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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Frog Songs

I woke this morning to hear the frogs singing. It's a sure sign of spring, that the Earth is turning again towards the warm season. Reassuring that life goes on. You see, I'm sad thinking of dear friends I've lost, who stay with me although they're no longer here.

Best to look forward, past the thicket of "if-only" to seize what lies ahead. It's hard for me to turn my head, though.

The frogs speak of hope, of renewal. I will listen to them, and maybe their songs will lead me to firm ground.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Birthday Cake

This month was my boy's birthday, and so he requested for his special dinner turkey london broil (basically a big slab of turkey breast, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and thyme), biscuits, green beans, and strawberries. The strawberries were expensive this time of year, but oh well. For dessert: ice cream cake.

Since that cake went so quickly, and it was still the birthday week, a few days later I made yellow cake with chocolate icing.

A few days later both the kiddos requested another: chocolate layer cake.

A few days later: crumble cake with coconut.

Can you say "spoiled"? I promise, we don't usually eat like this (we're all thin!). Still, it was kind of fun to have all of these desserts around for awhile, a little indulgence. Life is stressful enough; it's stressful even for the kiddos who collapse every weekend and sleep until the sun glares in their eyes. During the week they have an early school day, hours of homework, tae kwon do, science and history projects, piano, the works. They know it's a privilege to be able to train their minds and develop talents and abilities, but still ...

Yet, our society probably has more potential for leisure than any previous society. Clothes dirty? You don't need to rub them on a board by the river, just toss them in the washer. Hungry? You don't need to grow crops or hunt, just grab a TV dinner from the freezer. You can easily travel a hundred miles in two hours when the same journey 150 years ago took two or three hard days by carriage. Information is at your fingertips on google. And yet, despite all of our modern conveniences we still manage to fill this extra time with duties that never let up. Early drive through rush hour, run all day. Sometimes I wonder what all of this busy-ness in
our lives accomplishes. Always one more thing to do, and the television, radio, and computer are always on.

I read once that the development of creativity depends on three factors: access to materials, solitude, and lots of unstructured time. And creativity is not the only benefit of open time. I believe that the human condition requires this rest, and silence, on a regular basis. I've certainly found this is true for me. I used to attend Quaker meeting for worship, where people simply sit silently in the meeting hall for an hour. I learned to rely on this time to give focus and calm in a busy world, and that sometimes it's all right to just ... sit ...

I want the kids to know that it's OK to think, to dream, to create, to ponder. Spend time with a good book that tells of a different world. Make music, or paint. One doesn't always have to be rushing around filling the last stray second.

After consultation, the kids informed me today that they're ready for another birthday cake, actually a chocolate pie with an oreo-crumbled crust. As I think of it, I can feel my blood sugar rising. No.

No more. I'm going on strike from the dessert kitchen.

I'll be glad when this birthday month is over. Have a good week, my dear friends.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Oprah at the Gym

I work out three or so times a week, at a small gym where we all know each other. It's fun :-) but that's a different story.

Yesterday on the circuit a woman (I'll call her Stacy) was raving about Oprah's spirituality, and how it so unifies people. I think she was excited by reading one of Oprah's new book club books, The Power of One by Eckhart Tolle. Stacy explained that we need to live each day in the moment (very wise), with the knowledge that God is within. Furthermore, the wisdom of many religions demonstrates that they all show different aspects of the same Truth-with-a-capital-"T".

Wow, this was heavy, especially coming in the middle of my leg presses!

I love philosophical issues, though. What fun to ponder these abstract concepts, and so my thoughts ran as I listened to this woman go on. I had a few questions for her. I asked if she could summarize the book's concepts for me since I hadn't read it. Hmm.

The ideas that Stacy was espousing sounded to me like Classical Pantheism: the belief that "God" is in everything, and that religions are essentially the same. It's certainly appealing to think that we all carry the Light within us, we are good, we make our own reality etc. etc. This seems to be a common message of many "spiritual" people who I talk with: that we can somehow tap into this god-power, live successfully and prosperously by "drawing" good things to ourselves, and help ourselves by helping others. We all must work out "God" our own way, and follow what we believe. No one's belief is wrong; all roads eventually lead to "God" (or whatever we wish to name it), that free-flowing energy force of light and love that permeates all things.

But...what if this is wrong? For example, as a scientist I was immersed in a different view: there is nothing but evolution and chance, and therefore what we do doesn't matter anyway since there is no God.

Alternatively, what if "God" does indeed exist but he is separate, a Super-Being who has already revealed himself? Surely the monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) say as much, and for anyone who thinks otherwise I challenge you to actually read their writings (Old Testament, New Testament, Koran) rather than cherry-pick verses. Jesus, especially, is misquoted. He claimed to be God, yes, but the Holy, separate "I AM" omnipotent God. He did NOT believe others were God, and he was railroaded by the Jewish leaders to execution because of his claims to deity. Read the book of John.

Can all of these beliefs (God is a force, God doesn't exist, God is a separate Super-Being) all be true?

Religion is a notoriously "squishy" topic: after all, if we can't see God (Higher Power, Life Force, whatever), how can we know what the truth is? Even so, people often have very strong opinions about God. Many times these opinions stem from the person's upbringing, but not always. As I've studied religious systems, I've found that Christianity stands out for two reasons.

First is Christianity's notion of "grace." All other religious systems seem to say that you must do X, and/or avoid Y, in order to be acceptable to God (monotheistic) or to understand and join with the life force (pantheistic). Christianity is the only belief system that says we humans CANNOT become good enough to be united with God: God himself must build the bridge (Jesus) that allows us to cross over to Him.

Second, the historical evidence seems to document the existence of a real live miracle, the resurrection of Jesus. I took a year studying the circumstances surrounding Jesus' death with the goal of destroying the claims of Christianity. I was shocked at what I found. At the end, I reluctantly admitted defeat and became a Christian. I was very angry at first :-)

I don't watch Oprah's shows, but I have a great respect for her. I believe she is a genuinely good and kind person, and that if more people were like her, this world would surely be a better place. She has overcome great personal odds to become a successful and remarkable woman; more power to her. Still, I am uncomfortable with her pantheistic ideals. There is much room for respectful debate and the give and take of ideas over this issue. Truly, this question of "Who is God?" must be the most important one that anyone could ask.


These are issues that are challenging to address in just a few paragraphs. Wow, how did I dig myself in this deep starting from a visit to the gym? Oh well. As they say, "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread," so here am I my dear friends, foolishly yours.