Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Mother Child Bond

Saturday morning I came across this story of a monkey grieving over the death of its mother.

I was particularly moved. Perhaps because the night before I’d been revising War & Grace.

Let me share an excerpt from the portion of the manuscript I’d been working on.

"We do well to support every child’s love for their mother, as we, the priestesses of Delphinus, love our mother, the Great White Sea.”

lack of attachment

“What about in cases where the mother dies in, say, childbirth. Is the child doomed?”

“There is no doubt the premature death of a child’s mother presents challenges. But if the child is allowed and encouraged to cultivate the memory of their mother it can go a long way in overcoming the rupture. There are many ways to achieve this. Images, stories, and simple discussions between those who remember the deceased are all quite effective.”

importance of mother child bond

“What if the mother dies — or the mother and child are separated prematurely through some other complication — and there is never any mention of her made to the child?”

“It would be much like a fish, when taken from the sea, gasps for air. While the sea will continue to thrive, the fish will flounder and die. The child will spend their life gasping for something which almost everyone they come in contact with takes for granted. They will be at a sore disadvantage.” — War & Grace by Heidi Garrett

lack of attachment

Again and again, animals — our relationships with them and their relationships with each other — provide the most direct and simple map to find our way home — to the home of the heart, to the place wherever it is that we love and are loved.

benefits of human animal bond

Friday, March 10, 2017

We Love.

We love.

Americans are at their best when we are loving.

Whether its our spouses, partners, children, pets, homes, states, country, freedom, constitution, bill of rights, we are a passionate people.

I saw a headline the other day claiming that “Americans don’t recognize their country anymore.” Supposedly because we’re divided.

Who in their right mind would expect 320 plus million diverse peoples to agree on most things?!?! Anything?!?!? (Oh, that's what all that nifty surveillance is far ... they're going to try to use our buying habits, reading habits, posting habits, watching habits to herd us like cats ... hehe!)

If you study our history, Americans have been “divided” since the birth of our nation. Politics has, since our country’s inception, been rife with nastiness and name-calling, i.e. the more things change the more things stay the same … So don’t let anyone hoodwink you into believing “these times are somehow different — more awful — so bad —blah blah blah blah blah blah blah”.

Years ago M. Scott Peck wrote a book titled The Road Less Traveled, the title a line from a Robert Frost poem. It was a bestseller. An analysis of why it was a best seller back in the day claimed it was because the first line of the book was: Life is difficult.

And those three words hooked millions of book buyers because it confirmed an innate truth that at the time, perhaps, was not readily acknowledged in public. Remember all those silly saccharine sitcoms they used to foist upon us …

See, we’re always hungry and scavenging for Truth. We really don’t want or need or thrive on sugar-coated, palliative make me-feel good solipsism.

We really want the Truth, even when it hurts. Even when it breaks our hearts.

This picture reminds me of that.

Bodza, air force dog, military dogs, dog emotional support
Photo credit The Mirror
It reminds me that to love is the most magnificent thing on this planet. And whether that love is for your precious child, your loyal dog, or the freedom to voice your Truth, that love is the only thing that tethers us to the Divine.

So love someone or something with everything you've got.

Unleash your passion.

And open your big mouth about that.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Violence in the Name of Religion is Depressing

I read Silence by Shusaku Endo for the first time in the last week of 2016 and wrote this blog post. However, I’d borrowed the book from the library and couldn’t make notes in it, so … I bought a copy so I could, yes, mark it up and take a deeper dive.

Today, it’s hard to understand why I wanted to do that … the first read took less than two days, the second read took over a month. I just didn’t want to pick the book up. It’s so depressing.

Why is it so depressing?

We’re used to hearing about the violence that Jews perpetrated against Gentiles back in the day, and the violence that Christians perpetrated in the Crusades, and the violence that Muslims have perpetrated against Infidels, but I’d never heard about the violence the Buddhists perpetrated against Christians in the 1600s. The four largest world religions have maimed, murdered, and tortured in the name of … umm … some higher good? Silence is story of Buddhists torturing, killing, and forcing Christians to apostatize. Depressing to realize none of the four largest organized religions are exempt form the darker side.
religion causing depression, depression and spirituality
Silence is also dense. Packed in its 212 pages are layers and layers of themes.

What themes? Here are a few:

  1. When one is dealing with organized religion, geopolitics is never far behind. The Portuguese and the Jesuits were the first to reach Japan. Initially they were welcomed along with the silk trade, but when the Spanish and then the English and the Dutch arrived … the seeds of conflict which led to the extermination of the Christian religion in Japan were sown.
    examples of religious violence, why does religion cause violence
  2. What does it mean to be a Christian priest/missionary/father? Why would you choose to be a missionary? Endo uses the character of Father Rodriques to pose some possible answers to that question. Does one become a missionary because one feels superior to the population whom you intend to convert? Does one become a missionary to become a martyr? Does one become a missionary to be useful? Is a missionary useful when he’s converting others to his belief system? Is a missionary useful when he’s conducting ritual sacraments and prayers? Is a missionary useful when he silently watches others martyr themselves/die for the cause?
  3. Who/what is the Christian God? Father Ferreira opines that “the Japanese cannot think of an existence that transcends the human”. He believes the God the Japanese Christians have faith in is not “the Church’s God” but “The Great Sun”. But throughout Silence, Father Rodrigues repeatedly sees/imagines his God as the “man whom he loved” (Christ) “a beautiful, exalted man.” So does Rodrigues's God transcend the human? And … does it really matter?
    are buddhists violent, major conflicts in buddhism
  4. In the face of torture and death: water punishment (being tied to a stake and slowly drowned as the tide rises) and the pit (being hung upside down with a slit behind your ears so that your blood drips drop by drop) (Really! These are the ghastly tactics used!) why would anyone become a Christian? The life of the Japanese who became Christians and practiced their faith in secrecy and isolation was limited and impoverished in the extreme. Like we can’t even imagine. They were slaves of the samurai. “The reason our religion has penetrated this territory like water flowing into dry earth is that it has given to this group of people a human warmth they never previously knew. For the first time, they have met men who treated them like human beings. It was the human kindness and charity of the fathers that touched their hearts.” That is the beautiful part of the story. Period.
    is religion the cause of most wars, wars started by religion
  5. And the Big Theme: In the face of horrific persecution, why does God remain silent? And how does that silence affect the faith and actions of Christians and/or followers of other organized religions? Good question.
    why is god silent, examples of god's silence, god's silence in the bible
    I think I’ll tackle it in my next blog post.

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 …
  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

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?

mount fuji, japan