Who’s your Daddy?

  • Luke Skywalker loses his mother moments after his birth, and, raised by Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, thinks himself an orphan.
  • Dorothy Gale (in the Wonderful Wizard of Oz) is an orphan raised by Uncle Henry and Auntie Em.
  • Peter Parker, the amazing Spider-Man, was an orphan raised by his Uncle Ben and Aunt May.
  • Harry Potter, the young wizard fated to fight Lord Voldemort, is an orphan raised by his Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia.
  • Ofelia, the protagonist of Pan’s Labyrinth, is half-orphaned, and goes in search of her mystical ancestry.
  • In Stardust, the new Neil Gaiman movie, Tristan is raised by his father but never knew his mother, who lives in a magical realm.
  • Frodo Baggins, the hobbit charged with destroying the One Ring, was orphaned and adopted by a cousin named Bilbo.
  • In Night Watch, Yegor is raised with no knowledge of his father.

This theme isn’t just in contemporary fiction, but runs in Scriptures as well:

  • Moses was raised as a worldly prince, ignorant of his heritage in a covenant with God.
  • When his mother Mary chided him for worrying his father and her, Jesus replied that his true Father was God. (Lk 2:48-49)

Why is this theme so universal? For millennia, many of the greatest accounts of heros, teachers, and mystics have been associated with mysteries about their birth and origins. But as I said before, all the stories are about you.

Nothing in your circumstances can account for why you’re here. You can thank your parents for giving you a body, but what gave you you? There’s a mystery in our origins. We don’t know where we have come from. Where does consciousness come from, life come from? Material answers simply lead to the question of where does matter come from? What made the Big Bang go bang? Where do I really, really come from?

This is one of the ultimate questions, or better yet, a part of the ultimate question. A Zen koan sharpens it this way: What was your face before your parents were born?

The stories tell us that finding your origin will be a spiritual earthquake. Luke Skywalker discovered that his father was one of the most powerful warriors in the galaxy, now intent on enslaving worlds. Dorothy killed the Wicked Witch of the West. Harry Potter discovers his wizard talents and his destiny to fight the most powerful and evil dark wizard. Peter Parker dedicates himself to protecting the population of his city. Ofelia learns she is the princess of an underground paradise, hidden from humans. Tristan discovers his heritage, happiness, and eternal life. Frodo destroys the inexorably corruptive Ring. Yegor choses between the dark and light sides.

Moses emancipated a nation. Jesus forgave the sins of the world.

What will you do? It’s time to find out. Who’s your Daddy?

I resolve…

Not to assume I know who I am.

Yes, there’s other things, too, relating to exercise, meditation, etc. All the usual stuff. And, I made the “guilt resolutions” very, very light… There’s a reasonable chance I can keep them.

But I realized that I want to go a bit deeper than that this year. If the reason we make resolutions is to change ourselves, maybe the fault lies not in needing to change this “person” we’ve come to think we are, but in assuming we’re that person in the first place.

Yeah, I’ll take a silly Internet personality quiz in a heartbeat… but I really want to see what happens if I scratch off some of my major assumptions about Jon. For instance:

I’m an introvert.
Am I this year? How will I know?
I don’t go out much.
That was true… what’s true now?
I start lots of things that I don’t finish.
Really? Who says?
I live more in my head than my heart or my body.
Interesting. We’ll see.

In other news:
I’m getting ready to restart the WisdomReading group as a separate blog. If you’re interested in reading The Gospel of Thomas, The Dhammapada, The Tao Te Ching, or The Upanishads, drop me a line, and I’ll email you the URL and other details when it’s ready. If you participated in the WisdomReading group last year, the format will be different. There will be posts once a week for each of those Scriptures, so if you don’t like the Upanishads, for example, but can’t get enough of Thomas, no problem. just read the weekly Thomas post and comment on it.

My language study is coming along quite well. I started studying Spanish in October, and I guess I’m at an intermediate level now. I grew up on the Mexican border, but had a strange resistance to learning Spanish… really, I could say “please,” “thank you,” “Where’s the bathroom,” and little else. Now I’ve got a better-than-beginner vocabulary, pretty good knowledge of the simple tenses (except the damn subjunctive), and I can read fairly decently, such as El Pais and Yahoo! Spain. Now, I’m working on more complex grammar issues, listening, and speaking.

I plan to continue working hard on Spanish for the next two months, and to start studying Catalan in March. I’ve been brushing up on Esperanto along the way. I wonder if I could really be quadrilingual by the end of the year? By then, I’d like to be able to translate the “Spirituality” pages of my site into Spanish, Catalan, and Esperanto, and to be able to correspond in those languages.

I’ll soon be doing a series of posts on love.

Everyone, Happy New Year! Bonan Novjaron! Feliz año nuevo! Bon any nou!

WisdomReading, 2006

Well, there was some interest in my reading schedule, so I created a Yahoo! group, WisdomReading, so we can go through these books together and discuss them.

We start on January 10, and will read through the entire New Testament, most of the Old Testament Wisdom books, including Sirach and Wisdom from the Catholic/Orthodox version of the OT, and several non-Biblical wisdom books.

The latter category includes the Gospel of Thomas, the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the Ashtavakra Gita, the Tao Te Ching, and the Dhammpada. If you’d like to join us but don’t want to buy any books, don’t worry: Almost all are available online, and your library also will have copies of most of them.

The readings are kept deliberately very short; in almost all cases all three readings can probably be done in 10-15 minutes. This will let us have more time to reflect upon the texts and share what we’re getting from them.

Hope to see you there!

Lectiodivina, 2006

My friend Darrell Grizzle has created a Yahoo! Group which will be reading the entire Bible through in 2006, including the Deuterocanonical/Apocryphal books. The group is Lectiodivina and you can join just by clicking the link and following the instructions. After you do, you might want to send a short introduction post to let the others know something about you. The “Files” link has the OT and NT reading schedule for the first 3 months.

Yours truly is a member, and I’ll be reading the NT with the group, although not the OT. What seems most valuable to me in the Old Testament are the Wisdom books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Songs, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), and Wisdom (of Solomon). In addition, I’ll also be reading the major Upanishads, the Tao Te Ching, the Dhammapada, the Bhagavad Gita and Ashtavakra Gita, and the Gospel of Thomas.

The schedule I created for this is deliberately light to allow plenty of time for reflection: no more than two chapters a day, of any book (sometimes just one), with the exception of Thomas, where I’ll generally just read three short logions a day. I’m greatly looking forward to reading the NT, Wisdom books, and these Eastern scriptures again, in a slow, more thoughtful way, since some of them I really ripped through when I read them the first time!

Sound interesting? Join us. (P.S. I don’t want to steal from the group’s thunder, but if you’re interested in reading Biblical and Eastern wisdom books in place of the OT, email me and I’ll send a copy of my reading schedule.)

Superb Translation of Thomas

I just came across the perfect translation of The Gospel of Thomas. It’s The Gospel of Thomas: the Gnostic Wisdom of Jesus, by Jean-Yves LeLoup, translated by Joseph Rowe.

This is a double translation. LeLoup translated the gospel into French and wrote a wonderful, meditative saying-by-saying commentary, originally published in 1986. Fortunately, Joseph Rowe has now translated the entire work into English. (It strikes me that this process is much like the history of the superb Jerusalem Bible, which also was a French translation first.)

Trust me when I say this is not just another Thomas translation. From the Introduction:

Pope Gregory I said that only a prophet could understand the prophets. And it is said that only a poet can understand a poet. Who, then, must we be in order to understand Yeshua?

Read more!

City Zen Citizen

My teacher made the observation that citizen can be divided into city Zen. He stressed the importance of being able to find stillness within, not just in the special environments and times we occasionally set aside for that, such as retreats, but whenever we can in the everyday, workaday world.

Within the course of any given day, we are often subtly drained by the tides of negativity, wants, and fears, and we tend to regard this broken, depleted state as “normal.”

Far from being selfish, “city Zen” is necessary for being a true citizen of the Kingdom, anchored in truth, unswayed by circumstances, resentment, and gossip. It’s necessary to have peace to share peace, it’s necessary to have love to give love. It’s necessary to drink the living water to have abundant life that can be shared, or even to survive yourself.

I love this story from the Gospel of Thomas:

Jesus said: “Look at that man. He’s running circles trying to catch that lamb.”
His disciples said: “Yes, he’s going to kill it and eat it.”
Jesus said: “and of course, he can’t eat it until he catches it and kills it. . . You too, must find your place of repose, or else you will also be caught and devoured.”