Vinnie Finds His Community…and His Concert

Trumpet Angel by Johan Hansson

Two kinds of people don’t go to church. One is the modern secularist, for whom the whole idea sounds, if not faintly ridiculous, at least outdated, conjuring images of the 19th century, when pioneer women would walk in their bonnets next to the wagon train, ready to help tame the prairie and produce progeny for their men, who would then build nice little country churches in which they could sing hymns of praise and eventually invite a parson to preach the Word.

The second is the “spiritual but not religious” type who regards spiritual matters as a strictly internal, privatized affair, to be accessible and enjoyed on ecstatic walks along the beach, or at a yoga retreat, or during meditation at an altar they’ve set up in a corner of their den, complete with incense and a laughing fat Buddha.

But church? Too much dogma, too many oleaginous pastors trying to separate you from your money.

And then there’s church as Vinnie Capone has come to know it.


Vinnie started hanging around th...

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A Winter Morning’s Hike With My Friends Henry and Kevin

Lake Ilsanjo

I managed to invite two friends to tag along with me yesterday morning on a hike in my beloved Annadel State Park. The  unusual thing is they came along in shifts.

My longtime running-biking-hiking-drinking-yakking-deconstructing-the-world buddy Kevin accompanied me on the first and most arduous phase, keeping a pretty serious pace as we hoofed it up Rough Go Trail and around Lake Ilsanjo on a crisp winter morning when fog lay heavily across the distant valleys.

When I got home, my friend Henry was waiting for me in the easy chair in the corner of my bedroom, paying me a surprise visit from his home in Massachusetts, his walking stick by his side. He’s not generally a demonstrative sort, so he waved off my expressions of amazement that he had dropped in on me for the first time ever, noted my hiking attire, and asked if I’d taken any pictures of this “Annadel” that I’d occasionally written him about over the years as my last surviving snailmail correspondent...

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Exercising the Spirit: Yoga and the Mind-Body Conundrum

Yoga By Joel NilssonNelson

 ”With its emphasis on strength and flexibility, power yoga brought yoga into the gyms of America, as people began to see yoga as a way to work out.”

So says a response to an inquiry about “power yoga”—a form of vigorous, extreme effort hatha yoga—on ask.com.

“A way to work out.”

As indeed it is.

Get that body to the studio.

Work it out.

Feel good.

Look toned.

Pat your yoga butt as you walk into the cafe to pick up a protein shake.

I don’t know exactly when yoga began to suffer the first fissures from those who would separate it from its profound spiritual roots. It’s a 5,000-year-old discipline, after all, and it was probably 4,999+ years ago that an enterprising Indian merchant wove together some special yoga garment or drew a posture or two on parchment that he traded for a persimmon or a bowl of soup at his friend’s stand down a dusty road.

Eventually, everything worth a whit attracts a market and spawns commercialization, because all of us need to eat.

Dear “Lul...

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God and the gods: From Colton Burpo to Roberto Calasso

RoadToHeaven ByJohnWatson

There may yet come a time when human beings inhabit distant planets in colossal, antiseptic spaceships, going about their days with antiseptic, computer-controlled minds, from which all notions and needs for God-talk will have been expunged. But until that day comes (not in my lifetime, thankfully), I’m casting the time and attention I have left to give on this earth with the poet Ezra Pound: “No apter metaphor having been found for certain emotional colours, I assert that the Gods exist.”

And so they do, in such an astonishing array of forms, depths, beliefs and disbeliefs as to challenge the very notion of human beings even resembling a coherent, more-similar-than-not species.

Exhibits A and B in that challenge: Colton Burpo and Roberto Calasso.

Burpo is the now teen-aged youth who purportedly went to heaven during an emergency appendectomy when he was four years old...

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To a Falling Leaf in the Wind

Just the few of you left now,
your stubborn clinging spent,
a mighty December wind
sending you finally to freefall.

Reclined in the steaming waters,
I see you torn from your branch,
spinning violently, a micro tornado,
coming to rest smack in the middle

of my forehead.

You are small, seven-pronged, maple,
and as you become my third eye,
I look with renewed surprise heavenward,
your cycle now blessed and complete.

***

For periodic and brief posts of inspiring words from the world’s great thinkers and artists, accompanied by lovely photography from my Flickr friends, see my public Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/TraversingBlog

Twitter: @AndrewHidas

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/93289242@N07/

Deep appreciation to photographer Elizabeth Hamlin for use of the banner photos at the top of this page. Some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lizhaslam/

Photo of leaf in water, safely removed from forehead, shot just ...

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Second Annual Holiday Photo Gallery

It’s such a sweet time of year, sugared stuff everywhere in front of us. So in the spirit of the season, today I offer you yet another heap of delectables, but these of the eye candy variety that contain abundant nutrients but not one more calorie to add to your seasonal total. How’s that for a generous, health-wise, and environmentally conscious holiday gift?

You’re welcome!

All thanks and praise to the marvelous photographers whose own generosity and creative flair have added such rich visual context to the words on this page over the past two years. I hope these single shots from 10 photographers from around the world (11, counting the rotating shots above) inspire you to visit even more of their work, available via the links listed on the bottom of this page. So without further ado:

Not quite sure which of these photographed objects is the more spectacular…

Metate Arch in the Escalante Wilderness by John Fowler

This may be the most aural visual image I have ever encountered—no ne...

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Would Jesus Be a Waterboarder?

Shackles By Mervin Geronimo

How do murder and torture square with a religious point of view?

Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, practicing Methodists both, expressed no hesitation recently in curtly dismissing the Senate investigation into the CIA’s torture tactics against suspected terrorists. Cheney called the entire report “a crock,” and Bush praised agents who approved and administered waterboarding and other torture methods as “patriots.”

Well.

One cannot read the actual descriptions of what takes place during euphemistically labeled “waterboarding” and “enhanced interrogation techniques” without cringing. To imagine yourself (or perhaps worse, your loved ones) on that table, suffocating, passing in and out of consciousness, or deprived of sleep for a week, hallucinating, is to enter a sort of hell, created and sustained by the darkest impulses and imaginings of human beings.

The God of the Old Testament and the Allah of the Koran exude violence and torture just about anywhere you care to open...

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“I Contain Multitudes”: Carrying on Through Darkness and Light

Letter Gene Han

Forty-five years ago today, I got a “Dear John” letter from my high school heartthrob who had gone away to college. It was my first major heartbreak (there would be others), and as I collapsed onto my bed sobbing while beholding my girlfriend’s sincere but crushing words, my mom hurried into my room and proceeded to pull me close to her as I wept onto her shoulder for a good long while.

Ah, me…

I have always remembered the date because it was one I had marked on my internal calendar many months before. My junior college basketball team was scheduled to play the UCLA freshman team that night at none other than fabled Pauley Pavilion, and if you don’t know anything about basketball, taking the court to play at Pauley against a team with “UCLA” inscribed on their jerseys was akin at the time to having one of your paintings hanging for a day in the Louvre next to a Picasso.

So here I was, ready for the biggest game of my life on the college basketball world’s most compelling stage,...

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Poem From a Marriage’s Demise

THE EMPTY CLOSET

The suddenly cavernous closet
sprawls in front of me and stops my breath,
as if a street sweeper has barreled through,
and not knowing me from a leaf from a blouse,
has sucked all into its maw, its dark convulsive dark.

A black stain on the door frame
catches my blurred wetting eye
(her coat? her dress? did she have a black dress?)
and I reach to touch it, curious, my head bumping
the now empty hangers, setting them to swinging.

Their echo crumples me.

Half a wall of racks and a long row of
shelves are mine to launch this new life,
and I should weep for the freedom wrought
by their purchase, which I would,
were the price not so colossal and fierce.

“In my beginning is my end,”
wrote a poet more profound than I;
I trust he had it backwards,
and an endless beginning can yet be mine—and hers, too—
beyond hangers swinging eerily after twenty-seven years.

***

Follow and “Like” this blog’s Facebook page in between posts for daily snippets of wisdom and photography f...

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Top 10 Lessons I Learned Teaching My Daughter to Drive

DakotaAtDMV

So my daughter got her driver’s license today after many months of practice. (You can find reflections on that practice in a post from last March here.) In recent weeks, with the basics well in hand, I have placed a heavy emphasis on the finer points of the enterprise, and, considering all the verve and occasional vituperation of her teenagehood, she has been a rather surprisingly dutiful student.

We might consider these last weeks before Exam Day a kind of Dad’s Finishing School To Become a Truly Excellent Driver (and Person).

The other point sinking in here is more for me than for her: that one never learns anything as well as when one has to teach it. And that learning anything in depth always carries within it the seeds of learning about Much Larger Matters.

So herein are the Top 10 Things Dad Learned (or was at least reminded of again) from all his teaching.

1. Pay close, close attention at all times. (This rule is the foundation of all the other rules...

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