New Revelations

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 – Revelations 3:23? I bought a copy of the Steve Jobs biography and turned to page 323. There was nothing of interest there. Then I turned to Chapter 3 and counted 23 paragraphs in, where I found an intriguing story. It told of Job’s strange relationship with the manipulative spiritual leader Robert Friedland. Apparently, Friedland ran a commune called All One Farm. It was an experiment in socialism. Socialism is a system of ownership where all the members of the community share in the work and the final product.

Jobs would spend weekends at the farm, seeking enlightenment and pruning the Gravenstein apple trees. According to the book, “’Steve ran the apple orchard,’ said Friedland. ‘We were in the organic cider business. Steve’s job was to lead a crew of freaks to prune the orchard and whip it back into shape.’”

The commune was supposed to be a refuge from materialism. Materialism is the belief that comfort, pleasure, and wealth were of highest importance. Friedland’s cult followers were told to chop and sell firewood, and to make apple presses and wood stoves, for which they were not paid. Jobs and the other workers soon became disenchanted; they missed their comforts and having independence and control over their own lives. One by one they left the apple farm.

Experiments in socialism throughout history have always failed, largely due to the leadership of self-serving men who did not respond to individual needs and did not reward the individuals adequately to succeed as a whole. Having learned valuable lessons about managing and motivating people, he was inspired to create a new model of social enterprise. His management philosophy led to the innovative culture and broad market reach that came to define Apple Computer.

The Wall Street Journal article ended with this conclusion about Jobs: “We will not soon see his like again. Let us hope that when we do, it is soon enough to help us deal with the troubles that this century, and every century, will bring.”

Apple’s advances in technology now connect individuals around the world more readily with one another. Apple ipads and iphones give their owners access the internet and its vast amounts of information, multiple messenging options, numerous social media sites and millions of products. The internet is a veritable “Tree of Knowledge,” and the beguiling serpent of temptation is the biology of addiction, arising from the overuse of such portable devices. As with alcohol, drug and gambling, such addiction this brings a lack of discernment, senseless spending and a disconnect with reality. Children and teens are especially susceptible, and research is showing that these devices interfere with healthy brain, social, emotional, spiritual and physical development.

Living in an overly busy, noisy world of information-overload, how can people possibly listen to their own intuition, recognize the wisdom of others and think for themselves? This will require individuals to make a conscious effort to step back from technology and seek moments of inactivity and silence, in order to be able to reflect on who they really are, reclaim their independence and regain control over their lives. There is a healthier balance to be found between people’s technological, material and spiritual lives. Furthermore, everyone holds the potential to connect with the spiritual forces waiting to provide the guidance that can empower humanity collectively. Indeed, humanity has the potential to reshape the world into one that benefits all beings. Moving through the Information Age, perhaps the next step in human evolution is awakening to such a reality.

One common theme among my Storywalker stories for children and parents is the idea of slowing down and finding time to rest in silence, so as to be able to hear both the inner and outer voices of Spirit and to reflect on what is heard.

Secular Prophecy

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 – Today our family received a rather strange anonymous note card in our mail box. The envelope was postmarked Providence RI. The sender had tucked a small slip of paper inside, which read: “I feel GOD has called me to make a card each day and send it to someone. I pray for names, then look them up on the computer. I hope you will read the scriptures and hear what GOD is saying to you. I hope to meet you someday in HEAVEN.”

An original ink drawing of pumpkins had been affixed to the face of the note card. The card also referred to three bible references, by book and number. I looked one of them, Revelations 3:23, and was surprised to find that it did not exist. The third chapter of the book of Revelation in my bible has 22 verses, and the title of the book is not spelled with an ‘s’ at the end.

Following my intuition, I did an online search for ‘Revelations’ and found the top listing led to an article titled The new Steve Jobs biography: 7 revelations. Posted just five days ago, on October 21, by The Week, the article shared seven revelations leaked by the press prior to the biography’s public release through booksellers, scheduled for October 24. The biography is about a college drop-out who became the famous genius creator of Apple Computer.

This was one among the recent string of articles written about Steve Jobs in the wake of his passing, at age 56 on October 5. Two weeks earlier, the headline SECULAR PROPHET had jumped out at me from a cover page of the Wall Street Journal. The headline struck me as oxymoronic. Secular means non-religious, and prophet refers to someone who proclaims the will of God… or so I thought. Below the headline, I read the words “Steve Jobs turned Eve’s apple, the symbol of fallen humankind, into a religious icon for true believers in technology. But can salvation be downloaded?”

Passing through the lobby at Migis Lodge at the time I saw the Journal article, I went to search the Migis library for a dictionary. I found a two-volume set published by Appleton Century, looked up the word “secular,” and read the first definition, which was derived from the word’s Latin root – occurring or celebrated once in an age, century or long period. Century? Appleton Century?

When multiple literal coincidences such as this occur, I wonder if some librarian angel was whispering into the subconscious mind of a journalist, perhaps some word that would catch my attention, prompt my curiosity and just happen to coincide with the most immediately available reference book. Like the word “dim” and Webster’s dictionary, this was part of the same spiritual secret code deciphering game.

Next I read the definition of secularisma system which rejects all forms of religious faith and worship, and accepts only the facts and influences derived from the present life; also the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element.

After that, I read the definition of secularizemake unspiritual.

In this mysterious game of word play, as I accept the observational facts and influences at any present moment, I am able to creatively connect those to the existence of spirit, by pointing out unusual coincidences and hinting at a certain degree of preplanned destiny. Jobs most certainly belonged to and defined an age – known as the Information Age, the Digital Age or the New Media Age – characterized by the rapid shift from an industrial economy to an economy based on information technology. Can someone be both secular and spiritual? Apparently, Jobs converted to Zen Buddhism, which focuses on insight gained through meditation and pondering over stories, riddles and worldly issues. He dabbled in things both non-spiritual – like computers – and spiritual – like ideas. His life embodied both the physical and the metaphysical.

The Wall Street Journal article explains Jobs’s secularity in the following manner:

“This is the gospel of a secular age. It has the great virtue of being based only on what we can all perceive—it requires neither revelation nor dogma. And it promises nothing it cannot deliver—since all that is promised is the opportunity to live your own unique life, a hope that is manifestly realizable since it is offered by one who has so spectacularly succeeded by following his own “inner voice, heart and intuition.”

Was there more to the connection between the two articles, the anonymous note, Revelations 3:23 and Job’s biography? Was there a secret and perhaps more significant revelation yet to be discovered? Read more

Look Up

Thursday, October 30, 2011 – I presented my first audio project, Fiddlesticks: Nature and Nonsense, to my Business Master Mind group for peer feedback. Scripted in the format of a children’s radio hour, the CD presents three short meditative stories I had written about walking and nature. I recorded my telling of the stories in collaboration with voice coach and audio producer, Donna Mac, and local musician and performing artist, Cathy Clasper-Torch.

Parents can play the CD for their children on a car system or on a computer. They can play a story before nap time or bed time to help children wind down. They can play a story while driving somewhere special to go for a walk or before meal time to spark some table discussion.

The peer feedback from my group turned out to be unsettling. One mom said she would not purchase it, because the stories alluded to God, which was counter to her beliefs. This gave me pause.

The context in which I mention God is more spiritual than religious. Most people I know embrace a faith tradition of one kind or another as a connection to Spirit. I myself am open to different expressions of Spirit, even as I continue to examine the faith in which I was raised – Christianity. I have been most strongly influenced by a spiritual movement called Unity. As I explore divine direction in my life, I embrace the full variety of forms in which guidance may come, including chance encounters with new people and ideas or even a message that might arrive through some creative aspect or example of Nature. This guidance has led me to work with children, and the stories I record are intended to prompt thinking about Nature, as well as about individual and collective spirituality.

The other mom in the group expressed her doubts about a particular graphic inside the jacket cover that disturbed her – a photo of a cigarette package. The brand name on the sky blue package was NATURAL AMERICAN SPIRIT. Beneath the name was the graphic of a Native American smoking a peace pipe with a feather dangling off the end of the pipe. Soaring up above the name was a stylized Thunderbird eagle, symbolizing Spirit. The side panel, with the Surgeon General’s Warning, was clearly shown. I had included the packaging graphic intentionally, because it was an important element in the third and final story, Look Up, which is about Spirit. The soft tones of Cathy’s wind instrument float around my words, imitating the wistful music of a Native American flute.

On leaving the Master Mind meeting, disturbed by the critique, I settled into my car, turned on the radio and listened as a random song began to play on FM 101.5. It was “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum. Holy smoke! I laughed and my tension dissipated.

Upon arriving home, I got online to look up “peace pipe,” and clicked on the Wikipedia definition. The word calumet appeared on my screen. I read “Calumet is a Norman word.” Like Norman Greenbaum? I read that calumet is related to the French word chalumeau, which means reed. Calumet originally meant “sort of reeds used to make pipes.” The word calumet was used by Norman-French settlers in Canada to describe the ceremonial pipes used among The First Nations people of the region.

Across the land, each region’s people select local plants with special qualities, symbolic meaning and aroma, for use in sacred ceremonies. Using herbal tobacco or a mixture of herbs, natives smoked dried plant matter in pipes to seal an agreement or treaty or to send a prayer skyward to the attention of the Creator and other spirits. I pondered the words green balm as a homonym for Greenbaum. A balm is a pleasing smell with a soothing, healing, comforting quality.

The ceremonial calumet is still used today. The bowls of the pipe were formed from river clay and hardened in a hot fire, before adding stems made from the hollow canes formed by reeds. In my story. Look Up, I actually speak of reeds:


Look up. Read more

Agency of Angels

Sunday, October 16, 2011 – Grandpa invited me to attend vespers over at the main building of their retirement community. Vespers is a late afternoon service put on by a chaplain. A chaplain can be a minister, priest, rabbi or even a Buddhist teacher. Vesper, by no small coincidence, is the name of James Bond’s secret co-agent in the book Casino Royale.

Neil stayed back at the house with grandma, while I walked over to the main building to attend vespers with grandpa. I walked alongside him, as he drove his wheel chair. Having played football in his college years at Yale, Grandpa had been afflicted with neuropathy, a gradual deterioration of the nervous system that began with numbness in one foot. As the disease progressed, Grandpa reluctantly accepted the support of a cane, then a walker, and finally a wheel chair.

We entered the Vail Room and were handed a copy of the vespers service program. The sermon, being delivered by Reverend Andrew Rosencrans, was titled “The Art of Recognizing Angels.” On the cover was an illustration of “Peter and the Angel.” The first bible reading cited Judges 6, the story about Gideon and an angel that came to tell him he had been commissioned by God to lead the resistance. The second bible reading cited Acts 12, the story about Peter and an angel releasing him from his chains and sneaking him out of the prison.

The stories of Peter and Gideon took place during dark times. Both men were acting against oppressive regimes, and in both instances angels stepped in to help. In both stories, these angels had not been recognized as angels until they vanished from sight..

The reverend stated: “Sometimes we come to moments of crisis when an angelic intervention is urgently needed – sometimes God is with us in ways we only recognize after the fact – and perhaps one of the ways God sometimes chooses to be with us is through the agency of something we call – for lack of a better term – a guardian angel.”

My ears perked up at the mention of the word “agency.” I pictured a secret agency comprised of angels, and I imagined God sending an angel down to help Peter escape.

The reverend went on to define angels as messengers and to identify Peter himself as an angel messenger. Then he stated “sometimes we are called to be the angels that bear God’s message of good news to people in their own times of darkness and in their own moments of crisis.” He concluded his sermon by exclaiming, “Be an angel; let your message of good news be the light that helps dispel someone’s darkness; because the way God chooses to be present in someone’s moment of crisis, is through angelic messengers like us. AMEN”

The vespers service had been held in the Vail Room. Playing the homonym game, I thought about the word “veil,” which means to conceal, hide or disguise. We often talk about angels, hidden beyond a veil, yet keeping watch over us.

I thought about all this as Neil and I took Yury’s limousine service back to the airport to fly home. The driver’s name was Theo. He was a Romanian, and no relation to Leo. Theo and Leo. Golly gee. Theology? Read more

Higher Intelligence

Saturday, October 15, 2011 – As my son Neil, 15, and I walked through the airport toward the Baggage area, I pulled out my cell phone and dialed the limousine service my mother had given me – 847-852-0007 – and asked for Yury. The voice on the other end of the line asked me to look for limousine number “double-0 seven” outside of the terminal building.

Sure enough, we found a car with the number 007 attached to the windshield,. It pulled up just as we exited out onto the curb. The driver stepped out and introduced himself, with a heavy Russian accent, as Leo. It felt as if we had stepped onto the pages of a James Bond spy novel, written during the Cold War years.

Neil and I had flown to Chicago for the weekend to visit grandma and grandpa (my mom and dad). My parents liked using Yury’s limousine service to transport visitors back and forth to the airport. The last time they had ordered the service for someone, however, there was some confusion. My mother had given a woman, who had been helping her take care of grandpa, $50 to pay Leo. When the limo arrived at the airport, however, the woman got out of the limo and slipped away without paying, never to be seen again. To stay in the good graces of Yury’s limo service, my mother planned to pay Leo the $50 that was owed him when he dropped us off.

Neil and I settled into the back seat of the car, and the driver drove us out and away from the airport. As we sped off onto the interstate highway, I considered the facts of our situation and started to play with them… Double-0-seven. Secret Intelligence Service. Yury. Leo. My mom owing money. My mother’s name is Ellie… And then the seemingly random bits of information, jostling around in my head, came together and connected in my mind.

“Neil,” I said, “Ellie owes 50.”

“Huh?” replied Neil.

“Grandma owes Leo fifty dollars. Ellie owes fifty,” I said. Then I proceeded to lay out my wacky analysis, “Ellie is spelled LE in letter code.” I pulled out a scrap of paper and wrote some letters and numbers:

L E Os 50.

I continued explaining, “Our limo driver is named Leo. L E O spells Leo’s name, so Ellie owes $50 translates into ‘Leo’s $50.’”

Neil gave me a you-are-completely-nuts look, as I wrote the letters:

Y U R Y

I said, “Look. Yury is the name of the man who owns the limousine service. See the letters U and R between the two Ys? UR among the Ys, and then I wrote: You are among the wise.”

Neil looked at the paper and asked, “You’re nuts, Mom! How do you come up with these things?”

“I don’t know how,” I replied, “They just pop into my mind.” I thought back to elementary school. My third grade teacher introduced our class to homonyms – words or word combinations that sound alike, yet have different spellings – their, there, they’re. She made the learning fun by teaching us a homonym game. My fifth grade teacher stretched our young minds with Mensa puzzles, which were tough. While I rarely got the right answer, I was fascinated with the solutions when she shared them with the class.

What is Mensa? According to Popular Science, it is an exclusive society for individuals who score in the 98th percentile or higher on a preapproved intelligence test. According to Webster’s dictionary, the word mensa comes from Roman Catholicism and means the top of the altar, where the eucharist elements are placed. And, according to Urban Dictionary, mensa comes from the Spanish use of the word mensa (female) or menso (male) and denotes someone who is crazy.

When we arrived at grandma and grandpa’s, Neil and I dropped our bags to hug grandma in greeting at the front door, and then she stepped out onto the driveway to pay Leo. Neil and I walked into the living room to greet grandpa, and then sat down on the couch across from where he was sitting. I looked down at the magazines stacked on the coffee table in front of me and gasped, not believing my eyes. The word “Spymasters” jumped off the center of the cover of the latest issue of grandpa’s Yale Alumni Magazine. Underneath, in slightly smaller letters I read, “Three espionage novelists on what it takes to write a thriller.” I held up the magazine for Neil to see, and he raised an arch eyebrow. Read more

Re Verse

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 – I directed an inquiry to the Assistant Rector of St. Luke’s, and he replied, “The Book of Ecclesiastes is an Apochryphal Book. It has never been included in the canon.” Apocryphal means of doubtful authorship or authenticity; hence fictitious or false. It is derived from the Greek word apokryphos, which means hidden, concealed, obscure. Perhaps the wide variations in text created the doubt in the book’s authenticity. Then again, the entire bible had always struck me as full of obscure meaning. Surely, the angels were enjoying this game with me.

“TRUST HIM AND HE WILL HELP YOU STEER A STRAIGHT COURSE AND SET YOUR HOPE ON HIM: ECCLUS 2:6.”

Providence. Providence is aptly defined as the foreseeing care and guidance, of God, or Nature, over the creatures of the earth. The word is derived from Providentia, the divine feminine personification of a virtue celebrated in the art and literature of ancient Roman culture. More specifically, Providentia represented “the knowledge of things that are good or bad or neither.” She was the embodiment of Wisdom.

This heaven-sent challenge of verse, word play and political intrigue prompted me to dwell upon a new order. I thought about the divine feminine and the gradual spiritual reawakening of our connection to Mother Earth. This idea of a new order embraces the process of breaking the hold of modern patriarchal systems of control – from John Brown and the King of England to the current industrial military complex – and overturning the prevailing economic worldview that disavows this sacred interconnection of all life and the free will of all individuals. So many people fear for the survival of Earth, as many of mankind’s large corporations continue to pollute the waters and deforest vast areas of land, all in the pursuit of world market dominance and false profits.

This is a dim picture of the world is slowly becoming more illuminated. The shedding of more light allows these dark problems to be seen, studied and corrected. There is great purpose in identifying, understanding and solving small problems and large ones. As people take positive, conscious and wise action in their spheres of interest and influence, collectively they will help Earth revert to a healthier more balanced state. As more and more people envision a kinder, more just and sensible order, the simple acts of imagining and engaging will tip the scales.

Reflecting on all this, I felt at liberty to pen my own pentameter verse of Ecclesiastes 2:6 for a new age.

Regardless of dogma and the authenticity of religious works, and regardless of God’s gender, faith is about trusting a higher power to provide for both Earth’s and Humanity’s collective well-being. On the one hand this relies on the ability to let go and let God, and on the other hand this relies on human being’s growing ability to connect with their angel guides’ higher levels of intelligence. Read more

Richly Dight

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 – Arriving at the church, I entered and went straight to the window at the back of the sanctuary. I examined the ship and its setting in detail. The bottom of the lower window panel had a bible verse, styled in Old English lettering, like an illuminated manuscript: “TRUST HIM AND HE WILL HELP YOU STEER A STRAIGHT COURSE AND SET YOUR HOPE ON HIM: ECCLUS 2:6.”

I stepped away from the window and walked down the left side of the sanctuary to visit my favorite series of windows, a triptych depicting a bucolic scene of heaven and earth. I studied the bible verses at the bottom of the left and right panels, also styled in Old English lettering: “THE EARTH IS THE LORD’S, AND THE FULLNESS THEREOF” and “THE WORLD, AND THEY THAT DWELL THEREIN.” (shown at the top of this page) I sensed a connection between the two windows that merited some investigation and decided to return home to do some research.

Comparing the Ecclesiastes verse from the Providence window to the verse in my Standard Bible, I was surprised to find the two versions were completely different. In my bible I read: “2:6 I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees.” It was followed by “2:7 I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house.”

The Rhode Island General Assembly purchased the sloop “Katy” in 1775 from John Brown, a wealthy merchant, slave trader and statesman, who lived in Providence. The “Katy” was commissioned to serve the Continental Army against the British and renamed USS “Providence.” It was one of first ships to form the U.S. Navy.

It struck me as a twist of irony, that the U.S.S. Providence served as a merchant vessel of a slave trader, only to be rededicated to the fight for freedom from the enslaving rule of England. The alternate verse drew my attention to this fact. I searched online and found a third version of the same verse, originally written about 200 years before Christ. “Believe God, and he will recover thee: and direct thy way, and trust in him. Keep his fear, and grow old therein.”

Keep his fear? Grow old therein? Puzzled by the turn of phrase, I thought about the words beneath the triptych window, “Dwell therein.” THEREIN. The words tumbled around inside my mind and my heart, settling into a different order. HIS FEAR… THE EARTH… THE WORLD… HIS SPHERE? And storied windows richly dight.

KEEP HIS SPHERE, AND GROW OLD THEREIN.

Take good care of this planet, and live a long life. Had I discovered a pun that had been intentionally laid there by angels overtime for someone to find… or had I created the pun of my own mind?

A pun is a literary device where a word is or similar sounding words are used in a manner to suggest two or more possible meanings. This is generally done to the effect of creating humor or irony, and make the reader have an “ah-ha!” moment.

Inspired by a cryptic triptych, I had stumbled upon the wide discrepancies in biblical verse and connected the bits of information, like the pieces of a puzzle. Deeply intrigued, I sought more information from an ecclesiastical expert. Read more