In praise of bad marriages

22 04 2019

In my intellectual traversing around Hinduism, I encountered the above clip of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada [Founder of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), popularly known as the Hare Krishnas] speaking of his former married life. Prabhupada left his family once his children were grown to become a sannyasi, or renounced monk, but his marriage was apparently not a happy one. In this clip, Srila Prabhupada speaks about how as a young man, he went to his father to complain that he didn’t like his wife. At that time, marriage to more than one woman was permitted in colonial India, and the insinuation was that he was asking what his father would think if he were to take another wife. Instead of giving the blessing to take another wife, the father told his son that he was most fortunate not to like his wife. For by having a wife he didn’t like, it would be easier to leave her aside and go back to Godhead (that is, Krishna). We all have to give up what we love in this life sooner or later, and loving your wife less would mean that leaving her would be easier. Read the rest of this entry »

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On the Triduum

18 04 2019

Sometimes I feel more cursed than blessed having had a thoroughly Catholic youth. As I have stated previously, the strongest memory I have of Good Friday is our grandmother reminding us to fast or God would strike us dead (something like that), and showing up to church one Good Friday and seeing an ambulance in front. “He probably didn’t fast,” I thought to myself then. Read the rest of this entry »





The alternative Catholic future

15 04 2019

I read a review in Harper’s Magazine of a new book on Thomas Merton and his personal foibles. Having resisted the urge so far to read Merton, I will probably not read this biographical expose either. On the other hand, this article was of interest to me in that it also describes the trends at the time within the Catholic milieu. From Archbishop Fulton Sheen to Evelyn Waugh to a nascent Liturgical Movement, there was a genuine optimism of message within the general pessimism toward materialist modernity. Catholics could be in the world but not of it, and the world would still listen. Merton’s own Seven Storey Mountain was a cultural phenomenon that influenced everyone from devout Catholics to the beatniks. Only with Vatican II and the 1960’s did the script definitively flip: in opening to the world, the Church showed that it feared it, or rather, that it feared being ignored by it. In the meanwhile, the world began to ignore the Church (except for chances to slander it). It continues to ignore it to this day. Read the rest of this entry »





Guru-puja

11 04 2019

As a follow-up to my review of Ram Dass’ Be Love Now, I decided to get a documentary on Krishna Das named after his first album, One Track Heart. To refresh your memory, Krishna Das is a major figure in the circle of followers of Neem Karoli Baba, an Indian religious figure who helped bring a certain popular brand of Hinduism to the West. Krishna Das’ path to following his guru goes through music, specifically kirtan. Kirtan is congregational singing of mantras made popular in the United States in particular through its performance in yoga studios and similar venues. Indeed, Krishna Das is known as the “king of kirtan”, providing the popular soundtrack to the yoga craze that has taken over the West in the last 20 years. Read the rest of this entry »





On the Divine Office

10 04 2019

I have followed sedevacantist priest Fr. Anthony Cekada’s writings for almost two decades now, and I am quite fond of his approach to theological and liturgical questions. I am most appreciative of his mischievous humor as well when he is polemicizing. A recent piece of his from some years back praising St. Pius X’s reform of the Divine Office (known in the current Church as the “Liturgy of Hours”) was brought to my attention. He brings up the main issue of the pre-Pius X office not reciting all 150 Psalms a week as well as its length and complexity. Cekada thus thinks the reform was a good idea and not without historical precedent. Archimandrite Robert Taft, for example, produced an exceptional book on the Divine Office indicating that its reform had been an issue for centuries prior to St. Pius X. Read the rest of this entry »





On conversion: I’m against it

4 04 2019

I am flighty in my ideas, I admit. Since my mid-20’s, I’ve basically had a live and let live approach. “If it works for you, that’s okay I guess.” Maybe this is caused by my (very) liberal education, my West Coast upbringing, and my coming of age in the era of multiculturalism. There was one instance (I can’t give details of course) when I was drinking wine with a Catholic friend who was thinking of converting to Islam (he did). I volunteered to drive him to the mosque and witness it (that didn’t pan out for reasons I don’t remember). It was surreal, but it takes all kinds to make a world. Read the rest of this entry »





Chasing the Incarnation

1 04 2019

A haunting image that has been etched into my mind manifested itself to me in a Russian Orthodox church during the All-Night Vigil for the Feast of the Annunciation. At a certain point during Matins (I won’t bore you with the context too much), the bearded priest stood before the icon of the Annunciation and chanted one of those old leftover ancient Slavonic chants with censer in hand. I am not sure why this made such an impression on me: it was a good hour into the service, and I know little Old Slavonic (I can sort of muddle my way through understanding what is going on.) The priest wore a sky blue phelonion gilded in gold, the robust baritone voice echoed through the church, and the melismatic chant reached back into time and grabbed from it some hidden reality that gleamed like the clouds at dusk… Read the rest of this entry »





Sympathy for the liberal devil

15 03 2019

I should state again that I am sympathetic to theological liberalism of all stripes. Part of this is due to my good personal relationships with people with progressive religious worldviews. They are generally nicer people (using my “Would I invite this person to a backyard barbecue?” standard). Even though my own ideological preferences often dip into the reactionary, and my ritual preferences definitely so, my inclination to exclude people using these criteria dwindles more and more as time passes. Read the rest of this entry »





On fasting

12 03 2019

I heard a homily recently at a Roman Catholic church I do not frequent wherein the priest was talking about fasting. He stated that what you eat doesn’t really matter, as in giving up chocolate or meat or whatever. Rather, he said it was simpler if you just eat half of what you normally eat, perhaps by using a smaller plate. Having experience in other traditions with strict limitations on the types of food one can eat while fasting, I found this attitude intensely problematic. The typical Eastern Christian fast is one from most animal products, and the term “carnival,” the period before Lent in the Western Church, means “saying farewell to meat.” Is this simply impractical in our age when meat is often less expensive than (good) plant-based products? Read the rest of this entry »





On the supersoul

6 03 2019

I have a habit of trying to read books outside of my expertise and interest, and the above talk is on the book that I just finished reading: Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness. The octopus and the cuttlefish in particular seem to exhibit evidence of consciousness and recognition, often with mischievous and self-interested ends. Humans have reported octopuses trying to escape from aquariums, exhibiting hostile behavior, and swimming next to divers in a pattern of recognition. They seem to demonstrated levels of consciousness only present in “higher mammals.”

Some interesting tidbits from the book is that octopuses seem to see with their skin and, in spite of having advanced intelligence for their habitat, they live only about two years. The author then has to explain why animals that have this level of intelligence live so shortly. The hypothesis is that animals in general have to “front end” all of their vital energies, which explains why we get old. We have to have all of our strength and health early to reproduce the species as much as possible. Otherwise, especially in the wild, if we had to wait to be strong and attractive at the end of our life, we could be killed or or suffer an accident before we reach our full potential.

Such inherent intelligence also reminds me of the book, Gifts of the Crow, also about an animal with an “abnormal” level of intelligence. Crows have been known to go out of their way to sabotage cars and get resources in creative ways. The problem then becomes: Are we seeing ourselves in a universe that is dead and hostile to us, personifying the inhuman? Or is our intelligence part of a larger intelligence that works in us but not exclusively?