The Void


At times when my life seems out of control, I close my eyes and imagine that I am floating in a total void.  I used to think it was escapist, a fantasy of being alone.  But it also occurs to me that for an instant, the void was the last moment when all that is was a singular point

It is not a fantasy of isolation, but of homecoming.

By Ben Posted in Life

Network Marketing


pyramid2

When I was about 25, my boss invited me to a breakfast with “local business leaders.”  I was kind of honored.  I thought he might be sponsoring me for the Rotary or Elks club.  Everyone was dressed in business attire.  We arrived a few minutes late, but the guy who was speaking was very inspirational.  I was trying to figure out what “club” this was.  But since I was late, I put that question aside.  I figured I missed the introduction. 

The next guy got up and was equally dynamic.  He was talking about how he had made a substantial fortune using something called “network marketing.”  That was the first time I had heard that term.  I was intrigued.  He was drawing diagrams with concentric circles.  When he got the last circle, he used the dreaded word…Amway!

But my boss assured me that Amway was an outdated concept.  This was not that pyramid scheme my parents had warned me about.  This was a new paradigm.  I bit.  I should have run.  My parents told me it was a waste of money.  But I knew better…  

…Six months later, I moved.  I did not leave any forwarding information. 

It was in fact: a pyramid scheme.

But I am nothing if not naïve.  Fast forward twenty years later.  I was burned out on religion.  I was twisting and torturing my mind to hold on to my faith, but failing miserably.  Then a friend came along and started talking to me about the “nones.”  People who were spiritual but not religious.  Really?  Go on…

And so it began.  My 2 year attempt to re-brand my Christian faith into a new paradigm.  But wait you say, “Isn’t that the same ‘Ole Time Religion’?” 

Why no!…

…No, this is completely different…

…The clergy are not the drivers…

…This is about people…

Until…

…until its not.  At the end of the day, it is still about putting butts in the seats.  It is not about building up people.  It is about drawing a crowd and getting their money.  And if you do anything that threatens the bottom line, you will be tossed aside like a bad penny.

It is my own fault.  I let the parasites in.  I believed the hype. 

It stung like hell, but I think I am getting back to some sense of normalcy. 

Next post….12 steps to free your mind.


There are people who by their very presence make you want to want to be a better person.  There are others who make you feel small and insignificant.  Engage with the former and flee the latter.

By Ben Posted in Life

Eleanor Rigby


praying-in-church-300x168

Last Sunday, I attend a new church for the second time. During the sermon, I found myself thinking, “Why do I do this?” 

Why indeed.

I can think of dozens of “Why nots.” But I am running short on “whys.”

The only thing I could come up with is that I am lonely. But is it worth the emotional investment?

No answers…just questions.

Of Santa’s and Saviors


Desire

I am not feeling it this year, Christmas that is.  Secular or sacred, it does not matter.  I just want December to be over.  I just want 2014 to be over.  I just want winter to be over.

I wish life came with a Tivo remote so that I could fast forward through the unpleasant part and replay the good stuff.

There I go, desiring stuff again.  Second noble truth ignored.  I suck at being a follower of at least three religions and several philosophies.

I should go eat something.

Sky Cake:  The Middle Weigh


skycake

Before reading this entry, watch the video that inspired it.

I love cake.  My middle can attest to this fact.  Red velvet in particular is very tasty.  But as I am sure you can already guess that this posting is not about actual cake.  Rather it is an appreciation of Patton Oswald’s routine on faith.

I love this act, not just because it is funny, but because he articulates something that I have not heard.  Christians and Atheist often behave in similar ways.  Too often the rhetoric we hear is that the world would be better off if one of these ways of thinking were annihilate.  I am not comfortable in either of these camps.  Like a growing number of people, I find myself somewhere in the middle (where the cake is stored).  I do not take the bible literally, but I see value in many of its passages.  I accept science, but I do not pretend to know all the answers.

That is why I love Sky Cake.  It recognizes the societal value of religion while poking fun at its excesses.

I don’t know if there is a creator.  But the universe as a whole does behave like a living thing.  Whether or not that thing has consciousness or not is unknowable, at least to me.

But it has become quite fashionable in the last few decades, to blame all of society’s ills on religion; while completely ignoring the good and civilizing influence religion has brought.  Blaming religion is just (to use a religious phrase) a scapegoat.  Wars, poverty, disease, hatred, etc…these things are not caused by religion, but by a scarcity of resources.  Religions and gods are often the mascot war, but the absence of religious sentiment would not make these problems disappear.  People will always find a convenient banner to march behind (brown eyed people unite!).

My problem has always been what to say to people when they displaying intolerance.  Thanks to Patton Oswald, I now have a concise response, “Oh sky cake, why are you so delicious?”  If they care enough to google the phrase, they’ll know what I mean and hopefully take the hint.

…or possibly be they’ll be horribly offended and kill me.  Guess we’ll see.

 

Attachment and Engagement


lego-man

Here are thoughts for a rainy day from a practicing agnostic Christian Buddhist. I have been struggling of late with the third noble: suffering is the result of attachment. I think what I got hung up on was the antonym of attachment: detachment. Detachment denotes aloofness. Visions of a monk in a cave come to mind. That mode of being for me is completely unattainable. I cannot follow in the footsteps of the Buddha and just dump my family and traipse around the countryside searching for enlightenment. That kind of behavior would not only increase my own suffering, it would inflict it upon others.

Upon further reflection and a bit of poking around others blogs, I think I see the flaw in my logic. The opposite of attachment is detachment. That kind of thinking is dualistic, which Buddhism frowns upon. In all things, it is good to look beyond the extremes and focus on the “middle way.” Attachment is grasping, making a fist to hold onto what one owns or desires. It is not actively fleeing from anything; instead, it is not trying to possess what belongs to no one.

The reason I bring this up is because of issue my family is going through. My wife’s tenure at her job is coming to an end. To say it is a messy transition, would be an understatement. I have been raging for weeks and not really understanding why. I have been living in a pattern of avoidance. I wanted people to “do the right thing.” I kept expecting to behave in a typical “by the book” fashion. The more things degraded, the angrier I got. I had convinced myself that mine was the only way of seeing the situation and those holding a contrary view were just selfish. I thought in my arrogance that if I could just get people to see “the big picture”, everything would be resolved. The more I wanted to be understood, the angrier I got. The harder I tried to meditate the more my thoughts focused on perceived injustices and my own view of the situation.

On top of everything, her resignation had to be kept secret. This made the whole situation intolerable. We had to tell many half-truths and avoid other people all together. I felt dishonest in all of my interactions. But finally last night, the damn broke and the principle participants were told.

I feel like a huge burden has been lifted from my shoulders. The secret is out. And finally, I can focus on my own spiritual shortcomings. Upon reflection I can see that I have been wrapped up in how I expected others to behave…grasping, clawing. I had to let it go. I can’t fix things. I cannot make people see things my way. Things are what they are. And that has to suffice. This is a fixed point in time. I will probably always remember it. But this moment will pass. The lost relationships will hurt. But new relationships will be forged. I have to release what was never mine and wish all involved peace.

I am not there yet. But I am well on my way.

Noteworthy


Seeger

I stumbled onto an old album by Pete Seeger at the Sing-along Sanders Theater. The album covers many traditional and folk songs. As the name would imply, the audience sings along.
One song in particular just released waves of pent up emotion coursing thought my veins. It was “Amazing Grace.” I was at my desk, trying miserably to focus on my work when the track started. He holds out the second note of the song, Amaaaaaaaaaaaa. My eyes welled up with tears and I was on the verge of weeping.

When I hear amazing music, I wish that I could be transformed into that note or phrase. I want the separateness of my being to melt into the whole of universe. It is music that gives me insight into the notion that there is no “I.” There is only we.