A journey to Vietnam

One of Jan's and my closest friends in the Unitarian Universalist minister world is Jan Christian, minister of the UU congregation in Ventura, California. Jan (the minister Jan, not the librarian) was on sabbatical this Winter. During this time she and her son Luke traveled to Vietnam to visit the site where Jan's brother was killed in combat all these years ago. She & Luke and a friend put together a multi-media account of that journey. It broke my heart to watch it. Jan & Luke's … [Read more...]

Watts Redux

The other day I received a really interesting note from an old friend responding to my posting about Alan Watts. He wanted to underscore how much he felt he and others of our shared generation owe to Alan Watts.I know it's true for me. His Way of Zen was one of the first books I read on the subject. I went on to read any number of his books. Later as it became apparent his interpretation of Zen was, how best to put it, problematic; like many others who wanted to delve more deeply into the Zen … [Read more...]

More Desert Wisdom

If you're wondering why this spate of postings, I'm sitting at my computer working on Sunday's sermon & unrelated thoughts keep burbling up. Most I consign to thought-heaven, but one or two feel a need to be passed on.I think I mentioned in a much earlier post how recently I stumbled upon an old copy of Thomas Merton's The Wisdom of the Desert that I had profusely annotated when I was much wiser than I currently am. Fortunately, perhaps, that annotated version has once again disappeared … [Read more...]

How Good

How goodHow pleasantWhen we abide intimate togetherLike warm oil on the headTrickling down the cheekAaron's cheekAnd trickling down the neck onto the collarLike the dew of Mount HermonThe dew that runs down the mountains of ZionWhere you called forth the blessingFor life, life alwaysThe 133rd Psalma poetic translation byNorman Fischer … [Read more...]

Upside Down Zen Again

Every once in a while a book comes along that I just wish everyone would read. Judging from the small pile of books in my office that people have given me, hoping I'd read them, this appears to be a fairly common emotion.To my mind one of the very best books I've read in quite a while is Susan Murphy's Upside Down Zen: Finding the Marvelous in the Ordinary. And it is one I wish people would buy and read. I've posted about this book before, but I find I want to say a little more...The Zen teacher … [Read more...]

Alan Watts

I have no idea why, but Alan Watts just popped into my head. I was thinking of him as an example of someone very important to me at one time and who enjoyed a certain fame and perhaps notoriety at that time, but is now quickly fading into the mists.Watts was one of the first popularizers of Zen writing in English. He himself was not a Zen practitioner, although he was in some sense a disciple of the first great interpreter of Zen philosophy writing in English, D. T. Suzuki. He also moved in Zen … [Read more...]

Happy Birthday, Abe!

I find Abraham endlessly intriguing. One of the most complex political figures in our American history. Elected to the presidency with what seems the least experience and the fewest prospects of success of any who have assumed that office, Lincoln now towers as one of the most important figures in our national story. Among the complexieties he was undoubtedly opposed to slavery but not strictly speaking an abolitionist in the sense of such luminaries as our own Unitarians Ralph Waldo Emerson and … [Read more...]

Unitarian Universalists on Second Life

I've been trying to connect this blog and my You Tube account, a process for which I've found at You Tube. But due, in all likelihood, to my being over fifteen, I have not succeeded in this fond hope.That said, another thing I only have the vaugest understanding about is the vicarious existence that people are setting up for themselves at Second Life.I've heard rumors of a UU church that has established itself in or is it on or perhaps at Second Life.And now You Tube has an advertisment for the … [Read more...]

Layman Pang Reads a Sutra

The Layman was once lying on his couch reading a sutra. A monk saw him and said: “Layman! You must maintain dignity when reading a sutra.”The Layman raised up one leg.The monk had nothing to say.This is an episode from the Ruth Fuller Sasaki, et al translation of the ninth century Zen classic the Record of Layman P’ang (this book appears, sadly, to be out of print). Pangyun (as is the more conventional transliteration of his name today) was a lay Zen master who studied with several of the great t … [Read more...]

Random Ruminations of a Fat Buddhist

In recent months I’ve taken to wearing a small mala (a Buddhist rosary) on my wrist. As my friends say, it’s not quite the affectation my beret is, but… Personally, I like the mala and feel it really is something more than a fashion statement. I even use it, admittedly less for counting breaths and more in the fashion of Greek worry beads; but use it I do. Anyway, this morning as I was dressing I put on a nice wooden set that I’m quite fond of. Then I thought, oh dear, I’m going to weigh in at We … [Read more...]