But, not yet have I reached that bright life or that white happiness – not yet.

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Men and women of faith who pray – that is, who come to a certain assigned place, at definite times, and are not abashed to go down on their knees – will not tarry for the cup of coffee or the news break or the end of the movie when the moment arrives. The habit, then, has become their life. What some might call the restrictions of the daily office they find to be an opportunity to foster the inner life. The hours are appointed and named; they are the Lord’s. Life’s fretfulness is transcended. The different and the novel are sweet, but regularity and repetition are also teachers. Divine attentiveness cannot be kept casually, or visited only in season, like Venice and Switzerland. Or, perhaps it can, but then how attentive is it? And if you have no ceremony, no habits, which may be opulent or may be simple but are exact and rigorous and familiar, how can you reach toward the actuality of faith, or even a moral life, except vaguely? The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us. Our battles with our habits speak of dreams yet to become real. I would like to be like the fox, earnest in devotion and humor both, or the brave, compliant pond shutting its heavy door for the long winter. But, not yet have I reached that bright life or that white happiness – not yet.

~ Mary Oliver, Long Life: Essays and Other Writings


Art: Oldsamovar (Art by Alexanderliech Kosnichev)

 

Sunday Morning: Shrinks back farther into the empty sleeve of the church

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Early in March,
in the shadow of the abandoned Assembly of God,
there’s a melting snowdrift shaped like a hand
whose five thin fingers reach
to soothe the grass on the neighboring lawn.
Each day this white hand shrinks back farther
into the empty sleeve of the church.

~ Ted Kooser, The Wheeling Year: A Poet’s Field Book 


Photograph: Ed Erglis (Minnesota)

 

TT*: We’re putting the band back together

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Notes: TT* = Throwback Thursday. Source: Chikita Banana

Great Question

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…the world did not have to be
beautiful to work.
But it is.
What does that mean?

~Mary Oliver, in an NPR Interview – A Thousand Mornings


Notes:

SMWI*: Blind Courage (And a whole lot of faith)


A remarkable true story of a blind hiker, Bill Irwin, and his 2100 mile journey of faith along the Appalachian Trail with his Seeing Eye dog Orient.

How do you know which way to go?
I don’t. I just follow him.
How does he know?
God leads the Dog. Dog leads me.


SMWI* = Saturday Morning Work-Out Inspiration

Flying. Over I-95 N.

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Friday, February 6, 2015.
3:00 a.m.

I’m startled by the alarm.
No, not startled, rattled. It’s rare that I need an alarm, at any start time.
I’m groggy and already working against a shot clock, at 3:00 am.

I shower.
The 6-inch rainwater showerhead is gushing. The water is ripping hot.  But I’m unfazed.
It’s Day 3 on the road. I’m averaging 5 hours of sleep a night. Ok, maybe 4. And its catching up.
Comatose Man. Wound tight. Coiled. Shoulders heavy.

Need to get home. My House. My Bed.

I stand in the shower, eyes closed, letting the water wash over my head, my neck, and my back.
Heavenly Shower.
The morning meditation is interrupted by the clock, my consciousness signaling a waiting cab in 20 minutes.

My original flight, a non-stop to LGA, was scheduled for 11 am.
This, of course, was unacceptable for Restless Man.
Man alone wants something to happen at all costs—something, anything.¹

I’m re-booked on a 1-stop via Miami, pulling up my departure to 5 am.
You should arrive at the airport no later than two hours before your flight.
That’s 3am.

I shave, wary about slicing open the thin skin on the left side of my chin.
10 minutes to Taxi.
I zip up my carry-on, and scan the room one last time. (Don’t leave any gadgets behind)
My hand’s on the door. You forgot something.
I drop my bag, walk back into the room, and set some bills on the counter next to her card. Hi. My name is Migue.
Miquela (Sp. translation) = Who is like God?

I’m off to the airport. [Read more…]

The whole show has been on fire from the word go

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“We bump against another mystery: the inrush of power and light, the canary that sings on the skull. Unless all ages and races of men have been deluded by the same mass hypnotist (who?), there seems to be such a thing as beauty, a grace wholly gratuitous. About five years ago I saw a mockingbird make a straight vertical descent from the roof gutter of a four-story building. It was an act as careless and spontaneous as the curl of a stem or the kindling of a star. The mockingbird took a single step into the air and dropped. His wings were still folded against his sides as though he were singing from a limb and not falling, accelerating thirty-two feet per second per second, through empty air. Just a breath before he would have been dashed to the ground, he unfurled his wings with exact, deliberate care, revealing the broad bars of white, spread his elegant, white-banded tail, and so floated onto the grass. I had just rounded a corner when his insouciant step caught my eye; there was no one else in sight. The fact of his free fall was like the old philosophical conundrum about the tree that falls in the forest. The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there…

We don’t know what’s going on here. If these tremendous events are random combinations of matter run amok, the yield of millions of monkeys at millions of typewriters, then what is it in us, hammered out of those same typewriters, that they ignite? We don’t know. Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the face of a leaf. [Read more…]

Come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. Really?

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I so was fascinated by this opinion piece in yesterday’s paper that I have shared all but a few sentences from the article by Eric Metaxas, Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God:

In 1966 Time magazine ran a cover story asking: Is God Dead? Many have accepted the cultural narrative that he’s obsolete—that as science progresses, there is less need for a “God” to explain the universe. Yet it turns out that the rumors of God’s death were premature. More amazing is that the relatively recent case for his existence comes from a surprising place—science itself.

Here’s the story: The same year Time featured the now-famous headline, the astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were two important criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star. Given the roughly octillion—1 followed by 24 zeros—planets in the universe, there should have been about septillion—1 followed by 21 zeros—planets capable of supporting life.

With such spectacular odds, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a large, expensive collection of private and publicly funded projects launched in the 1960s, was sure to turn up something soon…As of 2014, researches have discovered precisely bubkis—0 followed by nothing.

What happened? As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan supposed….Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.
[Read more…]

Pangs of searching & groping, the tortures of spiritual crises and exhausting treks of the soul – purify

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Was it a coincidence two days before Christmas? Maybe. Maybe not. In an excellent op-ed essay by David Brooks in yesterday’s morning paper and in “Calvary,” yesterday’s evening movie, the themes were conjoined. Doubt and Faith. I share some excerpts on both below.

David Brooks, NY Times, The Subtle Sensations of Faith:

With Hanukkah coming to an end, Christmas days away, and people taking time off work, we are in a season of quickened faith. When you watch people exercise that faith, whether lighting candles or attending Midnight Mass, the first thing you see is how surprising it is. You’d think faith would be a simple holding of belief, or a confidence in things unseen, but, in real life, faith is unpredictable and ever-changing…

Marx thought that religion was the opiate of the masses, but Soloveitchik argues that, on the contrary, this business of living out a faith is complex and arduous: “The pangs of searching and groping, the tortures of spiritual crises and exhausting treks of the soul purify and sanctify man, cleanse his thoughts, and purge them of the husks of superficiality and the dross of vulgarity. Out of these torments there emerges a new understanding of the world, a powerful spiritual enthusiasm that shakes the very foundations of man’s existence.”

Insecure believers sometimes cling to a rigid and simplistic faith. But confident believers are willing to face their dry spells, doubts, and evolution. Faith as practiced by such people is change. It is restless, growing. It’s not right and wrong that changes, but their spiritual state and their daily practice. As the longings grow richer, life does, too. As Wiman notes, “To be truly alive is to feel one’s ultimate existence within one’s daily existence.”

Xan Brooks, The Guardian, Calvary review – ‘a terrific black comedy that touches greatness‘: [Read more…]

Sunday Morning: The Pilgrimmage

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Bruce Feiler in The New Allure of Sacred Pilgrimages:

[…] (A) growing number of Americans (are) joining the worldwide boom in spiritual travel. This growth comes at a time when organized religion around the world is feeling threatened…Pilgrimage, meanwhile, is more popular than ever…the United Nations released a study finding that of every three tourists worldwide, one is a pilgrim, a total of 330 million people a year.

Last year I went on six of these pilgrimages to explore what this new phenomenon says about the future of faith. In addition to the trip to Lourdes, I bathed in the Ganges River along with 100 million people during the 55-day Kumbh Mela, trekked on a 700-mile Buddhist path in Japan, walked in the footsteps of prophets in Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem, and traveled with African-Americans to reclaim their roots in Nigeria. What I found is that pilgrimage is not merely ancillary to the modern spiritual existence. In an age of doubt and shifting beliefs, people are no longer willing to blindly accept the beliefs of their ancestors. They are insisting instead on choosing their own beliefs. A pilgrimage can be a central part of this effort.

…The most popular thing you hear in faith circles these days is, “I’m not religious — I’m spiritual.” Everyone is on a journey.

…It’s that feeling of taking control over one’s life that most affected the pilgrims I met. So much of religion as it’s been practiced for centuries has been largely passive. People receive a faith from their parents; they are herded into institutions they have no role in choosing; they spend much of their spiritual lives sitting inactively in buildings being lectured at from on high.

A pilgrimage reverses all of that. At its core, it’s a gesture of action. In a world in which more and more things are artificial and ephemeral, a sacred journey gives the pilgrim the chance to experience something both physical and real. And it provides seekers with an opportunity they may never have had: to confront their doubts and decide for themselves what they really believe.

As appealing as that destination may be, there’s only one way to achieve it. Get up off your sofa and go.

Read Bruce Feiler’s entire essay at The New Allure of Sacred Pilgrimages


Image Credit: Wayne Emde @ Pilgrimroads.com (shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage)