A Small Rant About Religious Fundamentalism


I find myself haunted by the horrific storming and murders at the humor magazine Charlie Hebdo's offices in Paris reported in today's news.First, for those who ask why Muslims aren't taking public stands in reaction to such terrible things, in fact they are. The press for many complicated reasons just don't give the larger Muslim community's statements the play they really need. At least that's been so in the past. And I see little reason to believe things are going to change in the near … [Read more...]

WHEN IN DOUBT, TELL THE TRUTH: Mark Twain and the Authentic Life


WHEN IN DOUBT, TELL THE TRUTH A Meditation on Mark Twain and Living an Authentic Life in Times that Call us to Be Anything ButJames Ishmael Ford4 January 2014First Unitarian Church Providence, Rhode IslandTextLet us now consider the real God, the genuine God, the great God, the sublime and supreme God, the authentic Creator of the real universe, whose remotenesses are visited by comets only comets unto which incredible distant Neptune is merely an out post, a Sandy Hook to … [Read more...]

So, Why January 1st? A Micro History Lesson

butt trumpet

At least one source asserts the earliest record of a new year festival comes to us from Mesopotamia, some four thousand years ago. It marked the vernal equinox, so took place in mid-March. It appears the Egyptians, Phoenicians, and the Persians began their new year with the fall equinox in September, while the Greeks liked the winter solstice at the end of December. The Chinese New Year is a celebration of the Spring, although the date is arrived at through a complex mix of lunar and solar … [Read more...]

A Couple of Idle Thoughts as the Hours Tick Down on 2014, With Just a Little Finger Wagging

Happy New Year

I understand that Arthur Guinness started up his business after signing a nine thousand year lease on an unused Dublin brewery on this day in 1759.So far, so good...I kind of like audacious.And, frankly, after years like the one just passed, looking forward a little audacious may be particularly in order, at least if we want to be hopeful.And, I do, and so, well, here are some of my more audacious hopes for this new year.May our American dialogue about race and the reality … [Read more...]

Twenty Minutes: A Meditation on Tests, & Failure, & the Long, Long Path of Being Human


I find my thoughts going to the tragic accident in Maryland where a man on a bicycle was struck and killed by a person driving an automobile.The case is still under investigation. But there are a few facts on the ground. Most important was that the driver left the scene. But then returned twenty minutes later in the midst of the investigation.The other fact that at least caught my attention was how the driver of the automobile was an Episcopalian bishop.At this moment there are no … [Read more...]

The Religion We Really Need.

child blowing planet bubbles

I see that it was on this day in 1170 that Thomas Becket, one time tool of the king Henry II, and later thorn in his side in an interesting if generally antique argument over the relationship between church and state where neither were particularly concerned for the actual people under the thumb of state & church died a bloody death, possibly following a casual remark from the king.At the same time on my Facebook feed I noticed an article about the rise of the new atheism linked and with a … [Read more...]

Doug Phillips Receives Dharma Transmission Within the Zen Tradition

Doug Phillips & James Ford

I'm so pleased to be able to announce that on the evening of December 20th, I completed denbo, formal Dharma transmission with Doug Phillips, authorizing him as an independent Zen teacher.Doug and I began studying koans within the Harada Yasutani style together a decade ago, and I gave him denkai, the first step in Dharma transmission within the Soto school last year.Doug has been a student of Zen for more than thirty years, studying previously with Maureen Stuart and George … [Read more...]

Happy Birthday, Bob!


According to the good folk at Wikipedia the very first record of a Christmas celebration took place in Rome on this day in 336.While it is past unlikely Jesus was born on this date, one of the heroes of my youth Robert Ripley was, in 1890.His cartoons occupied my imagination throughout my childhood, opening doors to the weird, the fantastic and the unlikely.For which I remain eternally grateful... … [Read more...]

A Christmas Eve Meditation

First Unitarian Christmas Eve 2014

A CHRISTMAS EVE MEDITATION24 December 2014James Ishmael FordFirst Unitarian Church Providence, Rhode IslandWe’ve just received a lovely letter from our sister congregation in Transylvania, written by their minister the Rev. Szabolcs Kelemen. Let me share it with you.One hundred years ago, on 24th December, the world changed. It was a unique experience of love between people. World War I was a destructive war. On that day, although the politics of war existed, things were d … [Read more...]

Charles Dickens, His Christmas Carol, & Those Three Spirits: a Christmas Eve Meditation

ignorance and want

I find myself thinking of Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol, and how it has come to shape so much of what we in our contemporary culture all understand Christmas to be about.Some of my friends read the original story aloud annually. That may be more than you want to do. But I hope watching one of the versions on television is a part of your holiday tradition. And if not, I hope you’ll consider it. Even the worst of them, the ones that emphasize the melodrama of it bring something lovely into … [Read more...]