Monthly Archives May 2013

A Personal Credo

Last week in church, my 14-year-old daughter and her cohorts in their “Coming of Age” program culminated a year of reflections, retreats and fellowship by presenting their personal “credos” to the congregation. These were summations of their developing views on religion and life—and what is most important about it. It was a worthy exercise, and the kids were charming and varied in their presentations. And it occurred to me that in one form or other, we all live and act out of our “credos,” and there is great potential value in pausing to examine and elaborate what those are. Here’s mine (as of today). What’s yours?

I consider myself a “deeply religious non-theist.”

Non-theist, because I have no sense of a personal God, a Supreme Being, a Prime Mover, who controls or directs any aspect of life, to whom we can pray and get a response.

Religious, because I do believe in the sanctity of l...

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The Lizard, the Crows, the Soldier…and Me

Returning from a run at the school track around the corner, I behold a small gathering of crows in the middle of the street, all of them looking down, as they tend to do, with their uncanny radar for discerning food in the urban wilderness. The object of their attention looks to be a small tree branch at first, but I can’t fathom why that would occupy them so concertedly, so curiosity bids me to intrude upon their circle. Where I come across an obviously besieged alligator lizard, its mouth agape in an “I will bite and swallow you all!” bluff that had been effective enough to keep the gathered crows dancing gingerly in the moments before my arrival. The crows squawk in retreating to the surrounding trees and telephone wires, wary eyes cast upon me, their sudden competition for a protein snack.

One lone lizard, maybe an inch high and a few inches long, already missing its tail, against probably five c...

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Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto

Thirty years ago, the scientist, physician and essayist Lewis Thomas published an essay, Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, that concluded his best-selling book by the same name. Just like Mahler’s symphony, the brief (1,200-word) essay had a haunting, luminous quality. The difference was that Thomas juxtaposed Mahler’s themes of human mortality and its attendant melancholy with the sustained buildup of nuclear arms through the height of the Cold War in the 1980s.

Facing personal mortality can of itself entail a kind of somber acceptance and beauty, Thomas suggested, especially when conveyed with the profundity of a great composer writing for an orchestra...

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Poisoned Politics: Songs of Longing and Loss by John Stewart and John Gorka

Our politics seem so poisoned today one is tempted to retreat to a soundproof room and either scream till the voice is no more or crank up the volume on some punk rock anthem until the hearing goes. We live in an era when every garden-variety disagreement begets threats of filibuster and terminal gridlock, and we are left longing for a more innocent and collegial time.

Like…1968, maybe?

No, that probably wouldn’t work. Two assassinations, two months apart, of towering figures in the civil rights movement coupled with an unpopular war to lend an unreal air to domestic politics that year. And that was before the rioting at the Democratic Convention in Chicago later in the summer that gave Richard Nixon the boost he needed to win in November and usher in the dismal history that followed.

Yet within the profound conflict of that era stirred powerful longings and currents for the continual change that has a...

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