St John Leading Home His Adopted Mother

September 7, 2021
William Dyce
Photo © Tate 
CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported)  
1842

How Will I Know

September 6, 2021
George Robert Merrill, Narada Michael Walden, Shannon Rubicam
Performed by Whitney Houston
From the 1985 album Whitney Houston
1984

How To Know If You Have The Wrong Religion

September 5, 2021
Growing up and later ministering in the Church, the elemental heart of spiritual community was the stated or implicit sense that we alone had cracked the God code; that we’d figured out what every other faith tradition (and many communities within our tradition) had not. Evangelism was less about sharing God’s love with the world around us but about getting the world to be as enlightened as we were by completely agreeing with us.

Believing the right thing was everything. The world was sharply divided between the saved and the damned and the greatest imaginable sin was to reject that idea. And it wasn’t enough to believe in God, you had to believe in the correct God, adopt the correct doctrine, and pray the correct prayers—or else your sincerity or judgment (not to mention, your eternal destination) were questioned.

One of the perennial party lines from my megachurch days was “Being a good person isn’t going to get you into Heaven, only accepting Jesus will”—as if God so preferred some 90-second lip service over a long life of kindness, that He would send a loving Muslim to hell while eternally rewarding a horrible human being who once answered an altar call. That seemed like an odd thing for a God who is all-knowing and all-loving to do. That seemed antithetical to love. And this theology has produced some really unloving people who are certain they have their ticket to heaven punched.

Since beginning this work as a pastor nearly three decades ago. I’ve encountered millions of people of faith who believe religion is a hard pass-fail, and they are terrified of flunking. At this point in the journey, I don’t wrestle with that idea much anymore.

The answer to the question, “Do I have religion right?” is actually quite simple to me now, and when people ask me I tell them why.

The right religious worldview is the one that makes you a more empathetic human being—period. It is the belief system that enables you to be more aware of the suffering in the world and propels you into other people’s lives to alleviate that suffering.

All Of Those ‘Hysterical’ Women Were Right

September 4, 2021
For half a decade, Republicans—especially self-described moderate members of the party—have been gaslighting America on the issue of abortion rights, pretending they didn’t know that Donald Trump’s Supreme Court picks were always planning to overturn Roe. A central goal of the conservative judicial movement that these justices came out of is overturning Roe. The Federalist Society handpicked them for that reason. It’s a transparently phony act, one that’s now been exposed as such.

Senator Susan Collins of Maine, for example, tried to convince everyone that she genuinely believed Brett Kavanaugh would let Roe stand, despite all evidence to the contrary. “Protecting [the right to an abortion] is important to me,” Collins told The New York Times after a two-hour, face-to-face session with Kavanaugh during which, she said, he convinced her that he would not overturn Roe. “His views on honoring precedent would preclude attempts to do by stealth that which one has committed not to do overtly.” Collins said that Kavanaugh assured her Roe was “settled law,” and that his answer on Roe was “very strong,” though he had openly criticized the decision in a speech, used the anti-abortion lingo “abortion on demand,” and voted more than once as a federal judge against reproductive rights.
Laura Bassett
The Atlantic
Photo by Bruno Feitosa from Pexels
2021

The Easy, Selective Morality Of The Pro-Life Movement

September 3, 2021
By opposing abortion, religious people can feel the intoxicating, easy high of self-righteousness and moral virtue—without having to actually love or help people: strange, disparate, uncomfortable-for- you-to-be-around people. That’s because embryos can be idealized into something pleasant and palatable, devoid of any of the messy characteristics they find undesirable in actual walking-around human beings. They aren’t yet gay or Muslim or liberal or Black or poor or atheist (or whatever other qualifiers trouble you), and so affinity with them is uncomplicated, solidarity with them does not cross the lines of their tribalism.

Anti-abortion believers get to feel like noble advocates for Life, while still holding onto their prejudices and hang-ups and hatred. They can dispense all kinds of cruelty and expose human beings to staggering forms of bigotry—and still say they’re defending the living. Once these embryos are no longer embryos, these supposed life-lovers often don’t treat them as though they’re even human. Unless these lives conform to the narrowest and most stringent of criteria, they’re more often considered threats to be neutralized, enemies to be overtaken, and adversaries to be destroyed. When embryos become LGBTQ teenagers, terrified migrants, young black men, people dying of COVID, sick middle-aged adults with astronomical bills, the working poor, Muslims—suddenly, these lives seem far less sacred to them.

Tin Man

September 2, 2021
Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert, Jon Randall
From The Marfa Tapes (2021)
2015

Sweet Old World

September 1, 2021
Millions of us in love, promises made good
Your own flesh and blood
Looking for some truth, dancing with no shoes
The beat, the rhythm, the blues
The pounding of your heart's drum together with another one
Didn't you think anyone loved you
Lucinda Williams
From the album Sweet Old World
1992

West Side Story

August 31, 2021
Directed by Steven Spielberg
2021
2021

The Lady Of Shalott

August 30, 2021
John William Waterhouse
Photo © Tate 
CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported)  
1888

Salzburg

August 29, 2021
Bob Humphrey
My Traveling Star
2019

Still Looking For Something

August 28, 2021
And I'm still looking for something
Way out over my due date, baby, I'm
Still looking for something in the night
I know I'm headed for somewhere
We all dream about somewhere, baby
We all want to go where life is bright
You don't want to end up nowhere, but you might
Jackson Browne
From the album Downhill from Everywhere
2021

A Self-Sufficient Mind

August 28, 2021
In a quiet room, we can find stillness. And in that stillness, we can contemplate our own mind.

What we often find is that the mind is very restless. It wants to take care of a thousand things, because it’s feeling some uncertainty and fear. It wants to fix problems, take care of all the undone things, figure out if everything is going to be OK. It wants to get all of our needs met, from survival needs to meaning, connection and love.

The mind is restless, wanting to fix everything, get everything it needs.

What if we could allow our minds to rest, settling into the full sufficiency of itself just as it is?

We would need nothing in each moment, other than what’s required for physical survival. That doesn’t mean we do nothing (though we could!) — beyond our needs, there might be a wholehearted desire to do some good for ourselves or others, but it doesn’t have to come from fear.

There’s a settledness, a peace, that can come with this kind of practice.

There’s a feeling that we are enough. That everything we need is already contained in us.

It’s a lifetime practice.

Here’s how I recommend starting:

  1. Sit in a quiet spot. Elevate your hips above your knees with a cushion, to give yourself more stability and comfort. Sit in an upright but relaxed posture. Eyes can be closed or slightly open with a soft downward gaze.

  2. Find stillness. Stay in this spot for at least 5-10 minutes, longer over time if you like. It doesn’t have to be long, but when you feel restless, stay for a little longer to practice with this restlessness.

  3. Rest in direct experience. Let your attention turn to the sensations of your body, the sensations of the present moment. These sensations are direct experience of the world. Rest your mind in this open awareness of direct experience, without needing to do anything but witness them.

  4. Observe the mind. Your mind will want to turn away from this direct experience. That’s because it feels unsettled. It wants to get its needs met, or fix problems or deal with uncertainties or fear. That’s OK! Watch the mind do its thing. What is it trying to fix? Notice the underlying fear or desire as the mind tries to do its thing.

  5. Appreciate the luminous quality of the mind. The mind is like an energy, trying to do its best to survive. It is unaware that it already is brilliant, abundant, enough. It is luminous and beautiful. We can start to appreciate these delightful qualities of the mind. This takes curiosity, appreciation, and lots of practice. Keep practicing.

Go and sit, practice, and let me know what you find!
Leo Babauta
Zen Habits
Photo by S Migaj on Unsplash
2021

Justified

August 27, 2021
Kacey Musgraves
From the album Star-Crossed
2021

Star-Crossed

August 26, 2021
Kacey Musgraves
From the album Star-Crossed
2021

Summertime

August 25, 2021
Summertime,
And the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin'
And the cotton is high

Your daddy's rich
And your mamma's good lookin'
So hush little baby
Don't you cry

One of these mornings
You're going to rise up singing
Then you'll spread your wings
And you'll take to the sky

But till that morning
There's a'nothing can harm you
With daddy and mamma standing by
George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward
Performed by Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company
From the 1968 album Cheap Thrills
1934

Grand Canyon National Park

August 24, 2021
Don Chester Powell
1938

Faces #10

August 23, 2021
Photo by Houcine Ncib on Unsplash

Brooklyn

August 22, 2021
Bob Humphrey
My Traveling Star
2019

Summertime

August 21, 2021

The Fall Of Kabul, Washington And The Guys At The Fancy Magazines

August 21, 2021
Certainly the way it’s played out has been messy, chaotic, mortifying. Many armchair quarterbacks have the idea that the US could have evacuated everyone who had worked with us in advance of withdrawal. But as I and many other have argued that’s a basic misunderstanding of the situation. If you evacuate everyone who might be endangered by the fall of the government in advance, you are basically signing the regime’s death warrant. You are saying you don’t expect the regime to last and that the fall will come fast. That message is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In retrospect, of course, knowing that the regime did immediately collapse, there’s sort of no loss. But the US couldn’t do that. The whole point of the almost twenty year enterprise was to build a state and an army that could stand on its own. The US was never going to prevent that regime from even trying to survive.

My point here isn’t that there’s nothing the Biden administration could have done differently or better. At a minimum they could have been processing exit paperwork more rapidly in advance for interpreters and others who worked for the US and had clearer contingency planning for evacuations of personnel outside of Kabul for a rapid collapse scenario. My point is simply that to a great extent what we are seeing today was baked into the US mission in Afghanistan all along. It is ugly. And a lot of people are going to suffer. It is mortifying on various levels – some trivial and shallow and others profound – for the United States. But it was always baked in. And what is critical to understand is that the fact that it was always baked in, and no one was ready to grab that kryptonite or make that reckoning, is precisely why we have been there for almost twenty years.

What is being imagined and demanded is a hermetic, clean and painless end to a failed military mission. That’s not responsibility but rather denial.