Be Thankful!

It strikes me that Thanksgiving is most spiritual American holiday. Christmas has largely become the holiday of merchandise, and Easter is too, to a lesser extent. All Saint’s Eve—once the day of remembering all the heroes of the Christian faith—has become almost totally lost in Halloween.

Holidays like Pentecost and Ascension just aren’t celebrated much, except for a few words in the churches that note them (which is quite a far cry from all).

Amid the gorging and the football, there’s also something more subtle and wonderful thriving in Thanksgiving—calling people together to share time with each other and focus, for at least a few minutes, on everything that’s right, instead of everything that’s wrong.

Thanksgiving is not specifically Christian, Muslim, Jewish or Buddhist. It belongs to everyone. Thanksgiving’s only theme is gratitude, which is at the root of all true worship.

If you have loved ones, be thankful!
If you have food, be thankful!
If you are alive, be thankful!

What am I?

A friend of mine at work passed out a questionnaire she wrote for a class about language, race, and “social class.” Needless to say, I had fun with it.

One really good part was the question “Does your language reflect your race?”
I wrote: What’s my race? Caucasian? Anglo-German? Human? I don’t know if my language reflects my race, but it does reflect *me.* In the course of a day I might use mostly Standard American English (with a few Ebonic phrases) a few words Spanish or German words, and if the subject warrants, a dash of Sanskrit. What race is that?

Then, it asked me to identify my “social class.” I was genuinely confused. I had hoped notions of “social class” sank with the Titanic, but here I was, being asked to identify my “class.” What the hell does that mean? Is it where I am, socially? Oh, well…
I wrote: “… working middle-income techno-geek nerd-mystic living alone in Ghent.”

My friend ended up putting me into a more conventional category before handing her survey results to her professor!

Now granted, I do like to mess with people when it comes to the assumptions that are usually unquestioned, but identifications are part of, (a big part of) the sickness of the world. We abbreviate reality with concepts, and then further abbreviate them with categories. We identify ourselves with certain groups, and then feel that we are separate from and superior or inferior to those who are not of those groups. We identify ourselves with our past experiences, with our past emotions, with our churches, temples, synagogues, and mosques. We identify ourselves with “races,” nations, sports teams, “social classes” and tribes. Gradually, the maze of labels becomes more “real” to us than the simple reality itself. We even fight, kill, and die for the identifications which have taken over our minds.

After reality is forgotten, it’s essential to recover the truth. I am here. I seem to looking out through eyes, and living in a body with a beating heart, and breathing air. Things that have happened are not me, they merely form a story. Those I love are simply those I love. Many things define my life, but nothing defines me. No label can capture the reality. I am. What am I? In the words of the immortal Popeye, "I yam what I yam." Or as Rumi put it:

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim,

not Hindu, Buddhist, sufi, or zen.

Not any religion or cultural system.

I am not from the East or the West,

not out of the ocean or up from the ground,

not natural or ethereal, not composed of elements at all.

I do not exist, am not an entity in this world or the next,

did not descend from Adam and Eve or any origin story.

My place is placeless, a trace of the traceless.

Neither body or soul.

I belong to the Beloved, have seen the two worlds as one,

and that one call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner, only

that breath-breathing human being.

The Essential Rumi

The Kingdom and the Empire redux

A few years ago, I posted a page on this site contrasting the Kingdom that Jesus preached with the Empire(s) that man builds. The Empire is about power, control, influence and thought. The Kingdom is about love. Even in most religious environments, the Empire is more more prominent than the Kingdom. Emperor Theodosius even went so far as to name Jesus the head of the Byzantine Empire, forgetting that Yeshua said,

"The kingdom of God does not come visibly, nor will people say, ‘Here it is, ‘ or There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you." —Luke 17:20-21

Yep, the words are inspiring, but if I’m really honest with myself, I’ve got to admit, I would like it to be outside of me. I’d like my leaders and teachers to bring it about. But only I can reveal it where I am. It’s not a matter of getting the right guy into office, but getting my "self " out of office. This is the real point of Christianity, to get self out of the way, so the Light of God, which is already here, can shine.

Sometimes it seems that absolutely no one understands, and when I feel that way, I have to realize that I’ve lost sight of the truth, and have become stuck on appearance. The kingdom is here right now. Despite terrorism and war, gluttony and famine, corporate greed and personal license, God is here, in every soul, waiting for the mask of the cravings, angers, and fears to break, like a butterfly shedding its chrysalis.

This is the work of the kingdom, to know that we are nothing, and in that No-thing, is everything. The only thing. One thing only. Heaven is here. How creatively we hide it! That’s Jedi life in the real world.