Dec 22, 2012

Putting the Hate Back in Christmas

Pope Benedict has a heartwarming message this holiday season. Let's put a stop to the gay... or words to that effect. In his annual State of the Church speech before the Curia yesterday, his holiness made clear that the top priority of the Vatican is to stop the march toward modernity that has already displayed itself in numerous countries and a growing number of states in the US.

Gay marriage is a threat to "traditional marriage" says the Celibate in Chief.

Benedict XVI made the comments in his annual Christmas address to the Vatican bureaucracy, one of his most important speeches of the year. He dedicated it this year to promoting traditional family values in the face of gains by same-sex marriage proponents in the U.S. and Europe and efforts to legalize gay marriage in places like France and Britain.

In his remarks, Benedict quoted the chief rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, in saying the campaign for granting gays the right to marry and adopt children was an "attack" on the traditional family made up of a father, mother and children.

Well. At least it was ecumenical. But I can't help wondering what these Jewish-Christian allies in leadership are basing their ideas of "tradition" upon. Not their holy books, certainly, wherein those "mothers" are little more than transferred property and often consigned to large harems.

Mostly, His Holiness seems to be distressed by the all the gender-bending that goes on.

In his speech, the pope cited Bernheim as lamenting how a new philosophy of sexuality has taken hold, whereby sex and gender are "no longer a given element of nature that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society."

He said God had created man and woman as a specific "duality" – "an essential aspect of what being human is all about."

This follows his "peace message" of a week ago, in which he cited gay marriage as a key threat to world peace. Nothing like a demonstration of love and compassion as the Church prepares to celebrate the birth of Christ.

The pontiff did, however, grant an act of kindness to his former butler, whose Christmas-time pardon was widely anticipated. He will also secure housing and employment for this fallen angel somewhere safely away from Vatican property.

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Dec 20, 2012

Drunvalo 2012 Webcast: I Will Be Doing This

Just got a little tap from universe reminding me that Drunvalo Melchizedek posted a video recently. I hadn't watched it yet, but I saw it float by on Facebook. So I just watched it. It's an introduction to a webcast he'll be leading over the next three days. You can go here to get the particulars and sign up. This one's free. I don't know what he's on about but, as ever, I feel strongly led to participate in whatever Drunvalo is doing. I do just love that man. And his work has seen me through some of the most transformative experiences of my life. So check it out if you want. Cheers.

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Dec 17, 2012

Sandy Hook and the Healing Power of Compassion

"Compassion, or the sense of shared humanity, of our kinship with each other: This is what heals." ~ Pema Chodron

The pain, at first, felt strangely personal. Strange because these were not my children. And, yet, any one of them could have been. As a mother, I feel the loss of any child as a momentary, primal terror. It's every parent's greatest fear, lingering always at the periphery of conscious awareness.

Then it expanded outward as I thought of all those parents spending their first night in the cold grip of unutterable grief. And I sobbed. And I sobbed. And I sobbed.

As I surfed the web that afternoon, checked in with friends on Facebook, and read the unfolding coverage, I gradually became aware again that this was a shared experience. Everyone I knew was in shock... naturally. It's always something of a relief -- those moments when you realize you are not alone in your sorrow.

So I thought of Pema Chodron and of her lectures on the constructive use of suffering for personal and global healing. Some time ago, I posted her explanation of the Tibetan Buddhist practice of Tonglen. As we breathe in the sorrows of the world and exhale our love and compassion, we participate in the conscious transformation of the planet.

Through our own personal experience of pain and struggle, we find compassion for the suffering of others. And when these news-making tragedies fix our collective attention, we are reminded that we are part of the shared heart of the world. Our heart chakras are ripped open as the consciousness of our interconnectedness expands.

As news of the tragic shooting at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, rippled across the globe, Mari Lolarga found a candle in his home in the Philippines and lit it in honor of those who died.

. . .

"May Allah give courage to all families to face it bravely, may the souls of those angels rest in peace," said Ghulam Murtaza, an elementary school teacher from Pakistan.
Danbury mayor: 'A horrific day'

In Lithuania, a teacher identifying herself as Veronika commented: "I send all my love and prayers to the families. It is all I can do from so far away, but my heart is now in Newtown with all the affected people. God bless them all."

. . .

Lisa Garnier from Canada said she and her husband were so devastated by the news they both sat down and cried.

I read something recently about the Maya trying to end the fear-mongering about their ancient calendar and the panic about the pending 2012 end date.

[Felipe]Gomez's group issued a statement saying that the new Maya time cycle simply "means there will be big changes on the personal, family and community level, so that there is harmony and balance between mankind and nature."

It was but another reminder that the "shift of ages" holds the promise of bringing humanity into "right relationship" with the world we inhabit. So here we stand, on the eve of "the end of the world" remembering that we are all mothers... and fathers... and sisters... and brothers... and children.

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Dec 12, 2012

Rest in Peace, Ravi Shankar... And Thank-you

“It is utter joy, uninhibited, that an artist experiences. The raga, the musician, the listeners, all become one.” ~ Ravi Shankar

I awoke this morning to the very sad news of Ravi Shankar's passing. I grew up listening to Shankar. And to the Beatles whose interest in his music introduced him to a much larger audience than he might otherwise have known. In my mother's massive record collection was the album Live at Monterey. Over the years, I practically wore the grooves off of it. Shankar taught me an entirely new way to experience music -- as deep meditation. I would come home from school, some days, and drift through time and space as I listened to Bhimpalasi, "one of the most beautiful raga of the late afternoon."

This was Shankar's incredible gift. He was able to school the West on the consciousness shifting capacity of music.

With an instrument perplexing to most Westerners, Ravi Shankar helped connect the world through music. The sitar virtuoso hobnobbed with the Beatles, became a hippie musical icon and spearheaded the first rock benefit concert as he introduced traditional Indian ragas to Western audiences over nearly a century.

. . .

Labeled "the godfather of world music" by [George] Harrison, Shankar helped millions of classical, jazz and rock lovers discover the centuries-old traditions of Indian music.

"He was legend of legends," Shivkumar Sharma, a noted santoor player who performed with Shankar, told Indian media. "Indian classical was not at all known in the Western world. He was the musician who had that training … the ability to communicate with the Western audience."

I could probably go on at some length about the man, his genius, and the incredible gift to the world that is his body of work, but compared to the incredible tapestry of sound he created, words fail.

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Dec 9, 2012

O Christmas Tower

The Eiffel Tower seems to be trending. Decorative accent sculptures, lamps, candle holders, 3D puzzles and, of course, the traditional art prints -- I've been seeing them in increasing numbers in stores over the past couple of years. But I knew something had really hit critical mass when I noticed a Christmas lawn ornament in front of a neighbor's house.

I've been acutely aware of this particular trend not because I'm so besotted with the idea of Parisian glamor. I don't really have a burning desire to see gay Paris. As with so many things that seize my attention, at this point, my interest is more esoteric.

Many years ago, I went to a shamanic journey workshop. It consisted of live drumming as we all attempted to journey questions suggested by the organizers. One of the questions had to do with finding community. I was a tad disappointed to learn, in my journey, that I have no community and would not have until I accomplished certain spiritual initiations. None of this surprised me, exactly, but it was still a little frustrating. Central in this journey was a kind of mountain... tower... thing. My sense was that I would have to reach the pinnacle of it before I could connect with my community. And my sense was that it would take years. It was a very sharp, elongated triangle, with concave sides. I drew my impression of it when I completed the journey. And I thought, but that's the Eiffel Tower. What on earth could that form have to do with anything? It's not a pyramid. It's not a tetrahedron. It's not any of those cardinal, sacred geometry forms, that I would expect. But there it was. A very rudimentary Eiffel Tower form. For some time, I refused to believe that the shape I'd been shown had anything to do with something that had become, in my mind, a cliche of American Francophilia. But it came up, over the years, in other journeys and meditations. The shape was unmistakable. Nearly ten years later, I gave up on denying that there was some connection to the iconic architecture.

Dec 5, 2012

Putting the Ass Back in Christmas

Speaking of the War on Christmas, here is Jon Stewart's hilarious take. This is not the first time Stewart has gone head to head with Bill O'Reilly on this issue. Notably in his recent debate with the Fox pundit, he delivered this pithy assessment:

If you think Christmas isn’t celebrated in this country, walk a mile in Hanukkah’s shoes.

But nothing ever seems to pierce O'Reilly's bubble of narcissistic myopia.

Even Fox's Catholic priest on call, Father Jonathan Morris, thinks their obsession with this imaginary war is over the top. His reasoning still manages to drip with the requisite victimhood.

The reason I’m not angry is that, yes, I think it’s silly, it’s out of place for people to dedicate so much energy to try to get rid of Christmas scenes like this. The good news is when Christianity has been persecuted, when it has been outlawed, when people have died for their faith, it hasn’t gone away. Everybody has an opportunity to make sure their faith does not go away in this Christmas season to live that faith as a family, as a community. What should we do about these, I think very small percentage of people who are working to try to get rid of these public expressions of faith? I think we should speak up. That’s why I am doing it. That’s why I think it’s important we have these stories to show what they are trying to do — without losing the peace. If our Christmas is going to be all about getting a upset at people trying to take away Christmas, isn’t that silly too?

So that's about as clear as mud. Christians have always been persecuted, outlawed, and killed, but we don't need to get all het up about it.

O'Reilly, though, is taking a very different tack. This has nothing to do with religious persecution because Christianity isn't a religion. It's a philosophy. And Christmas trees are secular symbols. Yes. You heard me. They're secular. And somehow the fact that they are secular is the reason you have to call them Christmas trees -- not holiday trees. Get it? Because they're secular symbols they can't have a secular name.

Oh, and we can all go to work, if we want, on the secular, federal holiday that is Christmas, even though our offices are closed.

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Dec 4, 2012

No Tree for You!

Remember the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld? This capricious vendor of very delicious soup would refuse service to anyone he didn't like, telling them, "No soup for you!" Well, it seems we have ourselves a Tree Nazi, except that this one discriminates based on religion -- including Jews... So that's a little creepy.

There seems to be some debate as to whether or not the photo could possibly be real. I for one don't doubt that it could be a genuine article. It looks like another battle line has been drawn in the culture wars. Now they're being fought on the commerce front -- like the gun dealer who's refused to sell to Obama voters.

It's hard for me to get worked up about the possible civil rights violation because the whole scenario is just too hilarious. But then, I'm not a Jew in desperate need of a Hanukkah bush in whatever provincial backwater this sign was photographed in.

Why do I find this amusing? For starters, and I'm not alone in noting this, Christmas trees are Pagan -- not Christian. And the Bible specifically condemns the "heathen" custom. Some of your more serious Christians recognize the Pagan nature of Christmas customs and have taken to waging their own version of the "War on Christmas." But I digress.

On a less prosaic note, I can't help noticing that the Christmas tree graphics used in that sign have a very noticeable benben. For a detailed explanation of the sacred geometry represented by the Christmas tree, see here. But here's the shorthand:

For so many reasons, that discriminatory sign is as risible as the yearly tempest in a teapot that is the "War on Christmas." But at least this bold move to defend the tragically beleaguered, nay endangered, Christendom, puts the focus back on the real meaning of Christmas: Retail.

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