Earthpages.org

The Real Alternative


3 Comments

Peace on Earth

Image via Tumblr / hymncharts.com

Image via Tumblr / hymncharts.com

Late last night there were just a handful of stores open in my area. I drove out to the all night pharmacy to pick up some last minute items for tonight’s feast. The rattle and din of the usual Christmas traffic had all died down. And I felt it. I finally felt it!

The Christmas spirit!

When I got home that magical feeling finally hit home. A quiet city. Children asleep in their beds, dreaming of new toys and, I guess in the 21st century, all the latest gizmos. Also to remember on a night like that are the poor who have no one to celebrate with. I wondered about a man at my parish who lives outside in the harsh winter cold. Was he desolate? Happy? I can’t know.

I recall one Christmas when I lived by a Salvation Army Mission in downtown Ottawa. One man who simply went by the name “Animal” yelled out loud Christmas morning,

IT’S CHRISTMAS!

That really summed it up for me. A street person, yelling out in joy, that is was Christmas morning. Animal knew what it was all about.

Merry Christmas to everyone who wishes to celebrate it!

Image via Tumblr

Image via Tumblr


Leave a comment

Is Spirituality for Losers?

I liked this tweet because over the years some folks have confronted me in one way or another, saying things like “What if you’re wrong and there is no afterlife? You’ll have wasted your whole life, investing yourself in something that doesn’t exist!

My response to that person was that my spirituality enriches my life, here and now. And Arti Gupta’s response to a similar kind of skepticism is, I think, appropriate for the Christmas season.

For me, Christmastime includes quiet reflection on the birth of Christ. Not that I’m against party people in Santa hats who couldn’t give a hoot about Jesus. That’s fine too. But for me, there’s so much more than mere revelry.

Image via Tumblr

Image via Tumblr


Leave a comment

Today’s Top Tweets – With a bit more commentary than originally intended…

It is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, probably because it’s colder up here and our harvest is earlier than in the US. Today is a holiday but we had our family dinner last night. I’m up early this morning but not really in the frame of mind to make long comments. So I’ll just offer a few one-liner thoughts that came to mind as I looked over these stories:

🙂

1 – I always thought that the crucial distinction was between genuine authority, on the one hand, an oppressive authoritarianism on the other hand. This article seems to confuse that:

2 – This is a complicated issue but I think an alternative voice is something to at least consider, even if one does not entirely agree:

3 – I have to admit that I have wondered who was really hacking whom. We cannot know. But at least we can read everyone’s allegations about everyone else:

4 – For many years I’ve felt that the melody in pop tunes is often stronger than the melodies in many classical compositions. And even the arrangement. If one actually tries to do pop, one realizes that it is NOT simple. Even simple sounding songs involve an incredibly complicated process. Same thing with EDM. Some people disparage it as music some guy or gal “creates on a laptop.” Well, let me tell you. You don’t just create songs on your computer by pressing a button. It takes a lot of technical and theoretical knowledge, talent and time. If you don’t believe me, compare the electronic stuff I’ve done so far (a hobbyist who is still learning) with commercial songs. Big difference. So big that sometimes I get discouraged.

5 – To folks unfamiliar with St. Faustina, this final Top Tweet article might appear to be one of those hokey accounts that you see in some sensational books, magazines and web sites. But this is actually different. St. Faustina wrote a diary in the early 20th century that has become popular among Catholics interested in mysticism. I have read most of the diary. I got bored about 3/4 of the way through. But I think I read enough to get the gist of it.

This tweeted article ignores that mysticism and spiritual direction in the Catholic Church are not as clear and simple as the cherry picked passages seem to indicate. Faustina also writes in her diary that she learned not to confess everything to confessors, especially if she felt they were inexperienced. She even made a joke implying how ridiculous her fellow sisters (nuns) were for regularly checking her bed sheets to see if she had been masturbating. Later in the diary Faustina writes (or apparently writes) that she learned it is a great sin to not follow her superiors. She learns the value of “holy obedience.” To the Catholic Church’s credit, these seemingly contradictory passages were not edited out. And they probably could have been.

At times I have felt that Faustina was a naive young Polish woman, easily influenced (and psychologically abused) by some members of the Catholic Church. She suffered a lot, she also saw Jesus a lot whom she says consoled her; then she got sick and died young. My point is that what she calls “holy obedience” might be her putting a bit too much naive trust in a somewhat hypocritical and corrupt religious organization. Or it might not be. I don’t know.

I am just being honest about how I have thought about this issue over the years. It seems a lot of Catholics enjoy and reinforce fairy tale simplicities. But life is rarely like that. And if one really wants to be a mystical saint in the 21st century, I’m not even sure they could be within the rigid and often deceptively simple confines of today’s Catholic world. What I saw while discerning a possible call to the priesthood was a religious culture that cries out against the “evils” of secular society but in actual practice doesn’t really seem any better or worse, morally or economically.


Leave a comment

Seekers’ reality check – We all need one

Looking back on my life I see a funny dynamic. Many times I thought I’d found “the answer,” either through a partner, a job, a scholarship, a religious affiliation. And usually when I have found the apparent “answer” I’ve become a bit full of myself and maybe overly enthusiastic about my new path. God and life, however, have this way of auto-correcting. Stuff happens… and what a great way to regain humility.

Deep thought

Deep thought (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I’m thinking it’s nice that I don’t take myself as seriously as I once did. Yes, if someone steps on my toes I will still let them know. I don’t believe God wants us to be doormats.

But at the same time, getting older means that I can appreciate all the twists and turns my life has taken, and just as importantly, how everyone else is just as “valid” as me. Are just as valid as me? Whatever. I don’t feel like checking out Grammar Girl right now. 🙂

The tweeted article spells out some of the reflections I’ve had over the past few years in this area. I think it does a good job.


2 Comments

Can we escape interpreting the holy books – or anything else?

I’m not oblivious to the power of religious experience. When reading the Bible I’ve felt a tremendous sense of peace and certainty from time to time. But that doesn’t mean I agree with everything the Bible says. Or that I believe it all comes directly from the mind of God.

Call me irreverent if you like. But I just can’t wrap my head around the sexism, chauvinism, and violence advocated in a lot of holy books (the Bible included). True, the New Testament talks about love and peace. But at the same time it gives legitimacy to the Old Testament, which often runs counter to love and peace.

However, one thing I can say about the Bible. It’s realistic. It’s not some phony baloney sugarcoated gloss. All our human failings are found there. And maybe that’s partly why it has lasted so long. People can relate to it. It’s a human story. With God intervening and (apparently) showing us the way.


1 Comment

Time for “religion” and “spirituality” to bury the hatchet

When it comes to a God, religion speaks of a higher being that is distant from humanity, one that lives in what may be another world, such as heaven. Spirituality stresses that God is within all of us, and there is no separation between humanity and this greater being. (Source: Article in above tweet)

Every time I see this distinction I get the impression that the person making it doesn’t really know what they’re talking about.

For instance, during Catholic Mass it might seem that some people woodenly go through the motions. To an observer they might appear to mumble words and sit or stand from sheer force of habit.  But a mere observer has no idea what’s going on inside their souls.

Speaking for Catholics, some of my acquaintances tell me about their ongoing personal experiences with God, graces, and the spiritual intercession of saints. God is very close for these Catholic churchgoers. Also, the belief about the Eucharist, which many Catholics receive daily, is that the heavenly Christ appears in the flesh, right here on Earth. And for many, that is not just the belief but also the inner experience.

Sometimes when I’m going to Mass and see some unhappy looking passersby near the Church, I’m tempted to say, “Hey Jesus Christ is arriving here in about 10 minutes! Interested?” But I don’t, of course, because I have a pretty good idea what the answer would be.

I bet if a full person, replete with head, arms and legs were to appear out of nothing and broadcast his showtime later that day, the venue would be packed with crowds overflowing out on to the street.  But because the Eucharist is a miraculous and subtle transformation/presence of inner substance but not of gross outward form, only some appreciate it, for whatever reasons. And I get the impression that most non-Catholics, especially non-Christians, just think the whole idea is silly.

Anyhow, I digress. The point is, it does no good to make a black and white distinction between religion and spirituality. Not only is it theologically misinformed but from my experience and from talking with other believers, it is misinformed on an experiential level.


Leave a comment

Using the word “scholars” to legitimize views about Jesus