Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Delight Thyself

Most men can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it obliges them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven thread by thread into the fabric of their lives.

Thomas Gold
What do I think of religion you ask? We, alright, you didn't ask but I'm going to tell you anyway. When I think of religion I don't think of it from any particualr faith or tradition. As it says in my profile, I'm not a fan of rules, rituals and summations. Those things may close the doors securely against doubt, but they also lock doors.

Among by rather large collections of books I have many on the subject of religions. Near my desk and read in rotation are The Book of Common Prayer, The Book of Mormon, The Bahir (what's that?), the Daily Missal, 2 books on Catholic Saints, 3 translations of The Bible, The Koran, Oahspe (what's that?), The Yoga-Sutra, Tao Teching, a Guide to Wicca, The Zohar, all 22 volumes with English translation and commentary (what's that?).

I also have writings by Saint Augustine, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Soren Kirkagaard, Karl Jaspers, Martin Buber, Mary Baker Eddy, Thomas Merton and Mortin Luther King, Jr. (I also read a lot of philosophy, history and psychology, so don't get excited.)

One of the obvious observations I can make is that the difference between the writings of those inspired thinkers and the way their followers practice those writings is very big. The human mind, in it's baser levels, tends to take over the simplicity, charm and joy of the spiritual life and translate it into war, bigotry, prejudice, hatred, animosity, exclusivity, limitation and ignorance. That's why I don't adhere to any one religion. I don't enjoy the dogmatic ones correcting my thinking.

The inspired writers of sacred texts were, after all, just like the rest of us. They were human beings, struggling with and trying to explain in human languages visions of deity and its grandeur. That they continued to struggle and still do, and that their followers continue to misunderstand them tends to create strange, mortal, powerless gods that no one wants to worship except the superstitious.

When the mystic knots are all untangled the answer will be very simple and obvious, and men and women will have to give up the complicated threads of theory and muddy rituals for a pure worship of the joy of being.

"Delight thyself in the Lord." (Psalm 37) As far as I'm concerned that is one of the most profound pieces of spiritual wisdom ever written. What do I think of religion? This is what I think.

Once every year throughout the world in fishing villages there is the ritual of the Blessing of the Fleet. The boats line up and sail past the peer where the local religious leader says a prayer for the successful catch and in some religions sprinkles some "holy water" toward the boat as it passes. Years ago, when I was an actor in Provincetown, Massachusetts, I was invited aboard my landlord's boat to participate. The Bishop came up from somewhere and was joined by the local priest. The priest was named Duarte and he was referred to locally as Our Father Duarte in Heaven. After the blessing we went out for a spin in the Atlantic Ocean. It was a beautiful day and a great experience.

I used to have a photograph which I took out of National Geographic of the blessing of the fleet on Kodiak Island, Alaska. In that case it was the Russian Orthodox clergy who were in charge. The bishop was there in all his robes, with a tall hat and long white beard. He had his book and was surrounded by banners depicting holy figures. Next to him was the parish priest in his robes, tall hat and black beard. They both had big, broad smiles on their faces. They were having a hell of a good time. In his hand, the priest held a white plastic squeeze bottle with the words HOLY WATER on it. I thought "Yes! There you go. If you really believe in the holy water than squirt the captain in the face if you have to, but get the water on the boat."

And that's what I think of religion.
DB - The Vagabond
Never give up.


It's a long, hot, sticky summer, so here's a hot, sticky question for you. Don't let the recent New York State decision rob you of your thunder.

Same sex marriage. Should it be legal or not? If so, why? If not, why not?

10 answers so far.

You have until the last day of summer, but don't dally.
I eagerly await your answer.


1 comment:

Beth said...

I delighted in this entry!

So I wonder if the Massachusetts Bishop's holy water was more powerful than the Russian Orthodox Bishop's holy water?