(1) Spiritual Parallels.
“. . . nothing that goes into a man from outside can defile him; no it is the things that come out of him that defile a man. . . . For from inside, out of a man’s heart, come evil thoughts, acts of fornication, of theft, murder, adultery, ruthless greed, and malice; fraud, indecency, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly; these evil things all come from inside, and they defile the man.” (Jesus, to his disciples, Mark 7:15; 21-23. New English Bible)
“That which is above is as that which is below. That which is within, is as that which is without.” (Pagan teaching, Raven Grimassi and Stephanie Taylor, A Traveler’s Guide to the Well Worn Path, Llewellyn Publications, 2005.)
The statement of Jesus is a concrete illustration of the Pagan concept. We make our realities from our inner beings.
From Confirmation 101 class: John Wesley’s first rule is, “Do no harm.” The Pagan Rede: “An it harm none, do as you will. (Grimassi and Taylor, Ibid.)
In Buffy the Vampire Slayer there is a character who identifies herself as a “techno-pagan.” I wondered if there were Christo-Pagans, and I found out that yes, there are Christo-Pagans.
A long-time friend and regular reader, responding to my idea about the meaning of growing up in last’ week’s blog (July 3), sent me this list from The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware: (1) I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. (2) I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. (3) I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. (4) I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. (5) I wish I had let myself be happier.
Each of these expressions of regrets indicates challenges that we might meet to live better lives.
(3) A Meditation Way: The Camelot Oracle by John Matthews; Illustrations by Will Worthington (Connections, 2012)
Matthews presents cards representing thirty-two characters from Arthurian legends and present archetypes they represent. Characters serve as guides and challengers as the readers choose them to guide and represent them on one of eight selected paths leading to a place in the legends. It’s a good way to examine one’s psyche and at the same time learn the mythology of Arthur.
(4) Nonfiction. Paris to the Pyrenees: A Skeptic Walks the Way of Saint James by David Downie; photography by Alison Harris; Pegasus Books, 2013.
The Way of Saint James is a pilgrimage route used for centuries. Today many walk segments, or the entire route, in France and in Spain. Downie and his wife Alison Harris walked from Paris. The book is Downie’s reflections about history and its connections with the present as they walk ancient Roman roads, visit pre-historic sites, travel by sites of the French resistance in World War II. He reflects on Vercingetorix, asking various Frenchmen to record the name to compare pronunciations, on Mitterand and his influences. Harris serves as a practical voice to his ruminations. At one point, she says, “You have an overwrought imagination.” I particularly enjoyed this (quoted directly):
On the way up to Pierreclos chateau, an address Lamartine knew well, we passed a variety store. There was Francois Mitterand again. He stared out at us from a rack of postcards, his head floating above the Roche de Solutre. “Popular image, that,” I said. “Do you have a feeling Francois Maurice Adrien Marie Mitterand has been following us?”
“Like Caesar and Vercingetorix?”
“Exactly. And Buddha. Funny, you haven’t mentioned Saint James.”
Those who enjoy word play will find it throughout; for example, “Beaune appetit” (section title) and “That the town’s first family would be admirers of Sherlock Holmes seemed elementary.” There are excellent character sketches of French characters and international travelers.
(5) Need. “. . . man must sail, humans must explore, travel, move on, and on. Mystery, adventure, a quest for understanding–each was fundamental to the human condition, the unknown equation.” (David Downie, From Paris to the Pyrenees)
(6) Fiction. The Last Refrain by John Abbott. Sweatshoppe Publications, 2013.
I was so impressed by the opening chapter of this excellent novel that I read it once again, thinking that this is excellent writing. My impression did not change throughout the book. Abbott skillfully uses third person limited narration to present each major character’s situations, thoughts, and feelings. The story recounts the events of a touring season of the blues/country/rock band, Red Shiloh, as they play a circuit of county fairs and at a few local bars in the Midwest. The member of the band write and perform music and try to earn their livings doing so. Focusing on two love triangles, Abbott shows the psychological challenges of the characters, who do what they must to provide meaning and happiness in their lives, including drug and alcohol abuse, running away, and lying. Abbott’s characterizations are convincing. We enjoy and care for these characters. We are happy in their successes and sympathetic for their shortcomings and failures. Abbott’s masterful use of vivid imagery allows us to experience memorable settings, particularly of a farm, county fairs, tents, local bars and diners, a seedy part of Chicago, the RV Gypsy Gal. I look forward to Abbott’s next novel.
(7) A Walk on a Summer’s Evening.
Only one block away from home a mockingbird tells me that his joyous singing will be just the introduction to summer delights that I look forward to on a forty-minute walk. He almost drowns out the sound of a weed eater and air conditioning units.
There are only two houses at which people sit on porches. From one a large woman waves, smiles, and greets me. On another, a family is enjoying laughing and bantering with one another.
Two blocks away from the railroad tracks an Amtrak train, three cars, speeds through town on the way north. I cross the railroad tracks soon afterward. Although they are surrounded by mud and puddles of water, they are hot from sun and trains.
At The Peoples Church, a young father kicks a soccer ball around with his three young children. They are near the statue of Jesus praying in the Garden.
A game of baseball and a game of soccer are in progress at the town fields, both teams made of children. At the baseball game, a man with a huge baritone voice yells encouragement and happiness at successes. Soccer players and coaches are quieter.
At an intersection I meet with a young couple. The husband is leading a beautiful German shepherd; the wife is pushing a stroller. I see that the baby is fast asleep.
Four boys have commandeered a section of one street and are making up a game with a football. I hear them talking about points. “If the ball goes through the tree, it’s two thousand points.” “How about if it hits the sidewalk?” “One thousand points.” They let me pass without kicking the ball to see where it will go. Three of them ignore me, but the smallest catches my eye, smiles, and says, “Hey.” “Hi,” I answer back. The other boys call to him to focus on going after the ball, wherever it lands, and as he gets back to action he yells, “All right,” turning his head and spitting into the yard, to show he is ready, to show his worth, I guess.
Two women are in the yard, looking at flower beds. They greet me and stop me for a chat. “All this rain, and that storm last night have beat down all of these flowers. When will this wet spell be over.” “How about that storm last night,” I said. “Awful. Thunder and lightning all night long and pouring rain. Did you hear it?” “Yes,” I said. It woke me several times.” “My dogs were scared half to death. But I managed to get some aspirin in them. The stuff the vet gave isn’t worth a durn, but the aspirins work. You know, it’s hotter today than I thought. I reckon you know, walking like you’re doing.” “I feel it when I stop. I’d best be going on. Nice to talk with you.”
I stop at the railroad tracks for a freight train bound to the north. There are two diesel engines and thirty-nine cars. I try to remember when I last counted cars on a long freight train.
I pass the ice cream shop downtown and almost go in for a single scoop cone, because it’s summer and, as Wallace Stevens said, “The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream.” But I didn’t. One night in the next month or so, I’ll buy a single scoop cone and sit on the bench at Highway 70 and watch traffic go by.
When I walk onto my porch, thinking I might enjoy the rocking chair for a while, I notice that I am wet with sweat. It’s a humid, hot evening.
Thank you for reading. I hope your week will be good.