Strong for deliciousness

Is the flesh so weak
Or is it simply strong for
All deliciousness?

A friend of mine wrote this haiku in response to an assignment from a reading group we both belong to. We wanted to write some haiku after reading Krista Tippett’s chapter called “Words” in Becoming Wise: An Inquiry Into The Mystery And Art Of Living.

Here are some others, written by members of the same group.

Inspired by dogs:

My name is Xena
Must paw must paw must paw must
Get your attention.

By an OR nurse:

small pink intestines
bubble out of the body
I kind of like it

One who works in Manhattan (and thinks of the recent election):

These city streets lie
But not like he who roamed them
Thinking he owned them

I found it illuminating not only to hear the haikus, but to hear from people in the group how they were heard. We all admitted it was fun, and we want to explore doing it again. Highly recommended for a group activity!

In the next post I’ll share some of my own haiku from this assignment.


Violins Not Guns

It’s hard to kill someone with a violin.

What if we had more violins and fewer guns?

The vision of Suzuki was to create a world full of beautiful hearts, nurtured by love. He believed we could save the world if we reared more children in the language of music.

People with the character and temperament of a musician seek to harmonize, not destroy. They also have a robust sense of discipline and action. They are not passive or milk toast. They’ll defend you from the inside out.

Imagine: Concealed or open carry, it doesn’t matter if it isn’t a gun. That guy in the subway with the case – what’s inside? An instrument of healing and transformation, not death and destruction. He’ll kill you with kindness.

Let’s make them an offer they can’t refuse. Violins, not guns.


Like Watering Seeds

It is like watering the seeds in a garden. In this case, the gentleness that develops is like the moisture that helps a seed to grow so that greenery will unfold and flowers will blossom. Then, beyond that, you develop confidence.

The ordinary sense of confidence is confidence about something, which is conditional or qualified. But in this case, gentleness and softness give rise to an unconditional feeling that is awake, brilliant, and warm.

When we have both moisture and warmth, we know that the plant will definitely grow. That confidence is the seed that we should share with the rest of the world.

Chogyam Trungpa, “Smile At Fear”



When I forget milk
I go back to the corner store
Where the checkout
Girl’s mermaid tattoos wink
As she says “Have a nice day.”

Yesterday was early.
Water boiling, oatmeal in the throat.
Wheezing a tie,
Scraping the windshield,
Heavy briefcase race
Crawl to sit lifeless behind
A dividing wall.

But not today. Today
Is soul day.
Quiet day, empty day.
Out of the fecund silence
Comes frothy foaming
Canvas frosting. I may just
Eat what I paint.
To be without clothes
Is the gift of today.

To read about Tibetan Buddhism
And the way they believe
In serendipity and signs
Of the hidden unseen world.
Someone tried to move a sacred stone
And his son drowned upstream.

Tiredness and sleep are
Today’s welcome friends,
Come to help bloom
A dark water flower
Usually only seen
Under a pink sky.

©Venturing Unitarian 2016


On Prudence

Emphasis on prudence is characteristic of liberalism. It is connected with the rise of capitalism, for the prudent became rich while the imprudent became or remained poor. It is connected also with certain forms of Protestant piety: virtue with a view to heaven is psychologically very analogous to saving with a view to investment.  -Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy

Prudence is one of the classical virtues. It means to take care, with forethought, of one’s actions. It is associated with business and sound money management, as in, “Prudential.” Rational judgment, logic, and the harnessing of the will are all components of this virtue. Most of all, it means setting aside short-term pleasure for long-term gain.

In building my teaching business, I have to be very prudent. I carefully plan out every expenditure, to maximize and optimize the resources I have. Every item on my to-do list is carefully organized and executed. In running our household, my wife and I must be diligent about paying bills, populating each other’s calendars with important activities, and doing meal planning. None of these are especially pleasurable activities in themselves, but we are willing to put aside short-term fun and pleasure so that we can do the important things such as taking care of each other and our children.

Prudence is about maturity. As we grow up we all must come to terms with saving money, acting in ways that further our and other’s long term interests. We learn also to behave morally (however we might define that) and this often means sacrificing our own pleasure. Prudence is also a societal virtue. The more we think ahead as a polity (an organized group of people), the better off we are together, and that also requires sacrifices such as setting aside resources in the form of taxes.

However, there is a downside to Prudence. We sometimes have a narrow idea of “Prudence” and use that as a source of continued bias toward the underclasses, the underprivileged, minorities, the arts, and sexuality. We blame others’ misfortunes on their lack of good choices, we marginalize artistic expression because there is no way to measure its costs and benefits, and we repress and under-educate each other about sex because sex threatens our sense of rational control. (There is a reason why the words prudent and prude are connected.)

Bertrand Russell points out that “there is something revolting in a system that regards prudence as the only virtue.” His critique of Prudence, in A History of Western Philosophy, comes in the chapter about John Locke, whose political theories made a heavy mark on our Constitution. Locke’s views came at a time when philosophical liberalism was beginning to bloom. Characteristic of this philosophy were a few things that we would today call “conservative”: belief in commerce and business, general distrust of government, and an aim to encourage a rising middle class.

The fact that these prudent values are connected intrinsically to Protestant piety is important to understand: being frugal with money and frugal with ethics go hand in hand. Aiming at heaven is similar to aiming at a savings account. One pictures Grant Wood’s painting American Gothic: the faces are plain, stern, hard-working, but also unimaginative and unforgiving. 546kjh46kjh

In other words, the reason it is “revolting” to enthrone Prudence as the only virtue is that there are so many other virtues to speak of: forgiveness, empathy, nurture, creativity, courage (in taking risks), to start with a few. These other virtues are humanizing, and lead as much to long-term prosperity and wealth as does prudence.

Whenever I have made a decision that my parents did not agree with, particularly as regards either my artistic expression, or my sexual choices, it was usually because they thought it imprudent. Unwise, showing lack of judgment, especially about money, or about what God really wanted. “This was not God’s will,” my mother said on more than one occasion.

Well into middle-adulthood both my wife and I continue to perceive a very judgmental attitude from family members about our choices. It was not looked upon as prudent for us to have gotten our prior divorces, or be together, to move here or there, to pursue this or that activity, to join the Unitarian Universalist fellowship. The frowns could be seen through the phone.

How many unhappy marriages continue because the couple values prudence above all else? How many artists are now struggling to eat, because banks look at them as an imprudent investment? How many minorities are segregated in ghettos, because it would be imprudent for the rest of us to go live there, work there, or buy anything there? How many people are wasting away in a cubicle because that is the only rational choice they can see in front of them?

Since the time of Locke (late 1600s) we have needed a new ethics that is more generous, less rationalist, and views society through a more complex lens. We need to show why virtues such as Hospitality (opening our homes) and Edification (building up of people) are connected to our long-term interests. We will be a more prosperous and free people if our virtues are balanced, and our understanding of each other continually enriched by a more affective, empathetic approach.

I am not arguing for outright recklessness, anarchy, or destructively senseless behavior. Such things cause pain, violence, or misfortune, sometimes on a large scale. The Iraq war, for example, most people see as in imprudent war, with long-term costs we are still paying for. One wishes for more prudent politicians.

Imprudent political decisions, however, often are made because there are not enough other virtues at play. When we are more able to negotiate, to see the other side, to think in more communitarian ways, we are tapping Empathy. When we truly want everyone to win, we are tapping the virtues of Humility and Compassion. When we celebrate differences, we lift up Diversity.

True long-term reward comes when all of these other virtues are present. If we imagine a painter’s palette, perhaps Prudence is a brilliant hue achieved only by mixing many more primary colors together. This is at once more pleasurable and more wise, more sensual and more rational.

If fulfilling our needs in the short-term and creating a brighter, more hopeful future is possible, why not pursue it? Isn’t that the most Prudent course of action?



Claude Monet, Woman With Parasol (Detail) 1885.

Eyes and No-Eyes

Midweek Devotion #13

October 14, 2015

Claude Monet, Woman With Parasol (Detail) 1885.

Claude Monet, Woman With Parasol (Detail) 1885.

I came across this painting in the National Gallery in Washington D.C., and I took this photo of it. The vibrancy and life of the painting is preserved almost entirely. I find it breathtaking.

I also came across a narrative recently, and I wanted to share it. It was written around the turn of the last century, by a startlingly good philosopher and writer named Evelyn Underhill. It matched the spirit of the Monet painting perfectly.

The old story of Eyes and No-Eyes is really the story of the mystical and unmystical types. “No-Eyes” has fixed his attention on the fact that he is obliged to take a walk. For him the chief factor of existence is his own movement along the road; a movement which he intends to accomplish as efficiently and comfortably as he can. He asks not to know what may be on either side of the hedges. He ignores the caress of the wind until it threatens to remove his hat. He trudges along, steadily, diligently; avoiding the muddy pools, but oblivious of the light which they reflect.

“Eyes” takes the walk too: and for him it is a perpetual revelation of beauty and wonder. The sunlight inebriates him, the winds delight him, the very effort of the journey is a joy. Magic presences throng the roadside, or cry salutations to him from the hidden fields. The rich world through which he moves lies in the fore-ground of his consciousness; and it gives up new secrets to him at every step.

“No-Eyes,” when told of his adventures, usually refuses to believe that both have gone by the same road. He fancies that his companion has been floating about in the air, or beset by agreeable hallucinations. We shall never persuade him to the contrary unless we persuade him to look for himself.

—Evelyn Underhill, Practical Mysticism

This is the difference between really looking, really reflecting, really experiencing the world, and merely going about our business. Monet was on a walk with his wife and son, and “saw” through the ordinariness of it. Ironically, impressionism has always been thought to be about the “surface” of things – light reflected off surfaces, bright colors, and also “surfacy” subject matters such as high society walks through a garden. Yet I see what Evelyn Underhill, what Monet saw, a magic presence in the wind and in our consciousness of it.

Take a GoodMinute

If I am honest, do I act more like Eyes or No-Eyes?

Will today be a mystical or an unmystical day for me?

My Introduction to Atheism

The atheist’s way is a beautiful way, a truthful way, and it may very well prove to be the only way for our species to have a fighting chance for survival. —Eric Maisel, “The Atheists Way”

My first introduction to Atheism came from Eric Maisel’s The Atheists Way.

The book almost jumped off the shelf at me. I was curiously roaming around the bookstore, looking for something to study, something I hadn’t read before. I wanted something that would challenge me, speak to me where I was.

I was a pastor. I didn’t know what to think of it, but I was quite surprised. Its tone was not angry or belligerent. It simply made statements such as “we make our own meaning,” and “the atheist’s way is a beautiful way.” It also pointed out that in order for us to survive, we have to take the power of religious beliefs out of the hands of those who would kill and terrorize in its name.

While I didn’t subscribe to the argument at the time, I could see its logic, its validity as a frame of mind, for the first time. I was glad to read a book about it by someone who seemed calm, wise, and understanding. He articulated a moral universe to me, and led me to see at least the possibility of life without a god.

The Atheist’s Way opened the door for me to consider atheism more seriously, as a vehicle for living a happy, fulfilled life. I’m glad I read it, you should too.

A Surprising Read

A Surprising Read

When you hear the word “atheist” what comes to mind?

Where do you find meaning, beauty, and ultimate fulfillment?

I would love to hear your comments about The Atheists Way, and start a conversation about it on this blog!

Learn more about Eric Maisel and his work on depression and creativity

Related post: A Believing Atheist?