Friday, May 30, 2008

Bunny Pic

Here he (or she) is:

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The Bunny is Safe!

Just in case you're interested, I was able to get the bunny safely to the wildlife rescue center. He (or she; turns out you can't tell until they're ready to mate!) is now in an incubator with another bunny of similar age. I've taken some pictures of both "our" bunny and some of the other animals at the center, and will post them later.

Huzzah! Looks like sometimes stories do have happy endings!

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More on the Bunny

I heard from the Walden's Puddle animal rehab a little over an hour ago. They've promised to take over caring for the bunny provided I can get him (her) to their doorstep by sometime around 4 this afternoon. I just checked out their website; looks like they have quite the opporation going on! One Ring and I are going to make a donation, too, in order to help pay for the expenses the bunny will incure.

In other news, I just finished the pesky article that was due last week. I have to drive out to Nashville now and suffer through some kind of "graduation" luncheon for those who have been tortured by boring ethics lectures and discussions. If it were not for the free food and my getting off work early, I would certainly be skipping this event. I'm also praying that I get some job offers soon, because I have to do this same thing next year if I stay for another residency!

I'm glad I'm leaving here in about 30 minutes. For some reason, my office is very hot. It's muggy and hot outside today, with a high supposedly reaching towards 90. I guess the A/C can't keep up. It's making me sleepy, though! Maybe I'll just sneak out even earlier . . . : )

More later, after I get done with the bunny rescue mission. I also have kung fu tonight, so it may be a while before I can blog some more.


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More Signs That Some People Have Too Much Time on Their Hands

I know lots of fans of the Harry Potter series of books and movies. But this guy goes way over the top. He's built Hogwarts - out of matchsticks!

Here's an article about the artist and his hobby.

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Bunny 911

Yesterday afternoon I came home, expecting to see nothing remaining of the three bunnies that Barney the Dog of Destruction found in our back yard. You may recall that one went flying over the fence, while the other two had softer landings in the flower bed in our front yard.

Well, I pulled in the driveway, softly praying, "Please, no bunnies; please no bunnies," because the thought of blind, hairless babies being outside defenseless all day - and still alive - was more than I wanted to deal with. I figured that I couldn't keep them alive, and that they were going to die eventually no matter what I did, so I was essentially praying all day that they would have a quick and painless death. But no.

Coming upon the front steps, there he (or she; I haven't checked) was: the last surviving bunny. Oh, crud! I thought. Now what?

I confess that I left him there (Barney was going nuts by the front door and I had an armload of groceries) and called One Ring. She suggested that I call Barney's vet and ask them. I did, and they promptly told me that the bunny was doomed and that nothing could be done to save him (her). Too young, they said. I just collapsed on the couch at that point and became a pathetic lump, angry at Barney and wishing I could do something to keep it comfortable.

Well, One Ring came home and took control. One look at the bunny and she went into action, setting up an artificial nest, calling the local wildlife rescue society, and preparing a mixture of Gatoraide and water. Several times last night she fed the little guy (or girl), and this morning he (or she) is alive and resting comfortably (at least it looks that way).

So the plan now is that she's going to call the wildlife rescue group (who will get a link and donations if they're very nice and helpful to us!) and set up a time for me to bring the bunny in. I'm only working a 3/4 day today, so that should give me enough time to head home, feed and take the bunny north of Nashville to the site.

One Ring also wants me to take some pictures of the critter and post them here. So I'll do that tonight.

This has been a truly bizarre situation, and as soon as things calm down maybe I'll be able to reflect on them. Not to say that this is the reason these events happened, but it's helped me to put some things into perspective.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sorry for the Lack of Posts

But I've been on vacation. And then this morning I was traumatized by my dog.

We had fun in Chattanooga, where my in-laws rented a cottage on top of Lookout Mountain. In case you don't know, Lookout Mountain is the home of several well known tourist attractions, such as Rock City (You know you're getting close because SEE ROCK CITY is on every barn within a 200 mile radius!) and Ruby Falls (announced by very large red billboards which also are everywhere within a 200 mile radius).

However, as One Ring and I are immune to advertising (especially gawdy advertising) we didn't go to either. We even skipped the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, which travels up and down the mountain at a 70+ degree incline (of course the trip takes less than 5 minutes and costs over $14). We did go to the Tennessee Aquarium, which was fantastic. I'll be posting some of the pictures from that and the other, really weird adventure we had (at the Dragon Museum!) later on when I download them from the camera.

But alas, for now I have to pretend to work. I'm over work. Really over work. And I have a full load of appointments starting at 1 and going until after 4 today. Plus grocery shopping on the way home. Well, maybe I'll pick up something nice for myself since I was so horrible scarred by this morning's bunny incident (can you tell I'm milking this for all it's worth?)! : )

Enjoy the day.

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I Am So Traumatized!

Today is my first day back from vacation. As such, I'm finding it extremely hard to motivate myself to do anything productive. Even though I have a class to teach in 45 minutes, a paper due last Friday (still not finished), and patients to visit, I don't feel like doing much. On top of that, my psyche has been deeply scarred.

This morning, while getting ready to leave the house, I heard Barney barking in our backyard. He was digging furiously at a spot up against the rear of our house. I didn't think anything of it until I heard a faint squeaking coming from the same area. So I went running out and found that our Dog of Destruction had found a rabbit nest, and three baby bunnies. They were so young, that their eyes still hadn't opened and their skin was completely fur less. Barney immediately grabbed one in his mouth and began his favorite game of "come and chase me!"

After several minutes of me screaming, Barney running, and the bunny squeaking, I finally caught him, freed the bunny, and tossed it over the fence, where I prayed that mother rabbit would soon find her young. Not knowing about the other two bunnies, I went back inside and proceeded to finish getting ready. Then I heard the doggy door slam.

Yep, there was Barney, tail wagging, yet another bunny in his mouth. This time the chase went all over the house, where I finally caught the dog on our bed when he dropped the bunny to catch his breath. This bunny I let loose in the front yard by the flower. No sooner had I done that, then Barney went out and picked up the last of the bunnies and returned to the house. Repeat chase scene.

When I left the house, one of the bunnies looked okay, the other two I have no idea about. I'm going to think positively and hope that mama bunny came back and saved the day. In all likelihood, though, the neighborhood cats are currently looking skyward and saying, "Thank you, God!"

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Friday, May 23, 2008

It's Away!

Last night One Ring and I mailed off my application for the VA positions. So now it's out of my hands. Of course, the whole exercise still seems for me a Quixotic task of tilting at windmills; the odds are that stacked against me. In fact, the scene from Star Wars comes to mind where the X-Wings are attacking the Death Star ("Did it go in?" One pilot asks another. "Negative. It just impacted on the surface!") But at least it's away and done and over with.

In other news, I'm wrapping up that pesky, equally meaningless paper that has been bugging me. I need to fire off a copy to my supervisor and then to the doctor who is behind this task. She keeps dangeling the carrot in front of us, promising us publication in some journal somewhere. But that's just not what I'm into.

Most people can't understand that. For them, getting anything published is a huge honor. You get the recognition of the community, the addition to the resume, and - I don't know - some sort of carnival prize, I guess. But for me, it's totally not necessary. To me, that's a game of the ego. Do it! Get published! Be respected and have people ooh and ahh, when you tell them that yes, you have been published. Thing is, my career doesn't focus on publishing, really. Don't need it; don't want it. If there wasn't a chance of me being here next year doing the same thing, I wouldn't care about pissing off the doctor who ordered the paper - it's a funding thing for my program. But since I may be here, I'm typing away.

Well, a meeting has just broken out in my office, so I'll post more later.

Peace out.

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I May Never Eat Out Again

MSN has compiled a list of the 20-odd most sodium laden restaurant dishes in America. Most contain 2 or even 3 times the daily allowance of the mineral, especially if you're like me and have been brainwashed to finish your plate at every meal! Go on, read the list, if you dare.

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Another Sign Rehab Might Help

Amy Winehouse, who is for all intents and purposes speeding down the road to self destruction, is scared. Not because her marriage is on the rocks, not because she's got a drug habit that would make Keith Richards wince, but because she thinks her house is haunted. She blames odd scratch marks on her arms and elsewhere on her body on an evil spirit named Henry. Never mind that she's been working with cats and rats on the set for a video. Would that cause scratches? No, never! Must be the ghosts!

The brain . . . it be pickled. If you are interested, here's the rest of the story.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Just As Predicted

The United Church of Christ (full disclosure - they're my peeps) was cleared by the Internal Revenue Service of charges that it crossed the line between church and state by having Sen. Barack Obama speak at its General Synod in Hartford, Conn. last summer.

Here's the full story found on the UCC's website.

Boo-to-the-Yah, baby! : )

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ah, Spirituality, That Great Quest to Nowhere

Just got back from meeting a patient who is having a minor spiritual crisis. In case you aren't familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous or N.A., there are several steps in the 12 step process. Mostly they involve identifying a higher power (God to most Western religions), and then working from there to establish a relationship that will give the addict a chance to begin recovery. But what do you do when you feel nothing? At least, nothing spiritual . . .

The problem was that this patient had a vague idea of what spirituality looked like, but he couldn't get there. Spiritual people? Oh, those are the guys who have all the answers. They're the ones who have the red phone to God, the ones who always walk around with that peaceful, dreamy look on their faces, and the ones who can help everyone else at all hours of the day and night. Or some B.S. like that.

That's right, it's B.S. Mainly because it can't be done. No one walks around with a starry-eyed, blissful look on his or her face all day long without a heavy dose of pharmaceuticals. And the red phone? Doesn't exist. No one has one, no matter how much they want to convince you otherwise. And don't even get me started on the whole available to save the world day or night. Superman, we most assuredly are not. There's a reason there's a high rate of breakdowns and depression among religious types, and it's not because we're mourning the suffering in the world - although that is a serious downer.

We spend all our lives running around looking for something, but we have no idea what it is. We give it names like "peace," "understanding," "enlightenment," or "faith." We spend tons of money travelling to supposed holy sites, most of which are cratered with bomb blasts because people are fighting over them (not very holy, then, are they?) trying to find something, anything, to make us feel different, closer, connected. And we come back feeling exactly the same as we did before we left. Even if we did feel something different while we were on that journey, it never lasts. The high ends, and the low is just as low as before, if not worse.

I told this particular patient that maybe he should put aside the spiritual quest for the time being. He's stuck here for a while, anyway, so any hope of travelling to shangri-la or wherever is out of the question. Rather, I suggested, maybe he should look for something that made him happy.

He said that it's been so long since he's been happy, that he didn't know what to do. Well, what better quest is there than to find happiness? Do something that makes you feel alive. Paint, dance, help people, work, play, write. Do something positive, even if you feel a little selfish or silly for doing it. Start there and see where you end up.

That, I think, is what it's all about, after all. Not travelling trying to find something that isn't there. It's right here, right now, in this place. Spirituality is a state of mind, where you're locked into living in the moment doing something that brings health and wholeness to yourself and those around you. Don't complicate it by trying to be something you're not. That's a sure fire way to make yourself miserable, not spiritual. And don't try to base your spirituality on someone else's. You can't fit into a cookie cutter, and neither can your spirit. That's just silly, but it never fails to amaze me how many books and tapes come out each year telling us exactly the opposite.

As it is written in Philippians, Chapter 2:12-13, "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."

Or, as the Buddha said a few hundred years earlier, "Work out your salvation with diligence!"

Or even, as Joseph Camblell told his students long before he wrote The Power of Myth, "Follow your bliss." Same difference.

As I was writing this, I found myself thinking of a song that appears in the movie Pink Floyd: The Wall. So I leave you with that, as an example of our current state of post-modern existence:

What shall we use to fill the empty spaces
Where waves of hunger soar?
Shall we set out across this sea of faces?
In search of more and more applause?
Shall we buy a new guitar?
Shall we drive a more powerful car?
Shall we work straight through the night?
Shall we get into fights?
Leave the lights on?
Drop bombs?
Do tours of the east?
Contract diseases?
Bury bones?
Break up homes?
Send flowers by phone?
Take to drink?
Go to shrinks?
Give up meat?
Rarely sleep?
Keep people as pets?
Train dogs?
Race rats?
Fill the attic with cash?
Bury treasure?
Store up leisure?
But never relax at all
With our backs to the wall.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Cuteness to End a Rough Day


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So What Do You Do When You Meet The Anti-Christ . . .

. . . and he turns out to be your patient?

So here's the deal. I was doing one of those pesky spiritual assessments earlier today. I figured that it would go just like the other thousands that I have done since coming on board here. Three questions, thanks for coming, make an appointment for follow up if nececssary or desired. That's it.

Not this time.

This guy is just radiating anger. No, not anger. Rage. He doesn't even give me a chance to ask a question. He just starts off by telling me what a great Christian he is and how God's going to get him through his situation. I've heard that before, so I make a note and keep going. Then he gets to the world around him. And he just goes off.

Over the next 40 minutes (He took me into overtime!) this guy attacks African-Americans, women, the gay community, his mother, his ex, his father, his fellow patients, the doctors, and pretty much everyone else he met over the course of his forty year life span. Honestly, I have never met someone filled with that much hatred. Throw a hood and a robe on him, and he would have been right at home at the local Klan rally.

So I challenged him. You're Christian, so what about Christ's commandment to love your neighbor? "They're not my neighbors!" he spat back.

Your enemies, then, I respond. "I'm not fighting them!"

You're supposed to love everyone, I say, getting up in his face. EVERYONE. No exceptions. How does that make you feel?

"I need to pray," he said.

Score one for the good guys. I thought. But God forgive me, I really just wanted to beat the guy to a pulp. I mean, this guy was attacking my family! He didn't know that he was going after my people, but I don't think that knowledge would have made much of a difference. And then he was saying that he wanted to settle down and start a family of his own! Sorry, chum, but I really don't want you spreading that kind of hatred by way of the gene pool.

Guess I need to pray, too.

I'm going home. I'm on empty.


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A Combination of Some of My Favorite Things!

Several hours later, I managed to get my application in to the hospice center. Now I just have to make it to the interview and convince them that it would be in their best interest to hire me (or else! Arrrrr!). I have a headache that I used to believe was caused by sinus pain, but now have come to believe (thanks to Dr. Malkovich of my local Sears Vision Center - "There's more for your %*$&@^@%$% life at Sears!") that the glasses that I've been wearing for 2 years are the incorrect prescription. The moral of this story is, DON'T GO TO WAL-MART FOR EYE CARE!

In other news, I've just come across a paper model I absolutely must make. It combines some of my favorite things!

Giant Japanese robots and pirates!

This thing just radiates silliness, and will be perfect for my desk at work.

Yes, I feel like I've gone completely around the bend mentally. But that's what happens when you fight with a computer for two hours while simultaneously trying to get information regarding the number of veterans who seek treatment for addictions and happen to be over the age of 60.

Is it time to go home yet?

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A Brief Recap of A Hectic Weekend

Plus a bit of current event craziness.

First off, I'm currently trying to fill out an application for a hospice position that has just opened up. As with all chaplain positions out here, the water is already red with blood and would be chaplains are in a frenzy trying to be the first to catch the eye of the HR department over there. I sent my resume last week, talked to the HR people Thursday and today, and am now trying to fill out an online application. The problem?

For some reason, the internet connection here is not letting me get to that particular page!!!! Let's see, I can blog from work, surf the net from work, go shopping from work, download mp3s of flippin' Buddhist chants if I want, but to visit a hospice application website? Oh, noooooooo. I have no idea what the problem is, but Internet Explorer and Mozilla are both unable to get the thing running. The only problem I can think of is that either the site is down on their end, or that there is a block for just the application section of the hospice site on my end. Grrrrr.

Aside from that, today is also paper writing day. I absolutely must get that rediculous two page, single space, suitable for publication in an online journal article done by Friday. And since the boss isn't here and I only have two commitments today, one I might skip, today is the day that it needs to get done.

Other events that may get mentioned during dull moments of the day: I had an eye exam from a doctor who seemed to go to the John Malkovich school of acting; went to kung fu class; One Ring sang in church; the mala that I ordered arrived on Saturday; and I wish I could be somewhere else at the moment. That and I had a bout of depression that sidelined me for most of the weekend. Oh, well. Such is the stuff of life.

Okay, back to attacking the paper and the internet.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

This Woman is Considered Too Fat!

By the clothing design industry, that is. Teenage model Alexandra Michael also says that her hair is falling out in clumps, she hasn't had her period in over a year, and suffering from extremely low energy levels. All of those are signs of severe malnutrition, by the way. And she's not alone. The modeling industry is continuing to hold onto its opinions that the "waif look" is what people find attractive (I sure don't!) and what sells. Thing is, though, the waifs are falling ill, suffering from eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia and, in some cases, dying. By way of comparison, "The average American woman is 5-foot-4 and weighs 163 pounds. The average supermodel is between 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-11 and weighs no more than 125 pounds." You can read the rest of the article here.

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Happy National Sea Monkey Day!

No, I'm not going to expand on that topic more. I just wanted to be one of the few people in this country to say it!

Life in Casa de V.A. has been hectic. I still haven't written that paper that supposedly was due today; we had a reprieve and are now being told that it's due next week. I'm not excited about it at all. If I wanted to do research I'd be getting another Master's or a Ph.D.! But we do what we have to do to get by. After that, life is what you make of it.

Speaking of life, yesterday was One Ring and my 9th anniversary. We went out to dinner and tried to remember what we did on previous anniversaries. One Ring could remember all but one; I remembered once I was reminded by One Ring what we did! But she knew my memory was bad when she married me, so I'm not feeling that guilty. 'sides, it's been 9 years! Prior to this, I considered myself lucky if I could make a relationship last 3 months!

In other news, One Ring wants another dog - a Dachshund. She's found a couple on rescue sites, and is thinking of making inquiries. I'm not as confident about this as she is, but if I get a better job, we'll certainly be able to afford another (small) mouth to feed.

Speaking of jobs, I heard from the hospice firm yesterday afternoon, and they're supposed to call me back today. We'll see what happens. In a strange, ironic twist, this hospice firm does a lot of work with the non-profit where I used to work. Fortunately, my complaints regarding that non-profit disappeared when my previous blog bit the dust. So if I do get hired, my level of awkwardness won't be as great.

Also, Whirling Dervish got an out of the blue offer from a United Methodist Camp in Western Tennessee. He's still trying to feel out what the work entails, and whether or not he'd be happy doing camp ministry, but it's better than working at a certain bookstore I could mention! I hope it turns out well for him. He's too talented and spiritual a person to waste his time doing non-religious work.

In still other news, I finally broke down and ordered a mala from a firm that donates some of its proceeds to the Free Tibet movements. It's called DarmaShop. They have a wide selection of Tibet and Buddhist related items. I'll probably shop there again in the future. I want to pick up a "Free Tibet" shirt to wear during the Olympics.

So why did I buy a mala? Well, although I finally made one that fits well and serves the purpose, I'm still not satisfied with the way it came out. And after spending $15 or so on supplies, only to discover that most of the supplies are made in China (oh, the cruel irony!), I figured that I had to do something for Tibet to balance things out. Plus, I felt the need for retail therapy yesterday. So there!

I don't want to work! But, alas, I have to. So I'm off for now. Long, painful ethics case meeting at 11, floor work before that, and then I'm taking Whirling Dervish out to lunch for his birthday.

So more later.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Religious Wackiness in My Backyard

NPR has an article today about the propsed Bible theme park slated for development in Rutherford County, Tennessee. Called by its detractors "Six Flags Over Jesus," the park's promoters are promised over $100 million dollars in revenue for the county over the next 25 years. I'm thinking it won't last 25 years, especially considering the past Bible theme parks that have been built and have long since closed down. PTL, anyone?

Anyway, it's a good article, and has pictures of propsed rides and attractions. I don't see my idea, though - the "Lost in the Wilderness for 40 years" Crazy Mouse rollercoaster!

You can get to the article through this Link.

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That Was Weird

I have no idea why that last post came out looking so weird. Hope the odd typesetting doesn't keep anyone from reading the article; it's well worth your time, in my humble opintion.

Okay, I've got about ten minutes before I have to head over to my class. Today's topic is spiritual disciplines and techniques. Fortunately, I've got this one down and memorized, so despite only having about four hours of sleep last night, I should be okay. Hopefully the rest of the day will treat me kindly.

Also, I just got a lead on a job opening at a hospice firm in Nashville. Wish me luck!


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More on Science, Religion, and Spirituality

Last night, One Ring and I attended a wonderful discussion on Joseph
Campbell's The Power of Myth. Great book, by the way. Buy it. Now.
Anyway, the topic was entitled "Masks of Eternity," and covered
Campbell's idea that the religions of the world are created metaphors
for the ultimate reality (here even God is a metaphor) that words and
ideas cannot describe. It was a really eye-opening and mind-expanding
discussion, one that unfortunately I cannot transcribe here (my memory
is bad on specifics). Suffice to say that it left us feeling open to
the fact that "The Truth" is contained in just about every religion -
and I say just about because there's always somewhackadoodle (that's a
technical term) cult out there that claims to have "The Truth" - and
conflict begins when we make our metaphors concrete facts. As in "My
God is real and yours isn't. My text is sacred and yours isn't. I'm
right and you're wrong." We see that going on now in the fight between
some Christians andMuslims, Muslims and Jews, and within Christianity and Islam.

With that in mind, One Ring sent me an article that one of her professors
passed on to her and her classmates. It's an op-ed piece from the New
York Times. Enjoy.

May 13, 2008Op-Ed Columnist The Neural Buddhists By DAVID BROOKS In
1996, Tom Wolfe wrote a brilliant essay called "Sorry, but Your Soul
Just Died," in which he captured the militant materialism of some
modern scientists.

To these self-confident researchers, the
idea that the spirit might exist apart from the body is just
ridiculous. Instead, everything arises from
atoms. Genes shape temperament. Brain chemicals shape
behavior.Assemblies of neurons create consciousness. Free will is an
illusion.Human beings are "hard-wired" to do this or that. Religion isan accident.

In this materialist view, people perceive God's existence because their
brains have evolved to confabulate belief systems. You put a magnetic
helmet around their heads and they will begin to think they are having
spiritual epiphany. If they suffer from temporal lobe epilepsy, they
will show signs of hyper religiosity, an over excitement of the brain
tissue that leads sufferers to believe they are conversing with God.

Wolfe understood the central assertion contained in this kind of thinking:
Everything is material and "the soul is dead." He anticipated the way
the genetic and neuroscience revolutions would affect public debate.
They would kick off another fundamental argument over whether God

Lo and behold, over the past decade, a new group of
assertive atheists has done battle with defenders of faith. The two
sides have argued about whether it is reasonable to conceive of a soul
that survives the death of the body and about whether understanding the
brain explains away or merely adds to our appreciation of the entity
that created it.

The atheism debate is a textbook example of
how a scientific revolution can change public culture. Just as "The
Origin of Species" reshaped social
thinking, just as Einstein's theory of relativity affected art,so the
revolution in neuroscience is having an effect on how people seethe

And yet my guess is that the atheism debate is going to
be a sideshow.The cognitive revolution is not going to end up
undermining faithin God, it's going end up challenging faith in the Bible.

Over the past several years, the momentum has shifted away from hard-core
materialism. The brain seems less like a cold machine. It doe snot
operate like a computer. Instead, meaning, belief and consciousness
seem to emerge mysteriously from idiosyncratic networks of neural
firings. Those squishy things called emotions play a gigantic role in
all forms of thinking. Love is vital to brain development.

Researchers now spend a lot of time trying to understand universal moral
intuitions. Genes are not merely selfish, it appears. Instead, people
seem to have deep instincts for fairness, empathy and attachment.

Scientists have more respect for elevated spiritual states. Andrew Newberg
of the University of Pennsylvania has shown that transcendent
experiences can actually be identified and measured in the brain
(people experience a decrease in activity in the parietal lobe, which
orients us in space). The mind seems to have the ability to transcend
itself and merge with a larger presence that feels more real.

This new wave of research will not seep into the public realm in the form
of militant atheism. Instead it will lead to what you might call neural
Buddhism. If you survey the literature (and I'd recommend books byNewberg, DanielJ. Siegel, Michael S. Gazzaniga, Jonathan Haidt, Antonio Damasio and Marc D. Hauser if you want to get up to speed), you can see that certain beliefs will spread into the wider discussion.

First, the self is not a fixed entity but a dynamic process of relationships.
Second, underneath the patina of different religions,people around the
world have common moral intuitions. Third, peopleare equipped to
experience the sacred, to have moments of elevated experience when they
transcend boundaries and overflow with love.Fourth, God can best be
conceived as the nature one experiences atthose moments, the unknowable total of all there is.

In their arguments with Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins,
the faithful have been defending the existence of God. That was the
easy debate. The real challenge is going to come from people who feel
the existence of the sacred, but who think that particular religions
are just cultural artifacts built on top of universal human traits.
It's going to come from scientists whose beliefs overlap a bit with

In unexpected ways, science and mysticism are joining hands and reinforcing each other. That's bound to lead to new movements that emphasize self-transcendence but put little stock in divine law or revelation. Orthodox believers are going to have to
defend particular doctrines and particular biblical teachings. They're
going to have to defend the idea of a personal God, and explain why
specific theologies are true guides for behavior day to day. I'm not
qualified to take sides, believe me. I'm just trying to anticipate
which way the debate is headed. We're in the middle of a
scientific revolution. It's going to have big cultural effects.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Think Hallmark Has A Card for This?

May 16th is National Sea Monkey Day!

The really scary thing is that if this is an "official" national day, someone in Congress had to write a bill and run it through the legislative process. And then we wonder why our country is in the shape it is!

For more information, you can get to the site of the biggest Sea Monkey fan in the world here!

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Monday, May 12, 2008

I Know My Wife's From Alabama, But . . .

I have to bring this up.

Undead Backbrain, on its top 20 list of giant monsters, mentions the Wawa, the creature featured in the indie film Birth of a Legend: The Story of the Wawa. The write up says that it's a monster formed from irradiated fishing lures creating havoc with catfish DNA. WAWA, the article goes on to say, stands for "West Alabama Whoop Ass." Unbelievably, this film was a finalist at the Appalacian Independent Film Festival. To see the trailer, visit the official site here. And it's out on DVD now for only $13.95!

For the record, One Ring's family is NOTHING like the people depicted in this film!

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Talk About Giving Them the Finger!

Kung fu master in Malaysia wants to retire after years of splitting
coconuts with his index finger. And he's surprised to find out that no one wants to pick up where he leaves off!

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Friday, May 9, 2008

The Bell Witch is Honored

Well, the place where she supposedly hung out, anyway. The Bell Witch Cave, in Adams, Tennessee, has just been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Here's the article announcing the recognition.

Just a warning, though. Most of the places surrounding the cave where the witch in question - although there is a lot of contradiction as to whether or not an actual witch was involved, or if the entity was more of a ghost or demonic spirit - did her thing is private property. So be sure to check in with the locals and go on an official tour, just to keep yourself on the right side of the law.

If you're interested in one interpretation of the events surrounding the Bell Witch, I suggest the movie An American Haunting. It's a fictional movie - shoot the whole story of the Bell Witch is probably fictional! - but it's a well done film that has some very scary moments. There's plenty of books on the topic, too.

I was hoping to get out there last year to see the site. Who knows, maybe this year. I believe tours begin in June, so that might make for a fun day trip this summer.

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I Want!

We've been getting a lot of rain lately. As in tons. Last year we were in a massive drought, and this year the mosquitos have their pick of huge, muddy puddles in which to lay their eggs. Even worse, the rain is causing my lawn to grow at a record rate, and since my lawn is mostly weeds, our house is in danger of being overrun in a really ugly way.

That's why I want this.

This is the LawnBott LB3500, a bluetooth programable robotic lawnmower that will clean up my lawn in on a single charge. Guidewires keep it from running away.

I wonder if it can be programmed to chase cats . . .

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Daylight Come and I Want to Go Home!

I just got done conducting a "Blessing of the Hands" service. Never heard of it? Well, neither had I until three or so days ago. Basically it's designed to ask for the hands of health care providers to be blessed so that they are better able to serve the patients and community. I think it went pretty well, if I do say so myself. I did manage to burn my finger while trying to light a candle, though. Fortunately, there were plenty of nurses on hand!

I have about fifteen minutes until I can make a run for my car and leave here. I'm totally exhausted. I think I've finally gotten over my chest cold, but energy wise I'm drained. I feel like all I've done all day is walk and walk and walk around this hospital. I know it's good for me, but I need some energy. I'm teaching this week's section on Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth at my church tonight (The section on "Love and the Goddess," in case you're interested). I don't think they'd appreciate it if I fell asleep during the DVD portion of the exercise!

I'd bore you to tears by giving a lengthy essay on what Campbell says about the topic, but I'm too beat. Go buy the book. It's well worth every penny. If you're used to thinking about religion in concrete terms (as in, you believe in a literal / historical virgin birth, resurrection, and so forth) you'll be seriously challenged by the text. I know I was, and it sent me into a spiral when I first read it while in college. But today it's one of my favorite books, and reading it has helped me to appreciate not only my own faith journey, but the journeys and beliefs of others as well. So buy it, read it, and let me know what you think. Deal?

I'm going home. Peace.

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Good Thing I Don't Live in England!

It seems they don't much care for seeing the Jolly Roger flying out there! In fact, A father got into some legal trouble by flying the flag for his child's pirate themed birthday party. Apparently it's against the law to fly any flag outside of the Union Jack without a special permit - which comes at a cost of 95 pounds (roughly $180!). The flag, by the way, is only worth $10. You can read the full story here.

Now if he was a true pirate, the government wouldn't dare mess with his colors! Arrrrrr!

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

End of the Day Thoughts on Life and Religious Study

I received an email last night from my old (as in I haven't seen him in years - no offense meant!) spiritual director. I trained under him and several other directors at the Virginia Institute for Spiritual Direction. It's now just a retreat center, but I was there for two years studying under those whom I believe are the best and brightest in the art of spiritual direction. Not to mention that my spiritual director helped me through some very rough spots when I was working in a fairly dysfunctional (okay - very dysfunctional!)church.

Following the election of the new Pope, my spiritual director decided to leave the Catholic church. It was a very hard and personal decision, but was in part based on the swing of the theological pendulum towards conservativism and the apparent rolling back of the Vatican II reforms. For reasons that are unknown to me, he chose to pursue the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Although I continued to see him for a while after that, some changes in my life and my career necessitated that we part company, although I have nothing but respect for the man and his faith journey. As far as I'm concerned, if he says he's on to something, he's definitely on to something!

As my interests gradually turned away from the church, having become more and more unhappy with the church's climbing more and more into bed with the political machine (okay, granted this has been happening since the years between 313 and 325, when the Roman Emporer Constantine converted to Christianity), I began to think more and more of my spiritual director and his decision to adopt what in this day and time seems to be a counter cultural life. Add to that my growing interest in the situation in Tibet and hopes for that country's eventual freedom and I finally decided to email him and ask him for his advice.

So here's his thoughts. One, he advised me to stay "in the closet" so to speak in terms of my religious and spiritual wanderings. Wise advice, being that I'm struggling to get the denomination's approval as I attempt to get the chaplain job! He also suggested that I keep a low profile in Buddhist circles - small population in this area, so new people stand out. And then he pointed out a correspondence course that costs more than I can afford. Sigh.

Then I figured I'd go to one of the Tibetan centers that he recommended in my area and check it out. However, there's a guy I work with - a Buddhist - whom I'm not too fond of. The guy just has a way of ticking me off. In my opinion, he acts very un-Buddhist, seeming to enjoy singing his own praises about what a good job he's done, and so forth. So I figured I better find out where he hung out, so as to avoid embarrassing moments and potential career hazards.

Fired off an email, only to find out that yes, he goes to the same place my spiritual director recommended. Grrrr. One Ring says that I should check the place out anyway, that it would be the same as if there was someone who irritated me at the church we attend (and there is). Just go and see. I'm not too sure.

We'll see. I have to admit that I'm curious as to what goes on there. And I enjoy the act of wandering, experiencing various religious traditions - from attending a Passover Seder with Jewish friends to sitting in a Zazen session to participating in a Catholic Mass. It's a beautiful thing, to see the underlying similarities and honor the differences; to see what thousands of years of experiencing the holy has done in terms of creating the religions of the world. It doesn't mean that I agree with everything I've seen, but it does mean that I appreciate and feel humbled to be able to participate in them. And I find that, in coming away from these experiences, I'm rooted more strongly in my own faith, even if it also means that I'm simultaneously alienated from other religions.

The end of the day is upon me now, and I'm happy to be preparing to go home. I'm exhausted - so much so that I'm not even sure the last paragraph I wrote makes sense! So I'm calling it a day and heading home.


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Ugh and Other Updates

Ugh. It's a nice word. Has a lot of theological connotations, too. In fact, I can use it as a response to just about any situation. Bad news? Ugh. More (and unexpected) work? Ugh. Having to write an article that's due next week with such proficiency that it will be of publishable quality? Ugh and ugh again.

Today I had time to take my first real look at that assignment. Mind you, I've known about it for months - I've just been too focused on applying for the permanent position to care much. But now the deadline is looming, and somehow I have to make my rouch sketch of a topic bloom into an object d'art. Fun, fun. The good news is that the articles size is limited to two pages. So far I'm thinking of talking about my spiritual assessment methods when working with older (65 years and up) patients in the substance abuse program. We'll see how it goes.

In other news, I still have my chest cold. I tell people it's Tuberculosis.

I finished version 2.0 of my mala bracelet, and this time there was success! Behold the beauty of my craftsmanship!

I used the leftover beads from attempt #1, and added the miniature seashells. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to use the cord I purchased, and had to settle for leftover embroidery thread from my cross stitching days. Which basically means that the structure of the mala is a tad weaker than the old one. But it fits!

I also picked up a miniature pre-made tassel from the home decor section (a part of the craft store where I REALLY feel out of place!) and attached it to the bottom area. I'm not sure what they represent on the "real" malas, but they're there, and I wanted one, so there you go.So this was my excursion into crafts this past week. Quick and painless enough to keep my ADD - addled attention, yet long enough to be a good meditative process. And, even better, it serves a function as a meditative tool. As I mentioned when I made the first mala, they work about the same as a Catholic Rosary, in that prayers or mantras may be said for every bead. I included the shells for a couple of reasons. One, they remind me of the whelk shells that wash up on the shore of my hometown. And two, there are three of them, which can represent either the trinity in Christian thought, or the Buddha, Dharma (teachings), and Sangha (community of faith) in Buddhist thought.

Well, I'd love to write more, but my boss is here in the office with me, and I need to actually get off my butt and go visit some patients. Sigh! It's hard to work when the life has been sucked out of you by a long series of meetings!


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Monday, May 5, 2008

More on the Obama / McCain Preacher Thing

One Ring just emailed me, letting me know that Bill Moyers has an essay up which lends even more fuel to the understanding (and I agree with this) that Sen. Obama's distancing himself from Rev. Wright while Sen. McCain can cozy up to Rev. Hagee and Rev. Pat Robertson without concern has more to do with race and politics than the religious sensibilities of our nation.

You can read Moyers' essay here.

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Okay Now That Obama has Distanced Himself From Rev. Wright

Will Sen. McCain rebuff his big religious supporter, the Rev. John Hagee?

Although Rev. Wright is a member of my denomination, and speaks out of the Black Liberation Theology movement, I agree that some of the things he said over the last couple of weeks are inflamatory. Most of those comments, which came from his presentation at the National Press Club, can be found on YouTube (I can't access YouTube from work, so you're on your own there). But even his wildest stuff - such as claiming the U.S. Government created AIDS to conduct biologcial warfare on its own people - can compare to what Hagee is saying.

Among Hagee's "greatest hits":

The Roman Catholic church, which he calls "The Great Whore," thirsts for the blood of the Jewish people.

The Koran commands Muslims to kill Jews and Christians.

Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans because God wanted to stop a Gay Pride parade scheduled for the next day.

The Holocaust came about because Jews were disobedient to God.

Fun, fun. My personal favorite is his ongoing work with Christians United for Israel. Under the guise of being a pro - Israel fundraising group that fosters a better relationship between Jews and Christians, Hagee is actually operating under a much different belief. According to the beliefs of the evangelical right, the nation of Israel must engage in a war with its Arab neighbors and take back all of its land - in other words, expanding its territory to it's Biblical boarders. From there, after everyone is involved in the Battle of Armageddon, Jesus returns, and the Jews will be converted to Christianity. So CUFI's role isn't so much a charity for the nation of Israel; it's an attempt to set them up for slaughter so a certain prophetic (and not really scriptural, I might add) belief of how the end of the world is going to play out can occur.

So, again I ask the question: If Sen. Obama has to do this song and dance to distance himself from Rev. Wright, why isn't Sen. McCain doing the same over his relationship with Rev. Hagee?

In case you're interested, here's a much better written editorial from the New York Times.

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If An Oil Producing Nation Wants to Do This . . .

why can't we?

This morning, on my drive in to work, I heard on NPR that Abu Dhabi, a small nation of about a million people who are sitting on roughly 10% of the world's oil reserves, has decided to do something about carbon emissions. They plan on building a small city which will hold about 50,000 people - a city that will not have any carbon footprint whatsoever.

So my question is, if we, as one of the planet's largest global consumers, can't get our act together and move towards sustainable energy and ecological friendly policies (if I hear one more ad for "clean coal" I'm going to scream. That's an oxymoron, folks, along the lines of "jumbo shrimp" and "military intelligence!"), why can't we at least be moderately interested when another country - an oil producing country, no less - is? Thus far, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is, but it doesn't seem like many other groups in the U.S. are. Which strikes me as very, very sad.

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Friday, May 2, 2008

Now This is Cool

I just saw on the International Campaign for Tibet website that the Commonwealth of Virginia is now issuing license plates that support the Tibetan independance movement. Here's what they look like:

Who would have thought that Virginia would be one of the first states to do this??? Way to go! Makes me very proud of my former home.

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H.P. Doesn't Mean Hewlett-Packard

Yesterday I gave my weekly spirituality lecture to the patients in the substance abuse program. Some listened, some slept - in short, it was an ordinary day. Later, though, one of the guys took issue with my use of the term Higher Power (which I write on the board as "HP") as a generic term for the Divine.

I tried to explain that it was necessary since we serve a diverse community with diverse religious beliefs. He retorted that he was tired of political correctness and since this country is a Christian country founded by Christians on Christian values (whatever that means), I should solely be using God and Jesus terminology. If the other patients feel uncomfortable, tough cookies. They can convert or deal.

Yep, yet another example of Christian compassion and love coming from the religous right. Ironically, this is the exact same thing that we hear from all religious extremists. I'm right, you're wrong, and if you want to see how wrong you are, just take a look at my sacred text right here. See? It says you're wrong, and since God wrote this, you need to convert or burn.

Okay, he didn't go that far, but he wasn't that far afield. The problem is, though, that this belief does not coexist well with the reality of my work and my experience. And for the purposes of spirituality, Higher Power, although very ambiguous, fits well. Specific religious doctrines, when voiced in a pluralistic setting, don't always have the desired effect, especially when one is trying to help a very wounded community which has members who aren't sure if they believe in anything, let alone what they believe.

When I meet with a patient, I meet that person where he or she is, religiously speaking. At least, I do my best to try. If the patient is an atheist, I try to find out how they came to that point in life. If the patient has religious views that differ from my own, I work to find out how I can be a resource and a companion in his or her journey. In the rare case the individual comes from a background similar to my own, I do the same. As one chaplain pointed out, "I'm not in sales. I'm in customer support." I love that line, and use it to reassure patients that I'm not going to hit them over the head with the heavy Bible (though there are a few I wish I could bonk on the head!).

The message I try to convey is that religions are tools, concrete in nature, that we use to get in touch with the Divine. Spirituality is the relationship that is formed through the use of those tools. Both are needed, so the term "spiritual but not religious" is really a fallicy. You might not attend organized religious services for one reason or another, but I guaruntee that the spiriaulity you hold dear is supported by actions (disciplines such as prayer, reading of scriptures, etc.) that you picked up by becoming involved in a religious system.

Wow, that was a rant. And imagine, I said all that without going off on the whole "America is a Christian country founded by Christians on Christian values" thing. It wasn't. Get over it. Read The Jefferson Bible (written by Thomas Jefferson, by the way), if you believe. that he thought the same way that modern evangelical Christians think.

Back to work. More later.

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

New Craft Project

Some time ago, I saw a Buddhist wearing a bracelet made of beads. It looked somewhat like a rosary. I thought it looked kinda neat, and so did some research and found out that they are called "Malas" and actually may have been the source of the modern Christian rosary beads.

So I decided that I needed one, but that I would rather make one than simply order one off the Internet. Well, yesterday I went out to the craft store after work and bought the beads and other stuff. Last night, after One Ring and I came home from our Wednesday church meeting (discussing Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth), I set to work in putting it together and came up with a sort of rough draft:

Anywho, there are 27 beads in this one (there are 108 beads in a full Mala, and any reduction "has to" have some number that can factor into 108 - of course, I'm not one to follow rules, necessarily). The next one I make - thankfully there are enough leftover materials that I can do another one - will have 18, as this one is waaaaay too large for my wrist. I'll probably keep the seashell motif as they serve as my connection to the ocean on a literal and metaphorical level. I also want to add a tassel to the clasp area on the back end, as all of the "official" ones I've seen made by Buddhists seem to have one. Plus they just look better, in my humble opinion.

By the way - and as I look at the clock I see that yet another patient is late for his appointment - Grrr.

(30 minutes later) Well, the patient came and left. Sorry for the break there.

I think I was about to talk about the use of the Mala. Actually it works the same as a rosary. You run the beads through your fingers - here the index finger, representing the ego, is extended and is not allowed to touch the beads - saying a mantra or prayer as you pause on each bead. The larger bead - in my case a shell - is called the "guru" bead, and either a different mantra / prayer can be used or everything can be kept the same. The mantra I have been using is the famous (relatively speaking) one from The Heart Sutra, "Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi, svaha." That roughly translates as, "Gone. Gone. Gone beyond. Gone completely beyond. Awakening. So let it be." Basically it is a reminder of impermanence, a key belief of Buddhism and Hinduism.

So this has been my spiritual exercise of the last several days, and I have to say I find it rewarding.

Well, the day is about to get crazy, as I have several meetings and assessments to do. At least it will make the day go faster. Peace.

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It Really Is A Small World After All

I have a six-year-old niece, Bug, who is heavily into the Miley Cyrus / Hannah Montana craze. Unfortunately, in keeping with the image of the fun-loving, goofy uncle image, this requires that I keep up to date on the Disney pop star so I can keep the Bug supplied with gear when birthdays and Christmas roll around. So it is that I have had to witness the 15-year-old's entry into a sexualized media frenzy and begin what could easily end up as a Britney Spears-esque crash and burn scenario. Disney took one on the chin, and Cyrus has done all she can, it seems, to apologize and backpedal as parents are now worried about the influence this will have on their own children's behavior ("Mommy, can I have a web cam and post pics on MySpace just like Hannah Montana?")

But for Disney, this might be the lesser of their worries. In China, there are worse photos out there than the art shots that Cyrus had made.

Recently Daniel Brook, a reporter for Slate Magazine, saw this photo on a billboard in Beijing:

Brook took this photo, then contacted Disney spokeswoman Patti McTeague (Brook was doing a story on how Westerners are seen in the eyes of the Chinese people). McTeague forwarded the message and photo on to Gary Foster, a spokesperson for the Consumer Products Division of Disney. While he acknowledged that the underwear the model is wearing is indeed a Disney product, as are the hand puppets, Disney did not authorize the billboard. He says that a licensed subsidiary Shanghai Zhenxin Garments Co. Ltd., should have cleared all advertising with Disney before hand, but obviously did not. Disney does not approve of reclining preteens wearing underwear in its ads.

Brooks mentions that part of the reason that the licensee may have gone ahead with the ad without asking permission is that the age of consent in China is 14, as opposed to 18 in California (where Disney is based). 14 - yes, you read that right.

So not only would Miley Cyrus' photos not be shocking over there, she probably would have done this years ago!

By the way, you can read Brook's article here.

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