Friday, January 1, 2021

The (not quite yet) Year of the Ox


Slow, steady strength

While the Gregorian calendar has us all in a new year, the lunar calendar hasn't quite gotten there yet. I have a connection to the Ox, so it's interesting to me on a personal level. Whether cosmic and natural forces work along the line of tradition or faith, such symbols still help color our human world.

The Ox is associated by those who dabble with Buddhism in the West with the Ox Herding Pictures, wherein the Ox is in some ways both (the concept of) Enlightenment and the Mind. Eventually, the Mind is tamed through practice and faith as the herder rides the Ox with ease and joy. Then the Ox vanishes. Then the herder vanishes. Then emptiness comes and beyond it is...

Well, anyway. Cool imagery, eh? 

Perhaps this year such imagery can help those interested in seeking their own peace and strength in the midst of the turmoil the world finds itself in.

I wish you all the best.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

The end of another year (2020)


Winter blooms and 2020 ends.

In my location we are still not yet to 2021 at the time of this posting.

I have fixed feeling about the tradition of New Year's resolutions. They are often a form of wishful thinking that can actually depress people when the resolution fails, especially if it's made in black and white (giving up this, taking up that).

Fifteen years ago I recall a Buddhist teacher saying to a small group that the precepts cannot be broken. We can take them up or set them down. But the precepts themselves are still there waiting. The same person also compared that to the practice of staying and returning in meditation. If your mind wanders from focus, just return. No judgment. It's all a success. Just stay focused as long as you can and then return when you notice your attention has wandered.

Perhaps more New Year's resolutions would benefit those making them if they were approached in this way, whether it be losing weight or taking up a new hobby or building relationships.

This is a good time for reflection as societies are also reflecting, giving us some momentum. Also a good time to then look ahead. We can't know what will happen, but we can think about who we've been and who we want to be.

If you have any resolutions, I wish you success.

Monday, December 28, 2020

hello again


There is either quite a lot to say or not much at all.

This blog was much more active between 2005 and 2014. I was going to start writing more in again in 2016, then midway through the year I started a new job that took up much of my time and the political and religious environment started becoming much darker. When I logged on to write, criticism and frustration emerged.

There has been much to criticize the past four years, but I didn't want to be bitter or give an impression of bitterness to others. I also found myself just being very, very tired in many ways - physically, mentally, emotionally, socially. And, to be honest, I wasn't sure what to write beyond pointing out the hypocrisy and harm of those who substitute idolatry for faith.

When I became tinythinker many years ago, I was coming from a somewhat American fundamentalist Christian background. I had already left all of that behind and was still near the beginning of my graduate school days, studying evolutionary theory, cultures from the past and present around the world, and so much more. I started using the name for message boards back then, where I encountered some interesting Buddhists on forms otherwise full of Christian and atheists going at it. Sometimes with respect or some kind of boundaries, and sometimes not. So even before I brought my net handle to this blog, I had developed a curiosity in things like Unitarian Universalism, Buddhism, and even mystical Christianity.

I continued exploring such things to varying degrees between 2005 and 2014, as evidenced by the content from that period. But it wasn't just those thing in of themselves, though that was also intriguing, but also what they might mean for questions people tend to wrestle with and the answers that they fight over. Still, for me much of it was also self-image and construction, solving intellectual puzzles, and just finding out about different views that seemed so interesting.

Around 2010, having gotten into readings the preceding couple of years on contemplative and mystical Christianity, and with no Buddhist groups around, I tried attending a nearby church for a while. It was interesting, and I participated pretty well, but after a couple of years my curiosity and interest expired. So my attendance and participation drifted off. Still, I had been able to go beyond a lot of what I had previously experienced and known in my youth, through books and actual live services.

Which left a question.

What then?

Saturday, April 11, 2020

At home in Holy Saturday

Which may sound odd.

This isn't about liking or disliking or agreeing or disagreeing with Christianity or a particular stand of its orthodoxy or orthopraxy.

This isn't about belief in Christian creeds or faith in Christian visions of divinity.

And this isn't about provoking or instigating.

It's about using imagery from a religion that has dominated western cultures for a couple of millennia and that was influential in my childhood.

But my appreciation of that imagery is very likely different than yours. Some people are bothered by that. If it bothers you, you can stop reading, get upset, or consider a different view. That choice is wholly yours. I don't feel like arguing about your reaction, however.

Of course, I didn't know the term Holy Saturday growing up. I was familiar with Easter Sunday. Didn't have much on Good Friday, either. The Holy Week schedule came in later as I learned about strands of Christianity that focused more on the liturgical calendar and rites.

But it fits me in some ways. Holy Saturday, that is. Not necessarily what other people have written about it. Maybe, depending on what they wrote. The story goes that Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ, while Easter Sunday commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Holy Saturday technically has a name, but it's kind of the filler day for some people. The day in between the highlights.

Or, if you focus on it, it's the day when hope dies. When you lose faith or are sorely tested. When you just don't feel like putting on the act and airs of a normal day. When you are down, depressed, tired, or at the end of your rope. When you feel disappointed or defeated. Pointless. Useless.

So naturally for Christians, Sunday morning is the big relief. The happy ending after the dark period in the story of their lives. A new chance. A renewal of hope and opportunity. And so on. When everything was at its worst, a complete reversal, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

I can see why that's popular. Why it resonates with so many people. Why they look forward to Easter Sunday. But it doesn't resonate with me. Not my lived experience. Not my personality. It isn't a match. Good Friday and Holy Saturday, sure. But not Sunday. It feels contrived. Forced. I don't begrudge those who find solace and hope in Easter. That's great! For them.

In the sense of renewal or passing the torch, I find a little common ground. But total and final victory? Unwavering faith and confidence in the surety of a future that is the culmination of the noblest wishes and highest good our species can imagine? Naw. That doesn't compute. The ultimate pipe dream, however various Christian imagine it, is too remote.

But picking up the pieces and carrying on after disappointment? Even with no guarantees or assurances? Hard, yes. For many, too hard. For me, too, sometimes. But it has the ring of genuineness to it. It may not be a first pick for many people, but it feels and reasons as accessible. Meaningful. True.

Whatever your take, be well.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Excerpt Only - Choosing Sides

"So if we went with familiar imagery then, would you say you see yourself as perverse -- being disruptive? Upsetting expectations? A devil scouring the details like the Accuser? 

"Or more a light of the divine? A servant of peace and understanding?"

The face across from him nodded. "Yes."



"So... what? You see yourself as playing both sides?"

The face shook. "No."

"You just said--"

"Same side."

Now it seemed certain this was some kind of mockery or joke but the serene, sincere expression lingered.

"So you're taking a side?"

Shake. "No."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Still Away


Just a quick note to let anyone passing through know that while this blog isn't officially closed, it is (still) on hiatus.

At this blog I casually work with religion and spirituality as ideas, much in the same way some people solve logic puzzles, make creative connections between different conceptual frameworks, or analyze the worlds brought to life through fiction. On what some what call a "heart" level or even a "direct existential awareness" level, it's kind of moot for me. No acceptance, no rejection, no substantial interaction. Even when faced with the sudden revelation of unexpected peril or in the face of an long term struggle.

This blog is kind of an intellectual hobby, but I've just not been interested in speculating about the topics and themes covered here. The only aspect of religion on my radar at the moment is the continued bigotry and xenophobia of the Christian far-right and how such fundamentalism is affecting the public debates and political landscape in the United States. I don't feel like dissecting any of that, though. At least not in the form that is typical of this blog, and perhaps not in any form. Maybe for a just while, or maybe ever.

What is there to say?

It exists as part of a resilient subculture of disgust, paranoia, and a passive-aggressive form of self-pitying and martyrdom that revels in boastful ignorance. Anyone who would seriously question that worldview would already be on the path out of it, and those who don't seriously question it inoculate themselves regularly against any alternative way of thinking about or perceiving the world. And it isn't like either type of fundamentalist would be at this obscure little corner of the world wide web to read anything I might write about their views.

Other topics typical of this blog have simply been more of the same, so even if I had a desire to go through them again, it would just be redundant. If I find the time and interest to once again to share and play with concepts and impressions related to religion and spirituality, I will return. Until then, be well.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Who the hell needs Jesus?


No really, that wasn't just an eye-catcher title to get you to scan further down. It's a genuine question.

Having run across something online earlier, I spontaneously thought of Christian evangelism and how the approach a Christian uses in sharing their "good news" sums up what they think of God and their faith.

That took half a second, so then in the other half the idea popped into my head of comparing approaches to evangelism in a society that is filled with so many people who are tired of the implications of over-used methods for proselytizing and the responses those methods can elicit. A few seconds into this line of thinking I came up with an idea that I've never heard expressed before.

Now maybe this idea was common in the first decades of the Christian faith, or maybe some theologian wrote such an idea down in a book I haven't read, so I can't claim it is one hundred percent original. I'll work out how I got to the idea and what it could mean for the image of Christianity below, but here it is:

Not everyone is called to be a Christian and that doesn't mean that they are going to hell or that they will face some kind of annihilation after their physical death.

Before I write anything else, understand that I am not writing this out of concern over whether anyone is or isn't a Christian or whether anyone becomes one. I am not promoting Christianity or validating any of its claims by discussing its basic concepts and ideas. Also, the reason I tossed in the "no hell/annihilation" part is because Christians are usually all about what happens after physical death even if they don't emphasize it. If I just said "not all are called to be Christians" people might think I had simply re-discovered generic predestination theology.

So if that is enough for you to chew on, go ahead. But if you are considering a response such as a share or comment, read a little further for additional context and clarification.


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