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Winter Solstice Sun

I’m leading a discussion group about the spiritual essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Its the second time I’m doing this and it is enjoyable and enriching. We use “Emerson as a Spiritual Guide” by Barry Andrews, published by Skinner House Books, Unitarian Universalist Association publishing house. I highly recommend the book to anyone who wants to learn more about Emerson’s spiritual writings.

In reading Emerson’s essay, The Over-Soul, I found this time that I have much more clarity. One passage struck me as particularly important: “For the soul is true to itself, and the man in whom it is shed abroad cannot wander from the present, which is infinite, to a future which would be finite.”

This is related to an idea that Joesph Campbell expressed — “Eternity has nothing to do with time.”

Why am I suddenly writing about this? First of all I need to get back blogging!! Secondly these assertions are helpful to me as I seek to be in the present and mindful of it. I thought they might be helpful to you.


Snake Meadow

Snake Meadow

After the horrible news of yesterday’s school shootings we have been mourning the losses and feel numb. Today The Chalice newsletter of the Unitarian Church of Barnstable arrived – the church we just joined last week — and Reverend Kristen Harper included the opening stanza from a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson to introduce her paragraph about mourning losses during the year. Unfortunately it is very apt today.

Threnody by Ralph Waldo Emerson

THE SOUTH-WIND brings
Life, sunshine, and desire,
And on every mount and meadow
Breathes aromatic fire;
But over the dead he has no power,
The lost, the lost, he cannot restore;
And, looking over the hills, I mourn
The darling who shall not return.

I mourn all the little darlings who shall not return because their lives were cut short. I will look for them in the hills and valleys, when walking through a meadow I will remember and mourn. I will see them in the sunrise and sunset and along the beaches we walk on old Cape Cod. I will cherish my children and the children I meet in my travels all the more. I will be patient with them all and with my self. I will look for them as I look for Walt Whitman who wrote in Leaves of Grass:

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop some where waiting for you.

I hope the sweet martyred babies will wait for us until we have the wisdom to see them again.


Chicago

Chicago Street at Night


I came across this quote “Anxiety is the fundamental mood of existence” — attributed to Martin Heidegger — in Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson. Markson also wrote that Van Gogh could make everything — even a pair of boots — seem to have anxiety. I don’t remember who he attributed that to.

Wittgenstein’s Mistress is a marvelous book — the height of the experimental novel, according to David Foster Wallace who committed suicide — probably due to his anxiety. But I don’t want to write about the book right now. I want to think out loud about the idea of Heidegger’s about the fundamental mood of life. Is it anxiety for most people? Is anxiety the fundamental mood of your life?

I discussed this with my wife. At first Aurora was skeptical. She is a very positive and cheerful person so ideas like this don’t usually sound right to her. Then, later after thinking for awhile she said something like — “you know it makes sense. We are in a mode (not mood) of survival — always deciding to flee or fight when pressured. And we are often pressured.”

Many of us feel like we are fighting a war. Business is war. The economy is survival of the fittest. In America when its time to file your income taxes it is always anxious time for most of us. We speak of the dog eat dog world. Even our holidays create anxiety. Getting away for a vacation is a source of anxiety for most of us too.

So is the purpose of philosophy and religion to help us over come this anxiety? There is another cause of anxiety — a kind of background noise for our existence as super-sentient beings — the knowledge of our impending, inevitable death. As I read about Buddhism I am learning that one purpose of meditation is to figure out how to deal with knowing that we will certainly die but at a time that is unknown and not of our choosing. Some Buddhists meditate on that daily and afterwards decide how to spend the day — which could be the last one for any living person.

Mortality is one of the truths about life Buddha woke up to. Its a pretty fundamental truth but many mortals do not face it until late in life if ever. By face it I mean think through what it means and how this knowledge should inform our daily life. Buddhist thinking has it that we can only be sure of the present moment. The past is gone, tomorrow may not come and is unknown if it does. Some western religions ask us to focus our attention on ‘the next life.’ Live in a way that will ensure entrance to heaven. Of course Buddhists — some Buddhists — believe in Karma and reincarnation. Karma = actions and the associated reaction of the laws associated with Karma. So this amounts to the same thing, I think.

Meditation is good practice whether dealing with mortality or trying to calm jittery nerves. So is being in nature if one really is there to enjoy it. Real work can also relieve anxiety but there isn’t as much of that around as there used to be. By real work I man doing something for the joy of the work itself and what it will accomplish. Some of us still have that kind of work, others seek it and make it out of an avocation. But there is no doubt that real work is a big help. And maybe the most favorable way to calm down to to help others. I think after meditation there are Buddhists who decide to do just that as well as Catholics, Unitarians and atheists as well.

I recently read a book entitled “Buddhism Without Beliefs” by Stephen Batchelor Its a condensed introduction to Buddhist practice and thinking without the mysticism. A little like Thomas Jefferson’s bible — Jefferson cut out all the mysticism and miracles from the New Testament and made a book that was mostly the sayings and wisdom of Jesus. I highly recommend it. It might help you deal with your anxiety — it helped me with mine.


We dimly remember our fear

This is a holiday season because we have always feared the darkness. Not so much now with electricity and enlightenment. Yet still we fear death because it is the dying of the light and might be painful. Today marks the longest night and shortest day. We no longer believe that our ceremonies and rituals are needed to ensure the rebirth of the light on earth, but what do we believe about death? James Carroll wrote a good column today in the Globe “Religion, science, and the solstice.” He concludes that knowledge is holy. But what of our knowledge of the soul and its rebirth after death? Is  — as Carroll writes — today’s darkness tomorrow’s” light, or is it just more darkness?

Is our lack of knowledge proof that no rebirth is possible? I don’t think so. Yet we are in the dark about this in the same way as our ancestors were in the dark about the cycles of the earth thousands of years ago. I have faith in the economy of the universe — that nothing is wasted and that our essence has a future. Whether my consciousness survives remains for me to see (a contradiction — yes this is a contradiction and paradox). None of the proofs of the immortality of the human soul seem to work for me. And I observe no rituals to ensure its progress after death. Maybe I should seek some potent rituals designed for this purpose. Or maybe I should simply live my life knowing that I will eventually experience death and transfiguration — a process not to be feared because it is inevitable.  As  Baha’is chant — in the end “We will all verily abide by the will of God.”

What do you think? Do you fear that the light, once extinguished will not be reborn?


A boardwalk through the marshes on Plum island.

Marsh Loop, Plum Island

Sorry I haven’t written a new blog entry for a while. Last time I was in a bad mood over the long winter, now I’ve been busy with Spring.

So what’s going on? Well, I formally left the Baha’i faith fifty years almost to the day I declared my belief at fifteen in 1958. I also joined a cooperative art gallery in Newburyport and sold three prints during my first weekend there. Website: http://bridgegallerynewburyport.com/

Maria, my youngest daughter is graduating from college and preparing to start graduate school this fall. We attended her thesis presentation and she was as her professor said, ‘perfect.’ Aurora and I are enjoying our membership in First Parish Church United in Westford. Lad is going to turn 15 next month, he has the wise old dog look as if he is seeing into the world of mystery and spirit.

My grown daughters are living their lives and I hope are happy. Aida is settling in to a new job while also doing well with painting and consulting. Robin and I had a great visit in March and she seemed so relaxed and happy — I hope she continues to be that way. I haven’t heard from my eldest free spirit, Dawn for a while — I hope she is well and happy. (Sent Robin and Dawn Mom’s day cards — they each have done wonderful work in raising their kids — many thanks to them and the universe for that!)

My Grandchildren are growing up — Jack has a new job, Eddy is teaching Freshman English and doing well in graduate school, Shaylyn is thinking of going to college on the East Coast — yeah!! — and Elliot is growing up and enjoying his new school (how I miss them all!) Shay paid us a visit in April and it was such a treat. She is so delightful to be with and I think she had a good time as well. Visited RISD and some art schools in Boston. I hope she picks one next year.

Meanwhile politics, local and national, marches on in its surrealistic way. Extremists abound. Mean spirits continue to rule and the rest of us rue the day. Yet our problems are not petty nor mean. They are the result of our success as a species. Its pretty clear that what is needed is for us to grow up and quickly. It is human nature itself that is challenged and needs to evolve — with great rapidity – if that’s possible.

While I feel very good — liberated — about the Baha’i decision, I think it a shame the Baha’i faith hasn’t had greater impact. Some of what the Bahia’s teach is good medicine. But its such a stew of mixed and contradictory beliefs and behaviors that in good conscience I can’t call myself a Baha’i. Greater impact would stir some of the questions that need asking now — I don’t hold hope that Baha’i has all the answers but questions? Yes it offers many.

I saw Karen Armstrong speak at a TED conference recently. She was receiving an award and gave a wonderful talk. From the TED website: (Armstrong) “talks about how the Abrahamic religions — Islam, Judaism, Christianity — have been diverted from the moral purpose they share to foster compassion. But Armstrong has seen a yearning to change this fact. People want to be religious, she says; we should act to help make religion a force for harmony. She asks the TED community to help her build a Charter for Compassion — to help restore the Golden Rule as the central global religious doctrine.”

The thoughts from this talk that have stayed with me include the conclusion that religion is not primarily about beliefs; rather its about behavior. I suppose the beliefs are a means of encouraging certain behaviors. Another lasting thought is that the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) all have the virtue of Compassion at their core — embodied in  the Golden Rule. Simple. Makes me wonder why the religions have gotten so complex. (Maybe its because as Karen says, “the Golden Rule is difficult.”

Here is a link to the talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/234

For me the problem with religion is that most of ’em claim to offer the infallible word of God. If you need to know what to do and you are religious you can look it up in the holy book. Of course this breaks down at times (often) and then the believers need to come up with logic that explains away the contradictions, logical fallacies, and misinformation. I think that only if we keep things simple — the golden rule, the four noble truths, “Love one another as I have loved you” — there is hope.

Most faiths act as if they had the only or ultimate truth. Baha’i says — all religious are true but ours is truer because its the latest revelation from God. Seems simple — but its a dangerous and divisive attitude. The concept that God progressively reveals more truth over time to meet the needs of each age seems simple too. But its simplicity precludes the problem solving and truth finding that we need to do in our lives as we follow our own unique path.

This is what drew me to the church we recently joined. It is affiliated with Unitarian/Universalist and through them with the teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I get much wisdom and pleasure from his writings. His advice is to listen to one’s inner voice, to intuition. He advises us to not seek the truth in books but in our own ‘genius’ — that is the spirit within. A kind of contradiction because I am seeking wisdom in books of his. At least Emerson doesn’t claim to be the voice of God!

The UU approach implies that truth can be found in many places, sacred and secular. I think this is good advice. Also the rejection of the belief that certain historic figures were unique and were incarnations or direct voices of God is good. As Emerson taught, the same source of truth that Christ had we may have as well. Christ set an example of how to find that source and we would do well to emulate it. But to worship him as God or nearly God or God’s only son is rejected. I agree. And I also reject the infallibility of Baha’ullah and the others in Baha’i who claim it because no one born of flesh was ever infallible. Worth following? Possibly. Infallible? Not possible.

I hope to write in this blog more often. I’ll get back to being more specific and reporting events that might interest others — like apparently skunk cabbage — one of my readers (or I guess searchers/googlers) most favored subjects strangely enough.

Meanwhile enjoy the springtime and let me know your thoughts if you want.


Elbert Hubbard was a prolific writer of the early twentieth century. He was a major figure in the Arts and Crafts movement having establish a hand crafted publishing house called Roycrofters, famous for beautiful, illuminated limited edition volumes, bound in leather.Flowers I saw with Elliot

His book “Hollyhocks and Goldenglow” is a collection of essays on topics from the Titanic to Abdul Baha. (I recently made an entry on the Talisman9 discussion forum about this and what follows was drawn from that post.)He writes movingly about the Titanic recounting the bravery, loyalty and love of Mrs. Straus who refused to leave her husband for a life boat. Ironically Hubbard and his wife, Alice perished three years later aboard the Lusitania. Survivors told stories of their courage, matching the characteristics of Mrs. Straus.

There is also an essay about Abdul Baha entitled “A Modern Prophet.” The first sentence reads “A very great man has recently visited America.” It continues: “So out of Persia comes Abdul Baha, who calls himself “The Servant of God.” His followers are called Bahais. This man has diverted one-third of the population of Persia from Mohammedanism. …. This man is the modern Messiah.”

I find this essay an engrossing report by a non-Baha’i. Particularly interesting is this:

“Christian Science interests Abdul Baha greatly. It is somewhat humiliating thing for us when we think that this new American religion was never heard of by Abdul Baha until recently. Now he has practically embraced it. He says it represents one arc of the great circle of truth, and that if he had learned nothing else from his trip to America but the truths of Christian Science, he would be amply repaid.He says he comes more as a learner than a teacher. Nevertheless, he is obliged to give out the light that has been given to him. He keeps the good by giving it away.He quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson freely, delights in Walt Whitman, and loves the memory of Tolstoy, and is on terms of great tenderness toward every good and noble thing that makes for human betterment.No man of recent times has shown such a magnificent affirmative spirit as this Abdul Baha.”

Hubbard was a prolific writer who is not very well known today — not the household word one might think he would be. (The exception might be his “Message to Garcia” that I believe was read in grade or high schools years ago.)His contemporaneous account of Abdul Baha’s visit is precious I think. There may be errors in the essay but it rings true. He doesn’t say that he met Abdul Baha but I think he must have. Does anyone have knowledge of this possible meeting? I find the comments about Christian Science, Emerson and Whitman intriguing and perfectly consistent with my mental and emotional image of Abdul Baha and his approach to life.The book is available as a reprint or as an antique in its original leather bound form if you can find it.I love the idea that Abdul Baha quoted Emerson and loved Whitman but this is the only reference to that I know of. I think many Baha’is would reject the idea. If you are a Baha’i what do you think? And please let me know of other references like this that you are aware of.Many thanks,FrankSunset and Flowers


Brooklyn Bridge

A bridge tower complete with the wrapped wire cables invented by John Roebling

Hart Crane wrote the best tribute to the world’s greatest bridge that I know of:

To Brooklyn Bridge

How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest
The seagull’s wings shall dip and pivot him,
Shedding white rings of tumult, building high
Over the chained bay waters Liberty–

Then, with inviolate curve, forsake our eyes
As apparitional as sails that cross
Some page of figures to be filed away;
–Till elevators drop us from our day . . .

I think of cinemas, panoramic sleights
With multitudes bent toward some flashing scene
Never disclosed, but hastened to again,
Foretold to other eyes on the same screen;

And Thee, across the harbor, silver-paced
As though the sun took step of thee, yet left
Some motion ever unspent in thy stride,–
Implicitly thy freedom staying thee!

Out of some subway scuttle, cell or loft
A bedlamite speeds to thy parapets,
Tilting there momently, shrill shirt ballooning,
A jest falls from the speechless caravan.

Down Wall, from girder into street noon leaks,
A rip-tooth of the sky’s acetylene;
All afternoon the cloud-flown derricks turn . . .
Thy cables breathe the North Atlantic still.

And obscure as that heaven of the Jews,
Thy guerdon . . . Accolade thou dost bestow
Of anonymity time cannot raise:
Vibrant reprieve and pardon thou dost show.

O harp and altar, of the fury fused,
(How could mere toil align thy choiring strings!)
Terrific threshold of the prophet’s pledge,
Prayer of pariah, and the lover’s cry,–

Again the traffic lights that skim thy swift
Unfractioned idiom, immaculate sigh of stars,
Beading thy path–condense eternity:
And we have seen night lifted in thine arms.

Under thy shadow by the piers I waited;
Only in darkness is thy shadow clear.
The City’s fiery parcels all undone,
Already snow submerges an iron year . . .

O Sleepless as the river under thee,
Vaulting the sea, the prairies’ dreaming sod,
Unto us lowliest sometime sweep, descend
And of the curveship lend a myth to God.

I read somewhere years ago that Crane wrote this while living, unbeknownst to Hart, in the same apartment wherein Washington Roebling, chief bridge engineer and son of John, the designer of the bridge, lived out his final, painful days suffering from the bends that struck him while he dived under water to check pilings progress. Suffering there he watched the crew continue work on what was becoming the largest suspension bridge in the world and the tallest structure in New York at that time. Finally Washington Roebling watched as Grover Cleveland, Chester Arthur and many of the Citizens of New York opened the longest suspension bridge in the world. The bridge opened in 1883.

Washington’s father, John died from tetanus in 1869, two years after starting work on the bridge, after sustaining an injury that crushed his toes on one foot.

Last weekend I walked across the bridge and back with my daughter Robin. She was visiting Brooklyn to accompany her boy friend to a crossword puzzle conference and had some time to spend with me. It was a pleasure to be with her — so bright and smart, beautiful and uplifting — like the day we shared.

We had a wonderful day. In fact my weekend was one to remember. Friday I took the train to Manhattan and then the subway to Brooklyn. I felt capable and proud to navigate Penn Station at 6 pm on a Friday – my old New York instincts kicked in and I had a good trip reading on the train and people watching the whole time (an old hobby).

On Friday evening, after checking into the Comfort In Brooklyn Bridge (it actually in South Brooklyn) I took a cab to the Williamsburg section and had dinner at the Like the Spice gallery – Marisa Sage’s fine art gallery, appropriately located on Roebling street. (http://likethespice.com/) I met some great folks there and enjoyed a wonderful meal catered by Scottadito Osteria Toscana, an Italian restaurant in Park Slope on Union Street, described as ‘rustic, traditional Italian.’ Can’t say anything about the atmosphere, but the food on Friday was superb – fresh, natural without that over spiced restaurant taste and after taste (they use natural and organic ingredients when ever possible).

The two artists currently featured at the gallery spoke: Rachel Beach and Nora Hertling. Both were elegant and articulate describing their excellent and intriguing work without pretense in a way that I found engrossing. I learned something about the aesthetics  for a fine artist. The work is so particular — its about a small detail in life — not big questions or observations but small ones honed to perfection. Lovely people and lovely pieces!

The hospitality provided by Marisa, her father (who was a delight to talk to) and the other guests put me at ease and provided the cushion needed for a most fine evening!

But spending the day with Robin was the real highlight of the weekend. We took in the promenade in Brooklyn Heights overlooking downtown Manhattan and the bridge. We visited The River Café (one of the best) and Robin made reservations for Sunday night (don’t know if she had dinner there – a jacket is required Sunday evenings and Jim did not have one with – question was – Macy’s or no).

Woolworth Building

The Woolworth Building from the promenade

Next we started across the bridge. Now the weather forecast was for snow and or rain. So we thought the Brooklyn Museum would be a better bet. But once we started out it was clear that it was clear – and bright, sunny with a gusty wind that ‘made our hearts a dancer.’

Empire from Brooklun Bridge

The Empire State Building from the Brooklyn Bridge

Wedding couple, colorful photographer, cyclists sweeping over, crews of friends photographing each other, gulls winging and the city stretched out before us and all the while the bridge reminded us that New York is a fine old city ans seaport (being on the bridge is like being on a sailing ship).

Colorful PhotographerWedding Couple

Some folks enjoying the bridge as we passed by (no that’s not Robin)

On the promenade we were reminded of 9/11 and the missing towers. But the bridge beckoned with promises that what made New York and Brooklyn special was still alive. The bridge, the Woolworth Building and the entire sweeping vista represented a New York in its heyday so our hearts were uplifted.

Somehow this was like a homecoming for me. To be with a beloved daughter in the city of my birth (was born in Brooklyn Heights in 1943) on a beautiful pre-spring day did make my heart a dancer. It’s a weekend I’ll long remember.

Thank you daughter. Thank you bridge. May you both enjoy many years of life and love.

(Then on Sunday, Aurora and I joined the First Parish Church of Westford Massachusetts in a ceremony that touched us both. This was a bridge crossing of another kind, one that I will write about later on, making the weekend one of trips and crossings from start to finish. For me this joining includes become a Unitarian or at least moving in that direction. I don’t know exactly where this will lead but the trip so far has been a delight…..(many thanks to Reverend Cindy and all the new friends we have made at First Parish Church United.)


“Night Walk” Photograph copyright Frank Winters a Canon G9 image

Night Walk

Luke 17:20, 21:

“And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, the kingdom cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here, or lo there! for behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”

In the Baha’i writings the thirteenth Hidden Word says:

“O Son of Spirit!

I created thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty? Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself? Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside me? Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his journal:

“The highest revelation is that God is in every man.”

And in his essay Nature he recounts a transcendental experience:

“Standing on the bare ground,–my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space,–all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball. I am nothing. I see all. The currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God”

I believe that these passages refer to the same truth. That God is within each of us and that by turning within we may find God.

The quote from Baha’ullah is particularly interesting. Taken as a whole it seems to recount humankind’s evolution and self invention through Nature and the acquisition of knowledge. Nature is the clay of love. The essence of knowledge refers to the source of mankind’s mental growth and spiritual evolution as well as the process of discovery through science and intuition.

The Lord’s prayer says “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread…” Baha’is believe this refers to the time when Baha’ullah came to fulfill the prophecy. Many Christians believe this refers to a future time when Christ will return in the glory of the father and bring about the kingdom of God on earth.

But the kingdom of God is within you says Jesus. Baha’ullah says find Me within you. Emerson says he and all of us are the part and parcel of God.

That’s enough for me. The good news is that the kingdom can come for us in the here and now as can eternity, just as our daily bread comes. However, the kingdom is in the future for most of us because we have not achieved what Buddha called nirvana. But his views will wait for another time!

I am pleased to have reached this conclusion after thinking about these and other passages for months if not years. While I am open to finding a different meaning to them I find this understanding clear and helpful. Meditation will now be easier, I think.

A primary difficulty for me in accepting the Baha’i faith as the basis for belief is in the concept of the Covenant which says that God will send messengers every thousand years or so and humankind will accept and follow them. Baha’i believe that no direct contact with God is possible. All knowledge from God must come through a Manifestation, they believe — because that’s what Baha’ullah taught even though he also wrote the thirteenth Hidden Word.

Many Baha’is over the years have told me that they respect or are fond of Emerson yet he taught just the opposite from this fundamental (and somewhat fundamentalist) Baha’i belief. I think this is because Baha’i beliefs are inconsistent internally. Look at them or interpret them one way and they are aligned, for example, with Emerson. Take another look and they are not. But I imagine this is true of organized religion generally. (Of course I am not nearly knowledgeable enough to know if this is true.)

I’m interested in knowing what others think about this. What did Jesus mean? Are the passages above saying the same or similar things, or not? Do you feel that the Kingdom of God could possible be within you?


No Choice

A street scene during an election year. We do have choices, don’t we?

The new movie about the life of Bob Dylan — “I’m not here” — has gotten raves. Dylan is played by 6 actors including a 14 year old black actor, Ricard Gere and Cate Blanchett. The movie apparently shows Dylan as a nonexistent shape shifter who changes as soon as his persona becomes intelligible.

Yep — that’s our Bob.

Would that we could learn from his life performance. Would that the rest of humanity could be like Bob, Norman Mailer (currently stirring things up in heaven) and Muhammad Ali who said something like “I don’t have to be like all you people want me to be — I can be whoever I want to be.” He said that after he became the Champ.

But we can’t be like that. We are stuck in the structure of society and economics. We must be who we are supposed to be because we got to live out our lives that way somehow (a little Dylan derivative text).

This is called structural prejudice by sociologists and other learned types. I’m going to delve into it and try to understand what that means and what if anything an individual can do about it.

Bigotry is pretty close to dead. It’s still alive but very subtle and not at all PC. The force that keeps people down is the force of the weight of the years and traditions that impel us to behave in ways that are counter to our better nature.

We are so damn smug and self centered. We are sure that we are God or no-god’s chosen bunch. Each ethnic group tends to feel this way — at least the ones I have experience with. We middle class types put real estate values above almost everything for god’s sake but do we do it because we can’t help it? Maybe, yet we must help.

Last Sunday Reverend Cindy challenged the congregation at First Parish Church to do something about racial inequity in Westford. Blacks earn 40% less than whites she said and there are only 62 whites in Westford. She asked two questions: “How can that be?” and “What are you going to do about it?”

Her suggestion was to give away 10% of our earnings. That might work — certainly if everyone did it it would help even things our.

But it got me thinking (thanks Cindy!) What is really wrong? I think it has to do with were we find ourselves today and our inability to reinvent ourselves. That’s what we need to do — reinvent ourselves – each and everyone of us.

Traditions are good unless they aren’t. We should question our traditional values all the time. Like Emerson taught. Face life each day and question our motives and what we feel we must do. Reinvent ourselves as often as possible.

I think this is what Henry Ford meant when he said “History is bunk!” Yeah, we need to learn from history but as soon as we feel it dictates our actions and thoughts we need to forget it and move on.

Just like Bob Dylan did/does.


Christian Science Center at Night

Photo: The Christian Science Center at Night — sorry I don’t have any photos of Bahai temples (all the photos on my blog are mine –just a habit I like to keep) But Abdul Baha really liked Christian Science — I’ll blog about that someday soon — so its ok.

I just received an email message from a Baha’i scholar — Sen McGlinn. He is very learned — a graduate student of religion who has written a book entitled “Church and State: A Postmodern Theology” that postulates that Bahaullah meant for church and state to be seaparate. He was kicked out of the Bahai Faith as thanks for his efforts, but that’s another story.

Here is what he wrote:

On 23 Oct 2007 at 19:24, Frank Winters wrote:

“Now — when a writer —  or Manifestation for that matter — uses the
term Most Great Infallibility, doesn’t that imply degrees? Most great,
somewhat great just plain great, not quite great and so on?”
Sen replies:

That’s exactly what Baha’u’llah says. Not just several degrees, but
also several different kinds:

Know thou that the term ‘Infallibility’ hath numerous meanings and
divers stations. In one sense it is applicable to the One Whom God
hath made immune from error. Similarly it is applied to every soul
whom God hath guarded against sin, transgression, rebellion, impiety,
disbelief and the like. However, the Most Great Infallibility is
confined to the One Whose station is immeasurably exalted beyond
ordinances or prohibitions …
(Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 108)

Sen

Here is my reply:

“Hi Sen,

Thanks.

The choice of the word infallible has to be unfortunate. If one leaves out the word and thinks about what Baha’ullah says then it is about being on the right path, I think. What might be a better word?

I tried inerrant but that means pretty much the same thing yet is has for me a connotation  of travel to a goal so maybe its closer. Protected from getting off the path — is there a word for that? Steadfast?

‘Sigh’ — its another test. This is my primary argument with God: why all the tests? People need help not @#$% tests. Plain, clear language not flowery prose that could at times mean anything! Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King — better leaders than Baha’ullah or so it seems.

In the days when salvation was about individuals, tests made more sense. Now its the existence of the species that is at stake. Why test all of us in this way?

I’ll tell you why — the entity we call God is not only unknowable it is unthinking in the way we think. Logic has no place there. And God must be indifferent to the question of future human existence. As Baha’ullah says nothing we do has any effect on God whatsoever.

And …. wouldn’t it be great if, as Baha’ullah said, the books really were opened? Religion is still mumbo-jumbo to most people, even in the Baha’i era — if there is such a thing as that.

Cheers,
Frank”

Well that’s the latest.

I’d like to get some comments on these posts — a number of people have been reading my first post about Baha’ullah — ‘seekers?’ Baha’is? Speak up — what do you think? I will not be hurt or offended if you say you are offended — just don’t tell me to shut up because after all its a free world, isn’t it?

Peace,

Frank

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Thanks.

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