Thursday, June 29, 2006

Summer full swing

In the past few days I have managed to play golf twice, coach a little league baseball game, attend Waldemeer/Water World, make good progress in my reading of the Orchid Thief, and attend a One World Tribe Concert at Presque Isle. Not bad.

One comment about Waldemeer: That place rocks. Especially the horror rides - the Wacky Shack and Pirate's Cove. The detail of the monsters in both is pretty amazing. Waldemeer is kind of a great thing to have in Erie.



Thursday, June 22, 2006

Homosexuality and the Old Testament

I received this in an email today:

Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a US radio personality who dispenses advice to people who call in to her radio show.

Years ago, she said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance.

The following is an open letter to Dr. Laura penned by a US resident. It’s funny, as well as informative.

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries todefend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them.

1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odour for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbours. They claim the odour is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual cleanliness - Lev.15:19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

5. I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? -Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev.20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

Dog and Cat Diary

Someone sent this to me. No author was credited, but I think it's funny as hell. DocTor

A Dog’s Diary
8:00 a.m. Oh, boy! Dog food! My favorite!
9:30 a.m. Wow! A car ride! This is a blast!
9:40 a.m. Got to go to the park! Rolled in some really nasty stuff, was so proud of myself. Humans were less than impressed.
10:30 a.m. Got my tummy rubbed and petted -- I'm in love!
12:00 p.m. Lunch: yummy!
1:00 p.m. Played in the yard: I loved it!
3:00 p.m. Stared adoringly at my masters ... they're the best!
4:00 p.m. Hooray! The kids got home! I was so happy I was bouncing off the walls! 5:00 p.m. Milk bones -- awesome!
7:00 p.m. Got to play ball! What a day, this was too good to be true!
8:00 p.m. Wow: watching TV with my master! Heavenly!

A Cat’s Diary
Day 683 of My Captivity:
My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects.
They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape.

In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomited on the floor.
Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a ''good little hunter'' I am. The audacity!!

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noise and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to my power of "allergies." I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow-- but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released--and he seems more than willing to return! He is obviously retarded.

The bird has got to be an informant -- I observe him communicating with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. The captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe-- for now. But I can wait. It is only a matter of time...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Defining Magick Part Two

This entry is a reply to Ralph’s comment under Mythology Part Three: Spells and Magick

Ralph: I'm sorry, but Dr. Dee, could you go into a little more detail as to why you define this advice as a spell or magick? Is it because it involves distracting your mind or redirecting your focus -the old "hand-is-quicker-than-the-eye" methodology?

Doc: Exactly. Distracting your mind in order to work with unseen energy IS magickal practice, and so is intentional behavior modification. These two factors, combined with recognizing and channeling universal energy, takes you toward achieving your goals on the physical plane.

That's magick as far as I can tell.

From there, you open the world to serendipity, the potential for wonderful synchronous acts to occur in your life. Maybe your intentional distraction brings you in contact with another person--someone whom you were supposed to meet. Or maybe you pick up a newspaper and find an article that you were meant to read...something that fits perfectly into your life at that moment.

Both of these instances came about because you were open to the idea that you have the ability to alter reality (or, at the very least, your perception of reality).

For the record, I spell magick with a “k” because I want to separate it from the “pull a rabbit out of a hat” kind of magic, which also involves distraction, but is really not concerned, in most cases, with intention and the perception of other planes of reality. Magic is more about parlor tricks, which I’m not interested in at this point.

So it's important to note that magick involves more than the ability to distract yourself. If it ends there, then it's still good practice. However, magick, the way I define it, involves an opening of the heart to serendipity, awe, love, trust, wonder, and, most importantly, the understanding that the visible plane of reality is the only plane of existence (far from it).

Magick involves an understanding of how the universe operates MOSTLY at an unseen level. In other words, you can’t depend on your five senses all the time. Trees grow, but we can’t see them growing. We can only see the result. This happens all the time.

Therefore, feeling has to play a role in the process. Once feelings of the heart, reason of the brain, and sensations from the five senses learn to co-exist, you can adapt your behavior so as to gain a greater comprehension of the seen and unseen worlds. This can lead to amazing magick, like invisibility.

Now, when I say invisibility, I don’t mean the ability to become transparent. This, once again, is a product of our belief system which we have inherited—largely from the Deists and their Age of Reason. In his Autobiography, Ben Franklin thought—quite logically—that he could live each day according to a perfect schedule and that, once he tweaked the schedule, he would be living the “perfect” life. Well, it didn’t work out that way, because Old Ben didn’t account for the unseen.

Instead, invisibility can be achieved by behavior, timing, clothing and other aspects. If you learn how, anyone can blend into a situation and “not be seen.” When I drove to Atlanta recently, for example, I removed the Steeler license plate from the front of my truck. I simply didn’t want to be driving through Ohio with that plate. Do I love the Steelers? Do I root for them each week during the season? Yes, yes, yes. But do I want to be pulled over by an Ohio State Trooper who hates the Steelers? No, thanks. It’s not worth it.

Did my invisibility spell work? Well, I didn’t get pulled over during my 1900-mile trip, so I’ll assume that it did. Am I silly to believe in such things? Maybe, but this type of thing works for me—again and again and again.

It is the comprehension and mastery of the unseen and unrealized that can lead one to think and act magickally.

Think about how many people do not know how to do these kinds of thing. They will stand in line--all pissed off--or they will sit in traffic--honking their horns--rather than relaxing, calling upon the patience of the universe, and making different choices.
The effect of magick upon the watcher is, "How did they do that?" But for the "performer," it's nothing at all.

This reminds me of the magick of music. People watch me play and say, "Wow. How do you do that?" It seems magickal to them---mystical. But there is no sleight of hand to it. Instead, it’s a result of love and devotion and hard work.

Magick has everything to do with intention. To put it into baseball terms, "Build it and they will come." The intention in that movie was to create a place for the ancestors to return to the diamond (itself a powerful mythical shape) and live again.

Unfortunately, organized religion—coupled with the rise of science and rationalism—has driven magick out of the skies. We have reduced magick to parlor tricks and as a result, have robbed our children of latent powers that reside within them.

All of the magick I’m discussing here is white magick: magick used for good. Magic that is driven by the intention to do no harm. There is also black magic and black magicians. I tend to see people who stir up hatred for their own personal gain to be black magicians. You can fill in your own blanks on this one.

In addition, I have not begun to discuss such practices as voodoo, something which—it is said—you have to believe in order to be affected by. Can you put a hex on somebody? Sure, but as far as I’m concerned, the laws of karma kick in at this point and you only end up hurting yourself. Don’t mess around with this kind of magic or the consequences could be severe.

Okay, I have to break this spell so that I can get on with my day.


Summer Solstice Details

Today is June 21, the celebration of the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. In England, Stonehenge has been opened to the public for celebration of the solar event.

A solstice occurs when the rays of the sun directly strike one of the two tropical latitude lines. The northern line is the Tropic of Cancer and the southern line is the Tropic of Capricorn (both titles of Henry Miller books, by the way).

By the way, as it stands today, the Tropic of Cancer should be renamed the Tropic of Taurus and the Tropic of Capricorn should be renamed Tropic of Sagittarius. This is due to the precession of the equinoxes.

To understand the precession of the equinoxes, it's important to understand the fact that the Earth wobbles slightly as it spins. Therefore, the northern tip of the axis creates a small circle in the night sky--just like a wobbling gyroscope.

As a result, the equinoxes and solstices go through a complete cycle ~ every 26,000 years. For more on this topic, click here.

Despite the name inaccuracies, June 21 marks the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere and simultaneously heralds the beginning of winter in the southern hemisphere. In 2006, the solstice begins June 21, at 8:26 a.m. EDT.


Summoning spirits

In addition to believing in the power of magick (Christ turned water to wine, for goodness sake) I also believe we have the power to summon spirits. Now, let me be clear: Once summoned, these spirits don’t sit at our tables and eat roast beef. They typically don’t even knock things down. Some mediums claim that they can summon spirits who do such things, but I have never had such experiences.

Instead, when we summon a spirit in good faith—meaning with no ill intent—we can channel the energy of that spirit to learn, to teach, and to understand. For instance, as I traveled to Atlanta in June (2006) to attend a conference sponsored by the Mythic Imagination Institute called “Mythic Journeys 2006,” I found myself summoning the spirit of Joseph Campbell to me.

As I drove, I listened to a good chunk of an audio book entitled, The Wisdom of Joseph Campbell. It was good to hear Joseph’s voice. I felt like he was speaking directly to me, calling me to use my powers as a writer, teacher, and mythographer to follow his path and help others to live within mythic systems that are life-sustaining and meaningful.

Today, after spending so many days of my professional life studying Campbell’s life and work, I feel like I know him personally. I also feel that it is somehow my task to share and explain many of his insights for so many kindred spirits who are thirsting for new—or, ironically and simultaneously—tremendously old approaches to life, ritual, worship, and spirituality. As I drove, then, I found myself rapidly dialing into some of the old concepts and being introduced to some new and enlightening ones.

It is important to note that I began my study of Campbell years ago with Hero with a Thousand Faces and that The Wisdom of Joseph Campbell consists of a series of interviews with Joe during his twilight years. Therefore, I was struck by the alpha and omega effect, you might say, of his thought process…how his notions from early in his career had been developed and refined.

One of his points from Wisdom involves a powerful point about money. He argues, “The individual who takes a job in order to live—for the money or something like that—has turned himself into a slave. He is a money slave. You might say ‘work’ begins when you don’t like what you’re doing. I heard a little formula way, way back: ‘Make your hobby your source of income.’ Then there is no such thing as work and there’s no such thing as getting tired.”

On this point, Joe and I are surely kindred spirits. Like Joe, I have stayed on my particular and eccentric course in life. I’ve basically done just want I wanted to do…even as others said, “An English degree? What are you going to do with an English degree, bag groceries? Hahahahaha….”

It took a lot of courage and a lot of ignoring of people who thought they knew what was best for me. Campbell says taking this route is always difficult, at first “because who the hell wants you to be doing just what you want to do? They all have a lot of plans for you, but you can make it happen and then there is no such thing as work.”

That's it for now...


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Mythology Part Three: Spells and Magick

I believe each of us has much more spiritual power—more magickal power—than we give ourselves credit for. There are spells for invisibility, for patience, for letting go…there are all kinds of spells that can serve us if we only begin to understand how they work.

The patience spell is simple. Ever been stuck in traffic? Ever arrive at an event only to find a huge line for tickets or food or bathroom? Sure you have. It is at these times you can use the patience spell. It simply involves connecting all of the unlimited patience of the universe into your life at that moment. In becoming mindful at this moment, you realize that, from the perspective of Eternity, your situation is very small and will quickly pass.

It is important to modify your behavior at these moments so that the spell will work. You can’t just call upon the universe and sit there, expecting to be saved. Instead, as you wait in traffic, find a good radio station, make a “to do” list (as long as traffic is not moving, of course), or sort through the junk in your briefcase.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used this spell and how wonderfully it works. There will be times when I arrive at a particular point to find many people in line, but instead of becoming frustrated, I cast the patience spell and distract myself. Then, when I return to the situation, I almost always find that the line is gone or the traffic has abated. It works almost every time.

It will definitely make your life more enjoyable. Welcome to the world of magick.

Gay marriage

So, I've been doing a lot of thinking about this gay marriage topic, which seems to be all over the news recently. Its coverage of course is another one of Carl Rove's masterful strokes, as there is really no way would could possibly pass an amendment to outlaw it, is there? I mean the Constitution clearly has nothing to do with whether people of the same sex want to co-habitate. The proposed amendment is obviously being put together to fuel the hate and drives the ultra-conservative corners of the Republican party. That hate should then manifest itself by energizing the forces for the upcoming elections... or something like that. Of course, then again, as I've said often enough, I thought both Phil English and George Bush were such buffoons that they would never be elected to public office, much less re-elected. So, it's probably pretty important we don't take our eye off the ball as far as this propsed "amendment" is concerned.

That all said, before Bush won the Republican nomination some six years ago, I did consider myself a conservative. And I've attempted to research both sides of the coin as far as the gay marriage quesiton is concerned. Those against have a valid argument. They also have some invalid ones as well, I'm sure, but the main gist of the one I consider valid is that the benefits for married people are set up to encourage and assist with the nurturing of families - which represent the future survival of the species, so we need to assist with that. Makes sense and because biologically, at least traditionally, gay couples can't have children, I'm kind of down with that.

Okay, but let's flip the coin over for a minute. One of the reasons I've heard gay people arguing in favor of gay marriage is that married couples are eligible for something like 1,000 benefits that gay people currently cannot receive. So, that's a bit of a self-centered argument that is not going to fly. I mean, if I'm not gay, am I really going to care if gay people get more benefits, especially if my tax dollars have to pay for them?

To make the argument in favor of gay marriage, I think you need to look at the benefits of marriage itself. Do they go further than the production of children? In his guest Friday Forum column in the June 16 edition of the Erie Times-News, Al Richardson provides some excellent reasons on why we should support gay marriage and why it benefits society. It is this type of reasoning that makes me think we should support gay marriages - and definitely outlaw them through a constitutional amendment.

My personal thoughts on the matter involve evolution theory and consideration of the fact that our society has evolved to the point where gay marriage is normal and natural and should be supported as such. Maybe this wansn't always the case, but there was also a time when we didn't have computers on every desk or even indoor plumbing in most houses. You can't deny that society changes and evolves. Instead of fighting all change, it should be embraced when it makes sense. In the case of gay marriage, it seems to make sense, now.

Of course, I'm open to hearing opposing views, but to date, I have not heard a lot of good arguments as to why gay marriage should be outlawed. If someone could show me some numbers as to how much the legalization of gay marriage was going to cost me and then present me with reasons as to why it's not going to necessarily improve our society, I'd be more than willing to listen.

That's all for now.


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Mythology Part Two

This is the second part of my writing project on spirituality and mythology...

In college, I discovered African myths, such as Anansi the Spider (a trickster archetype), Native American myths, and even 19th Century American myths, such as Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby. The Biblical stories from my Catholic upbringing also fit into this world of mythic themes and characters that I loved so much.

In fact, the figure of Jesus Christ fits the model for the hero archetype quite perfectly. The whole life of Christ follows the arc of an epic story. He was a king who was born under difficult conditions. His family goes into hiding. He has tests and helpers along the way, accomplishes great feats during middle age, and finally dies, alone, surrounded by enemies on a hilltop. It's the classic model of the heroic journey.

One of the reasons that Christ is considered one of the greatest heroes of all time is that he offers mankind something that no other hero could offer: Eternal Life. Sure, Beowulf could kill Grendel, and Robin Hood could redistribute wealth, but only Christ could bring Eternal Life to those who believe. Powerful stuff which had a profound impact on the collective human psyche (a power that more than one Roman emporor exploited in expanding the Roman Empire, which is, by the way, alive and well and living in the United States as I type this entry).

Compare Christ to King Arthur, who was born mysteriously and then went into hiding. Like Moses, Arthur was born of royal blood yet raised humbly. Eventually, he pulls the sword from the stone, which is symbolic of entering manhood. He accomplishes great things and restores order, establishing single rule and uniting the kingdom.

This pattern, identified by Campbell on page 245 of his 1949 book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, occurs again and again in stories, art, and music.

All these instances point to a time in a person’s life which are considered rights of passage and they fit Campbell’s notion of the heroic journey perfectly. Now, this is not to say that these characters and events did not exist. There is plenty of evidence to suggest the Jesus Christ did, in fact, exist, just as a hero such as Beowulf once walked the earth. There is even evidence to suggest that there once was a King Arthur (in fact, the scholars believe that there were probably many King Arthurs).

What am I suggesting? I’m suggesting that we need to allow these heroes to live symbolically as well as literally. Only then will we be able to access the spiritual truths that they fought so hard to represent.

In contrast, if we get too caught up in locking these characters into a historical context, we begin to lose the symbolic and spiritual aspects of the personage and we, ourselves, remain locked into a particular historical context. In other words, we need to learn how to interpret myths.

We need to learn that myths serve as markers that point to the spirit world. We need to understand that all cultures have creation myths, and that one is not more "correct" than the others. In fact, they all point to the same God...who is the "force that through the green fuse drives the flower," "the everlasting yay," and "the eternal Is." It all points to the same force, the force that keeps our hearts beating, the force that causes us to procreate, the force that keeps the Earth in its orbit.

But let's get back to our persistent emphasis on demonstrating the historical validity of our myths. Under this approach, let me ask, how many times have you heard arguments about particular words in the Bible? Individual words.

For example, let's say I'm trying to find some guidance from the Bible on homosexuality and I find myself in Samuel. Here are some translations from 1 Samuel 20:41

"After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with is face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together - but David wept the most." (NIV)

Other translations have a different ending to the verse:
"...and they kissed one another and wept with one another, until David exceeded." (KJV)
"...and they kissed one another and wept with one another until David got control of himself." (Amplified Bible)
"and they sadly shook hands, tears running down their cheeks until David could weep no more." (Living Bible)
"They kissed each other and wept together until David got control of himself." (Modern Language)
"They kissed each other and wept aloud together." (New American Bible)
"Then David and Jonathan kissed each other. They cried together, but David cried the most." (New Century Version)
"Then they kissed one another and shed tears together, until David's grief was even greater than Jonathan's." (Revised English Bible)
"...and they kissed one another and wept with one another until David recovered himself." (Revised Standard Version)

So, which is it? If I'm going to develop a clear spiritual position on homosexuality, I need to have the actual words of God. But it's not that easy, is it? Some people believe that David and Jonathan were lovers, but it's not quite clear, is it? Is it implied? I don't know. Nobody does, although there are arguments on both sides (which will never be resolved, by the way, so the debate actually takes us nowhere).

So, do you see how arguing over versions of the myth doesn’t make any sense (outside of academic circles where they argue about these sorts of things)? It is an empty excerise. Add to this the fact that, lest we forget, the Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic (and the New Testament was written in Greek). From there, it was translated into English and other languages. This only makes it more complicated.

Therefore, arguing about particular words-—unless you are a linguist or a theologian--is a waste of time from a spiritual standpoint. The spiritual lessons are not that specific. They are not hidden and they do not exist only for those special few who can know and interpret the Word of God. Instead, they exist and are readily available for all humanity. The guidance exists in works of art, theatrical performances, stories, rituals, and religions. In other words, the guidance is all around you and already in your heart. All you need to do is follow that guidance.

Christ said, for example, love God and love your Neighbor. But instead of following this simple spiritual instruction from The Man himself, we consult other areas of the Bible which enable us to promote our own worldy agenda—-even if that agenda leads us to actively hate people, such as pagans, gays, Mexicans, or Muslims.

Don’t you see? We become so caught up in arguing the tiny details that the larger spiritual message is lost. We come up with our conclusions and then seek evidence for those positions in the Bible. It's a silly game, in my opinion.

Why do we do this? Because it’s easier (and feels better) to hate with righteous indignation rather than examine our own feelings and try to live a life that is more Christ-like, or Buddha-like, or Mohammed-like, or Mother Theresa-like, as all of these great people have taught us to do.

This path leads people to do idiotic things like protest the recent funeral of a American serviceman, who dies in Iraq, who was supposedly gay. So let's see, I'm going to protest and dishonor the death of someone who has died as a direct result of his intention to defend his country from terrorism because I read something in the Bible that is going to enable me to hate someone else. Geez...I don't want to live in that world. Do you?

Okay. The other thing that bothers me about this subject is the notion that the Bible is the ONLY way to know God. I completely disagree. God is not dead. Not my God anyway. My God lives and inspires people—artists, musicians, authors, performers, and one who participates in a creative act—every day. I can feel the spirit of the creative force of the universe pulsing through my body each day.

I can also see God in art, music, rituals, and stories. God is everywhere. Therefore, to presume that the revelation of God is over and done with—that it occurred 2000 years ago and that’s all folks—seems to me to be incredibly short sighted. It’s like the forces of evil have won: They killed Christ for saying that He and the Father are One. They killed the yin yang of Christianity by eliminating the feminine from the divine, and then they said, “Okay, that’s it. The book is closed. Don’t bother coming around here with any contrary opinions.”

In effect, by taking this posture, they’ve killed God, or at least pushed him into outer space. And we wonder why so many people are depressed, addicted, unhappy. They’ve been kicked out of the Garden and have no way to re-enter.

Many (most?) of today’s priests have become officers of an institution, rather than mystics or shamans who have direct knowledge of the spirit world on their own terms. Therefore, they preach dogma. This is starting to change, with movements like Erie’s Cursillo movement, which encourages people to have their own experience of God, but it’s going to take a long time before this attitude fills the hearts of people across the U.S.

But is that what we want? Do we really want people to be in touch with their “inner God”? Do we want people to become “little Buddhas”? This, I submit, is a dangerous proposition, because it threatens those who would like to sustain the status quo. What happens when people no longer need alcohol? I shudder to think. What happens if people become so spiritually satisfied that they no longer feel the need to work 60 hours each week? This is not a desirable situation for Budweiser or Wall Street, is it?

So, what does it come down to? Why is the “God within” so may of us dead? Why does my friend tell me that “God is mad at me and I’m mad at him and I don’t ever see a way out”?

It’s because Christianity in the United States has too often been promoted and enforced as a means of social a means of captivity rather than release. Be honest, when is the last time you had a unique and powerful spiritual experience? You were probably at some incredible outdoor spot, and that is, at least in part, no fair, because you were stealing spirit from the water or the trees or the rocks in order to achieve your spiritual peak.

When was the last time you had a unique and powerful spiritual experience in your own life? In your own church? I hope you can answer “all the time” However, I fear that it happens all to infrequently. That’s why so many people need televangelists to tell them who God is and what God wants.

So, can we at last begin to adopt the teaching of Christ and learn that the divine resides within each of us? That we are one with God? It seems to me that this ancient teaching—true to both Christianity and Buddhism—can lead American culture toward healing and happiness.

As for Wall Street, they will have to learn to worship new gods. And this is part of the problem. Even as Americans purport to worship Christ and the Christian God that lies beyond, we instead typically worship two more important gods: Money and Power.

God is left to Sunday mornings. Give God an hour on Sunday and you’re good to go for the rest of the week. And what happens during the rest of the week? We pursue Money and Power.

I don’t object to the pursuit of Money and Power. I’m just trying to clarify the debate. The way to worship is not an item on a “to do” list. Instead, it consists of how you live your life each day. If you build your life around the sacred, then the sacred will come into your life. Millions have found this to be true; many additional millions have not and they continue to pursue Money and Power with the hope that it will take them somewhere…that it will take them toward spirituality.

It might, I suppose, but once again we return to two great spiritual leaders: Christ and Buddha, and we learn that the way to heaven is not through wealth but through surrendering the material goods of the physical plane in order to prepare for life in the spirit realm.

And, make no mistake, preparation for life in the spirit realm begins in this world. You only need to open your heart and invite the spirit into your world.

Enough for now.


Brothers Grimm

I watched the Brothers Grimm movie by Terry Gilliam last night. I'd give it a B-minus. It was great stylistically, but the plot was definitely muddy.

Eleanor Ringel Gillsepie hits the nail on the head with her review.

Now, I'm definitely a big Gilliam fan. Here are some of his titles (from

It's... the Monty Python Story (1999) (TV)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) (screenplay)
Parrot Sketch Not Included: Twenty Years of Monty Python (1989) (TV) (sketches)
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) (screenplay)
Brazil (1985) (screenplay)
The Crimson Permanent Assurance (1983) (written by)
The Meaning of Life (1983) (written by)
Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1982) (written by)
Time Bandits (1981) (written by)
Life of Brian (1979) (written by)
Jabberwocky (1977) (screenplay)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail

He's directed some of my favorite movies, so I was a bit disappointed when my friend Carlos and I had to stop and piece together the plot three or four times during the movie.

In other words, I'm glad I didn't pay $8 to see it in the theater, because swallowing all of it whole (like the insane horse from the movie), would have definitely been painful.

Watching it on video, however, is a bit more manageable. I actually want to watch it again now that I can move from a "plot level" to an "aesthetic level" interpretation.

Happy Sunday!


Friday, June 16, 2006

Robert Yeager on Beowulf

Robert Yeager writes a nice piece on the history of Beowulf. Check it here.

According to Yeager, Beowulf is "a Scandinavian hero, of the tribe of Geats. Most of his story is said to take place in Denmark and Scandinavia."

Here are a few select quotes:

"Why the poem with a Scandinavian hero exists in Old English at all is a mystery. As a member of the tribe of Geats whose significant adventures took place in Denmark and Scandinavia, Beowulf seems an unpromising hero for an English folk epic, particularly in tenth century Saxon England.

"At the time the manuscript was being copied, Scandinavian raiders had been ravaging English shores for two centuries. This inauspicious timing has been used by some scholars to bolster their arguments that Beowulf was composed before the coming of the Northmen about A.D. 790. However, a poem featuring a Scandinavian hero may have been able to flourish at the court of King Cnut, who added England to his Danish empire in 1016."

Any thoughts, Ralph?


Beowulf and Grendel

Beowulf and Grendel, the movie, opens in six US cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Seattle and San Francisco, starting on June 16.

Can't wait...


The Challenge of Thor

The Challenge of Thor
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I AM the God Thor,
I am the War God,
I am the Thunderer!
Here in my Northland,
My fastness and fortress,
Reign I forever!

Here amid icebergs
Rule I the nations;
This is my hammer,
Miƶlner the mighty;
Giants and sorcerers
Cannot withstand it!

These are the gauntlets
Wherewith I wield it,
And hurl it afar off;
This is my girdle;
Whenever I brace it,
Strength is redoubled!

The light thou beholdest
Stream through the heavens,
In flashes of crimson,
Is but my red beard
Blown by the night-wind,
Affrighting the nations!
Jove is my brother;
Mine eyes are the lightning;
The wheels of my chariot
Roll in the thunder,
The blows of my hammer
Ring in the earthquake!

Force rules the world still,
Has ruled it, shall rule it;
Meekness is weakness,
Strength is triumphant,
Over the whole earth
Still is it Thor's-Day!

Thou art a God too,
O Galilean!
And thus singled-handed
Unto the combat,
Gauntlet or Gospel,
Here I defy thee!

Mythology Part One

The voice of Joseph Campbell has been echoing in my head since 1989. My friend and mentor, Dave Anderson of Butler County Community College, introduced Campbell to me when I first began teaching at the college level and I knew I had found someone important.

But it all began well before that. I began reading myths when I was very young. The Twelve Labors of Hercules, Theseus and the Minotaur, Jason and the Golden Fleece were some of my earliest ventures into myth. I loved the characters, the themes, and the lessons that resided in myth.

From there, I delved into Norse mythology: Thor with his mighty hammer, Mjolnir, tales of Odin, and, of course, Beowulf.

I realized, from early on, that these stories somehow embodied truths about the human spirit, and, as my other friend and mentor, Art Barlow from Clarion would say, “All myths are true.” He’s right, all myths point to spiritual truths that can be identified and felt by all humans.

Before I move any farther, allow me to offer a definition of myth. Myths are stories, rituals, and works of art that point to transcendent spiritual truths. Think of it this way: Humans live in the physical plane, but we also know that there is a spiritual plane “out there” somewhere. This is the realm of the non-physical. How do we know what occurs in the realm of the non-physical? How do we begin to understand how we are connected to the spiritual realm? Through our myths.

The problem, as far as I can tell. Is that we’ve kinda screwed up the interpretation of our myths. We either treat them as fairy tales that are not literally true and therefore mostly irrelevant, or we treat them as literal, historical facts, which make them equally irrelevant because when we interpret them as facts, we mistake the symbol for the referent and therefore remain focused on the symbol.

For example, once upon a time, a girl named Red Riding Hood didn’t really come across a wolf dressed in her grandmother’s clothing, did she? And even if she did, we don’t interpret the event in literal terms.

Instead, we take the spiritual/psychological truth from the story and move on. The story teaches us that it’s certainly important for a young woman to understand that there are big, bad wolves in the physical realm and that a young lady should be careful. So, even though the myth didn’t actually occur (or maybe because it has occurred symbolically so many times in human history) we can gain a spiritual truth from it.

In contrast, religious fundamentalism would take us in the opposite direction. Instead of allowing the symbols to remain symbols that transcend the physical realm, fundamentalists of all stripes attempt to codify the symbols and events into actual historical events. And while there may be one or more historical events connected to the emergence of the symbol, we need to allow the symbol to point to the spiritual truth without getting caught up in the need to demonstrate the scientific validity of each of the symbols.

Guess what? There are many flood stories in mythologies from around the world. They teach us that we live on the razor’s edge—that disaster can strike any time—and often does. In Noah’s case, it also teaches us to have clean hearts and to be prepared for difficulty on our journeys through life.

Therefore, to focus on the story of Noah’s Ark as an actual historical event and begin searching mountains in the Middle East or Africa for remnants of Noah’s Ark is to miss the point. The story of Noah is simply another flood story generated by human beings, in the physical plane, in order to comprehend a larger spiritual reality.

That’s what myth does. It points from the direction of the human heart toward universal truths within the spirit realm. It provides humanity with a roadmap to understand our place within our cultures and within the cosmos. It should be leading us always toward larger, shared spiritual truths and not toward arguments about whose god is mightier.

More later.


Today's news

Just wanted to point out that I loved two stories in today's Times News. The first has to do with the state asking Erie County and prioritize the projects it is asking for money for. A lot of the controversy seems to involve the $7 million budget over run on the convention center project. Now, I was never a big proponent of this convention center. However, as the weather is shaping up here - I can see why someone would want to have a convention in Erie. And, if we get that runway project completed, then maybe we're on to something - at least for the three months out of the year that it's beautiful. But, for this thing to be successful, I think we need the parking ramp. It comes back to the "bird in the hand being worth two in the bush" saying - and I think Convention Center Authority chief Roger Richards alludes to this. Let's take the money and do the Convention Center right before chasing after other projects. Granted, one of those projects is the airport runway, which, as I said is, inexorably connected to the Convention Center's success, so let's not put that by the wayside. But, this Gannon technology incubator. Wouldn't that be competing with the eBizITPA organization that we already have? Let's keep our focus here.

One other comment on the Convention Center over run: It does seem that prices for building materials are up all over, so I giving the Authority the benefit of the doubt on that one.

The second story I really enjoyed was the one where Joe Sinnott refuses to extend the loan period for this Herbert Fliss juice plant guy. From what I understand, this guy really screwed the former owners of the Midway driving range on East 12th and then deserted the spot as a site for his plant. He is also being sued by some other city I think. He's got some issues and God bless Joe for not putting up with his B.S. anymore. Hopefully, we get the money back. I also hope Fliss eventually builds his plant in Lake City, but we shall see.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Roethsliberger Update

The following is an audio update on Big Ben's condition from a doctor at Mercy Hospital (source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).



Return from Atlanta

I've returned from Atlanta safe and sound.

The dream of the movie of the trip that's playing in my head right now is incredible.

I was able to complete quite a bit of writing during my trip, at least five significant pieces (~1000-1800 words).

It's going to take a few days (weeks? months?) for me to improve overall coherence and prepare the writings for publication.

The writings will be posted to Ralph's Place as the summer unfolds.

This is gonna be fun....


Father Baseball

I'd just like to take a moment to issue a shout out to my boy Chris "Beane" Benoit, the self-proclaimed "Father Baseball" of years gone by.

"...when the snow started to melt and spring invaded the air on the southern shores of Lake Erie, it was Father Baseball's job to discern if indeed, baseball season had officially begun. How would he do this? With his nose, of course. Father Baseball would sniff that air, take it in, almost like a wineconnoisseurr, toss the air around in his noggin and then declare if indeed it was too early, or if baseball had officially cometh."



Monday, June 12, 2006

Summertime and the living is easy

Right. At least I'm hoping so. Stomach problems seem to be mostly behind me, which is good. Seawolves have a five game homestand stand coming up. Weather seems to be shaping up. Supposed to maybe hit 80 degrees this weekend. Lake Erie water temp is listed at 63.

I don't know how often I'll be visiting Ralph's Place over the summer. If last week was any indication, not much, but maybe more. We'll see I guess. This is still a pretty new venture, and I'm trying to figure some things out. I've started some sort of book/extended essay/modern novella type of work. Here's an excerpt:

"My son, who is 7 just asked me, 'How about home runs did Tino Martinez hit?' Tino Martinez was a great fielding, solid hitting first basemen that the Yankees picked up in the mid-1990s, before they made their run of four World Series titles in the Joe Torre/Derek Jeter era. My son remembers him from last year, when he returned to the Yankees after being let go a couple years earlier in favor of slugging Jason Giambi. Giambi contracted some sort of rare stomach parasitic disorder while in Japan, after having to stop taking the steroids he’d used for several years prior and appeared a shell of his former self early last season. So, Martinez was brought back to fill in. Martinez, because of age I assume, not steroids, was also a bit of a shell, although he did go on one torrid streak, hitting like seven home runs in seven games early in the season, that keyed some big wins. By the time my son picked up on him toward the playoffs, however, Giambi had miraculously returned, working with hitting coach and former batting champ Don Mattingly to reassemble his stroke and eventually wound up being the 2006 A.L. Comeback Player of the Year award. So, Martinez had been relegated to coming off the bench.

The cool thing about my son’s question is that I can now go online, to a wonderful Web site, and view Tino Martinez’s career stats. It used to be you had to buy this expensive big book called the Baseball Encylopedia to look up every player’s statistics in the history of baseball. I remember my friend Red had a copy, and I spent more than a couple of afternoons at his house thumbing through the thing. You could really get lost in it, looking up stuff like Smokey Joe Wood's 1921 pitching numbers. is the same type of thing. And because it’s online and has all sort of hyperlinks embedded in it, you can very easily jump from one area to another. I called my son into my office to answer his question about Tino, which was 330-something, and we started jumping around to figure out things like exactly how many World Series did the Torre led Yankees win? It was four in five years, including three in a row from 1998-2001. Then we jumped to the career of his favorite hitter Gary Sheffield and went over his year-by-year home run stats and the awards he has won. Then, we jumped to Texas first baseman Mark Texiera. Baseball stats have a very soothing effect from some reason. They’re just numbers but they say so much about the game."

Well, that's it for now. Yes, aside from Presque Isle and the Seawovles, I'll leave you with two of my other favorite things to do in the summer. Both have to do with music:
1. The Mayville Bluegrass Festival is this weekend. This thing rocks. It is in a great location and really brings in some top notch nationally renowned bluegrass acts. It gets a bit pricey, but you have an ear from some good bluegrass, I'm sure it's a bargain.
2. Erie's own Eight Great Tuesdays is a wonderful series of concerts. It doesn't start until July 11, of course, sometimes the summer weather doesn't really kick in until that time around here either.

Both event I just mentioned are great family affairs, although, Eight Great Tuesdays is probably even better for the family because it's free.



Monday, June 05, 2006

A Journey to Atlanta

Okay. Tomorrow I leave for Atlanta.

I'm going to a conference on myth and archetypes. It's part of the Mythic Imagination Institute and people like Deepak Chopra will be there. It's going to be very interesting.

Ralph supplied me with an old laptop, so I'm going to see if I can blog from the road. No guarantees, but I'll give it a shot.

If nothing else, I'll do some entries on the road and post them when I return.

So, I'll be signing off for now, but stay tuned. I'll see if I can come up with some good pics as well.


Looking to the East

I've always been a guy that looked to the West for inspiration - sunsets, expansive Western U.S. ideals, making my home on Erie's West side, but for some reason today I have been inspired to face east. I've been facing the sun as it makes its upward arc - and it is treating me right. I'm also now induldging in some of this killer green tee with rice in the mix that Dr. Dee dropped by last Friday. So maybe that's helping me get my Eastern motif on. I wonder if this is a new way of living.



Friday, June 02, 2006

Henry Miller

So, I just got back from the doctor, where I finally went after my stomach has been bothering me for two weeks. He seemed to think, it's merely some sort of acid overdose (no, not that type) and gave me some pills to calm everything down. I immediately ate one upon getting home, ate a sandwich, got an upset stomach, and well, you can guess what follows. Anyways, I feel better now. Doc seems to think it will take a couple weeks to work itself out. As he said, "Well, you're looking like you lost some weight. I wish I could take off a few pounds myself." Trust me, it hasn't been worth it... or has it?

Anyhow, when I got back, I was browsing through Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, as I've promised myself to do this summer and came across this passage, "If we go to Borneo, I won't have hemorrhoids any more. Maybe I'll develop something else . . . something worse . . . fever perhaps . . . or cholera. Shit, it's better to die of a good disease like that than to piss your life away on a newspaper with grapes up your ass and buttons falling off your pants."

I think I can relate.