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(via Der Spiegel)

Man, I gotta come up with a new category for this one. Did their moms rub their faces in the bottom of the parakeet cage when they were kids? I mean, what the hell….?

Along Cypress Creek, Spring, TX

Things fall apart; it’s scientific.
-David Byrne

Entropy. It’s not just a good idea. It’s the law.
-Newton

I’ve been ruminating on this essay from Big Questions Online which is subtitled “How does religious ritual preserve humanity from chaos and entropy?” The author’s position is that ritual (e.g. religious liturgy) allows us to create a holy space in order to “oppose the onrush of chaos in the name of life”. As if there is on the one hand, chaos, and on the other hand, life. And that this holy space that is created through ritual separates us from chaos for the sole purpose of, well, separating us from chaos and maintaining our uniqueness.

Rinse, spin and repeat.

The image above represents, for lack of a more technical term, a star factory, and it is located in the Milky Way galaxy, our galactic home field. One would be hard-pressed to find a more chaotic place in our little corner of the universe but out of this wildly violent and chaotic enterprise new stars are right now being formed, ignited and placed in the night sky for all of us humans to enjoy whilst lounging about on a grassy hill enjoying a Shakespeare play on a summer night.

So I am a bit perplexed by the author’s almost nihilistic perspective with regard to entropy writ large while ignoring the mind-boggling creativity that arises from local eddies in the cosmic stream like the star factory. If the purpose of sacred ritual is to “oppose the onrush of chaos in the name of life”, then are we to stand opposed to the forces and the processes that gave rise to our star factory? In doing so, would we not be in opposition to the forces of creation itself? And if through the processes originated in the star factory a planet eventually evolves that supports life, would we not have opposed (in the name of life) the very forces that gave rise to life? We are not apart from existence and we are not apart from the chaos and the creativity associated with it. We participate in existence as sentient beings and regardless of our spiritual beliefs or lack thereof, in some fashion we will continue to participate in it after we die even if it is only a matter of our ashes being mixed with earth and rain water.

Instead of being used as a method for disengagement, sacred ritual should prepare us to fully participate in existence. Who are we to attempt to untangle nature? For those inclined to theism I would ask, who are you to question the cosmology in which your divinity creates (or that your divinity created)? Sacred rituals should create a space for us as individuals and as a community but this space should not be a place for hiding nor should it serve as a simple shelter from the difficulties of life. And it certainly should not be a space in which we triumphantly revel in our uniqueness. Instead, sacred rituals call us to fully engage our lives by deflating our overblown egos, dismissing our unhealthy projections and bringing ourselves to a state of mindfulness. Here we restore balance, we recognize ourselves as part of the human community, we see our neighbor as ourselves and we open ourselves to and enable ourselves to participate in the power of creativity that lies within what we perceive as chaos. Here we move toward fullness of being. Liturgy is defined as “the work of the people”. This is our work and it may be the most important thing we do as humans.

So maybe it’s not the ritual acts of the Judeo-Christian world that are increasingly a mystery to modern man, as the author laments. Maybe it’s their underlying intent.


(via Kottke)

I found this video today and was just gobsmacked. Up until a few years ago, I got this. Though I am married and at the time had younger children, I got it. And as much as I was able to under the circumstances, I lived it. But I took my eye off the ball somewhere along the way and I forgot how to live a contemplative life. I became more interested in how the world perceived me and how my values and beliefs should fit into the overall scheme of things. In short, my ego inflated like a big ‘ol circus balloon.

This beautiful video is an invitation to regain balance and a call for metanoia.

You must be present to win.

That is all.

About a year and a half ago in rare flash of extroversion, I jumped into the world of facebook. Today I jumped out of that world. Without going into too much detail, after an initial period of contacting old acquaintances and exchanging a bit of small talk about family and careers, the entire thing just sunk into a bizarre voyeuristic experience. Bizarre in that the lion’s share of postings I saw were related to farmville, or mafia wars or billiard games. Frankly, it was too damn close to watching a bingo game at the old folk’s home for me. I’m not ready to go there yet. Or ever. So I played the nuclear option and deleted the account.

In retrospect, the facebook epoch was like a psychological springboard for me. Something I needed to do as a touchstone to a part of my past in order to shift gears and move forward. And now that’s done. So time to move on.

I still think of her as Helena Bonham Carter and me heart goes pitta-pat!

Debunking the Myth of Lady Jane Grey

Massage therapist: “You can’t relax, can you?”
Me: “Nope.”

There once was a time when I would have been a puddle of goo at that point in a massage, barely able to utter any response at all. Not this time. I was still pretty well amped.

So I go home, download a new yoga session – not realizing at the time that it focused on a core workout – and settle in for a bit of stretch and breathe. That ought to be relaxing, right? Well, yoga chick comes on and proceeds to kick my butt. Down dog, leg-up and back, then knee to the belly, leg back up, then knee to the elbow. Now the other side! OK, now down to plank. Over now and into boat pose! Legs down now and hold them two inches off the floor for five, four, three, two…….Damn!

Off goes the computer and I go straight into shavasana (also known as corpse pose), lying flat on my back with arms to the side. What can be more relaxing than that? Until listitis sets in. You know, listitis? The mental compiling of lists of things that have to be done a) now b) before Monday morning or c) sometime during the next work week. Topics are arranged like cards in a deck, traded about between various categories, prioritized and then, finalized. Oh, yeah, I think. I was supposed to be conscious of my breathing through all of that. Mental note to self: Next time, remember to breathe!

With lists completed I roll up the yoga mat and noticed my dog stretched out on the floor across the room, snoozing away. He gets the occasional scratch behind the ear, a stroll around the block, a couple of cups of dry kibble a day and he’s as happy as a clam. “What’s your secret?”, I ask. He responds with a big, heaving sigh, never opening his eyes. Now that dude knows how to relax.

So I’m walking toward North Beach from the Embarcadero on a Saturday evening, listening to Carole King and contemplating recent life events. San Francisco is one of my favorite places to visit and a brisk walk around this beautiful city is always good for the soul. Some people go to the countryside for reflection and there are times when that works for me but when big issues need to be hammered out in my mind, I head for the city. And so it was on this evening.

After a beer with a group of very colorful locals, dinner at Brandy Ho’s and an hour perusing City Lights Bookstore I headed for the wharf to look across the bay at night. The wind, the mist, the lights of the Bay Bridge and Oakland beyond evoked feelings of both awe and melancholy. I stood there for quite a while just taking it in. I stopped thinking, planning, organizing and scheming. It was a great moment and not one that can be planned. When my mind reengaged I turned to head for the train station. And I didn’t look back.

Last Saturday morning while motorcycling through Grimes county I rounded a curve and encountered a scene right out of a fantasy novel. Ahead on the left, standing at a wooden fence, was an enormous light gray horse. Now this horse was not massive like a Clydesdale but instead was proportioned more like a Thoroughbred. And it was at least 18 hands high. At first glance, I actually thought that it was a stone statue indicating the entrance to a horse farm but as I drove closer it tossed it’s head and began to run down the fence line. For a moment, I almost expected that animal to unfold a giant set of wings and take flight. My brother-in-law, who was riding along with me and was equally impressed, agreed that the scene could best be described as mythic. All that was missing were some hobbits running about in the field.

Here we are about to embark on our journey.

Mark_David_Motorcycle