A lovely SJD weekend

My weekend started with Discovery classes at St. John the Divine at 9:00 am Saturday and went on till 4:00 pm. I loved the class. Rev. Doug started the discussion on how in history post modernism made it way in and has held sway by permeating into the collective consensus in epistemology (how to think and know the truth?). Then he went on to really explain the concept of Original sin not being the act of sin but being the impetus to be God-equal which was the cause for man’s sin. He talked about the centrality of the cross of the Christian gospel. He then explained how the book of common prayers was supposed to be used. I loved the whole class. I gained so much from it.

The rest of the evening I spent with an affectionate family from SJD about which I have written here (/emmanuelreagan/2008/11/children-love-of-life.html).

On Sunday, I went to the 8:45 am service. I was floored by the hymns we sang. The theme for this Sunday was ‘Christ the King’ and we sang the song ‘Let all mortal flesh keep silent’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HR2YAOzmhiw&feature=related) . Which I believe is a 4th centuary chant each an every line of which causes the whole of ones being to have a foretaste of the King’s majesty. It is a truly timeless song. As the dismissal song, we sang ‘Crown Him with many crowns’. What a way to pay homage to the King of kings. They are truly timeless songs and I believe that this would be a song we would still be singing in heaven after having sung His glory for ten of thousands of years.

I went outside the Church and it was the most beautiful day I had seen. The temperature was just right. The light from the sun was diffused through the clouds to create an awesome ambience. There was the most gentle breeze and the brown leaves of the trees were on the green lawns. It couldn’t get more beautiful. I just couldn’t help myselt. I went and sat at the bench in the lawn to enjoy the beauty of the day. ‘Let all mortal flesh keep silence…’ was still playing in my head. I went to the last of the three Next classes. Then I attended the contemporary service. The song there too were awesome we sang ‘Amazing love how can it be’ and then ‘From the rivers to the ends of the Earth’.

I went back to the lawn to sit at the bench and read a book. As I was proceeding into the timeless world, I saw Kelly walking by and he invited me to go to lunch I went to lunch. After lunch, I was back at the lawn continuing with my book, back into my timeless world, until 4:30 pm. The sun disappeared the into the dark clouds and the temperature was beginning to drop and I rode my bike homeward.

As I look back now, I think it has been a perfect weekend. So full of Church, fellowship with God’s people, timeless solitude and the overarching love of God.

Children – the love for life

There are two groups of people whom I love to spend time with – the young children and the older and mature people because they both have something in common – the love for simple life witout any trappings. The young children have an intuitive love for life, a simple yet profound love for the fact and the act of ‘being’. They are the ones that ‘simply’ enjoy the fact that they are alive and kicking. Whereas, the grand old ones have the rich experience of the love of life, an existential proof of fact of ‘being’ being an act of love.

The other thing that the young ones and the older ones have in common is that they both live in a timeless world, they are un-pressured by the trivialities of the act of being. I was lead to think about all of this because of a memorable experience I had last Saturday with a very affectionate family from SJD small group study and their three kids a 5 year old, a 2 year old and a 3 month old little one.

Last Saturday evening I had completed my discovery classes and was on my way back loitering round Rive oaks in the bike because I was not ready to call it a day, I wanted more out of life. I was pondering what I could do next, that was when I thought I heard someone call me from behind I looked back there was a car close behind. I was wondering who it was. When the car pulled by me, I realized that it was the family from the small group Bible study at SJD and seeing me they had called out my name. They invited me to dinner at their house close-by. I couldn’t be gladder than to spend time with a family with three cute little kids, and all of them so welcoming and affectionate.

I could see how the children, were so excited just by the fact of being. 2 year old, was so glad to just see me, it did not matter to her if I was her friend or not. It did not matter to her that I was a bloke that had a tough time relating to kids in an existential sense. It did not matter to her that I was really not sure how I had to sweet-talk to a kids. All that mattered to her was that I was a ‘being’ that was there and I was ‘looking’ at her. She would go and hang from the edge of the table and look at me with a big beautiful eyes to see if I was watching her aerobic exploits.

Then she would think how else to engage me, because I was her guest and she was the host. The parents were making dinner and we were all at the kitchen were we all were. 2 year old would be the busiest person there walking around the kitchen wondering how to engage me. Then she called me over to the couch and there she took out a coloring book and started coloring the pictures – like an artist performing for an audience. I was so surprised that a 2 year old could be so cognizant of how to relate with people so well. I guess it is a part of the unblemished image of God in human beings. She was just keeping me occupied and happy.

Then came my turn to reciprocate, my turn to play the only trick I know to make kids happy which is to lift them high up over my head and give them a supported free fall with a few variations. Kids love it. It is my trick to compensate for my inability to sweet-talk to kids. Kids like me to do that again and again and because my arms are strong I don’t tire easily. I love two things about it. One, how the kids laugh with a sparkle in they eyes. Two, how they come back for more – when they want more they would shyly walk up to me and lift up their hands as though reaching out for another candy.

It astounds me that such a simple ‘act of being’ as lifting up a kid could make them so excited to want more and more of it. It is their innocence and the sense of wonderment of being that makes them enjoy something so simple. As people grow up they loose that sense of wonderment for the simple things of life.

What was so beautiful about this event is that in lifting up 2 year old again and again, I was enjoying it as much as she herself was. In a way the experience had made a kid out of me. It made me enjoy all the simple nuance of life.

2 year old was taken to sleep. The five year old came down wearing a feathered Indian band she had made in her school. Being a five year old, her way of relating was pretty different from her 2 year old sister. She was more vocal. She was visibly self conscious and shy. She started talking about her school and what happened there. She was an entertaining story teller. It was so apparent that she loved to talk. I loved listening to how a kid would script her story how she builds the nuances into it. By now, it was getting late and it was time for her to go to bed.

But of course, kids live in a timeless world. They are never pressured by what they needed to do next. She really did not was to go to bed and was lingering as much as she could in the hall and then finally bid goodnight and went off to sleep.

The 3 month old was such a cheerful kid. I guess it was because of the way the parents involved him in conversations. We would talk about Ten Commandments or Benhur and during our discourse, the mom or the dad would look at the little one ‘so, you would love to see Benhur, wouldn’t you?’. It was as though little one was always a part of all conversations. I think they set a very good example in parenting because I have seen parents often shut their kids off adult conversations. Of course, little 3 month old kid even smiled at me. But I really couldn’t figure out the reason for the smile. Perhaps it was just that I was a different looking being in there and it seemed funny.

Kids make a kid of me. That I am sitting here at 3:00 am ‘charged-up’ and typing this off, well aware that I need to wake up at 7:00 am to go to gym and then to office is proof enough that I have entered into the timeless world as theirs.

What I love about the kids and the old people is their zest for life. I see it in their eyes – the love for life.

The Modern Trends: A non-contemplating Civilization

Glad as I am to witness the first time in recent recorded history a black man becoming the most powerful man in the world, I think there is great value in reckoning that the Obama VS McCain battle, apart from being a tussle between change and reform belied an underlying tension between showmanship and statesmanship. Showmanship won the day, Obama was ‘cool’ Mc Cain was not. McCain was a statesman who had been in public life for about 40 years and had high credentials whereas, Obama came out of nowhere, had very little credentials for executive leadership. But Obama captivated the hearts world over by his ability to enthrall a crowd by his ‘coolness’ factor – charisma, showmanship and rhetoric. He spent $650 million on his advertising and showmanship – the record highest for any US presidential bid. If he had opted as he had promised and as Mc Cain did, for public financing then all he could have spent would have been about $90 million dollars. His charisma drew two hundred thousand Europeans when he was in Berlin. McCain his statesmanship not withstanding, could never match Obama’s showmanship. It is astounding that a person, coming of out relative obscurity, can by sheer showmanship become the most powerful guy in the world.

My intent here is not to delve into the differences between Obama and McCain. Obama is a leader that America needs to salvage what is left of is tarnished reputation in the world. But I intend to use this display of showmanship which won the day, as a starting point to allude to the modern trend in human nature because of which we have allowed ourselves to be persuaded more by the ‘coolness’ factor, showmanship and rhetoric than by reality and rational persuasion. This is not only true of politics, it has pervaded all spheres of life. This was true of the IBM vs Oracle struggle as well, during the initial years. Though IBM had a better product, Oracle took giant leaps by sheer showmanship of Larry Ellison and got a head start in market share.

Over the course of modernization, there has been an increasing focus on creating the coolness factor through showmanship and advertising. That a company like Google can blossom out of nowhere and make net profit of over 4 billion dollars annually, just after 7 years of its inception, just by tapping into the online advertising potential, is evidence enough for the importance of advertising and showmanship in this modernized world. Online advertising has grown so big so quickly that it gives the great Microsoft chills as it has missed the crest of the new wave. In the 2006 ‘Client Summit’ Steve Ballmer the CEO of Microsoft in the key note address said, “in the 1990s Microsoft was about ‘windows, windows, windows baby!!!’ four years back it was about ‘developers, developers, developers baby!!!’ but now Microsoft is all about ‘advertisers advertisers advertisers baby!!!’”.

To understand the implications of this trend in the modern man, of his predisposition to blithely give in to such showmanship that is so prevalent around him, one has to understand the words of Voltaire one of the profound thinkers of the age of Enlightenment when he said
“The modern man has no time to think about truth, his intellectual history is just a replacement of one myth by another”.
Advertising and showmanship is all about captivating the human hearts and minds and then feeding it with myths while at the same time, deluding it into an intellectual laziness of blithely assuming that it is getting a glimpse of reality and also feel ‘cool’ about it. The modern man would buy into anything, whether it is the legitimacy of abortion or the adultery or rampant materialism if it is well ‘packaged’ and ‘delivered’ with cool showmanship.

Advertisers and showmen are easily able to tap into this trend of intellectual laziness in human because humans beings as Voltaire rightly points out do not want to spend time thinking about Truth. They do not want to think or spend time in deep contemplation. Edison the man who invented much more than any man alive could ever have, said, “Man would go to great lengths just to avoid having to think about something”.

If Voltaire would come to this world, he would be flabbergasted by the way the post modern world has fallen from the intellectual ideals of the enlightenment world. He would be happy to go back in time to the enlightenment world were reason and content held sway over intellectual laziness and showmanship. The 21st centuary man, to retain his intellectual fidelity to reality, has to make a concerted effort not to allow showmanship or the ‘coolness’ factor to delude him from truth. He should go through the painstaking path of rationally thinking through content and have a glimpse of truth for himself.

The problem with the post modern man is that the idea of introspective contemplation and the quest for Truth has become non essential. In the good old days when India was one of the most advanced civilizations in the world, the highest vocation a man could dedicate himself to was to take up a life of meditation in which one was in a quest for Truth about life. Even in the western world, the golden age was when Philosophy was the pinnacle of education. Now a days, the highest vocation a young man can devote himself is to become a Steve Jobs and create devices which is so much about look and feel than about anything else. The need for such devices is in their ability to seduce the modern man’s mind and being absorbed by anything other than contemplating the truth of being.

21st centuary man thinks that his civilization is perpetually progressing. But he does not even realize that in allowing himself to be seduced by showmanship and ‘coolness’ factor around him, his supposedly ‘progressive’ civilization distracts and deprives him off the time he needs to introspectively analyse if his civilization truly is progressing or not. He blithely gives into the ‘cool show’ that is put around him and assumes that he is progressing into a better world than his ancestors lived in, just because he has a ipod and his forefathers did not. It would do him a lot more good to remember G.K. Chesterton’s quote

Civilization can exist in only one angle, right now, we are testing angles

In a Timeless Perfection

In a timeless perfection
I am. I read. I write. I talk.
I fly. I dance. I laugh. I love. I am.
God smiles at me.

I read a book. Write two. Paint New life.
I debate; make a speech.
I love the theatre. I make a movie.
And Master Artist smiles at me.

Unperturbed by time, I cherish being
The essence of what I am;
The discovery of my real self.
My Architect smiles at me.

I am; my being Him worships
My New Life I love. My New Home I cherish
My King of Kings smiles at me
And I at Him. This is heaven.

Train Moves On

Alone in the station
Wanting the train to stop
As the train leaves with the loved one
On a journey of no return

Forever ingrained in a haunting memory
The eyes in the window watching
The eyes that would kill
Till the beholder’s closes forever

Would the beholder’s eyes close as the train moves
In a prayer to stop the moving mass of steel
Or would it be riveted into the eye at the window
Not the loose the last of the loved one

The eyes all the more endearing
As the loved one disappears into oblivion.
Until all there is, is nothing.
Nothing but a searing pain in the fainting sense.

The train is gone.

The whole being fights in sobs deep and big.
The eyes that held itself clear and dry
To look for the last of any love
In the eyes at the window, flood now.

The frigid being comes to senses, afraid.
Lost forever, the loved one
Left forever with an inexorable longing
For the love and the time gone by.

The time that consciousness fears loosing for eternity
A time that has become its own curse
A curse that would continue till the casket closes
Of falling in love with the wrong pair of eyes.

Alone at the station of life
The train moves on.

(inspired by the ending scene of ‘Sunflower’ one of Sophia Loren’s classics http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbU-a99giUg this is the scene where the husband of hers who loved her initially suddenly leaves her for another woman far off)

What’s wrong with the World? I am.

Once an editor sent a letter soliciting an essay from G.K. Chesterton on the topic ‘What’s Wrong With The World’. The editor was shocked when he opened the mail which contained the essay because all it said was…

I am.

Yours truly,
G.K. Chesterton.

The editor had to read it twice before he understood that what G.K. Chesterton meant as the answer was ‘There is nothing wrong with the world, it is just that I am wrong with the world’. I had a similar experience at St. John’s Divine Episcopal Church at Houston this Sunday morning, the experience wasn’t as profound as to be worthy of G.K. Chesterton’s quote. I just find the analogy a funny one.

I woke up at 7:00 am on Sunday and got ready to go to 8:45 AM service at St. John Divine Church. I started in my bike which at about 8:20, the roads were unusually vacant. I was at SJD sharp at 8:45 but I found very few cars. “What’s wrong here” I was thinking, “don’t people come to Church in time?” I entered the main Church there was not even a single usher. What is wrong with the ushers aren’t they supposed to be here. I went into the church to find the pews empty, not a soul in the Church. Now I was confused.

I went out there was a lady walking by, I asked her if there wasn’t’ supposed to be a service there at 8:45 AM. “Yes there is” she said. “But the Church is empty” I replied. “Oh, we shifted back an hour, there is a service which starts at 7:45 AM in the chapel, you may come there” she replied and walked off. I was thinking to myself, What on earth did she mean when she said ‘we shifted back an hour’. I can shift something that is humanly tangible, I can shift the venue of a meeting, I can shift my house. How can I shift time? Even God hasn’t performed that miracle for more than two and a half millennia. I though to myself, “What is wrong with her”

I looked at my watch it was almost 9:00 AM. So I was late to the 7:45 AM service by over an hour. I thought that I would be in time for communion at least. I entered the chapel and the lessons were being read. I thought again, “What is wrong with this service, isn’t the service supposed to have the lessons at the beginning much before the communion?”. I was baffled and thought that may be there was a problem in the main church and so they shifted the service to the chapel. But still the chapel was too small and there were very few people. Even if the venue had been shifted shouldn’t the folks that come regularly have come? What is wrong with these regular Church folks? Did they all decide to come to the 11:00 AM service? What is wrong with them? Or was there an important football game? The service was over and as I was coming out, a genial old man came up patted me on my shoulder and told me nice to see you young man. It then occurred to me there I was the youngest guy there. Why aren’t there any young people here? What is wrong with the young people, don’t they come to Church anymore? By then it was about 10:00 AM in my watch.

I went to the main Church building, where as per the Church bulletin, a Bible Study was to begin at 10:00 AM, but to my utter confusion there were ushers giving pew sheets for the 8:45 service. “What is wrong with this Church today?” I was thinking.
So I went to one of the ushers and asked him, “Isn’t there supposed to be a Bible study here?”
He said, “Yes, it is at 10:00”.
I replied “Yes, but then why is there a service now?”.
“This is the 8:45 service” he said.
I replied “But shouldn’t there by be the Bible study here now?”

He as visibly confused as what I was trying to ask. And I was thinking so “What is wrong with this guy?” I really did not know what to ask him next, he really did not know what to tell me. I was wondering. “I just don’t get it, What is wrong with the world today?”

Then I heard a familiar voice calling me “Emmanuel” from behind I turned and there was Dana and Don who always have the knack of finding me when I am lost in Church and making me feel at home. I asked Don “I was thinking there supposed to be a Bible study now at 10:00 here, but why is there the service now instead of the Bible study?” Don thought for a moment and had a hearty laugh and said “Dude you didn’t set your watch back by an hour”. Then it occurred to me that it was Day light savings time shift when all clocks all over the US would be shifted back by an hour I forgot to set my watch back by an hour.

I had been at Church at 7:45 but my watch was wrongly pointing at 8:45 am. So I was attending the 7:45 service thinking it was the 8:45 service. There was nothing wrong with the woman who said ‘we shifted back an hour’. There was nothing wrong with the reading of lessons in the 7:45 service. There was nothing wrong with me being the youngest guy at the 7:45 service, the young guys come to the 8:45 service. There was nothing wrong with the usher whom I had confused by my questions. There was nothing wrong with the world. It was just that I was wrong with the world.

Nevertheless to do my best to rectify my mistake, I attended the 8:45 service which I had originally intended to attend. And then I attended the Bible study at 10:00 it went on till 11:00 and till 11:30 I was at the contemporary service, by then I had had 3:30 hours of nonstop church activity. I decided to take a break. I sat with my laptop at the SJD lobby and was deep into my writing. At 12:30 I went to lunch with my friends at Lake wood. I was back at the SJD lobby at 4:00 pm to work on my writing. On my way back, Rev Doug waved at me as he drove past. I was thinking to myself as to what a queer sight in the road I was, because I guess I was doing a very un-American thing of ‘commuting’ in my bike wearing formal.

SJD lobby is a quite place to concentrate to do some writing. I stayed at SJD and I attended the 6:00 PM service as well. On the whole today I attended al most all services on a Sunday. So the day that started with everything being seemingly wrong ended as a perfect Sunday.