Monthly Archives July 2014

Are You Happy? Is It Important? Grappling With Kierkegaard

I am driving down the street in mid-afternoon and gaze about at a red light, noticing wispy striated clouds in the west, as if drawn with the finest paintbrush or exhaled with a baby’s breath. Something familiar and warm stirs inside.

On the back patio barbecuing, beer in hand, the temperature neither hot nor cold, warm nor cool, an ideal midpoint or no temperature, really, the air pillow-soft. A sparrow sits on the telephone line above, still as a statue for minutes on end, while my wife and daughter watch the ballgame on the other side of the patio slider, whooping with any hit from the home team.

This is it, I say to myself. It.

Assuming you are of able body, you always enjoy bowling and miniature golf, don’t you? Of course you do—it is impossible not to smile and laugh in multiples during these activities. Happy.

Irish music, go on, get up and do a jig, oh yes!

Happiness can be among the most elu...

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The Difference Between Faith and Belief

I can pretty much trace my initial religious awakening to the fact that my (Catholic) dad married my (Lutheran) mom in defiance of Catholic precepts at the time that forthrightly declared only Catholics could enter heaven. (This view was actually restated by the recent Pope Benedict as late as 2007, though his successor has been sounding a far softer tone.)

When I was in third or fourth grade listening to the priest’s lecture on this matter in a religious education class, I thought of my kindly mom at home, denied entrance to heaven with us because she was reared in a different faith tradition.

This was such self-evident poppycock that I remember being not so much offended or outraged as I was dismissive.

The thought did not escape me that if the padre and his faith could be so blindingly wrong on such a simple and obvious matter…

Believing in a heaven where my mother was denied entrance required suspe...

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Robert Ingersoll’s Eulogy of Walt Whitman

One of the happy occurrences of blogging is all the tangential roads one comes to in researching a particular topic—and the pleasurable travels down that road as one discovers and delights in the new and unexpected.

And so it has been this week as my intermittent meanderings down a road exploring “faith” led me, link by blessed link (truly, this is a chain that liberates rather than confines) to the wholly new knowledge that two of my favorite literary figures, Walt Whitman and Robert Ingersoll, were not only good friends but that Ingersoll, one of the renowned orators of his or any other time, actually delivered the eulogy at Whitman’s funeral in 1892.

And that it was duly transcribed and preserved for posterity and is now freely available on the Internet as the intellectual feast and profound artistic homage that it is, one great and expansive mind consorting with another in a sacred ritual of reverenc...

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Reflections on the Guru Syndrome

There was trepidation in my church when our minister’s contracted sabbatical came due after his first seven years with us and it was time to prepare for (and worry about) his forthcoming six months’ absence. He’s a beloved and charismatic figure, and there was more than a little concern we’d flounder around a bit without him, becoming less lively, losing our sheen, misplacing our mojo.

As it turned out, our concern was overblown. Unfounded, even. The organization hummed along, congregants filled in where needed, we snagged a talented part-time sabbatical minister to help manage the rest, and suddenly six months have gone by, with not one casualty or lost wandering soul among us (near as I can tell) who is bereft and woeful pending Chris’s return.

Oh, we’ll welcome him back heartily enough, and the joy will be genuine...

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