Category Archives: religion
I wrote this post in December 2012. I’m re-posting it now, because some of us might have to re-consider our “cats.”
Are you trapped in your traditions? Do they serve you, or do you serve them?
I pondered this question after reading a Paulo Coelho blog piece about an ancient Japanese story, which I will paraphrase here:
A great Zen Buddhist master had a cat. The cat was his constant companion even during the meditation classes he led. When the old master passed away, another disciple took his place and continued to allow the cat to join in meditation. When the original cat died, the disciples missed its presence, so they found another.
Disciples from other regions heard about the cat who attended meditation classes, and spread the story around to others. These disciples believed that the cat was the reason for the greatness of the Zen Buddhist master. Other temples began to bring cats to class.
Eventually, writings began to appear about the importance of cats during meditation. A university professor studied the issue and wrote a thesis about the effects of cats on concentration and energy. Disciples began to believe that cats were essential to meditation.
Soon, an instructor who was allergic to cats decided to remove the animal from his daily classes. Other disciples were aghast and reacted negatively, believing the cat to be essential to their success. But his students made the same progress even without the cat.
Generations passed and, one by one, monasteries began removing cats from meditation. After all, it was a burden feeding all those cats. In fact, students began to study the benefits of meditating without animals. More time passed until “cat,” or “no cat” was no longer a matter of consideration. But it took many years for the full cycle, because “during all this time, no one asked why the cat was there.”
Christmas is one of the most tradition-bound times of the year. Christmas trees, shortbread, gifts, overspending on gifts, turkey, family gatherings, family fights, church services, candles, crèches, Santa, pageants, parties with too much rum eggnog, carols . . . These things have been part of our current version of the holidays for so long we have started to believe that Christmas is not Christmas without them. If we were to suggest not including them, people would react with aghast negativity.
Why are those “cats” in the room? Is feeding them becoming a burden?
Christmas means different things to different people. For me, it recalls the birth of a compassionate movement toward “all is one.” It recalls the birth of a man—an activist—who sought social justice and lived the idea that every person contains the divine spark.
As I meditate my way toward Christmas this year, whether I invite some of those “cats” to join me or not, the movement toward “all is one” by all of us divine sparks continues regardless.
It makes my shoulders rise and my teeth clench to I hear God-ness referred to as “he.” To me, there’s something misguided about that.
It’s not because I hate men or have suffered trauma at their hands; I haven’t. And I don’t have father issues; my father was what everyone would describe as a “good man.”
Describing God as “he” feels inadequate to me, off target. Dangerous even. It’s like referring to gravity as “he.”
To me, making God a “he” personifies something that cannot, and should not, be personified. It turns the Source, the Manifesting Force, the Creative Essence of our natural world into the Old Man in the Sky, and that causes all kinds of problems. The minute we personify God-ness we give a non-human force completely inappropriate human intentions.
The Old Man in the Sky can be blamed for things, thanked for things, asked for things.
We would not consider blaming gravity for an airplane that falls out of the sky, and we would not assume that gravity had evil intent. We would not thank gravity for holding our TV on the stand while we binge watch The Crown, and we would not assume it had done so as a special reward for our goodness. We would not ask gravity to alter its natural state to accommodate our favourite sports team and keep that home run ball from sailing over the fence.
Good things and bad things happen that involve gravity, but we don’t blame or thank gravity for those events. We simply accept. We don’t personify gravity, and so it goes about being gravity without everyone making judgments about it.
We can’t change gravity, but we have learned to work with it and to leverage it for our purposes. Accepting it and understanding it helps us to navigate through our world more effectively. We can choose to not believe in gravity, sure, but we’ll stick to the ground just the same.
Good things and bad things happen in our ever-creating world, and I believe we shouldn’t blame or thank God for those events. Simply accept. If we don’t personify God-ness, it can go about evolving and creating our world without everyone making judgments about it.
We can’t change God-ness, our creative source, but we can learn to align with the flow and leverage it for our purposes. By accepting it and understanding it we can navigate through our world more effectively. We can choose not to believe in God-ness, sure, but we were created, we will keep creating our whole lives, and we’ll create something else when we’re gone just the same.
If you ask me, an Old Man in the Sky has nothing to do with it.
On Sunday, many of us munched hot cross buns or searched for chocolate eggs while we pondered the mysteries of the day. Easter is a time for minds open to new possibilities. On the same day, scientists at CERN restarted the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and sent protons hurtling both directions around 27 kilometer-long parallel pipes while they pondered the mysteries of the day. Such an event is a time for minds open to new possibilities.
Physicists wait with impatient attentiveness to see what happens when the particles collide. They hope the LHC provides experimental evidence to support theories to explain some of our universe’s unknowns and puzzles. The Standard Model of particle physics—“the current best description there is of the subatomic world”— explains only about 5% of the universe.
People ponder the complexities of Easter with impatient attentiveness. We must rely on contradictory Bible stories as our best evidence, and they are unscientific and insufficient, at best. Do they explain even 5% of what Easter is all about?
I enjoy the association between the LHC and Easter. For minds open to new possibilities, they are hail fellows well-met.
The Standard Model
The Standard Model explains how the basic building blocks of matter interact, governed by four fundamental forces
It is a Good Friday to remember that sorrow is joy’s twin.
“On Joy and Sorrow” from The Prophet —Khalil Gibran
Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.