Thursday, November 29, 2007

Walk Like An Egyptian

I took this goddess quiz and it turns out I'm Isis.

She's as good a mother goddess as any mere mortal mama could aspire to be - less destructive and fearsome than Kali, and a good deal more anorexic than those Germanic matronesses or Maltese mamas that Gimbutas helped resurrect to the forefront of our collective divine consciousness.

But I have to confess - being queen of the underworld sounds dreary and tedious. Having to perform, recite and cast all those Book of the Dead mummification rituals, incantations and spells.....it all sounds exhausting and cold as Isis. The only bright spot would be doing the goddess strut in the underbelly of the pyramids. Well, OK, it also wouldn't be too shabby to have my own cult and be the goddess of 10,000 names. I'm thinking it would be much more easier to be a Mayan Moon Goddess who hangs out in hot cenotes and drinks tequila tempered with a shot of agave juice and adorned with a slice of pineapple and a maraschino cherry. What the heck...if you're gonna chill out down under, you might as well do it up in slothful style.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Plymouth Rock (Paper, Scissors)

Thanksgiving Redux
I've been around the block and back again twice over, if I might liken the passing of a year to a civic measurement. So I think it's time I talked turkey.

American Thanksgiving turkey, that is.

Yes, 'tis the season, arguably the highest and holiest of days in this red, white and blue land, if the plethora of hushed and humble Happy Thanksgiving greetings we receive each year is any indication. The closest I have ever come to seeing such buoyant excitement and reverence in the air was during the flurry and festivities leading up to (Big) Eid in Islamabad ten or so blocks back.

Most Americans we encounter are surprised at how irreverent we are about American Thanksgiving. Truth be told, calling it American Thanksgiving is a dead giveaway. No one calls it that except us non-Americans, obviously.

When we admit that we're not doing much because we've been there, done that a month a half back, and are still suffering the ill effects of the mashed potatoes, turkey and pumpkin pie, most are shocked. Their first reaction is invariably an awakening - oh, Canada has Thanksgiving, too? You can see the wheels churning - how can that be? - the Mayflower landed in Plymouth, MA. Did it then head to Nova Scotia? Their second is surprise, and you celebrate at a different time than us? And the third is confusion, and you don't want to do it all over again by celebrating it pilgrim-style this time?

To be honest, I did get into the spirit of things last year. We celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving in October and then had a big feast again for American Thanksgiving. And we even got up at 4am to check out Black Friday sales like the good connoisseurmers we are.

But I'm not in the mood this year for huge extravaganza. It's not that I'm feeling completely bah humbug - we'll be attending our church potluck this Thursday and bringing sex in the pan for good sacred/profane measure - but I find all the school pilgrim and turkey teachings become a bit much.

Holy Daughter comes home each day filled with tales that tell a truth, but tells it slant. She is brimming with stories of happy harvesting hoe-downs between the pilgrims and the Native Americans. Big fat sigh. Presumably, the myth still lives large in grade school curriculum. No lie left behind.

When I said, yes, well, that's nice dear but that is only one version of events: there are others, she was confused. I explained that the pilgrim's plight was heroic and sacrificial and that their rite of passage across the great ocean towards new beginnings deserved pomp and circumstance, but if the dead pilgrims could talk, they'd probably tell us that their new Garden of Eden was more paradise lost than found and that a more apt moniker for their American dreamland might just as easily have been Garden of Greed'n.

Indian Paintbrush
To be fair, the history books don't paint it all with a rose-coloured brush. We know that starvation, cold winters and illness plagued the intrepid Brits and Europeans who dared carve a life for themselves in this brave new world. A small sacrifice, however, when compared to the Native Americans who suffered much slaughter, disease and plundering of land and women as a result of white man's arrival.

I didn't bother to share with her that small irony of fall being the season of tragedy, according to Northrup Frye, a famous Canadian literary critic. Not everyone would concur that two of the more contentious colonial and imperial holidays - Columbus Day and Thanksgiving - are anything less than auspicious. But I think 1% of the US population would, which at most recent tally, is the total percentage of Native Americans. Who speaks for them today, tomorrow? The silent untold three million, who quite rightly begrudge the parcels of reservation land set aside for their so-called privilege? Or the silenced few, who are well within their rights and dignities to criticize new-age religiosity that seeks to plunder and all but bastardize the one thing ~ their earth-centered spirituality ~ they can still call their own?

Holy Daughter seemed genuinely surprised by this alternate tale, in which possession turned out not to be 9/10ths of the law, and which does not exactly promise a happily ever after for Native Americans. No surprise that she's confused, considering the only context she has for understanding their relations is the Disneyfied romantic tale of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith, or additionally, of the happy, helpful Squanto.

But I like her logic. Upon hearing my hints of battle and war and death and territorial conquering, she said, "But I don't get it, Mom. Why didn't they just play rock, paper, scissors?"

Out of the mouths of babes.

They did play rock, paper, scissors, of course. It's just that the rocks got piled into fences, forts and catapults, the papers were non-negotiable notarized deeds, and the scissors became weapons.

Canada shares chapters in this tale, too, of course. We had our own British and French invasion, Squanto spent some time in Newfoundland, and our own First Nations peoples didn't exactly finish first either. But instead of calling it hegemony, which is a bit harsh, we like to call this shared history commonwealth, denoting, if you will, a win-win agreement. God save the Queen and all that jolly good stuff.

There are no winners in such games but the point is, we have no less a contested history. In many ways, I think it was smart that we moved our Thanksgiving up a month (from the second Monday of November to the same in October). All the better to distance this day from thoughts of war (Armistice/Remembrance) and adopt an air of reverence more in keeping with what Thanksgiving should be, which is a harvest celebration. Harvest time in Canada is most definitely October, not November, when the snow usually starts flying.

Sacred Wheel
And yet at the heart of Thanksgiving, as it is celebrated by this generation in this age, is something extremely sacred. It is not sacred myth but time. It is a time to feast and a time to reconnect with family and friends, because for everything, there is a season, turn, turn. And first and foremost, it is a time to be grateful and to heed Meister Eckhart's words: "if the prayer you said in your whole life was 'thank you,' that would suffice."

It's not always that pretty - Holly Hunter probably has Thanksgiving nailed better than anyone - but when you ask people what they love most about Thanksgiving, they aren't thinking pilgrim stuff - they're thinking pilgrimage. To happy holidays in their childhoods, or back home to Chicago where Mom & Dad are. They're thinking Grandma's pumpkin pie and juicy succulent turkey and cranberry & sage dressing. Or they're relishing down time at home to recharge batteries. They wear their avoidance of Black Friday mall avoidance like badges of honor, and they speak wistfully about this being their favorite holidays - perhaps because it anticipates Christmakwanzikah and all that December festivity. But most likely because for most, it means four precious days off.

Thus, within the Thanksgiving myth - the holistic one - we have visions of fun, feast, and frivolity, even if that's not really how those early Thanksgiving dinners really went down. We have this need to be inspired by the possibility that we are greater than we are, and to fantasize that our North American history was a cooperative rather than contested one. And given that this is a Christian nation, we have this little myth of the eternal return thing going on, wherein we unconsciously think we might be able to re-create and replant prettier perennials in the garden myth.

And so be it. All that much better to be humbled by our less perfect humanity, so that we can aspire to slightly higher ground than the rock at Plymouth. So that the myth can one day fulfill all that we project upon it. Or not. Who but knows what is to be or not to be - that age-old divine question.

Let's face it - when stripped bare of all those layers of myth, Thanksgiving is not much more complicated than Rabbi Heschel's words above, and yet because it is a constructed and human ritual, it is necessarily so.

And so it is in the spirit of grace and with an attitude rather than altitude of gratitude that I shall approach these next few days, in redux and re-connection to all that is sacred. Sadly, said re-connection and redux is something I need to be reminded of every day, such that there is much I continue to learn and re-learn, again and again, about sacrality, hallowed-ness, thanks and giving from the "red man" who has always known and embodied that thankfulness is irrefutably the most sacred way of being.

Happy Thanksgiving. Blessed Be, Shalom. Salaam. Amen.

"Every part of this country is sacred to my people.
Every hill-side, every valley, every plain and grove has been hallowed
by some fond memory or some sad experience of my tribe.
Even the rocks that seem to lie dumb as they swelter in the sun along the silent seashore in solemn grandeur thrill with memories of past events connected with the fate of my people,
and the very dust under your feet responds more lovingly to our footsteps than to yours,
because it is the ashes of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch,
for the soil is rich with the life of our kindred.
The sable braves, and fond mothers, and glad-hearted maidens, and the little children

who lived and rejoiced here, and whose very names are now forgotten,
still love these solitudes, and their deep fastnesses at eventide grow shadowy
with the presence of dusky spirits.
And when the last red man shall have perished from the earth
and his memory among white men shall have become a myth,
these shores shall swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe,
and when your children's children shall think themselves alone in the field, the shop,
upon the highway or in the silence of the woods they will not be alone.
In all the earth there is no place dedicated to solitude.
At night when the streets of your cities and villages shall be silent,
and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts
that once filled and still love this beautiful land.
The white man will never be alone.
Let him be just and deal kindly with my people,
for the dead are not altogether powerless."
Chief Seattle

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Remembrance Day Tribute

The young dead soldiers do not speak.
Nevertheless, they are heard in the still houses: who has not heard them?
They have a silence that speaks for them at night and when the clock counts.
They say: We were young. We have died. Remember us.
They say: We have done what we could but until it is finished it is not done.
They say: We have given our lives but until it is finished no one can know what our lives gave. They say: Our deaths are not ours: they are yours, they will mean what you make them.
They say: Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say, it is you who must say this.
We leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning.
We were young, they say. We have died; remember us.

Archibald MacLeish, 1892-1982, American Poet

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Pilgrim's Progress

"Hello darkness my old friend.
I've come to talk with you again."
Simon & Garfunkel

The dog and pony show has now packed up and left town and with it, the many lurkers who tiptoed and traipsed through the tulips this past week have also vanished. The Holy halls, once again, echo with the sound of silence.

And no surprise there - the big dog took best of show. A few of us small mixed breed types looked OK ~ we clean up well if nothing else - but it was no contest. It woulda coulda shoulda been though. The Deacon's Bench was by far the best blog of the bunch but sadly, he failed to win the purple ribbon.

That doesn't matter though. The 'real' contest was happening over here in Holy land. And if you entered my contest, you are no doubt, waiting with "bated breath and whisp'ring humblenesse."

Yes, that's right, ladies and gentlemen, the contest votes have been tabulated and the results are official. In strict accordance with ANUS rules (Academy of Novelties and Utilitarian Souvenirs), the ballots were carefully placed into the Tupperware container with the least amount of orange spaghetti sauce stains ringing its belly, before being painstakingly crumpled into origami-like creations, in order that a Gelert entry ballot might be of the same inscrutable nature as that of a Jeri vote. It was then shaken and stirred, in bruised and Bonded fashion, and all was completely apropos; that is, until that one renegade slip attempted to jump ship to the hardwood floor and had to be plunked back into the ballot pool. I can't be sure, but I think it was Brenda having a guilt moment that she voted for me instead of the big Catholic blog frontrunner.
The award-winning ballot was then hand-selected with sticky hot chocolate fingers at 13:58 hours by Holy Daughter, Managing Director of Earnest Young Incorpserratedging. (How big did you think this holyschmidt.org group was anyways?)

But not before she dared question the very integrity of the prize.

"What are you doing this contest for anyways, Mom?"
"It's a contest for my blog, sweetie. For everyone who voted for me in the Best Religious Blog
category."
"Oh. Cool. What do they win?"
"The holy toast stamper, just like the one we have."
"Oh."
Thinks a moment. "That thing. I thought you were doing like a real prize."

Out of the mouths of babes. But real schmeal. This is cyberspace, where surreality reins supreme.

Anyways, it was all auspicious and above board, or should I say, bored, because Holy Daughter had to stifle a yawn as she chose the lucky entry from the container. OK, so it's not exactly the Emmy's, but without further ado, drumroll please....

The winner of the Holy Toast stamper is.....


Pilgrim!

If you could please hold your applause until the end. Here to accept the award on his behalf is...Holy. His name isn't really Pilgrim. That's his surreal name, but old habits die hard. He's actually a man of many pseudonyms ~ Pilgrim, Captain Rotundo and Bloggeezer (BG for short) are but three of many. Take a moment though to stop by his blog and congratulate him on his holy winnings.

To be fair, there were a few names, Pilgrim's included, that claimed a handful of spots in the ballot bowl, as befit their daily voting status. I was actually teasing him the other day via e-mail about how many ballots he had stuffed in the box and even gave him a Holy handshake and wished him luck. I didn't really expect him to win though. I actually thought one of the one-vote wonders (it only takes one) would claim victory in this auspicious contest.

So there you have it. Thanks to all of you for voting, aiding and abetting my meteoric rise up the ranks to 5th place, with 212 votes and 6.1% of the vote.

And for all my capital R religious friends and family who have been expressly avoiding my blog this past week in light of the sacrilegious scandal of my finalist status, you may now come back and visit, and even venture to drop a line. The contest is really and truly over, the coast is clear and as of this writing, I have no plans to start my own religion anytime soon.

But look for more contest kitsch in the future. Another friend of mine, Sam, pointed out that Archie McPhee, my favorite Seattle shop, has a new patron saint chutzkah. I like it. I like it alot. So perhaps I'll run a Hollydays and Holy Days contest in December. For guttsiest God story or conversely, ungodliest guts tale.

Speaking of holidays and the spirit of love and light, happy belated Diwali.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

If I Should Die Before I Wake...

On Death
Kahlil Gibran

You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?
Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

Death Becomes You

I blog about eschatology alot so the following meme on a local PNW UU Minister's blog caught my eye. What can I say? I'm drawn to the poetic rather than prophetic in my end-time imaginings.






What's your eschatology?
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as Moltmannian Eschatology

Jürgen Moltmann is one of the key eschatological thinkers of the 20th Century. Eschatology is not only about heaven and hell, but God's plan to make all things new. This should spur us on to political and social action in the present.


Moltmannian Eschatology


100%

Preterist


55%

Amillenialist


50%

Dispensationalist


25%

Premillenialist


0%

Left Behind


0%

Postmillenialist


0%


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Father, Fun & The Holy Toast

Voting closes in 24 hours. Looks like I'm getting my assets kicked by the other shortlistees, who clearly have way more friends, Romans, countrymen and/or deities lending them their ears and votes.

But I have something they don't and that's Kitchen Kitsch. That's right - it's perhaps one of the most beautiful examples of the overlap between the sacred and profane.

It's not too late to add kitsch to your kitchen though. Place your Holy Vote and you, too, could be eating Special K in the morning. A vote for Holy is a rabbit toehold in the drawing for you to win that lovely mediatrix bread stamper, featured in all its glory a couple of posts below. And it only takes one vote to win and/or be a Holy Roller.


*****************

Actually, from the looks of the polls, there are a decent amount of born-again voters spreading their love amongst my various competitors, but none come close to the resurrected Christendom that is Father Z's Roman Empire. He's literally beating the Pope to the altar with 41% + market share of fans.

It makes me think that maybe I really do need to get off this small soapbox more and do some cyber-evangelizing and planting and tithing and passing of the Holy hock plate and all that fun stuff that goes along with amassing converts and disciples and white fluffy sheep.

Speaking of collection plate, I hate to keep picking on the good padre in Italy (who bears an uncanny resemblance to both Kevin Spacey and Bobby Darin), but his paypal pandering kinda sorta brought a smile to my face.

To be fair, I banter his name about when really, I'm actually poking metonymical fun at the machine behind the man - his blog institution, as it were. But I couldn't help but notice he has a rather clever, if prominent, procurement appeal on his blog. Check it out. He put his collection plate right on his blog. You can't miss it. Upper left hand corner.

Now don't get me wrong, I admire a priest with chutzpah....it's so, I dunno, JC (Judeo-Christian) of him. Said donation button actually makes great sense from a cyber church perspective. It's bound to be way more lucrative than the paltry revenues Adsense generates. But he doesn't stop there.

He's also got an Amazon book wish list link. Now I know I'm not supposed to be coveting thy neighbor's schtuff, but I'm digging this book link idea.

More on this in my next post though, when I blog about prophets. I mean profits. I mean prophets and profits.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Lego and Let God

Holy Son fairly skipped his way into church this past Sunday. I almost took a picture and posted it here, because the site of it was such a cosmic anomoly.

Alas, I know I should heed the second mark of Buddhist existence at this point because I'm fairly certain that this, too, shall pass.

The secret behind his Sunday skip? Lego. Of course. He was lending his bin of bricks to the holy cause of constructing sacred space and architecture in a special RE workshop for our Grades 2-5 kids, which in the case of this past Sunday's creations, ranged from structures such as the Taj Mahal and the Acropolis, to Wiccan churches, to secret chambers - think early Christian church history here - to nature spots, and other more modern, churchy-looking buildings.

Now I have done a ton of things in a myriad of churches in my time - snored, coughed, laughed, cried, drank coffee, read a novel, gagged on the Eucharist, lipsynced, even prayed a time or two. But I have to now admit, building a Lego chalice out of primary color bricks and adorning it with three miniature red flames ranked right up there in my top five most divinely delicious moments of what not to do in church.

I would rate it slightly higher than reading the newspaper in the front pew and just below that one incident at the Sherwood Park Christian Reformed Church on the coldest winter day in Alberta's history, when I accidently tried to lick an icicle hanging from the boot rack outside the chapel doors and became stuck for 45 minutes until somone thought to pour some warm water over my frozen, exposed tongue.

There were roughly a dozen boys and even a couple of curious girls who attended the late service Lego workshop on Sunday, which I think was most impressive. Holy Son isn't the only boy who drags his feet at the thought of attending Sunday RE, and little wonder. Religious education tends to be geared to girlie interests, generally speaking. Classes are traditionally oriented so as to encourage captive audience storytelling, theological discussions, cooperative games and arts & crafts. It's all very sugar and spicey, which is to say that it is the structural antithesis of what boys want to do. They need kinesthetic time. They like to engineer things and they need to really get behind something. Which I suppose is why our RE Director embraced my little Lego idea when I pitched it to her last spring.

Parents are not alone in lamenting the lack of engaging curriculum components for boys. All of us First Grade RE teachers last year noted how much of the time, the boys were no-shows. Who can blame them? It's painful for boys to have to conform to an unworkable learning environ every Monday to Friday in school, and then have to endure much of the same again on Sunday morning.

Less jaded RE educators might beg to differ, but Sunday school is little more than glorified babysitting. Sandwiching in any schmigeon of religion between the two slices of wanting to be fed a snack and wanting to play at the playground bread is a super-human feat, even on the best of days.

So what the heck - imparting a little Lego and let God in their Sunday schoolin' - or whatever it is you wish to call the divine wisdom of Lego creation and imagination - might just be what's needed to start our own brand of Sunday revival.

It's one one of the many new things we're trying in our little corner of the UUniverse. This past spring, a few of us in the children and youth ministry sat and down and schemed ways to revamp the entire younger ages curriculum from top to bottom.

We fashioned it, to a small degree, after the ever-popular workshop rotation model that is alive and well in many mainstream Christian churches. We then identified the key teachings and themes our children, parents and teachers wanted to see included - be these of history and mystery, social justice, or prophetic teachers - and then set about determining where and when to plot the noted priorities into the RE calendar. Last but not least, we looked at how we could then overlay the core UU principles and sources, as well as important rituals and service projects, whilst still honoring the sacred wheel of life that lives liveliest in seasonal holidays and holy days, not to mention other annual festivities and events.

Thus, a new child was born with a completely revamped curriculum this year. So far, so good but the year, she is young. On a macro sacle, I get that Sundays such as this past one are mere drops in the Lego bucket of an entire childhood of church memories. But getting up and going every Sunday for this newbie family of churchgoers remains a struggle, so the more enticements there are for the kids, the merrier.

Will this past Sunday's workshop register as a transcendent moment on the childrens' REchter scale of religious experiences and learnings? Probably not. But if you ask me, it sure beats the holy heck out of having your tongue stuck to an icey boot rack while a bunch of Dutch Reformed gray-haired grannies hover around you, fretting and frowning.

Monday, November 5, 2007

God & Pony Show


Did you hear the one about the Catholic priest, the evangelical apologist, the philosophical portmanteauist and the heretic?

God instructed each one of them to race to the finish line, and whoever got there first would be allowed to be crowned the winner, thus permitting him or her the opportunity to visit the Throne room and sit for a time to experience the glory and exaltation that comes with being the Chosen One.

So God lined each of them up - and to be fair in American religious terms, added a host of other Catholics, evangelicals and the like into the mix. He then dressed them up in religio-carnival garb. You know ~ the usual suspects. The lion, the white witch, the lamb, the philosopher king of raccoons, the goddess, the serpent, the virgin, the temptress, et al - and instructed each one of them to gather thee followers and thine flocks to stand in front of them, affix their sites on their chosen target, and squirt holy water pistols at said target in bell ring, all salivate fashion. Whichever of the carnival racers should rise to the top, would be declared the cream atop the pitcher of sour milk.

Each of the racers quickly assumed their position. On the stage, the lion preened, the goddess mooned and the poet schemed....not a word was spoken, the church bells all were broken.

I could go on here, but you know how the real lyrics go anyways. Suffice to say, the joke's not technically over.....you have to wait until November 8th, when the voting closes for Best Religious Blog in the 2007 Weblog Awards for the punch line.

I don't mean to make fun of the Weblog Awards....well OK, actually I do, but only insofar as I'm always amused at how art imitates life imitates art. While I'm flattered to be in the blogofray mix and in the cybergroover, I remain, nevertheless, endlessly amazed at the not so fine giant, scented, washable marker lines between reality and surreality.

At last count, my humble blog has amassed some 7% of the total votes in the Best Religious Blog category. Which is impressive and amusing, if only because:

(a) I don't have nearly as many readers as voters
(b) I don't even know as many people as there are
votes for my blog, and;
(c) I don't pigeonhole very nicely into a quantifiable round
hole, being a square peg and all.
Said squarepeggedness clearly accounts for some of the drive-by protest votes I'm sure have been aimed my way by the few or many, such as the science bloggers who lament the absence of a Best Atheism Blog category and thus, may mistake my brand of heretical musing for a lack of theism. Or those who have read my fine print and might well have erroneously assumed my UU cloak precludes any form of trinitarian belief on my behalf.

Ponderings schmonderings though. That I'm even a sub-layer of pond scum in this pool of blogs, is for some, the great scandal of my shortlisting.

I've had a chance to now visit all of my 'opponents' blogs and forgive me Father for I have sinned...I peeked into your cupboard drawers (I drank an extra strong Bloody Mary for breakfast as penance though), and snuck a read at some of the fear and trembling notes from your faithful sheep, who seemed to be b-ah-ah-ah-ah-lking at the company you've had to keep in this God and pony show.

What can I say? How much nobler and 'vastly superior' you appear in their eyes - standing as you do amongst all manners of pariahs and sinners such as the LBGTs and indeed, even the so-called intellectual featherweights. That is most admirable. No doubt, God will reward you for your fortitude in not 'blending in' with this motley crew, Fr. Z. :)

Actually, kidding aside, Fr. Z is being rewarded.

His pistol shooters have a pretty steady aim, if his impressive garnering of 42% of the vote is any indication. Mind you, from the looks of this Catholic Forum, of which he coincidentally appears to be forum adminstrator, it helps to have 11,000 potential sharpshooters gunning for you... even if a few of them are, uhmmmm, shall we say, a tad homophobic and unecumenical.

Good thing commenter Kent (do take a moment to scroll to the bottom of the comments in the CF link above for his worldview on LBGTs and other inferior souls - I supplied a few of his words in 'scare' quotes above) wasn't a member of Fr. Brennan's parish. I sometimes marvel at the etymological divide between small c catholic and Big C Catholicism. Only sometimes though because every Catholic I know, close friends and family included, is bi-atholic. That is to say, they swing both ways.

But I digress.

My point - and I do have one - is that this small sampling of shortlisted blogs, in whose company I happen to keep for a brief time, is clearly not representative of the best of religious blogging. It is but a moment in time reflection of bloggers who names were submitted...nothing more, nothing less.

So those who assume outrage at the categorical inclusions, because they have Christian ringtone links; or worse, at the sins of omissions, need recall the second deadly sin of religious comparison: the lack of an adequate cross-sampling. Where is the Muslim, the Buddhist, the Sikh, the Hindu, the New Ager, the Wiccan, quick name another religion, etc, etc., in the mix? Enter, One Cosmos, stage left, with his best Arnold Horshack impersonation.

If anything, we serve to highlight the dangers of reductionism and the fundamental problem of defining voice. The question remains: who can and should speak for faith and reason ~ the Catholic, the evangelical, the racoon philosopher, the candlestick maker? All of us? None of us? For those of you rushing to pick the "right" answer, here's a hint: it's not a skill-testing question, it's rhetorical.

But if you feel so compelled as to play in God's arcade room, then by all means, come wave a flag in my little corner of the race. There's no line-up. And if you aim your water pistol and all those drops of water in the endless sea straight enough, you'll even get the added cheap thrill of seeing my burquah skirt fly up to flash a glimpse of fishnet, as it kicks up a bit of dust in the wind.

Because Kansas was right: all we are is dust in the wind, which is as apt a blogging metaphor if ever there was one.

Speaking of wind dust and cries in the dark and the blog post penultimate to this, when I alluded to the notion of epitaphs ~ I shall leave you with one of my fave-ola poems. I believe the author is Bishop Pedro Casaldáliga, a renowned liberation theologian.

Note to younger Brother: if I should die before you do, I pray thee heed my last gumshoe. I ask that this poem be read at my wake. Further note: it is to be read just prior to the mandatory plenary performance of the Belle of Belfast jig, which my lovely daughter, the budding Irish dancer, shall perform.

(My apologies to His Excellency in advance for my creative pronoun bastardization).



I shall die erect, like the trees.
(They will kill my standing upright).
The sun as the sole witness, shall put its seal
On my doubly anointed body,
And the rivers and the sea
Will become the paths of all my wishes
While the primordial forest joyfully shakes its treetops over me.
I shall say about my words:
I did not lie when I cried out.
And God shall say to my friends:
“I attest that (s)he lived among you waiting for this day.”
In the twinkling of an eye in death
My life will become truth.
Finally, I shall have loved!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Standing Oblations

Walking on Water
1999 Darwin Award Nominee
Confirmed True by Darwin (24 November 1999, California)

One particular group of Christians attempted to follow in Jesus' footsteps more literally than most. They worked to master the secret of walking on water. Diligently, day by day, the group tried to be closer to God by making a sincere effort to walk on water. These Christians continued their unorthodox practices until the leader of this small Los Angeles group unexpectedly died while practicing in his bathtub. His wife said James spent many hours trying to perfect the technique of walking on water, but had not yet mastered the ability. He apparently drowned after slipping on a bar of soap.

Note from Giles Read -- "These people obviously haven't realised that anyone can walk on water. I've done it myself. Just wait until the lake freezes..."

Source:
http://darwinawards.com/darwin/darwin1999-49.html


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Mircea Eliade was onto something when he noted that since time immemorial, us mere mortals seem to be permastuck in an imitatio dei/divine drama. As above, so below. We will do almost anything to transcend our natural binds in pursuit of a supernatural power, or in Eliadian-speak, we eternally return or timeslip from profane reality back to the primordial sacred inception (cosmogony).

What compels us to slide down the axis mundi pole and down into the rabbit hole in order to hang out in supernatural wonderland? Do we inadvertently trip the invisible ground wire from time to time, or are such moments rites of passage ~ penulimate proto-journeys if you will, for that last great, one-way carriage ride to the Beyond?

In secular terms, ultimate thrill seekers well know this rush. They plunge, jump, soar, dive, race, and climb to the depths and/or heights of their existence, defying their mortality whilst summarily hoping to overcome it. That's why there continues to be hundreds of new Darwin Awards bestowed upon a new and tragically deceased population each year.

And yet, what of the religious? Check your own religiosity (or irreligiosity) at the door for a moment here. And while you're at it, set down that cumbersome little designer bag with the nice OPR [other peoples' religion] logo on it. Then try to imagine what supernatural truth informs the Vodou priestess in Toronto, or the snakehandler in Tennessee, or the modern-day dervish in Istanbul, or that sannyasin in the forests near Kathmandu.

And for that matter, what giant leap of faith ~ however erroneous the rest of us 'know' it to be ~ must that last trip have been for those Heaven's Gate adherents? Can you imagine? Neither can I. I'll never forget the surreality of staring up at the Hale Bop Comet during my stint on the other side of the globe, and wondering anew at the links between inner and outerspace.

Just as I fail to understand such cultic convictions, I cannot fathom how Abraham could sacrifice Isaac. Well actually, I kinda get how God could talk Abraham into his covenantal scheme. But had God been bargaining with Sarah, all us motherly types totally know what her reply would have been. Suffice to say there would be no need for exegetical translation with her "No way, Yahweh!" rebuttal.

Oh me of little faith and I mean that entirely in Wieselian terms, given his worldview that "no faith is as solid as a wounded faith."

Faith really is the final frontier, methinks. It is the quintessential sacrifice and leap from that somewhat solid ground of reason to the prodigious plane just beyond and around the corner.

Yes, faith, which hails from the Latin fides "to trust, believe," arguably entails no small amount of sacrifice in my books, beginning with the baby called Reason that invariably needs to be tossed out with the holy water in all such conundrum moments within the various scriptures and/or religions. Not to say that reason and faith don't live in holy matrimony - they do and must. But faith lives liveliest when tested. That is to say, when reason has long hit the road for firmer ground, or so sayeth that quote, "faith isn't faith until it's all you're holding onto."

It's the kind of big F faith that Abraham wrapped Isaac in. And by big F, I mean the sacrifical kind: one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

But think beyond Abraham here to the life and times of other Axial Age and beyond, to the gods, prophets and messianic likes of Jesus, Sakyamuni, Confucius, Lao Tsu, Mani, Mohammed, Confucius and Agni. The sacrifice typology is alive and well with each of their prophetic deeds and words and mythos. And lest we forget, from ancient times through to contemporary, we have sacrificed countless lambs in synecdoche with God.

As civilization advanced, so too did its religious rites. Sacrifices saw a subtle shift from the violent, social-control domain of the public altar, to the ruminating psyche and self-sacrificing austerities of the individual practitioner.

One step removed from these forefront figures are the lesser characters who helped redefine sacrifice ~ if I may be so bold as to reduce the whole lot of the aforementioned religio heavyweights to a small case menial noun 'figure' for a moment. These secondary cast members in the Divine Comedy of holy historic dramas are the countless mystics, saints, and religious epic heroes who help make religious literature so inspiring and profound.

Christ and obvious scapegoats aside, there are but three in the dead poet's society of religious history that whisper sacrifice and truly walk on water in my books - Saint Francis of Assisi, Arjuna and Rumi. Beyond the ascetic archetype, we see that sacrifice is very much at the heart of each of their tales and teachings. Saint Francis - because he is the veritable posterboy for imitatio dei or in postmodern terms, WWJD?; Arjuna, because he was able to intellectualize challenging Indian epistimology in the face of battle against family; and Rumi, because he used words and dance to overcome his near constant cravings for intoxicating Turkish hashish and lascivious women. No small feats, any of them.

And so it is that I return, in cosmogonic fashion, to the Darwinian roots and heart of this blog ~ our oft pathetic attempts at hierophany.

While most of us are not half-human, half-God (except perhaps, Holy Hubby, when he stands before his sacred altar called the Weber barbeque, proclaims himself Prometheus, and works his alchemic magic with dead cows as offering to the Goddess and demi-gods and goddess who are his wife and children) ~ we can aspire to great moments of sacrifice through our lives and times. Through the sacrifice of time and energy in great or small works of social justice. Or through the sacrifice of worldly pursuits in favour of humility and devotion.

I can't lie - it would take a greater leap of faith than I currently possess to lay my children at the base of Mount Moriah - even on our collective worst familial days. And it would take an absolute Übermensch will for me to race my chariot headlong into battle against family or friend or foe, as Arjuna immortally did, regardless of the Divine game or eventual stakes.

Yet I would risk life, limb and dignity by tiptoeing barefoot across the Puget Sound for the promise of a Miracle, and the amazing and certain grace of Truth.

On that note, I must now go finish my game of Risk with Holy Hub and Holy Son. My hold on Alaska, Alberta and the Northwest Territories is as tenuous as my theological quest for God in the gaps between reason, chance and providence. The rules of both games befuddle me and the "capture the flag" metaphorical correlation between both is not entirely lost on me. Do I sacrifice where and what I have now for I might have and/or become? Conversely, both games might easily be reduced to a grand crapshoot - albeit one sacred, one profane.

I'm willing to go roll the dice for my shot at world supremacy whilst ensuring I remain queen of Alberta, my home and native land of bubbling crude. Oil, that is....Fort Mac tea.

Not only that but Alberta lakes freeze in the winter. All the better for me to do my own sacred walk on water moment, complete with a triple sowkow for good measure. It's all about the epitaph.

As above, so below.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Holy Troller

I caught wind that I've been shortlisted to just one of 10 in the Best Religious Blog category compiled by the 2007 Weblog Awards team. I presume they are to Academy what we blog slog nominees are to red carpet Oscar hopefuls. Except we of the blogger variety tend to hang out in pajamas and fuzzy slippers.

There were more than 100 entries in the Religion section, not to mention some 4,000+ nominations in over 49 categories for this year's awards.

I have yet to check out the other nominees in my category - I'm still in the flattered mode headspace ~ feeling honored to be rubbing shoulders with a master list of real bloggers like Ariana Huffington, Post Secret, Andrew Sullivan, Perez Hilton, and Rosie O'Donnell. Well...OK, so maybe only the first few carry weight but regardless...I'll wear my nomination bling with pride and give a demure, Mona Lisa smile at what a gloriously Godacious cybermoment this is. So, in the shameless interest of pandering to all 14 of you dedicated readers - friends, family, Lithuanians, countrymen, lurkers and fans from afar - I invite you to click here to cast your Holy Vote.

All it takes is one vote (actually, technically it's one vote times 7 consecutive days multiplied by the number of computers you have). But for simplicity sake, we'll call it One vote, under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.

Then leave me a comment or e-mail me at holy dot schmidt at hotmail dot com to let me know you've voted, and I'll add your name to my new Holy Roller blog roll section. Or, if you'd prefer, I can assign you a glossolalic pseudonym instead. And to sweeten the sacred pot of stew, I'll even enter your name in the drawing for my most coveted Holy Toast stamper, pictured below. Trust me when I tell you ~ you have not eaten toast until you've sampled the likes of this mediatrix marvel.

What can I say? Membership has its privileges.

Holy Thought of the Week

"To live fully is to let go and die with each passing moment, and to be reborn in each new one."

~ Jack Kornfield ~