Blog Day 2007

31 08 2007

Blog Day 2007

In honor of Blog Day 2007, I recommend these five blogs:

1.) The Atheocracy — I’ve just started reading this blog written by Jeffrey W. Haws, an “an irreverent journalist, atheist, political junkie, golfer, outdoors lover, sports fan, beer drinker and movie/music snob, along with many other things.” Yup, The Atheocracy is as spunky as that sounds. Plus, I’m a fan of anyone who thinks Big Thoughts™ about sports, beer, and non-theism. This recent post, which compares coming out as an atheist with coming out as gay, will give you a sense of the blog.

2.) A Delicate Boy — Nels of A Delicate Boy is a gay 30-something rhetoric professor in Connecticut. He blogs about writing, teaching, gay issues, HIV, and, well, life. At the top of the blog right now is a post on Sen. Craig, but—like so much of what Nels writes—it’s a little bit different (and interestingly so) from anything you’re likely to read elsewhere. Whether he’s writing about a city that reminds him of the partner he lost to AIDS, going on an “Artist Date” with himself in Houston, or just mentioning some strange new website he encountered, Nels grabs and keeps my attention.

3.) Little Nuances — Although you surely know me better as a Philadelphia Phillies fan, I still keep up with the Kansas City Royals, the team of my youth. Royal Reflections, a blog by sportswriter Lee Warren, helps me do that. Recently, I realized that Warren also writes Little Nuances, a blog which is, I suppose, about the little things that make life interesting. That may sound a little too precious, but it’s actually pretty interesting. And any blogger who knows who Gilles Muller is has to be good.

4.) Razzi’s Photolog — Razzi is a Belgian photographer. He doesn’t post all that often. When he does, though, the results are memorable. Some of my favorites: “Mies en plis,” “37,2 degrees le matin,” “Grandma’s living room” (NSFW?), and “Women on the run.”

5.) Tennis Served Fresh — As you know, I’m a big fan of tennis. If you are, too, you’ll love this blog, which has a special interest in tennis fashion. With the U.S. Open currently underway, there’s a lot of tennis fashion, including a fashion disaster or two, to consider.


Letting Go of God

18 08 2007

If you haven’t seen Julia Sweeney do her solo show Letting Go of God, check out this snippet of her performance at the TED Conference in 2006.  (Props to Liberal Faith Development for calling my attention to the release of all sorts of good stuff by TED.)

Julia Sweeney is one of my heroes.   If you liked this snippet, by the way, you can purchase a CD of the monologue from Sweeney.

Into Great Silence

12 05 2007

Dubrovnik Dominican Monastery
Last night, I saw Into Great Silence, Philip Gröning’s highly praised documentary showing life in one of the most ascetic Roman Catholic monasteries, the Carthusian Order‘s Grande Chartreuse. The film, which is about three hours long, isn’t really about the Carthusians; instead, it shows the rhythms and content of their daily, contemplative lives. I was really taken with it.

As the name of the film suggests, the Carthusians don’t speak much. The film runs about three hours, but there’s almost no dialog—maybe just two or three minutes altogether. Instead, the viewer hears chants, the sounds of daily tasks, and a lot of silence. This is not at all an intimate portrait of the monks’ lives. The camera keeps a respectful distance, and the visuals are mostly of prayer, nature scenes (the Grande Chartreuse is in the French Alps), worship, and work. Occasionally, the camera will focus directly, and a little uncomfortably so, on the monks, but it’s difficult to get any sense at all of what motivates these men.

Watching Into Great Silence was an unusual movie-going experience. I didn’t really feel like I was watching a story, or being shown some point-of-view about a topic, so much as I felt like I was experiencing some sort of vicarious contemplation. I went to the theater right after work; after the first very, very quiet 30 minutes, my heart rate had slowed and the tension was gone from my shoulders. And I still had 150 minutes of Into Great Silence to go.

Into Great Silence is highly recommended.


16 04 2007

Flaming Chalice
I also spent some of the weekend acting like a third grader, I guess. PeaceBang, one of my favorite bloggers—and someone I’ve repeatedly linked to, including here—wrote a beautiful piece for UUWorld (our religion’s online and, um, brick-and-mortar magazine). She described, in a moving way, her theological journey to liberal Christianity and Unitarian Universalism. For me, though, there was one false note in the piece: Near the end, she described how she could only accept some of the views of her “rationalist” UU friends “with affection and forbearance” (my emphasis).

UUism, as many of you will know, is a non-creedal faith that provides shelter for persons from many different traditions. There are UU-Christians, UU-Buddhists, UU-Pagans, UU-Jews, and many others—including UU-Humanists like me. Sometimes UUism can seem like a messy alliance. There have certainly been tensions among many of the constituencies I just listed (Pagans vs. Humanists, Christians vs. Pagans, for instance), and there have definitely been some longstanding tensions between UU-Christians and UU-Humanists. Happily, it’s rare for me to experience those tensions personally, but it’d be foolish to pretend they didn’t exist….

Anyway, I believe it’s the religious duty of all the various UU paradigms to be allies. In fact, I believe it’s our religious duty to be much more than allies: We should revel in each other’s religious journeys. We must do more than co-exist. We are called to encourage and share in one another’s journeys.

So that’s why “forbearance” struck me as such an inapt word. To my ear, it’s an ugly word. It suggests that someone is putting up with something unpleasant, swallowing distaste for it. When I came upon the word in the UUWorld piece, I gasped. Was PB really suggesting that she was simply “putting up” with her “rationalist” friends? And by “rationalist,” did she really mean UU-Humanists? I hoped not.

I thought about this for days. PeaceBang, and her blog, have meant a lot to me. I’ve been reading, and commenting at, the blog since its early days. PB and I even shared a nice email exchange once. I respect PeaceBang, and I decided I respected her so much that I had to react. So I commented about the piece at the site. I labored over the comment, trying to emphasize how the piece moved me, even though the reference to “forbearance” gave me pause. I wanted to explain my one regret about the piece, too. And truthfully, I think I did that in a fairly gentle and respectful way. (As many of you know, I’m about as conflict-averse as they come!)

Well, PB certainly didn’t think so! She tore into me with a response that felt like a blow to the stomach. I experienced her response as dismissive and angry. Worse, she seemed to confirm that she had, indeed, meant to say that she had to “forbear” UU-Humanists. She went on to explain that maybe the problem wasn’t the use of the word “forbearance” but her description of rationalists as “friends.” Wow. I was stunned.

I should’ve stopped there, I suppose. But—and this is where that third-grader comes in again—I commented again, noting my regret at the bitterness that came through in her response to my comment. Quickly, PB reacted again, spanking me in not one, but two, reactive comments. She said I’d been condescending and, well, so much more. As she writes in one of these reactions, you can be the judge of whose tone was inappropriate. What’s important now, though, is this: If PB took offense at my words, and she clearly did, I regret that. She should know, too, however, that I took offense at her words. After all, I first commented because I wanted to understand, and discuss, her piece.

I’m still processing all of this. I think I may write more about “forbearance”—and whether all we UUs can do is simply “forbear” the other faith traditions in our religion. But I’m too raw about all of this right now….so I’ll let that simmer for awhile.

First Unitarian Universalist Church of Second Life

15 02 2007

I attended church services tonight at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Second Life. Is that weird? It was pretty much like a “normal” UU service; it simply required more typing. (Well, and I was sipping a beer while I worshipped from my desk. I guess that’s not entirely normal, either—even for me.)

What Does It Mean To Be A Church? – promotional video powered by Metacafe

Telethon: Let’s save Killing the Buddha.

7 09 2006

If you like good writing about religion, then I’m sure you already know about Killing the Buddha, the online “magazine for people made nervous by churches.” If you don’t already know KTB, head on over and check it out. Right now. The front page currently features articles on Sufis, Christian rock, Ira Louvin (really!), and Buddhist monks who live on beachside property. And the KTB archives are chock-full of interesting, offbeat, eclectic articles. Sample those, too.

Sadly, KTB is suffering a financial crisis. Having raised over $3,000, the site still needs about $1,000 in order to survive. I made a contribution, and I hope you will, too. I know that a couple of my four-and-a-half regular readers are, like me, interested in religion as a cultural institution. And some fellow UUs and Buddhists and Humanists hang out here from time to time, too. I’d encourage each of you to sample KTB and help out if you can.

KTB is just too good to lose.

Question of the Day: Easy Like Sunday Morning

13 08 2006

Flaming Chalice

What do you usually do on Sunday?

Sleep ’til 11 a.m. Watch poker on TV. Relax. Think about going to the mall, procrastinate, end up going nowhere—except, maybe, the water ice stand.

Then it’s over. Sunday night is actually one of the lowest moments of the week for me. The weekend, including the freedom it represents, is over. Soon, I’ll be back at work, and I’ll have the entire work week in front of me. Admittedly, it could be worse. I’m lucky enough to have a good job, so I don’t really dread the week the way I once did (or could). But, still, it’s something. Even when you have a good job, work is an imposition. On Sunday night, that’s on my mind.

I sort of wish my Sunday routine were different. If I haven’t made it clear here already, I’m a Unitarian Universalist. But I don’t attend a “regular” brick-and-mortar UU church on Sundays. (Instead, I’m a member of the Church of the Larger Fellowship, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s online congregation.) At least once in awhile, I think it would be nice to visit a brick-and-mortar church I thought of as my own.

And why don’t I? There’s probably no good reason. Although it’s not far in actual distance, the nearest UU church isn’t all that accessible to me. I don’t own a car, and it would be quite a production to get there via public transit. Another UU church is easier for me to get to via mass tranist, but—like the first church—it currently doesn’t have a minister. I find this really quite ironic, by the way. There’s apparently a glut of UU ministers, but so many UU churches seem now to be “between” ministers. For instance, the minister at the church nearest to me recently retired, yet that church has only just begun the one- or two-year process to select a new minister. I can understand some of the reasons for that (but, um, why couldn’t the process begin sooner?), but it’s really quite off-putting for someone like me who’s looking to establish a relationship with a church. Right or wrong, I just think I won’t know what kind of place a church is if I don’t know the minister the congregation has chosen….

(Yikes, was that a long digression or what?!) Anyway, I didn’t follow either my normal or my desired Sunday routine today. A friend recently purchased a new house, and I went there to help with the painting. I spent the day in charge of trim work. And you know what? I’m seriously tired. The trim work on the spiral staircase kicked my butt. Ironically enough, I’m going to need the work week ahead just to recover from the weekend.