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The Parable of the Timeless Melody

I would have loved to write something like this. But I found it instead. So now I’m pointing you to it. Because it will make your tired spine tingle. It will make you think of a poet and smile at his collapsed bridge. It will make you look at your preacher and he will never be the same again in your eyes.
Please access “View original” below, the link in pink, and listen to the melody.
Have a nice day! 🙂

P.S.   Hi again 🙂 If you’d like a “certain” reference for this story then please look up that part of what is called The New Testament entitled “John”, specifically in the chapter numbered 3. You may find that like the learned expert Nicodemus things will just fly over your head, I mean, if you just take things from there, unless you’re willing to go just a nudge of a bit crazy …

The Parable of the Good Taxi Driver

Hello everyone 🙂 happy Sunday. I’d like to share with you a very powerful but not-so-nice story. It’s an updated version of The Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Okay, if that name puts you off then consider that I didn’t mention it at all and just take the story by its given name as posted. It doesn’t change the potency of what it has to say. The title, whatever it’s called, won’t even matter after you’ve read it all. Because after you’ve done so what will remain with you are the pictures that the story bring out and cause to be echoed and re-echoed in your memory bank.

Its setting is the present England. That means everything is different from the original Jesus of Nazareth the Teacher’s setting. Unless you indeed believe that the Jewish worldview two thousand years ago, if such a thing can be called so, is a bit similar to the present-day rich-Western-nation worldview, if such a thing can also be called so. Let me emphasize at least one basic thing here: that Jesus of Nazareth the Teacher did not speak English and so that follows that he did not think in the same manner that so-called native English speakers do. For the non-native English speakers I have nothing to say. You might want to study the language the original parable was written in, in order to find out for yourself.

One way of checking if you’ve indeed understood the essence of that good parable, the one that’s in Luke 10:29-37 only, is to compare if the feelings you got after reading that is similar to the feelings you get after reading this post that I’m pointing you to. If not then that means you haven’t understood The Parable of the Good Samaritan all this time that you have been calling yourself a Christian.

At this juncture I wash my hands of the matter. Read it at your own risk, most especially if you worship the Bible or that version of the Bible that your exalted circle has legitimized.

If you have no idea at all what The Parable of the Good Samaritan is, I apologize for my long-windedness. Please, I highly recommend the story that I’ve been trying to introduce here, the one that you can access by clicking on the link “View original” below. If after you’ve read that you’ve become curious enough as to ask for the remote origins of the core idea of the story then you will find lots of information on it on the web. Searching for “the parable of the good samaritan” will suffice for a start. But please don’t be confused by the diversity of opinions on it. If you’re really interested in knowing more about it then you’ll find along the way that somehow you are able to discern which explanation makes sense. If you have gone that far then I suspect that, somehow, the story has taken root in you and that, somehow, you have become more courageous than you were before. What’s more, you’ll discover that the story will keep on increasing in value for you… Peace… I wish you the best.

Many many thanks, Mr. Francis Garfitt (Fran) for your work, and for sharing.

Dear everyone, I wish you a happy reading, through that link in pink, way down below, beneath the first parts of the original post that you can see here. Ciao 🙂

Ten-Books-You’ll-Want-to-Read [on the Old Testament & biblical studies]

In a vast sea of Old Testament reading materials here is a reliable spot to start from. It is a list of books that could be very helpful to those who would like to establish personal perspectives from where to perceive biblical writings. They may also be essential to those who are into academic biblical studies. I myself am a non-specialist and so am thankful even for just the first book on this list, which in itself is a treasure trove.

I got acquainted with some of these when I stumbled on the lectures of Prof. Christine Hayes at Yale (-> if you’re interested in that you can try this link: http://oyc.yale.edu/religious-studies/rlst-145

Happy studying!

🙂

… please access the link below for the original post and so the list …

……………………………………………..

Update, as of June 21, 2021. The List remains as is, and here’s the rest:
10 ) A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew by C. L. Seow (2nd ed.)

There is now, of course, an 11th book you’ll want to read!

11) The Bible’s Many Voices, by Michael Carasik

The Bible Guy

The Jewish Publication Society, which is publishing my Commentator’s Bible series, has asked me for a list of 10 “recommended” books about the Bible for their blog. I intend to blog about the list myself, in more detail, here on WordPress.
In the meantime … here is the list:

1 ) The Jewish Study Bible edited by Adele Berlin and Marc Brettler
2 ) Who Wrote the Bible? by Richard Elliott Friedman
3 ) Sinai and Zion by Jon Levenson
4 ) How to Read the Bible by Marc Brettler
5 ) How to Read the Bible by James Kugel
6 ) A History of Ancient Israel and Judah by J. Maxwell Miller & John H. Hayes (2nd ed.)
7 ) The Art of Biblical Narrative by Robert Alter
8 ) The Dynamics of Biblical Parallelism by Adele Berlin
9 ) Job by Raymond Scheindlin
10 ) A Grammar…

View original post 9 more words

Christmas Doesn’t Have To Be That Glittery

1.  big Chrsitmas tree      If I don’t feel like joining in the extravagance of the Christmas celebrations would I be betraying those who think that the glitters are essential?

I don’t feel like profusely thanking God that I’m forced to stay away from sweets, yet it’s something my folks would call a “blessing in disguise”. The reasons why I wouldn’t buy even a single chocolate yummy isn’t only emotional and mental but physical as well. It seems I now have a safety lock in my resolve to not do the usual things that I would be looking forward to for Christmas — that’s largely involving yummy yummy food and nice new things.

Then there’s also the decorations to be set up even when the Christmas tree is just a plastic imitation, there where I have lived all my life, and Santa with his thick clothes and reindeers in their sleigh are nothing more than just illustrative and illusions. The great majority of my folks have totally no idea what a real cold season means, and are not even aware of the great variety of conifers that exist or ever seen more than one kind.

Then we’d sing “Silent Night” along with “Winter Wonderland” without having the littlest idea of the theologies on Jesus of Nazareth, without the littlest idea of the hazards that snow and other solid forms of precipitation can bring. Would I be betraying those who feel that the extravagance of Christmas celebrations is essential when I say that, well, the great part of it is, uhm, a hoax? When one looks at the disparity between the real reason for Christmas and its popular image, globally, one can’t help but conclude that the bulk of it is irrelevant.

2.  Christmas tree decorsI did more than once heard it preached, by priests and pastors alike, that Christmas is supposed to be a daily celebration. But, man, how can that line of wisdom compete with the overwhelming sights, sounds and smells of the giddy frenzy of buying and cooking and eating and partying by only those who can? What about those who can’t afford to do so and at the same time have no idea that all these are, in fact, dispensable?

Oops, don’t read me wrongly. I do not mean disrespect. I value tradition and culture, in the way they bind communities and affirm living. I do like giving and receiving presents. I love to see my family gathered together in a special meal knowing that other families are gathered as well and that there’s general goodwill in the land and in the ones across oceans. I love the riot of colors and glitter that spring up everywhere many weeks before Advent. But where I have lived all my life electricity is expensive and so the Christmas lights is at the top of the list of things that make me cringe. “Fairy lights” are wonderful in the setting where they originated but transported into my tropical impoverished land they only make me think of unwanted heating and misplaced funds that should have gone to food and health.

3.  Santa in the airIt’ a blessing-in-disguise that I have no choice but to stay away from sweets, otherwise I would not be strong enough to resist perusing the arrays of enticing foodstuff inside an ordinary grocery store, here in the country where I find myself in now, which is one that employs nuclear energy and the best of technology; otherwise I would feel myself heroic in trying my best to be one with many of my suffering countrymen (over the recent hurricane and earthquake disasters). Dang, I really acquired a liking to those Turkish honeyed treats and now I can’t have them. Oh, well, half of my people can’t afford even a pint of ice-cream for years and years so why should I complain?

The issues involved are already much studied, such as poverty and wealth distribution. There’s an ocean of academics out there on these things. But man is man. Unless he chooses to pay attention then he cannot be coerced into engagement. And so life goes on. No one knows exactly where to. Would everything end up the way the movie A. I. (Artificial Intelligence) pictures it out to be, where the bios are no more and the world is run by software? As for now, for me here my comfort foodstuffs are just coconut, salted peanuts, and brewed coffee. With all the facts on poverty that I unearthed today my claim to these “comfort food” has become even a bit embarrassing.

I know I’m not alone in what I feel. I did find a newspaper article that I agree with in this, by a fellow countryman, and I’m glad that he and many like him think of things this way, too.
——————————————4.  tropical Christmas

 

from an article by Mr. Allan S. B. Batuhan (Batuhan: A stolen Christmas?)
(copied from:  http://www.sunstar.com.ph/cebu/business/2013/12/21/batuhan-stolen-christmas-319946)

“Mostly for the simple reason that many people don’t feel like celebrating, in the midst of so much suffering. Yes, suffering. Ordinarily, we Filipinos are accustomed to seeing hardship all around us.

Our political institutions are corrupt, our politicians steal our money, and our people hardly have enough to make ends meet. Contestants join TV shows not for fun, but because they are the only means they have of raising funds for whatever pressing need they have in their lives. Wherever we turn, there are always those who are in need of something.

But the events of 2013 have made even what is commonplace and normal, extraordinary and abnormal. The sight of a beggar on the side of the street is something, but the horror of looking at pictures of devastated homes, and hundreds of dead bodies piled up beside the road is entirely another. Hearts not ordinarily moved by the endless parade of street urchins caroling beside one’s car while stopped at traffic, are wrenched and gutted by the grim footage flashing on the evening news.

So the usual Christmas extravagance goes out the window. And in its place come gestures of generosity hardly ever seen in a country already so jaded by suffering.

Which in the end, is probably just as well, because it reminds us all of what Christmas really ought to be—to share what we have with the least, and the last in life. And as long as we are in this spirit, Christmas will always be alive and well.

Dr. Seuss said it very well indeed: “Christmas Day will always be, just as long as we have we.”
—————————————–5.  Mandela on poverty

[SOME FACTS FROM THE NET:]

 

Number of hungry people in the world
(copied from: http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/world%20hunger%20facts%202002.htm)

 The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that nearly 870 million people of the 7.1 billion people in the world, or one in eight, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012. Almost all the hungry people, 852 million, live in developing countries, representing 15 percent of the population of developing counties. There are 16 million people undernourished in developed countries (FAO 2012).

The number of undernourished people decreased nearly 30 percent in Asia and the Pacific, from 739 million to 563 million, largely due to socio-economic progress in many countries in the region. The prevalence of undernourishment in the region decreased from 23.7 percent to 13.9 percent.

Latin America and the Caribbean also made progress, falling from 65 million hungry in 1990-1992 to 49 million in 2010-2012, while the prevalence of undernourishment dipped from 14.6 percent to 8.3 percent. But the rate of progress has slowed recently.

6.  very hungryThe number of hungry grew in Africa over the period, from 175 million to 239 million, with nearly 20 million added  in the last few years. Nearly one in four are  hungry. And in sub-Saharan Africa, the modest progress achieved in recent years up to 2007 was reversed, with hunger rising 2 percent per year since then.

Developed regions also saw the number of hungry rise, from 13 million in 2004-2006 to 16 million in 2010-2012, reversing a steady decrease in previous years from 20 million in 1990-1992 (FAO 2012).

The above is based on the new estimates of world hunger by the FAO using revised  proceedures. It is worth noting that the new estimates give a different answer than the old estimates as the graph below shows (Lappe, 2013).
——————————————

 

(below, copied from: http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats)

 “According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”Source 4

Water problems affect half of humanity:

    Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation.

    Almost two in three people lacking access to clean water survive on less than $2 a day, with one in three living on less than $1 a day.

7.  Mahatma Gandhi on poverty    More than 660 million people without sanitation live on less than $2 a day, and more than 385 million on less than $1 a day.

    Access to piped water into the household averages about 85% for the wealthiest 20% of the population, compared with 25% for the poorest 20%.

    1.8 billion people who have access to a water source within 1 kilometre, but not in their house or yard, consume around 20 litres per day. In the United Kingdom the average person uses more than 50 litres of water a day flushing toilets (where average daily water usage is about 150 liters a day. The highest average water use in the world is in the US, at 600 liters day.)

    Some 1.8 million child deaths each year as a result of diarrhoea.

    The loss of 443 million school days each year from water-related illness.

    Close to half of all people in developing countries suffering at any given time from a health problem caused by water and sanitation deficits.

    Millions of women spending several hours a day collecting water.

To these human costs can be added the massive economic waste associated with the water and sanitation deficit.… The costs associated with health spending, productivity losses and labour diversions … are greatest in some of the poorest countries. Sub-Saharan Africa loses about 5% of GDP, or some $28.4 billion annually, a figure that exceeds total aid flows and debt relief to the region in 2003.”Source 10
——————————————         —————————————–

Regardless that things are always turned inside out and beaten willy-nilly I’d continue to affirm, by the grace of The Almighty, that life is good, and being alive is beautiful. I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, wherever you are, whatever it means to you, even if you don’t celebrate it at all. Peace!

♥♥

Thank you to the owners of the pictures.   ♥♥

♥♥

how next, Lord?: battling incoherence

Lord, it’s been a long time, since, since when, when I could, I would, think.

it’s been a long time… here I am, again, sitting before You, Lord,

with nothing, with all that I have been, I was, Lord, I’m…

.

…I have to start. I must continue. Lord, how?

.

how will You do it, Lord? Where to? Is it possible? Can we do it? Isn’t it too late yet?

.

Here we are at it again, Lord. And it has become more improbable than all those, the rest, ever were. By the world, I would tend to blame myself. But I’m not ready to, I mean, I won’t blame myself. There are blind spots and it could be said that this is how it should be, that I’m in the best position possible.

.

Lord, please help me not to be afraid and not to lose hope. And help me to work properly. Just help me to work, and hard, and not stop until I’d nearly drop.

.

Let’s do this again, Lord, like we did all those, the rest, together. Let’s go.

🙂

Schleiermacher. Fourth Speech. in my own words.

Last year I made a sort of a narrative, putting into my own words what I picked up from On Religion: Speeches To Its Cultured Despisers by Friedrich Schleiermacher (on the Fourth Speech). I thought that somebody out there may also benefit from my effort so I’m putting it here. I don’t know when I could be able to come back to read Schleiermacher again. Also, lest I forget him then at least whatever I understood about him won’t just get wasted to oblivion.

For sure, just saying that it’s only “feelings” that he’s talking about would make it all simplistic. Schleiermacher was one smart guy, after all. He sort of “rescued” “Christianity” from the snobbery of the “intellectuals”, so to speak (I have to have the terms in quotes because they’re loaded with meanings). He wrote this book On Religion basically for the elite of his time, when it was fashionable to denigrate belief in God. There’s lots of information about him in the net. He has to be understood against a vast background, say, culturally, historically, academically.

That time I came to slowly understand Schleiermacher I began to like him. I admired the way he spoke out for the “mysticism” of “faith”, as if saying that it’s not really so urgent to have tabs on everything because none of these “labels” will really hit the mark. What is important is the coming together and the sharing and the mutual appreciation of persons, anywhere and everywhere, across time and space.

When I read up on this Fourth Speech I was aware that he had particular meanings for the terms he used. I read up the English translation and so my understanding was dependent on the English words, meaning my understanding would have been definitely “better” had I the ability to read from the original German. Anyway, all in all I was careful not to get the terms mixed up.

The Fourth Speech is largely about the believers of Christ Jesus. Please, just read about it here, and enjoy. I may have forgotten much of Schleiermacher’s nuances but I won’t forget that I like him.  I hope that this narration reflects that. You may download the PDF copy HERE.

——————————————

[in my own words, on Friedrich Schleiermacher’s]

Fourth Speech: Association in Religion, or Church and Priesthood

Author: Mona Lisa P. Siacor . 18.May.2012.
For the Oberseminar class under Prof. Hans Schwarz, University of Regensburg,
Bavaria, Germany.

In the fourth speech Schleiermacher deals with the issue of the relationship between the true/ideal church and the visible/real/great church, and the roles played by their respective members [in relation to these categorizations].  He does use the term religion in reference to both/either, but where the distinction is picked up from the discussion context.

Schleiermacher makes the point that religion is social.  A person who intuits part of the infinite has the impulse to impart this experience.  We were more sensitive to these impulses when we were children, but societal norms limit the spontaneity of expressing these as a person takes his place in adult civil life.  This is an impulse to get connected with another human being, a natural way to affirm that the experience still belongs to the realm of humans.  It is not coercion for others to be in exactly the same state as one is, but rather an affirmation of one’s humanness.  Likewise, since this intuition of the universe/infinite is basic to man, then everyone is attracted to any expression of it.

The true church is composed of persons who can understand what each one tries to express.  The basic activity of this company is expressing and listening, and by this activity each one is helped to see more of the infinite, each one is uplifted and uplifts, all in complete generosity and without coercion.  This mutual communication is done in complete understanding of each other, where each one knows he has not himself completely seen the whole. Schleiermacher likens it to the use and effect of music.  The message of the one who expresses it through music is captured by his hearers better than when the message were put into words.  Each one in the true church produces music, like in a choir, but where everyone also hears each other, and in this manner each perceives a bigger part of the infinite than what was originally intuited individually.  In this company all are priests and all are laity in so far as each one imparts and each one assimilates.  There is thus no priest-laity distinction in the true church.  Everyone does the same thing.

This was how he started to discuss things in the Fourth Speech with the intention of tackling the subject of the church from the centre outwards.  True religion is expressed through the visible church.  Some of those who have true religion choose to stay in the visible church and serve as priests or teachers in their concern for those who are still seeking it.  Those who seek religion sense it in them, and listen to them.  The expression of religion to the seekers is by speech or words.  But by the use of words much of the sense of infinity is lost in transmission.   So much so that if words were used for this purpose, then all that the art of using words can offer must be exhausted.

In the true church there is an intermingling between differences.  There are no distinct boundaries between differences, like in a spectrum. Differences do not result in polarization, and in nowhere is there an exclusive claim to truth.  The differing perceptions serve as complements to each other.  Religion is therefore a collective endeavor.  If such a company of participants does exist then most likely it will be consisting of only a quiet group of a few persons who may have sought each other and who are not influenced by the visible church.

The visible church is largely composed of the passive laity who are temporarily excited by the glimpses of the infinite that they can catch from the priests/teachers.  They repeatedly capture and lose these glimpses in the course of everyday civil life, especially where exactness and definiteness are main concerns.  Some do manage to get true religion through continual learning and the piercing together of previous glimpses they had had throughout their life’s experiences.

There is no mutual communication in the visible church.  There is a rigid distinction as to imparters, who are the priests/teachers, and as to receivers, the laity.  The capacity of the laity for true religion is crude.  Therefore they value rigid doctrines more than other forms of expression, even those that would come directly from the priests/teachers.

If the visible church is led by those who know religion, how come it is in a contemptible condition?  Schleiermacher considers several responses to this concern.

Corruption is present in the association of the true society and the seekers, where the true society accommodates the crudeness of the seekers, and where the seekers assume that they are of the same level as of the true society.  It would have been more natural and easier for these priests/teachers to distance themselves from the giant association/institution.  Nevertheless, if they did this it will result to many distinct pockets of learners around a teacher.  With this view in mind, Schleiermacher praises those who choose to stay in the big institution to help the babes, being the less natural and the harder of the choices.

It so happened that a ruler, or rulers, caught a glimpse of the expression of the infinite through the visible church.  In his excitement he proposes measures that would affect the governance within the visible church, such as declaring it as having a special place in civil society.  Had this association been small and insignificant as to catch the attention of the ruler, this meddling wouldn’t have happened.  This meddling robbed the church of freedom and turned to a rigid stone, in the sense of its organizational structure and expressions of faith.

This church-association has become a civil institution, where members of the true church, those who are at home in the vastness and boundlessness of the universe, are of consequence ill-fitted in the governance of such a rigidity and specificity.  Those who are after earthly rewards are now attracted by the prestige of the visible church and some of them even become leaders in it.

The government uses education through the church to: 1) inculcate within people duties that cannot be dealt in civil law; 2) form people into good citizens; 3) provide the coercion for people to be loyal to these civil-related values.  It has gone as far as deciding who is fit to be a model member of the church, or even a priest.  It has equated churchly ceremonies such as baptism and marriage as forms of initiation into stages of civil life.  On the other hand, had the true church been not corrupted by the vast multitude of seekers this meddling by the government would have been resisted.

The next issue that Schleiermacher tackles is on how can there be a mediator between the true church and those not belonging to it, through what he proposes as an auxiliary institution.  Now that it is seen how religion in general has an ugly reputation, the emergence of this auxiliary institution will serve as a medium of purification and to attract new material.  Through it the visible church will slowly be rid of factors that are preventing the seekers from having true religion and in it seekers can find proper guidance toward that goal.  Schleiermacher does not say how this mediator-institution may emerge — be it through a peaceful disconnection of government and church, or by way of spontaneous and simultaneous growth among the German people, or by a totally new institution emerging alongside the visible church.

In this mediator-institution the emphasis is on the nurturing of seekers toward true religion.  The general strict designations of roles and rules imposed by the government will be relaxed in favor of finding a way for seeker-students to learn from priests/teachers who are most appropriate for their needs and inclinations.  A teacher/priest is as well free to deal in areas he is most capable to, with the freedom how to do it, because he has the integrity of being true to his role.  There will be no emphasis on differences between individual inclinations, no value given to the formation of exclusive associations either among priests or the laity.  All in all, the picture is of a dynamic intermingling of seeking and giving.  The goal is to blur the division between priest/teacher and laity, and to get rid of any form of division eventually.

Schleiermacher hopes that those who already have religion, whoever and wherever they are, may contribute strongly to the cleansing of religion’s reputation as they continuously influence people.  The perfect starting place for this may just be in the family.  He dreams of the time when there will no more coercion in an adult’s civil life, where each one does his labor in the spirit of freedom.   [He could be referring to the hard life of the laborers, as this was the time of the Industrial Revolution].  When people are not anymore enslaved then the use of their innate sense will increase.  By then mutual communication can happen.  Lastly, he encourages his reader-friends to participate toward the achievement of this happy time to come. ◊◊◊

♥ ♥ 

If Not Luther, Then Who?

Just as I suspected.

Years ago I found this thick paperback on Martin Luther’s biography and I was disillusioned when I realized that interest in him wasn’t enough to get me through the book. I had a bit of confidence then because years earlier I had learned to brace myself through Silmarillion and The Abolition of Man. I just had to mention these two so that you’d have an idea of what I could make myself go through, and not to brag, because before I put a period at the end of this sentence I’d be confessing that I really had a hard time with those two, plus admitting that I don’t remember nor understood everything I read but that I did make it to their last pages. There.

Now that I’ve decided to check out Martin Luther again to my relief I’ve discovered that I can more or less absorb what I’m reading. But. He’s a difficult subject.

I’m not reading from that same paperback that I had earlier (I don’t have it with me now). I haven’t yet mustered the courage to read his works. I’m still looking for footholds from which to view him, identifying from which perspective I could possibly view from so that I’d be able to see well. I scout for posts in internet sites. I’m so happy that there are so many generous people around the globe taking their time to talk about ideas that are obscured by rhetoric and jargon.

Just as I suspected: Martin Luther won’t be an easy reading. If you want to understand what I’m trying to say here then you have to check him out yourself. From various sources. Not just from one. Don’t stop until you’ve seen differing views.

Do I like Martin Luther? I mean, like the way I like Schleiermacher, Tolkien and Tagore? No, I don’t. Whenever I think of Luther I get pictures in my head of fiery hell and gloomy purgatory. Of cold monks’ cells. Of 100,000 very dead peasants. Of words so spoken that it would leave me dumb and numb. Of words so bombastic that to keep my sanity I’d have to seriously deliberate with my thoughts which light to follow, his or the one’s he speaks against.

Alright. All that is looking at the half-empty part of the glass. On the part of the glass that’s filled this is what I see: if it wasn’t Luther who did that, e.g., 95 Theses then, then who? Who would have wrestled the Bible away from the scholars and make it available for the common people? Luther had the personality and the temperament. Melanchthon, who was a better scholar than he was, couldn’t do what he did. Whatever forces were behind his motives and actions the result is that many people became encouraged to look at the world from a different perspective.

I look at it like this: if the earth were not this distant from the sun then conditions would have made impossible for the biosphere as we see it now to exist. There has to be the magnetosphere and the ozone layer for the likes of us and the animals around us to thrive. I also look at the sizes of the moon and the sun: one is enormous and the other is a fraction of a dot but seen from us they’re of the same size simply because they’re respectively positioned that far away from us. If it were not so then we would never have witnessed the beauty of the total solar eclipse.

So, yes, I guess I could say that he was there at the right place, at the right time, to do what he was supposed to do. That’s my gut opinion. I can’t defend that argumentatively. I can only submit it with my usual smile. I’ve already accepted that he’s a difficult reading, and that means this has to do with all those philosophical, historical and theological issues that by consequence will be involved in studying him, and at the side taking into consideration contextual vis-à-vis psychological/anthropological/social questions.

I really wish some serious scholar would dare a comprehensive research on his personality.

Before I end this post there’s one important thing I’d like to share: I believe Luther had a satori. Really. 🙂 Because he figured it out that only God has free will. That is, the will that’s really free, constrained by no rules, belongs to God and to Him alone…  …and I feel like this is in the realm of my there-are-no-rules thought, the one that I was babbling about in the previous post… 🙂 🙂 🙂 …peace…

there-are-no-rules

glimpse of lightI may have had a satori. I may have had not. I think I had a satori. I believe it was one. It certainly may have been. Who knows. You can laugh at me. Call me a fake. It’s okay.

Weeks ago I was sitting on the toilet and suddenly it came to my mind: There Are No Rules.

I cannot say this to my teachers, because there ARE rules.

I thought of my father and grandfather, and I wonder what they’d think if I told this to them. My grandmother certainly wouldn’t agree. Nor my mother. There certainly are rules. They’d probably agree with me if I’d explain to them, but then I don’t have the words to do so. I don’t have the words. I can’t explain it even to myself. Nor do I want to.

I thought of God, and His majesty, and His order, and His beauty. There are rules, obviously. I thought of Job, who at one time rebelled against the rules, but then, he, too, would agree with me, that, certainly, there are RULES.

waterThere are rules. But I meant it when I concluded that There Are No Rules. Suddenly somehow my mind was at rest a bit more than before. I was not even compelled to reason against this thought, because I felt that it is a fundamental whatever-it-is — I can’t call it “fact” because that sounds empirical; I can’t call it “truth” because that sounds ideological.

I thought of all the people in the world, the many languages and sounds, different words, different thoughts, different events, different experiences, and I felt that the barriers between us will fall down when we realize that there-are-no-rules, making the act of caring for one another simpler and matter-of-fact, a consequence of being alive…

Yet I know there are “rules” and I don’t want to go against them lest I support “chaos”. I have always been a “good” student and I hope to never dishonor my many mentors. So please don’t get me wrong, because I’ve deliberated between keeping mum about it and sharing it, and I did so hoping that it’s part of the “yeast” that works out to the life that Jesus wants for us all…sleep

…now that it’s come to me that there-are-no-rules I feel freed somehow and, believe it or not, I do thank God for this, and just let it rest in His hands for now…

Meditating, After Super Typhoon Yolanda

[This post was created on Sunday, November 10, 2013]

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Today my going to Church and taking communion had the special intention to be in solidarity with my countrymen the Filipinos in the wake of one of the worst land-hitting hurricanes in recorded history. Googling images using the terms Philippines, Haiyan, and Yolanda will be enough to get the whole picture… go ahead, please… because I hesitate to post some here…

Haiyan is the hurricane’s international name, Yolanda is its local name. The Y of Yolanda reflects the advent of this hurricane to us at the end of the year almost, since we name the typhoons alphabetically. Hurricane, typhoon, and tropical cyclone refer to the same thing, which is a type of storm.

I feel like picking up the entire sprawling archipelago and hug it tight, to comfort. The amazing thing is I know that somehow my mga kababayan (countrymen) will get over this because that’s how we are. Generally we’re simply naive that we can’t even think of berating God the way Job did. In Hiligaynon we’d all at once say in a resigned tone, “pag-buot sang Maka-ako”, with a bent head. The will of the Almighty.

The area worst hit by Yolanda had also suffered a magnitude 7 earthquake recently. Philippines is along the Pacific Ring of Fire as well as in the path of tropical cyclones. We are also affected by the El Niño. With these three things, at the least, it is easy to understand why our faith in God is a given thing. It doesn’t ask for philosophical considerations or systematic qualifications. Our faith in God comes as easy as breathing, a constant, so much so that even the worst of disasters is not strong enough to shake us off it. On the contrary, it is our lifeline and so the harsher the experience the tighter we cling to it. [ 13.Nov.13 Updates, below, links to 3 research websites, help elucidate what I’ve written in this post]

Earlier in our history there were those who called out to Bathala, a name that now has come to be heard throughout the archipelago by way of lessons in elementary school. Theologians will argue that this Bathala is not Yahweh or Elohim. This argument is irrelevant in this post, for a special purpose…

… Because I would like to translate Joey Ayala’s song Bathala into English as my way of being one with my people. I need to render Bathala as God in English, otherwise it won’t make much sense. I assume that when Mr. Ayala composed this piece he was referring simply to God, the One that the overwhelming millions of us go to church for on Sundays. I assume that when Mr. Ayala made this song he simply used Bathala to refer to the One whom I believe created everything, the Creator referred to in the Bible. Okay.

It can be argued that the globe is undergoing the cyclic ice ages and so humans have very little contribution to the warming. Okay. I don’t want to argue against that because I’m not an expert in that field. However, humans do so many things that result in the release of chemicals in the atmosphere, whose prevailing presence in turn blocks the escape of heat into outer space — the so-called greenhouse effect. Still, even if the cyclic ice ages is indeed the culprit of global warming it does not follow that we are free to do as we will with nature.

We do not have the freedom to unleash greed. Cutting of trees for profit. Mining for profit. Synthetic compounds for profit. Indiscriminate consumption for pleasure. The worship of ease and comfort. We are so submerged in greed that we cannot anymore tell between it and our skin. It cloaks us. Our souls are so soaked in it we feel like dying without it. We simply must consume frantically. We simply must have money in amounts beyond embarrassment.

The Homo sapiens sapiens is guilty of greed, from the poorest to the richest, from the most ignorant to those with multiple doctorates. So I appreciate it that Bathala is what Mr. Ayala used instead of Panginoon (Lord) or Poong Maykapal (God Almighty) or Diyos (God) because the song is like a confession of my people of the guilt to which we are part of. The mega-conglomerates of the global economy come to my mind as I meditate on this song yet I am reminded of Jesus’ words: forgive them for they do not know what they do.

butterflies The Mahatma Gandhi and Michael Jackson have said to the effect that if we want to change the world then we must start with our own self. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” “I’m starting with the man in the mirror.” A little less greed goes a long way. It’s a butterfly effect, like the phenomenon with the storms: a reduction in the propensity to consume will create a chain of events of unimaginable scale. Who knows, it may even prevent more super hurricanes from occurring again. Hurricanes are the collective manifestations of teeny-weeny changes of atmospheric pressures here and there over time, of tiny butterfly-wing drafts so to speak.

In calamities such as Yolanda my mga kababayan are simply too occupied to engage in blame games — that’s far from our thoughts. In solidarity, therefore, with this post I celebrate today’s going-to-church spirit of my country and render into English what sounds to me as our collective confession and supplication. I rest my diwa (inner self) and refrain from pointing a finger. Mr. Joey Ayala, sir, in case you come across this, please tell me on the parts that I got wrong; and I hope it’s fine with you that I have your song here, shared with the rest of the world. Here goes:

Bathala (God)

Bathala

Likha Ninyo ang bawat bagay sa mundo

Lupang kayumanggi’t luntiang bukirin

Alat ng dagat at tamis ng hangin

Oh God,

You created everything,

the brown lands and verdant forests,

the saltiness of the seas and the sweetness of air.

 Ang bawat bagay na nagmula sa Inyong palad

Ay may tungkulin sa mundong kinagisnan

Sa pagtupad nito ang lahat ay tinitimbang

All things that came from Your hands

have their own purposes in nature, the home they were reared in —

— the fulfillment of which entails reckoning to the detail.

 Ang tao

Inyong hinugis at pinaahon sa lupa

Pinagkalooban ng  talino at diwa

Upang mundo’y ipagyaman

Mankind —

him You shaped, established on earth,

provided with intellect and soul,

in order to enrich the world.

 Talino

Naging ararong nagpaamo sa parang

Naging kumpit  na sumagupa sa karagatan

Naging apoy na nagpalayas sa karimlan

Intelligence

became the plow that tamed the land,

became the vessel that battled the ocean waves,

became the fire that banished darkness.

 Sagana

Sa kayamanan ang mundong Inyong likha

At may bahagi rito ang bawat nilalang

Kung susuyuin lang mula sa kalikasan

Abundant

in wealth this nature You have created

and all creatures can partake of it

were the acquisition of them be done mindfully.

 Subali’t

Buhay-dalisay ay ‘di sapat sa iilan

Sila’y nasilaw sa kinang ng kasakiman

Ganid na diyos ang sinamba

However,

simply-living for some is not enough,

they were blinded by greed’s glitter,

they worshipped a selfish god.

 Pinaghati-hatian po nila ang lupa

Karagatan at himpapawid ngayo’y may bakod na

Kapwa tao’t hayop ma’y inaagawan ng tahanan

Walang nakaliligtas sa kanilang karahasan

Kaunalaran at kabutihan daw ang kanilang sadya

Subali’t ang lumilitaw ay ‘sang panggagahasa

They partitioned the lands among themselves,

the high seas and the atmosphere now have fences;

his fellow man and even the animals are robbed of their homes.

None are safe from their cruelty.

They say that progress and well-being is their aim

but what has turned out is violence.

 Bathala

Ako’y hinugis Nyo’t pinaahon sa lupa

Ang aking buhay ay dito nagmula

At dito rin inaalay

Oh God,

You shaped me and placed me in this world,

 earth is my origin/my sustenance comes from it,

and my life is a gift to it.

 Bathala

Bigyan lakas itong inyong tanod-lupa

Upang umiral sa mapagsamantala

Panalangin ko’y Inyong dinggin

Harinawa, Bathala.

kalabaw _Filipino farmer plowing a rice paddyOh God,

give strength to this earth-ranger of Yours

so to prevail against the opportunists;

may You hear my prayer;

so be it, oh God.

maraming salamat po sa mga may-ari ng mga litrato (thank you very much to the owners of the photos)

13.Nov.13 Updates:

Buddha Luther Happiness the Sun

It’s not easy to talk about Christianity when it’s wrapped up with centuries of jargon. Most of the time it frightens me to approach even one topic among the myriads in it. Having grown up in a cultural pot heavily influenced by community existence plus animism/fatalism and Roman Catholicism no wonder it came to my mind that should I abandon the family’s religious affiliation I might be condemning myself to a lifetime of ostracism and most probably the fires of hell.

Okay.

waterdrop on leafSo when I say that Buddhism says “Life is suffering” I am in the position to acknowledge that I certainly have not come to grasp all the nuances that Buddhism offers about this topic. But, to be sure, I know what suffering is. I haven’t gone hungry for a day but I know what suffering is. I haven’t been confined in hospital (thank you, Lord) for a minute but I know what suffering is. I haven’t had a toothache ever (thank you, Lord) but I know what suffering is.

As I was turning into an adult what has gradually become mystifying for me is the figure of the crucified Jesus prominently displayed in churches, even on the altar. (On the aside, where I grew up it was of St. Sebastian’s at the altar, partially disrobed and stuck with arrows, with the accompanying crimson paint for the dripping blood at his sides.) In the church where I tend to go to while I’m here (in a place very far away from home) it’s a painting of the Crucifixion so gloomy, so medieval Europe, right there where you would see it looming large before you as you wait for the minister to administer the bread and the wine to you, and especially when you happen to stand (some kneel) in the middle of the row. (Another aside, not that I’m an expert on paintings, and I still am ignorant on who the respected artist is, but I have it in mind to respectfully ask from an elder in resident as to why the proportion of the figures seem a bit lacking lengthwise, while I assimilate whatever aspect of beauty I could take away with me from such an agony-inducing representation.)

Now, life is suffering, I say this is true. I cannot overemphasize on the billions who go hungry everyday. I could imagine that for those who haven’t had a material lack in life there would still be the agony of not being able to obtain the latest car model the soonest time desired, or the temporary irritation of having lost a million dollars in a business transaction that would be rectified anyway in the hundreds of million dollar profit in other transactions. For girls, probably a run in the stockings, a glitch in the make-up, a boyfriend who seems to wane or simply the lack of one, a brand bag beyond the momentary budget, the bitchiness of another girl. Crazy life. Of course there’s more, and more to it, but I’m just randomly picking up from popular commercial images.

…back to the Cross and back to Buddhism… :

Whatever joy there is in the world
Arises from wishing for others’ happiness.
Whatever suffering there is in the world
Arises from wishing for your own happiness.

―Shantideva.

ladybug and leavesPutting it another way: All who are unhappy are so because they looked for their own happiness. All who are happy are so because they looked for the happiness of others.   — I ran into this quote earlier in the week and I recalled it as I was reading something on Lohr’s paper**. This was what I read, and I really need to copy the two paragraphs from pages 250-1, with which I need to include the notes, too, emphases and italicizing mine (…and… a beautiful excerpt from the consequent paragraph is in yesterday’s post) :

This concept of suffering is different than a sympathetic affiliation with those less fortunate or the common association of Jesus with those who suffer in society – the downtrodden and overlooked.[1]  An image of Jesus in solidarity with the oppressed provides an excellent model for Christians who want to walk in the footsteps of God in Christ.  It entails a not-so-glamorous path of self-effacement and humility and leads to a sense of liberation.  But, the concept of a suffering God in the theology of the cross goes further than this.  It indicates that God intimately knows the depths of human sorrows and pains.  It also juxtaposes the violence of execution with the glory of resurrection.  “The horror of Golgotha is the only way to the kingdom.”[2]  This is a theology of the cross.  It has to do with, among other things, atonement, Christology and salvation.

A theology of the cross is also a model of God’s grace.  It represents a “reversal” of direction: “God comes to us; we do not mount up to god. Atonement occurs when God succeeds in getting through to us who live under wrath and law. …  A ‘happy exchange’ takes place:  Jesus takes our sinful nature and gives us his righteous and immortal life.”[3]  There is no theology of the cross without the person of Jesus, and in it one finds a model of going out from oneself and partaking in suffering.  The theology of the cross teaches self-denial – putting oneself in the place of the other – and sacrificial love – the kind of love that is at the heart of the activity on the cross.  This implies that the Godly model is one of active engagement – of assuming the context of the other – a concept that certainly has implications for interfaith relationships.


[1] For a statement on Jesus’ “solidarity and compassion with others, that is, the deviant, the irrelevant, the marginalized, the oppressed, all in all the lowest of the low” see Paul Chung’s, “The Uniqueness of Christianity in Relation to Buddhism” in Christ the One and Only, Sung Wook Chung (ed.), (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 176.

[2] Braaten and Jenson eds., Christian Dogmatics vol 2, (Philadelpiha:  Fortress Press, 1984), 58.

[3] Braaten and Jenson (eds.), Christian Dogmatics vol 2, 47.

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a rice fieldI’d say that within these two paragraphs a wide range of in themselves ‘wide’, and crucial, topics are encompassed. There’s Liberation theology, asceticism/monasticism, biblical anthropology, pluralism, religious dialogues, as well as the ones explicitly mentioned within, and more. Whoa, that’s all way too much to handle at once…

Anyway, for now, what struck me the most was this: Buddhism and Christianity (respective branches or denominations aside) have the concept of suffering as a basic foundation in their articulations. So I was thinking that if one gets to the root of it all it really is suffering that is the most gripping reality to human existence. I could formulate it this way, too: the best way that God can get across to our consciousness (feeling and thinking combined) is through ‘suffering’. It’s the phenomenon right on the spot of urgency. It has to be on this medium that an effective communication, so to speak, can happen. So, I say to myself, wow, Christianity and Buddhism (sorry, I haven’t reached the stage of exploring the other areas yet) see each other eye to eye in this. Amazing.

Hahaha on second thoughts I see myself as very naive here because, well, if you really get rough on it why the heck do humans seek this numinous if not to, well, ‘get away’ from angst/emptiness/suffering/whatnot? Hence all the religions and mysticisms et cetera. Even Miyamoto Musashi who depended only on himself was I say a person of a deep sense of the numinous, along with all the samurai who took their swords really seriously. Chincha.

Anyway again, on happiness now… When I was younger I took for granted all these quotes on happiness that I would come across from time to time. I didn’t have the consciousness of ‘wanting to be happy’. I guess it was because I was yet very ignorant (I still am but a little less so, meaning that I’ve just discovered that I really don’t know anything, haha). Moreover there’s family and friends and relatives and neighbors and everyone around in the city in the island in the country and so what’s there to be unhappy about? There’s always something to eat and something to do and something to look forward to, and so what’s there to be unhappy about? I could not appreciate the idea of “wanting to be happy”, seeking/pursuing happiness, because I did not perceive it as something lacking in our lives where I grew up. Moreover, if laughter is a measurement of it we sure have lots of opportunity for it regardless of the situation. Chincha. Sure there was sadness and anger and gloom but at least for myself I did not associate it with being ‘unhappy’ or that happiness has gone and I needed to ‘have’ it again. Hehehe (… there you go… 🙂 … well, whatever… ) and although until now I still have this ‘steady’ disposition (yup, despite everything, and as measured by the amount of aid-less continuous sleep I get every night, at least 7 hours, thank you Lord) it has come to the stage where I’ve begun to sincerely appreciate the wisdom of the simplest of quotes, like Buddha’s:

Joy grows in us not out of possessions or wealth.

True joy of life comes out of a wise and loving heart.

strawberriesWow, so simply put, even cheapened by the casual use of it commercially, but I could only imagine the amount of suffering, or the sense of it, that had to be ruminated on before such a realization is reached. Siddhartha Gautama and those who have the kind of heart he had are awesome. What does it take to have a wise heart? What does it take to have a loving heart? Who do have these, and if so then how do they look at life, and how do they deal with their existence, how do they lead their lives? These are really the biggies.

Suffering, the perception of it, the experience of it, is a prerequisite to life’s realizations. It is those who have no sense of ‘suffering‘ — what it is like, how it feels, how it is like — who are not able to appreciate the value of life, of another human, of friendship, of presence, of being…

I don’t know how to wrap up this introspection. Perhaps it’s best if I simply don’t attempt to … or have I already wrapped it up…? …whatever…. Incidentally today is the celebration day for the Reformation. So it’s a holiday and all the shops are closed, all the students have dragged their suitcases across the hall since yesterday already and are now home for the weekend, since tomorrow is Friday and only the nerds go to school on a Friday (haha, you can debate on that). Incidentally, too, there are scholars that argue that the religious affiliation I belong to now cannot be strictly traced back to the Reformation. Whatever. And the Reformation itself was a source of angst for Luther himself. Haha, crazy world. No wonder I find myself deeply appreciating Zen Buddhism many a time.

a book on Martin Luther by Prof. Hans Schwarz

a book on Martin Luther by Prof. Hans Schwarz

Again anyway, I’d like to dedicate this composition to the contributions of Martin Luther to humankind. I for myself, granting how I grew up, can understand a bit the pressure that he underwent when he was formulating his 95 theses, and so for now I’d situate myself more on the positive end of the spectrum of like-vs-dislike for him. But, as how life is, shikataganai (for my favorite Korean drama characters it would be otoke? = what can one do? ), Luther couldn’t possibly have expected to be able to control all ‘the particles surrounding him that would naturally move in the Brownian motion way’ — poor Luther, his name has to shoulder much of the responsibility for all events that can be said to have stemmed off from his actions and words. It’s good to know (anyway) that Lutherans do openly acknowledge his faults and are in fact confessing that the institution’s (if it can be spoken of as that) actions do consider this phenomenon as an important part of the ‘background’.

Ah, what a happy day. And the sun is up and strong! Hahaha I sound like I’m a worshipper of the sun, but many times I feel I could understand why this phenomenon, worshipping the sun, has existed across the globe and all throughout history. The sun just being there, so powerful, it’s really wonderful I could feel all my cells rejoicing!

** can be accessed from:  https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10036/86921

— this paper is by Mary Christine Lohr entitled Finding a Lutheran Theology of Religions: Ecclesial Traditions and Interfaith Dialogue submitted to the University of Exeter in 2009. I still have a few more pages to read. It’s very good, speaking from a seriously-researching layperson’s point of view, and I’m very happy to have found it. So generous of Exeter to have it available for everyone.

froggy

old pond —
— frog-jump-in
!splash
by Matsuo Basho

P. S.   There’s this 2003 movie Luther that has Joseph Fiennes in it, of course it’s not enough to show about Luther but it’s good. There’s this 55-minute documentary (An Empires Special) Reluctant Revolutionary, it’s also good. Though just take time to research on your own because perspectives and articulations vary and are relative. The nailing of the theses on the castle church door may not have happened and other tidbits like that could be important for a serious student. Nevertheless, for his time Martin Luther was one awesome personality. Miyamoto Musashi lived in the late 16th century Japan and is a respected historical figure by his many accomplishments in swordsmanship, the arts, and philosophy. Zen Buddhism is a major component of Japanese life ever since its practice there (as a separate school it started there about the 12th century). It is said that Musashi had a Zen priest for a teacher — I read up about Musashi from a 5-part novel by Eiji Yoshikawa, but that was many many years ago; recently I got to watch NHK’s 49-episode Musashi drama and it’s said to be faithful to the novel — but more on this next time, and not that I really know much … whew 🙂  [dear different websites, thanks for the lovely pictures, if it’s yours and you don’t want them here just please tell me… thanks again!]

Ciao!