Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

‘God is Not a Christian’ & other universals ~

I’ve written about this quote (his book‘s title) from Biship Tutu before. But in the mania ‘remembering’ the horrible nightmare that is the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, it’s good to hear.

Unlike some, I see nothing good that has come from 9/11. War, with its thousands and thousands of deaths? The acceptance of increased public racial profiling? TSA procedures that apparently aren’t even effective? A widened schism between cultures and religions? The so-called patriot laws…?  This is the legacy we’ve built following the amazing outpouring of international grief and support after 9/11?

My deepest grief is that my Muslim friends (& extended family) now walk through their lives with many of the same fears and day-to-day humiliations of other ‘non-white’ friends. A pervasive ‘you’re different, and that’s not good’ attitude that daily slams many of the people I love.

What  Bishop Tutu says is compelling: what kind of God wouldn’t recognise the divinity in Ghandi? In the Dalai Lama? In what world is the good done by a Muslim unequal to the good done by a  Christian? And yet — I have family members who believe I’m destined to spend eternity in hell, simply because of my rejection that belief in Jesus’s divinity is the only way to grace.

So this decade past the tragedy of 9/11 and its aftermath, I offer a humble spin on Bishop Tutu’s powerful words: God is more than Christian. As a friend of mine told me once, ‘all religions are just different ladders to the same God.’ That makes such good sense to me… Far more  than an after-life where you only get in if you know the secret handshake…

fear and procrastination ~

I have a presentation tomorrow. To a possibly large audience. Actually, we have no idea how many will be there. And here’s yet another confession: I haven’t really begun to write…

What is it with procrastination? I’m thinking it’s what Buddhists call delusion. I refuse to believe something unpleasant. I will choose to believe something pleasant. Like I didn’t say I would do this presentation to complete strangers on a topic they probably could care less about…

Once I was coerced into doing much the same thing — presenting on a topic I know a lot about, but that isn’t super popular. Journaling, to be honest :). And sure ’nuff — only 1 person showed up. We had a nice visit about journaling, and why I think it’s important for all writers, and most folks in general. I don’t anticipate a similarly happy ending to tomorrow’s event.

So here’s how my evening looks: find books I seem to have taken to the office. Re-read them. Whittle a four-day workshop into a 90 minutes, max, presentation. Go to bed. The last dependent on the first three, obviously…

Note to self: remember the whole Buddhist ‘face your fear and breathe through it’ teaching? Breathing as you procrastinate isn’t quite the same thing…

Labour Day, workers, and my grandmother ~

I love Labour Day. I love the history of it, the idea that we honour our working class roots. That we at least still pay lip service to those of us who work (hard) for a living.

This is about Labour Day. Or Labor Day, as those of us w/out a British spelling background spell it :). It’s about what (and who) built this country: regular people. NOT incredibly wealthy people. NOT  high rollers. But people fleeing persecution, people dreaming of bigger and better tomorrows. Workers and farmers and mothers and children and their back-breaking labour.  Slaves, who received nothing in return for theirs. Immigrants, who were (and still are) willing to do anything for a chance at a better life.

When I think of American history, I don’t think first of the upper class — CEOs who make 7- and 8-figure annual salaries. I don’t think positively of most of them, in fact. I studied the Depression, the Robber Barons. I know what happened in the Deep South to those who built plantation empires for others on the scarred backs of their free labour.

I’m also the daughter of a man and woman, neither of whom graduated from high school. Although both later received GEDs, and attended college. My father even received an Associate’s degree when he was in his 60s. And I’m the granddaughter and great-niece of two women who raised their children while working as cleaning ladies at banks, where the upper middle class had offices.

Like my grandmother, I’ve cleaned houses. The advanced degrees I now have don’t erase my memories of what it’s like to be asked to eat in the garage, or wash a floor w/ a toothbrush. You do it because it pays the rent. And really? I never expected to have to do that kind of back-breaking work forever. Any more than I expected to be a carpenter’s helper forever, although I learned how to chalk a slab, how to lay a tie plate. Continue Reading This Post »

holy fools ~

I used to practically sleep w/ my Tarot cards. Yup — one of those :). I actually taught Tarot for several years — along w/ several other arcane disciplines. But Tarot, beloved of Jung and several other honest-to-gosh scientists, has always been my favourite divination tool. Except I wouldn’t call it that — I’d call it accessing whatever it is inside the human heart that looks within.

The Fool — Le Mat, my first deck calls him — is one of my favourite cards. Part of the Major Arcana (the ones most folks think of when they think of Tarot), he is without number, without place, without guile. He carries over his shoulder all his possessions. And he is off on a journey — hero’s quest, or the Foolish Brother of the  fairy tales, or perhaps self-realisation. Any, all, none.

There are wise fools in most cultures, and almost all religious traditions. There are jesters at mediæval courts, foolish animals in various folk traditions, and comic Buddha dancers in the annual Chinese lion dance. They remind me that wisdom isn’t always apparent to the material culture we live in. Sometimes it even looks like craziness.

This past spring the Buddhist journal Tricycle ran an essay commemorating the passing of Mark Rogosin. The essay, 13 Ways of Looking at a Madman, by Clark Strand, details the life in Woodstock of a man who lived his Buddhist faith every day. Suffered through cold w/out heat; relinquished his material goods; served as all holy fools do ~ to remind us that the Way is very difficult, but anyone can start the journey.

I’m no fool, unfortunately. At least I think this some days. :) Rogosin’s kind of ‘holy innocence, Strand calls it, is beyond me. I like my coffee — unavailable locally, although I do buy from a seed-to-cup business downtown. I wanted to be able to help my sons go to college, because of what I believe knowledge can do to open you. So I have a job, and I tell myself that I try, in as many ways as possible, to incorporate ethical behaviour into my everyday life.

But when I read about someone like Rogosin, I feel more than a little shamefaced. I resolve, once again, to try harder. And perhaps that’s their most generous gift, our holy fools: the inspiration for each of us to remember how hard it is to live in true alignment w/ our varied faiths. Rest in peace, Mark Rogosin, and know that even in death you are still giving to others ~



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