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So I romp through the summer months with a beer in one hand and barbeque utensils in the other, not a care in the world. I step on a scale in early October and..um…well… (que the music from Psycho here) the results confirm that the SkepticalWalrus is beginning to live up to the latter part of his blog name.

Always fond of vegetables anyway, I decided to make a run at the vegan way and see if I could gain a bit of wisdom from a world that is widely viewed as crunchy, earnest, humorless and in many varied ways, off-putting. Three weeks on now and I happily report that though I have not lost much weight, I feel very good with a noticable increase in energy level.

Much can be done with this way of gnoshing that is not widely reported on recipe website. The trick is not to approach this path as a form of asceticism. Fresh produce and whole grains make for some darned good eats, especially when approached with creativity and imagination.

Combine it all with a renewed yoga practice and it’s enough to get yer woo going.

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The SkepticalWalrus takes a deep breath and heads back to yoga class this evening. Namaste.

Update: The title of this post should be Sweat. 75 minutes of Vinyasa and I was sweating like the proverbial pig. Great yoga at a fine new studio in the neighborhood. I’m going to give several other styles a try this month and see if I can get back into a groove.

Update 2: Last night was Into to Ashtanga and while not quite as taxing as the previous evening Vinyasa, it still produced a lot of heat.

With clear skies, cool temperatures and low humidity, Friday was not a day to be wasted on work. For those of you not familiar with Houston weather, when this happens in October it can create something close to a religious experience for the locals. Probably has something to do with more oxygen and less ozone and smog in the air. At any rate, I celebrated the occasion by spending the morning drinking coffee and reading at Boheme and then heading over to the MFA Houston to view the German impressionist landscape paintings by Liebermann, Corinth and Slevogt.

Inspired by these works, I returned home in the late afternoon to engage the light and landscaping of my backyard with the camera.

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.