Wednesday, August 5, 2015

letter to a cousin

I spent my morning energy writing the letter below to a cousin. It may not be coherent, but it is what I seemed to have for the morning:

Bea -- I have a hunch that the same-sex discord in your church, while perhaps sharper than others, is about par for the organized-religion course. On the one hand there is an implied or expressed open-heartedness -- a wide and wonderful everything-ness -- that draws adherents towards religion. On the other hand -- or perhaps together with it -- there is a recognition that spiritual endeavor requires discipline and discipline means doing what anyone might prefer not to do. Without discipline, spiritual exercises remain frothy doo-dads ... cozy and warm, but thin as cotton-candy and essentially self-referential. Is either of these positions or religious lenses perfectly correct or perfectly incorrect? I doubt it, but others may not. As far as I can see, individuals are forced, to the extent they want to plumb important realms, to make up their own minds, fish in their own ponds and stop relying on others ... a thing that is pretty hard to do: Let's face it, social support is important both in human and 'religious' terms: How the hell is anyone supposed to stand alone with a group? Is this a blessing or a curse ... but ... what other choice is there? Sometimes I think the Quakers were onto something ... at least they take the trouble to shut up.

I purely love the "Thought Moments" video for exactly the reason you point out. It makes me wonder at my own assured constructs of what is beautiful, loveable or whatever. In the realm of assumption, I just know these things. But when asked point blank about them, I falter and squirm and doubt. It may be unpleasant, but squirming has the virtue of  being honest: Where are the hand-holds when the hand-holds dissolve?

I saw a TV documentary (or anyway that's what I half-remember... I suspect it was this program) about
Atul Gawande.
I haven't read his book. I remember him as an attractive guy doing what I think of as important work ... pulling back a carefully-constructed curtain around the practicalities and factualities of death and dying. It's not as if he were 'right' in some sense ... it was just that he opened a door for others to walk through: That's a kindness from where I sit. But the Buddha wasn't whistling Dixie when he observed, "All fear dying; all fear death" so it is understandable if Gawande's matrix and outlook would scare people... me too, perhaps ... no one's exempt from being scared, no matter how many fairy tales are told.

I remember in my Zen travels when I stumbled accidentally across the bone-deep appreciation: Death is part of life. It smacked me upside of the head. This was nothing fancy. It was simply true. No need to ask anyone else: Look around at the roses and milkweed and oak trees and beloved kin. And since it is true, it is clear that fearing death is fearing life, though those who fear death sometimes create symphonies to the wondrousness and beauty and blessing of life. Praise-mongers are a dime a dozen. It's a small and very human hypocrisy (a thought moment perhaps?), but hypocrisies have a way of nagging and nattering and taking the shine off the realms of an imagined heaven. I'm not quite sure what I'd do with "77 virgins," but I can imagine desiring such an afterlife scenario. It may be easy to praise the blessings, but addressing the 'curses' is part of any real-life agenda that seeks peace ... and each (wo)man does so on his/her own terms. What a pisscutter. On the other hand, what other choice is there? How much self-imposed bullshit can anyone swallow? Belief implies doubt and doubt is not very peaceful.

Oh well, it's early in the day and it's my time to prattle. I hope you are well and not too discomforted by the recent hot weather. The older I get the hotter 'it' gets and humidity is a hands-down victor in my life. Bleah!

Best always,


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