When we moved here to Long Beach I felt I needed two things. One was white or off white linen trousers. The other was boat shoes. I keep telling myself I'm going to lose weight, so I'm putting off the pants thing for a bit longer.But, on our way out from lovely old New England we stopped at a Bass outlet and purchased me my first pair of boat shoes. Lovely things, I think. And I quickly learned that wearing shoes without socks means sweaty feet. And there is something of an odor thing, as … [Read more...]

Nyogen Senzaki on Sufism & Zen

Nyogen Senzaki

(Just shy of a decade ago I published this fascinating account. And it seemed time to repost it. This essay, "Sufism & Zen" is taken from a collection of Nyogen Senzaki Sensei’s lectures and writings which was published in Japan in 1936 as ON ZEN MEDITATION by the Rinzai priest Nanshin Okamoto. It describes the Zen teacher’s encounter with the Sufi master Inayat Khan. As both teachers inform my spirituality, I’m particularly taken that there was a direct connection between them at one point in th … [Read more...]

The American Episcopal Church Enters a New Era

Michael Curry

Like many friends of the American Episcopal Church (I like to say if it weren't for that little nagging thing about having to believe in a god...) I'm enchanted with the election, and as of yesterday of the installation of their new Presiding Bishop and Primate, the 27th from the establishment of the American church.That bishop, Michael Curry tells a story about a young African American couple visiting an Episcopal church in the American south in the 1940s. The husband is a Baptist … [Read more...]

Jah Rastafari! The Coronation of Haile Selassie


It was eighty-five years ago, on this day in 1930 Haile Selassie was crowned King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, or more simply as Emperor of Ethiopia at the Cathedral of St George in Addis Ababa.The Wikipedia article on the Emperor tells us "The coronation was by all accounts 'a most splendid affair,' and it was attended by royals and dignitaries from all over the world. Among those in attendance were George V's son the Duke of Gloucester, Marshal … [Read more...]

DAYS OF THE DEAD A Litany of Questions


DAYS OF THE DEADA Litany of Questions1 November 2015James Ishmael FordPacific Unitarian Church Rancho Palos Verdes, CaliforniaToday I offer you a litany of questions. And somewhere near the end, so brief you might miss it - I’ll throw in a suggestion of an answer. Just a hint. You might think of it as sort of a small Halloween treat. To begin, I recall a few years ago going with Jan to an event for the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry in Boston. They are s … [Read more...]

Getting Over Yourself: Five Points for a Mature Spiritual Life

Luther at the door

Today is Halloween. It is also the 498th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his famous ninety-five theses on the door of Wittenberg church. In two years I expect our Lutheran friends to have quite the fete with this.A couple of years ago in honor of the occasion I thought I should pin five theses to the cork board in my kitchen. Which, I did. After letting these points stew for a bit, today I thought I'd share a very slightly revised version...1) God isn’t a person. Get over it. T … [Read more...]

Grace Slick Turns Seventy-Six


Singer, songwriter, and artist Grace Slick was born on this day in 1939, making her seventy-six. She fronted the Jefferson Airplane, which became Jefferson Starship, which became Starship. She is legitimately called a rock n roll legend. Unlike many of her contemporaries who didn't die and are still on the road, she retired from the music industry at forty-nine. According to a 2007 interview recorded in Wikipedia, she observed "You can do jazz, classical, blues, opera, country until you're 150, … [Read more...]

Walking the Bridge of Spies

Tom Hanks

Continuing our retirement commitment of watching lots of movies, even though neither of us have actually completely retired, and are not yet up to seeing tons of movies - at about half a dozen since late June we have about matched our number for the prior two or three years.We're now on a mini holiday in Washington DC, taking in a couple of tours arranged by our Representative (Thank you, Alan Lowenthal! We're having a wonderful time.), or rather his team (Thank you, Becca Brukman!), and … [Read more...]

Constantine Sees That Cross

The emperor Constantine seeing the sign of the Cross

The good folk at Wikipedia set today in 312 as the moment when Constantine, later called the Great, purported to have a vision of a cross in the sky and heard the words "With this sign, conquer."What we know with certainty is that he did.And this also sealed the deal for Christianity. Already an important cult with a significant following, it would within a few years become the official religion of the Empire.Sort of cutting a deal with the devil... … [Read more...]

HOW MANY LIVES? Finding Zen’s Liberation Within a Contemporary Context

wheel of rebirth

HOW MANY LIVES?Finding Zen's Liberation Within a Contemporary ContextJames Ishmael FordThe mainstream Indian conviction was that each person has a single, permanent soul. The Chinese were inclined to allow that we are each a gathering of several kinds of “spirit” or subtle forms of energy that leave the body at death and return to their separate and proper places in the cosmos. The truth of a person is not, however, given in any one of these departing spirits or in their shared ess … [Read more...]