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Category Archives: Religion

Revival

There is a woman preaching to the river. Standing on the sidewalk, next to the new blue Toyota, gospel music blaring from the car speakers and open doors, she holds her Bible high in the air yelling to the dolphins, the cranes, the pelicans, and any tree that may hear. Any flower that may be blooming. Anyone.

She is a revival of none with a tent of clouds, looking to redeem the river, an evangelist for the fish, witnessing to the water, which, already holy, laps at the shore, listening, leaving, returning, receding, in no need of being saved.

No one listens. A few look, perhaps wondering from where comes the music so disrupting the call of the gulls, susurration of trees, the sounds of creation.

In white sneakers, dungarees and T-shirt of bright red, she holds a meeting to the open space. On her shirt, bright white letters front and back tell anyone who looks she is a Christian Soldier. Her short afro bounces as she jumps up and down. She is buxom and not slight, waving her arms in the air – the bible, flashing back and forth, thrust now and then toward the waves, black and shiny, as though it is sweating, like her, is held at the bottom, upright, so tightly, or so often, one can see the wear at the edge. The curling. The discoloration. And the cross on the cover has begun to wear faint.

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2015 in Culture, Religion

 

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Varieties of Religious Experience

A drive. Arlene next to me, my hand on her knee. On the radio, I have playing the overture from Jesus Christ Superstar. It has stopped raining.

We are driving south on US1, between Rockledge and Eau Gallie. One would think, from the names, these places would be much more interesting, more exotic than they are. Rock Ledge to Rocky Waters. US1 here is all a limestone ridge along the Indian River, a one hundred and twenty-one mile brackish sound, much of it shallow enough to walk across, separate from the ocean by a spit of land in some places as narrow as a quarter mile. It is a beautiful river though, with very little in the way of buildings to break the view, and often this is a beautiful drive.

Today it is gray. The wipers take the mist off the windshield. We talk about seeing plays, about Hair and Godspell, ideas for the future, and all the while, the river to the left.

A faint rainbow was in the sky when we left her house. Now, it is a bright bridge in the sky, and arc of refraction that spans the river. We look. Arlene loves rainbows. And clouds. And simple things and never tires of natural beauty, never taking the world for granted, and she looks at the rainbow from clear end to clear end and smiles. She smiles. She smiles and nearly I forget the rainbow.

How rare to see the rainbow’s end, and how rare to see both, and so solid, so bright, so manifest I am sure we could start at one side and walk over it to the other, look down upon the river from atop the rainbow bridge, through the light, see the world and the water in the full prismatic array of the visible light spectrum, sit, sit, and watch the clouds drift through as we lie upon the light.

The perfect arc. Then, as we watch, a vine of lightning appears, spreads, grows, center to sides, seemingly slowly, filling the color encased space with bright branches.

Who else saw this? Arlene. I. Anyone else? Probably. Maybe not. But it was not, then was, then was not again. There is no proof. Just memory. And beauty. An engram deep and quiet and I, I fortunate to have it. I need no photograph. I was there. It was perfect. It was glorious. It was beyond what can be beauty and it was shared.

Once, on a morning walk, I saw a meteorite. The memory lies next to the rainbow.

A brief, bright exclamation burned above the earth.

Celestial arc-lamp.

Below, predawn sirens,
Traffic noise,
My own padding feet.

Ineffable
Transient
Passive
Noetic

William James wrote, in his 1902 collection of his lectures at the University of Edinburgh, Varieties of Religious Experience, that there are four hallmarks of religious experiences. They are ineffable, in that they are too great for words and cannot be described even though we may try. We may do our best in prose, poetry, paint, but we know we have not come close. They are noetic, in that they bring us to insight and contain truth, though we may be unable to speak what that truth is, we can feel it present. They are transient, in that they come and are gone. They do not last and cannot be captured. They are passive. We cannot control them. We cannot bring them on or replicate them. They seem a gift and we are powerless in the presence of them.

And, as such, this rainbow, and the sharing of it. This rainbow and lightning and the experience of it, is, in essence, an experience religious. I cannot do it justice in words, I feel the truth therein—it exists in my memory and in the memory of a shared moment and, in its time and space, I was powerless. I could experience it only and neither bring it, hold it, describe it nor own it in any way other than as a feeling, a memory and a truth.

But the religious experience need not be brought by only the extra-ordinary. There is spirit and beauty in the ordinary if we only pay attention. There is the mystical in the mundane.

Out of the freezer
Saved for iced coffee
Poured from a glass mug
Into a blender,
Add milk, sugar, cocoa
Put on the top and
Press the button.

Done
Top off and vessel lifted
Above the mug
Poised to pour,
Halt.
Stop, cease, stunned,
Beauty.

Crystals,
Icicles, horizontal,
Circumference to center
Fill the mug.

Glorious
Ephemeral
Evanescent

Pick up the mug
In awe of the
Quick miracle
Gaze transfixed,
Frozen pitcher raised.

Place the mug
On the counter
Instantly,
Crystals rain
Into the coffee film below,

I must write this.

How many miracles
Unnoticed,
Unappreciated,
Unknown.

How much beauty
Surrounding
Never seen,
Waiting,
Existing,
Gone.

It takes little convincing most people that coffee can be a religious experience.

Especially if it makes Arlene smile.

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2014 in Nature, philosophy, Religion

 

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Win a Copy of my Newest Book : Yom Kippur as Manifest in an Approaching Dorsal Fin

Want to win a copy of my newest book? Of course you do.  Goodreads is holding a give-away for ten copies. Just click on this link.

From the back-matter:

“Whatever ‘the Jewish experience’ might mean to the modern reader, Adam Byrn Tritt’s approach is uniquely his own. He is ‘observant’ in the sense that he carefully observes, as you would expect of a man who is, at essence, a poet. As a self-described ‘Jewitarian Buddhaversalist,’ he is aware that each tradition illuminates the other. This collection of essays and poems provides us with good talk. Conversation is the highest artform, and Mr. Tritt invites us in most kindly, with insight, erudition, humor, and compassion.”

—Wayne McNeill, author of Songbook for Haunted Boys and GirlsImage

Yom Kippur as Manifest in an Approaching Dorsal Fin explores—in essays, poems, and creative nonfiction—the tension between cultural heritage and contemporary society, between religion and spirituality, between the family you inherit and the family you create. From early-morning wrestlings with God to portraits of three remarkably different family funerals, from Kabbalist chants at a pagan bookstore to the humorous “What Do Jews Do on Christmas?,” Tritt’s writing taps into themes nearly universal in today’s world in ways that will resonate with readers of all backgrounds and faiths—or no faith at all.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2013 in Books, Culture, Family, psychology, Religion, Social

 

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Link

Enter to win the Songs from the Well revised and Expanded edition, in paperback.

Enter to win the Songs from the Well revised and Expanded edition, in paperback, to be release on Yom Kippur, 9/8/13, along with my latest book, Yom Kippur as Manifest in an Approaching Dorsal Fin.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2013 in Books, Culture, Family, Religion, Social, Suicide

 

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My Book, Tellstones: Runic Divination in the Welsh Tradition, is an Amazon Bestseller

My First book, Tellstones: Runic Divination in the Welsh Tradition, is an Amazon bestseller. Of course, it took a fan writing me before I knew it. So thanks!

And thanks to all of you who have bought it. And thanks to all of you who have not bought it yet, but are about to.

Now, let’s work on making my other books hit the top as well. It takes all of us, and, if you are a writer, let’s support each other. Buy, review, and blog each others’ books!

 

My work, poetry, essay, creative nonfiction and more, can be found in various anthologies as well as my books, The Phoenix and the Dragon: Poems from the Alchemical Transformation (Smithcraft Press), Tellstones: Runic Divination in the Welsh Tradition, and Bud the Spud, which may be found at your local bookstore, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and elsewhere, for you reading needs, whether you like to hold books in your hands or read them on tablets or phones or Kindles or Nooks or, goodness gracious – so many options.  You can find my author profile on Amazon and please find me as well at GoodReads.)

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2013 in Books, Religion, Writing

 

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Recognizing Kali in a Young Girl

This is the first poem of mine I had ever heard read aloud. I had wondered about my poetry, whether it was any good or not. Whether it was worthy of publication in any way.  I had been reading the works of my favorite poets, Piercy and Ciardi and Millay, wondering if I would ever like my own work as much. No, I was sure. No.

One late night, after a campfire and dinner with friends, driving from Jonesville back home to Gainesville, Florida, the radio on a local station, we listened to a show with a variety of music and poetry and prose. A poem came on, introduced not at all, without a title, and I listened, mind fixed solidly on the words and rhythm. This, this, I said to Lee, this is what I wish my work sounded like. I wish I could write like this.

A stanza or two in, I said this. Lee elbowed me, said, “but,” and I asked her to let me finish listening to it first. She elbowed me again and said, “That IS your poem.” I believe this was followed by an eye-roll.  And, yes, indeed, it was.

And it was as I wanted it to sound. Said what I wanted a poem to say. I had written something I would want to listen to.

And there went my excuses.

Recognizing Kali in a Young Girl

Sitting here by the side of a two-lane
watching no cars go by
and steam rise in plumes
from the gaping hood of my automobile,
my daughter and I on this lonely shoulder
sitting, waiting for help.
Waiting for assistance.

Standing to stare into the engine
in a testosterone ritual predating cars
and trucks and carriages,
carts and wheels,
I imagine an early progenitor of my gender
staring intently into the mouth of a horse
checking teeth, gums, breath,
looking at the legs and feeling he wanted to kick something
but having no tires available
grabbed the beast’s cannon bone with a sturdy hand,
checking for splints.

Bubbling and boiling,
maybe this car will never move again
and I’ll have no reason to sit within its space
confined with hope of forced conversation with the little girl
too old to want to talk with her father
and too innocent to know why.

Turning away from the beast
I look to the field:
wildflowers blooming
tall, short, colored like air and sun,
water and earth, dancing in the wind
with my daughter, swaying and swirling
with my daughter.

The old rabbis have said,
or so the Hassidic recount,
not a blade of grass grows,
not a leaf falls
that an angel does not make it so.
Classes of angels,
Cherubim, Seraphim,
cloud angels and insect angels,
grass angels and tree angels.
Angels, then, for sunlight and rain
and for home cooking and pizza joints.
Angels for taxes and funerals and sex.
Angels for car engines.
Angels for little girls.

And there she is,
crouching among the blooms,
picking iris and narcissus.
Harvesting angels.

(This poem, along with many others, can be found in various anthologies as well as my own book, The Phoenix and the Dragon: Poems from the Alchemical Transformation (Smithcraft Press), available, along with my other books, Tellstones: Runic Divination in the Welsh Tradition, and Bud the Spud, at your local bookstore, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and elsewhere, for you reading needs, whether you like to hold books in your hands or read them on tablets or phones of Kindles or Nooks or, goodness gracious – so many options.  You can find my author profile on Amazon and please find me as well at GoodReads.)

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2013 in Culture, Family, Poetry, Religion, Social

 

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Gin and Tonic

Some short time ago, I became interested in gins. Not just interested, but fascinated. I am not a tippler. I barely drink. A bottle of Plymouth gin I have is still more than half full and it is more than eight years old.

Gin, and gin and tonics, are nothing new to me. My Aunt Esther and Uncle Dave used to give them to me when I was four. Maybe even younger than that. But I could go years without onûe. I liked them, but no big deal.

But now I became preoccupied with gin. The differences in tastes, textures, bouquets. And, so I, with my friend Craig, looked for a place that had gins to taste and came up woefully short.

One place I called used to be a favorite more than a year ago. It was one of the last places I took my wife to eat before she died, before she was no longer able to leave the house, before hospice, before her death. Even toward the end, hard as it was for her to be out, to enjoy her days, they had great patience for her, for her needs, and for mine. I called with trepidation, but Matt’s Casbah, I thought, was a good bet for gin and, I had hoped, I could reclaim this place as a favorite happy haunt instead of only associating it with radiation therapy.

No, they did not have any different gins, the manager, Justin, told me. But rarely had he heard of anyone else interested in gin, and he happened to have a bottle of Smalls, a “boutique” distillery that produced, what he felt was a superior and different gin. And he remembered me, and my Lee, and asked if I would come in to have a drink with him, on the house.

I was delighted. Elated, really, and I did go there, to have a drink with Justin. I took Craig with me and we sat, happy, sharing a bottle of small-batch gin, fragrant, strong, viscous, with Justin. With our first sip, we toasted Lee. It was a small thing, but a great kindness, and it allowed me to reclaim something I had lost, and in that, I knew I could reclaim other places, other things, I had lost. Other things associated with pain could be brought back to joy.

Some days later, Jazmin handed me a National Geographic. In it was an article about dying languages she knew I would be interested in. It discussed languages and how they formed, and were formed by, a culture’s way of thinking. In one section it discussed Kazakhstan, and the word for juniper, which, of course, is the main flavoring for gin, coming from the word genièvre, French for juniper. It stated that the Kazahks burned juniper berries to allow those who have passed to move on, and those who were still alive, to live on. It cleared the souls who lingered for the rest of their journey.  Kazakhstan is the part of the world from which Lee, the doctor, the shaman, and her family comes and she but one generation removed.

And here I was, at the one year anniversary of my wife’s passing, fascinated, preoccupied, with gin, with genièvre, with juniper as distilled in spirits.

When the soul reaches, listen and lend it your hands. And gin is what I was reaching for.

Since then, I have tried many gins. Many awful, many wonderful. I found a bar in San Diego while there for a book signing that had over forty gins, Aero Club, and the barmistress set me up with a tasting. I described what I liked, and she set it up. All for a Jackson and a tip. Junipero, one of the first small distillery gins, made by Anchor Steam, the first microbrewery to make it big. Farmers Botanical Organic Gin. Smalls. Hendricks, well-known but under-appreciated. Others. Many wonderful. All different.

I feel much better. And, I know, so does she.

 

Have a Shamanic Gin and Tonic

When a friend or loved one’s passed
(we know the body doesn’t last),
but the spirit’s not moved on
of those whose time has come and gone,
or those alive are still bereft
over one who long has left,
there is a cure one can employ,
a special drink one can enjoy,
to clear the space and tears away
and free a soul who mustn’t stay.

Have a shamanic gin and tonic
served tall in a glass that’s cold and conic,
prepared by a shaman with a twist of citrus:
cinchona bark and a gin that’s viscous,
and cubes of stone that fizz when you drop ’em
(better than pills that appall when you pop ’em,
or capsules or tinctures or some New Age option
is tonic and gin, the shamanic concoction)
or cubes of ice—they’re even freezier
(they dissolve in the drink, and that is much easier).
Then sniff the bouquet of the herbs and the roots
or the leaves or the stems or the barks or the fruits
or the spirits of plants that the gin spirit suits!
Have one or two
with a friend or a few,
and beat a skin drum
or rattle bones some—
then slip with a buzz down a hole or a drain
to discover your lack or the source of your pain
or maybe the unattached bits of your soul
that keep you from feeling as though you are whole
that fled long ago and now can be found
safe in the keeping of leopard or hound
or in a small cave or hole in a tree,
and finding them now, you set yourself free.
Then bring them back home as you drum with your drink
(it’s really quite easy, just try not to think)
with the cubes made of stone
as you journey alone
in the land underground (or is it within?)
assisted most ably by tonic and gin.

And what herbs or roots or fruits should we add
that would be good—or by virtue of excess or vacuity of some constituent or actions or combinations thereof—would be bad?
Cucumber’s a wonder in high summer heat
but in juniper, gin should be more than replete,
and filled with the spirits that cleanse and abide
for clearing the home (or office or what-have-you) and sending them outside,
so inside and happy now people can live
without items disappearing or dishes crashing or things going bump in the night, and they can be happy and productive and get a good night’s sleep without antidepressants or therapy or a sedative.

So toast those now gone, or gone but still here,
and raise them a glass in celebration and cheer!
And don’t take to drugs or psychiatry or colonics—
just drink some shamanic ice-cold gin and tonics.

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2012 in Family, Food, History, philosophy, Poetry, psychology, Religion, Writing

 

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Preparing a Meal

(All life, every encounter, each moment, pleasant, unpleasant, “pure” or “impure,” may be transformed into a spiritual event. All life is tantra.)

Early evening.
Empty house.

I hear nothing
but the smooth separation
of snow pea from stem,
knife rolling against board
in rhythm,
and the low hum of the refrigerator.

Among the small piles of vegetables,
onions, mushrooms, garlic,
and a small hill of fish,
I discern origin from end.

All to become a meal
designed for how it will feel on the fork,
attract the eye,
appeal to the soul,
sustain the body.

Another day, another meal,
and
I am grateful
for the destruction and death
which precedes creation.

 
 

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Lammas Day

See the llama
Climb the mountain
On the harvest
Day he’ll stomp.

High up in the
Airy Andes
Full of haught
And full of pomp.

See him light
The circle’s candles
Chanting in his
Lammas way.

To welcome in
The year’s first harvest
Longhorns set
To greet the day.

See the lama all in saffron
What a lovely coat it makes
But who has got the hoofs to shear it
To harvest it this Lammas day.

See the lama
In the circle
Polyphonic
Where he sits.

When the circle
Is all over
He needs no snuffer
He just spits.

(alternative)
See the lamas
In the circle
Singing, singing
High they’ll hop.

When the circle
Is all over
They don’t slow down
They just drop.

 

If you like, you can see and hear The Lammas Song played on a Tenor Fluke (ukulele). Honestly, the sound could be better but I have the equipment I have.

I originally recorded this on my banjolele, but you couldn’t hear me at all.

I teach this to kids and they act the whole thing out in a circle. The best part is when they get to spit. Parents love that part. Until the end, of course, when they all just drop into a heap. Great for stuffy UU churches.

When I do this with adults, I am kind and replace drop with stop. Easier on the joints and fewer concussions.

 

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Poetry, Religion, Social, Uncategorized

 

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Peek-a-boo

I dislike people asking me how I am. Generally, I am well. Or some version of well, depending on varying definitions. But being unwell has never got me anywhere so I see no point in it.

My doctor once complained to me that people complain too much about common ailments when they should just accept the body is imperfect and live their lives instead of whining so much. Sure, get checked out and stay as healthy as possible. And quit bitching. Then she looked at me and said, “if anyone has a right to complain, it is you. If people knew what you deal with, they’d shut up.” True, maybe. But I don’t think so. People like to complain. Some like to be miserable. Misery makes them happy.

Most of the people I see on a regular basis know not to ask me how I am unless they mean it. I don’t mean friends. I mean people I see but don’t know well. Cashiers, postal workers, bank tellers. We are always friendly. I am not the stuck-up, elitist, aloof snot many people think I am. I just don’t do smalltalk and pleasantries.

For instance, at my local grocery store, most of the people don’t ask me how I am doing. I even come in on occasion with my service-vested dog. Then they know I am not doing as well as I might like. Or that Dusty just wanted an outing.

Cashiers ask everyone how they are doing. They also always ask me if I found everything I was looking for. That is a habit I can’t seem to break them of. But asking me how I am doing is something most no longer do.

They used to. And I would answer with a question. “Is that a pro-forma question or are you genuinely interested in the state of my health and general tenor of my life? Because if you are, I will tell you. If you are not, please don’t ask.” They usually answer honestly that it is just the thing to say and we generally go on to have a pleasant financial transaction without the unnecessary interpersonal interaction and personal disingenuousness.

Once, the manager saw me staring at the soup cans. Five minutes later, she walked around again and saw me staring at the soup cans. She asked me if she could help me find something. Well, yes, I said, stunned back to a more shared and active version of reality. “Chicken and rice soup.” If she sees me in the store, she asks now if she can help me find something. It is appreciated. I tell her so. And she knows better than to ask how I am.

The last time I bought chicken and rice soup was for my wife, Lee, She of blessed name, as my not-too-distant ancestors would say. The manager had to help me find it among the other shelves and rows of cans. It was something she craved when she had brain cancer. Funny, somehow, doing such ordinary things for someone so extraordinary. For someone soon to be gone. The sacred in the mundane.

One late night, I left the hospital. It was April. Or May. Don’t ask me much about time in the seven or nine month period. I went to Publix late. It was nearly closing. Or I got in just before and it was after closing. I had four items. One might have been a vegetable sub on whole wheat bread. It might have been a cookie and fried chicken. On some of those hospital nights I went for comfort food, letting myself off easy. I would have had three items, but off the discount shelf was a bottle of Jack and Coke for a buck ten. And why not?

I don’t drink. Well, barely. I don’t want not to feel. And I didn’t want to deaden anything of what I was feeling. Folks tried to get me to take something to sleep. A tranquilizer. No need to feel it all the time, they would tell me. No. I never wanted to not feel the hurt, the pain, the agony. The impending loss. The emptiness, helplessness, uselessness. I didn’t want to, don’t want to deaden or dampen, even temporarily, anything to do with Lee. But this night, drink and the new episode of Justified would do just fine. Seriously, what is better to drink with a Kentucky crime drama than a bottled bourbon and Coke?

I got to the check-out. A tall, young fellow was behind the counter. I put my items and one cloth bag on the belt.

“How are you?”

Oh, no… not on this, one of the worst of all nights. “Is that a pro-forma question or are you genuinely interested in the state of my health and general tenor of my life? Because if you are, I will tell you. If you are not, please don’t ask.” I have it down, you see.

He laughed. “No, seriously, how are you this evening?”

He seemed like a nice kid. I thought I’d let him off easily. “Seriously, you don’t want to ask that question tonight.”

“Things a little rough, huh?”

Ok, I’m getting annoyed. “I’m giving you an out, you know. A free pass. Seriously, please stop asking.”

He looks at me a little funny. That’s ok. If it gets me my four items and I get to go home for a few hours before heading back to the hospital, then he can look at me any way he wants. The last few nights I slept in the hospital in a chair next to her. I feel wrecked. I must look wrecked because she was worried about me and sent me home to sleep. I just want a few hours in my bed. Food, a little TV, bed.

Three items rung up. He picks up the Jack and Coke, hesitates before sliding it over the scanner. Then looks at the label a bit closer.

“Well, this’ll make it better.”

I had it. Tired. Late. Hungry. Wrecked and worse, really didn’t want to leave my wife in the hospital and have my, first?, maybe my first, night alone in the house. Maybe, certainly, one of many to come. One of a life-time of nights alone to come where she isn’t with me. After thirty years, not with me. Considering this, I think I handled myself well. I think I was nice. Really.

“No, I am pretty sure that will not make it better. I am pretty sure, whether I drink that or not, my wife will still die of brain cancer. And a little Jack and Coke won’t make that better. But it might make it so I can sleep tonight.”

He lost a bit of color in his face. His smile dropped. The jocularity disappeared. He just looked at me. And, slowly, said, “Sorry.” One word. And put the bottle in the bag.

“I gave you an out. I asked you not to ask.”

“Yes, you did.”

I hand him a twenty. He hands me change. I leave.

Some number of day later I am, again, checking out of Publix.

”How are you today?”

“Let me ask you a question. When you ask that, you don’t really want to know, right? I mean, you don’t really want each person, all day, to tell you how they are really doing, do you? Aren’t you just saying hello? Really, isn’t it just a more formal way of saying hello? Or saying, I see you. I recognize your presence here is important to me. Isn’t it more that?”

She stares at me.

I stare at her. And say, “Peek-a-boo.”

She blinks and smiles. Shakes her head slowly. Scans my items.

It is sort of like saying “namaste.” Translated loosely, it means “The divine in me recognizes the divine in you.” I see you there. My spark of the divine sees the same in you. And here we are, together.

Alan Watts used to talk about God playing Hide and Seek with itself. The divine breaks itself up into all these people to experience the thrill of finding itself again, anew, in all these bodies, aspects, places, ways. A game of fun and discovery. Watts used to drink quite a bit.

Very much like a game of Peek-a-boo. God hides from itself. Sees itself, is surprised, blinks. Smiles. Says, “There I am!” and goes off to do it again. Next. Next. Who will I see myself in next?

Peek-a-boo.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2012 in Culture, philosophy, Religion, Social

 

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