Monday, November 29, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
17th c. Byzantine icon
His right hand weaves the ribbon of his blessing into a tangle of crooked fingers and, finding the precise arrangement, knots itself into a bow. The bow-shaped blessing exits his body as well as the plane of the icon, sailing across millennia and the ocean between his fingers and your eyes where the gift is visually received.
Death is an unsolvable riddle. Religion is the ornate untying of death.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Standing on one leg, she fluffs her feathers then combs the pick of her beak through her darker and downier places. Handlessly, she removes debris from the tops and the tips of her claws, fluffs her feathers again and stretches her neck skyward, showering in the sunshine. I know how she feels.
It was 1666. A culture of reform was sweeping through the hierarchy of the Russian Church like a wildfire, overturning long-standing traditions in the process.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Photo: Public Domain
When I walk into my gym and head toward the locker room, I pass behind rows of machinery – treadmills, elliptical trainers, small revolving escalators – each topped by a person struggling to move. In fact, the whole point of the machine is to provide a person with a struggle, a resistance to be overcome. If they weren’t difficult to use, after all, they wouldn’t be effective. Because the exercise is tedious, at the eye level of the joggers are carefully positioned distractions: rows of television screens. The televisions face the joggers, engaging them in visual conversations. They are alluring no matter their display, transporting the mind of the jogger away from the struggle of exercise, enabling the jogger to jog farther and longer than she might have otherwise jogged. No matter how long you stare at them, televisions continue to deliver. Even the most rancid sit-coms are colorful displays of light.
Bundled nerves are the brain’s fibers and when you exercise them they grow. Brains are not made of meat like muscle, but the workout is the same. The more you flex your brain, the stronger it becomes. How do you learn to thread needles? By threading needles. Want to learn how to thread a needle really well? Thread one thousand needles. Repetition is the weight-lifting of learning. The brain is just a numbers game.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Image: Brooklyn Projects
If the body were one big hand – a walking high five if you will – and three of its fingers curled over to scratch an itch on the ball of its thumb leaving the index finger uncurled, would people assume it was pointing upward? Would they marvel at the walking hand or would they look toward the sky in the direction that the finger is pointing?
Photo: Public Domain/Jon Sullivan
Thinking is like kneading dough . . . except dough toughens more easily than brain. You can knead bread all day long; bread dough turns stiff with kneading. And bread: you bake it for a few minutes and it’s done. Brain, on the other hand, you can never overbake; rather, it is always baking.
The gymnastic element of yoga is perhaps the most characteristic aspect of this multi-faceted tradition – at least for Westerners to whom even an adult merely sitting cross-legged appears exotic – but there is much more to yoga than forming the dough of the body into the shapes of human pretzels. In yoga, the mind is posed as much as the body is posed. In fact, the two cannot be separated. The mind is yoked to the body and where one goes the other goes too, so sculpting the body also sculpts the mind. Yoga leverages this wholeness for the purpose of shaping the soul, uniting and reuniting the self with itself, with the world and with God.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Fifo
I was maybe five or six when a needle broke in my buttock. At least that’s how I remember it. I remember being held down squirming. I don’t remember how the needle felt piercing the skin and the muscle, but I do remember the scene that erupted before the needle was eventually removed. I swear the nurse said: “It BROKE!” It probably didn’t break. I’m sure the image in my mind of a sharp spike of metal, cracked in half, its ragged end protruding from the dart buried daggerlike in my buttock, was the product of my imagination. Whatever happened, I bet it was because of how tightly I clenched my muscles as I dodged to avoid the needle. All I know is that a sense of heightened emotion spread throughout the room, emotion I interpreted as panic, and that after a first failed stick – oh joy – I had to get another one.