Archive for the ‘holidays’ Category

On a visit last week to Fort Lauderdale, I visited the Butterfly Garden with my wife and daughter. The weather was on the warmer side, the sun shone brightly, and the butterfly aviaries were a delight. We spent a few hours walking through the extensive property made up of a small bridge over a well manicured pond, colorful plant life and trees, and, of course, quite a few separate aviaries dedicated to diverse species of butterflies and one set aside for hummingbirds.

The best part of the experience was to sit quietly on a bench surrounded by tens of butterflies and letting them settle on my arms and clothing. Fortunately, the aviaries were not crowded with people so it was easy to sit for a while and appreciate the amazingly rich array of color and patterns. These are among the most fragile of life forms but few are as inspiring. Just before Easter, they served as a marvelous metaphor for resurrection and rebirth given the metamorphosis from caterpillar to taking flight on breathtaking wings ranging from pure white to spotted, turquoise, various pastels, full yellow, and a striking red and black variety ( see the picture above).

It is hard to imagine  being anxious (barring phobias) in such spaces. A sense arises of the inter-connection of all things. What a privilege it is to be conscious and able to savor for days weeks and months to come the experience of a quiet afternoon in the Florida sunshine with creatures such as these.

As I walked and took my many pictures using my cellphone camera (which, surprisingly, captured some wonderful shots), I came upon a white butterfly that sat on the ground in harm’s way already clearly having suffered wing damage. I became immediately saddened at the sight and then pensive at the scene as one tries to reconcile the tragedies of life with its glories. What came swiftly to mind is the rosary and the important juxtaposition of the Sorrowful, Glorious, and Luminous Mysteries. Almost without a thought, I felt compelled to pick up the butterfly and return it to a nearby leaf. It was clear that it was dying, and it felt right that it should do so on a leaf and not against the cold, unnatural pavement.

I am a panentheist and this moment brought that home to me once again. The Spirit runs through all the created. Each natural form is a face of the mind of Ein Sof, the otherwise unknowable. Once again, as creatures with personhood, we know the Divine Presence personally. We feel the Presence more so than we can adequately think the Presence. This is the Gnosis Kardia, the Knowledge of the Heart.

So, on a quiet March day, just a week ago, I was visited by a butterfly who stopped me in my tracks to consider my own mortality, the mortality of others, life’s mysterious transits, and the power of regeneration, resurrection, renewal and the true heaven that emerges in every moment illuminated by authentic compassion.

This is Holy Week in the Western calendar. May this week be a time for you of profound revelatory moments, of transformative experiences, and a deeper dive into the Heart of the Cosmos.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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January 1, 2010

As part of our New Year’s Eve celebration, we built and decorated gingerbread houses together as a family. This was itself a memorable and shared spiritual exercise. It was a mix of great fun in spite of, or, actually,  because of the natural tensions of different personalities on full display loosened up by the night’s merriment.

My wife and I worked on one house while our daughter expressed her artistry on a gingerbread home all her own. Being fond of spontaneity in her art and life, her house emerged from a series of decorative flourishes, one creating context for the next, and so on, until she declared it finished. It was a fine specimen sporting a  well fortified fence made of small chocolate bars.

My wife, herself a very talented artist and crafts-person, joined me on our shared project. We had the task of first mending roof pieces that we found broken. Some royal frosting as mortar, dabbed on each broken segment, and roof repairs were well underway. However, as a perfectionist, my wife’s dismay about the broken pieces raised her blood pressure and impatience from the start. Adding insult to injury, after running out of royal frosting, she went about preparing more but, for reasons unknown, the second batch turned out very runny, and things simply wouldn’t adhere to it.

More like my daughter, and very much a fan of “throw all caution to the wind and let’s see how she comes out,” I started to sprinkle, to my wife’s horror, various small candies on the roof, having coated it first completely with the freshly made imperfect frosting. Since it wasn’t thick enough, it ran down off the roof and, I thought, this would make for a fine array of serendipitous icicles: a calm and accepting sentiment my wife didn’t quite share. No, this prompted my wife’s further sense that all was truly lost and that it was best to toss it all out and just try again another time. For her, the gingerbread house-building business had become another exercise in futility with a failed outcome.

As a firm believer in self organizing systems, I thought it would all turn out great anyway, in spite of decorative mishaps, once the fluid frosting hardened. The sheer serendipity of it all was the real fun since I know nothing about how it’s “supposed to be.” It was more of a free-form watercolor like experience for me than a work in oils demanding heightened attention to fine detail and structure. In my naive mind, and perhaps nowhere else, I had turned our candied house into a fantastical piece of impressionistic playfulness. I liked it! By morning, my wife too agreed that our house looked surprisingly “o.k.” ( her code for pretty good).

Maybe these gingerbread houses won’t take awards, but the family that came over later in the day saw and enjoyed both creations. What I will long remember of this new holiday ritual is the dance and play of personality from structured to unstructured, ordered to random, planned to spontaneous, serious to just plain goofy and fun-loving. Our differences added drama to the process that we spoke of with far more pleasure on reflection than we appreciated in the heated, tired, late night moments during which we became embroiled in our art project and its attendant challenges.

More than anything else, what made this a marker moment of this year for me, was that we three were doing this together in the same space without any post-modern distraction whatsoever. There were no iPods, iPhones, blackberries, televisions, or laptops to distract any of us away into the more solitary self-stimulation that we see all around in our technology obsessed culture.

This was a corrective for so much of the typical Holiday hype and fevered rushing. We built two gingerbread houses that are now storied works. We have already enjoyed them twice over in retelling the story of their creation and putting them proudly on display for others. This time spent together in our makeshift atelier was a sacramental.

We were each focused and intent, and were fully and unapologetically ourselves in the process. This communion took place in sacred time as creative expression is always an outgrowth of Spirit in motion. Our differences in approach also made manifest the many faces of the Beloved, the dynamical spectrum of aspects of the One.

Whenever we are engaged in the arts, amateur or professional, trained or untrained, skilled or simply bold and hopeful, we enter the orbit of the Beloved. So, let us boldly paint, sculpt, draw, compose music, dance, sing, write and, yes, build gingerbread houses to the glory of Beauty, Love and the Sacred Heart. Ideally, let us find the space, place and time to do these things together more often.

Even writing, ordinarily a solitary endeavor, can be a shared exercise in active imagination. Interactive storytelling (wherein a story begun by one person is carried forward by another who begins where the first person left off) is a wonderful practice. One of the cleverest things I’ve seen in the last several years was an interactive novel where pages were left blank for the reader to fill in at the close and beginning of certain chapters.

We are all artists in action, whether we are aware of it or not. Our creative moments and the spiritual inducements to put pen to page, brush to canvas, or frosting and candy to gingerbread, are all gifts that arise from the deep well of the Spirit.

I recall in closing, on this first day of 2010, the inspired prayer of Miriam:

“My soul doth magnify the Lord and my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior”.


© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Image From The Well at the World's End by William Morris

12/31/2009: New Year’s Eve, U.S.

At midnight, local time worldwide, both a year and a decade come to a close. Like so many years before it, it was a whirlwind of surprising, shocking, exciting, breath-taking and unprecedented happenings. In many ways, I am glad to be rid of it as I am with every year that came before. To let it go is as important a spiritual lesson as to learn from what the year brought by way of teaching. The ending is a time of energy and excitement as it simultaneously serves as the gateway to new possibilities.

The past year is but history now: twelve months on which to think and abstract meaningful moments. As we lift a glass in the spirit of “auld lang syne,” I celebrate the intrinsic completeness of endings. As at the end of a phrase of music, we reach a coda, and we look ahead with a certain thrilling openness to the next verse, or the next movement, or the next symphony assuming a series. In the case of many ongoing issues that spill into the new year, perhaps it is more of a syncopation than a full stop coda.

Generally, endings have a certain purity that beginnings lack. They are definitive. After a point, what was once so pressing and ever-present and all-consuming is wholly replaced by the fresh scents and flavors of now.

Beginnings, however, are more elastic.  There are phases to a launch, and as each phase comes to a close yet another is just beginning. We are children of this rhythm of beginnings and endings framing the melody and harmony that weave across the landscape of our lives.

We are defined more by our endings and how we acknowledge them than by our beginnings. The future is the adventure of unfolding and discovery as yet undisclosed and too soon to celebrate.  We make our plans and express our resolutions though fully aware that odds are that they will surely be dramatically reshaped by coming circumstance.

Meaning is wrapped up in endings and we are known to ourselves and others by what’s been, what we’ve done and not done, said and not said. Grammatically speaking, endings are the periods which make way for the next sentence and paragraph. To end is to make space for the possible and to give meaning to all the wandering that led to this present moment.

Endings are congratulation and invitation. We sum up the past and offer an homage to days now gone by, while boldly stepping into the yet unformed, untraveled, and undiscovered lands of tomorrow. In taking her next step, the hero’s journey is only truly engaged once s/he’s acknowledged what is over.

In doing so, we make space for mystery to self-organize, evolve, and emerge with uncontaminated freshness.

This is our great spiritual paradox. We celebrate what’s been, recognizing what must end, and what we must “unlearn,” while  fully embracing what emerges without jaundice, undo coloration, or prejudiced sense of what seems predestined or constrained by what was.

This paradoxical nature is captured in the archetype of the Christ, or Anointed One: To be fully human, a child of an age, a culture, and temporal circumstances, and a bringer of perpetual hope, a harbinger of renewed and sanctified times, and sign of the approach of the Celestial City outside of space and time.

Our bridge to the divine-somewhere and luminous beginnings, starts with a profound bow to the spirit of history that brought us here, quickly followed by a deep and hearty, full-throated wish and embrace: “Happy New Year!” With arms thrown wide, let us offer a heart-felt and generous kiss to all who will receive it in the same spirit .

May deep and abiding Love and the intimate fire at the Heart of the Cosmos keep you warm on the coldest nights, illuminate your shadow-times, and fill your sails with bold winds on whatever seas the New Year may bring. May the times be sweet and gracious, joyful and deeply meaningful.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Mount Mayon Volcano, The Philipines

My son and his companion are traveling on holiday to the Philipines and is now, as I type this, in Legazpi City, home to Mount Mayon, an active and erupting volcano. Needless to say, we are all deeply concerned. Though his assurances in the one email we’ve received since their arrival there said that they are alright and well outside of the danger zone, one never knows with volcanic activity.

Of the 5 category rating scale used by volcanologists, where “5” is a full-scale eruption in progress, Mayon is rated a “4”, denoting an imminent eruption. We are anxious to hear that he has traveled well north of the active area toward Manila. Already 50,000 residents within a radius of 8 miles of Mayon were evacutaed.  Half that number were removed to shelters by Christmas day.

Some, now lulled by lessened activity in the last 24 hours, are returning to their homes to tend cattle and farms, though authorities are strongly warning them away, and calling this the “calm before the storm.”  We can all understand the wish to be home with family:  an especially compelling need during the Christmas holiday. This wish is particularly strong among the agrarian people of the Philipines who live in the foothills of the mountain and who bring great cultural passion and import to this Season, and whose lives are completely dependent on the land.

For us, these days have been difficult and anxious times of waiting for the next email ( as my son and his companion are without cell phones and must depend on available internet cafes). They are adventurous and touring for another few days nevertheless before their flight back, assuming no further official evacuation outside of the extended danger zone.

“Just waiting for word” sums up this time. I have written before about “waiting”, the power of vigil, and, in such times, our expectations of either great positive and miraculous events or, as now, fears of the unimaginably disastrous. One cannot help but be reminded of the Indonesian tsunami and the toll it took, and, earlier, in the Philipines itself, the disastrous eruption of Mount Pinatubo on June 15th of 1991.

We are now called to hold on to the only thing we have in such times – prayer. We pray for the Light of the World to quell the rumbling of the Earth and still the fires of magma, and for the safety of our loved ones and the thousands now threatened there. We once again see in these events our connection to all people: their plight is our plight.

The world is risk. We have no power over the Earth and its elements. Our sole power rests in our love and care for each other.

With all this as my present context, I reflect on today’s reading from the Gospel of John, verses  1 through 13:

After this, Jesus went to Jerusalem for a religious festival. 2Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there is a pool with five porches; in Hebrew it is called Bethzatha. 3A large crowd of sick people were lying on the porches—the blind, the lame, and the paralyzed. 5A man was there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6Jesus saw him lying there, and he knew that the man had been sick for such a long time; so he asked him, Do you want to get well? 7The sick man answered, Sir, I don’t have anyone here to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am trying to get in, somebody else gets there first. 8Jesus said to him, Get up, pick up your mat, and walk. 9Immediately the man got well; he picked up his mat and started walking. The day this happened was a Sabbath, 10so the Jewish authorities told the man who had been healed, This is a Sabbath, and it is against our Law for you to carry your mat. 11He answered, The man who made me well told me to pick up my mat and walk. 12They asked him, Who is the man who told you to do this? 13But the man who had been healed did not know who Jesus was, for there was a crowd in that place, and Jesus had slipped away.

Our schemas and plans, concepts, and doxologies, are, at best, hazy reflections of the Real. Yet, we are every day invited to sort our priorities and let the trivial drop away. Life brings challenge and dread, and, when it does, our character is most authentically revealed.

What is true in us is all that is left as the rest dissolves into the drama of impending or active crisis. There is nothing to fear and no law about which we need worry save one: to draw close to those we love and shield them if we can physically or, if not, to do so psycho-spiritually, and this is the Beloved’s eternal verity.

As we pray for my son and his companion and for all who live around Mount Mayon, our prayer celebrates the Beloved’s intent and action in the world. Our vigil joins that sacred intent and helps complete the circuit between phenomena (volcanic activity) and noumena ( love and inter-being).

I give thanks for love. I give thanks for prayer and the capacity to reach through time and space with and without words. I give thanks for life. I rest in the arms of the Beloved whose Presence I pray settles upon Mount Mayon, its people, my son, and his beloved. All else is silence and waiting.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Christmas Day, 2009

The gifts of the Magi are among the most captivating of the traditional stories of Christmas. Three kings read portents in the heavens and were motivated by what they saw there to make the arduous trip to find the site of a cosmic event of enormous importance. The title of  Magi, used in  in the Gospel of Matthew 2: 1-12, is a reference to Priests of Zoroastrianism who were reputed to be adepts in the astrological arts.

While their number conveniently provides an allusion to the trinity, and their convergence on Earth alchemically captures a likely convergence in the heavens, I’ve always found the story hopeful and imbued with a sense of the power and meaning of synchronicity. While astrology ( western & Vedic) keep their fascination for many, they have largely been relegated by the intelligentsia of the churches and science to the margins of history as quaint anachronisms of the magical fixations of the past.

Astrology can certainly be presented as a simple reading of the future as typified by the entertainment horoscopes published in daily newspapers. One so predisposed can neurotically cling to the supposed predictions and use readings as a guide to selecting auspicious occasions to engage in some behaviors or avoid others. What I find intriguing instead is use of astrology as a medium by which to enhance sensitivity to the possibilities and patterning occurring within and among events. The idea of meaningful coincidence and Jungian studies come to mind. Psyche and cosmos are entangled. They mirror one another.

I have studied Vedic Astrology for over a decade and have found it always intriguing and rich, not as a divinatory system, but as a medium for active imagination, and a formalized process for entertaining higher-order synchronicity. It is less about a predestined path and more about potentialities, proclivities, and convergences. It is another poetic language by which to explore the mysteries of consciousness.

In 2006, Richard Tarnas, author of The Passion of the Western Mind, a cultural historian and professor of Philosophy and Depth Psychology at California Institute of Integral Studies, published his very thoughtful and provocative work, Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View. It is a courageous piece of writing as it looks ahead for a new model for the 21st century and beyond it, by looking back to Astrology. This is a perilous undertaking for an academic in today’s zeitgeist. The book is an invitation to revisit foundational assumptions that we hold about Mind while fully embracing the new physics and what it reveals about Mind and Matter.

In his epilogue, Tarnas writes:

….our own marvelously complex nature depends upon and is embedded in the universe. Must we not regard the interpenetration of human and cosmic nature as fundamental, radical, “all the way down?” It seems to me highly improbable that everything we identify within ourselves as specifically human – the human imagination, human spirituality, the full range of human emotions, moral aspiration, aesthetic intelligence, the discernment and creation of narrative significance and meaningful coherence, the quest for beauty, truth and the good – suddenly appeared ex nihilo in the human being as an accidental and more or less absurd ontological singularity in the cosmos. Is it not much more plausible that  human nature, in all its creative multidimensional depths and heights, emerges from the very essence of the cosmos, and that the human spirit is the spirit of the cosmos itself as inflected through us and enacted by us?

Clearly, the writers of the Gospel of Matthew had no reluctance in speaking of cosmic and human convergences. Why should we be reluctant to do so? The revelations of science are slowly but agonizingly pushing aside Cartesian dualism. It will not pass easily. Why is it assumed by many christian thinkers that Christianity is somehow purer if the agency of cosmic evolution is denied in favor of supra-natural events?

The Magi read the portents in the sky. They saw patterns converging and were moved to follow what they saw to be an unfolding narrative of creation. Rather than doubt it all or debate points of theology, they accepted mystery and went out seeking after it. For me, Christmas is a reminder that whatever our approaches, all roads up the spiritual mountain lead to the same summit. Studying synchronicity can only further enliven our capacity to see the subtle in the everyday and the greater story embedded in the variety of swirling and interacting, diverging and colliding events that occur all around us.

The spiritual life is about seeing clearly and living accordingly: to awaken. It’s up to us entirely whether to open our arms wide to mystery, or accept a smaller fraction of the great opus of creation.I choose the greater landscape and the wider bandwidth.

Glad Tidings of Great Joy!

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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His name is Nicholas: a man who was known in his times for having given his own wealth to those in need, and to be a tenacious protector of children. Under Diocletian, Nicholas was imprisoned for his faith and then served as an attendee at the Council of Nicaea after his release. Legends swirl around Nicholas as a kindly and generous man with a fervent and unyielding faith. Many of these legends speak of miracles performed both before and after his death ( e.g., raising young murdered adolescents back to life, and restoring a kidnapped child to his parents).

In time, Nicholas would become almost synonymous with the mythic Santa Claus ( Father Christmas, the Nordic Tomte or Nisse, Pere Noel, Sinterklass, Pere Fouettard, and Kris Kringle). What is the basis for this enduring image that has been so emblematic of the Season? The good and kindly St.Nicholas represents the best of humanity. He had a large heart, placed others first, and sacrificed for the needs of a greater good based in faith and principles. Often rendered as corpulent, I am reminded of Budai, the laughing Buddha.

The Fat Buddha, as he is known in the West, or the Buddha Maitreya and Phra Sanghachai in Thailand, carries a cloth sack and, though poor, is totally content. He is revered as the enlightened embodiment of true contentment, wisdom, a generous and open heart, and the very meaning of Zen. In Zen Buddhism, Budai is himself a Koan: Asked, “what is the meaning of Zen?” Budai put down his bag. When then asked,”How does one realize it?” He picked it up again.

St. Nicholas, Santa Claus, and Budai set the imagination ablaze with wonder at enduring simple truths that are, as always is the case, harder to reliably demonstrate than to extol, sing praises about, and capture in verse, story, and Seasonal trappings:

  1. All that we need to become we already are.
  2. The laughter of a kind heart heals deep wounds.
  3. One’s bag is full when it is empty.
  4. Openness to all means no stereotyping, no intolerance, all loving and spacious regard for all sentient beings.
  5. A smile is a salve for injury, pain, and disappointment.
  6. The child’s imagination is our first and truest state of being – the state of amazement.
  7. Heaven is now. If not now, most definitely not later. Make it so.
  8. Give of yourself. All else is a proxy for that.

It is said that if you rub the Budai’s belly, it brings good luck. His girth is large not from over-eating, but as a result of taking into himself the poison and darkness and evil all around, and he laughs them into oblivion. So, our greatest act of engaged spirituality is to be the inverse of the three monkeys – i.e., see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Instead, we are called to see it and dissolve it in compassion, hear it and make music where there is only rude, discordant noise, and speak of it so that the evil is named and can then be “called out.”

The Spirit of Nicholas/ Sinterklaas and Budai are celebrated with special vigor in these next 12 days. The archetype of the Healer will certainly be in my mind throughout the season.

May you and yours know deep and enduring peace, true contentment, laughter that ends suffering, and the full measure of being close to those who are richer for the fact that you have shared yourself with them.

Merry ( & Happy) Christmas!

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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As is the case with so many rituals and symbols, the Christmas tree has undergone significant evolution in its use throughout the centuries. The practice of decorating an evergreen goes back to pagan roots as a ritual in celebration of the Winter Solstice and in hopes of a good harvest in the season ahead among ancient druids, Egyptians, Hebrews, pagans and Chinese.

The choice of the evergreen revolves around the allusions to eternal life, so its later adoption by Christians was quite natural as the adornments took on the symbolism of the faith: an angel atop the tree and not the Norse practice of the spear signifying the God Odin. The German Lutherans decorated their trees with apples and wafers symbolizing the crucified God. Victorian ritual saw a shift from live fruit to the glass balls we are now accustomed to along with candles, allusions to the fire of life and Genesis, now more safely represented by the strings of multicolored lights.

It is among my favorite traditions of the season along with modest use of outdoor lighting. The colors red and green capture the mysteries of Divine love, the Presence of the Holy Spirit and the greenness of the biome. What we place on the tree matters a great deal. There are archetypal images along with those specific to our own sense of meaning and personal unconscious.

We always leave the decorating until the day before Christmas eve; today, as it turns out. With music playing and a wood fire in the fireplace, we each place decorations on the tree, and there are always more decorations than the tree can accomodate.

What images find their way there, first:

  • the ornaments with the name of our two children inscribed along with the year of their birth,
  • ornaments that are old, and go back to the earliest days of our marriage,
  • those hand-made by my wife’s late Aunt who made them each year as gifts for the family,
  • many delicately made images of angels,
  • ornaments of saints,
  • nativity scenes,
  • many beautifully crafted song birds and parrots,
  • small cottages dusted with snow,
  • and the untold number of glass baubles and balls, flutes, and stars, and a goodly number of ballerinas.

Throughout the central room where the tree resides, there are the many nutcrackers, larger angels, a separate smaller tree for special bird ornaments, and other seasonal objects far too many to list. What matters is what they all say and create. In this moment of family artistry and creative decorating, the point is to suspend time and allow the system unconscious its full expression.

We delight in the rainbow display of color, in the symbols of dance, movement that celebrates being alive and conscious, joyfully surrounded by imagery of nature, mystical union and spiritual vitality, the memory of loved ones and things past, and loved ones in the here and now engaged in the high play of celebrating the deep mystery of the Incarnate G-d.

For a few days, time has no meaning. The past is alive with us in the quickening of memory. The present bathes in the deep roots to which color reaches into our personal and collective unconscious, and the symbols dance like so many sugar-plums on the stage that we construct together.

We are artists in action. We awaken the creative muse that whispers in our ears of simpler times. We stimulate all the senses and prepare for the mystical rebirth that surely happens, beyond ritual and Liturgy, in the timeless realm of soul and spirit, in the Heart of the Cosmos that continually renews itself.

The Evergreen miracle, the moment of the Star of Bethlehem, the end of our waiting, and the spark of inner knowing are upon us.


© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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I don’t know about you, but I get a lot out of cartoons. In fact, they are true embodiments of the archetypes that guide consciousness in form and function. In toonland, they are palpable; so near the surface. Theologians should spend much more time with cartoons and, just maybe, try their hand at creating some, or maybe weaving together allegory in graphic novel form.

Well, in any event, I find myself thinking about them as we enter the Holiday season. The television is full of the classics that will certainly be played over and over for the rest of the month: A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and Winnie the Pooh & Christmas Too, and many more.

Today, I am imagining my favorite characters as monks at a Benedictine Abbey advising young novices.

Let’s see, what wisdom might they share?

Winnie the Pooh

Who said, “Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.”

Might say – “When things are a bother just remember there’s honey somewhere nearby. Of course, you might have to walk a ways to find it.”


Who once sang, “The wonderful thing about tiggers / Is tiggers are wonderful things / Their tops are made out of rubber / Their bottoms are made out of springs / They’re bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy fun, fun, fun, fun, fun / But the most wonderful thing about tiggers is I’m the only one / Tiggers are cuddly fellas / Tiggers are awfully sweet / Everyone el-es is jealous / That’s why I repeat and repeat / The wonderful thing about tiggers / Is tiggers are marvellous chaps / They’re loaded with vim and with vigor / They love to leap in your laps / They’re jumpy, bumpy, clumpy, pumpy fun, fun, fun, fun, fun / But the most wonderful thing about tiggers is I’m the only one / I’m the only… ”

Might say – “Praying is what Tigger’s do best. It’s all very easy. There’s no need to rest. Just follow me and, heee, heee, you’ll see. It’s all as simple as one, two, and three.  And the best of all is we pray while we trounce. So, off we go, let’s pray, let’s pray, and don’t forget to bounce.”

Christopher Robin:

Who once said: “It means just going along, listening to all the thing’s you can’t hear, and not bothering”

Might say: “If you get bored or aren’t sure, or maybe get totally confused, just go on. It will all mean something some day even if you don’t know what that is.”

Charlie Brown:

Who said: Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, “Where have I gone wrong?” Then a voice says to me, “This is going to take more than one night.”

Might say: “It’s best to learn one step at a time and then, when you think you’ve got it, go back over your steps .”

The Grinch:

Who said: “The nerve of those Whos. Inviting me down there – on such short notice! Even if I wanted to go my schedule wouldn’t allow it. 4:00, wallow in self pity; 4:30, stare into the abyss; 5:00, solve world hunger, tell no one; 5:30, jazzercize; 6:30, dinner with me – I can’t cancel that again; 7:00, wrestle with my self-loathing… I’m booked. Of course, if I bump the loathing to 9, I could still be done in time to lay in bed, stare at the ceiling and slip slowly into madness. But what would I wear? ”

Might say: “Lots to study? Feeling put upon and challenged? How about that pain in you knees after all that praying, poor dear. Oh, and the chanting, and the silent breakfast, and the reading. And, what’s with the thin mattresses. Is it a lot?

Well, get over yourself!”

I intend to enjoy all the old classics and the new ones too this season, and I will come back again to talk theology and spirituality with more of my favorites in the days to come.

For now, Th-Th-Th-Th-Th-Th That’s All Folks!

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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…. just like the ones I used to know.

Forget the Eagle or Ben Franklin’s choice for the mascot of the American Nation, the Turkey. The better symbol would be the industrious, ever applied, always hard-working bumblebee.

A few days ago, I opined about the entirely wrong-spirited and unfortunate motivations and consequences of “Black Friday.” It is the perfect symbol of a society that has grown addicted to multi-tasking, and the cult of productivity. Today, I experienced its psycho-spiritual  opposite, White Friday:  a rare and exceedingly pleasant counterforce to the shopping day that has become emblematic of this holiday season.

We slept in after an early Thanksgiving day spent in food preparation. Awakening at around 11 AM, we enjoyed a late breakfast. We had a number of good movies to catch up on that we rented from a local Redbox for $1 each. We also caught up on DVR-recorded episodes of our favorite television series: Castle, Lie To Me, V, and Flash Forward. I started re-reading Joseph Campbell’s “Myths To Live By,” Paul Davies “How to Build A Time Machine,” and puttered around a bit straightening my office.

After bagels and coffee and the movie rentals, the total cost of our day, $9.

A day at home with my wife, precious!

After eating too much on Thanksgiving, and spending a lot of time talking, spending the following day in splendid quiet, with no stress, and without a compelling agenda, was an occasion of spiritual balancing. It has been better than any medicine for postmodern angst that money can buy.

Isn’t it refreshing that the best, most important, most impactful, and most meaningful things in life, cost absolutely nothing? Imagine a world where the “slow food” movement, which began in Italy, catches on globally. Imagine a time when the theory of “Enoughism,” as articulated by John Naish in his 2008 book, “Enough: Breaking Free from the World of More,” comes to represent an emerging ethic of right balance.

This would be a world re-enchanted by the simple pleasures of time “wasted” in just hanging with friends, spending quiet time being joyfully unproductive, and pushing aside the tyranny of the clock.

I do hope you get to “waste” some time this weekend.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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This is among my favorite holidays of the year. It is the simplest overall (despite the cooking), and the one that places greatest focus on the people who are closest to us.

The sheer busyness of the rest of the year makes gathering together a challenge. So, I give thanks for one holiday that is set aside to reconvene family and extended family. Thanksgiving is one of the last strongholds, in the U.S. at least, of undistracted family celebration and, in my experience, always produces special and unforgettable moments.

This year, after recalling our many blessings as a family, and then dining on foods contributed by everyone, we talked about Thanksgivings past. The dialogue centered around some funny and absurdly memorable moments.

As we exchanged recollections, my wife said something I will now long remember. As we spoke of the cost of the gift-giving Season officially now begun, she said that ” the greatest gifts we give each other and our children are not the toys and things, but all the special memories.”

This Thanksgiving is no exception.

There were a few such moments that will now be numbered among the classics for us:

  • a moment in our kitchen when I came into it to find my wife covered head-to-toe with velvet cake mix, wild-eyed, and on the verge of  screaming, with so many dishes on all the burners needing simultaneous tending ( now, that’s an act of love);
  • my baby sister’s distress ( as cooking is not her favorite thing ) at discovering that my wife made a pasta dish ( innocently, out of habit) after being tasked at the 11th hour to make baked Ziti for the meal by her big sister. The moment in which she saw the stuffed shells produced a few remarkable facial expressions and expletives from her that will be recalled and replayed for the rest of our lives (all meant in good fun of course);
  • our nephew’s genuine excitement as we pulled up in front of the house as he announced our arrival with such unbridled exuberance ( an announcement of which royalty would be jealous);
  • my baby sister, later on, asking whether we had, “oh, by the way”, sampled her baked Ziti, ( implying we hadn’t, of course) given all the hard work she had put into making it ( a delicious dish I might add);
  • reading my niece’s short story ( a very talented college-aged young woman with a gift for fiction writing in the macabre genre of vampires and werewolves);
  • the amusingly heated debate between myself and my wife on whether pre-slicing the Turkey, before traveling from our home to my sister’s and, again, before everyone had arrived, would make it dry out more quickly (one of those small items that can stimulate disproportionately passionate debate); and,
  • our lengthy, thoughtful conversation after dinner about the Thanksgivings of history, and the most amusing, dramatic, and unforgettable moments.

On the ride home, we talked about looking forward to the ritual of hanging ornaments on our tree, many of them made as gifts by my wife’s late Aunt. There are the ones dedicated to each of our children when they were very young, and the many richly storied decorations that will soon adorn the entire house. We discussed building a gingerbread house together with my daughter when she returns from college for the holiday in a few weeks, and doing the same with our nieces and nephews.

As my wise wife counsels, it’s the memories that matter, for truly, in the years to come, it will be tougher to recall the material gifts than the joy of all those quirky memories that warm us and make us glad in the lonely times, and on the gray days.

Memory is a child walking along a seashore.  You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things.  ~Pierce Harris, Atlanta Journal

Pleasure is the flower that passes; remembrance, the lasting perfume.  ~Jean de Boufflers

God gave us memories that we might have roses in December.  ~J.M. Barrie, Courage, 1922

May your Holidays be makers of enduring and uplifting memory.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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