O.M.H. – no typo

O. M. H. (no typo)

Advent – 1

 

On June 20, 2011, filmmaker Louis Schwartzberg gave a TED talk on gratitude.  For the past twenty years, people all over the world have given and listened to oral presentations sponsored by TED, a nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of these short, powerful talks. It began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 110 languages. TEDx events are independently operated local presentations that help share ideas in communities around the world.

 

Schwartzberg employed his skills as a filmmaker and previewed two interviews for an upcoming project of his entitled “Happiness Revealed” in the particular discussion on gratitude.  As he introduced the brief filmed interviews which featured the stunning time-lapse photography of nature that he is known for, he used a popular slang term – “O.M.G.”.

 

In English this popular acronym stands for “Oh my God” and is used both pleasantly and in shock and horror by people of all ages.  Little children are shown on commercials seeing a new bicycle for the time screaming it much the same of older people appear on camera to say it when surprised.  Schwartzberg, however, did not use it in a trendy fashion.  He explained it.  He asked his listeners to think about what they were saying and hearing and gave one beautiful explanation.

 

“Have you ever wondered what that [O.M.G.] meant? The “oh” means it caught your attention, makes you present, makes you mindful. The “my” means it connects with something deep inside your soul. It creates a gateway for your inner voice to rise up and be heard.  And “God”?  God is that personal journey we all want to be on, to be inspired, to feel like we’re connected to a universe that celebrates life.”

 

Today is the first day of Advent, a liturgical season which captures our attention.  The first season on the liturgical calendar, Advent is the “oh”, a season whose purpose is to grab our attention.  It is the new beginning on such a calendar, the season that ushers in a new year and because of this, we are encouraged to be present and mindful of what we believe and how what we do, think, say, and act conveys those beliefs. 

 

Even if you do not believe in Advent, everything you do illustrates who you are, what you believe, and how you live.  The “my” when we utter it connects us and who we are to the present, to what is happening right in front of us or what we have heard about happening somewhere else.  When we hear of six children dying in a senseless school bus crash and say “O.M.G.”, we are connecting to the pain that must be felt by their families.  Saying it in shock as yet another terrorist action takes place or a natural disaster is experienced, does indeed as Schwartzberg explains “creates a gateway for your inner voice to rise up and be heard.”

 

Over the past almost three years that I have been writing this blog, we have discussed sacred spaces and holy creation stories as well as mythologies that are not perhaps quite so holy.  This blog is read in over forty-three countries and I have delighted in hearing from a diverse group of people.  That is why I truly respect and adore the definition Schwartzberg, considered one of the best naturalist cinematographical artists ever, give to the “g”, the “God!” in this colloquialism. 

 

“God is that personal journey we all want to be on, to be inspired, to feel like we’re connected to a universe that celebrates life,” Louis Schwartzberg explains.  Whether you consider yourself to be religious or spiritual, atheist or Buddhist, young or old, we are indeed all on a personal journey.  We do all want life to inspire us and yes, even the most hardened curmudgeon desires connection to the universe.

 

This season, during Advent, we will discuss a commonly held concept in the entire world.  It is a concept that gives life to how we explain the beauty of a butterfly dancing through the air as well as the kindness of a stranger.  It is the one action that connects us to each other when we experience it, that illustrates our own personal journey, that takes us out of the basement of the everyday and creates something very similar to a miracle made by humans.  It is grace.

 

Grace is a word that most of us have heard used in a variety of ways.  Some claim it is, as a concept and undeserving gift, the foundation of the Bible and explaining it is what the Bible exists to do.  Others use it as an adjective to describe action of movement.  In the next twenty=eight days we will explore all its definitions and yes, there are many.

 

The word ‘grace” has its history in twelfth century Middle English dialect.  It was derived from the Anglo-French and as a romance language, taken from the Latin “grati” meaning a favor, charm, or thanks, and also from the Latin “gratus” which meant pleasing or grateful.  All were considered akin to the Sanskrit “gṛṇāti” which translates as “he praises”.  In Hebrew grace is “chen” from a root word “chanan” which is defined as “to bend or stoop in kindness to another as a superior to an inferior”.  In Greek “charis” is the word for grace and is refers to a “graciousness in manner or action, derived from the root word “chairo” which meant “to be cheerful, happy”.

 

All of our modern-day definitions for the word “grace” illustrate its varied etymology and all are correct.  Grace has, in all its manifestations, one common element – the human experience.  And so, out title today is a derivation on that popular slang term Louis Schwartzberg so wonderfully described.  In our discussion of grace we will, hopefully become attentive to how we live it and connect it to each other, making it “O.M.H.” – “Oh, my human.” 

 

You see, grace is something we all would like to share and without remembering our human connection to each other, we will fall short of that wish.  Regardless of your age, condition, belief system or lack thereof, grace is still salvation from the human condition that we all need, not only to survive but to thrive.  Twenty-eight stories and anecdotes will take us on this journey as we explore this first season of the rest of our lives.  Today truly is the first day of the rest of our lives, the advent of our living! 

We Came-We Saw-We Ruined?

We Came-We Saw-We Ruined?

Pentecost #174

As a schoolchild in grade four, our geography material was presented in the guise of an around-the-world airplane trip.  Each person in the class had a job connected with our “flight”.  A few were travel agents, some were hotel owners in the cities were visited, others were museum guides in the countries were visited, several had the job of tourist, two lucky girls were the stewardesses (I was one!) and two boys thought they had the dream jobs of pilots, that is until they had to do the math involved with number of suitcases per traveler, etc.  Since it was quite a few years ago (No, I am not telling exactly how many!), it clearly was a memorable way to present world history.

One of the things I remember the most about that trip around the world was how different other cultures were and how much trouble my fellow students found themselves in when they mocked these cultures.  Our imaginary airplane had a time machine in it that would take us back to the earliest times of each country.  In England we had a mock jousting contest; in Spain we built a cardboard ship celebrating the Spanish Armada; in Italy we made our own plaster and “painted” a fresco.

It is very easy to read these myths I’ve briefly presented from the world’s cultures and laugh.  That would be doing them and us a grave injustice, though.  It may seem like these myths were the imaginings of a primitive people but these were actually very sophisticated cultures for the most part.  While the Incans did not have a written system for communication, they developed a highly complex and effective roadway system that was the great-great-grandfather of many highway and autobahn systems today.

The Mayans lived in what is now called the Yucatan Peninsula and Guatemala.  The land is so fertile that farming was easy and their main crop of corn or maize was in surplus each year.  Without concern for their food sources, the Mayans spent their time on other endeavors.  They were excellent mathematicians and astronomers and developed a hieroglyphic system of writing that was used in the printing of books.

In 1524 the Spanish conquered the Mayans.  Spanish missionaries encouraged the Maya to use the Latin phonetic alphabet that comprises Spanish in recording their own history.  While their cities and temples had been destroyed, this allowed a continuance of their history and culture.  Today over three hundred thousand people speak the Maya language, one of the largest number of native-speaking groups in the world still using their ancient dialect.

The Mayan recorded creation myth was written anonymously somewhere between 1554 and 1558 ACE.  In 1700 it was translated into Spanish by a Roman Catholic missionary.  Shortly thereafter, the manuscript disappeared and resurfaced around 1850.  Entitled “The Popol Vuh”, this Mayan creation myth is a literary masterpiece of lyrical poetry and beauty.  There is evidence of Christian influence and some of the wording is reflective of the beginning chapters of the Old Testament.  Here are a few sentences.  “In the beginning, only the sky above and the sea below existed in the eternal darkness, and they were calm and silent, for nothing existed that could move or make noise.”  Further on is written: “Hidden in the water under green and blue feathers were the Creators.  These great thinkers talked quietly together in the water, alone in the universe, alone in the darkness of the eternal night.”

“The Popol Vuh” is a beautiful story and probably one of my most favorite creation myths.  It is not a series of grunts and banging of sticks, what one would expect from cave men portrayed in cartoons.  It is the story of a sensitive, intelligent people.  All too often we think of missionaries as having to go in and explain modern civilization to the people they are supposedly “saving”.  I do not discount the importance of missionaries.  However, we need to remember that we are all brothers and sisters and if we have value, so do the natives of the areas to which these missionaries are going.

Hopefully, as aid arrives and progress is made, culture is not sacrificed.  Google the Mayan creation myth and read it for yourself.  It is a beautiful story and, although William Shakespeare is a favorite of mine, I think you will find “The Popol Vuh” easier to read and just as lovely.   We all need saving at times.  We just don’t all need to throw away our past.  It is a part of who we are and teaches us so very much about the present and the future.  Towards the end of this creation myth, the Creators exclaim “So let it be!  … In the dawn of the universe, let the light of early morning shine upon all that we have created!”  My wish for today is that you respect all that was created and that the light of creation shines upon us all.

A New World

A New World

Pentecost #172

In our travels through the mythologies of the planet, we learned about remains found buried under frozen lands in Europe and Asia and followed belief systems across mountains to Mediterranean lands..  We conversed about the multitude of natural spirits from the islands of Great Britain and Ireland.  We explored the spiritual thoughts and lives of those in the Far East and Middle East.  We then went to the cradle of civilization, the area where it is believed the first beings walked.  In Africa mankind flourished and the number of cultures blossomed.  We then traveled to lands down under and island hopped across the Pacific, seeing the joy in living these ancient cultures expressed through their aboriginal art and music.  Now we are in the newest of all cultures, exploring what, in terms of the earth, are the babies of cultures.

The two continents of North and South America have always been called the New World.  Once never imagined to a world civilization that imagined a flat earth and later described the unknown as region as “Here there be dragons”, these two continents represented a different world.  They are the only two inhabited continents in which all ethnic groups were immigrants.  Regardless of the lands they came from and the cultures they recreated here, they then had to survive countless invasions.

Creation myths of the two Americas can be put into two categories.  One includes those of the Mayans and Aztecs we’ve already discussed, myths that cover the creation of the world.    The Mayan myths utilize beautiful poetry to describe the efforts of their deities in fashioning a mankind they found pleasing.  The Aztec myths have a more international connection.  The series of world created and discarded in the Aztec tales are similar to the Greek ages of man and the four age of man the myths of India proclaim.  The Aztecs also incorporated blood sacrifice into their stories, sacrifices comparable to those of the early Jewish histories.  Like the Mayans, poetry also played an important role with the Aztecs.  The other category of creation myths emanating from these two continents is more culture specific and focuses on the creation of a particular ethnicity.

I need to pause at this juncture and mention the beautiful islands of Caribbean.  They too were settles by native of other lands.  We will not focus on myths of this region, though, because the travelers to these islands not only brought their culture, they also brought their myths.  And, being as they were on islands, these myths remained true to their original versions.  In other words, we have already discussed these stories that were the result of ships from England, Spain, and Africa.  IN the Caribbean the emphasis was not so much on where they came from but in how they were living, the spirituality of now.

So who were these emigrants to this New World and where did they come from?  In Canada they are called “First Families”.  In the United States they are known as American Indians due to erroneous beliefs that they came from India; most likely they came from the area of the Caucus Mountains, often under Russian rule.  (A myth about the discovery of North America tells that the Italian explorer sailing under the Spanish flag Christopher Columbus landed on a Caribbean island thinking he’d reached India, proclaiming the natives as “Indians”.)   In the southern hemisphere they are simply tribes of history, people who met the Spanish and Portuguese and who learned to live in the varied landscapes of their continent.  Archaeologists tell us that these groups all are related, their ancestors having crossed the Bering Straits from the Asian continent to what is today known as Alaska over thirty thousand years ago.  Some followed the Pacific coastline and continued through Central America to South America.  Others traveled east to settle on the Atlantic coast and then move south.

One myth from these ancient immigrants tells of twelve brothers.  Their families became argumentative and so the brothers scattered to the four corners of the world so that each might have their own lands to rule.  I find it very interesting how often the number twelve reappears in the myths of the world.  Considered a “perfect number”, twelve does seem to pop up wherever we go.  The Sumerians developed a twelve-month calendar based upon the twelve lunar months, the twelve times the world has a full moon in a year’s time.  They also divided a day into twelve hours with six being in perfect sunlight.  Twelve is also found in the Bible, including the twelve sons of Joseph and the twelve disciples of Jesus of Nazareth.

Yesterday we explored the Aztec creation myths – at least five of them.  Like those of the Incas, the Navajo, and the Iroquois, these stories tell the origins of their ethnicity.  Like other cultures, there are other myths such as fertility myths and those of a protector deity, a caring god.  The Algonquin myths feature a need to control their environment while the Inuit wanted to placate their deity.

Perhaps it is in the Americas that the mythologies of the world come together.  Each tribe considered themselves a separate entity, a separate culture.  While today some may lump them together as tribes of American Indians, they saw themselves as unique being.  I like that because, after all, each of us is our own being and we are all unique.  I find it sad how easily people are categorized without civilization really seeing them for who they are.

Henry David Thoreau said it much better than I ever could.  “Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again.  And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are?

We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything.

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

The Fifth Sun

The Fifth Sun

Pentecost #171

The Aztecs settled in central Mexico sometime around the sixth century ACE.  By the 1300’s they founded the city of Tenochtitlan which was actually on an island in the middle of Lake Texcoco.  Tenochtitlan became the city of the Aztec Empire after the city-state joined forces with the two other Nahua city-states of Texcoco and Tlacopan.  Destroyed by the Spanish three hundred years later, this is now the heart of Mexico City and the basis for the mythical Aztlan, the origin of the word “Aztec”.

Aztec mythology is fascinating to me, mainly because their stories tell of creation gone wrong…several times gone wrong.  The supreme or first deity of the Aztecs was a spirit called Ometeotl.  Yet, although he was the first and considered their god, their supreme being, Ometeotl was not responsible for creation.  He did have four children who were known as the Tezcatlipocas,  and each was associated with a compass point.

Creation myth #1 tells of an earth occupied by giants who ate, of all things scary, berries.  Yep, you read that correctly.  The world was full of giants who ate berries.  In this creation version, the son/god of the north battled with his brother, the sun/god of the west.  The western deity won the battle but the northern brother was a poor sport and returned to earth as a jaguar, destroying the world and everything in it.

Creation legend #2 has the western deity ruling the heavens after creating human beings with a penchant for nuts.  (And yes, you read that correctly…nuts) In this myth, the Black Tezcatlipoca, the northern son/god/brother returns as the wind.  His mighty wind destroys most of everything in this tale with a few human beings left to become monkeys.

Creation story #3 has Tlaloc, the god of the rain and most likely the brother associated with the southern compass point since his name translates as ‘earth”, as the ruler supreme or the Third Sun.  In this myth, Quetzalcoatl, the western deity, sends rain which floods the earth.  A small number of people survive by being transformed in birds which are able to live above the deadly flood waters.

Finally we have Creation myth #4 which features Chalchiuhtlicue, the goddess of water, being in charge.  Her turn also ends with a flood, this time a flood of her own tears of blood.  In this legend part of mankind survives by being turned into fish.  I should not that these are not the only stories featuring these children of Ometeotl.  They are many others and they are indeed all fascinating.  Many are connected to the Aztec calendar and all play a role in making Mexico what it is today.

But…back to Creation.  Frustrated with the lack of success in creating the world, the four sibling gods (and one goddess) decided to work together.  Quetzalcoatl went to the Underworld to recover the crushed bones of all who had died.  He mixed some of his own blood with their ashes and resurrected them.  Aztec mythology believes this to be the final Creation myth.  The differences in mankind are attributed to the varying fragments of bones brought back from the Underworld.

Many of the world’s myths focus on perfect deities that, in spite of their perfection and power, still have problems.  This Aztec Creation myth, and yes there are others, not only has imperfect results directly accountable to the gods themselves instead of mankind, it applauds the concept of teamwork.  The fifth sun, the one that did work, was the teaming of all four spirits.

Myths that speak of destruction are quite common.  Myths such as this Aztec legend that tell of destruction followed by rebirth or recreation are found in other cultures.  The Norse myth of Ragnarok or “end Rulers” speaks of an apocalypse (No, not the Zombie Apocalypse!) that will destroy the world and then give birth to a new, fresher one.  The Abrahamic religions have the scriptural story of Noah and the Ark.  In that tale, the world is destroyed by a great flood and, once the waters recede, life begins anew.

From the Norse mythology of Scandinavia to the earliest beginnings of the three most popular world religions originating in the Middle East to the landscape of Mexico and a city built in the middle of a lake, we have a rather common theme in mythology.  Is it coincidence, fate, or the fingerprint of a higher power?  We still are looking for answers here in the 21st century.  We are still reading the ancient myths while we write new ones.  Like a classic novel, the preceding chapters help give context to what is being read/written today and hopefully, what tomorrow will bring.

Dissimilarly Similar – Pentecost #151-153

Dissimilarly Similar: Pentecost 151-153

Pentecost #151 – One and Many

It is time again to answer some questions and comments.  Thank for you all of them!  First, this Pentecost has been a time to explore the mythologies of the world, the various spirits mankind has believed in since the beginning.  I elected to do this journey into these stories because Pentecost, in the Christian religious tradition, is a season dedicated to the Holy Spirit.  Just as we deliberated the religions of the world last Advent, this exploration is not about converting but about educating and acquainting.  Secondly, to those who have enjoyed reading about these stories, I give a most heartfelt “thank you”.  Thirdly, someone mentioned that one would have to be crazy to believe in these deities, in any deity.  That is certainly your right to consider and hold that attitude.  I remember once, as a teenager in school, we had a marching band practice at the end of the day.  Suddenly the skies opened up and we were instantly drenched.  We had been going over the formations of a new program so no one had their instruments.  Since we were out there without the need to scurry to take the musical instruments to safety, we simply began to frolic in the rain.  A passer-by saw fifty or sixty kids in a field by the school running around and called the local law enforcement, describing our play as “crazy”.  Sometimes what some consider being full of joy appears as insanity to others.  It is all about context and perspective.

Along those same lines is the African Nilotic word “Jok”.  For the ancient cultures of Kenya, Uganda, and Sudan, Jok embraced their concept of the divine spirit.  Like anything that has been around since antiquity, Jok has other variations such as Jwok, Juok, Joagh, Joghi, and Joogi.  Jok has also been defined in different ways, again depending on the time period, perspective, and context of the one developing the dictionary or translation.

Throughout time, the many words used as synonyms for God (Who remembers which discussed all of these?) have been widespread and varied.  For some Jok implied the one deity of the Abrahamic faiths, the one we call God or Allah.  For others, Jok means spirits, gods, or even devils.  Mankind has a plethora of contradictory ideas regarding spiritual beings.

For the people whose language was Nilotic, Jok was the word that means the unified spirit of God and the lesser gods.  Jok was personal and interpersonal, local and omnipresent.  Interestingly enough, the same might be said of mankind.  After all, there are people right next door to me and people on the other side of the world, all over the world in fact.  There are people I know intimately and people I do not know.  What is important is to remember that, in spite of our differences, we really are one people, many races but all the family of mankind.

Pentecost #152 – Equal and Different

The Kikuyu tribe has their own word for God – Ngai.  A Kikuyu is a fig tree which is a fertility symbol in both Africa and Asia.  The Kikuyu tribe lives on the slopes of Mount Kenya, a culture that goes back several centuries at least.

The Kikuyu believe that everyone has a spirit which is called ngoma.  The ngoma is said to become a ghost after death, a spirit that can become quite persistent in avenging any wrongs suffered during life.  Burial rituals differ for village elders and lesser members of the clan.  Their myths tells of certain trees which are said to be favored by these spirits and food offerings are often placed at the based of the trunks to appease.

The Kikuyu believe that Ngai will punish those who fail to keep the faith.  Similar to the Roman god Jupiter, they believe Ngai strikes down the unfaithful with lightning.  Many Kikuyu also believe in predestination, which is to say that a person’s live is preordained before their birth.

The god Ngai has a name from the Bantu language which translates as “the Apportioner”.  Their myths tell them that part of creation was the dispersal or apportioning of Ngai’s gifts to all the different nations on earth.  The Kikuyu people received the skill and implements needed for successful agriculture and they are a farming community.  There are today approximately six million Kikuyu in Kenya which makes them the largest ethnic group in the country.  They call themselves Agikuyu, a variation of the native pronunciation “Gikuyu”.  Gikuyu translates as sycamore tree and “agikuyu” means children of the huge sycamore.

The Kikuyu have adapted throughout time.  In the 1800’s their music became influenced by European composers.  More recently cinema and food production have gained prominence in this culture.  The Kikuyu believed that Ngai equally distributed gifts of life to all people.  These gifts were equal yet different.  Many might see a tribe living on a mountainside and think “What could they know?”  To me, this culture has had things and life figured out lone before most of us did or do.  They continue to believe in their myths while moving forward to the future.  Whether you are on a mountain slope or living in the middle of a bustling city, it is not a bad way to life.

#153 – True Riches

While early missionaries to the African continent seemed to catalogue hundreds of “heathen gods”, the cultures of Africa have been mostly monotheistic.  What they also have, though, is a deep reverence for and belief in ancestral spirits.   African mythology is reflected not only in the masks of various cultures but in other artwork and their music.  The masks often reflected supposed faces of various spirits.  Even the fabrics were dyed to reflect mythologies and beliefs.

What is especially nice is that many of these myths have survived and are given life today.  They are reflected in the smiles of Africa’s children and tribal hospitality.   All too often we overlook the joy in religion and spirituality.  The true riches of the world’s mythologies are in the joyous living they encourage.

It may seem that as a native of Louisiana, adopted as an infant, who grew up to become an internationally acclaimed make-up artist Kevyn Aucoin would have nothing in common with African mythology.  However, Aucoin’s philosophy of life really illustrates a recurring theme found in African mythology.  “Today I choose life.  Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain…To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.”

Each sunrise brings each of us a new day, a new chance to embrace life and live.  Whether a farmer on the slope of a mountain in Kenya or a worker on a tomb in the Sahara, African myths not only tell the story of the cradle of civilization, they tell of the riches of life.

A Through Cleansing

A Through Cleansing

Pentecost 136

Obviously I have still been under the weather and I do apologize for the tardiness of these posts.  We will still discuss the flood myths of the world but we will also discuss another type of cleansing.  As much as we like to think mankind has advanced in these centuries since Primitive Man, the sad truth is that we still have much in common with our ancestors… and not all of it is something about which to boast.

We took a pause from our discussions about Egyptian mythology and the role spirits played in the culture to dive into flood myths.  I would love to weave you a beautiful, fanciful story about Egyptian flood myths but alas, no one really can.  Clearly they did exist but the calligraphy was written on papyrus which fell victim to time and yes, even flooding.  Many of their stories have been lost.

In his book “The Egyptians Book of the Dead, The Book of Going Forth by Day, Raymond Faulkner describes the Egyptian flood myth as a situation in which the deity Atum has become fed up with mankind.  Atum sees mankind as rebellious and ungrateful and vows to return the earth to the Primordial Waters of its beginning.  Atum remains in the form of a snake with Osiris.  Atum, whose name translates as “finisher” is considered to be the first being.  Some consider him to be the first man while others consider him to be a self-made god.

It is interesting to me that Atum, who was first and yet whose name means to finish, is connected to the concept of a great flood.  One could say that flood waters create new things because they certainly have made new waterways and created new alliances between government agencies on conducting disaster relief.  What starts as rain with children splashing about in puddles quickly can become a great flood, finishing to a chorus of despair and destruction.

I don’t know if you have ever lived in a flood-prone area or survived a great storm like a cyclone, tornado, or hurricane, but the snakes often come out after each.  The Egyptian myth has Atum remaining as a snake on earth also amuses me since floods and snakes are associative.

Osiris was the Egyptian god of the death and the underworld.  It might seem logical then that he was involved in their flood myth telling of the destruction of all.  However, The Egyptians believed that the underworld under the Nile is what provided new life, new vegetation.  Osiris was also considered the god of love.  I see their flood myth as one of hope because the first man and the finisher, also called the one who completed all, remained with the deity responsible for new life and regeneration, also known as the god of love.

Recently a neighbor’s house caught fire.  It was not a complete loss but much of the interior will need to be redone.  I was reminded at the time of the houses of friends thirty-five years ago when a great flood ravaged neighborhoods in the city where I lived.  Most were not known for being handy with tools but they quickly learned how to tear out and rebuild.    A year later, one friend remarked that they had the most updated neighborhood in town and was able to actually laugh at finally being able to get new furniture.

I don’t know about you but I am reasonably secure in thinking that no matter how long I live, I will always have a closet to clean.  I am not really a hoarder not even a pack rat.  I just collect things and, unfortunately, usually use those things, a situation which justifies my hanging on to them.  I have committed within the next twelve months to doing two types of cleansing.  One will be a material cleansing – donating what I can to charity and disposing of what is no longer of any use.  I began this last year but have slacked off so I hope to renew my efforts and be successful in this.

The other type of cleansing will be more difficult.  Like many, from time to time, I am “flooded” with emotions, some of which are understandable and some which are simply garbage.  We all have that kind of baggage that we carry around in our minds.  Things done and things left undone; words said and words left unsaid.  It is a condition common to being human.

We need to cleanse ourselves so that when these thoughts began to flood us, we can create our own umbrella to shield us.  Today a friend mentioned feeling melancholy and lonely.  Then she saw a bird and it started to sing.  She decided to go out into the day singing her own song.  Isn’t that a glorious response to an unwanted flood?  I wish for you sunshine today… if not in the sky, then in your heart.  Remember the Egyptian flood myth – after the devastation the deity of rebirth remained.  Tomorrow is always a new beginning.

Prepositions and Miracles

Prepositions and Miracles

Pentecost 122

As you know I love feedback from you guys, my readers and followers.  It is, after all the purpose of this blog – to engage in conversation as we engage in our living.  I do not identify the responder unless they request it due to privacy concerns and respect but I do value each of you deeply.  Over the weekend I was asked a really interesting question:  Aren’t these myths out of date?

I mentioned several days ago that a family member had been in an automobile accident and was in a coma.  She remains in a coma and while some progress has been seen, the outlook is still up in the air.  In other words, we are hoping and praying for a miracle.  Tomorrow her youngest will celebrate her second birthday so while it has become the new “normal” to visit her in the hospital, this celebration of life is also reminding us of the fragility of life.

The mythologies of mankind also served to remind us about the fragility of life.  While they seldom called the endings of their tales of colorful characters, fantastic exploits, and incredible out-of-this-world powers “miracles”, that is how other writings would classify them.  More importantly, they were guidelines for living and, since we are all still living, then I don’t believe them to be out of date.

Depending on the culture, the purpose of the myths varied while many of the characters and deeds were strikingly similar.  While there seems to have been a “parallel development” as Carl Jung phrased it in the development of similar stories, some simply choose to believe that these commonalities are the result of travel.  They believe that, like the trade winds that carried the trading vessels to all parts of the world, exploration and travel carried the stories that were then altered to fit the culture.  I choose to believe there is a much simpler answer: We are all human.

In the throes of tragedy or great confusion, we need to make order out of the chaos.  It is how our brains function and the mind works.  Our eyes see everything as it is but how our brain interprets those visions is not always accurate.  Place a large rectangle in a room identified to us as a bedroom and the rectangle is first thought to be a bed because it makes sense.  That is why fifty eye witnesses can all be telling what they perceive to be the truth and yet none of them tell the same story.

Mythology is the collection of man’s attempt to make order from the chaos that life sometimes throws our way.  The stories may seem unbelievable to those of us living in the twenty-first century but that is just because we have become egotistical.  We think, with all our technology, that we know all the answers.  We don’t even know all the questions so how can we possible know all the answers?

One of my favorite parts of speech is the lowly preposition.  Like the myths of old and even those newer ones, prepositions give us direction.  Place the candle…where?  On the table.  Run…where?  Up the hill.  Where is she hiding?  Around the corner.    Often overlooked, the importance of the preposition is found in its definition:  “a word governing, and usually preceding, a noun or pronoun and expressing a relation to another word or element in the clause”; “a relationship between other words in a sentence”.

Mythologies, those weird stories about even weirder deities that can’t have possibly defied the laws of gravity to accomplish what they allegedly achieved, are all about our relationships – to nature, to each other, to ourselves, and to the universe.  A simple word such as “in” or “after” or “on” may seem insignificant or meaningless but really, without them we would be lost.  We would be left with only “here” or “there”.  We would have no relationship with our living.

I cannot prove that miracle have ever occurred but to an ancient Greek or aborigine, I think the lifting of a space ship that then circles the planet while men and women live within it might just qualify.  What we consider science today was once an imaginary story, the dream of someone many considered crazy.  The miraculous cures that saved many from plagues and viral epidemics are science but they are also answered prayers.

In December we will discuss prayers for all cultures have some sort of them, regardless of what they are called.  Today, though, think about the prepositions in your speech and your actions.  I picked the cup of tea up off the table.  I pushed the vacuum across the floor.  I placed my hand on the puppy’s head.  I also petted the cat but anyone who is owned by a cat knows the cat places their head under your hand!  I raise my spirits and prayers to the supreme being of my beliefs.  It may be neither here nor there but the fact is we are here and, for my at least, mythologies still hold meaning.  And I will continue to have hope that my family member will experience the miracle of science and faith in her recovery.