Huston Smith — A Spiritual Companion to Millions

By Barbara Falconer NewhallHuston Smith was well into his 90s. His mind was sharp. His last books, though slender, were inspired. But his hearing was going, and he had taken to a wheelchair. Finally on December 30, at the age of 97, Huston Smith left his millions of fans and readers behind.I'm just one of the countless believers, seekers and skeptics who admired -- loved -- this wise and compassionate man. Huston Smith didn't know it, but he's been my mentor for the past two decades -- … [Read more...]

Last-Minute Gifts for the Worried Progressives on Your List

It might be Christmas Eve right now at your house, or Hanukkah could be already underway, but it's not too late to give last-minute gifts of concerned citizenship -- patriotism -- to your friends and loved ones. Just go on line, click on one of the charities, news organizations and activist organizations below, and subscribe or make a donation in your friend's honor.Patriotism. For me and for my friends in red states and blue, patriotism means being stubbornly loyal to the American p … [Read more...]

Am I Trump’s Idea of a Pathetic Loser?

Am I a pathetic loser? Someone who trusts too much?"In God We Trust." You'll find the words inscribed on a Lincoln penny.Trust in God -- is that what has caused America to survive and thrive for 240 years? Some folks would say yes. But I’d say that the key to America’s success -- what we like to think of as its greatness -- is not trust in God, which would be easy. After all, God, by definition, is infinitely trustable.No, what makes America great is something as tough to achieve as i … [Read more...]

Is That Perfect Rose Too Perfect? Is God?

By Barbara Falconer NewhallIt’s September, which means it's still summertime in California and things are still blooming like mad in my front yard rock garden. So bear with me if my thoughts turn once again to nature’s urge to flower.Flowers. The fine artist wannabe in me asserts that flowers are just too nice and too darned pretty to be the subject of Real Art. That perfect rose is just too perfect.Real Art needs grit. It needs to be problematic. It needs tension. It needs woe and de … [Read more...]

My Mother’s Stuff — Is That All That’s Left of Her?

By Barbara Falconer NewhallMy mother isn't here anymore. She died. But like most people who have spent time on this planet, she left behind some stuff. Among them, a timeworn handbag and a small sofa that she liked to call her love seat. The love seat followed my mother from our home town of Birmingham, Michigan, to a retirement village in Phoenix, and from there to California, where it moved into and out of three different assisted living facilities.Some people preferred to sit across th … [Read more...]

How George Leonard Showed Me the Tao

By Barbara Falconer Newhall My one and only flesh and blood brush with the ancient wisdom tradition of Taoism took place years ago when I was a young journalist newly arrived in San Francisco. Looking for new contacts and connections in my adopted city, I called up a fellow journalist, George Leonard. George and I knew each other in New York during the ’60s when we both worked at Look magazine. That is to say, George and I were aware of each other when we were at Look -- I more aware of George … [Read more...]

If God’s in It, Is It Art?

By Barbara Falconer NewhallIt's the twenty-first century. Skepticism and secularism abound in the modern/post-modern West -- in popular culture, in academia, and in the world of literature and art. Which raises the question for those of us who are both spiritual seekers and wannabeartists: can a religious person be a real artist these days? Or does one have to put on the armor of edgy cynicism to be taken seriously?Michelangelo, perhaps the West's most accomplished artist ever, w … [Read more...]

Do Plants Have a Will to Live? These Did

By Barbara Falconer NewhallIt was done. Those ugly, maroon snapdragons had been banished from our front yard, despite their hearty will to live. I'd pulled them up by the roots, and my rock garden was the better for it. But what to do with the blossoms? I could have taken the flowers over to my 92-year-old mother's assisted living apartment —  except she didn’t like maroon any more than I did.I couldn't bear the sight of the plants languishing, roots, dirt and all, where I'd tossed th … [Read more...]

Floricide at My House — I Offed Those Awful Snapdragons

By Barbara Falconer NewhallI did it. I committed floricide. I killed those snapdragons. I pulled them up by the roots and tossed them onto the cement steps to shrivel and dry up. The miserable maroon interlopers were gone, gone, gone from my flower garden. My pastel color scheme was restored, and all was right with my world.Was it OK to kill perfectly healthy plants? I fretted over the question. But then it occurred to me — I pull up weeds all the time. I kill mosquitoes. I eat lamb c … [Read more...]

Religious Pluralism at the Hagia Sophia — Where Christianity and Islam Meet

Note: I wrote this post a few years ago after a trip to Turkey and the Greek Isles, where religious strife has long been a part of history -- between Christian and Jew, Jew and Muslim -- and even Christian and Christian. Since its founding, America has been a place of religious pluralism, a place that strives for religious acceptance and understanding. It isn't always easy, as this post exemplifies. It's something Americans have to work at. And, I believe, most of us do.As a Christian who … [Read more...]