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Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Parting the Veil: Lessons from the Threadbare Season

Briarheart

Parting the Veil is a term oft-employed by Western mystery traditions to describe actively stepping into the realm of magic, entering a heightened state of awareness. The Liminal, the transitions, the uncharted places on a map, in our lives, in our lifetimes: these thresholds are enshrouded in their own sort of Veil.
Tennyson’s fairy weaver, The Lady of Shalott, lived a shrouded life, secluded in a tower, fearful of an unknown curse that would befall her should she leave the tower, or even gaze out the window. To pass her time, she views the world through a crystal mirror, where she caught glimpses of life, shadows of the world, in mythical Camelot. Our Lady never fully experiences life, threading together ideas of the beauty of other’s lives. Half-sick of shadows, she bides her time until one day, a sight too beautiful to resist, moved across the mirror’s surface… Sir Lancelot…

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The Practice of Nothing Sure is Something

I asked my Dharma teacher what his practice was, and he said doing nothing. I struggle with doing nothing. I don’t see how it is positive.

I look into a world of sharp edges, with issues, big issues. We fight for equality, we fight for dignity, we work to feed the starving and get frustrated at the fact there is enough food in the world to feed everyone, yet people still die of hunger. I struggle with the idea that doing nothing is a positive spiritual practice.

There is always something to do, there are papers to write, tests to grade, programs that won’t code themselves and the poor are always with us. There is so much to do–there isn’t enough time. So how then is doing nothing good? How do I give myself permission for…nothing?

One Buddhist Lama in India spoke to his student about how difficult it can be in the West to practice. He was a yak herder until he was 12 then he went to the monastery. He never owned an iPhone, never watched TV, and seldom ever heard a radio. He asked “Don’t American’s have a battery inside, why do you always have to be plugged in?”

As I meditate and work hard at doing nothing I hear my father’s voice ring through my head. My father worked very hard and still does. He never understood my work as a minister or my brother’s work as a social worker. He said, “I just don’t understand getting paid to talk to people–you dig a ditch you get paid, you talk for fun.”

I remember my unemployment, I remember the shame of not contributing, the shame of not accomplishing, the shame of getting nothing done. I worked hard those many months, I worked hard while getting nothing done.

But what if getting nothing done and doing nothing are two different things? So I sit, and face the spiritual practice of doing nothing. It is difficult to give myself that permission, especially when there is a list of things to do and a full DVR to watch. I sit to meditate, then I wonder what is new on YouTube, I sit in silence and wonder how my favorite shows will end, I sit to pray and wonder when it will be over so I can return to contributing. That’s my monkey mind, a mind so busy it runs around like a monkey from topic to topic. I don’t hear the silence of peace, I hear only the chatter of what needs done.

The Hebrew Bible says “Blessed is Sabbath, and you keep it holy.” God not only gives permission but makes the demand that his people rest, and though we may not all believe in God, what if we just chose to believe in rest? What if we look to ourselves, and acknowledge that humans need rest, deserve rest, and thrive with rest. What if rest is so important it is like doing something?

The holidays are upon us, and though generally assumed we will rest, do we really ever rest? We have to cook, clean, shop, and deal with broken relationships. There are expectations–that year after year we do not meet. It is easy then to be filled with shame over those expectations but in truth what if we decided our expectations are wrong-not us?

Would it be different if we cooked because we wanted to, gave and received gifts out of love, and understood that even in our brokenness we can be one? Then, maybe, instead of seeking entertainment we found that the best entertainment is none at all–that Doing Nothing may be the most important thing we will ever do? – Justin M McCreary

A Capitol (Very White) Fourth to Us!

Having watched “A Capitol Fourth” on television from Washington DC, I can truly say it was not diverse.

Here was the run-down of the evening’s performances:
1. Barry Manilow–white
2. The cast of Motown, the musical (an all-black cast)
3. Darren Criss (of Glee fame)–(white)
4. Jackie Evanco (child wonder from America’s Got Talent)–white
5. Steven Spielberg’s Abraham Lincoln movie clips with John Williams conducting his background music–Spielberg and Williams, white
6. Scotty McCreery (last year’s winner of American Idol)–white
7. Candice Glover (latest winner of American Idol)–a person of color [FINALLY!]

That was the lineup. White lead singers with backup choirs either all black or partial people of color. Can we say white people had the leads and people of color did the backup/backroom stuff?

If that was not bad enough, the cameras that panned the crowd had a hard time finding people of color. When “Motown” performed, the cameras found one or two people of color. When Candice Glover sang, they found one black woman in tears listening to her performance. After Candice sang, they panned the front row (all white) and showed people talking among themselves, looking very bored, and hardly clapping.

TIME WARP! Where was I?

Now I know that across the country this was not the representation at various other locations, but what image do we give to the world when our nation’s supposedly premier performance holds up a white standard and raises it on a flagpole to waive to the world?

When we talk about people of color, I assume we mean people who are other than Caucasian European descent. In the audience we were allowed to see, I saw approximately this ratio: white-90%, black-5%, Asian-4%, other of unknown descent-1%, Hispanic 0%. What?–no Hispanic singers or backup choirs?

If that was not enough, where were the gay performers? How about Lady Bunny–now that would have been a fabulous show! Or how about RuPaul?

At best, “A Capital Fourth” was a bastardization of what this country is. It represented a snow white show interspersed with one or two tiny bits of the diversity of this country. I, for one, was very unimpressed.

Jim Becker
Communications Director, UUCJ