from Miranda’s blog, “My Brother Is Dead”

“I know, I know. I’m a depressed bitch. But I bring this up only to help. Because the thing I’m coming to realize, the thing that’s really amazing, is not that we all have our crosses to bear. It’s that we’re able to bear them. The world is so much more horrible than we ever could have guessed at age 5, 15, 25, but what makes us as humans so miraculous, so capable, so strong, is that we can handle the horror. We can deal with the very thing we’re terrified of. That which doesn’t kill us, we can live with. I’m not sure how, except that it has to do with evolution, religion, and anti-depressants.
“And hope. Our capacity for suffering may be outweighed only by our capacity to imagine what it’s like not to suffer.”

Go. Read the rest of it here.

Tao Te Ching 2..

When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad…

Therefore the Master
acts without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn’t possess,
acts but doesn’t expect.
When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.

To say that I love the Tao Te Ching, is to implicitly say that there is some other text or texts I do not love. Up is a part of down; left is fundamental to right; and good is vital to bad. The Tao gives rise to those individually perceived and sometimes agreed-upon definitions, but none of them define anything specific about the Tao. And I do intensely dislike reading stock market analyses and anything by Danielle Steele. The texts I love or don’t love are my texts to love or despise, and while you might agree or disagree with me about them, nothing about the Tao is affected by our discussion of them. My cultural, intellectual, emotional, and temporal preferences cannot be yours. They may be similar, but they will never be the same. We are each pregnant with an always-growing body of variables for such perfect agreement to ever happen.

That’s where a Great Teacher can make a difference. And each of us, even within our own particular set of recognized limitations, can be a Great Teacher to someone else. We can all be a Master, for a moment or many moments, in the life of another who is learning. Each person has the opportunity, many times in a lifetime, to affect the evolutionary flow of humankind in the universe, and to be agents of enlightenment for others along the way.

To wit:

Remember your favorite teachers. It might have an instructor at school, a parent, a friend, even someone- given the times in which we live- on television. Did those Great Teachers instruct you, or allow you to discover on your own? Did they you give you a point by point analysis and defense of their opinions, or did they tell parables and allow your mind to be shaped by your observations of the object under study? Don’t tell me your answer; I already know.

Great Teachers recognize the Tao; they understand something about God that enables them to trust their students in presence of the Source of All.  Great Teachers make introductions, then back out of the way so a true relationship between the student and that which is being studied, can begin. Great Teachers are bridge builders, never ditch diggers or constructors of barriers. They are not afraid of revelation, even when it differs from what they themselves might believe.

And Great Teachers don’t have to worry whether or not they have taught rightly or wrongly, correctly or mistakenly. The Tao itself has a certain remarkable, however unspecific or unpredictable way of bringing forth in a person exactly that which needs to be brought forth.

raindance

Master words..

Padre Pio, Exposed! (to carbolic acid?)

According to a new book- The Other Christ: Padre Pio and 19th Century Italy, by historian Sergio Luzzatto- the “most popular Saint” in Italy, and one of the most popular in the world, might have faked his famous piety. (reference: The Telegraph- UK)

Padre Pio stigmata

Padre Pio. (The man was bleeding as he served the Host!)

Throughout his life as a priest, beginning in 1911, Padre Pio exhibited stigmata, simulations of the wounds suffered by Jesus on his hands and feet. He died in 1968 and was elevated to the status Saint in 2002 by Pope John Paul II, who is now on his own fast track to Beatification.

Some stigmata are visible– wounds on the hands, feet, back, or rib area that can be seen and cause real suffering in those who manifest them, however they are manifested. Others have invisible stigmata; they suffer for no outward and visible reason(My reaction to the invisible kind: How convenient..!)

stigmatageorgio 

Visible Stigmata                                                                       Invisible Stigmata

It seems that documents have been discovered that were collected from a pharmacist acquaintance of the visibly stigmatisized Padre. Maria Di Vito, an admitted admirer of Pio, claimed that in 1919 she spent a month with him in San Giovanni Rotondo, where he asked her to secretly have a bottle of pure carbolic acid refilled. “For disinfecting syringes,” don’t you know.

This evidence, the caliber of which has thwarted less popular nominees on the road to Sainthood, was apparently dismissed by the Holy See (We saw nothing..), since the very popular Pio’s election was successful. 

Pietro Siffi, the president of the Catholic Anti-Defamation League, said: “We would like to remind Mr Luzzatto that according to Catholic doctrine, canonisation carries with it papal infallibility. We would like to suggest to Mr Luzzatto that he dedicates his energies to studying religion properly.” Thus, doctrinally speaking, “if a Pope says it, I believe it, and that’s that!” Proper religious study, apparently for Signor Siffi, means the unquestioning regurgitation of what already is- supposedly- known.

My argument here is not with Padre Pio- I know nothing about him, other than the fact that his stigmata, along with those of every other stigmati, appear in the wrong place, since Roman nails were almost certainly driven through the wrists, not the hands themselves. My argument is with the blind obedience to religious thought, which always emanates through some human with a political agenda in the guise of holiness. And humans, as most of us can attest from personal experience, screw up. Our human screw-ups, our motivations,even our outright, however well-intended lies should be able to be studied when they have historical import.

And my argument certainly is not with Catholicism, at least not in the sense that Siffi would be accusing author Luzzato of. My argument is with anyone who uses trickery to fool the masses in the perpetuation of THEIR take on Jesus, THEIR “truths” about God, and THEIR authority. If Padre Pio was shown to be a fake on the order of the very non-Catholic Peter Popoff, so be it! Why should any believer have their faith in God threatened by the exposed fakery of someone  who skillfully and manipulatively uses God-language  for their own ends? Take a look below at Popoff exposed by the Amazing Randi.

Siffi’s argument is the type of argument (or non-argument) engaged in (or not engaged in) by the new (unbelievable!) followers of Popoff, all the adherents of the fraud Benny Hinn, and those who believe Pat Robertson has special ‘words of knowledge’ just for them. It is the kind of specious argument which causes a multi-million dollar waste of money called The Creation Museum to be built in Kentucky, in the perpetuation of human doctrine over God’s truths. It is the kind of argument that causes factions to dig in their heels, even pick up weapons, in the defense of what some pope/preacher/imam or other ‘holy’ personage says is just so.

Anyone who must look at a man, in order to see God, is looking the wrong way. And I see no threat to God at all in telling them that.

 

Tao Te Ching 1

The Tao Te Ching is at least 2500 years old, and is the basis for Chinese Taoism and is the conceptual language initially used in Chinese Buddhism. The text is steeped in Mystery, which gives rise to frequent new translations. Several in the English language are here, here, and here. Originally written by Lao Tzu (“grand old master”), the Tao Te Ching can be seen, on one hand, as the response to economic, social, and spiritual conditions in China over two millennia ago. On the oter hand, the contemplative truths within the text provide a contemplative feast for those of all faith traditions who are seeking enlightenment, further knowledge, or a simple set of triggers to abstract thinking.

I read it as a follower of Jesus. And, I think, I am a better follower of his because of it. This translation is a recent one by Stephen Mitchell.

The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.
Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.

The Tao is the Way, the Path, the Journey itself..into that which is both mysterious and eternal. The Tao Te Ching enables the reader to begin to see the differences between that which is eternal and temporal, mundane and divine, real and not real. We are, according to the very first line, learning about something which if we can speak of it at all, is not the thing of which we speak.

It is Mystery. But it is Mystery we, if we’re honest, spend much of our time within. If we are unaware it is Mystery, we will flounder. If we know that it is Mystery- the Tao- through which we and everyone else are journeying, then it can be a revelatory, liberating, exciting and never-ending encounter.

Here’s a tiny part of what I know from the Tao Te Ching: What I call “God” is, by the very definitions of myself, “not God.” I am so limited in my ability to think about and explain God that, when I do, I am denigrating God by my words, no matter how extolling I might consider those words to be. My understandings of who God is represents (for instance) 1/1,000,000,000th of what God really is. If I tell you God is blue, I am unable to help you see that God is also chartreuse, magenta, gold, white, brown, and pink at the same time. And I am locking myself into a reality of God’s blueness.

It is imperative that I not stop at blue, or any other color, or any other attribute, in thinking about or describing God. That’s one “for instance.” Anything I can describe, or definitively name, is a particular thing, with measurable and predictable characteristics. That from which a particular thing arises, or is given form and substance by, is the Tao. It is not able to be described. It can only be talked around, in unfinished sentences, by groping for words that do not exist and definitions that are still unfound.

Go ahead, try to describe Love or Beauty or Justice. Take all the time you need- years if necessary. No matter what you describe, there will a five year old somewhere who will legitimately be able to ask, “What else is it?” And those three concepts are easier to describe than the Tao, because they have arisen from the Tao!

At this point, some might feel panicky about their impotency to capture or control the Tao. As soon as they release that panic (which is nothing more than their frustrated desire to hold onto and define the Tao), then they will have the opportunity to move further and deeper into it, where it becomes darker, and darker, even in the midst of the (en)light(enment) which has begun to fill their being.

Confused? Good! We’ve begun..

(There are 81 sections of the Tao Te Ching. Here is a flash forward to part of the last one, number 81:

True words aren’t eloquent;
eloquent words aren’t true.
Wise men don’t need to prove their point;
men who need to prove their point aren’t wise.

So, you might ask, why bother trying to learn about the Tao?

Good question!

Christmas will be on a Tuesday this year..

aluminum xmastree2

It’s always on the same day of the week as my birthday, which was two days ago, a Tuesday. I discovered that “same day” fact at some point in seventh or eighth grade study hall, after I had (no doubt) broken all available pencil leads drawing cartoons of various teachers, gone to the restroom several times, and finished reading whatever James Bond book was in my possession that day.

Be that as it may, and all that is to say, the Christmas spending orgy is about to commence. Jesus will, again, be honored best this year by pushing our Gross National Product through the retail roof! Walmart, Target, and L.L.Bean will again become the hallmarks of American holiness as millions prove their love for baby Jesus by spending, spending, spending themselves into a January nightmare.

But what are a few more 29.9% maxxxed out credit cards compared to the half hour of joy to be experienced by children of all ages as they tear through carefully wrapped gift packages before finally settling down to watch the Christmas Edition of “The Price is Right?” After all, isn’t that exactly what was set in motion by God in that Bethlehem stable 2000 years ago- the right to keep and bear arms full of plastic things molded in China and cloth things sewn in various parts of the Pacific and Caribbean rims?

I notice you can get a jump on Christmas tinsel-spending by jumping on the Halloween lighting bandwagon currently being driven into our collective consciousness by the Chinese-American Plastics Consortium (motto: “Americans Will Buy Anything We Tell Them To!”). There are more orange-colored lights hanging on doorways this year than last year and, barring natural disasters, there are probably less this year than there will be next year. By that time, the Halloween light trend-setters will be needing to replace their antiquated sets from 2006 and this great new niche in the Useless Stuff marketplace will have taken on a full life of its own!

halloween lightset

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and this year he’s wearing a wool/polyester blend with genuine baby seal trim from Abercombie and Fitch. And you can demonstrate your own holiday spirit this year with a matching outfit- only 495.oo! (hat, boots, and other accessories, extra) Self-indulge yourself this Christmas with 2007’s versions of gold, frankincense, and myrrh; you’ll be glad, for all of ten minutes, that you did!

Or….

logoLeafy3

Go to Kiva.org. Find a small business person somewhere in the third world and help them get the amazingly small loan they need to expand their business. Dream for him or her. Hope for their families. Then lend as little as 25 bucks to them in the name of someone on your Christmas list, instead of buying that someone a tie or bauble for their already too-heavy charm bracelet.

Baby Jesus will smile.

 

Prayer of St. Francis

Can we read, let alone pray this prayer, too often?

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.