Denial: A Talky Movie About Important Things: I loved It

Yesterday Jan and I went to see Denial.The story follows the real life events of British writer and independent scholar David Irving's suit for libel in the mid 1990s against the American academic Deborah Lipstadt's characterization of him as a Holocaust denier. It is largely a courtroom drama, where most of the action turns on the fact that the burden of proof in English libel law rests with the defense.The script is by the playwright David Hare working from Professor Lipstadt's memoir … [Read more...]

Mysterious Reality: A Naturalistic Buddhist Meditation

A friend, someone I like and admire, recently posted one of those motivational quotes asserting all one needs to succeed is hard work, and, maybe loving what you do. I couldn’t help but comment on it, saying yes, all of that. And, also, one needs a large dose of luck. Which I further modified by saying, “luck” can often be defined by the circumstances of your birth.This set off a cascade of mind bubbles about success and failure, fate and free will, and finally, meaning and meaninglessness. … [Read more...]

Enter Weird Al

Alfred Matthew Yankovic was born on this day in 1959.We usually call him Weird Al.He has been a fixture of popular culture since 1976, according to the Wikipedia article, as of 2007 he has sold over twelve million albums, no doubt a boatload more since. Among many awards and acknowledgments Weird Al has won four Grammy awards.Sometimes you just have to smile. And, it can be a hoot to take a little walk on the mild side with him... … [Read more...]

Wishing the World a Happy Six Thousand & Twentieth Birthday! Along with a tip of the Hat to Not Knowing

As pretty much everyone knows, the world was created in the late afternoon, okay, maybe early evening, on this day in the 4004th year before the birth of Jesus.James Ussher, the Anglican archbishop of Armagh, and Primate of all Ireland, figured it out in the 17th century. Actually he was following in the footsteps of many before him attempting to use the scriptures as a guide to their calculations. He did it with a bit more rigor than the others, marshaling an impressive intellect and … [Read more...]

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan, a Stately pleasure-dome decree…

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born on this day in 1772. Poet member of the Lake Poets, and a founder of the English Romantic Movement, he is often credited for introducing German Idealism to the English speaking world. Obviously an overstatement, but he is very important. Also, he directly influenced Ralph Waldo Emerson and other Transcendentalists.His poetry is less read today, but pretty much everyone still recognizes lines from Kubla Khan and the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.And, maybe … [Read more...]

Telling Religious Stories: Fingers Pointing to the Moon

I've been thinking about stories, and particularly religion or spirituality as story.I believe we in fact live and breathe and have our being within stories. And nothing quite like those "big" stories, the stories religions tell like the birth of Jesus, Mohammed's night journey, Arjuna's encounter with his charioteer, or the Buddha's great awakening, for pointing to deeper places of our human hearts.I’ve come to be a strong believer in the assertion we humans are the metaphor bearing a … [Read more...]

The Great Suzuki

Teitaro Suzuki was born on this day in 1870. He was born into a Samurai family, his father a physician. His father's death plunged the family into penury. The questions that rise out of seeing the vagaries of life drove him into a deep spiritual quest.He entered the University of Tokyo studying classical Buddhist languages while at the same time beginning to sit at Engakuji Rinzai Zen temple. He became the student of the master there, Imakita Kosen, under whom he had his first experiences of … [Read more...]

Zen Chants in the West: Rilke’s Ninth Elegy

Rainer Maria Rilke is without a doubt one of the great gifts of the twentieth century to the world. This particular poem, the Ninth Elegy is chanted in some Zen centers together with more “traditional” Zen texts. Personally, I'd like to see some more of that.Here's how it begins in Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows translation.Why, if it's possible to come into existence as laurel, say, a little darker green than other trees, with ripples edging each leaf (like a wind, smiling): why the … [Read more...]

Encountering Zen’s Precepts as Koans

The word "koan" has entered our English lexicon as either a "thorny question," or, sometimes interchangeably with the word "Zen" as a a kind of non sequitur. And, while I don't personally like these usages, language is like that, mutable, and ever changing.But, it can also be worthwhile looking to what a koan is in the sense of a spiritual discipline, as part of the Zen project. Not the non sequitur thing, but the great quest for meaning and healing that many human hearts feel tugging at … [Read more...]

Recalling Teresa

Today in Western Christendom is the feast of St Teresa of Avila.She is one of only four women to be named a “Doctor” of the Roman Catholic Church, and to my mind one of the greatest of Catholic theologians. She is one of my favorite believers in the Christian religion.Teresa and her special friend and sometime confessor St John of the Cross are the great masters of the Christian version of the Via Negativa, the “Negative Way.” the Negative theology is, to my mind and heart, the reach acr … [Read more...]