Friday, February 3, 2017

The Jesus Story, a Japanese Christian and a Dominican Nun

I finally finished reading A Life of Jesus by Shusaku Endo ( a Japanese Christian). It was a slog, for me, but an interesting one. Endo’s analysis of the biblical texts and the verifiable /non-verifable truth in the Jesus story posits interesting questions and some possible answers.

But it didn’t convert me, i.e. the story about the Jesus story is interesting, but the fundamentals problems with the Jesus Story as a basis for a religion remain for me.

  1. Life is a forward, progressive movement. All traditional religions require us to spend much (the majority) of the time (trapped?) peering into an increasingly distant (irrelevant?) past. My personal experience has shown me the undefined present is where it’s at and cult-like figures, codified texts, and ecumenical hierarchies are where it is not. Although I will not deny rituals and sacred spaces can have inherent beauty and power. But, honestly, reading an analysis of the Jesus Story while interesting, was actually kind of depressing, and left me feeling dusty and stale.
    the incarnation of jesus christ; resurrection of jesus
  2. It’s really hard to believe that Jesus (the historical figure the Jesus Story was created around) did not manipulate the events of his end and his death to fit the prophesies regarding the Messiah, and this, not even very well. Kind of like direct plagiarism. It’s hard for me to read about Jesus’s trial and crucifixion without thinking: suicide ideation and/or death by cop. It’s like Jesus (the historical figure the Jesus Story was created around) gauged the forks in the road and saw increasing irrelevance or a shot at fulfilling this martyr role. Because it’s like he wanted to die. You know.
  3. Once you get over 35, you might begin to have other problems with the Jesus Story, i.e. living fast, dying young, and leaving a good-looking corpse (sorry!) isn’t so hard. Really, it’s not. What’s really challenging is the years that follow, and the years that follow those, and the years that continue to follow. If you’re 40 or older, you know you’re a lot wiser and have much more experience than you did at 30, 20 … etc. Which doesn’t mean if you’re under 40 you don’t matter. It’s just that …
    praying
  4. I’ve never been able to shake the belief that we all have a spark of the Divine within us, and it’s pretty much up to us whether or not, or how we choose to cultivate that spark. Flashes in the pan (and Jesus’s Story is a flash in the pan story) (not the enduring religion built around the story)(but the approximately 2 years of his ministry) just don’t have the same … umm … well, I’m always really impressed by those who survive aging with joyousness and light. Life, grief, from all those losses we eventually accumulate if we live long enough, can sculpt us into something gorgeous … umm … I just don’t see that that happened with Jesus (the historical figure the Jesus Story was created around.)
    enlightenment, prayer, consciousness, evolution
So. The first time I turned an objective eye upon the Jesus Story it failed me, as the basis for my life’s purpose, my life’s meaning, a religion, etc. And it still does.

I’m not saying it’s not a good story. It’s a great story! The themes of INCARNATION and RESURRECTION are exceedingly powerful. As is a spirituality of Love vs. a spirituality of Law. In fact, I don’t doubt that Jesus (the historical figure the Jesus Story was created around) experienced cosmic love to a degree that he received a vision of humanity who also experienced cosmic love and lived out of that. And that that was his message. But each of us can have that same experience. And it’s true we all suffer deeply in one way or another—all have our crosses to bear—so, yes, it’s a great story. Obviously, hehe, the religion it engendered, Christianity, remains one of the world’s largest.

But, honestly, I’m with the Dominican nun, Sister Lucia, I’m pretty sure Mary and Joseph were in love and they did it …
Spanish Nun Sparks outrage with suggestion that the Virgin Mary may have had sex


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Silence by Shusaku Endo

Quietness and silence have been on my mind for several months. From September 2015 to September/October 2016 I was meditating and experimenting with meditation. At first it was wonderful to be reminded of (I’ve been a meditator with widely varying levels of commitment since 1987) and discover new ways of meditating and its fruits. But then my interest waned. (Directly in line with aforementioned varying levels of commitment.) But this time my restlessness didn’t lead to the predictable meditation drop off. No, this time I felt compelled to weed out all extraneous ritual and purpose, to strip away all pretense, and deal with meditation at its most essential level. This led me directly to silence; silence itself being the destination. And so silence has been occupying a place in my mind like a rotating gemstone on display in a cat burglar thriller. I consider the varying planes and refractions, the prisms of light, with an inner hush.
metaphor for silence, values, what is precious
After all, what can you truly say, talk, write about silence?

In 1966, Shusaku Endo wrote an entire novel about it.
the samurai, silence, a life of jesus, the sea and poison, deep river
An entire novel! I read it in the last week of 2016 and it really is … page after page, paragraph after paragraph, all about silence. Martin Scorsese has now directed a movie based on said novel—which I haven’t seen because it’s not showing in my city yet—and film critics have been reviewing it.
christianity, japan, buddhism, missionaries, martyrs
Huh.

My local library had a copy of the novel. So I requested it, number one on the waiting list. I didn’t have to wait long.

“Silence is the story of a man who learns—so painfully—that God’s love is more mysterious than he knows, that he leaves much more to the ways of men than we realize, and that he is always present … even in His silence.” — Martin Scorsese, Forward to Silence
the last temptation of christ, silence, christianity, roman catholic
It’s not a long book; I read it in less than two days. It’s a completely depressing story which I couldn’t stop reading. My heart physically ached by the time I was finished. Not sure I’ll be able to watch the movie which looks to be arriving in a local cinema in about a week.

Shusaku Endo lived on borders. Raised in a bilingual and bicultural home, I’m often drawn to border dwellers, their efforts to pull apart and put together more than one way of perceiving the world. Endo is a Japanese who was baptized into the Christian faith at eleven years of age; he also spent a significant amount of time in France. Nice. (Not the noun, the adjective.) His writing mines the intersection of these diverse experiences. (Note: After finishing Silence, I read The Samurai and am in the middle of reading A Life of Jesus—both of which I’m likely to blog about in the future.)

But I was blown away by Silence. And I want to thank Scorsese for bringing the book through the film into the public consciousness.

It’s best to read it without filters, i.e. read it without anyone telling you what you should think about it.

It’s a story about Catholic missionaries and their political expulsion from Japan; and if the reader is meant to identify with the letter writer and primary narrator, Sebastian Rodrigues, then it was an epic fail for this reader.

But I doubt that’s the case. That would be too simplistic for a border dweller.

So what was Endo’s purpose in writing the novel?

Who knows?

But it provokes questions; and it confronts and invokes silence. On just about every level. Halfway through the book, I was like: This should be required reading for every professed Christian/devout believer of anything on the planet. The dark side, the underbelly, of those who wish to “convert/save” is exposed, and it’s hard to look it. You really want to turn away.

“News reached the Church in Rome. Christavao Ferriera, sent to Japan by the Society of Jesus in Portugal, after undergoing the torture of ‘the pit’ at Nagasaki had apostatized.”—Silence by Shusaku Endo

I’m an apostate—without the threat of death and/or torture. If you can be an apostate without ever having been baptized. If you were just raised in the culture but reject it, does that make you an apostate? I don’t know. But organized religion doesn’t work for me.

And yet, Endo’s novel worked really well for me …

So well, in fact, that this will probably be the first post on the quantum enlightenment of what else?



Silence.
mount fuji, japan

Friday, December 16, 2016

There's No Need for Nones to be Grinches

Dr. Seuss, christmas stories, christmas traditions, nones and religion, nones
Navigating traditional holidays can be tricky for nones (those of us who check off none of the above when defining their religious affiliations or spiritual tribe), but it doesn’t need to be.

NOTE: If you’re a religious-ex, i.e. if you were born into a family that practiced an organized religion (be it Buddhism, Christiantiy, Judaism, or Islam), and you have come to see the limitations of said religion, the first few years of moving away from that mindset can be challenging. You might even find yourself feeling angry at anyone or anything that reminds you of what it is your working to separate yourself from.

Thankfully, that passes.

However, don’t let it preclude you from experiencing the joy of celebrations—drawn from traditional rituals—that ground the expression of your values.

Let’s take Christmas as an example. No one really knows the date of Jesus’s exact birth, if Jesus is in fact an historical figure. But pagans celebrated the Winter Solstice at the end of December, and it’s believed many of the rituals associated with those parties were adapted to Christianity. This is what humans do. We take what works from the past and carry it forward into the emerging order. So … to pick and choose whatever year-end rituals and traditions hold meaning for you is a perfectly legit way to go.


As each calendar year draws to a close, and the days become shorter, I find it to be a natural time to express gratitude, seek inspiration, contemplate life in greater depth, feast, and experience renewal.

Here are a few specific examples:

1. [GRATITUDE] Since 2007, on December 17th, Wreaths Across America has honored those veterans who gave their lives to preserve our freedoms. You can donate $15 to place a wreath on the grave of someone who gave their life for our country, and/or volunteer to attend the wreath placing ceremony at a cemetery near you where you can #SayThereNames. Since I didn’t serve in the military, nor has any of my immediate family, this is a great way to take action and say a deep and sincere thank you to those who do and have.
Honoring our Fallen, US Military Deaths, Attitude of Gratitude, the Power of Gratitude, Christmas Rituals
2. [RITUAL] Celebrate with an Evergreen tree: It’s not just a Christmas tradition. Egyptians, Romans, Druids, and Germans used a variety of greenery to symbolize the promise of Spring during the shortest and darkest days of the year. So no need to hold back on this one!—History of the Christmas Tree
Old Christmas Traditions and Rituals, Holiday Traditions Around the World
3. [MAKING WHAT’S OLD NEW] I love christmas music. I can’t help it, I always have and always will. I only listen to it in December, but I really only enjoy it in two specific ways:

  • Performed by contemporary artists. Have you heard Pentantonix’s Hallelujah, Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You, Whitney Houston’s Do You Hear What I Hear, or one of my all time favorite versions of The Drummer Boy by Mary J. Blige?
  • A local live performance. I have snuck into Christmas Eve masses, attended tree-lighting ceremonies, wherever I can find the best christmas music in the city. Nothing beats the chills live music can give.
4. [THOUGHTFUL] There’s not a thing wrong with being thoughtful of those who guide you, help you, and/or just make you smile throughout the year. A card or simple gift will do. Make it a game and challenge yourself to be as thrifty and as creative as you can be.

5. [INSPIRATION] Schedule a binge watch of Peter Jackson’s movie adaption of J. R. R. Tolkien’s classic Good vs. Evil story, The Lord of the Rings. (Caveat: PLEASE do not RUIN the experience by watching any installments of The Hobbit! They will only make you weep!) If you're a true Tolkien fangirl or fanboy check out our J.R.R. Tolkien Epic Reads Group on Goodreads ...
Epic Fantasy, Cast, Crew, Movie, J. R. R. Tolkien, Best Shows to Binge watch
6. [CONTEMPLATION] During the week of December 25th to 31st, set aside some time each day to reflect on: the closing year; the story of your life up til now; what’s coming and/or what you hope will be coming in the upcoming year; and how you’re doing on this journey we call life.

7. [RENEWAL] Send New Year’s Cards. I don’t know if it’s because my Mother’s birthday was on January 1st or because I love new beginnings, probably both, but I just love New Year’s Day and love sending out New Year’s cards!

9. [FEAST] Enjoy a delicious decadent breakfast on December 31st! Once a year isn’t going to hurt you … Because on January 1, whether or not you “diet”, you’ll probably be more than ready for something totally “healthy” … bwahahahaha!
New Years Diet Resolutions, post holiday detox, holiday feasting
See. No matter who you are or what you believe, you can enjoy this end-of-the-year season which humanity has been celebrating since the beginning of time in one way or another!

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Mystical War Between Globalism and Populism

What is globalism? I came up with this definition: Corporate and political advocacy for bodies of global governance whose functional purpose is to secure the concentration of global capital in the hands of less than 1% of the world population, i.e …

Today Credit Suisse released its latest annual global wealth report, which traditionally lays out what is perhaps the biggest reason for the recent "anti-establishment" revulsion: an unprecedented concentration of wealth among a handful of people, as shown in its infamous global wealth pyramid …
global wealth report 2016
As Credit Suisse tantalizingly shows year after year, the number of people who control just shy of a majority of global net worth, or 45.6% of the roughly $255 trillion in household wealth, is declining progressively relative to the total population of the world, and in 2016 the number of people who are worth more than $1 million was just 33 million, roughly 0.7% of the world's population of adults. On the other end of the pyramid, some 3.5 billion adults had a net worth of less than $10,000, accounting for just about $6 trillion in household wealth.Zerohedge.com

Go here for a really detailed breakdown.

Yuck.

Okay, let’s move on to populism. If you do an internet search you quickly find many definitions of populism clearly colored by the person doing the defining.

For purpose of the coloring I’m doing, I’m going to pull the two most interesting definitions to me from the definitive Wikipedia. (That was a joke.) (Sort of.)

Classical Populism: espouses government by the people as a whole (that is to say, the masses). This is in contrast to aristocracy, synarchy or plutocracy, each of which is an ideology that espouse government by a small, privileged group above the masses.—Populism, Wikipedia

I chose this particular definition because it is in diametric opposition to my definition of globalism above, thus furthers my point.

BUT.

And. Oh, I found this definition so interesting …

In the late 18th century, the French Revolution (1789-1799), though led by wealthy intellectuals, could also be described as a manifestation of populist sentiment against the elitist excesses and privileges of the Ancien RĂ©gime.
mysticism, divinity, french revolution, age of enlightenment, Isaac Newton
In France, the populist and nationalist picture was more mystical, metaphysical and literarian in nature. Historian Jules Michelet (sometimes called a populist) fused nationalism and populism by positing the people as a mystical unity who are the driving force of history in which the divinity finds its purpose. Michelet viewed history as a representation of the struggle between spirit and matter; he claims France has a special place because the French became a people through equality, liberty, and fraternity. Because of this, he believed, the French people can never be wrong. Michelet's ideas are not socialism or rational politics, and his populism always minimizes, or even masks, social class differences.—Populism, Wikipedia

Ahem. The bolded segments segue nicely into my own ruminations upon globalism vs. populism. Because, ultimately, there is a “presence” in the Universe. Whether or not you choose to call it god or not, whether or not you choose to practice an established religion or not, you cannot deny in LIFE, there is an animating force which is not you and it is not me. Yet it is within us in some way as long as we are alive. To me this is a fundamental reality which supersedes any government, nation, state, geopolitical reality, etc.

Do we serve our governments our nations our states … or do our governments our nations our states serve us, furthering the evolution of this animating LIFE force within us?
the evolution of man
The reasons I love the French and Michelet’s conception of populism are:

  1. The French Revolution (1789-1799) was birthed by the Age of Enlightenment (1715 to 1789) which was birthed by (among other things) the publication of Issac Newton’s Principia of Mathematica in 1687 (which I intend to further explore in another blog post), i.e. the advancement of knowledge (TRUTH’S MOVING POINT) itself destroyed the globalization efforts of the Catholic Church and the European Aristocracy. As long as they were in charge, your individual sacred LIFE, i.e. that LIFE animated by some mystical force over which the Pope and all the ecumenical hierarchy and monarchs had no control over—other than to arbitrarily quench it—was at stake. Literally, i.e. you could end up burning at the stake if you DISAGREED with their very self-serving ideologies regarding LIFE.
  2. It acknowledges the “animating force” we actually depend on for LIFE and locates it within the individual citizens of the state (and globe). Pesky, that reality.

It’s an interesting parallel: the aristocratic/ecumenical stranglehold upon global capital back then … and the corporate/technocratic stranglehold upon global capital today.

The problem seems to be: Bossy/greedy folks will invariably rise up using whatever platform/rhetoric will work to convince you, the individual, that they know what is best for you, even though they don’t know you at all.

Hmmm…

In God’s Ecstasy, mathematician and philosopher Beatrice Bruteau, traces the evolution of Earth from “mostly minerals” through “chemistry turning into biology” and the biochemistry of bacteria who “are still the ones who run and regulate the planet” to the development of gametes (sex cells) …

Very fascinating stuff, evolution.

And it seems that LIFE favors:

Replication. The world of self-organizing beings evolves. They experiment with ways of interacting with their environments (both living and nonliving aspects) and the better ways are able to make more copies of themselves and become more prominent in the their populations.God's Ecstasy, Beatrice Bruteau

Novelty. Even better ways to find better ways are developed, better ways to evolve are evolved. It one long fascinating story of the creation of novelty.God's Ecstasy, Beatrice Bruteau

Responsiveness. Be-ing is essentially dynamic. To-exist is dynamic, not static.God's Ecstasy, Beatrice Bruteau

Viability. The new things build on the old things. And as the better working ones crowd out the poorer ones, the population as a whole comes to be characterized by the innovations. Those innovations then become part of the foundation on which the next round of innovations is built.God's Ecstasy, Beatrice Bruteau

Variety. We must not attempt to reduce everyone to one single kind, nor should any of us undertake to bring all of us to be like ourselves. Diversity and variation must be preserved, nurtured.God's Ecstasy, Beatrice Bruteau

Bodies of global governance which have a propensity to manifest as inert and sprawling bureaucracies/hierarchies can hardly be accused of promoting novelty, are largely unresponsive enforcers of static and meaningless regulations, tend to crush innovation in favor of old things, and are incapable of adapting to anything. They do seem capable of replicating … rules … and programs that require funding.
types of bureaucracy
Globalism almost by definition has a gnarly undercurrent of cleansing meaningful complexity at any and every level—including nation, state, and culture—in favor of instituting meaningless and obstructive detail in its place.

Hmmm …

It’s not surprising that the efforts of a few to inflict globalism/world domination upon a massive majority continues to fail. LIFE—the animating force—which—even with all the years we’ve spent on the planet—we’ve been unable to replicate—seems to say: THERE IS ANOTHER FORCE AT WORK HERE.

Spiritual.
Mystical.
Inspirational … as to inspire is to breathe …
future predictions of the world
Whatever you want to call it … its very essence, which is oddly unpredictable and uncontrollable, thwarts the efforts of globalists again and again in organic and mysterious ways that are simply breathtaking to behold.