Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Seed of Life

It was a spring Saturday, I was sixteen years old, my father and I were out on the front lawn, pulling dandelion weeds out of the grass. During our casual conversation, I confided I had yearnings for happiness. His response startled me: “Why should you be happy when so many people are suffering in the world?”.

My father, Richard Boone, who died two years ago, was a social scientist—a problem solver determined to bring about justice and a better world. His entire adult life was devoted to action in the social arena. He was instrumental in empowering and improving the lives of masses of people in America. He invented the term "maximum feasible participation" and used it like a mantra. A close confidant of Robert Kennedy, he helped develop President Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty and the Food Stamp program, initiated the Foster Grandparent program, uplifted disenfranchised southern black people to vote and gain representation . . . started an organization called Citizens Crusade Against Poverty, became executive director of The Field Foundation, helped found the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington DC and much more.  He did not believe in God, and quoted Karl Marx: “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” He told me that too much was made of Mother Theresa. She helped the poor and sick in India but did not attack the root social causes of their plight. He liked Mahatma Gandhi more.

Sometimes I am shocked to tears by news of what happens on our planet. As calamities grab the headlines I see my father’s perspective.

Enlightened beings tell us to accept sufferings along the way in life, but be happy in our closeness to our Creator. Our human side suffers, but finds mercy and light in the spiritual realm.

The other day, I heard a news story of a conflict in Africa. A village had been caught up in hatreds. A woman told how her father was tied to a tree, then had his throat cut. Next she was raped in front of her children.  How does this woman now find “happiness”? She must forever live in a broken, haunted world.

During my youth, I did summer work in the inner city in Washington DC. One day I was tasked with spending time in a school office, helping a troubled boy from the ghetto. As he sat next to me it was obvious something terrible was within him. He had no emotional animation, was crushed and could not conceive lessons. A heap of abuse scarred him from his earliest days. Though in a physical form, he seemed gone . . . liked a bombed out building that stands but is charred and desolate inside. All I could do was make simple lines on a sheet of paper and have him copy as best he could. He did that with great effort.

Bahiyyih Khánum (1846 – July 15, 1932) was the only daughter of Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith. She was given the title of "Greatest Holy Leaf". A saintly woman, she is regarded as an immortal heroine in the annals of the Baha'i Faith. Because of the persecutions of her Father, much of her adult life was spent as a prisoner or in exile.

During her darkest hours, she wept:

“O God, My God! 
Thou seest me immersed in the depths of grief, drowned in my sorrow, my heart on fire with the agony of parting, my inmost self aflame with longing. Thou seest my tears streaming down, hearest my sighs rising up like smoke, my never-ceasing groans, my cries, my shouts that will not be stilled, the useless wailing of my heart.
For the sun of joy has set, has sunk below the horizon of this world, and in the hearts of the righteous the lights of courage and consolation have gone out. So grave this catastrophe, so dire this disaster, that the inner being crumbles away to dust, and the heart blazes up, and nothing remains save only despair and anguish . . .
O my Lord, I voice my complaint before Thee, and lay bare my griefs and sorrows, and supplicate at the door of Thy oneness, and whisper unto Thee, and weep and cry out.”

Before she died at the age of nineteen from cancer, my daughter Naomi endured the utmost pain, misery and heartache. During the last two years of high school, she had a tube, called a port, dangling from her chest. It went into her heart for administering chemo.  At one point the drugs were administered in such great doses as to destroy her bone marrow. She was a Make-A-Wish Child, and modeled fashions on a nightclub runway in New York City. A talented artist, she was accepted to a prestigious art college but died the year she was to begin. When times were the worst for Naomi, she dug deep and wrote in her journal: "Show up and be lovingly present, no matter what it looks like out there or inside of yourself. Always speak the truth of your heart."
The day before she died, Naomi remarked to a friend, "I love my body, it has been so good to me.”

I believe God is nearer to us than we are to ourselves. And this is why when terrible things happen in life we carry on . . . we continue to "show up." Just as a forest that is burned down and obliterated leaving only charred earth is able to regenerate because the seed of life survives beneath the surface holding the blueprint of renewal, so too, every human being has a pureness within that is beyond destruction.

"Have patience - wait, but do not sit idle; work while you are waiting; smile while you are wearied with monotony; be firm while everything around you is being shaken; be joyous while the ugly face of despair grins at you; speak aloud while the malevolent forces of the nether world try to crush your mind; be valiant and courageous while men all around you are cringing with fear and cowardice. Do not yield to the overwhelming power of tyranny and despotism. Continue your journey to the end. The bright day is coming." ~'Abdu'l-Baha,

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Known By Different Names

Duomo, Florence, Italy
As scenery and cultures reshape from country to country, the changes become more pronounced as continents are crossed. Dress becomes quite different, languages change, customs and taboos change, foods and the ways of its preparation differ, and worship as well. As necessary as food and clothing, so too is worship. I have noticed wherever I am—whether in America, Europe, Africa, Asia or South America, a universal need to express worship of The Creator. People come together united by a common belief to build shrines, temples, churches and sanctuaries devoted to worship. It is everywhere.

Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

It is fascinating to watch the transformation from churches in one land, to mosques in another, and temples elsewhere. In Italy, the epicenter of Christianity for centuries, there are tens of thousands of churches, some dating almost to the time of Christ. Step south across the Mediterranean Sea to Northern Africa and churches are replaced by mosques. Cairo, Egypt alone has over two thousand. Landing in India, temples and shrines are abundant for Hindu worshippers. The city of Varanasi has an estimated 23,000. Moving further east, to where I find myself now in Thailand, Buddhist temples are also called pagodas with an adjacent stupa. All these places have a religious order that acts to supervise and attend the holy grounds. All are created with great devotion and sometimes are awe inspiring in their artistry and beauty, shining like the crowning achievement for a community.

Baha'i Temple, New Delhi, India

The outer form changes, but what is common is the need to worship and give reverence to the Divine Being . . . known by different names but essentially THE ONE CREATOR OF ALL.
Buddhist Temple, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Hindu Temple, Varanasi, India

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Always Made The Effort

My father said that he never could see the “man in the moon.” The moon's face with it's big crater eyes and opened mouth that seemed to say “Oh,” had always been so obvious to me and a welcome sight, so his confession surprised me—especially since I held my dad to be a supremely thoughtful person.

I never heard the mention of God or Jesus or Moses while growing up. Most of my friends belonged to households with religious affiliations, at least nominally claiming to be of a particular spiritual persuasion. Not in my home. Yet, there were strong ethics involving morals and responsibility.

In my nineteenth year, while away at University, I found myself searching for meaning beyond the practical, and embarked on a spiritual pursuit, joining the Baha'i Faith. Perhaps my parents were surprised, especially when through the years my faith deepened. 

Throughout every religion are teachings on how to act in accordance with spiritual wisdom. Most religious people try and live righteously, with various degrees of success. Some are outwardly religious but inwardly lazy so as to make no effort toward benevolence or virtue.

Father always made the effort and could not tolerate liars or usurpers. As a young adult, after I found religion, we talked and he admitted that he regarded religion somewhat like Karl Marx (German, 5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) did—as the “opiate of the masses.” The context of the Marx phrase appears in this sentence: "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people." Father was determined not to accept unjust conditions in society. He felt that religion made people accept what they should not. When so much was being made of Mother Theresa caring for the destitute in India, taking a vow of poverty, he scoffed, and insisted her energies would be better used to change the sick nation so that systemic corruption and oppression were expunged and a new society with a more wholesome foundation was created to lift up the masses. Why accept the poverty and not change the conditions that created it?

Father left this world never having spoken the word “God,” but in his actions and beliefs living spiritually. I imagine his delight, when he “met his Maker,” and before Him, he stood clean, and they looked back at all those he unselfishly helped along the way.

Read here a very good article about my father, written in the Chronicle of Philanthropy:
Richard Boone: a Tireless but Humble Advocate for the Poor

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Nothing Is Lost

At the temple of Karnak, Luxor, Egypt
Today’s blog is number 347. That is about 6 ½ years of writing. In the beginning, I wrote to bring attention to my artwork, but quickly, the writing became fuller—to encompass life and death, philosophy, religion, art and travel, and more. As I think of it now, I became disciplined and rarely missed a beat, even while living out of a suitcase, traveling constantly. The written recording, augmented with photographs, is useful and has led me to ponder how experience is never lost, but is computed in the mind of God.

I love the term Akashic Record. It is described as containing all knowledge of human experience and the history of the cosmos. Many people who have died and reached the portal of the next world, when by fate have returned to a resuscitated body, describe seeing their entire life pass in front of them. "Nothing is lost of either piety or sin that is committed by creatures. On days of the full moon and the new moon, those acts are conveyed to the Sun where they rest. When a mortal goes into the region of the dead, the deity of the Sun bears witness to all his acts. He that is righteous acquires the fruits of his righteousness there." (Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva, Section 130, Ganguli trans.)

Ancient Egyptian Afterlife Ceremony

We all will do well to ponder our lives, and reflect on our doings. While I was in Egypt, I saw artwork that copied ancient hieroglyph’s depicting the journey into the next world, and the chain of events that marked that transition. A person’s deeds are recorded, and a panel of 14 judges makes an accounting for judgment. If all is well, the personality continues to meet the higher beings. If not, Ammut the god with the crocodile head and hippopotamus legs will devour the heart, condemning the deceased to oblivion for eternity.
For more about Ammut: .
For more about Ancient Egyptian Afterlife Ceremony.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Great Scheme Of Things

Some people believe in God and others do not, and those in between are called agnostics. It is understandable that there is great difficulty attaining 100% consensus of belief in God, for the finite mind cannot grasp the infinite nor can a cup contain an ocean; and many of us have to grasp something in order to believe in it. Furthermore, this world is beautiful but also violent, with merciless atrocities that occur naturally and by the hand of man. This further confuses people who cannot stomach the thought of a beneficent Creator making such a mess and watching his creatures struggle in it for the sake of progress to a better life later.

When I was growing up, our household was without religion. My parents never spoke of God, and religion was something my friends knew about but not me. In some cases they endured the religion that was foisted upon them. Our household was liberal and a place for free thought. As the years went by, many of my friends came to enjoy our house as a haven of sociability. As I entered my teen years and my mind expanded, I asked my parents about their belief in God. My father said he did not believe, and since he was a passionate social activist, went so far as to quote Karl Marx, who said, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” My mother said, “I am an agnostic.” Since I did not know what that meant, she went on to inform me that God may exist, but we cannot know for sure, so we allow that He might be present.

My youthful spirit searched for the truth independently during the beginning of my college years. Of course, I wondered more deeply what life was about and how I came to exist, and what my purpose might be. The first holy book I read, the Bhagavad-Gita, I found by chance while browsing in the university library. Glancing through the pages, something drew me, and I read it in entirety. Soon thereafter, I began a three-day fast, and pondered deeply whether God existed. The main question that excited my imagination and soul: “How did intelligent life and ordered existence throughout the universe come to be?” I could only conclude that a higher intelligence, God, made creation, of which I am part. Funny, but the next question that plagued my youthful mind for the next couple days was, “Can there be more than one God?” Perhaps I wrestled with the thought of one Being, dominant over all. But finally, I arrived at closure when I realized that God must be All-Powerful, and if there were two Gods then neither would be All-Powerful. There can only be one God. Shortly thereafter, I found the Baha’i Faith, and joined.

Over the years, my parents have changed. My father does not mention God or religion, but I suspect he has gone from being atheist to agnostic. My mother has developed a deeply personal relationship with God. She does not belong to a church, but in almost all her conversations she praises God, the Creator. Every day she speaks of “the wonderful world we live in.” I went to live with them in the spring, to help them with aging issues, and slept in a small anteroom near their own bedrooms. They would retire about the same time each night, my father closing his bedroom door and turning on his white-noise sound machine, and my mother would arrive in her bed, then promptly begin speaking out loud, (I could hear her), having a personal conversation with God. Typically, she praises His creation: the beautiful green grass, flowers, magnificent trees, the order in nature, sunlight, air and temperature, earth, soil, micro-organisms . . . and she thanks Him for her body and holding her place in the great scheme of things.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Plenty To Write About

 “Have you thought of writing your memoir?” Several people who have watched my life unfold have put this question to me. There is plenty to write about.  I could make a book out of just the year 2008, when I traveled around the world and lived in nineteen countries.
It strikes me that there has been so much contrast in my life. I come from a family of contradictions. My father is the product of an upper-class southern household, and went on to the highest echelons of education and career. My mother’s history involves broken childhood homes, poverty, and little education after high school. The two conceived five children in eight years. I am the first-born.  From this crowded scenario, I have found that in adult life, I prefer solitude, or at least anonymity in crowded places.
My first wife had no material wealth when we met.  Several years into our marriage, after our daughter Naomi was born, she revealed mental instability, divorced me and was institutionalized.
My second wife was born into wealth and it only increased with time. We share a beautiful daughter and our marriage lasted 21 years. After my first daughter died when she was nineteen, our marriage became seriously undone. After divorce, I took my year to travel around the world and live as a homeless vagabond, experiencing the basics of earthly existence and living in what I call THE DREAM, in flux. 
A question I am pondering is how truthful to be in divulging my life story. Do I describe growing up in a household without religion and my teenage years as a hippie? Do I tell of my first sexual experience that happened to be with my girlfriend and her girlfriend both? Do I include my times in jail? Hitchhiking experiences from coast to coast? Religious conversion to the Baha'i Faith is easy to tell, but not so easy is my subsequent mental breakdown and three days in a psycho ward. This was after graduating Art College and driving across the USA in my car with four other Baha’ís, visiting Indian reservations and transfixed by conversations about extra-terrestrials, the Urantia book, and Baha’i writings. Do I tell of visions I have had in prayer—of vibrating light coming through walls and then entering my body and causing me to smell roses?
The common advise in writing a memoir is to follow a time line moving forward. Another encouragement is to “go deep” in the emotional experiences, and to write what is hard to write. It is said that those parts can be what readers remember and value most because they reveal inner struggle. Especially, reveal changes in life . . . and for this I have had plenty to speak of.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Most Glorious And Sensual Object

After my blog, titled Eros, appeared last weekend, a member of my religion, Baha’i, wrote me an Email and questioned whether I was adhering to the moral tenants put forth in the religion. The ensuing half-dozen correspondences that went between us proved interesting, so I asked if I could publish them and the response was “sure”. To read them, click here: erotic.

My model had posed nude for an artist drawing group I attend, and that is where we met. She knew ahead of time what I wanted to do artistically but changed her mind about posing nude for photography.

I have pondered if the world of art can exist without an erotic impulse, and I do not think it can. So much of poetry and art arouses the senses. This is what Eros does, and if Eros did not exist, the world would die off because men and women would have no interest in each other physically. Eros is like the worker bee that is attracted to beautiful flowers and while it goes from one flower to next it has sex with them, and ensures their survival.

Art expands our experience of life—what we do with the experience and how we respond is subjective, unless we have been indoctrinated by society and are looking at symbols such as flags of nations. I resist indoctrination, although it is extremely difficult to be free of persuasions born of repeated patterning.
The great American poet, Walt Whitman, caused uproar when his very sensual poems came to the public view and he questioned the puritanical norms of the day.

The bodies of men and women engirth me, and I engirth them, They will not let me off, nor I them, till I go with them, respond to them, love them. Was it doubted if those who corrupt their own live bodies conceal themselves? And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead? And if the body does not do as much as the soul? And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul? The expression of the body of man or woman balks account, The male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect.
From I Sing The Body Electric, by Walt Whitman

When Whitman says that those “who corrupt their own live bodies conceal themselves”, he means those who associate shame with their bodies are also concealing part of their souls.

I came across something Pope John Paul II (18 May 1920 – 2 April 2005) said: "The human body can remain nude and uncovered and preserve intact its splendor and its beauty... Nakedness as such is not to be equated with physical shamelessness... Immodesty is present only when nakedness plays a negative role with regard to the value of the person...The human body is not in itself shameful... Shamelessness (just like shame and modesty) is a function of the interior of a person."

When I was in Florence, Italy and entered the Accademia Museum and first set eyes on Michelangelo’s David, it was cathartic. Everything I loved about the human form was before my eyes in all its glory. I kept wondering to myself, how could he have done this? After entirely encircling the sculpture several times and looking at the features from all sides, I began to study the faces of other people while they were looking. The expressions were of awe, wonder, and unabashed delight. And part of the delight was that David stood entirely naked. Heaven forbid that self-righteous bigots ever make this treasure on earth into something shameful, or “against God.” Then we know humanity has fallen into wickedness. In fact, during the middle ages, many nude sculptures and paintings had fig leaves added, and then when years later they were removed, the artworks were damaged.

Really, I cannot imagine taking sensuality away from art and literature. The most glorious and sensual object on earth is the human body. Let’s not burden it with guilt and shame more than it has been already.