Archive for February, 2010

Pilgrimage Statistics

Days Riding: 139                            Consecutive Days Blogging: 121

Today’s Mileage: 10                                          Total Trip Mileage: 978

Sacred Colors!

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, today we have the opportunity to wish our Hindu friends a happy Holi Day!  This holiday is celebrated in India and around the world wherever ex-patriots from India have gathered.  It is best known to the non-Hindu world for rituals which involve the throwing of a colored powders or the squirting of colored water on the various celebrants like a giant water and/or powder fight.  I heard about a Holi gathering at Stanford University which started with only a few dozen participants several years ago and has now swollen into thousands of celebrants, many of them non-Hindus who wish to join in the festivities.

A Joyful Mess!

The origins of the holiday speak directly to some of Hinduism’s sacred stories.  The Holi Holiday story starts by noting that the King of the Demons had been granted the gift of apparent immortality.  For it was said to be impossible to kill him: “during day or night, inside or outside his house, not on earth or in sky, and neither by a man or animal.” Consequently the Demon King grew arrogant and attacked the heavens and the earth and demanded that people stop worshiping the Gods and start worshiping him.  The story goes that his own son, Prahlada , was a devote of the Lord Vishnu and in spite of several threats, and attempts by his father to have him killed, continued to resist his father’s orders.  Finally the Demon King ordered Prahlada to sit on a fire pyre in the lap of his sister Holika.  His sister could not die by fire because she possessed a shawl which would prevent fire from affecting her. The son followed his father’s orders and prayed to Vishnu to keep him safe.  When the fire started everyone watched in amazement as the shawl flew off of Holika and covered Prahlada.  Holika then burned to death while Prahlada survived unharmed.  The burning/destruction of Holika is commemorated with this festival.  The story goes on to note that Lord Vishnu later came to earth in the form of a Narasimna (half human and half lion being) and killed the Demon King at dusk (which was neither day or night, on the steps of his house (which was neither inside the house or outside) by restraining the demon king on his lap (which is neither in the sky nor on the earth).

So we have a holiday that: celebrates the death of a demoness and the eventual defeat of the Demon King;   glorifies the Lord Vishnu; and serves as an example of a devoted follower who because of his faith was saved from death.  The rituals of the of holiday appear to vary somewhat but typically involve food preparations that began days in advance as various kinds of snack items are typically served to the festivals guests, the night before a bonfire (the Holi Fire) is lit which is said to represent the burning of evil.  It was noted that in the United Kingdom coconuts are often thrown into the fire and then pulled out and broken open.  The burnt husks are said to represent the demoness who died in the fire the white inside represents faithful Prahlada who was alive and unaffected.

I noted in a discussion with a friend that I am struck by the wide variations in sacred stories and rituals within a month we will have major festivals in three of the world’s religions.  These holidays commemorate the destruction of evil, the birth of a prophet, and the death and the rebirth of a Savior.  Clearly the substance and form of these celebrations vary considerably, however, from a functional standpoint they meet many of the very same needs. They bring together the respective communities with rituals involving food, joy and laughter.  These festivals grant the celebrants a sense of purpose, of guidance and a connection with the divine.

Some people might say that a story with a Demon King and a half human God, and rituals involving colored powders sounds strange and unbelievable.  However I would caution these people in their statements of disbelief, that for many people in the world would find it odd to have children running about the spring grass collecting colored eggs deposited by a rabbit, or enacting the tortuous death and resurrection of a savior God.  

I would like to comment on an incident that points to a need for caution when we look at other faith belief systems.  I was visiting a national bookstore chain and I came across a display of books produced by the bookstore chain entitled “Mythology of the World.”  There were dozens of volumes including everything from Babylonian, Australian Aborigines, Native Americans, Greeks, Buddhists, to Hindu.  After studying the selection I was puzzled and asked myself: “Where is the Jewish and Christian mythology?” Where is the volume that talks about: parting the Red Sea, burning bushes, loaves and fishes, a God rising from the dead.  I shook my head, disappointed by the book chain’s apparent slight to so many of the world faiths. To call their faith beliefs Myths and not sacred stories is an affront to these believers.  These stories are based on faith and passed down through word-of-mouth and sacred scripture, no different from the stories of the Judo-Christian traditions.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 138                            Consecutive Days Blogging: 120

Today’s Mileage: 10                                             Total Trip Mileage: 968

Tarot Card "The Universe"

When I started this pilgrimage journey I expected that I would experience a fair degree of diversity as part of my journey. Yesterday we celebrated an important holiday for most Muslims commemorating the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday.  Tomorrow we will talk about a significant holiday for the Hindu faith but sandwiched between these holidays we are going to visit a pilgrimage site representing a spiritual movement which four a time had gained prominence and notoriety in Western societies.

We are visiting the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp, located 30 miles Northeast of Orlando.  The camp makes up a small town by the same name.  The history of the camp highlights many of the most important features of Spiritualist beliefs.   It was the brainchild of George Colby a young man from New York who was told during a séance that he would someday be instrumental in founding a spiritualist community in South.  Reported in 1875 Colby was led through the wilderness of Central Florida by his “spirit guide” Seneca to an area with a lake and surround hills.  He homesteaded the land and in 1890 deeded it to the newly incorporated Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp Meeting Association.   Colby was reported to have TB; however, a small spring located on his homestead provided the elixir that healed him.  Years later the county purchased additional acreage of the adjoining property with the goal of preserving sensitive environmental species and the historical significance of the area.

The Temple

The Cassadaga spiritualist community was formally established in 1894 as a community of residents who   “have chosen to share the community with like-minded people.”  A significant number of the camp’s residents are mediums who offer counseling from their homes.  The camp includes a temple, a healing center, a museum and various stores.  The town was added to the National Registry of Historical Places in 1991, and the camp meeting Association is the oldest active Spiritualist religious community in southeastern United States.  The camps webpage notes:  “Spiritualism has experienced a resent resurgence of interest with the recent new age movement and has attracted many people who are searching for better way of life and wish to empower themselves and take responsibility for their life.  Spiritualism holds something for everyone no matter what their religion or where they are on their spiritual path, the camp welcomes not only believers but the curious and the skeptical as well.”

The healing center

Prior to riding today I spent some time reading up on spiritualism.  It appears that the movement began in the middle 1800s when the Fox sisters reported being in contact with an entity that explained mysterious night time noises.  This spurred an interest in the idea of “mediumship” or contact with spirits.  The movement saw considerable growth in the late 1800s but spawned a great deal of skepticism within the scientific community.  Spiritualism was describes as having a main focus on promoting an individual’s personal experience with God, it recognizes all prophets that come to mankind throughout the ages, it is based upon the idea that we are all to form our own relationship with God to obtain guidance, also individual must accept responsibility for our actions.  Spiritualism believes in the survival of our personality after death in a spiritual form this provides the basis for mediumship.  Spiritualism believes that the nature of humankind is to be good not evil, they do not believe in sin and repentance only spiritual progression by natural law.

Spiritualists believe that our purpose for being here is to evolve spiritually and then use that to be of service to others as we continue to evolve.   Spiritualist also believe in what they call the expression of spirit which represents different ways in which people connect with the spiritual realm like different abilities that people have, these include:  the ideas of automatic writing, card reading (such as tarot cards) healing, séances (connection with a spirits and perhaps ancestors), spirit art (artwork either created by a spirit or with directions provided by the spirit) prosthetic dreams, and trance-mediumship (where a spirit takes over the person such as in channeling).

Sunrise at Spirit Pond!

Spiritualism seemed to have waned with the advent of science and the apparent fraudulent practices of some charlatans who wrap themselves in spiritualist clothing.  However recently there’s been a renewed interest in spiritualist practices and ideas in what is now called “New Age” spirituality.  I have several friends who follow many of the tenets of Spiritualism, they are happy adjusted loving parents, friends and citizens.  I will leave you with a Spiritualist prayer for healing:

      I ask the Great Unseen Healing Force

     To help both present and absent ones

     Who are in need of help

     And to restore them to perfect health.

     I put my trust

     In the love and power of God.

 Tomorrow we celebrate a joyful and colorful Hindu holiday… see you then!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 137                            Consecutive Days Blogging: 119

Today’s Mileage: 5                                             Total Trip Mileage: 958

I just finished riding the bike and I have to admit that I am not feeling 100% tonight.  As such I am going to make today’s posting brief.  It just so happens that today is an important Religious Holiday in the Islamic world. 

Mawlid is a celebration of the Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday.  The holiday is celebrated in most Muslim countries in a carnival manner, with large street processions, children receiving special gifts and sweets and the decoration of homes and mosques.  Charity and food is distributed, and stories about the life of Mohammed are narrated with recitation of poetry by children.

Mawlid is celebrated in a number of non-Muslim countries where sizable numbers of Islamic followers are present.  India is noted for its extensive celebration which includes the  display of relics at various shrines.  Saudi Arabia is the only Muslim country where Mawlid is not an official public holiday.

The Prophet

To give you a sense of what the festivities can include one site gave the following description: “The Holiday is usually celebrated in a festival with strength contests, card and shooting games, clown and puppet shows- it ends up looking like the circus came to town. Whether you prefer to ride the swings, arm wrestle or try to find the queen of spades, don’t forget AROUSET El MOULID (The Mawlid’s Doll) and the candy horse, more popular among boys than girls. The experience would be incomplete without the doll-shaped candy and a box of sweets like FOULEYA, which is sweetened and caramelized peanuts, and MALBAN, a jelly like candy covered with powdered sugar, and sometimes stuffed with walnuts.” 

This description of dolls, horses and sweet treats reminds me of the major festivals of many other faiths.

This celebration is not without some controversy.  It was noted on several sites that Islamic scholars are divided on whether observing Mawlid is necessary or even permissible in Islam. Some see it as a praiseworthy event and positive development while others say it is an improper innovation and forbid its celebration.

In recent years there has been some efforts made by Muslim’s in western countries to have the Holiday receive official recognition, most notably in the United Kingdom.  They argue that such recognition would afford the Muslim community an opportunity to better educate the population about their faith. These efforts have largely been met with resistance.

Sacred Words!

This question of designating religious holy days as official state holidays has the potential of being divisive within communities and nations.  Many people will remark that only the holidays of the “predominate faith” should be so honored.  But what defines this distinction, a simple majority? 

I remember having a conversation several years ago with a Buddhist nun from Sri Lanka who said that Christians were creating conflict in some part of the country by demanding that Sunday be made a non-work day, as it is in the Christian nations of the west.  It’s easy to see how this could add to animosity between the faiths rather than build bridges between them.

Let us honor our Muslim friends and fellow community members by wishing them a happy and festive Mawlid celebration as we pray they will honor us on our faith’s celebrations.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 136                             Consecutive Days Blogging: 118

Today’s Mileage: 5                                             Total Trip Mileage: 953

It does not have to be!

I ride the bike this evening not only to advance my progress on my pilgrimage journey, but to also release some frustration from an incidence that occurred earlier today.  I started my day by reading a news story about President Obama’s Health Care meeting with congressional Republicans.  So when I saw one of my colleague’s open door I decided to greet him and ask for his opinion on the impending meeting.  This colleague is not a member of the psychology faculty but in another discipline.  We stand on opposite poles with respect to our view on politics and religion. I have learned from past experience to temper my expectations, choose my opportunities to speak with him with deliberation and forethought.  I hoped we might agree on the significance of the gathering.

 I stopped in his doorway, greeted him and ask him what he thought of today’s upcoming healthcare event. In hindsight I have to say: “I know what I was doing, but what in the world was I thinking?”  For no sooner did I raise the topic then he made this statement: “All Obama is going to do is deny the real issues.”  I was puzzled and asked him what he meant.   He then commented: “Rep. Wilson was right in calling Obama a liar!”

Talk or Listen!

At that moment I did something unusual for me!  I pride myself on my control, on my ability to listen and remain calm while formulating a measured response.  This reaction is a product of years of training as a therapist.  It’s also part of my beliefs about the importance of listening and finding common ground. 

What did I do?  I raised my arm as if to implore him to cease, I shook my head and I said: “I just I cannot talk with you when you make such statements!  When you forget how Democrats were treated when the Republicans had control.”  He smiled snidely and stated: “What goes around comes around!”  I turned and walked away as he repeated that statement at least two more times.  Spitting it out like it was a statement of revenge. His words followed me down the hallway.

 As I said, this was uncharacteristic for me.  I typically try to find common ground, try to be reasonable and listen to his positions.  However, this is a man with a PhD who listens to Fox News and Limbaugh, O’Reilly and Beck.  Perhaps it’s not possible to find common ground, as President Obama apparently discovered today.  It takes two individuals, or two parties to make compromise work.  If one side refuses to play, or keeps raising the target bar, or uses only their facts, the process of compromise is doomed to failure.

I know there are well-meaning conservatives who care about the impact, the human cost, of their programs and policies.  But there are others who hold to their ideals at all costs, who believe the ends justify the means (costs).  It seems that for some of these individuals, the failure of the President’s policies is worth the continued suffering of segments of our society.   In my blog I often address the dangers of dichotomous thinking, (us vs. them).   It’s easy to talk about this topic in a calm and rational manner when it concerns an article in the paper, or a statement made by some minister or national leader. 

It’s more personal and hits home when it’s someone only a few doors down the hall, when it’s someone who bears a PhD behind their name and yet seems to exist in a world apart from you.  I can turn off the TV, close the newspaper, but I can’t close my door and hide in my office!

I ride the bike and let the frustration slip away. I’ve written a blog filled with more frustration and sadness that I than I intended.  But I suspect I’m not alone in my experience of frustration on the same day that President Obama sat down with the Republicans and made no progress in finding common ground.  This struggle between dichotomous thinking and inclusionary thoughts takes place at all kinds of levels, within individuals, within the department’s and businesses, within the leadership of our nation. Let’s pray for all of them, let’s pray that our leaders can find a way through this challenge.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 135                             Consecutive Days Blogging: 117

Today’s Mileage:  5                                             Total Trip Mileage: 948

How does it relate?

It has been a busy day here at the University.  I taught three classes, finished a letter to my son who is in Army boot camp, and delivered copies of my Mandala research proposal to the Art faculty.  I settled down to write my blog for today and decided to take a walk and share my thoughts with you.  My thoughts dwelled on the nature scene surrounding me on this chilly winter day.  My words formed a series of poems.  Here they are for your enjoyment:


Sheets o f heavy gray clouds

Darken near the horizon

The ground and pavement

Bears the residue of an earlier rain

The winter air absorbs my breath

Adding to the chilly haze

Trees and bushes shiver in a gentle breeze

Bare of any protective foliage

 But there are signs of what is to come

With lengthening days and heightened sunlight


 Robins seeking worms

At the edge of water puddles

 A chorus of bird calls

Fill the treetops circling overhead

 Poking up through a mat of fallen leaves

Bright green blades of the daffodils

And the surest sign of all

A pair of trees sheltered between two buildings

Wrapped with rows of soft red buds

and precious pink blossoms


Some fast enough to see

Others slow enough to sense

Joyful welcome to a new season!


Costs and Joys

 My nose

And ears

Grow faintly numb

My lungs

Rejoice with each

Fresh chilled breath

The colors will return!


 Near the end of the walk

The bird chorus builds

To a roar

As if they call out in joy

At the sight of the sun

The sun – the sun

Breaking through the gray

Break Through!


 Always With the Questions

 Are all squirrels hyperactive?

Or have they found

    some secret caffeine source?

Or does this squirrel really believe

    I’d want his soggy nut?


 Towards the end of my walk I heard the sounds of someone approaching from the rear.  It was an old colleague long ago retired on his brisk daily walk.  I joined him for a short distance exchanging pleasantries and news.  He continued on following the parameter of the campus, I turned toward the looming brick structures, toward my office and a letter and a blog.  Sometimes friendships are like memories, diminished to a faint glow, residue of an earlier time!

Have a wonderful day I hope you too are visited by images of Spring and words that jigsaw into poems!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 134                             Consecutive Days Blogging: 116

Today’s Mileage:  5                                             Total Trip Mileage: 943

Ideals at what costs?

Yesterday I blogged about the Canaveral National Seashore and then did an abrupt shift to talk about the faculty recital that I had just witnessed.  Clearly we can spend time analyzing the meaning of things, like nature, and their significance in an intellectual way.  We can also “be in the moment,” turning off our analyze functions and just experiencing the music and lyrics.  I’m reminded that the importance of nature is not in what it stands for, as much as it is in the experience it provides to us.  It can be a unifying and transcending experience that I believe is available to us if we open ourselves up to it and listen.

Hoping for a different outcome!

I wasn’t sure what I was going to blog on today as we continue to ride up the coast.  Tomorrow we will turn west to catch an important pilgrimage site before we turn toward Jacksonville and St. Augustine.  I started the day drinking my coffee and reading the newspaper.  I had to chuckle at a cartoon which showed two people living in a cave when the man says to the women: “if you keep harping on the $#@! Results, you’ll NEVER be able to see what a perfectly sound economic theory it was!”  I have had similar discussions with individuals about political theory, theological theory, and psychology theory.  It is important to have a theory to guide our decisions.  However theories must be tested with the “data” and adjusted accordingly.

Years ago I had a colleague who spent twenty years researching a particular area of study.  He had published books on the topic and was a nationally recognized expert.  Then after a series of new discoveries, made by other researchers, it became obvious that his theory no longer explained the data, and that a new competing theory was better.  Like a good scientist he published a statement acknowledging the validity of a new theory.  It takes a strong and secure person to admit that their ideas are no longer supported.  Only then can a person truly move on and make good decisions, otherwise you are just doing the same thing and hoping for a different outcome.

As I drove to the university I heard a piece on the radio news announcing a proposed law in my state.   The topic is a hot button issue for many people and occurs against the larger backdrop of stories about people sufferings (e.g., Haiti, unemployment).  Politicians in Washington struggle with how to deal with so many people out of work, so many people running out of unemployment, so many people losing their homes, so much suffering!  With this backdrop of human suffering what I see is a need for compassionate responses.  A need for decisions that actually take into account those who are suffering!

In the mean time, a state legislator from my state has proposed that coverage for any abortion, for any reason be dropped from all state health plans.  If this proposal becomes law my state will turn to a young woman, a victim of rape carrying a pregnancy she did not want and tell her, sorry there’s nothing we can do!  My state will turn to a young woman a victim of the most hideous breach of trust, a victim of incest, who is carrying an unwanted pregnancy and say to her, sorry there’s nothing we can do!  My state will turn to a woman in danger of losing her life because of a threatening pregnancy and say to her, her husband and family, sorry there’s nothing we can do!

Ideals for all of us!

Why can’t we do the obvious and offer them the option of terminating the pregnancy of resuming a somewhat normal life or saving their life?  We can’t because we are striving for an ideal, an ideal world in which there are no abortions.  If we create such a law are we really moving closer to this ideal world?  Will there be less rape, less incest, fewer unwanted pregnancy, fewer pregnancy related deaths.  Is this ideal world a place without compassion, where the only concern is for the “pregnancy” whether wanted or not?  Ideals are important, ideals are benchmarks we can work toward, and ideals help us redouble our efforts toward our goal.  However, an approach that champions “ideals at all costs” ignores the cost of their positions, ignores the victims and becomes another variation of “ends justify the means.”

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 133                             Consecutive Days Blogging: 115

Today’s Mileage:  10                                             Total Trip Mileage: 938

On a sand pilgrimage!

 I am writing today’s blog as I sit in the lobby of the Carroll McDaniel Petrie School of Music.  My partner Susan is giving a faculty recital in a short time and I figured I might as well do something useful and stay out of the way.

Today we are going to ride through the Canaveral National Seashore just up the coast from the Kennedy Space Center.  I have included it on my list of Pilgrimage and Retreat sites as a Nature Site and a Historical Site.   A Nature Site is described as a location where nature’s beauty may leads to an experience of wonder and awe and a sense of connectedness with that which is greater than us all, the divine.  I reserve this distinction for locations like National Parks. 

Situated on a barrier island the Canaveral National Seashore features 24 miles of pristine, undeveloped beach and dunes.  The Atlantic Ocean pounds the eastern shore, while to the west is Mosquito Lagoon.  The Site includes historical buildings and a Historical Interpretive Park highlighting the history of the local Native Americans and the early encounters among the natives and European explorers.  In addition to the beautiful beach and stunning sunrises the area is home to abundant wildlife. 

Sacred Sands!

The title for today’s blog was taken from an article by Lynn Ross-Bryant in the Journal Religion and American Culture. The author makes the argument that the U.S. National Parks have played a central role in the unifying discourse of America since their inception after the Civil War.  She argues that the parks were able to serve this role because of the close alliance between nature and nation.  Nature “set apart” in the parks becomes the embodiment of an archetypal America, which was the ever-pristine source of greatness of the nation and people.  As such she argues that the parks serve as a sacred site and a unifying symbol of US culture.  She believes that by approaching the parks as pilgrimage sites, you can examine the American values that are embodied in them.

**** Time for the recital to begin****

I now sit in reflection, memories of sweet notes swirl about me like embers dancing about a blazing fire. As I listened to Susan sing I was particularly drawn to the words of one song entitled: Sweet Chance That Lead My Steps Abroad.  They read:

Sweet chance that lead my steps abroad

beyond the town where wild flowers grow.

A rainbow and a cuckoo,

Lord, how rich and great the times are now!

Know all ye sheep and cows

that keep staring that I stand so long

in grass that’s wet from heavy rain,

A rainbow and a cuckoo’s song

may never come together again,

may never come this side the tomb.

A rainbow and a cuckoo’s song

may never come together again.

These lyrics remind us that we can get lost in intellectual discussions about the symbolic meaning of national parks and nature, or we can get lost in the experience of nature.  The choice is ours, the experience of nature is usually only steps way!


Sacred light from the east!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 132                             Consecutive Days Blogging: 114

Today’s Mileage:  5                                             Total Trip Mileage: 928

The Abduction

As I ride the bike this morning I think about a series of blogs I posted several weeks ago.  I got into a discussion concerning some of the efforts being undertaken by Christian organizations in Haiti.  In the end I offered an apology as I did not have all of the information concerning the topic.  Some friends cheered my efforts and encouraged me to rejoin the “struggle” with people who wrap their efforts in a religious mission.  Other friends encouraged me to just step away from any such discussions, to avoid the “us and them” conflict and to simply continue to ride my bike, commune with nature and discover inspiring and unique pilgrimage sites. 

I have decided to comment on a set of events that have unfolded over the last several weeks in Haiti.  I am speaking of the arrest of 10 American Christian missionaries as they tried to leave Haiti with a busload of children.  While the missionaries believed that these were orphans or unwanted children, the Haitian government disagrees.

 I have no problems with the process of adoption. I have numerous close friends who have adopted children from the Orient or Eastern Europe.  They have welcomed these children with open arms into their families and all are now happy healthy children who are loved and cherished by their adopted parents.  We recently hired a new faculty member who was himself an adoptee from Korea.  He speaks favorable of adoption, especially for children who may be a less than “perfect” having handicaps which invite condemnation from their native culture.  Many of these adoptive parents chose to adopt out of a combination of their own personal needs, an inability to conceive a child, and a strong desire to help a less fortunate child by giving them a loving home.  Other individuals have acted on deep religious conviction and have added adopted children to their own existing families.

Who could resist?

I have watched the unfolding story of the 10 Christian missionaries who headed to Haiti to save and adopt orphaned children. Since they were first arrested, I’ve witnessed a chorus of voices from within the Christian community.  Some condemned their actions as misguided and naïve.  But many of these voices note that the missionaries had “good intentions” that they “only wanted to help.”  I understand that sometimes well-meaning and loving people can rush forward to quickly, undertaking a task without all of the necessary preparations.  People can get in “over their head” or “jump in without looking.”  I have to question whether people are moving too quickly to dismiss the seriousness of these missionary’s actions and behaviors by over emphasizing their intentions.

I’ve blogged before about the danger of ends justify the means arguments.  In our own country we saw a war based on lies heralded as a “just war” because in the end we had disposed of a bad dictator.  This declaration was accompanied by a total disregard of the cost of the war for our country and the people we “liberated.”  I believe that the arguments stating that the missionaries “had good intentions” is simply a variation of the ends justify the means.  If the motivation behind the action was good, even if the action itself did not yield good, then the means are somehow justified?  Some of my friends are prone to say this sounds like a slippery slope. It sounds like motivation trumps the actual costs of the event.

Wonderful words, but do they listen?

A second event that has recently come to light was based upon complaints from adoptive parents.  A Christian adoption agency told adoptive parents they were receiving orphans and only later did the parents find out that the children were older than they had been promised.  In addition, the children reported having living parents and longing to return home. To add insult to injury this agency charged tens of thousands of dollars from the adoptive parents.  Videotapes exist showing an agency worker offering money to Ethiopian villagers for their children.  Again does the ends, placing less fortunate children in loving homes, out weight the means? A heartbroken parent finds out their adoption was based on a lie and the good work of all adoption agencies is called into question.  Good intentions are NOT an excuse to forgive bad behaviors!

Yesterday we visited the Kennedy space Center, tomorrow we will stop at a pilgrimage site that highlights nature.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 130                             Consecutive Days Blogging: 113

Today’s Mileage:  10                                             Total Trip Mileage: 923

How does he fit?

It’s a beautiful morning, finally a weekend without rain or snow!  I just returned from a walk in the woods and spent some time burning fallen branches and dead brush.  I’ve mentioned before the spiritual significance, for me, of creating a fire.  The flames, the heat, the dancing light add to a sense of burning away the old and preparing for the renewal of spring. It is a fulfilling and uplifting experience.

Before I begin talking about the pilgrimage site which we will be visiting today, I just wanted to share a joy with all my readers.  There are those points in our life where as a parent you feel a tremendous sense of pride in your children. My oldest son Max, who is in Army boot camp in Missouri,  wrote me with a sense of excitement that he had not only passed his rifle qualifications but he earned the expert rifleman ribbon and had the highest score in his unit 185 troops.  He noted in his letter: “I guess it must be in our blood,” for in my military training I had also earned the award.  This is a significant moment for my son, a young man who has started many things and seldom finished them (Boy Scouts, high school, football).  He seems to be finding himself, recognizing his abilities and seeing himself as part of a group, a team member.  All of these bodes well for his future and fuel s a tremendous sense of pride and joy in his father.

Apollo Capsule

Today we’re going to visit a pilgrimage site that I labeled as a Scientific Inspirational Site.  As I’ve mentioned before I do not limit pilgrimage sites to spiritual or religious locations.  I take a more general view of pilgrimages as journeys we undertake to find experiences that will give our lives meaning and help us to transcend our day-to-day needs and worries.  These journeys may help us see what we can aspire to be as an individual and as a people/community/nation.  Such pilgrimage sites can range from historic places that remind of us of our roots, art museums that fuel our creativity, or as today the Kennedy Space Center on the East Coast of Florida.  The center is where the dreams of the American people have reached into space.  From its Atlanta coast beaches the American space program launches vehicles into orbit, to the moon, the solar system and beyond.

Hubble: Our eye on the heavens!

I visited the space center years ago on my first visit to Florida, the shuttle program was just beginning, whereas now it’s about to end!  I was impressed with the sense of history, with the sense of mankind lifting itself up and reaching for the stars. The space center covers a considerable area and is comprised of numerous different subunits, different museums and launch pads, even a dock where you can visit one of the recovery ships.  A visit to the center’s webpage allows you to view a multitude of different photos many taken by visitors to the center.  I was particularly impressed with the shots of the shuttle launches, several of which I’ve used in today’s blog.

Sending our hopes skyward!

I don’t think I have to explain why I view this as an inspirational site. Life is a balancing act; there is that which is right in front of us, the positive aspects of relationships, and the beauty that you find on nature walks.  But there are also the stresses and strains the life demands that can bring us down and give us reasons to worry.  At times we need to think about where we are heading, we need to think of a future, with less stress and pain, one with more hope and excitement.   There will always be stressors but perhaps they could be less life-threatening (cures for diseases and climate change); perhaps they could be less about winning and losing (like partisan politics), perhaps life could be more balanced between the material and the spiritual. How to overcome diseases, how to decrease suffering, how to feed the masses, how to educate everyone.  Places like the Kennedy space Center make us look to the future as we look towards the heavens.  Technological advances such as the Hubble space telescope have done a lot to launch a man’s own dreams and aspirations.  It has widened the sense of mystery about the universe and deepened our sense of awe at the beauty to be found within the dance of galaxies and clouds of space dust.  We may set off on a pilgrimage journey to reconnect with something from our past, to reconnect with a deep sense of spiritual connection we have known, and sometimes will take pilgrimages that are meant to point us towards the mystery and awe to be found in nature and the cosmos.

Helix Nebula - the Eye of God

One last note, as I dictated this blog and thought about my visit some 20+ years ago to the Kennedy space Center, it’s humorous that the one thing that I most remember about my visit was something that I saw for the first time.  Something I’d heard about, I knew existed, but I had never seen before.  Driving into the Kennedy space Center in a ditch alongside the road was an armadillo. It slowly lumbers along the shoulder of the road searching for sustenance. I slowed down the car and marveled “they really do exist” I thought to myself.  Then I went on to look at man’s quest for the heavens, I’d already made a new discovery.  I wish you a good day and I hope that your day will be filled with at least one new discovery.

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 Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 130                             Consecutive Days Blogging: 112

Today’s Mileage:  5                                             Total Trip Mileage: 913

Today I decided to give myself a break.  We are approaching two more pilgrimage sites and I have received several comments worth blog postings so I decided to reprint one of my most popular early posting.  My friendship circle has expanded significantly since the first month of the stationarypilgrim journey so many of you did not get a chance to read this posting.  We were preparing to visit the Shiva Vishnu Hindu Temple of South Florida and I wrote: “I would like to share with you my personal experiences with the Hindu faith.  I have never travelled to India, but I have been lucky to have crossed paths with Hindu beliefs and practices and to have been changed forever by these encounters.” 

 paramahansa     How does a young man from the plains of the Dakotas come to experience Hinduism and its teachings?  The answer is in California!  During my time in the US Navy I was stationed in southern California, a fascinating place for a wide-eyed youth.   Every other street corner was inhabited by a new religion or cultural group! 

     I developed a deep friendship with a fellow sailor who had grown up in the LA area.  He looked every bit the part of a beach bum surfer, but he was a vegetarian and a Hindu convert.  He attended the Self-Realization Fellowship in LA.  At his suggestion I read the book Autobiography of Yoga, by Paramahansa Yogananda.  This opened up a fascinating new world of religious thought.  I began to read the teachings of various sects of Hinduism. 

AYCover070503_NoBorder      This caused me to wonder about what other belief systems existed in the world which the nuns who directed my Catholic education had failed to mention.  While intrigued by the fellowship’s teachings, especially the pluralistic nature of Hindu beliefs, I did not join the movement.  I was a pilgrim on a new and fascinating journey, checking out the different paths and only sampling their offerings!

       Change was in my future, as I returned from my first tour overseas.  While in Thailand, I became acquainted with Buddhism and began to wonder about meditation.  I got a call from my friend asking if I wanted to learn Transcendental Meditation.  “Sure why not!”  No three words have ever changed my life to the degree these three did (“I do” comes close, but in a totally different way)!

 home_mmy Maharishi Yogi founder of TM

      With no preparation, no afterthought, I entered a simple suburban home and a dimly lit room. I stood before a flickering candle and the portrait of a bearded foreign face and entered a new world!  My first meditation produced what is called a Monist mystical experience, a mind blowing state of nothingness and bliss (see yesterday’s posting for more on mystical experiences).  I walked out of that house profoundly changed forever! 

      I meditated religiously twice a day for seven years.  My anxieties and fears dissolved away, my awe and appreciation for the world around me deepened, and my growing compassion and concern for others pointed me in the direction of a helping profession.  I do not view meditation as a “cure all” that works for everyone. Rather, it is a valuable tool on a path to physical, mental, spiritual health and happiness.  Meditation became an integral part of my journey and reverberates within me still today!

 “We are all part of the One Spirit. When you experience the true meaning of religion, which is to know God, you will realize that He is your Self, and that He exists equally and impartially in all beings.”
                                      –Paramahansa Yogananda

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