Saturday, February 27, 2021

An Oldie but a Goodie, Part 2

      Last week I was praising editor and translator Jane Hirshfield's book, Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women.  There is one poem that I would like to share with you, to give you a taste of the treasures in this book. 

     Written by the Japanese Zen poet Jusammi Chikako around the year 1300, it speaks of how the bright moon, a symbol of enlightenment, enters the house when the inhabitants are not awake, that is, not actively trying to reach enlightenment.  All that is needed is that the door remain open.  

On this summer night
All the household lies asleep,
And in the doorway,
For once open after dark,
Stands the moon, brilliant, cloudless.

(translation by Edwin A. Cranston)

     Lovely, no?

Saturday, February 20, 2021

An Oldie but Goodie

      Since I haven't been able to browse bookstores as I used to, with the pandemic and all, I've been pulling books off my bookshelves that have been ignored for too long.  One such book is the collection edited by the poet and translator Jane Hirshfield, Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women.  I'm so glad I had the opportunity to spend time again with an old friend like this book.  Perhaps you would like to add it to your bookshelf as well.

     It contains poems and brief writings by women from women spanning many centuries.  Fortunately, Hirshfield provides a brief biography of each writer and some interpretation notes when needed.  She also provided many of the translations.  Some of the writers are well known -- Mirabai, Teresa of Avila, Emily Dickinson -- but many are by writers who are not as well known outside of their respective countries.  I appreciate the efforts Hirshfield made to include writers from all spiritual traditions and many, many countries.  It makes interesting reading in that it allows the reader to compare how time and place don't make much difference in the insights of a spiritually enlightened person (or someone aspiring to that state).  Very highly recommended.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Some Interesting Quotes

   I found some interesting quotes that I thought I'd share.  Definitely something to think about!

It is hard to tell which is worse:  the wide diffusion of things that are not true, or the suppression of things that are true.  (Harriet Martineau)

In the past censorship worked by blocking the flow of information.  In the twenty-first century censorship works by flooding people with irrelevant information.  (Yuval Noah Harari)

The right to freedom of speech is no license to deceive, and willful misrepresentation is a violation of its principles.  It is sophistry to pretend that in a free country a man has some sort of inalienable or constitutional right to deceive his fellow men.  There is no more right to deceive than there is a right to swindle, to cheat, or to pick pockets.  (Walter Lippmann) 


Saturday, January 30, 2021

A Beautiful Book, Part 2

      Last week I was extolling the terrific writing and the beautiful presentation of Tales from the Tao: The Wisdom of the Taoist Masters, written by Solala Towler.  This week I wanted to briefly retell a story from the book because it really captured my imagination.

     Once, long ago,  a young man named Wang Chou and a young woman named Ch'ien Niang fell in love.  They could not marry, however, because Ch'ien Niang's parents frowned on their pairing and decided to promise her to a servant.  Heartbroken, Wang Chou ran away to escape his pain, but soon found that Ch'ien Niang followed him.  They travelled and finally settled in a far-off land, where they married, found employment, and started a family.

     Years later, they felt guilty over how they had left their families, and decided to go back and try to make amends.  Fearful of her parents' reactions, Ch'ien Niang sent Wang Chou to their house first to talk to them and try to smooth things over.  After listening to Wang Chou, Ch'ien Niang's parents sat there, puzzled.  Then, they showed him to a back room, where their daughter, Ch'ien Niang, lay very sick, as she had for many years.  Wang Chou led her parents to his wife, and the ill Ch'ien Niang followed them.  Once the two Ch'ien Niangs saw each other, they fell into each other's arms, weeping and, miraculously, melting into each other until they became one person.  Everyone was astounded, especially after they realized this one daughter was wearing two sets of clothing!

     It made my imagine run:  Was this a story of parallel realities?  Of Twin Souls and living in the contradictions of the spiritual and physical planes?  Was it about the purpose of suffering in spiritual growth?  I don't know.  I just enjoyed the story, and think you would find the other stories in this book equally enjoyable.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

A Beautiful Book

      Let's start the new year with a recommendation for a terrific book.  Written by Solala Towler, who studied Taoism for many years, Tales from the Tao: The Wisdom of the Taoist Masters is a thoroughly beautiful book.  First, it is beautifully bound, with crisp, soft pages and a lovely sense of quality.  Well done,  Watkins Press.  Second, it has beautiful photographs in black and white by John Cleare.  I wish it had said more about the photographer and where the photographs were taken, but they are lovely to contemplate.

     But of course, the writing is what really captured me.  They come in the form of short stories, most of them from the Taoist canon, such as those told by Chuang Tzu, but a few were written by Mr. Towler himself.  Rather than the very brief, sometimes almost cryptic, versions told in the original Taoist writings, these are retold, fleshed out, and beautifully written.  First, I read through the book in great gulps, then went right back and savored each story slowly.  It's a terrific book.  Highly recommended.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

The Human Stew, Part 2

      Last week I was evoking the image of making stew as a metaphor for humanity.  I had an insight recently that the idea of "We Are All One" seems odd when you consider how different our life experiences are.  Yet, when viewed as a stew, where each person contributes some life lesson to the whole of humanity (the human stew), it makes more sense.  

     Like in a stew, each person contributes their own flavor, their own ingredient.  And those flavors come from lessons learned in their unique life.  And since we are all one, we all benefit from those life lessons on a deep, spiritual level.  What we each offer either helps or hinders humanity as a whole, just as each ingredient in a stew either makes it taste better or worse.

     Maybe you are contributing some life lesson about patience.  Or about standing in your truth.  Perhaps your neighbor is contributing a life lesson about dealing with difficult people or overcoming a bad habit.  Or another person contributes a life lesson about sacrifice or balancing the needs of others with their own needs.  The lessons are endless, just as the variety of our lives are endless.

     Have you tasted some perseverance lately?  That would be a drop of me.

     What have you contributed to our wonderful stew?

Saturday, January 9, 2021

The Human Stew

      No, this is not a post about cannibalism.  Rather, it is about a new insight I had about the concept of "We Are All One" along with the wide variety of life experiences we all have.

     So, let's start with a picture of some stew.  I don't know about you, but there is nothing quite so fulfilling as a big bowl of steaming-hot stew on a cold winter's day.  I've even enjoyed it on a cold morning for breakfast!  It might have some meat cut into chunks, or perhaps some cubes of tofu, along with some potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, celery, onions, zucchini or yellow squash, beans, tomatoes, maybe some broccoli or some kale (ewww), a beef shank with marrow, a lot of chicken broth, a touch of wine, and olive oil.  

     And let's not forget the spices!  Salt, pepper, chili flakes, Italian seasoning, thyme, garlic, maybe some ginger and cinnamon.  Quite the variety.

     And every bite is different.  You might get some protein along with a potato in this spoonful, and then some onion and carrot in the next; perhaps a bit of the bone marrow along with some tomatoes in the next spoon.  And it all tastes wonderful.

     And I think humanity is a bit like that stew.  More on this next week.

(photo courtesy of

Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

May it be filled with good health, 

happiness, and peace. 

(image courtesy of