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Pilgrimage Statistics

Cumulative Days Riding:  168                              Cumulative Days Blogging: 153

Today’s Mileage: 4                                                 Total Trip Mileage: 1124

I dictated this blog earlier in the day, as I walked along a river at a spot I have visited a dozen of times in the past.  I’ve conversed with nature, walked on the rocks, watched the geese and strolled past the other park visitors.  It is a beautiful spring day and I decided to enjoy it.  As a Taoist all I need is natural surroundings, the sounds of nature, open air, waters is always nice, whether its rain, a rushing river, or a calm pool.  This place has often inspired poetic words, and today was no different, but I will save those for a later day.

I had not planned on stopping here as I headed to the University this morning.  We are heading into that last sprint to the end of the semester.  In my Psychology of Religion class I spent too long on the Eastern Faiths so I will have to compress monotheism into a single lecture.  But then I prefer for my students to explore new territories and discover new ideas rather than review that which they already know. 

There is always two sides!

Earlier I had a break from my class and sat in the commons area.  On a rack next to one of the history professors door was a stack of magazines and journals. I opened one to an article entitled “Contested Histories.”  The author spoke of the challenge of understanding historical events that have different meaning for the opposite sides of the event.  Northerners (Yankees) have a very different take on the American Civil War than Southerners (Rebels).  Even in the south there are two “contested histories!”  If your distant relatives were slaves the war can be seen as a war of liberation and freedom, if your distant relatives fought for the confederacy it is often portrayed as a war for state’s rights or a war against northern aggression!  The historian in his article mentioned the date of 1915 and events that took place in eastern Turkey as the Ottoman Empire was engaged in a desperate struggle for its survival during World War 1.  A large proportion of the Armenian population died or was displaced from their homes. The Turkish perspective says this was the result of a civil war in which the Armenians were active participants; the Armenians perspective sees active government sponsored “genocide” to remove their culture and communities from eastern Anatolia.  Who is right and who is wrong?  Does one view win out over another?  Will both sides simply cling to their position, as “the truth” might represent a “blow” to their national identity or necessitate embracing a shared sense of guilt?

Peace after the civil conflict!

Ottoman Empire!

When I listen to talk radio or watch Tea Party activities on TV I wonder if it matters whether their positions hold any historical truth.  Wasn’t the original Tea party about taxations without representation?  Don’t we have representation?   Is the “real issue” the fact that some people just don’t agree with the votes and the laws that follow.  While they like to call themselves “true patriots” some might just call them “sour losers!” 

The author of the article on “Contested Histories” concluded by quoting another historian, Milan Kundera, that: “The future is an apathetic void of no interest to anyone.  The past is full of life, eager to irritate us, provoke and insult us, tempt us to destroy and repaint it.”  I could not disagree more! I believe the old proverb: The past is history, the future a mystery, the present is a gift!

We need to face what is right in front of us at this moment!  We need to face forward into a future of possibilities.  If we focus entirely to the “baggage” which humanity continues to drag along, arguing over “contested histories” our future will slip by and we will likely repeat the same old mistakes. The future will hold only ugly surprises and sadness at missed opportunities!

Compromise is always possible!

As therapists we know of the importance of the past in understanding the forces that shaped us, we know the power of the past when a patient (or community) carries it into the present.  However, the challenge of changing to meet current and present demands must be faced in the “here-and-now.”  It must be faced not by people long dead and gone, who fought old wars, but from those of us who draw breaths and look for meaning in the present.  The challenge is to find common ground and move forward, not to rehash “conflicting histories,” not to find that which divides us but that which brings us together. 

I challenge believers of all faiths to look to your sacred scriptures not for words of division and self-righteousness, but for words of healing and compassion.  Focusing on the past (e.g., old wars, old battle flags, old slogans) is more a part of our problem than part of our solution.  I suggest that after you search your sacred scriptures you look into the faces of children whose skin is not the color of your own.  Look into the eyes of the elderly who do not speak your language.  Look to the sky, the earth, and the waters at the tortured landscapes we have created.  In each of these four places look for that which connects us to one another instead of that which divides us. 

Don’t close your fists tightly about your possessions, open your hands and share with others.  Don’t draw some barrier line around your “place,” invite others into your space to stand at your side.  As President Obama has shown us, do not be afraid to make eye contact, to extend a hand, and speak in whispers to friend and foe alike.  For only then will we take the risk and step up to move forward toward the possibilities of the future!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Cumulative Days Riding:  166                              Cumulative Days Blogging: 151

Today’s Mileage: 4                                                 Total Trip Mileage: 1116

Struggling with Change?

As I ride the bike this evening I think back to a long lunch discussion I had with a friend earlier today.  I was trying to explain to her the nature of the “confused and unsettled state” I have struggled with for the last half dozen days.  As often happens in long discussions with this friend, statements elicit questions and answers are punctuated by requests for further clarification!  It is a process that some people might see as circular and a “waste of time,” however it helps me to refine my thinking on important topics. 

I would like to briefly share with you the primary issues I have been mulling over as I “went silent” for the better part of a week.  As we ride westward across northern Florida in the coming days, I will explore these issues in more detail and explain how they are related to my spirituality and connectedness. 

Agreement is not mandatory either!

Before I present the basic issues I would like to note that Psychologists have long recognized that the label “stressful” is not reserved for only negative events, but fit for any event that signifies/represents a change in one’s life!  While negative events (e.g., a death, job loss, divorce) can be devastating, positive events (e.g., graduation, marriage, a new job) are also disruptive to well established life patterns and routines.  My friend asked me if I was worried about “making it through” this period of stress? 

I answered with a resounding NO!  Research has shown that even winning the lottery can and is stressful (i.e., the demands  associated with managing large amounts of cash), however the factor that best predicts a person’s long term happiness with their “good fortunes”  is the degree of happiness the y experience before their winnings.  In other words… happiness before the disruption best predicts adjustment to the disruption!  Since I have been in a “joyful” mood for some time I have no doubt I will come through this stronger.

Here are the issues:

1)    I have experienced an acute awareness of the numerous issues fueling conflict within our communities, nation and world.  This awareness has been greatly heightened by the process of searching for blog topics and pilgrimage sites.  Not an unexpected occurrence, but the poignancy of this process has been surprising.

2)    I have experienced transitory feelings of helplessness and hopelessness associated with the above mentioned awareness.  I am an optimist; however the number and deep seated nature of the difficulties we face represent an extremely daunting task especially as it sometimes seems that our options grow more limited by the day!

3)    I am experiencing a desire for renewal and/or change with respect to my academic career.  I am celebrating my 25th anniversary as a University Professor!  I love teaching and interacting with the students, I don’t savor all of the superficial demands that go along with the job and the 2 ½ hour a day commute is grueling.  In addition, my creative endeavors and interests have always taken a back seat to my academic career (bringing home a pay check).  I feel that it may be time to give my creativity a chance to shine.  A spirit confined can at best only stretch its wings, it can’t soar!

4)    I am struggling with a sense of parental sadness as I try to let go of my dreams for my eldest son, while at the same time savoring the memories.  This is coupled with a sense of fear for the choices he has made: dropping out of school, joining the Army, and the fact that he will likely go to war as an explosive expert (e.g., his job will be the same as the character on “the Hurt Locker”).

5)    I look forward with deep joy to my upcoming marriage.  I have found someone who does not merely tolerate who I am (my liberal beliefs, my Eastern Spirituality, my creativity, my jokes) but celebrates my strengths as gifts and forgives my weaknesses!  Still, merging lives, schedules, and families involves an ongoing process of finding balance… a joyful, but still stressful task!

Well, that is it in a nut shell.  I left out any reference to my spiritual journey, however, all of these points are impacted by my search for and review of pilgrimage sites.  I will speak to this impact in future blog postings.  Have a wonderful day!

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Celebrate Life out of Joy and Gratitude!

Greetings to all my family, students and friends.  Many of you have been asking “what happened to the stationarypilgrim?”  I did disappear from the blogosphere for several days but I am ready to return to our pilgrimage journey.  

I have a job/profession, as a Psychology professor, that involves a great deal of thinking, pondering and speaking.  I strive to “bring together” somewhat abstract ideas with everyday activities, observations and behaviors.  I am known as a “man of many word and stories” and a good teacher, at least that’s what the students say on their evals of me!  I am seldom without some topic to speak about, some insight to share, some observation to make!  However, there are times that I do fall silent! 

I have learned over the years as a teacher, therapist and spiritual seeker that there are times when one’s words and ideas stop flowing or become murky and chaotic.  This often signals the coming of a serious life choice and/or the arrival of a significant insight.  I have been experiencing one of these periods!  

I have also learned that the best thing for me to do is to not force the words, but to just quiet myself and listen!   I listen to the voice from within me, and those from outside (e.g., a sermon, a partner, friends and students, sacred scriptures, secular philosophy, world events) and of course all forms of the voice of nature.  

I am preparing right now to take a hike along a beautiful river on a sunny Spring day, then I will attend church and enjoy the sharing of fellowship before joining a long time friend for lunch and an always stimulating discussion.  Later this evening I will climb back on the bike and share with you more about this period of silence.  Again thank you to all my fellow pilgrims for your concern and  encouragement.  I will leave you with a poem/musing I wrote this morning as I read the paper and fed my caffeine habit at a local eatery! 

Listen: There is always something to hear!

One to Go 

  

Like a parade of classic cars 

they creep past 

wearing gray trim 

   – like me 

thin top covering 

   – like me 

they savor their coffee 

   – like me 

they ponder serious issues 

   – like me 

they seek Sunday morning wisdom 

   – like me 

they open their Bibles 

   the youngest among them 

      leads the prayer 

I close my paper 

   and my notes 

Called to worship 

    by the sun 

        the rushing river 

           the bird calls 

This classic prefers 

    a path less travelled 

        at a creeping pace 

Fifteen for coffee 

   one to go! 

**** 

A new day with promises, opportunities and joys!

Have a wonderful day… embrace, savor and share it with those you meet!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Cumulative Days Riding:  163                         Cumulative Days Blogging: 148

Today’s Mileage: 5                                              Total Trip Mileage: 1103

A Rotten and Evil Egg!

Tomorrow is Easter, the holiest of Christian holidays so tomorrow we will visit two beautiful churches in the Jacksonville area. As I ride the bike this afternoon, I have pondered why I have been unable to motivate myself to write the blog for the past three days.

 I have been busy with tests and with the arrival of warm spring weather it is a challenge for me to stay focused. Yesterday I posted the following on my Facebook page: A beautiful day is unfolding outside my door! I can’t resist it any longer!  Pink flower petals fall like fragrant snow and bees dart about in the sunlight like a shifting haze surrounding the flowering trees… I shall walk, breathe deeply and ‘go with the flow’… riding the Tao past mid-day and into the afternoon… on for the rest of life!” 

How could anyone?

This morning I read more news stories on the internet about the deepening crisis within the Catholic Church.  This is a crisis surrounding accusations of child abuse against priests and bishops across Europe.  It is similar to the crisis that occurred in the USA several years ago.  I now realize that this crisis, with its troubling meaning for the church and its members had in part contributed to my silence.

I was baptized and raised a Catholic and while I am no longer a practicing Catholic, I owe the church for eight years of my education and still hold some of the priests and nuns who educated me as significant models and mentors.  I have made it a point in my blog and my teaching to not single out specific churches or faiths for harsh criticism.  I have seen on numerous occasions that a church or faith might be problematic for a particular individual (e.g. its attitude toward women or gays may not promote growth for individuals in those groups) while at the same time proving to be a healthy fit for another individual.  I also have close friends and family members who are devout Christians (Catholic and Protestant) and it is not my intention to criticize their “path to the divine.”

A Priest's Ring Seal!

I have recently blogged about the “evil actions” that can be undertaken by religious practitioners as well as the uplifting, caring and compassionate actions which religious beliefs can generate.  I continue to have visitors to my blog site who disagree with my statement that “I would never support the abolition of the institution of religion.”  Religion as an institution is a primary source of “life meaning” for many people. They help individuals and communities deal with disasters and loss and can provide a primary source of “moral guidance” to society.  Most of the important “rights movements” of the last 100 years have been lead by clergy walking arm-in-arm against reactionary forces. Many of the loving and selfless volunteers serving our society’s “safety net” do so out of deeply held spiritual and religious beliefs.

Taking all of this into account, it is also quite clear that Religion, and any of the churches that make up the mosaic of a culture’s religious fabric, can and do become dysfunctional!  I believe this tends to happen when the institution loses sight of its primary functions: to care for it’s flocks immediate needs for safety and guidance; and to help counter forces within every culture (e.g., political power, material wealth, hedonistic pleasure, group biases that demonize others) that draw people away from the transformation power offered by a healthy spirituality and loving/compassionate faith. 

When Silence is a Sin!

I believe that what is unfolding in the Catholic Church shines a spotlight on a terrible secret and deeply damaging breach of trust in the “faith” people place in the clergy.  In my profession it has long been recognized that two things represent egregious breaches of moral and ethical principles.  These are: a breach of the client’s confidentiality, the promise of privacy toward their disclosures and no exploitation in any sexual or financial way.  Children and adults in distress are in need of trusted guidance and protection.  Anyone who meets their own selfish needs (e.g., power, wealth, sexual gratification, dominance) at the expense of another has committed one of the most deplorable acts imaginable, whether that person is a priest, a parent, a teacher, or a therapist.  They have punished and added to the burden and suffering of someone in need. 

The Catholic Church has taken a position that this is a problem with a few “bad apples” and that the institution’s response was appropriate.  They removed priests and sent them for treatment!  However, the evidence is mounting that they often returned offending priest to service without warning their new parishioners or insuring that the treatment had worked.  There is evidence of some priests perpetrating abuse for decades and the church turned a blind eye to the abuse!

Real Dangers!

It has been an accepted fact within the field of sexual abuse research that perpetrators seek job positions that place them in contact with potential victims.  All churches have had more than enough time to recognize this fact and take extreme and immediate steps to purge their ranks of any such individuals.  Two additional facts from this field of study are relevant here: the best predictor of future behaviors is past behavior; and the perpetrators of sexual abuse of children are extremely resistant to therapy and change.  Most professionals in this field suggest a permanent removal of the offender from any contact with potential victims!  It is my belief that the Catholic Church has been grossly neglectful of its responsibilities towards “parishioners” and those dedicated clergy who follow the loving and compassionate examples of Christ in their sacred scriptures.

Peggy Noonan wrote an editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal in which she noted that there were three groups of victims in this ongoing Catholic Church crisis.  The first are of course the children who were abused and carry the scars and suffering of that abuse.  The second group is comprised of all the dedicated clergy and nuns who have been truthful to their sacred vows.  The third, and largest group, are all of the parishioners “in the pews” who are left to question the authority and relevance of a church organization that knowingly placed their weakest members in “harm’s way” against preverbal “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

Is it about faith or power?

I believe that Catholic Church needs to stop trying to blame external forces (e.g. the secular media or reform minded critics) and open its institutional structure and rules (i.e., Yes maybe even the question of marriage for priests) to honest and painful scrutiny.  The Church’s past sins have come home to roost! How it responds to this crisis will establish whether it continues to be a positive force into the future or just an old fossilized institution that lumbers on by sheer momentum of its size.  History has shown repeatedly that institutions that do not grow and transcend their old rules and “ways” are destined to litter the ditches of the roadway into the future!

One final point, just in case anyone reading this posting feels that this crisis relates only to the Catholic Church, my local paper contains on a monthly basis, reports of Protestant ministers abusing children in their care. My understanding is that the Southern Baptists do not even have a system for tracking reports of such abuse or of notifying their member churches to “black list” a minister.  I have a good friend who as a child and young adult suffered through an abusive family life.  Twice as a child and once as a young adult she turned to fundamentalist Christian ministers for help and guidance.  What she received in all three cases were unwanted sexual advances!

 

Protect the Innocent!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Cumulative Days Riding:  159                         Cumulative Days Blogging: 144

Today’s Mileage: 4                                              Total Trip Mileage: 1080

Today we will be visiting a major Catholic Historical site and Shrine in the St. Augustine area.  Just north of the Castillo de San Marcos and the old city we find The Mission of Nombre de Dios and Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche

Fr. Lopez giving thanks!

This site traces its origins to the founding of the City of St. Augustine.  On September 8, 1565, Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed at this site and proclaimed it for Spain and Church.  It was here that Menendez knelt to kiss a wooden cross presented to him by Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, chaplain of his expedition.  It was here that Fr. Lopez would celebrate the first parish Mass and begin America’s first Mission name Nombre de Dios (Name of God) and the Spanish settlers would begin the devotion to Our Lady of La Leche (Our Lady of the Milk).

Prince of Peace Church

The mission and shrine site has numerous structures and includes a “walking tour” that allows pilgrims to circle the grounds and visit various significant locations.  At the entrance of the grounds the Prince of Peace Church, built out of the “native stone” Coquina, greets visitors.  It frames a large circular fountain and houses an imposing stained glass window depicting “the Holy Spirit.”

The Great Cross

Continuing on the tour we see the imposing Great Cross built in 1966, along with the Prince of Peace church to commemorate the Four Hundredth anniversary of the Mission and the City.  The cross is 208 feet tall and has been labeled a “Beacon of Faith” on the shores of the Matanzas River.

The Chapel

Next on our path we come across The Chapel of Our Lady of Le Leche.  This area has been referred to as “America’s Most Sacred Acre.”  Like many of the other structures the Chapel was also build from Coquina and reflects the Spanish mission style of the sixteen century.  The Chapel houses the statue of Our Lady of La Leche and is described as a “special place of quiet prayer for those seeking Our Lady’s intercession.”

Shrine of Perpetual Help

Just up the path we find a unique site called Our Lady of Perpetual Help Shrine.  A beautiful mosaic of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is housed in a Byzantine style cupola.  This gold-laden icon was a gift of the Byzantine Rite Catholics who make a bi-annual pilgrimage to the mission.  The icon includes the image of Mary, the baby Jesus along with Archangels Michael and Gabriel.

Perpetual Help Icon

The final two sites we visit on our tour are the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a gift from friends of a distinguished modern day missionary in Brazil.  The shrine commemorates the 1531 visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Juan Diego in Guadalupe, Mexico.  Lastly, we see the Rustic Altar an outdoor altar commemorating the first parish mass celebrated in 1565.

Guadalupe Icon

We have during our virtual pilgrimage across Florida visited some two dozen separate Pilgrimage sites ranging from National Parks, Hindu and Buddhist temples, Monastery and Convents, Beach side parks and Art Galleries, to a Holocaust Memorial.  Today’s site has significant historical religious importance for Christians and Catholics in particular.  Clearly this site continues to add to its importance with a growing number of shrines, set in a peaceful and tranquil setting. It will be interesting to discover sites around the country that represent similar “firsts” for other Christian denominations (e.g., first Methodist church, first Quaker service, etc.).

Holy Spirit Window

 I hope you have enjoyed the beautiful pictures of the mission’s grounds.  Tomorrow we will be leaving St. Augustine and heading toward Jacksonville.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Cumulative Days Riding:  158                         Cumulative Days Blogging: 143

Today’s Mileage: 4                                              Total Trip Mileage: 1076

The Bastion System!

As I ride the bike today I have decided to speak to three pilgrimage sites in the St. Augustine Florida area.  All three represent historical and archeological site.  All three have a history tied to the politics between European powers in the 1600-1700s.  One speaks to the desire for freedom and a fight against oppression and one site speaks to the “dark side” of religion.

Perhaps the best known landmark in the St, Augustine area is the Castillo de San Marcos.  Construction of this fortification began in 1672.  Its architecture is distinctive and unique.  It is the oldest masonry and only intact 17th century fort in North America and represents an example of the “bastion system” of fortification.  It weathered hurricanes and repeated attacks over its active history.

The bastion system of forts was developed in the 15th century and had a distinct star shape structure.  This pattern was used to avoid a straight head-on shoot from cannons, and yet allowed plenty of wall space to mount guns for counter fire.  Adding to the distinctiveness of this fortress was its construction from the building material unique to the northeast coast of Florida.  Coquina, which is an aggregate of compressed sand and shells that is remarkable soft and porous, however once it has dried and aged its softness has unexpected benefits.  Cannon balls did not “explode” the material like stone, but were either embedded in it like a marble in Styrofoam or harmlessly glanced off of it.

The City Gates of St. Augustine

The fort went through numerous “changes in ownership.”  The history of the entire Atlantic coastline was one of constant struggle and warfare between the European powers.  Conflicts that often started on distant lands were carried to the shores and wilderness of North America.  The Castillo de San Marcos played a central role in the early Spanish control of the Southern coast of the New World.  It was an important point from which they projected the power up and down the coast and protected rich Spanish treasure fleets from pirates.  The fort withstood assaults from the French and the English, never falling to an attacking force.  As we heard in Mondays posting the fort did come under British control from 1763-1783 as a result of a peace treaty between Spain and England.  It was the British governor who offered the Greek survivors of the New Smyrna colony sanctuary in St. Augustine. Following the US Revolutionary War the fort and city returned to Spanish control until 1821 when the growing USA acquired the territory of Florida.

Fort Matanzas

The second pilgrimage site in the area, Fort Matanzas National Monument can be found some 14 miles south St. Augustine at the location where the Matanzas river empties into the ocean.  This river which flows past St. Augustine posed a risk as attackers might travel up the river to lay siege to the city.  Fort Matanzas was also built of Coquina like its older and much larger sister fort to the north.  The fort sits by itself on a flat marshy barrier island called Rattle shake Island.  What is hidden from the view of visitor, who must travel there by ferry, is the site’s tragic and unsettling history.   The early history of the northeast coast of Florida involved an epic struggle between the Catholic Spanish forces and Huguenot (Protestant) French forces.  In 1565 a French military expedition under the leadership of Jean Ribault sailed for the new Spanish settlement of St. Augustine from the French settlement of Fort Caroline to settle ownership of Florida in France’s favor.  However, tragedy struck in the form of a storm that stranded the French at the mouth of the River.  When the Spanish discovered the French on the beach, they ordered then to surrender, give up their Protestant faith, and accept Catholicism.  Having lost all of their food and weapons in the ship wrecks they did surrender, but refused to renounce their faith.  So the Spanish force massacred nearly 250 Frenchman as heretics near the inlet, which was then named “Matanzas,” the Spanish word of massacre. This tragic episode gave Spain undisputed control of Florida for the next 200 years.  It also points to the fact that the conflict between European forces was not just one of land grabs for economic benefits, but also mirrored the religious conflicts which had racked Europe since the advent of the Protestant reformation.  In addition, to the slaughter and destruction of native peoples, Christians were turning on Christian out of self-righteousness against what they labeled heresy.

Drawing of Fort Moses.

The same forces of conflict did at times play out in more positive ways, at least for some populations.  One such example of this can be found several miles north of the old city of St. Augustine.  The site is Fort Moses State Historical Park.  As English influence along the northern stretches of the American coast grew so did friction and conflict between the colonists of both powers.  The English colonies of the Carolinas and Georgia made extensive use of African slaves to man their large plantations.  The Spanish settlers and their Native American allies began to direct escaped English slaves south to St. Augustine, there by predating the later Northern “Underground Railroad” by more than a century.  The Spanish governor granted a plot of land for North America’s first “free black” settlement.  The inhabitants built a wood and mud “fort” wall, dug a moat, constructed homes and a wooden Catholic church to meet the spiritual needs of the recent converts.  These free blacks farmed the surrounding land and took up arms with the Spanish neighbors to fight off hostile Indians and their former English slave masters.  The settlement prospered until 1763 when the population of Fort Moses moved to Spanish Cuba in advance of the English forces who would take peaceful control of St. Augustine from the Spanish.  The inhabitants feared that their former slave masters might renew claims toward their “rightful property.”

Don't let this be the final word!

All three of these sites speak to the fact that the Europeans who came to the New World brought with them their conflicts, hatred and prejudices.  It is reminder that this country that we heralded as the “Land of the Free,” was won, conquered and tamed at sometimes tragic costs.  These include the destruction of native cultures, the slaughter of innocent people and the “enslavement” of a whole race.  We can be proud of what we have accomplished and what we stand for, but we should never forget the suffering of these people.  I would hope that these sites act as reminders and lead us to ask: “What are we doing now, as we interact with other cultures and faiths, as we look for “new frontiers,” as we live in a shrinking world.”  What lessons should we learn from the suffering of these people so we don’t repeat past mistakes?

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  155                            Consecutive Days Blogging: 139

 Today’s Mileage: 4                                              Total Trip Mileage: 1061

As I ride the bike today I want to note that we will be visiting the first of several pilgrimage sites in the St. Augustine Florida area tomorrow.  These include some of the earliest European fortifications in the New World, the Greek “Plymouth Rock” and a Catholic shrine. 

Peace and Prosperity for all on Planet Earth

I always start my morning by checking for blog comment s and facebook messages.   I often find a series of requests and offers to join different groups and causes.  I think one of the most significant aspects of this new social media is that it allows us to connect with a diverse group of people who we otherwise would have no possibility of meeting.  I find it intriguing and exciting as I get messages from fellow spiritual pilgrims from around the world.  One recent morning I had messages from an artist in Australia, a young man from Tunisian, a “healer” from Estonia, and was conducting an IM conversation with a college student from India. 

At times like this I wish I were bilingual, as I have received messages in Chinese, Hebrew, Arabic, Danish and Russian.  I could not understand their statements, but enjoyed the beautiful photos attached to the messages.  Artwork, like nature, speaks a universal language.  In our world community it is this growing connectedness of like minded, or at least open minded individuals which offers the most promise to finding solutions to the big problems that we all face as inhabitants of a shrinking world.  Besides reaching out to individuals, I have joined a number of groups. I find this to be an invaluable way to connect with others who share common interests.  I conducted a quick review this morning of the groups I have joined.  They represent a somewhat diverse range of interests, although most are of a pluralist, spiritual nature committed to a growing worldwide interconnectedness.  Many of them would fall under the heading of New Thought, Naturalistic or Eastern Thought.  Several focus on healing and health and often combine artistic images that promote and convey the messages of balance and creativity.  Of course there are several associated with Unitarian Universalism, my current religious affiliation.

No Seaparation

This collection of groups would not be a surprise to my family, friends and students who have heard me readily express my spiritual and political views.  There is one thing you won’t find in this collection of groups.  You will not find organizations that take a narrow perspective, such as condemning Israel or Palestine while not acknowledging the joint responsibilities, or singling out a particular religion for criticism, such as Islam.  You won’t find groups that argue for a continuation of the status quo, or that proclaim  “Americanism” as God’s gift to the world. 

Of course I would not seek out such groups and anyone who knows me would not invite me to join such a group.  It is for this reason that I was surprised and a little shocked when I found an invitation to join a group entitled “Let’s Build a Church in Pakistan.”  The group boasts over 50,000 members.  As best I can tell the group is based in England and has postings that are sprinkled with obscenities.  It is an “in your face, poke in the eye” attempt to throw fuel on the anti-Islamic sentiments.  It attempts to stoke the dichotomous “we are right and you are wrong” flames of anger and hatred. 

People Who Want Peace

As a pluralist I believe that all people should have a right to build churches, temples, mosques and stone circles to practice their faith.  I know this flies in the face of the rules in several countries (e.g., Saudi Arabia) where exclusionary regimes place severe restriction on such rights.  I do not believe these regimes are correct. 

I am proud of the US where people are free to build their houses of worship and practice their faith as they choose.  But even in the USA these choices are at times confronted by narrow minded exclusionary forces.  On my pilgrimage journey I have come across Hindu and Jain temples that were blocked by local governments from building in their communities, forcing them to relocate.  This is not right! 

Unitarian Universalism

I will join any group that embraces a goal of a world where every citizen has a right to worship.  But before anyone points fingers at other countries they should first look in their own back yard.  I am choosy about the groups I join.  I review them to make sure they fit with my values and standards.  I do not know who sent me this request, they obviously do not know me.  They do not share my desire for world peace, my desire for a connected world community. I embrace everyone on my friends list with love, compassion, concern and respect.  Please join me in this effort!

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