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Posts Tagged ‘Spirituality’

Pilgrimage Statistics

Cumulative Days Riding:  162                         Cumulative Days Blogging: 147

Today’s Mileage: 4                                              Total Trip Mileage: 1098

We are almost to Jacksonville Florida and tomorrow we will visit the first of three pilgrimage sites in the area, including two historical architectural churches and a nature site highlighting the beauty and diversity of the flora in Northern Florida.

Wired to love?

I’m sure that some of my friends and students found themselves saying “Oh my gosh, Dr. Edwards has gone over to the dark side!”  I want to assure everyone I am still my optimistic and upbeat self.  The title of today’s blog came from a statement made by Andrew Breitbart in a Time magazine article.  Mr. Breitbart is a highly outspoken mouth piece for right wing political thought on the web who the Time article described as a “Tea party Tycoon.” As I read the article I found myself shaking my head, not in disbelief, I’m a Clinical Psychologist I am seldom surprised by human behavior anymore, I shook my head out of sadness and concern. 

I have recently blogged on the characteristics that can lead religions to produce “evil” outcomes.  We have seen some of the sad results of this process in the tit-for-tat historical massacre of Christians by Christians and in the recent news reports of the arrest of a small group of “Christian militia” who intended to attack police officers and hasten a second revolution.

All hate all the time?

In recent news cycles a lot of attention has been given to “hate speech” or what you might call “alarmist speech.”  Terms like “lock and load,” “on the firing line,” and “reload” maybe seen as a colorful call to arms by the people using them, but it concerns others with the imagery of armed rebellion and violence.  Often the people making these statements will defend their “freedom of speech” and will attack those who raise concerns as being the source of the problem (e.g., the Obama health care bill caused the anger and threats of violence) and not the potential victims.

As a therapist I know from experience that words matter!  Among yesterday’s news announcements was the sad story of the teenage girl who after months of verbal and physical bullying by nine fellow students committed suicide. Their words mattered… they drove a desperate young girl to take her life! 

Matching hate speech!

I have spoken personally with members of a Unitarian Universalist church in Knoxville Tennessee, that lived through the terror of a gun wielding assailant who blasted away randomly during a children’s Sunday service.  A handful of innocent adults died in the pews, luckily no children were injured!  On the seat of the assailant’s vehicle in the parking lot lay a hateful letter targeting “liberals” filled with references to the “inspiring words” of a list of popular conservative talk show hosts.  These talk show hosts words mattered… they cost innocent people their lives!

In my last blog we talked about the triple filter test.  I have had a lot of comments about this post.  Many of them agree with my statement that we would all be better off if we followed this test before we spoke, before we made public statements, before we stepped in front of a microphone, before we painted a placard with hateful statements.  I noted that the three filters were truth, goodness and usefulness.  I would like to highlight the usefulness question because I believe it comes in two variations.  Is it useful for the person receiving the information (e.g., a compliment, feedback) or not (e.g., gossip, lies)?  Is it somehow useful to the person providing it (e.g., advancing an agenda, raising alarm and/or money, undermining someone else’s efforts)? 

As I noted in the last posting if Senator Scott Brown continues to repeat a lie (e.g., that Rachel Maddow is running against him) because it generates campaign fund then it is certainly useful to him given an “ends justify the means” approach to politics.  I guess some people would see it as an effective tactic or a screwed move.  I see it as nothing more than a useful lie, an example of false propaganda from a politician who will no doubt speak out of the other side of his mouth when he asks the people of his state to “believe in me” when they cast their reelection votes.  

Brought to you by Westboro Baptist Church!

Mr. Breitbart’s statement, which I used as a header for this posting saddens and concerns me.  He has a right to his belief, and he like all of us chooses the “process” he is going to follow in making his decisions.  That process might be the Golden or Platinum Rule, Might makes Right, the Ends Justify the Means, it’s all a Game, or The Triple Filter, to name just a few.  However, whatever process we use we must live with and accept the outcomes we sow and reap. 

I believe that when someone chooses to place themselves into a public position of authority, like a politician or clergy member, or are elevated by the popularity and marketing of their opinions, like a talk show host, news caster or leader of a movement, they have a responsibility to choose their words wisely!  Their proclamations should do more than serve their narrow needs, they should think about the greater good!  We would hold someone in contempt if they shouted “Fire” in a crowded theater just to secure a better seat, and then shrugged their shoulders at the trampled people’s suffering.  Then why do we turn away in silence when someone espouses hateful attitudes just to create distress in others or advance their personal agenda?

I believe that all of us have a responsibility to make sure that those who lead us, (whether Conservative or Liberal, Republican or Democrat) or act as our mouth pieces, (talk show hosts, favorite bloggers, or letter to the editor writers) or act as our cheerleaders  (family and friends) or offer us guidance (religious leaders) do it in a way so that the answer to the “usefulness”  question is not just that it is useful for them (e.g., makes money, sells books, strokes their egos), or even that it is just useful for our movement or side (e.g., we win the election, we save our school at the cost of som other school, or our church grows larger) but that it be useful for all members of the community, nation and world community.

Lets make it so!!!!

I know I am a dreamer!  I know what I ask is almost impossible to imagine in our present overly charged and highly emotion political and religious landscape.  However, if we who represent the “moderate core” the loving, compassionate, caring individuals, and yes dreamers in every faith and political movement stand up and make ourselves heard we can drown out these voices of hate and divisiveness.  I believe we can!  Join me… stand up… speak up… be heard!  After all we only have a world and a future to lose!

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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:  156                          Consecutive Days Blogging: 140

 Today’s Mileage: 4                                              Total Trip Mileage: 1065

As I ride the bike today I find myself thinking about how my choice of Facebook groups is undertaken in an effort to interact with a larger circle of like minded pilgrims.  I seek people who are open minded, positive, loving and compassionate.  I know there are numerous avenues you can follow to connect with people similar to yourself.  Social groups on Facebook can connect you with artists, poets and writers as well as politically active individuals. 

Jay Sean

This morning as I drove to the University for an “Open House” meeting with prospective students and parents I listened to NPR “morning edition.”  They ran a story about R&B Superstar Jay Sean who was described as a “self-professed science geek” who has taken the music world by storm.  Born Kamaljit Singh Jhooti in London to Indian parents he dropped out of medical school after two years to follow his passion for music.  He talked about his lifelong desire to have an impact on people, to “save their lives” and how this first drew him to the field of medicine.  When opportunities arose to further his other passion, music, he jumped at the chance.  However, this does not mean that he abandoned his earlier desire to help and heal people. He noted that he often meets people who report that his music changed their life and gave them hope during desperate times.  He finds in his musical endeavors a sense of fulfillment and connectedness with others; it is a way for him to have a positive impact on our world.

This was followed by another story about the impact of music on lives.  The report talked about a program called Jail Guitar doors.  It was first launched in London as a way to use music to help rehabilitate jail house prisoners. As part of the annual South by South West music festival in Austin Texas it was introduced to the Travis County Correctional inmates by Wayne Crammer.  He told his touching story of addiction and jail time and how music was his therapy.  He noted that he hoped that he might be “a bridge” to help others change their lives.

An Angelic Voice!

I myself never played a musical instrument, but I know the powerful impact that music can have on a person.  Just last night I sat for an hour as a beautiful young women, a singer, serenaded a room full of family, teachers and fellow students.  She started with a set of German songs, travelled across the border with a set of French songs and followed her southern movement with a set of Italian pieces.  She returned from an intermission with songs from Russia and then finished with a song set in her native tongue.  As I watched her intensity and the emotions associated with words I did not understand, I smiled at the universality of the music its ability to carry us around the world and bring us together.  Her eyes sparkled as her voice danced about us, curls of red hair frame and angelic face.  I thought to myself, this is why they portray angels singing!

The wonderful thing about music and art is the advantage I has over the written word for it speaks on a universal level, using notes and hues, sound waves and canvases to “speak” to everyone, at every age, in every culture.  This young woman in her senior recital crossed a continent, reached across cultures and borders, across an ocean, touching our hearts with her notes and a radiant smile!

 
 

Piano, voice and clarinet!

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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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Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding: 152                                         Days Blogged: 136 

New Mileage: 3                                                          Total Trip Mileage: 1049

The Don't Tread Rule!

As I ride the bike tonight I find myself thinking about the “Golden Rule.”  In western society it is most common presented as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The golden rule, in its various forms, is a feature of all of the major world religions.  I also know numerous atheists who embrace the rule, by choice not as a dictate by the divine, they are very moral and socially conscious people.  I have come across a number of social and spiritual world movements that propose using the golden rule as the basis or core principle to bring the diverse peoples of the world together.  As a youth I always figured that the golden rule was without question the best approach to take when dealing with people different from ourselves. When in doubt, follow the golden rule!

However, as I moved out into the world I grew more and more puzzled by the fact that we as individuals, communities and nations often perpetuated behaviors towards others that I would not want to experience myself.  I observed times when people in need, were excluded from aid because “they didn’t deserve our help.”  I observed (as recently as the Iraq War) and read in our history of times when we started and visited war on people and cultures (e.g., the Native Americans), because “it was us or them” or “it was our destiny” or “it was God’s will.”  I personally had doors slammed in my face because of my religion (something I was born into).  I stood by and watched as white cops talked about “our niggers” and sat in a sauna as old white men talk about “sending in the Klan to burn them out.”  I remember watching as white residents of non-flooded suburbs of New Orleans blocked the roads and turned back other citizens who were attempting to flee the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

What man has visited upon man!

I came to realize that the golden rule was clearly an ideal, but one that many individuals, groups, communities and nations failed to achieve, and in some cases seemed to not even attempt.  In addition, I found it fascinating and disturbing that I would at times find people who insisted they were following the golden rule even when it seemed apparent to me that their efforts (the “do unto others” part) was creating suffering and distress in those on the receiving end of the behavior.

Rockwell had the right idea!

I believe this “distortion” of the golden rule occurs in part because of a potential short coming within the rule itself.  The rule comes in two general forms.  The positive form which in general states: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  While the negative form in general states: “Do not do unto others that which you would not want done to you.”  This second form is sometimes called the “Silver Rule.” 

Studying both of these forms we see that each has what can be called the Behavioral Command Component (do unto others or do not do) as well as a second Evaluative Component (you would have them do or you would not want done).  It is with this second component that a potentially destructive distortion can take place. For one needs to evaluate what behavior or actions is desired and wanted, however, both forms use an evaluation of needs and desires of the person initiating the behavior not the person receiving the behavior. This was highlighted for me during a discussion with a devote Christian who was commenting on his church’s effort to “bring Christ’s message” to the tribes of Southern India.  I asked if it was possible if these people were happy with their existing faith and that the missionary efforts might be upsetting a delicate balance in such locations. I asked him if it would not be better to follow the golden rule as we might find it disturbing if Hindu missionaries began showing up in our communities with requests that we abandon our long held beliefs. His response was: “Oh No, if I was a Godless heathen I would want to be saved.”

This leads me to what some people have called the Platinum Rule: “Do unto others that which they themselves desire.”  This rule presents us with a significant challenge, for to follow it we must listen and inquire about the other’s needs, and suppress our desire to tell them what it is that they need. This rule still contains the same Behavioral Command Component; however the Evaluative Component focuses on the needs of the receiver not the giver. 

It is my understanding that Christ and Buddha did not tell us to “go forth and do for others those things that make us feel good.”  I believe that both great teachers, and many other teachers, wanted us to address the needs of the needy not our well meaning but often egotistical needs.  I’m reminded of a sense of sadness I experienced as I listened to a missionary tell a crowd that his efforts had saved a quarter million South African souls during the summer.  Then he added: “We can’t feed them, we can’t give them jobs, we can’t offer them protection, but we saved their souls!” His statement was met with “Amen” and praise. I’m sure many of the people who were saved were thankful, but what about all those other needs.   Do you think if they were given a choice,  would “being saved”  be their top choice?  But then again, who are they to know what they really needed?

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Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding: 151                                         Days Blogged: 135 

New Mileage: 4                                                          Total Trip Mileage: 1046

It has been a grueling day, three classes, a faculty senate meeting and long drive to watch my son advance to Life scout.  I still have tests to grade for tomorrow and it’s getting late.  So I am going to limit the blog this evening to sharing a couple old poems/musing with you:

Signs

Footprints

    In the loose brown dirt.

Cigarette butts,

    One fresh, bearing lipstick.

Tubes of powdery ash

    Not yet crushed by man or rain.

Empty condom wrapper,

    Was it love or lust?

Discarded bottle cap,

    Evidence of a different thirst.

Litter at my feet,

    At the base of the bench,

       At the base of the falls,

          At the base of the thunderhead,

             At the base of the deep blue sky.

Signs of man’s needs

    Thirsts, and passions.

Marks on nature

    Of our passage.

Choice

 Do I cross at the widest point

   Water shallow

      Barely moving

         Islands of dark brown rock

            Form a bridge upon which to walk

 Do I cross at its narrows

   Water deep

      Surging rapids

         Bordered by steep walls of rock

            Necessitating an airborne leap

 Safety versus Risk

   I ponder but a moment

      Then leap!

I hope you enjoyed my words from a walk along a local river on a summer day.  Join me tomorrow when I will present you with the suggestion that you abandon the “Golden Rule” and adapt the “Platinum Rule.”

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Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding: 148                                      Days Blogged: 132 

New Mileage: 8                                                     Total Trip Mileage: 1031

As I ride the bike this evening I  think about my blog topics over the last several weeks.  It seems to me that a particular theme ribbon ran through several of the blogs.  From Taoist river stones that are shaped by thousands of year of river water, to Helen Wilmer-Post and the demise of her self-help healing empire at the hands of political intrigue.  We admired sunrises and the shifting drifting veils of clouds, and musings on death, cremation and a poem about spreading my ashes.  One of my blog followers noted: “your poem is beautiful! It’s haunting because it’s about death, but it’s still sweet because the “recipe” is filled with good things.”  I think this is a common reaction because we tend to perceive death as a negative and generally tragic event and thereby an “ugly” event. But it can also serve as an opportunity to celebrate a life well lived and to give thanks for life’s many gifts.

Mount Rushmore Monument

It seems to me that the thread is the issue of permanence, whether it be shifting and changing clouds or Taoist river stones shaped by the relentless river.  Being human we all desire a sense of permanence. Since ancient times, we have built monuments to mark our presence and to give a sense of permanence to our rulers and political institutions.  If you come back in the future, little of the glory and splendor of the site may be left intact. Eastern philosophy tells us that the permanence we grasp for is an illusion. Even mountains, given the time frame of nature, are weathered away becoming little more than sand on the shore and rich mud on the ocean floor.  Majestic lakes and seas fade away and dry up.

Backside of the Monument

I’m reminded of the statement: the only thing which does not change, is the process of change!”  No one can turn back the process of aging. Nor can we retain a young body.  Add as many initials as you like behind you name, achieve accolades and earn rewards, but in the end you will become nothing but dust.  Your name will become nothing more than an etching on a stone marker.  Someone might list you in a family tree, but you are little more than a name with dates.  What about all the years between the dates, the time period we call your life!

The second statement I like to quote is: “Change is mandatory, growth is optional.”  Nothing is permanent, everything changes.  The key to life is what we do with that change.  Do we roll with the punches; do we grow stronger and wiser, become more joyful?  Do we see the moments of life, the sunrises, the smile of a child, the touch of a lover for what they really are… gifts!  Do we embrace these and share them with others, our smile, our riches, and our touch?  Do we plant seeds of joy and happiness or do we spew forth anger and hatred.  Do we try to hold on to those things we can’t take with us? Do we commiserate over missed opportunities and past failures?  We enter the world naked and are given a first breath; we will exit the world with a final breath and leave everything, including a well dressed corpse behind. It’s what we do with the time and opportunities between the first and last breath that matters.

The third statement I embrace is: “It’s not about the outcome, winning the race, it’s about the process, and how you run the race!”

I hope you have enjoyed these “Words of Wisdom”.

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Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding: 146                                      Days Blogged: 130 

New Mileage: 5                                                     Total Trip Mileage: 1015

Unfiltered Knowledge!

As I rode the bike today I reflected on the scenes along our route as we moved north on a road bordered to the east by a thin ribbon of sand and the vast Atlantic Ocean.  One of the ways I scout for pilgrimage sites is to follow a detailed road map (on the internet) that includes photos of the scenery along the route. These scenes will at time point me in the direction of unexpected sites for us to visit or may simply inspire my creativity.  Today I decided to focus on sunrise scenes!

I am aware that sunrises are often seen as symbolic of renewal, rebirth, and spring.  I have always found myself attracted to sunrises and prefer an early morning walk as a great way to get my day started.  My youngest son recently noted that he enjoys sunrises more than sunsets, because a sunrise means “you got the whole day ahead of you!”

Highlighting the colors!

As I collected some of the photos of sunrises I noticed that the most striking and beautiful sunrises had less to do with the sun itself and more to do with the clouds that interacted with and affected the sunlight.  I began to realize that there is a great deal more symbolism and meaning in sunrises because of the clouds that often accompany them.

If sunlight is seen as being representative of knowledge, guidance and/or wisdom, then clouds must serve a function of shaping, blocking, filtering and focusing this “light” before it is received by the viewer/recipients.  While we may marvel at that spot of intense light as the sun first breaks the plane of the horizon, we cannot for long study its growing presence without turning away.  It is too bright and intense in its raw form, in a very real way we are unable to “handle it” in it pure form.  However, a covering or haze of clouds can afford us the opportunity to see the light’s source in it’s perfect round form and to realize that its size is not as large as its unfiltered corolla might leads us to believe.  Some would say this is representative of the intense “glory” of the divine, that we must turn our gaze away.  The clouds imperfect covering allows us to study and receives insights from the lights source that would be absent with an empty bare sky.

Studying the sunrise scenes lead me to realize that clouds not only filter and diminish the sun’s intensity but also shape and focus the light, whether that is through the creation of a halo, a bright highlighted edge on a cloud or a beam of sunlight.  We may become acutely aware of the multiple colors or qualities of the light because of the cloud’s effects.  While the wisdom and knowledge represented by the sunlight maybe intense and illuminating in its pure form, I believe it is the interaction with the clouds, with the contrasts and textures created by this dance between the shifting and impermanent cloud forms that gives the sunrise its awe inspiring “take your breath away” quality.

Blue Hues!

As a pluralist I often tell my sons and students that there is no “one way” to get from point A to point B, that different people may need very different paths.   Whether that end point is an understanding of the divine (as with a spiritual pilgrim), finding a career/job that fits for you, or finding the answer/cure to what ails you (as in the course of psychotherapy).  I look at these sunrises as representing in a graphic way this message.  Some people like their insights and wisdom pure and straight forward, some need it filtered and muted, others need to be awed and dazzled with dancing colors.  Throw in a sunrise over the sea and you get the added reflection and texture of the ocean’s surface.

What are these clouds that shape and change the light, the wisdom coming at us from its divine source?  They are made up of water, a part of the earth, and air. We as human being are made up in large parts of water.  Therefore, much of this blocking and filtering is perhaps part of our nature or a product of the process of being human.  I suspect these clouds are representative of a number of things: teachings and instructions from parents and church leaders; personal experiences (like mystical experiences); biases we embrace out of safety and/or ignorance; exercises and rituals (like prayer, meditation, reason and logic); negative and/or positive mood states; our egos and basic needs. 

Rays of Illumination!

Perhaps that is a topic for another blog!  I for one can just as easily get lost watching a cloud and its flowing, shifting dance across the sky as I can in a sunrise.

I hope you enjoyed today’s words and sunrise scenes!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  127                                              Days Blogged: 109

New Mileage: 4                                                                 Total Trip Mileage: 899

I’m writing today’s blog as I commute to the University. The rising sun heats the left side of my face.  The blazing orb combines with the tall pine trees along the roadside to create cold blue streaks across the gray asphalt.  Yellow ribbons of sunlight set between the streaks flash before my car. 

Spirals of Light - Upward!

Light has long been a source of inspiration for man.  It’s easy to understand why with the predictable systematic rise and fall of its sky bound source.  Its significance is also seen in dancing flames of candles, lanterns that push back darkness and blazing fires that provide a sense of warmth and safety.  If you look at the symbolism of the world’s religions the importance of light is readily apparent whether it’s the halos around saints and saviors, in the spark of divinity within all living things, or in the rainbow of chakra colors running from the base of the spine to the top of our head.

Tiffany Panel

Today we’re visiting a pilgrimage site, an art museum, where light plays a special significance.  We are visiting The Charles Hosmer Morris Museum of American Art in Winter Park Florida.  This museum is described as being home to one of the most comprehensive collections of Louis Comfort Tiffany glass artwork.  Tiffany has been described as the American artist most associated with the Art Nouveau and Aesthetic art movements. He started as a painter but is best known for his work with glass.  He designed stained glass windows, lamps, blown glass, jewelry and ceramics.  Much of the collection was housed for years at a small Florida college until the completion of its current museum building. Perhaps the heart of the collection is the Tiffany’s chapel interior he designed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  The chapel now occupies an entire wing of the museum building. In addition to Tiffany’s work the museum also a major collection of American art pottery and late-19th and erly-20th century American paintings.

Tiffany Chapel

I have always been drawn to Tiffany’s windows and artwork.  Perhaps it speaks to my religious roots.  Having been raised as a Roman Catholic I grew up enraptured as sunlight streams through the colored glass windows of the various churches I attended.  My interest was not centered on the image within the window whether a specific saint, Mary or Christ.  My attraction toward the windows was about the intensity, vibrancy and contrast of the colors. Long after I had moved on to a different spiritual path, I still found myself drawn to stained glass windows.   And I still enjoy an occasional visit to Catholic and Episcopal churches to see the stained glass offerings. 

Tiffany Tree of Life!

I understand the significance these windows played in the early church when the vast majority of the parishioners were illiterate. The experience of the church building must have been particularly impressive for these simple folk.  Imagine being welcomed into the darkened chambers by the echoes of chanting monks or the angelic voices of the choir filling the expansive domed rafters as light from the stained glass windows streaming down in colored majesty.  All of this must have given these sites a profound sense of being a special sacred place, a place touched by the divine.

I hope you enjoyed today’s site visit as we prepare to head toward the coast.

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