Dunhuang Library Discovered!

Diamond Sutra Frontispiece

It was on this day in 1900 that the Taoist monk Wang Yanlu while trying to salvage ancient religious artwork in one of the ruined Caves of the Thousand Buddhas near Dunhuang, found a hidden door. It opened into another cave now known as the renowned "Library Cave." In it he found a gigantic archive of documents.The archeologist Aurel Stein who was the first European to see the collection in 1906, described what he saw. "Heaped up in layers, but without any order, there appeared in the dim … [Read more...]

A Little Something for the Nine Year Old Boy in All of Us

Not to mention a fair warning to astronauts... … [Read more...]

Thank Goodness, the Typewriter Has Arrived!


Like many inventions of genuine import, the typewriter has many parents.An article on the subject at Wikipedia gives a litany of advances toward the development of a mechanical writing machine. As early as 1575 an Italian printmaker named Francesco Rampazzetto invented something he called the "scripture tattle," which impressed letters onto paper. Then in 1714 an Englishman Henry Mill received a patent for something very much like a typewriter. Although nothing seemed to come of it. The … [Read more...]

And a Blessed World Humanist Day to You!

pilgrim seeing through

Various of my friends and more often folk who are passingly familiar with my work think I'm some sort of Buddhist Christian. While it is true I have deep affinities with the Christian tradition, particularly its metaphors and images, and could be called a cultural Christian with some truth, the best box to try and cram me into would have to be "liberal Zen Buddhist," or, some might prefer "modernist Zen Buddhist." So, in fact, the tradition outside of Buddhism I most align with, at least … [Read more...]

Recalling Juneteenth

Civil War black-soldiers

Particularly considering the terrible murders at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, but really, in the midst of our constant struggle dealing with our American history with race, slavery, and ongoing racism here, it might be a good time to pause and notice yesterday was Juneteenth. … [Read more...]

The Hermeneutical Feed-back Loop: Or, a Couple of Confessions of a Modernist Buddhist


For reasons beyond my ken I'm waking up earlier each day. So, here I am, in the tiny public laundry room at my motel in Harrisonburg, VA. And for equally murky reasons I find myself thinking of the "hermeneutical feed-back loop," or, in more popular terms, the "pizza effect" in religion. The later term for how pizza has transmogrified in both Italy and America by its lover's importing, modifying, and exporting and then back again...The term was coined, I believe, by Agehananda Bharati at … [Read more...]

Bishop Hodur’s Cathedral


As we began our great Road Trip home to California our first bit of tourism was a swing by Scranton, PA, where I got to look at St Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr, the Polish National Catholic Church's cathedral, and home church to the PNCC's founding bishop Francis Hodur.I've a long time interest in the denomination, the only substantial schism from the Roman Catholic Church in American history. Originally founded in disputes over who actually owns the church property and more importantly deep … [Read more...]

Countdown to Retirement: A Meditation

Long Beach 2

Last year a friend put a counter on my computer he labeled "countdown to retirement." I figured as he was a prominent Zen teacher, it must be okay. Well, maybe not fully okay. On the one hand I didn't like anything that could feel like wishing away my life. I've never seen much profit in living too far out into the future. On the other hand, it is such a significant marker in the cycles of my life, looking every once in a while and seeing how that calendar stands brought with it a small thrill. … [Read more...]

THE THIRD SERMON A Meditation on a Preaching Ministry

hogarth preacher 1

THE THIRD SERMON A Meditation on a Preaching Ministry14 June 2015James Ishmael FordFirst Unitarian Church Providence, Rhode IslandFirst, thank you all very much for the so many kindnesses you’ve shown Jan and me in these past months as we’ve wound our way toward this, our last Sunday together with me as your called minister. Watching my name carved into the marble plaque, posing for a formal portrait (although I am a bit confused how the photographer was able to age me and … [Read more...]

Eratosthenes Calls the Day, And It Ain’t A Happy One


According to Eratosthenes the polymath and chief librarian at the Library of Alexandria in the third century before the common era, who pretty much nailed the circumference of the Earth, the tilt of our planet on its axis, and maybe even the distance between our little globe and the sun, also calculated that it was on this day in 1184 BC that Troy was sacked and burned to the ground. He was a librarian, so who would any of us be to challenge his calculation? … [Read more...]