Good morning, Friends... Today is another opportunity to serve and excell in this glorious life, where everyday is an adventure, every meal a feast, and every sermon a veritable wealth of wisdom!
The ancient Celts (why do those guys in Boston persist in saying it with a soft C?) had a well developed sense of circularity. They realized that the seasons, the movement of the stars, the phases of life, and, in fact, Everything moved in a circular cycle. They saw that beginnings look a lot like endings, and realized that the chaos known as "the middle" was simply the ends trying to connect again. This regularity in life was, no doubt, a source of comfort for the tribes, as they decorated everything from the crowns of their kings to common household items with swirling knotwork, a graphical metaphor for the cycles of existence. At any given point in a large knotwork design, it can be difficult to see how it all connects, but the knowledge that there is an order within the complexity adds to its beauty.
Today, we often overlook this circular flow. We forget that even the most chaotic situation is moving toward a resolution that completes a circuit, like a lap around the track. We will never be exactly Here again, but eventually we'll be in a place that's quite similar, and that allows us to bear the misery of change with a modicum of grace.
Nowhere is this more true than in relationships. Our friends are on their complex circular trajectories, that intersect and sometimes collide with our own. The intertwined lines of our living trace an intricate pattern, forming a part of the cosmic knotwork. The twists and convolutions of our lives can and will cause pain to us, but we can take comfort in the knowledge that their complexities add to the beauty of this existence.
May you be blessed with good friends.
May you learn to be a good friend to yourself.
May you be able to journey to that place in your soul where
there is great love, warmth, feeling, and forgiveness.
May this change you.
May it transfigure that which is negative, distant, or cold in you.
May you be brought in to the real passion, kinship, and
affinity of belonging.
May you treasure your friends.
May you be good to them and may you be there for them;
may they bring you all the blessings, challenges, truth,
and light that you need for your journey.
May you never be isolated.
May you always be in the gentle nest of belonging with your anam cara.
- A Friendship Blessing, from John O'Donohue's Anam Cara, A Book of Celtic Wisdom
The pieces of my life are rattling against one another most uncomfortably these days. I try to make the disparate parts fit with each other, to put Tab A into Slot B, but ultimately, life seems to be a pile of random bits with no cohesion. I don't need a manual with step-by-step instruction, but an exploded view of the finished product would be nice.
When I first began to meditate, I used to think that someday I would have an enlightenment experience. It would hit me suddenly, with the white light, and the sense of unity, and the understanding, and all that rot. I would see how it all went together, and then I could feel at ease with the world.
Thus far, that has not happened. I am beginning to believe (hope) that my enlightenment is more like they describe it in Soto Zen; a gradual opening, like a cherry blossom. Gradually, I become aware of more connections each day, eventually leading to full understanding, right?
In the meantime, I argue horribly with my best friend, show up late for a test, stub my toe, yell obscenities at other drivers, fail to practice the precepts or walk the eight-fold path, accidentally step on the cat's tail, and generally feel sorry for myself. All of which is just plain weak.
Yes, enlightenment is a VERY gradual process. I do hope I live long enough.
We had calzones at Grand Avenue Pizza, her treat. I agreed to go because I enjoy her company, but my ulterior motive was to put some Buddhist books into her hands. She accepted them with that "but I'm not a Buddhist" look on her face...
The meal was done and we were laughing, the way we always do; making fun out of nothing. We were quite large just then, chuckling loudly enough to make the diners near us look and wonder what we were talking about. Then suddenly - quite suddenly, it seemed to me - she needed her inhaler very badly. Not badly enough to compromise her dignity, but badly enough to add a bit of haste to the movements of her hands as she prepared it. Three big hits as I took her home, and still not breathing well. Shakey legs, weak hands, racing heart rate, flushed face - and those were just my symptoms...
We were not so large once I got her up the stairs to her apartment. The cup of hot tea I placed in her hands, and her room mate hovering nearby made me feel somewhat better, but she was still in pain. She made a good attempt at being tough; I must have heard "I'm fine" about 30 times. I felt that I was in the way - after all, her roomie is an intelligent and trustworthy young woman, quite capable of handling an emergency should one arise - so I decided to leave. "She needs to rest," I told myself. "She will go to bed sooner if I stop making her laugh and just leave." Besides, what could I do for her?
I made my excuses, and began to stand up. She patted the couch next to herself and whispered, "don't go." Then she looked away, as though it had pained her to say it. She was quite small by this time; like a child, but wiser. It seemed she whispered so her room mate wouldn't hear her; maybe so I wouldn't even hear her. But she was to my right, near my good ear, so I heard. I sat and she leaned on my shoulder, and for the first time in a long while, I think, she rested more than just her body. Faced with her suffering, and how hard her simple request for solace had been, I felt very small indeed.
The Buddha discovered that illness and death are not the true enemies; it is the loathing of them - the wish that it could be otherwise - that makes us hurt inside and turn on one another to spread the suffering around. We are all very small.
See, see the chubby sky
Marvel at its big lime-green depths.
Tell me, Spanky, do you
Wonder why the echidna ignores you?
Why its foobly stare makes you feel sluggish?
I can tell you, it is worried by your felzac facial growth
that looks like scrambled eggs.
What's more, it knows
Your brass nipple potting shed smells of grapes.
Everything under the big chubby sky
Asks why, why do you even bother?
You only charm cabbages.
Courtesy of the Vogon Poetry Generator at BBC.co.uk
Good morning, Friends! For this, the first of my regular Sunday Sermons, we'll take it easy. Let's just start with the basics, okay?
Be kind to all living things.
Love one another. Use condoms when you do.
Occassionally, take time to look at the sky.
Talk to your animal companions.
Play games. Chess is good, but tic-tac-toe is fun too.
Cry when you need to.
Laugh as much as possible.
That's about it in a nutshell. Go in peace.
Her house was on a dead end street, but the developers prefer the term “cul de sac.” It was just before noon, and as we drove up the sun beat the house into a wavy mirage. Through my tearing eyes I saw a bland little ranch house, covered in pale green vinyl siding. The front yard held one dead sapling, failed due to the scorching heat and poor soil of western Nebraska, and a tricycle. The real estate agent babbled incessantly about the school district, the water quality, proximity to shopping, and the professional caliber of the neighbors. We parked in front and rang the bell.
The door was tugged open by a tow-headed four-year-old. He stood aside politely and a cheery female voice called for us to come inside.
The agent, a whirlwind of a woman, led the way, talking all the while. My wife, a sweet but spineless girl, followed meekly, having already succumbed to the sales technique known as "over-stimulation." I stepped inside last, and as I had been trained to do at the academy, I waited for my eyes to adjust.
The house within was all prairie. Not the prairie as biologists see it, teeming with life, but rather the prairie as seen by passing motorists. A vast plain of monotonous tan, waving past the windows in a blur. Even the tyke who answered the door had disappeared in it, though I could hear his black cowboy boots clomping on linoleum somewhere.
The owner of the voice was making standard womanly apologies regarding the state of the house, saying, “I just haven’t gotten to the vacuuming yet.” Vacuumed or not, it appeared clean enough for surgery. The sun shining through the dining room window created a dazzling glare on the glass tabletop, and the kitchen gleamed like a commercial for a cleaning product was secretly being shot there.
“This,” I thought, “this is how a house should be.” I was too consumed by the indoctrination given me by good men of military mindset to realize that this house was all wrong. What passes for clean in a family home would never do in a barracks, but I had just left the barracks, and so this arid space felt like home. I know much more transpired, but it is only relevant that we came to purchase the house. My wife liked the price, the oak trim, the ceiling fixtures, and the fenced backyard. I liked the sterility, and I loved the woman who made it.
She was of petite stature and vivacious demeanor. Her small body fairly glowed with energy, and standing next to her made one feel lazy. In the months that followed, she struck up a friendship with my wife - a most unlikely pairing. The hummingbird befriends the tortoise only under the rarest of conditions.
I had nothing in common with her husband – save for the sitting-induced health problems that both of our careers had in store for us - though couples activities were planned and executed by the ladies. The women did not realize that the state trooper is the natural predator of the long haul trucker, and that placing the two of us in close proximity would be like trying to raise mice and snakes in the same cage. They roamed the highways, cheating time, and we acted as time’s agents, making them give every little stretch of roadway its due. In the end, this “friendship” would prove to be the death of both our careers, as he is no longer a trucker, and I no longer hunt them.
It happened one day nearing Christmas. We had planned a shopping excursion to the local mall, to find gifts for our spouses. We took the overly expensive car her husband had grown hemorrhoids trying to afford for her. It was a shiny burgundy, purchased because it came near her hair color, and it sported a very impressive sound system, and plenty of snap under the hood. After shopping, she was a bit peckish and I can always eat, so lunch was the plan.
She always insisted that I drive. At the time I thought it was a cute throwback to her 1950’s style Nebraska upbringing, but I later came to realize that it was simply a way of insuring that anything that ever happened on the road couldn’t possibly be her fault, even if she had your cock in her mouth at the
time. Since I wished to impress her with my obscure cop knowledge, I insisted that we go to Arby’s for potato cakes.
Now there are four basic food groups recognized by law enforcement officers the world over: the caffeine group, comprised of coffees, teas, and pops; the tobacco group, including cigarettes and the various types of chew; the grilled patty group, which is infrequently expanded to include fried fish fillets; and, naturally, the fried pastry group, which also covers cookies. While fried potatoes are not one of these groups, they are seen as an important nutrient for cops, akin to vitamins, and I considered myself something of a fried potato expert. My vegetarian diet and my occupation had collided to create a useless database of which fast food joints had the best form of fried potatoes, be they crinkle cuts, wedges, or curlies. In my humble opinion, the Arby’s potato cake is the pinnacle of fried potato products, being the purest synergy of potato and fry vat possible.
As we sat in the drive through, I told her about the crunchy golden goodness of which we were about to partake. At some point in that conversation it occurred to me that she had ceased to listen. She was turned toward me, her face a caricature of comprehension, but in her eyes there was a waiting. I suddenly knew that an opening had just appeared. The breach hung there between us, waiting to be filled or to collapse under its own weight.
I leaned forward and pressed my lips to hers. Our sunglasses clashed together, and we both tilted our heads to try to clear them. I had been going for something polite – lips closed and slightly moistened – while she had been prepared for a more intimate kiss, and met me with her lips parted and wet. We both reacted quickly, and as she closed her lips to accommodate my lead, I parted mine to accept her invitation. In short, we looked rather like tropical fish sparring over a prime nesting site, but we managed to kiss.
I sat back in my seat, and smiled. Past lovers have said that it was that smile that got them into my bed. If I stand in front of a mirror for practice, and try to recall the moment that I heard her saying “yes” to my intimate proposal, I only see a wolfish gloat. It must look different to women; or perhaps the pressure of those moments wrings from me a truer smile.
Here I laid out the finest smile I could muster, filled with hints about the tantric techniques I had read up on and reeking of indecent promises. She drew in a shaky breath and licked her lips as if to speak.
“That’ll be four-thirty-six.” The voice came from the pick-up window behind me. We both smiled, and I dug the money out of my wallet.
We ate our potato cakes in relative silence. Relative, because there was plenty of conversation, just none that mattered. We each kept our own counsel on the path we had just started down, as though talking could damage it somehow. It later occurred to me that even though I felt no guilt or remorse, at that moment, for the first time in six and a half years of union, I had been unfaithful to the tortoise.
You may address me as "Reverend" now...
I was ordained this evening in a touching internet service. On hand to witness this solemn occassion was my roommate and her three cats. In a powerful proof that my ordination was, in fact, the will of the Almighty, the low ink in my printer cartridges held out long enough to print my Certificate of Ordination. I began my ministry this evening by lounging with three beautiful young women and another guy in a gay man's hot tub...
After two beautiful days, we are back to snow. It's just the little, dandruff flakes now, but the people who watch such things say more is on the way. Already it's pretty chilly out there, and the wind is gusting a bit.
Which brings me to my topic for today; the testes.
I wear a kilt everyday. Regardless of the temperature, I never resort to pants. I have even purchased some insulated gaiters so that I can tromp through knee-high snow, unencumbered and swinging free. Wearing a kilt on a windy, 6 degree day is a feeling with which most men are unfamiliar. Pity. The cold is a shock, and there is naturally a bit of shrinkage, but overall, the boys seem to like it. There is a sense that you are returning to nature, and a link with men of antiquity. The classic examples, William Wallace and Rob Roy MacGregor, wore no pants as they fought English tyranny. Moses wore no pants when he faced Pharoah with the whole, sticks to snakes and "Let my people go" schtick. Given these examples, how can I complain about a little cold?
Unfortunately, the majority of American men fear the unencumbered scrotum, behaving like old hens sitting on their clutch. Most testes are somnolent sheep, gently swinging to and fro in the artificial summer of restrictive undergarments, lazing about in a sweaty, sparsely-furred hammock. The real goat is the penis. He leads; they follow. He has a good time, getting all the attention (unless one has a particularly thorough lover), while they just get smacked into the buttocks over and over... I don't know why they don't speak up.
At any rate, my testes spoke up some time ago, and successfully fought for their freedom. They get to see the world now, or at least the parts of it that I step over. Sometimes, when the wind or curious females conspire, they get a glimpse of much more. Whenever the hem is lifted, I imagine them like furry, wrinkled bats, blinking in the sudden sunlight.
There will likely be snow on the ground this weekend. I think I will plan an outdoor activity. Maybe take some friends out to the kite field to fly the big parafoil. The worst that could happen is I get dragged by it in a big gust - and what's a little slush on your nuts compared to Freedom?
Once you discover a blog you like, the writer invariably takes a holiday from posting. Most irritating. Several days pass, like pages missing from a novel. Then a post apears that seems disjointed, as though some plot twist has occurred without you.
I am as guilty as they, as I certainly don't post daily. I feel some small justification though; my blog is new, and no one is addicted yet. Further, I feel that it is unlikely that anyone will become addicted to mine. Good drugs offer a regular high. Perhaps it is slightly different each time you use it, but it is still a recognizable buzz, even if this is the dose that kills you. I offer no such guarantee. I never know how it is going to go, how the high will be. You might just get a headache, like smoking ditch weed.
Hello? Oh, hi Mom.
No Mom, I'm not gay.
No, I'm not a transvestite.
Mom, it's a kilt...
Mom, we ARE Celts...
I don't really care what Mrs. Conklin thinks...
Mom, it's not a sin to wear...
Well, Father Tim is wrong.
Jesus didn't wear pants...
I'm not blaspheming anything...
But I didn't wear any underwear before this...
O.K., gotta' go Mom.
Mom, I gotta' go.
Love you too. Bye.
The purpose of all true martial arts is the perfection of the human spirit. As a component of the martial path, one must learn to look ahead, read the opponent's intentions, and plan accordingly. Chess trains these abilities and is a powerful tool for those who seek to fight the good fight for themselves, for others, and for their cause.
With this in mind, I set out to assist A. in learning more about chess. She had the basics; I was just asked to explain the why behind the moves. I taught a few openings, exchanges, forks, pins, etc. She learned the openings quickly, grasped the pinning well - yet when it came time to play, she lost interest around the end of midgame. Perhaps she was not interested because there was so much else to do this evening. Perhaps the lessons of chess are too abstract for this practical woman. Theory and activism don't seem to mix...
She is a mystery, this one. At times she is organized, powerful, demanding even. Then when the late hour or stress conspire, she drops into a defensive posture that seems at once spikey and vulnerable. The will to fight is there in abundance, but the skill, the calluses, the hours at the pell, are not yet. In her field, she will soon learn to deal the swift finishing blow - or she won't, and her career will be short. She sees all the warrior philosophizing as just an intellectual pursuit at this point. I hope some of it clicks into place for her before she needs it.
New friends. It is an odd time, that first few weeks of a new friendship. I have just started chatting and having coffee with these two, and already I feel a bond. No doubt an intense time lies ahead...
Correct Answer: "You swim across."
All the crocodiles are attending the Animal Meeting. This tests whether you learn quickly from your mistakes.
Return to Sermon
Correct Answer: "The Elephant."
The elephant is in the refrigerator. You just put him in there.
This tests your memory.
OK, even if you didn't do so hot on the first three questions, you still have one more chance to show your true abilities.
Back to Questions
Did you say, "Open the refrigerator, put in the elephant, and
close the refrigerator?" (Wrong Answer)
Correct Answer: "Open the refrigerator, take out the giraffe, put in the elephant, and close the door."
This tests your ability to think through the repercussions of your previous actions.
Back to Questions