Category Religion

On the Passing of Ram Dass

Ram Dass was an important figure for many people who came through the counterculture of the 1960-70s. Those who, having “countered” their Judeo-Christian religious upbringings, were nevertheless still seeking to anchor their world from some kind of spiritual base beyond the rampant materialism and status-seeking of modern industrialized life.

When Dass (it feels strange to refer to him by only his last name per writing protocol; it’s as if he had but one name, said in full every time: RamDass…) died just before Christmas, I noted a kind of complex but common feeling that I suspect most everyone experiences when death takes not a family member or friend but a public figure with whom we do not have a personal relationship, but who had an impact on us in the past.

The person’s death takes us back to that time—who we were and were coming to be, and how the person may have affected that becoming.

It’s...

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So much has been swirling around and through the Kobe Bryant tragedy.

The sheer awfulness of it for families and friends of all nine victims.

The veritable religious shrines and assembled crowds and profound eulogies lamenting Bryant’s passing in particular.

The careful inclusion by more sensitive and attuned observers of the eight other victims, whose lives were also lost, in an equal, if not more awful sense, especially given that three of them were mere teenagers, their whole lives still ahead of them, snuffed before so much more experience of joy and discovery—and even sorrows—could inject themselves into the lives that they were still forming.

The deep communal grief so freely expressed by those who knew him (and those who didn’t, but in this era of mass, ubiquitous, unrelenting media, thought they surely did).

Teammates, opponents, executives, coaches, grown men all, weeping in this era of the ...

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In Praise of the Darkness

A rather well-known book once began with this rather foreboding line: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep.”

A few lines down in that same story, we read:

“Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years…”

Much later on in the Book of Matthew, Jesus talks about sinners being flung into the darkness, where there is “wailing and gnashing of teeth.”  That would be down there with the devil, of course, the guy who, in pagan and much early mythology, is associated with ice and cold, even though he presides over the everlasting fires of hell.

Which reminds me of the movie, “The Exorcist.” I saw it again just a few years ago, and I can report that it still scared the bejeezus out of me.

If ...

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On the “Crowded Kindnesses of God”

This is the nut of it, yes? For those of us in the developed world living beyond all previously imagined luxury and comfort (even if we are far below the vaunted “1%”), we pause perhaps out of daily practice and most assuredly on this day that we celebrate in common tomorrow, trying to make room for the “crowded kindnesses of God.” I came across that line yesterday, noodling around for a quote for this blog’s Facebook page pre-Thanksgiving. Its unique expression of abundant blessings struck me as worthy of further reflection.

The quote is from Baptist minister Alexander Maclaren (1825-1905), reputed to be a powerful preacher of his time and denominational leader in his native United Kingdom. The full entry reads:

“Do not let the empty cup be your first teacher of the blessings you had when it was full. Do not let a hard place here and there in the bed destroy your rest...

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The Fires and Kindness This Time

We live on the edge of catastrophe. This is always the case, always has been. Born vulnerable and utterly helpless, we become, in the best of circumstances, less vulnerable only by degrees if we are fortunate enough to avoid early death.

Accident, illness and natural disaster perch on our shoulder, the uninvited intruder who never leaves but is mostly ignored through all our days.

This ignorance, this denial, is fundamental and necessary to our growth and flourishing as we move through life. Cowering in fear or wearing a permanent furrow on our brow is of no use whatsoever to our survival or our flourishing as conscious creatures with nearly limitless capacity for joy and fraternity.

We get up every morning expecting to see the night, with the next morning mostly the same.

Most of the time for a long time, we are lucky to be right. And sometimes, our luck runs out.

Worry, concern, even perfectly justified ...

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