Germany have been coming into my view, raising yet again the old question, “How could so many good people in Germany allow the Nazi regime to take hold and do what it did?”  Why does propaganda work?

Well, people I have known who lived in Germany both before and during the war told me that “in the beginning Hitler did good things for Germany.  We were in desperate straits after the First World War; we were in economic ruin, we were in grief and shame.  We needed to feel better about things, and Hitler provided that for awhile.  We did not know where it would all go…”

In other words, Hitler built up the trust of the people by first giving them what they thought they needed, played upon their emotional distress.  And then, as time went by and he had acquired sufficient power, he brought in the element of fear, always a prime mover.  People in Germany, even many who understand the developments, were then afraid to oppose the Nazis; it was too dangerous.  So, all too many succumbed to the propaganda, the constant control of the media, the repetitive rendition that the Jews were somehow at fault, dangerous, to be put away from decent people.  To be killed.  To be exterminated.

Are we safe here, as we may assume, from propaganda? I wonder.

Here is warning from George Saunders, writer and social commentator, from The Braindead Megaphone:

“…if we define Megaphone as the composite of hundreds of voices we hear each day that come to us from people we don’t know, via high-tech sources, it’s clear that a significant and ascendant component of that voice has become bottom-dwelling, shrill, incurious, ranting, and agenda-driven. It strives to antagonize us, make us feel anxious, ineffective, and alone; convince us that the world is full of enemies and of people stupider and less agreeable than ourselves; is dedicated to the idea that, outside the sphere of our immediate experience, the world works in a different, more hostile, less knowable manner. This braindead tendency is viral and manifests intermittently; while it is the blood in the veins of some of your media figures, it flickers on and off in others…”

There is little of nuance, little room to acknowledge complexity, in most of the dialogue on radio talk shows or television punditry.  Saunders goes on:

“A culture capable of imagining complexly is a humble culture. It acts, when it has to act, as late in the game as possible, and as cautiously, because it knows its girth and the tight confines of the china shop it’s blundering into. And it knows that no matter how well prepared it is — no matter how ruthlessly it has held its projections up to intelligent scrutiny — the place it is headed for is going to very different from the place it imagined. The shortfall between the imagined and the real, multiplied by the violence of one’s intent, equals the evil one will do.”

Let us not add to evil.  Let us imagine, at least, that truth is complex, that justice is nuanced, that villains are humans, that heroes are imperfect, that logic must make room for the mystical, that mystics may be on to something that science is replicating, that, in short, all contradictions are only the various sides of a sacred prism that is called Life.  Let us cherish the opportunity to see it clearly, from all sides, while we still have time, while we can still undress anarchy and tyranny and dictatorship and polarization and militarization and all the other seeming demons to see what they really are, underneath.

I wish to stand with Toni Morrison, American novelist and educator, when she said:

“…It doesn’t matter to me what your position is. You’ve got to keep asserting the complexity and the originality of life, and the multiplicity of it, and the facets of it. This is about being a complex human being in the world, not about finding a villain. This is no time for anything else than the best that you’ve got.”

Living with nuance, with complexity, then, what would that be like?  Would it mean that because there are various “shades of differences” in every situation, that we cannot take a stand, cannot act?  Indeed not.

Rather it would give us the flexibility to move in any direction.  It gives us the open-mindedness to receive new information.  It allows us to compromise and then build upon that to develop new possibilities.  It allows us to be free of hero worship and demagoguery alike.

It also allows us to continue to appreciate wonder and to honor mystery.  It allows us to have hope, even trust, in unforeseen positive eventualities.  It allows us to believe in creativity.  It encourages us to respect those who attempt to live by these principles of open-mindedness and nuanced intellect.

It doesn’t mean sticking one’s head in the sand.  Again, quite the contrary.  It means keeping one’s head up there where all the winds blow, where one can get as much of a panoramic view as possible.

It can also afford us a welcome breath of comic relief.   Seeing the world from many perspectives can allow us to see the irony and ridiculousness of absolutism.

James Cabell, American author, said, “The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist fears this is true.”

And as marketing and communications consultant Steve Rivkin said:  “The more unpredictable the world becomes, the more we rely on predictions.”

George Saunders, quoted above, has also said about those with views other than his: “At times, they’re so Right and I’m so Left, we agree.”

And poet Kathleen Norris reminds us:  “In spite of the cost of living, it’s still popular.”

I wonder, though, sometimes, whether some of us have used much needed comic relief, irony, parody, as a place to stop.  Watching comedians do social commentary is helpful in many ways, but is it enough?

Again, scientist David Bohn:

“Dialogue is really aimed at going into the whole thought process and changing the way the thought process occurs collectively. We haven’t really paid much attention to thought as a process.   We have engaged in thoughts, but we have only paid attention to the content, not to the process. Why does thought require attention? Every thinking requires attention, really. If we ran machines without paying attention to them, they would break down. Our thought, too, is a process, and it requires attention, otherwise it’s going to go wrong…I would say that in my scientific and philosophical work, my main concern has been with understanding the nature of reality in general and of consciousness in particular as a coherent whole, which is never static or complete but which is an unending process of movement and unfoldment…”

May I and you be safely open to and participate wisely in this sacred unending process of movement and unfoldment.

I hope that this rambling posting will simply be food for thought, encouraging an appreciation for complexity and nuance, and discouraging mindless demagoguery.

Sorry this posting was so long;  the subject was complex.  A sound bite just wouldn’t do.

Blessings to all.

Glenda Taylor

In these days…

By Glenda | July 24, 2014

p1010966-ken-daylily
Some days, I’m sure, most of us can identify with the famous saying, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” From plane crashes to invasions, from forest fires to desperate refugee children on our borders, from one friend to another relative stricken down by illness—these days we are hard pressed to find solace for our troubled minds.

In such times, clichés won’t do. We all find ourselves reaching deeper, for the most basic and the most profound ways of facing so many challenges.

My own recourse, long tested, is to reach for the opposites. The opposite for me of the tyranny and the terrible is the simplest kindness, or a touch of forgiveness, or at least a sort of softening around the edges—all in quietness and with compassion.

That isn’t always easy to come by, as I suffer the demons along with the rest of us. But I have learned in my seventy-five years to direct what energy I have toward these tender qualities, rather than expending my life force on recrimination or on having health sucked out of me by a prolonged anguish that changes nothing.

Don’t get me wrong. I can get furious over certain things I see, certain ways people behave. Certain catastrophes can literally bring me to my knees in sorrow. And fear, like a clammy cold hand at my throat, too often stalks me.

And yet, in the midst of these very human emotions, I may notice something significant. I may see that I am, in fact, feeling a trace of something surprisingly akin to compassion—for myself! I see, in short, that I am actually feeling sorry for myself; I am in self-pity for all I have to endure.

And, if I am lucky, and if I have a bit of a sense of humor and proportion, I can then reframe that as “I am feeling sorrow for myself,” which sounds wiser and less self-centered.

I can then, consciously, comfort myself as if I were a child. I can pat myself gently on the arm, saying, “There, there, now, hold on; hold on. You’re ok. You’re doing alright. Look at what you are faced with, after all!” Etc.

So, especially these days, I have compassion for myself, for hurting so much, for being so helpless with my shattered emotions. I can feel forgiveness for myself, usually for judging others for being judgmental.

And in that small bit of broadened space in which I care for myself, my heart can open, I can breathe more freely, and soon I can turn that compassion outward toward others and the world.

It’s a small thing to do, really. To be still long enough to feel love for oneself.

But then the next step is a big thing indeed–to know that my real self is the Whole Self, that my true self is the One Being that is Everything, that is Us All.

And that, of course, is the knowing that contains the remedy I seek, the assurance that, no matter what, no matter what, all is well, and all yet may be well. For, alongside the miserable circumstances I deplore, always there are the wonders, the beauties, the loving kindness, the opposites, the other side of things, in the richly-tapestried magic of it all.

I’ve long preached the practice, when overtaken by any damaging emotions, of moving my eyes slightly to the left or right of the direction I have been looking (literally and metaphorically), and there I can always, always see something that arrests me, something that is lovely or moving, possibly only in its potential, but usually it is right there, something beautiful or amazing, bringing me back to a softer place where I find the means to go on in a better state.

I know this all sounds pretty airy-fairy in the face of the six-o-clock news and the “reality” out there. But it is essential to remember that the real reality, pardon the redundancy, is actually, I am certain, that of a Great Mystery. Things are never only what they seem.

Everything is always more complex, containing unexpected consequences and hidden possibilities. So it is that suffering can be the birthplace of more than sorrow.

So I tune my heart to listen for the smallest song of a bird, the slightest movement of a leaf in the wind, the sound of the breathing of the universe in the simplest things.

Somehow I am getting by this way. Prayerful, always. Humbled, so much so that I have hesitated to post anything to any of you.

But today, I send you my love, my compassion, my forgiveness, my tender regard, my adoration of all that is possible for good.

May you be strong. May you love yourself and others. May you find creativity in these times of challenge.

Blessings on us all, everywhere. Everywhere.

May the wars cease. May the hungry be fed. May the homeless be sheltered. May those in positions of power be enlightened. May the cycles of change be gentle. May the natural world be richly renewed. May beauty overtake us with ecstatic devotion. May healing occur for all who suffer in any way. May all this be, even now.

With deep love and respect,
Glenda Taylor

Independence Day Thoughts

By Glenda | July 2, 2014

As always, on approaching the 4th of July holiday, I turn to my texts to review what our founders actually had to say about many things. Here are a few quotes that struck me this week:

“…All men are entitled to the free exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience; and therefore no man or class of men ought on account of religion to be invested with peculiar emoluments or privileges.” James Madison

“…The general prevalence of piety, philanthropy, honesty, industry, and economy seems, in the ordinary course of human affairs, particularly necessary for advancing and confirming the happiness of our country. While all men within our territories are protected in worshiping the Deity according to the dictates of their consciences, it is rationally to be expected from then in return, that they will be emulous of evincing the sanctity of their professions by the innocence of their lives and the beneficence of their actions; for no man, who is profligate in his morals, or a bad member of the civil community, can possibly be a true Christian, or a credit to his religious society.” George Washington

“The faith you mention has doubtless its uses in the world. I do not desire to see it diminished nor would I endeavor to lessen it in any man. But I wish it were more productive of Good Works than I have generally seen it: I mean real good Works, Works of Kindness, Charity, Mercy, and Public Spirit; not Holiday-keeping, Sermon-Reading or Hearing, performing Church Ceremonies, or making long Prayers, filled with Flatteries and Compliments, despised even by wise Men, and much less capable of pleasing the Deity. The worship of God is a Duty, the hearing and reading of Sermons may be useful, but if Men rest in Hearing and Praying, as too many do, it is as if a Tree should value itself on being watered and putting forth Leaves, though it never produced any Fruit.” Benjamin Franklin

“…that we may promote the happiness of those with whom He (God) has placed us in society, by acting honestly toward all, benevolently to those who fall within our way, respecting sacredly their rights, bodily and mental, and cherishing especially their freedom of conscience, as we value our own. I must ever believe that religion substantially good which produces an honest life, and we have been authorized by One whom you and I equally respect, to judge of the tree by its fruit. Our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to our God alone. I inquire after no man’s, and trouble none with mine; nor is it given to us in this life to know whether your or mine, our friends or our foes, are exactly the right. Nay, we have heard it said that there is not a Quaker nor a Baptist, a Presbyterian or an Episcopalian, a Catholic or a Protestant in heaven; that, on entering that gate, we leave those badges of schisms behind, and find ourselves united in those principles only in which God has united us all. Let us not be uneasy then about the different roads we may pursue, as believing them the shortest, to that our last abode; but following the guidance of a good conscience, let us be happy in the hope that by these different paths we shall all meet in the end…” Thomas Jefferson

Branches of Buddhism

By Glenda | May 1, 2014

There are two main branches of Buddhism, Mahayana and Theravada, both formed after the Buddha’s death. Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism share the same core beliefs and devotion to the life and teaching of Buddha. Both share the common basic Buddhist teachings of Four Noble Truths, Eightfold path, etc., but they do have some differences.

The Theravada branch, the more conservative school, also called the “doctrine of the elders,” maintains that an individual is responsible for his or her own enlightenment. Students are encouraged to value personal experience and critical thinking over doctrine. Students meditate and focus on releasing bad habits and attaining personal enlightenment. The main emphasis is self liberation. There are no priests. Devout monks live in monasteries where they study the words and deeds of Buddha and strive to live pure lives to achieve enlightenment which they believe comes gradually. The Theravāda Path starts with learning, to be followed by practice. The doctrine involves “Teaching of Analysis” which says that insight must come from application of knowledge and critical reasoning to the aspirant’s own experience. Evaluation of one’s own experiences, as well as careful consideration of the practices of other wise ones, form the basis of growth. There are some rituals, but these are not heavily emphasized.

The Mahayana branch of Buddhism, also called the “greater vehicle,” incorporates many more teachings, practices, and rituals. It holds that besides self liberation, it is important for Mahayana followers to help other sentient beings to achieve enlightenment. This branch also maintains that spiritual growth can be nurtured through the help of others, including a bodhisattva (bodi means “wise” and sattva means “being”), and many Boddhisattvas are revered (Only one Boddhisatva is recognized in the Theravada tradition.) A Bodhisatva is one so full of compassion that he or she will not enter into a state of nirvana until others can enter with him. Owing to local cultural influences, there is much more emphasis on the use of rituals, including mantras, chanting, etc.

Other branches stem from the Mahayanas, including Vajrayana Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, and Zen Buddhism.

Vajrayana, also known as the “Diamond Vehicle” was originally influenced greatly by Hinduism, and contains strong ritual and yogic practices.

Tibetan Buddhism combines aspects of Vajrayana, such as the use of rituals and ritualistic tools, with some other Mahayana traditions. The esoteric practice of teachers giving energetic initiations or attunements in place of theoretical teachings is common. The most distinctive feature of Tibetan Buddhism is tantra. This is most simply translated as “a means to enlightenment through identity with tantric deities.”

Zen is the form of Buddhism first developed in Japan. The most basic practice of Zen is a mindful, silent meditation practice called zazen in Japanese. Zen de-emphasizes mere knowledge of sutras and doctrine and favors direct understanding through zazen as well as direct interaction with an accomplished teacher.

Easter Morning

By Glenda | April 20, 2014

On many and many an Easter morning through the years, I have opened, as I did today, a book by Dr. Peter Marshall called The First Easter to fill my being with the deep and present reality of “resurrection.” I commend the book to you on this holy day.

And I quote from it the following passage, regarding what the disciples experienced as they found the empty tomb. Dr. Marshall says that what they saw changed them forever. He writes:

“The Greek word here for ‘see’—theorei—is not to behold as one looks at a spectacle, not to see as the watch maker who peers through his magnifying glass. It means to see with the inner light that leads one to conclusion. It is perception, reflection, understanding-—more than sight…”

It is for that deeper way of seeing the meaning of Easter that I reach, year after year.

But, aside from that abstraction that satisfies my mind, my heart is fed as well by the following portion of Dr. Marshall’s rendition of the Easter morning story:

“…But Mary Magdalene, still weeping, lingered at the edge of the garden.
Along with the other women, she had come to find a dead body…
and had been shocked to find the grave empty.
She thought it had been broken open–grave-robbers perhaps.
She did not know…
She could not think clearly.

“Only one thought seems to have absorbed her soul—
the body of the Lord had been lost…she must find Him!

“She ran as never before back towards the empty tomb, with the speed and unawareness of time and distance that grief or fear or love can impart….

‘But Mary stood without at the sepulcher weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulcher…and she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

‘Jesus saith unto her: ‘Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou?’

“And John tells us that she thought He was the gardener. She fell at His feet, her eyes brimming with tears—
her head down—
sobbing,

‘Sir, if thou hast taken Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

“To her tortured mind there was a gleam of hope that perhaps the gardener, for some reason known only to him, had moved the body…

“She was red-eyed…
She had not slept since Friday…
There had been no taste for food…
She had been living on grief and bereaved love…

‘Jesus saith unto her… ’Mary…’

“His voice startled her…
She would have recognized it anywhere.
She lifted her head with a jerk…
blinked back the tears from her eyes and looked—right into His eyes.
She knew…her heart told her first and then her mind…
She saw the livid marks of the nails in His hands and looking up into His face, she whispered:

‘Rabboni!’

“The loveliest music of that first Easter dawn is in the sound of those words echoing in the Garden…
His gentle…’Mary….’
and her breathless…’Master!’

“Mary had come prepared to weep—
Now she could worship.
She had come expecting to see Him lying in the tomb—
She had found Him walking in the garden in the newness of resurrected life.”

Subscribe for email updates

Enter your email address:
 

A Gaelic Blessing

Deep peace of the Running Wave to you;
Deep peace of the Flowing Air to you;
Deep peace of the Quiet Earth to you;
Deep peace of the Shining Stars to you;
Deep peace of the Gentle Night to you;
Moon and Stars pour their healing light on you;
Deep peace to you.

Blog Posts

Search