Panicky Sheep

Panicky Sheep
Epiphany 26

If I asked you if the fax machine was a relatively new invention, most of you would say “Yes!” The facsimile machine got its name from itself – the “fac simile”. The two Latin words translate very simply into “make alike” and have their roots in print making and cartography. The map maker, through a variety of means not all of which were discovered personally, configured a rendering or map of a particular area or part of the world. That in and of itself is no small feat. Once made, the map unfortunately did little good unless it could be utilized by those traveling. Having a map hanging in a museum or university was of no use to the explorer halfway around the world. The mapmaker and/or printmaker needed a way to reproduce the map. Similarly, historic documents and works of arts were also reproduced for both studying and collecting.

The Abraham Ortelius map of 1598 is an example of one of the early facsimiles produced. As printmaking and lithographs grew in popularity and the exactness of their results improved, more and more items were reproduced. These pre-twentieth century reproductions are now often referred to as replicas and their value is quite high. Today we consider a fax to be a photographic reproduction sent via telephone wires or via the Internet. While many consider the fax a late twentieth century epiphany, it has its roots in medieval times.

The epiphany of the facsimile perhaps is not in the antiquity of the process but in the meaning itself. All too often mankind strives to be alike, to congregate with those deemed similar, and to follow the latest trend so as to no appear different or wrong. Ed Seykota defines a trend as “a general drift or tendency in a set of data.” Viral videos are another type of trend as are FaceBook posts and those adorable forwarded emails featuring kittens and puppies. The fashion industry relies on trends to stay in business and now even the medical community is trying to make certain things popular like getting children vaccination and adults taking influenza vaccines.

The effort to follow a trend, to be “one of the guys”, or illustrate the latest trend falls under the heading of mass psychology or herd behavior. Some refer to it as the panicky sheep behavior. By doing what others are doing, there is less chance of someone criticizing you; behavioral differences are minimized. This wanting to be alike, making yourself over as a facsimile of the current pop star relies on impulsive behavior rather than a thought-out deliberation of pros and cons.

Early man lived in tribes for survival and the only way those tribes continued living was for the group to reach a consensus on things. It was not until the nineteenth century when French psychologists Gabriel Tarde and Gustave Le Bon developed their concept of “group mind” or “mob behavior” that it began to be considered seriously, though.

The need for acceptance is a basic part of the make-up of man, all men. Conforming to the norm, those unspoken standards shared by a group, is one way of ensuring survival. Numerous studies through the past two hundred years have resulted in some interesting and often contradictory data. Conformity is neither all good nor all bad. Peer pressure is the most common form of conformity and people who resist are sometimes bullied.

We all conform when we drive on the accepted and legal side of the road. However, when someone chooses to be individualistic in their wearing of pants when others are wearing skirts or kilts and they are rejected, then the need to be alike is harmful. Anthropologically speaking, insistence on peer to peer conformity is outdated. When we insist that only those who dress like we dress or know what we know, then we inhibit the growth of man and advancement of the planet.

The uniqueness of man should not be feared. While there may be safety in numbers, there is value in recognizing the individual. Growing into one’s being is not easy and it cannot be done by anyone else except the individual him or herself. When that epiphany is realized, growth occurs. To paraphrase fashion designer Gianni Versace: “Do not make fashion [the need be alike, a facsimile] own you, but you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way to live.”

Deep Breaths

Deep Breaths
Epiphany 25

You may have noticed that in addition to a common theme of inventions or bright ideas that greatly impacted all of mankind, the epiphany posts have also included ways we can all better ourselves and our world…without costing any money. Many of them were based upon bright ideas born out of necessity and others due to curiosity. Today’s bright idea is probably the oldest, based upon man’s anatomy. It gave rise to the practice of meditation but actually it all begins with the first signs of life – the breath of life.

According to mental health writer and activist Therese Borchard, shallow breathing contributes to panic and anxiety. There are basic automatic functions that occur within the human body. These include cardiovascular systems, digestive processes, hormonal and glandular events, and immune defenses. Breathing deeply, however, triggers our parasympathetic nervous system or PNS which is responsible for activities when our body is at ease. It is the opposite of the “fight or flight” response we’ve discussed previously. The PNS is the calmer response to events. By breathing deeply, we will react in a calmer manner. The changes in our breathing send messages to our brains and that results in a more controlled response and calm demeanor. The University of Texas Counseling and Mental Health Center explains it this way: “Diaphragmatic breathing allows one to take normal breaths while maximizing the amount of oxygen that goes into the bloodstream. It is a way of interrupting the ‘Fight or Flight’ response and triggering the body’s normal relaxation response.”

In their book “The Healing Power of the Breath”, Patricia Gerberg, M.D. and Richard Brown, M.D. discuss several types of deep breathing. Coherent breathing involves breathing five breaths per minute. This maximizes the heart rate and leads not only to a stronger stress response but also a stronger cardiovascular system. Resistance breathing creates resistance to one’s flow of air. The easiest example is to breathe out of the nose but other resistance breathing methods include hissing through clenched teeth, tightening the throat muscles, breathing through a straw or through pursed lips. It is important to note the point of this type of breathing is resistance and not to obstruct completely the flow of air. Another example of resistance breathing is the chanting often found in meditation. One breathing technique mentioned in the book is called breath moving. A bit of imagination is needed but this actually helps block the outside world and enables deep breathing and meditation. Breath moving is as simple as imagining your breath moving around your body: Inhaling breath to the top of your head; exhaling breath to the base of your spine. According to Gerberg and Brown, breath moving was first introduced by Russian Orthodox Hesychast monks in the eleventh century.

Diaphragmatic breathing is also a form of deep breathing. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine states that “12.7 percent of American adults [have] used deep-breathing exercises… for health purposes.” However, their definition of deep breathing does not include specifically the diaphragm. “Deep breathing involves slow and deep inhalation through the nose, usually to a count of 10, followed by slow and complete exhalation for a similar count. The process may be repeated 5 to 10 times, several times a day.”

The diaphragm is a muscle which is located between the chest cavity and stomach cavity, running horizontally. There are two types of breathing – shallow and deep. Breathing with higher lung expansion results in taking in less air. This is considered shallow breathing and it is the type of breathing most of us use when speaking or doing daily activities. Deep breathing is characterized by using the diaphragm and involves expansion of the abdomen rather than the chest. Most musicians, wind players and vocalists employ deep breathing for producing their musical sound.

Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh once said: “Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” Deliberate, deep, conscious breathing has long been a staple of spiritual communities. Discussed even before writings discovered in fifth and sixth century BCE that reference it, deep breathing or meditation was practiced. Some even believed it to be one of the final stages of human evolution. Philo of Alexandria in 20 BCE composed a set of spiritual exercises that included deep breathing and focused concentration which led to meditation developed by Plotinus by the third century ACE.

Meditative practices vary widely based upon the ethnicity, culture, and spirituality and/or religion. The Pali Canon considered Buddhist meditation a necessary step for salvation and a meditation hall opened in Singapore in 653 ACE. In the eighth or ninth centuries, Dhikr, an Islamic practice, advocated reciting the ninety-nine names of God and three centuries later Sufism meditation techniques included measured breathing and repetition of certain words considered holy. The Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner”, is considered an important part of meditation in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

What we do every minute of every day should become an epiphany for us – a light bulb “aha” moment. Simply by breathing deeply, we can regain control of a situation that has thrown us into a panic or caused us immediate and intense stress. Taking a deep breath, counting to five, slowly exhaling to repeat again tells our brain we need to relax and regain control.

Indian spiritual teacher Osho described this wonderful epiphany of breathing awaiting us all in this manner. “I’m simply saying that there is a way to be sane. I’m saying that you can get rid of all this insanity created by the past in you. Just by being a simple witness of your thought processes. It is simply sitting silently, witnessing the thoughts, passing before you. Just witnessing, not interfering not even judging, because the moment you judge you have lost the pure witness. The moment you say “this is good, this is bad,” you have already jumped onto the thought process.”

Osho continues: “It takes a little time to create a gap between the witness and the mind. Once the gap is there, you are in for a great surprise, that you are not the mind, that you are the witness, a watcher.
And this process of watching is the very alchemy of real religion. Because as you become more and more deeply rooted in witnessing, thoughts start disappearing. That’s the moment of enlightenment. That is the moment that you become for the first time an unconditioned, sane, really free human being.”

The dream of all people is to be a free being in their own right. Breathing, really giving it our focus and effort, using our diaphragm and taking in air that activates the PNS system, the balancing portion of our brain, can help make that happen. Who knew the breathing of the ages could also be an epiphany for us living the present, preparing and trying to ensure a brighter future? Yoga master Amit Ray explains: “If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”

Dot; Crackle; Dashing!

Dot; Crackle; Dashing!
Epiphany 24

No one will ever know exactly how early man learned how to use the puffs of smoke that resulted from fires to communicate over distance. Early aboriginal and other native tribes adopted a “Live and Let Live” attitude regarding neighboring tribes usually. At some point, though, smoke signals became a way of communication. Lights atop lighthouses also were early means of communication as were the mariner flags used by sailors. Not all were ways to fully communicate, though.

The Frenchman Claude Chappe worked with his brother to assist their beloved government during the French Revolution. France was in danger of losing and needed a way to communicate across distances. Chappe used the word “Semaphore” as the name of a device that transmitted messages over distances, a French combination of two Greek words meaning sign and bearer. Like its precursors, though, Chappe’s semaphore required good weather and was practically useless at night. Nonetheless, it was considered quite the epiphany when, in 1791, the first message was sent via the semaphore: “If you succeed, you will bask in glory.” Chappe’s semaphore began to be duplicated once the French Revolution had ended but the weather conditions needed were still a hindrance.

The bright idea to use electricity appeared in a magazine in Scotland in the mid eighteenth century. A wire was used for each letter of the alphabet and the terminals were connected to an electrostatic machine. By observing the deflection of pith balls at the other end of the machine, the message could be transmitted. The pith ball was made from the spongy inner core of plant materials and conducted an electrical charge very well. Over all, the devices were considered impractical and became obsolete.

English inventor Francis Ronalds had an epiphany in the early nineteenth century and built the first electrostatic machine. In his garden he placed eight miles of wire inside insulated glass tubing. He then connected both ends to two clocks on which were written the letters of the alphabet. Electrical impulses sent along the wire transmitted the message but there was little enthusiasm for his device. Thus the first electrical telegraph was forgotten. Ten years later, Russian diplomat Pavel Schilling created another electromagnetic telegraph machine. He placed two of his designs in different room and employed a binary system of signal transmissions.

The telegraph lived up to its name by being both a transmitter and a receiver. Another combination of two Greek words, with a telegraph one could indeed write at a distance but then the receiver could also reply… immediately. Germans Carl Friedrich Gauss and Wilhelm Weber improved on the telegraph design so that it could be used for regular transmissions and transmit over a distance of one kilometer. Their device consisted of a coil that moved up and down across the end of two magnetic bars. The induction current was then sent through two wires to the receiver which was a galvanometer. The direction of the current could also be reversed. Gauss and Weber also used a binary code for their alphabet.

Four years later American Samuel Morse demonstrated his epiphany and introduced the world to a new type of telegraph. Samuel Morse was the son of a Massachusetts Calvinist minister. A Yale graduate with noted intelligence, Morse gained a favorable reputation as a portrait artist. He traveled over Europe and was well known to the American Revolutionary heroes of the time. In 1825 he was commissioned by New York City to paint a portrait of his friend Lafayette. While doing so, a horse messenger arrived with a note informing him of his wife being critically ill. Before Morse could return home she had passed away and been buried.

The tragedy of his wife’s death led Morse to become determined to solve the riddle of fast long distance communication. A chance shipboard meeting with Charles Thomas Jackson of Boston led to Morse’s epiphany for a single-wire telegraph. Jackson was well-versed in electromagnetism and Morse used his electromagnet in his experiments. He developed the first Morse telegraph, applied for a patent and then devised a system of dots and dashes that, amid the electric crackle would replace letters of the alphabet in communicating. This rhythmic method of transmission is still used today.

The message sent on Morse’s telegraph or any electrical telegraph became known as a telegram. Later, those sent by submarine telegraph cable would be called cablegrams. Even later, a switched network of teleprinters developed a network for transmissions and a message sent over one of the teletype machines was called a telex.

It is said that “Necessity is the mother of invention”. The need for Napoleon to communicate with his troops led Frenchman Claude Chappe to his epiphany of the semaphore. Russian diplomat Pavil Schilling developed a system of on and off to duplicate the entire alphabet, a binary system used by computers today. Grief led Samuel Morse to his second career as an inventor and Morse Code which is not only used to send telegrams but also as distress codes for mariners, pilots, and anyone for whom the spoken word is not effective.

The telegraph is an invention that is universal in the contributions of those who made it the success it reached. From its early beginnings in prehistoric times as primitive smoke signals to electronic pulses of dots and dashes, it is a bright idea that shows what mankind can accomplish when the focus is on the creation and not personal greed or arrogance. Today we have quick response codes, better known as QR codes. They are black and white pixilated squares found on cereal boxes, library posters, advertisements, and receipts. A matrix barcode, the QR reader connects the printed image with digital information, a visual sort of telegraph for the twenty-first century. With one single QR code, an entire document’s worth of information can be relayed.

While QR codes are about twenty years old, there is an even older and quicker means of communicating. It is called behavior. Our actions really do speak louder than our words, even those sent over great distances or pixilated into square images. How we treat each other is a continuous epiphany, a stream of information conveying to others our intentions, our emotions, and most importantly, what we believe.

Selfies

“Selfies”
Epiphany 23

In the fall of 1839, Robert Cornelius took a picture of himself on a wagon. His picture was a daguerreotype, a way of taking a picture that involves using silver on a copper plate. His self-portrait became the first photographic image of a human ever produced. Considered the “first light picture ever taken”, the epiphany followed Joseph Nicéphore Niépce’s invention of heliography. Another epiphany of Niépce’s was the internal combustion engine.

Originally interested in producing lithographs but lacking the artistic talent needed, Niépce instead developed an interest in the “camera obscura”. The camera obscura was a box with a hole on one side. Light from outside the box would pass through the hole onto a surface inside. Using mirrors, the image from the light could be rotated but the color and perspective would remain. The image would then be projected onto paper and traced. Niépce sought a way of preserving these “light drawings” more expeditiously than pencil tracings.

By using paper coated with silver oxide, the former officer in Napoleon’s army became the first to successfully capture the camera images on paper. However, his first attempts were negatives, dark where realistically there was light, light where there really was dark. Also, once in the light, the entire image would darken. By coating metal, glass or stone with lavender oil, an engraved image printed on paper would placed on the coated surface and placed in sunlight. Niépce called this process heliography which translated as “sun drawing”. His first permanent photograph was from an engraving of Pope Pius VII but it was destroyed when he attempted to print copies from it. Other surviving artifacts of his include copies of a seventeenth century engraving of a man and another of a woman with a spinning wheel. These are actually the first photocopies known to man.

The oldest known camera photograph is one Niépce took from a window in his house. The image shows perhaps the rood of a nearby structure, a common scene for those of his day. History often is based upon the common scenes in our lives, just as the modern selfies of the twenty-first century reflect our daily goings and comings.

What are less prevalent are instances where a person captures themselves doing good deeds. A recent study suggests that men who indulge in selfies are sociopaths. The study is still ongoing and centers more on the lack of interest these men have in others rather than the actual taking of a picture. Certainly not all men who take selfies are psychotic or in need of mental counseling. This past December, Japanese astronaut Aki Hoshide took the prize for the best selfie of all. His out of this world backdrop from the International Space Station plus the enticing presence of location and position combined fantasy, science, and space. His selfie, taken while on a spacewalk with female American astronaut Sunita Williams shows not only the two astronauts (Williams is reflected on Hoshide’s face mask), but also the sun, Earth, two parts of a robotic arm, the spacesuit (a technical marvel of its own standing), and the infiniteness of the infinity of space behind him.

Most of us cannot arise and take a selfie of ourselves next to both the sun and earth while floating in outer space. We do, nonetheless, have the opportunities to make our own discoveries, affect our own repairs, bright light to someone else’s darkness. The wagon in Cornelius’ first ever self-portrait indicates movement and movement should be evidenced in our lives each day. Niépce began wanting to create a work of art by creating a lithograph. Because he lacked the talent needed, he gave the world the art of photography. His epiphany was born out of a perceived failure but not a willingness to give up. Perhaps that is the best selfie lesson of all. We need to take our failed events and turn those that were not successful into opportunities for bright ideas.

The selfie is a folk art of sorts. It has an immediacy, an interaction that all can relate to, even when the picture is silly or of poor quality. Hollywood actor and selfie-aficionado James Franco considers the selfie a modern tool of communication. Perhaps the question is what is being communicated? Too many post their selfies seeking confirmation for their being, acceptance for their conformity.

Lao Tzu said: “When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everyone will respect you.” To be able to capture a moment in time as a picture or selfies does is wonderful but we cannot let that moment define our entire lives. It is, after all, just a moment. Maybe the epiphany of the permanent photograph is as Michel de Montaigne stated: “The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.”

Anniversary of Horror

Anniversary of Horror
Epiphany 22

They stood silently as the Allied soldiers approached. The Allied soldiers were from Russia and most had not heard of the Nazi camp in Oswiecim, Poland. They approached cautiously, on the lookout for a sudden ambush. Then they saw the eyes behind the barbed wire and soon learned the horror that was the reality of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

The Russian patrol unit found almost seven thousand that had been left because they were too weak to participate in what would become known as the Death March. Before the arrival of the Allied troops on January 27, 1945, the Nazi leaders had embarked on an evacuation of the concentration camp. Almost fifty-six columns of men, women, and children were marched on foot through Upper and Lower Silesia. Another twenty-two hundred from two other camps were transported by train. As the Allied regained the region, they found the bodies of those who had been too ill to complete the route as well as those shot by the Nazi SS guards. Between nine and fifteen thousand died in the course of the evacuation.

The reality of a Nazi concentration camp was discovered by those men liberating the remaining people at Auschwitz. In addition to the seven thousand barely alive people they located at the camp, they also found six hundred corpses. The evidence of others, though, was irrefutable. They discovered 370,000 men’s suits; 837,000 women’s garments; and 7.7 tons of human hair. The Nazis had destroyed some of the large ovens they had used in their killing of mostly of Jewish people, but failed to remove all the evidence.

Last week Poland hosted a commemorative ceremony of the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of Poland but many were not thinking of the past. Genocide did not end with the treaties ending World War II. The present and future were very much on the minds of those attending the memorial. United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson urged everyone to “reflect how we can better prevent the world from again becoming the setting for the terrible events we saw in the Holocaust, the killing fields in Cambodia, and the genocides we saw in Rwanda and Srebrenica. We as individuals, as representatives of the UN, and of our member states, must ask ourselves what more we can do, and must consider what we can do differently to build societies where tolerance trumps hatred. We have failed vulnerable populations too many times.”

It was not a bright idea to try to eradicate the world of all people of a particular culture or belief system. It was greed and arrogance. It is, sadly, a greed and arrogance that exists in our world today. The epiphany to combat this is the realization that we are all very similar and, being so, have the same basic needs of air, water, food, and caring. We need to live an epiphany of caring, of communion with one another, of touching the soul of another in a positive way.

Here is a rather long but very meaningful quote from Jacob Bronowski: “It’s said that science will dehumanize people and turn them into numbers. That’s false, tragically false. Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance; it was done by dogma; it was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.

“Science is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known; we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible.

“I owe it as a scientist to my friend Leo Szilard, I owe it as a human being to the many members of my family who died here, to stand here as a survivor and a witness. We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power. We have to close the distance between the push-button order and the human act. We have to touch people.”

We are the designers of the future, we who study the past and live the present. Our actions today will determine our fates tomorrow. We cannot ignore the horrors that occurred but we cannot simply be sad and then move on in our busy lives. I hope that today, on this anniversary, we all find a way to live in peace, secure in our individual beliefs, walking in the truth that no one man is better than another. Every living thing deserves respect. All cultures should teach tolerance. All people should value another.

Drums of Diversity

Drums of Diversity
Epiphany 21

Walk outside in the middle of a pasture far from any city or town in the middle of the night and it appears as though the stars, planets, and various moons are silent. Only nature seems to have a voice. Theoretical physicist Dr. Janna Levin disagrees. “I’d like to convince you that the universe has a soundtrack and that soundtrack is played on space itself, because space can wobble like a drum.”

Drums are well-known as being the oldest of played instruments; the voice is often considered the oldest of instruments. The popularity of the drum and the existence of it in almost every culture have led to people generally thinking they know everything about the drum. The truth is that it is an often misunderstood instrument. Not only does it provide rhythm for whatever piece in which it is played, it is the only instrument adapted to every culture. The drum is not only the heartbeat of a musical composition. The drum represents the heartbeat and diversity of man.

The conga drum is a perfect example of a misunderstood yet popular instrument with a place in the pages of history which scans one ocean, two continents, and three countries. Named by the slaves from the Bantu region of Africa who were shipped to Cuba to work the sugar plantations, the hand drum found a home in its new country and was renamed the tumbadora. During Carnaval the drum provided the rhythms of celebration, those rhythms known as “la conga”. Thus the drum during Carnaval was often called the conga because of the specific rhythms it played. The name also changed when played in an ensemble, and had one or two names based upon the instrumentation of the ensemble or band.

As many people left Cuba and immigrated to the United States of America, they brought not only their music but also their instruments. Movie and television star Desi Arnaz gave the conga drum its nickname and popularity. Suddenly the drum that originated in Africa was America’s party drum. While Arnaz’s technique was more showmanship than musically correct, the validity he gave the conga drum cannot be disputed.

Conga drums have undergone several recreations and epiphanies as the manner and materials for making them kept up with the times. In the 1940’s an autobody repairman in San Francisco made a conga drum out of fiberglass. This not only made the shell of the drum stronger but amplified the sound so that it could project farther and play louder.

“Spirit melodies are not material sound waves but spirit pulsations received by celestial personalities. There is a vastness of range and a soul of expression, as well as a grandeur of execution associated with the melody of the spheres that are wholly beyond human comprehension”, so says the Urantia Book. Many others would agree. Robert Ingersoll once said “Music expresses feeling and thought, without language; it was below and before speech, and it is above and beyond all words.” Ludwig van Beethoven described it thusly: “Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.
Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents.”

The epiphany of the conga drum gives one hope for a coming together of diverse minds. It has been said that music is a universal language and space probes carry not written messages but tonal ones. Perhaps one day world leaders will sit together in a drum circle and, emulating cultures from the past, find a common beat and denominator in which to resolve world problems. After all, despite the ethnicity, age, or location, it is still the hand, the hand that looks the same when turned to the palm side that plays the rhythms of life on a conga drum.

Plato felt that “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” Drums give us a chance to come together and recognize that we really are the same as we feel the rhythm of life, walking together and hearing the beats of unified hearts moving towards epiphanies of peace, following the soundtrack of life.

The Light Found

The Light Found
Epiphany 20

Before we delve into today’s bright idea (and it really is BRIGHT!), I thought I’d take a few minutes and answer some questions I’ve received. To protect the sender’s privacy, the questions will be numbered in no particular order.

Question #1: Why do you organize according to the Christian calendar, especially since you discuss and appeal to all religions and spiritualities? Great question and thank you for asking it! This blog is about finding one’s own path and respecting it as well as respecting the spiritual path of others. I selected the Christian calendar because it is the most widely used regarding theological and spiritual matters.

Question #2: Are you on social media? Another great question which I am happy to answer! Yes, I am on social media. I’d really like to connect with you via FaceBook at http://www.facebook.com/n2myhead. I am also on twitter at n2myhead and at http://www.tsu.com/CCLadeewrites.

Question #3: How did you select this name for your blog? I tried to take a course at a church but, due to their fear and perception of my being “different”, I was denied a place in the class. I was told I could learn about theology on my own. I replied I would have enjoyed the class interaction and discussions and was told to do them “in your own head”. This blog came out of that experience; my attempt at making lemonade from the lemon of being rejected.

Question #4: Do you do guest blogs? I am happy to do guest blogs and did four last year! I have also done newsletter articles. Feel free to leave a comment requesting such if you are interested.

Question #5: Do you have any material being published? Yes! I am happy to say there will be a Bible study program for woman as well as a curriculum for all age groups entitled Abundantly Living. It is about encouraging tolerance and respect for all and is suitable for Vacation Bible School or as a collateral curriculum for Church education opportunities. Also in the works is another Bible study for adults and a cookbook.

Thank you for your questions and, as always, I encourage and appreciate your comments and your following this blog. For now, let’s get to today’s post ….

The church had received several hours of effort by at least thirty people preparing for the Epiphany service. It was a long-standing tradition in the parish that on the twelfth night after Christmas, the night that commemorated the Wise Men of the nativity story reaching the young baby said to be the long-awaited Messiah, the young people performed a play re-enacting the life of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the Messiah. The youth advisor had been rushing around all afternoon preparing costumes and calming harried parents and nervous kids. He found a pew and sat, hoping to gather a few minutes of calm. The side door opened and one of the Altar Guild persons exclaimed: “We need to light the candles. You can help!” The young man wearily arose from his seat and walked over to light the candle snuffer which was also the lighter. He turned and realized there were at least seventy-five candles scattered around the church that needed to be lit. The side door opened again and in strolled several women. They split up and began picking up the candles, moving a hidden switch on the bottom and then set them back down. The young man laughed. They were using flameless candles!

Candles have long been associated with spirituality and religion. Like many bright ideas, the first person to use a candle or invent them has been lost in the days of history. Candles have been the brightness for mankind’s celebrations for over five thousand years. Some believe the early Egyptians developed candles but they used something called a rushlight or torch. Gathered reeds were soaked in melted animal fat and then lit from a nearby fire but these had no wick and were not actual candles.

History shows that by 3000 BCE the Egyptians were using wicked candles but they do not receive credit for inventing them. It is believed that the Romans developed a wicked candle by dipping rolled papyrus in melted animal fat or tallow or perhaps beeswax. The Romans used these candles in their homes and for walking along paths as well as in religious ceremonies.

Early Chinese candles are thought to have been molded in paper tubes, using rolled rice papers as the wick. The Chinese used candles that were made from the wax of insects combined with seeds. Japanese candles were made from wax extracted from nuts. The fruit of the cinnamon tree was boiled and wax from it used in India.

The Jewish festival of Hanukkah celebrates a small bit of oil lasting not one day but eight. While Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights, Epiphany is called that by some Christian denominations. Other faiths and spiritualities have their own festivals of light which illustrates the importance candles have had throughout history.

Candles were also revered by Buddha. “Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, man cannot live without a spiritual life.” Obviously, today we have battery operated flameless candles but we should never let our lives become battery-operated or remotely powered. We need to realize our own epiphany of potential and then share it with others. Again, quoting Buddha: “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”