Archive for the Humanism Category

I get this a lot. It’s difficult to answer but, I’ll try and explain it here for the first time. Stream of consciousness style. I have fore a while just insisted that I’m not a “real reverend.” Meaning I just don’t think I am in a position to advise people on pious living. But then I thought…fuck pious living. Especially by someone else’s definition of it.

Be a good person. Don’t be perfect. Accept yourself and always try to improve. Be respectful of others so long as they are respectful of you. Turn the other cheek when you feel the urge but if you aren’t feeling it, don’t. Understand your unconscious and don’t always fight it but let your conscious win some battles also.

So now it occurs to me that, given the low standard of spiritual leadership in the world today, I might as well go ahead and assume the model for my friends and loved ones who, honestly, don’t need much anyway.

It’s like being a weatherman in San Diego.

That said, I’d like to just briefly explain how things are and perhaps always will be…or perhaps won’t.

……………….

Sermons…

Why use that word? Sermon? So closely connected with Christianity?

Because I tend to believe all the religions of the world are one. They all essentially bestow the same values. Some have been twisted to control others or profit financially but, within them all are certain basic human philosophies. So, like they borrow each other’s words, traditions and myths, so shall I. And sermon is a great Southern way to describe what we are doing. And they take place in front of St. Louis Cathedral often. So why not borrow that from Christianity? Let’s take it.

In fact, the basic framework of Christianity is mostly appropriated because it is so familiar to people. It certainly is repulsive to some and the systems of religion are certainly to blame for that. By using sermon to describe these simple missives, perhaps we can make the word a little more benign that the demonizing, pious works of the past. And having Christian structure is actually more comforting to some.

There is no higher power required to understand the 86 sermons I’ve written over the last few years. They are not inclusive or exclusive of Jesus, Buddha, snake gods, Zeus,Vishnu, R’hllor or any other deity. They are as they are. And they aren’t complicated either. I call it “bacon and eggs” spirituality. It’s just breakfast. A simple philosophy backed up by a gospel from science or literature or some spiritual text. It doesn’t require “faith” and it is all take it or leave it,with no threat of Hell or Heaven or anything else.

But that’s not to say I don’t reject those concepts. I just think of them more terrestrially. I think every one of us has a uniqueness to explore. “Heaven” so to speak is realizing that uniqueness and doing with it the most you can do to define your experience on Earth before it becomes a cinder or a lifeless rock (whichever of those two outcomes you happen to believe). Hell is not doing that. Evil is not doing that.

And all the sermons eventually contradict each other because there is simple no way to have any one construct of thought that exists through all instances of space-time. No one thing is ever the same for long. All actions will be swept away with time yet the entire Universe is changed forever after each one. If a particular sermon hits a particular person in a particular way on a particular day –  amazing. If it doesn’t, no big deal. Because there will be another one that might.

And the gospels we draw them from can be from anywhere. We’ve used a variety of them. My favorites are Emily Dickinson, William Blake, Carl Sagan, Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung. But we have looked for meaning in Charles Bukowski, Stephan J. Gould, Lyle Saxon, neuroscientist David Eagleman. Even Drew Brees was a gospel as he coped with losing to the 49ers in 2012. There is meaning in everything. It is all human experience.

So the sermons are composed from previously published texts and mean all sorts of things. None of them too deep. All very comprehendable by anyone. They simply provide an opportunity to stop and think about oneself. Usually for only a few moments but, it’s a stopping point at least. Sort of a brief reset. A few minutes to say, “Consider your existence. Maybe the thought will reappear and develop into something more hours, days, years later. Maybe it won’t. This reverend only intends to deliver it. His work is finished there. No change necessary.

And of course, I am not the only one who can pick gospels. Anyone can and several have.

And I try not to say “do this” or “dont do this” as much as possible. No absolutes. Absolutes bad.

The Reverend…

I will admit it would be a funny thing to do to sell folk art at first. But I quickly realized I had myself pinned into a crisis of legitimacy.

So after decades of thinking critically about my existence in my spare time, I figured I could do it on a more applied basis.

What’s most important to dismiss is that myself as the “reverend” does not and should not communicate that I am somehow more enlightened than anyone else. I’m not.

Most who know me know my struggles and shortcomings. Some probably more than I do. But, I am dedicated to thought, free and critical thought in myself and others. And I am willing to devote a little time on Sundays to just explore thought and share it with others, consider ways to think and things to consider. If one is doing this already, one extra instance shouldn’t matter. If someone feels they should do it more, here is an opportunity. It couldn’t hurt. Might help.

I don’t have it in my head that I am the only person who can show people the way as many of the more, ahem, successful reverends have done. I’m just like a grill cook at a diner. Providing the proteins and carbs of spiritual thought. No saffron or truffle oil, just salt, pepper and hot sauce.

And what I have discovered in the last few years is people like having a reverend. Especially one that doesn’t judge or threaten to send them to Hell or believe in “spooky” stuff. People love the ritual of religion but hate the piety and dogma. They want the frosting and not the cake. And while that euphemism often means doing something you don’t want to do to get what to something you do, it’s not necessary in this scenario. You can jump right into the frosting.

And a lot of times people want someone to say a few things. Toasts, house blessings, marriages, birthdays, people recognize the ritual and importance of these things and just want someone to think of something nice or poignant and a “bacon and eggs” minister can provide that.

I have been surprised at how much people really enjoy the ritual of our Sunday readings on Jackson Square. For a few weeks, I was doing the sermons privately with different people because it was harder and harder to get everyone gathered. But people said they hated it and insisted on one public reading with everyone gathered and they would put up with waiting on each other. I was surprised that the ritual was so valued.

There is also the delivering of resin spirit animals and lately, the more refined act of creating folk art weaponry for people who regularly attend sermons. These are just benefits for showing up. No real precedent for this stuff. Just part of the ritual.

Of course there is a bit of an issue relating to my being “ordained.” Yes, I did get a pretty much meaningless ordination from the the Universal Life Church, something that pretty much anyone can get and many have gone ahead and gotten. In my defense I did get the entire ordination package.

I knew there were some legitimacy issues that needed to be rectified regarding this. Not relating to the state (who will let me marry someone legally) but with everyone else. People who ask, “What kind of a reverend are you?”

So that’s where the sermons come in. It’s hard to argue with 86 sermons, written and delivered, sometimes with annotations as to who attended and what their reactions were. Anyone who does take umbrage with it will first need to explain how ANY minister or reverend has the standing in the Universe to do what they do. Because I’m at least doing as much as many of them. And for no money.

This last one is most important. I never, ever, ever-ever-ever-ever-ever hope to hold myself up as any sort of sterling example to be admired. No, no, no. I am in no way up to the task. No man or woman ever was. Not even the ones you think were. Just give up on the concept. I am an “irreverent reverend” and always intend to be. I like cussing, boobs and butts, drinking, carousing, honking my horn and all sorts of lowborn activity. . It’s the “revel” part of “Live, love, revel, rejoice.” All this allowed in the Spirit anyway

Oh right, the Spirit!

The “Spirit”

If I had to pin down any one philosophy it would be this simple one:

Know yourself.

Know the Universe.

Know yourself in the Universe.

That seems pretty simple and hard for anyone to really debate. It’s not exclusive of anything. It’s a search, a personal “Hero’s Journey.   There are simpler “ways of our way” of course. “Be skeptical,” “Think critically,” “Be here now,” “Rituals are important,” “Own thy struggles.” These are all just good advice. But mainly, most things are about your hero’s journey. And of course living, loving, reveling and rejoicing along the way.

But all this does leave some folks out; People who are suffering. People so far away from self actualization because they are at the base of Maslos hierarchy of needs. And I just don’t know that a “bacon and eggs” reverend can really take that on. It would fall under “Know the Universe” as in “Know the CRUEL Universe” and do what you are in the position to do to help. As the 5/12/2013 gospel by Albert Camus said, Perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured. But we can reduce the number of tortured children. And if you don’t help us, who else in the world can help us do this?

The closest thing to a real religion would be the ethics-based Humanism.  There is a value placed on the self, on the dignity of the human. A bit different than Secular Humanism because I’m not quite so hung up on attacking other spiritualities so much. Only when they are used to oppress or demean others. But, I have a lot in common with humanism. And it has a lot in common with the more empowering and just plain decent aspects of the world’s religions.

……

So that’s what kind of reverend I am. A very simple soul. Not essentially ordained by anyone. No better than anyone. Not contrasting himself with others by greatness or wretchedness, without zealotry, allegiance, fanaticism, fealty,  ethnocentricity,  jingoism, narrowness or sanctity. A friend to most. Not a leader by example by any means. Just a few sentences to contemplate per week, weather permitting.

Am I a bit crazy or egotistical or living in some fantasy realm?

Yes!

But conformity stifles creativity

And thinking a lot of oneself is fine with me. So long as it doesn’t come with superiority. We are all magnificent or can be at least.

And sometimes the imagined world is better than the real one.

We should all be explorers of self, the stars and self in the stars.

I’m not trying to lead the way but hope to help.

A principle ethic of humanism is dignities, the natural-born right for any person to live a dignified and worthy life of their choosing and unmolested by those stronger, more powerful or with a greater willingness toward cruelty. The prevailing philosophy is, if each person always considered essential human dignity in their worldly actions, human rights ills like slavery, genocides and all forms of oppression would cease. Lofty.

Some say that we humans have an inherent selflessness hardwired into the collective species that should prevent us from the continued harm of others, a biological altruism. This is shown by individuals putting themselves in harm’s way when a child runs in front of a car or a person saving someone from committing suicide. See how this man describes his actions at the end of this video.

But of course, recent and distant history shows this isn’t precisely so. But it isn’t so because somewhere in the philosophies of the oppressors, this focus on human dignity is reasoned with and dispatched, leaving the perpetrator with what they often claim is, “no choice,” or that the ones who suffer at their hands are somehow less than human.

And while this drought of dignity seems as if it occurs only on dark continents and in third worlds, it doesn’t. In fact, it often happens within a few dozen miles of our homes. It isn’t a genocide or an ethnic cleansing. Not even close. But is an indignity that exists in the here and now and the spiritual reasoning that enables those indignities is implicit in our culture…

Podcast:

On Point with Tom Ashbrook Podcast: Exploited Labor In The USA
The story out of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana sounded Third World. Guest workers in a seafood processing plant allegedly forced to work 24-hour shifts. 80-hour weeks. Barricaded in so they couldn’t escape. Threatened with beatings to work faster. Bullied. Underpaid. Families threatened. Forced labor.

Last month, Wal-Mart suspended the supplier of crawfish, and the horror stories ricocheted around the country. But in a bad economy, with the pressure on, exploited labor doesn’t just happen on the bayou.

This hour, On Point: On the bottom rung. Exploited labor in America.

NY Times: Wal-Mart Suspends Supplier of Seafood