Category Archives: Religion

It’s 5773, but the Message of Passover 2013 Is Still as Strong as Ever

(Here’s a re-post of a past Passover message, up again by request.  The year is now 5773.  Please enjoy, and to all my Jewish readers, have a happy, healthy Passover!)

Happy Passover to our Jewish readers.

It’s Passover 2011, or, in the Jewish calendar, I think it’s Passover 5771.

This is the time of year when Jews around the world celebrate their freedom from bondage in Egypt with the commemorative Seder and Passover meal.

Think about Moses all those years ago, trying to convince the Egyptian Pharaoh to “let my people go.”  Then all those plagues such as blood, frogs, vermin, slaying of the first born…

It took a lot for Pharaoh to finally let the Hebrews go, and even then, he still chased after them, necessitating the parting of the Red Sea so that the Hebrews could cross to safety.

There were wanderings, new beginnings, divisions, and some heartache, but in the end, the destination was reached.

There is one part of the meal that really stands out to me.  It is during the recounting of the plagues — when Jews count down the Ten Plagues during the Seder.  A drop of wine is spilled with each recitation in memory of those who suffered in Egypt…not the Jews, but the Egyptians.

I guess it’s a solemn reminder that when blood of any kind is spilled, we all lose a little something.  Then, it is important to remember that when there are those in bondage around the world, we ourselves (no matter our religion) are in some way in bondage.

Jewish or not, matzah-lover (matzo-lover) or not, remember Passover 2011 / Passover 5771.  Work toward justice, strive for freedom, and remember those who may not be so lucky or fortunate.

Passover isn’t just about a meal.  It’s about the whole human race.

Happy Passover 2011 / Passover 5771.

May This Christmas 2012, Hanukah-Past 2012, and All Your Post-Mayan Apocalypse Holidays Be Filled With…Burl Ives?

The 2012 Mayan Calendar date has come and gone and we’re still here.  We still work, eat, meet, greet, and do our thing.

So, here’s a favorite post from last December.  Hope your lives are full of “holly jolly” each and every day, and may the season bring you a smile.

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Hanukkah 2011 and Christmas 2011.

Welcome, holiday season!

Wait, why am I saying welcome?  The holiday season has been here for a while now, hasn’t it?  At least, Christmas has.  Heck, the commercials have been here since October.  And, I’ve been eating other peoples’ holiday cookies and goodies since just after Thanksgiving.

But yes, ’tis the season of getting and the season of giving.  I’m never sure which is more important to the masses this month.  I know so many people right now who are getting some nice things for themselves.  Let’s see…there’s two new TVs, a new car, 3 new phones.

And a partridge in a pear tree….

I know a few people who have a new lease on life, some making new starts, some closing old business some opening up something new.  All kinds!  All walks of life!

There’s new jobs out there, and I think there’s a new pet in the mix somewhere, but I could be wrong.

Yup.  The holiday season is in full swing!

What’s new with you this December?

The other day, I had an interesting episode in the building where I work.  I got in the elevator — just moi, nobody in particular.  And in stepped another guy.  Nobody in particular.  There we were.  Just two guys in an elevator going down 10 floors.  No clue the other existed until that moment, and probably only about to share 20 seconds of life…two seconds per floor.

In the peopled solitude of the elevator, drifting out of the speakers in the elevator, was Burl Ives’ “Holly Jolly Christmas.”

I’m telling you, it was weird.  The guy was looking one way.  I was looking the other.  Life was life.  Work was work.  We both had that awkward elevator-busy going on.

And there was Mr. Burl Ives and “Holly Jolly Christmas.”

Ever see Twin Peaks?

So, in the spirit of the season, I reached out and say to the guy, “Boy, this is kinda surreal, isn’t it?”

He smiled.  I smiled.  The song played on.

In the lobby, we exchanged pleasantries and another smile.  I wished him a good day, he wished me a good day.

Nothing came of it.  I haven’t seen him again.  It’s a big building, after all.

But you know?  Something nice happened there.  Two guys shared a holiday season exchange.  No one witnessed it.  Heck, I didn’t even really think about it again until now.  But you know?  It was nice.  And it cost nothing.

I’m not really sure why I’m sharing all of this with you.  You probably could care less.  In fact, I’m not really sure what it has to do with Christmas and Hanukkah 2011.  All I know is that thinking about it now makes me smile.

TVs, cars, phones, and pets are great.  They are!

But this holiday season?  Well, it’s the connection with the stranger that has really brought a smile to my face.

So, from me (a nobody stranger) and Burl Ives (a somebody who always has a Holly Jolly time), have a Holly Jolly Christmas and a Happy Healthy Hanukkah.

And whatever you do, smile!

September 25th and 26th Are Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur 5773/2012 — Laundry Time…Again!

Another year.

Rosh Hashanah 5773 has come and gone for our Jewish friends here at Nobody’s View, and now is the time for Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur.  What follows is a column from last year, and…well…it’s time to bring it out again.  I’ve changed the dates to this year.

Happy Yom Kippur 5773/2012!

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So, our Jewish friends give us yet another great holiday about which to blog here at Nobody’s View.

This Tuesday, September 25, 2012 marks the start of Yom Kippur.  Or, in terms of the Jewish calendar, it is Yom Kippur 5773.  The holiday is ensconced in the Hebrew Bible in Leviticus 23:27 where God instructs the Hebrews that on the tenth day of the seventh month (Tishrei), the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, is to be observed.  Other readings, including Leviticus 16, provide instructions to the priest according to the day, including the preparation of the scapegoat in order to atone for the sins of the people.  Offerings, abstaining from work, and sincere repentance are the order of the day.  This is the price for release from sins.

It’s a Day of Atonement — “at one-ment.”  In religious terms, the day bridges sinners with the One who does not sin.  The holiday that is just past, Rosh Hashanah 5773, was the start of the Jewish new year.  The Book of Life was opened and the great pen was set to parchment to inscribe names for the coming year.  On September 25, 2012 (5773), Yom Kippur, the book is sealed (actually, it’s sealed on the next day, but the lunar holidays start the night before!).

Let’s go back to that word “atone.”  What does that mean?  Perhaps it is the forgiveness of sins or the act of making amends.  On Yom Kippur 5773, our Jewish readers come before God, admitting the wrongs committed in 5772.  They abstain from work, food, and the delights of the outside world and steadfastly appear before their Creator, seeking forgiveness and a place in the coveted Book of Life.

But now we have a different question on our hands — Where exactly are sins?  To put that another way, where is a ‘wrong’ located?  Does it become part of our body?  Is it jotted down on a Post-It note somewhere?  Is it blogged on some great and holy blog on the Internet?  (I haven’t found a blog like that so far, although there are a few that fancy themselves such a thing.)  I’m sure there are tons of theories on this, but I tend to favor a suggestion that sins do not reside in the soul, per se, but on our human clothing.

A few years ago, I was fortunate to hear a particularly interesting talk concerning sin and atonement.  The scholar compared these times of atonement to doing one’s laundry.  How?  Well, we of the messy eating crew know that stains very often appear on our pristine white clothing.  Come to think of it, that’s always when they appear — when we wear white.  And, it’s usually a colorful food we spill when draped in white — grape jelly and mustard come to mind.  Now, when someone wearing pure white returns to the office from lunch, their stains stand out, you see.  It’s true.  What is the first thing you notice about them upon their return?  The stains!  Admit it — you call it to their attention and rib them about it, don’t you?  “Nice shirt, Frank!  Did you get any in your mouth?”  Poor Frank.  That guy needs to wear more black.

So, in our example of atonement, through repentance, fasting, earnest prayer, or good will, we can, literally, do our laundry and wash ourselves clean.  Holy bleach!  Divine detergent!  Perhaps the memory of the stain is still with us.  Perhaps we regale our co-workers with the tale of the giant meatball sub.  However, the stain itself is gone — erased from memory and no longer a source of terror or embarrassment.

That interpretation (just one of many from only one scholar of many) had a profound impact on me — not as a Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, or Atheist, but as a person.  It redefined the nature of sin and repentance, casting it into a much gentler sea.  Sure, we all know that it’s easy to judge other people.  It’s easy to define someone by a casual (or intentional) deed or error.  But think about this — it is quite likely that the people whom you value most are those that look past the faults and see a shining core.  They don’t judge based on the passing acts of a human life.  They forgive us our foibles and earnestly believe in our better natures.  They don’t see only the remnants of pizza sauce on our white shirt.  Instead, they know our clean soul and better nature.

I’ve often used the following as my measure of judgement (I said often, not always!): If my life was in danger, would the person with the stained clothes rush to save me?  The answer is probably yes.  If his life was in danger, would I save him despite my stained clothes?  That answer is probably also a yes.  With those two propositions on the table, do I really have time to judge?  Probably not.  A life, not a deed, is on the line.

Become a multi-tasker: learn to love, assist, and do the laundry all at the same time.

5773 is on its way for our Jewish readers here at Nobody’s View.  For the rest of us in Nobody Nation, this can also be a time to get something good going — something that applies for all of us, whether we are Jewish or not, famous or unknown, exalted or plain, rich or poor.  Imagine that this Tuesday, September 25, 2012 will begin your last day (or, the evening before your last day).  How do you want to be remembered — for the times you judged another or for the times you forgave?  For the damage you inflicted or the fences your mended?  For the fear you harbored or the courage upon which you sailed forth?

The Book of Life is in its last stages of editing.  It’s up to you.  Will you wash away or forgive the stains of the last year or let the stains blemish you?  Will you point out the stains upon others or let them eat in peace?  Don’t be fooled into thinking this post is only about God, sin, religion, or Biblical injunction.  It’s about common humanity.  It’s about all of us — all of us and our clean endings….

All of us and our clean beginnings.

Rosh Hashanah 2012/5773 — Reflect, Renew, Reenergize…and…Remember the Gap?

Happy Rosh Hashanah 5773 to my Jewish readers out there in Nobody Nation.

Or, Rosh Hashanah 2012.

Either way, for our Jewish friends, sundown Sunday marks the start of the new year.  A new beginning.  A time to reflect back on all that transpired in the last year, and to look ahead at all the goals for the days ahead.  The start of days of awe.  The start of days of wonder.  The start of the new.

The new year, or any new year, whether in Judaism or for other traditions, is a time to stand at the starting line, waiting for the word “go.”  It’s a pause.  A moment.  A gap between what was, and what will be.

But what’s in that gap?  What’s in that pause?  What goes though a person’s mind when the training is behind and the race is ahead?  Is it nerves?  Excitement?  A tremendous sense of quiet focus?

Often, when a new start comes for me or one of my friends, no matter what our religion or pursuit, I think about that gap.  That moment before the official start of a new race.  When we stand in prayer or anticipation or in a secular phase between what was and it is coming, what is it that we’re really doing?

If we’re just standing there regretting everything that has happened, then we aren’t thinking about ways to make a fresh start.  If we ignore the past altogether and just say, “I’m living in the moment now!” we risk leaving loose ends.

But, if we stand in focus…if we stand in reflection…if we stand with a real sense of desire to account for what has happened, and an earnest desire to prepare for what’s ahead, then we give ourselves a chance to really understand this moment.  This liminal phase in the doorway between what’s behind and what’s ahead.

Okay, now what does all of that mean?  Maybe it’s like this.  We had a goal in the last year.  There was something we wanted that perhaps we didn’t receive.  Now, we have a ceremony going on in this moment — secular or religious, doesn’t matter — that will give us time to pause and reflect — to stand in the reality of our situation and take stock.  So, maybe we review the paths we took to that goal that didn’t work out so well.  The false starts.  The earnest attempts.  Maybe we think about the delays, the disappointments, the things that didn’t go exactly as planned.  But now, in this moment, we’re not pursuing.  We’re not regretting.  Instead, we’re holding.  Holding a space.  Sitting in the middle between what we want and what we’ll do to get there.  So we plan anew.  We pray.  We take stock.  We get the courage up again.

And then we take a step.

We move ahead.

We put one foot in front of the other and take a fresh stride into a new commitment.

That, folks, is what a new year is about.  Take resolutions, for example.  They’re not necessarily about making a commitment to an absolute.  Rather, they’re about standing in the gap between what we wanted and what we still want and committing to a fresh start.  A renewal, of sorts.

Don’t lose sight of the importance of that.  Don’t miss the MAKING of the vow…the TAKING of the pause…the MOMENT of reflection.

The STANDING in the gap.

As the year of Judaism turns to 5773, whether you are Jewish or not, take a minute to appreciate the pause.  The stop.  The opportunity.

Stand in the gap between desire and accomplishment and renew your commitment — either to something old, or something completely new.

REFLECT on what you wanted.

RENEW your commitment to pursue it.

REENERGIZE your will to carry on, and…

REMEMBER to be fully present in the space between the dream and the journey to get there.

With that formula, I can’t guarantee you’ll reach your goal, but I can honestly say you’re giving yourself the best chance at seeing it in fresh light with a new vigor.

Heck, that’s a recipe all of Nobody Nation should follow.

Do it.  Help a friend to do it.

Then, when you reach the finish line, don’t forget to celebrate.  Your Jewish friends will tell you that Rosh Hashanah 5773 has time for that as well.

This Easter 2012 — Rise and Shine (Again) and Resurrect Your Passions

(Just like our Passover message here at Nobody’s View, I wanted to re-post last year’s Easter message.  Even though the year within the post refers to Easter 2011, I want to say Happy Easter 2012 to all our Christian readers.  Make this Easter 2012 something extraordinary!)

Happy Easter 2011 to our Christian readers here at Nobody’s View.  Welcome to a new season of Spring and rebirth.

I also hope you had a good Lenten season (the forty day period of repentance between Ash Wednesday and Easter when a Christian prepares himself or herself for the celebration of Holy Week, which incorporates the events of the Passion of the Christ, including Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and resurrection).

I’m sure it goes without saying that many of you, of all religions, had a good Mardi Gras (the famous Tuesday before Lent when many are to use up butter and meat — giving it the esteemed title of “Fat Tuesday.”)  We don’t need to go into details about this particular celebration, although I’m sure your memories will last a lifetime!

Easter itself is the commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection.  It likely has origin in the Jewish Passover season (the time commemorating the Jewish Exodus from Egyptian bondage), but Christians regard the Easter season as a time to remember Jesus’ return.

Nowadays, like so many other things in modern times, Easter is largely associated with a certain bunny, delicious candies (like Cadbury’s amazing Creme Eggs and those…interesting little Peeps), and Easter egg hunts.  These are all fine and good (some really good), but there is something else lingering behind the commercial, and even the religious, meaning of the Easter 2011 holiday.

Consider the theme of resurrection.  No matter your views on the theological points of the Easter holiday, resurrection is something worth considering.  The term connotes a revival or a rebirth of sorts.  It’s not just a theme for Christ (although he made it famous in its most spiritual and material senses), but for all of us.

Whatever your religious persuasion (or lack thereof) there is always time to reflect on life and goals — life and goals that often lay dormant or dead in the tombs of our very selves.  Is there a book idea gathering dust in your brain?  A class you’ve been putting off?  Isn’t it about time you learned the waltz?  Maybe there is a religious, spiritual, or domestic practice you want to take up or resurrect — going to church more often, confession for the first time this year, a yogic discipline, more walks with your dog, more time with your kids, more volunteer work, more Torah study, a reading of the Chuang Tzu (a book of Taoism).

Let’s spend a little less time concerned with the religious lines that divide us and a little more time taking some meaning from seasons that may, or may not be, our own.

For my (practicing) Christian readers, again, happy Easter 2011.  Enjoy your Easter celebrations and have a Cadbury Creme Egg for me.  For my readers of different persuasions, happy Easter 2011.  Consider resurrecting something wonderful in your life.

This Passover 2012, Remember (Again!) — It’s Not Your Religion That Matters, But Your Humanity

(Here’s a re-post of last year’s Passover message.  The year is now 5772.  Please enjoy, and to all my Jewish readers, have a happy, healthy Passover!)

Happy Passover to our Jewish readers.

It’s Passover 2011, or, in the Jewish calendar, I think it’s Passover 5771.

This is the time of year when Jews around the world celebrate their freedom from bondage in Egypt with the commemorative seder and Passover meal.

Think about Moses all those years ago, trying to convince the Egyptian Pharaoh to “let my people go.”  Then all those plagues such as blood, frogs, vermin, slaying of the first born…

It took a lot for Pharaoh to finally let the Hebrews go, and even then, he still chased after them, necessitating the parting of the Red Sea so that the Hebrews could cross to safety.

There were wanderings, new beginnings, divisions, and some heartache, but in the end, the destination was reached.

There is one part of the meal that really stands out to me.  It is during the recounting of the plagues — when Jews count down the Ten Plagues during the seder.  A drop of wine is spilled with each recitation in memory of those who suffered in Egypt…not the Jews, but the Egyptians.

I guess it’s a solemn reminder that when blood of any kind is spilled, we all lose a little something.  Then, it is important to remember that when there are those in bondage around the world, we ourselves (no matter our religion) are in some way in bondage.

Jewish or not, matzah-lover (matzo-lover) or not, remember Passover 2011 / Passover 5771.  Work toward justice, strive for freedom, and remember those who may not be so lucky or fortunate.

Passover isn’t just about a meal.  It’s about the whole human race.

Happy Passover 2011 / Passover 5771.

Harold Camping Is Still Here After a Friday, October 21, 2011 Doomsday Prediction…Are We?

Just a few months after his original May 21, 2011 doomsday prediction, Harold Camping’s next foray into end-of-days prediction did not come to pass.  Today is October 21, and when I look out my window I see that the sun is still shining and the birds are singing.  Millions globally still struggle in the current economy, with concerns about food, gas, and housing.

In short, life goes on.

Camping and his Family Radio International first burst onto the scene earlier this year with a May 21, 2011 prediction that the rapture would take millions from the earth.  When that failed to happen, a new date was set — October 21, 2011.

And here we are.

Many followed Camping.  Many heeded his warnings.  I saw some heart-wrenching stories of families torn apart by schisms over religious dogma.  Camping’s belief was real.  The belief of millions was real.  The repercussions will be real, too.

Harold Camping’s forays into end-time prediction should naturally lead one to ponder the likeliness of setting an actual date for something of this magnitude.  Heck, I don’t even like to make plans with friends more than a few days out, much less come up with a theory of the end of everything.  If there is a holy being somewhere deciding such things, maybe it’s best left in his or her hands.

The real question from all of this is: now that we have this second chance (or, given the May 21 prediction, a third chance), what will we do with it?  Many on the Internet are certainly having a good time with this failed rapture, but maybe we need to take the dialogue to the next level and consider it a wake-up call.  I’ve written about these ideas before, but they bear repeating.  Whether or not you are a Christian, and whether or not you were on board with Camping is really irrelevant.  Take some time to consider the direction of your life.  If today was your last day, in what would you place your happiness?  What would you regret?  What would you finish?  Dare I ask — what would you begin?

This path of questioning is well-trod.  I know that.  I wasn’t born yesterday (or the day before!).  I’m no prophet like Camping, with millions of loyal fans.  Nope.  I’m just a nobody in the world with a point of view.  But I have been considering these things lately.  I have been looking at old business and new starts, and creating a plan for the future.  I’ve been finding ways to innovate in my daily routine and attempting to make new contacts in my community and beyond.  Not all who meet me love me, and not all who know me like me.  I exist.  I do my best.  I take life in stride as best I can.  When I woke up today to see the world was still very much present, I considered exactly how present I have been with it!

I don’t follow Camping.  I don’t know much about doomsday predictions.  I’m not well-versed in all the theories of the end of times.  I’m no talking head on the History Channel, and I don’t give religious seminars in stadiums filled with throngs of believers in whatever path.  Nope.  I’m just trying to make each day the best I can.  And, if it occasionally takes a rapture prediction to snap me back to what matters, then so be it.  I’ll take pleasure in the simple things.  I’ll take solace in my own version of spirit.

Who knows?  Maybe I’ll move away from the computer and spend some time in the warm sun, listening to the birds sing…while life goes on.

Don’t Just Walk in Circles — Sally Quinn’s Encounter in the Labyrinth is a Clue to Better Dialogue

I was taking an early morning cruise around the Internet and decided to check the latest headlines.  I surfed over to CNN.com and found an article entitled, “My Faith: How walking the labyrinth changed my life.”

The author, Sally Quinn, is a Washington Post journalist and EIC of an online religion conversation called “On Faith.”  I was happy to find that conversation, because it’s something to which we here at Nobody’s View aspire!

In her article, Quinn discusses an experience she had walking a labyrinth — a maze-like structure around which one can walk to calm the mind, concentrate, and, as Quinn says, “be found.”  The experience can mean different things to different people, and labyrinths are apparently constructed in all sorts of places — churches, parks, and spas for example.

Out of curiosity, I Googled the phrase “where are labyrinths” and happened upon a very interesting site called labyrinthlocator.com.  This site, sponsored by two groups — Veriditas and The Labyrinth Society, features a search tool called the World-Wide Labyrinth Locator.  I typed in some information about my city and voila!  Up popped a list of local labyrinths.  One was located at a retreat center not far from my home (run by a group of monks) and another was located at a mainstream Christian church.  There were a few others, both public and private.  The information section for each labyrinth features date of creation, size, and construction material.  The pictures were quite beautiful, and they looked quite serene.

For Sally Quinn, the experience of walking the labyrinth helped her come to terms with her son’s struggle with leaning issues.  In fact, when she shared the experience with her son, his life transformed.  He has since written a book about learning issues, started a website, and is now, apparently, doing quite well.  Quinn says she can’t necessarily attribute all of her son’s success to her labyrinth walks, but she believes that whatever the experience was, it has helped her.  To this day she continues to walk labyrinths, enjoying their positive effects in her life.

After reading through Quinn’s article, I scrolled down to the “comments” section.  As a teacher of religion (when budgets allow and the phone rings!) and having produced some manuscripts and articles on the subject of religion, I have an interest in these discussion strings.  What I got was an eyeful of some stark opinions (no surprise!).  Apparently, the broader social dialogue concerning faith vs. reason (or, according to some, religion vs. science) is alive and well in the comment section of blog posts.  There was the obligatory “hateful” comment calling Ms. Quinn all sorts of names.  But then, right on cue, other readers jumped to her defense, and to the defense of spiritual practices in general.  As of my reading, there were 11 pages of back-and-forth, all leading to some flavor of these conclusions:  labyrinths are nonsensical, people who walk them are nonsensical, Ms. Quinn is being duped by “magic,” spiritual people are being duped by spirituality, religion is duping us all, religion is good, spirituality is good, scientists are short-sighted, religion is a con job…and on and on and on.

What exactly is going on here?  Is this all really about Sally Quinn’s labyrinth?  I don’t think so.  Is this really a discussion of science and religion, or is something else at work?  I don’t know where I come out on the whole issue of labyrinths, but what I do know is that any time dialogue can begin around such an issue, it can only be for the good.  Now, I can hear you asking, “How is this good?  Isn’t it just a lot of Internet partisanship masquerading as dialogue?”  Not necessarily.  The discussion is valuable because it thrusts the issues of religion, spirituality, tolerance, and civility into the spotlight.  It forces people to confront their views on something that is central to humans as individuals, life in general, and politics in particular.  Whatever your view on these subjects, you must come to understand that there is someone across from you on the train who may have a diametrically opposed viewpoint.  You think the labyrinth is bunk and he walks one daily on his lunch break at some big corporate campus.  This group finds religion in general distasteful, but that group uses it as an impetus to feed and clothe the hungry.  You meditate and pray to find your heart of relaxation, while that other person looks down on your whole enterprise, insisting what you are experiencing subjectively is objectively not possible.

Now, you might read that and say, “I’m not convinced!  You say dialogue around this is good?”  Well, yes!  Whatever your views on these things, they are your views.  And, like any good views, they must be able to stand up to criticism and opposition.  If you think religion and spirituality are bunk, yet your friend’s life was transformed in an instant at a Christian or Buddhist retreat, then you need to think more about the purpose of religious or spiritual practices, instead of the mere trappings.  If you had a bad go of it in your house of worship years ago, perhaps you need to challenge the enterprise of judging a whole category by one experience.  Is it a distaste for religion you have or a distaste for your unique, one-time involvement?  I don’t know!  I don’t have the answers.  Have that talk with your friend.  If you are a spiritual person, and you meet a psychologist who believes spiritual experiences are the delusive play of the mind, then perhaps you need to sit down to coffee and get into that conversation.  Does it matter whether or not the phenomena can be defined?  Perhaps their value lies in their effects and not their descriptions.  Again, I don’t know.  I’m not an expert in these things.  You are.  They are your experiences and they are yours to examine.

These discussions don’t have to take place, of course, but how are we to know the sturdiness of our convictions, whatever they are, unless we occasionally erect them in the winds of debate?

I seriously doubt anyone is going to read Sally Quinn’s article with one lens, then change views because of the comments section.  Instead, what seems to happen is that people strengthen their views in response to others’ comments.  People get their dander up.  They go on the defensive.  Many of the non-believers insist that because they can’t kick Sally Quinn’s experience, it doesn’t exist.  Others say her experience is genuine because it takes place away from the prying eyes of five-sense scrutiny.  There is some anger.  Some hate.  Some intolerance.  But at least there’s dialogue.

And that’s a start!

Let me say this to you, Nobody Nation: you have a point-of-view.  In fact, we all have points of view.  A viewpoint is what gives us depth and contour.  It’s what makes us more than a bunch of human straight-line stick figures.

Come to think of it, points-of-view are what make us labyrinths.  When we get done walking the mazes of our minds, we must emerge and engage.  In that way, we don’t just walk in circles, but instead, forge more tolerant paths toward the future.

On October 7, 2011, Yom Kippur 5772 Begins — Will We Messy Eaters Do the Laundry?

So, our Jewish friends give us yet another great holiday about which to blog here at Nobody’s View.

This Friday, October 7, 2011 marks the start of Yom Kippur.  Or, in terms of the Jewish calendar, it is Yom Kippur 5772.  The holiday is ensconced in the Hebrew Bible in Leviticus 23:27 where God instructs the Hebrews that on the tenth day of the seventh month (Tishrei), the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, is to be observed.  Other readings, including Leviticus 16, provide instructions to the priest according to the day, including the preparation of the scapegoat in order to atone for the sins of the people.  Offerings, abstaining from work, and sincere repentance are the order of the day.  This is the price for release from sins.

It’s a Day of Atonement — “at one-ment.”  In religious terms, the day bridges sinners with the One who does not sin.  The holiday that is just past, Rosh Hashanah 5772, was the start of the Jewish new year.  The Book of Life was opened and the great pen was set to parchment to inscribe names for the coming year.  On October 7, 2011 (5772), Yom Kippur, the book is sealed.

Let’s go back to that word “atone.”  What does that mean?  Perhaps it is the forgiveness of sins or the act of making amends.  On Yom Kippur, our Jewish readers come before God, admitting the wrongs committed in 5771.  They abstain from work, food, and the delights of the outside world and steadfastly appear before their Creator, seeking forgiveness and a place in the coveted Book of Life.

But now we have a different question on our hands — Where exactly are sins?  To put that another way, where is a ‘wrong’ located?  Does it become part of our body?  Is it jotted down on a Post-It note somewhere?  Is it blogged on some great and holy blog on the Internet?  (I haven’t found a blog like that so far, although there are a few that fancy themselves such a thing.)  I’m sure there are tons of theories on this, but I tend to favor a suggestion that sins do not reside in the soul, per se, but on our human clothing.

A few years ago, I was fortunate to hear a particularly interesting talk concerning sin and atonement.  The scholar compared these times of atonement to doing one’s laundry.  How?  Well, we of the messy eating crew know that stains very often appear on our pristine white clothing.  Come to think of it, that’s always when they appear — when we wear white.  And, it’s usually a colorful food we spill when draped in white — grape jelly and mustard come to mind.  Now, when someone wearing pure white returns to the office from lunch, their stains stand out, you see.  It’s true.  What is the first thing you notice about them upon their return?  The stains!  Admit it — you call it to their attention and rib them about it, don’t you?  “Nice shirt, Frank!  Did you get any in your mouth?”  Poor Frank.  That guy needs to wear more black.

So, in our example of atonement, through repentance, fasting, earnest prayer, or good will, we can, literally, do our laundry and wash ourselves clean.  Holy bleach!  Divine detergent!  Perhaps the memory of the stain is still with us.  Perhaps we regale our co-workers with the tale of the giant meatball sub.  However, the stain itself is gone — erased from memory and no longer a source of terror or embarrassment.

That interpretation (just one of many from only one scholar of many) had a profound impact on me — not as a Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, or Atheist, but as a person.  It redefined the nature of sin and repentance, casting it into a much gentler sea.  Sure, we all know that it’s easy to judge other people.  It’s easy to define someone by a casual (or intentional) deed or error.  But think about this — it is quite likely that the people whom you value most are those that look past the faults and see a shining core.  They don’t judge based on the passing acts of a human life.  They forgive us our foibles and earnestly believe in our better natures.  They don’t see only the remnants of pizza sauce on our white shirt.  Instead, they know our clean soul and better nature.

I’ve often used the following as my measure of judgement (I said often, not always!): If my life was in danger, would the person with the stained clothes rush to save me?  The answer is probably yes.  If his life was in danger, would I save him despite my stained clothes?  That answer is probably also a yes.  With those two propositions on the table, do I really have time to judge?  Probably not.  A life, not a deed, is on the line.

Become a multi-tasker: learn to love, assist, and do the laundry all at the same time.

5772 is on its way for our Jewish readers here at Nobody’s View.  For the rest of us in Nobody Nation, this can also be a time to get something good going — something that applies for all of us, whether we are Jewish or not, famous or unknown, exalted or plain, rich or poor.  Imagine that this Friday, October 7, 2011 will be your last day.  How do you want to be remembered — for the times you judged another or for the times you forgave?  For the damage you inflicted or the fences your mended?  For the fear you harbored or the courage upon which you sailed forth?

The Book of Life is in its last stages of editing.  It’s up to you.  Will you wash away or forgive the stains of the last year or let the stains blemish you?  Will you point out the stains upon others or let them eat in peace?  Don’t be fooled into thinking this post is only about God, sin, religion, or Biblical injunction.  It’s about common humanity.  It’s about all of us — all of us and our clean endings….

All of us and our clean beginnings.

Rosh Hashanah 5772 — The 2011 Jewish New Year Brings a New Start Where Every Day Can Be the Head of the New Year!…

First, I want to wish all my Jewish readers a happy Rosh Hashanah.  I know this post comes a little early.  Please forgive me.

It’s another New Year — 5772.  That’s right.  Rosh Hashanah 2011 is actually Rosh Hashanah 5772 for our Jewish friends.

This holiday is, literally, the “head” of the year.

Jews around the world will begin 5772 in a time of reflection…looking back on days past, examining them, learning from them, and then thinking about forgiveness and a new start.  The celebrations we’re likely to see won’t be like the January 1 celebrations of the secular world — no crystal Stars of David dropping to a celebrity-studded countdown…and no Dick Clark.

None of that.

These days of awe (the days from Rosh Hashanah to another Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur) are meant as a time of intense reflection, but also  a time of renewal — renewing body, mind, and spirit.

It’s a very important time of the year.  Your Jewish friends may not be at work for a few days, or there may be an empty desk next to you in school.

These days in Judaism are just one example from one religion of time given special importance.  In a sense, there is a velvety rope encircling these days on the calendar, much like a Christian may have for Christmas or a Muslim for Ramadan.  Special days.  Days of wonder.  Days of awe.

But spare a moment for this thought: Why only special days at certain times of year?

I know there are historical and spiritual reasons for having certain holidays at certain times.  And, I don’t mean that we should spend every day in intense repentance or unbridled emotional zeal.  I’m referring to something else here.  Something that goes to the core of living a life more in peace than pain.  More in joy than sorrows.

What if we considered each new day on the calendar the very start of a fresh, new year?  I’m serious.  Think about that.  If we started off each morning with a pause to reflect on the deeds of the previous day, considering where improvements might take place, and vowing to do better today, wouldn’t that really be something?  Each day is actually just one point on an infinite line that provides infinite points for improvement!  No, we’re not spiraling toward an inevitable endpoint.  In fact, we are polishing and polishing and getting better and better.  To what end?  Who knows.  That’s the adventure.

It’s worth a look.  Every day, then, could have the ring of the new.  The zest of the fresh.  The start of the spirit.

I don’t think one has to be Jewish to make something like this work.  I’m going to try this at this time of year with my Jewish friends and see what happens.  I’m going to take this Rosh Hashanah 2011 / Rosh Hashanah 5772 as an opportunity to start treating each day like the head of the year.

Will you join me?  After all, a brand new tomorrow is just around the corner.