Why, when I was a boy … you better watch out!

51lm-yq1hzl-_sx386_bo1204203200_I think it was sometime in October … we’uns were still in the autumn mood, Halloween planning,

plotting what trash cans we’d be knocking over in the alleys, wondering what crazy things the high school boys would be coming up with – such as moving the slickery slide into the middle of main street.

Course there was the usual lathering of waxy writing on all the building fronts … that kind of exciting October.

And then I’d come home one day from school and there they’d be, the Sears and the Speigel catalogs.

Down on the couch for probably 15 hours straight, turning impatiently past clothes, underwear and coats to the toy section. Then after a first-to-last-page review, starting over and doing it again … and again …. every day or so … til it was memorized and the Santa Claus list was bigger’n Mom’s cookbook.

That was when the mood started rising for December.

Yeah yeah yeah … Thanksgiving was exciting but in a different way. There wasn’t much magic in   a Thursday dinner with football, relatives and pass-the-turkey Dad.

Randy was only 3 years younger and we usually plotted Christmas strategy together. Adrian and Cinda were born in the mid-fifties so they weren’t part of us older boy’s tactics. Although I don’t remember an overwhelming desire for a Red Ryder bb-gun like in that wonderful movie, Ralphie rang all my memories of holiday excitement. Still does after having seen it a hundred times. (No, we never ate Chinese duck for Christmas dinner and our dogs were too short to steal a turkey.)

Then of course there was the famous panel truck driving around town playing Christmas Music via a loud speaker. Same truck did that on Brigham Young Day (July 24) playing cowboy songs.

Lietta and I were at the neighbors’ yesterday delivering a card and jar of cookie baking ingredients. They’re in their 90’s and their Christmas Tree sits on a table and is about 3 feet tall tops. But there are icicles on it … real live droopy silver icicles hanging down … and I was back in our parlor will memories of Mom letting us help her and hanging them dang icicles at the last on a tree covered with blue lights. Cora Ruger loved blue Christmas trees!

 

Picture this, 1950’s Christmas Eve,  Bancroft, Idaho. Without fail a Christmas Dinner at the church with all the ham, mashed taters and all the fixins you could eat. Now that was exciting. The Church was never fuller than on Christmas Eve. They all came and it warn’t fer hearing sermons and going to sunday school classes.

After the dinner, they’d commence to singing Christmas carols. Seems to me the religious stuff came first and after a bunch of O Come All Ye Faceful, First Noels, Little Town of Bethlehem, Hark Old Harold Angel Barks and Silent Night … they’d finally start the good stuff.

Yew Better Watch Out!, Up on the Housetop, Jolly Old St Nicholas, Rudolph and Here Comes Santa Claus.

Suddenly, like a bat outta hell, er, I mean, When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
BANG!

The side door to the lawn would fly open and shut while a fat red and white phantom would come in, bells draped over his chest and back like Pancho Villa with bullet belts, snow flying and dropping from his uniform.

A big fat “Ho Ho Ho! Merrrrryyy Christmas!!”

That guy was REAL! Best visuals and sound effects I ever saw. I was a believer at that age. St Nick was the Holiest of Holies … the only supernatural presence who showed up every year as predicted. The only one to let me sit on his lap and give me a bag of candy and nuts and asked me you-know-what.

I was too young to recognize in that duffer some local personality and it never occured to me that he was anything but who he was supposed to be.

Image result for Santa Claus

I don’t know why he drank Coke and not Root Beer but who was I to question the big guy.

 

So by then I was full of ham, taters, desert , nuts and my favorite, chocolate pyramidy things that had white cream mint on the insides (like Junior Mints but bigger). I got home and was drowsy … oh maybe for half an hour … just waiting for Mom and Dad to order us to bed … so’s we could start our painful vigil. It was painful, when the  house got quiet we were listening for any sound out of the ordinary, maybe a reindeer whinnying (do reindeers whinny?), maybe a sleigh on the roof although we knew he’d have to come in through the basement furnace and up through a heat vent into the parlor if he was going to do the chimney routine.

Then of course there was Dad the sentinel, checking up on us like a prison guard to see if we were asleep. Eventually though, the time came when we figured him out, and how to get around his prison guard act. We waited for him to fall asleep.

Then we crept into our little 4 x 4 closet that had a  hanging light. We curled up on the floor, our bodies covering the whole floor, and got out our stash of comic books. Felt like we killed off 10 hours reading and waiting for some clue that said we needed to get back into bed and pretend we were asleep.

I don’t know why. They never woke us up on Christmas morning. WE WOKE THEM up – usually earlier than they wanted.

The parlor had a big heavy sliding door and there was NO WAY you could slide that door open without our hawk-eared Momma hearing it. Or so it seemed.  These were not helicopter parents who took over our Christmas morning celebrations with “wait and have some hot chocolate!”  “Let us get up first and you boys wait in the living room.” “Here, I  want you to pose for 29 pictures before you go in there.”

Ask Lietta, I ain’t got any use fer helicopter parents. What they didn’t enjoy as kids they want to make sure their kids don’t enjoy either.

So on assorted mornings over the years there was sleds, bicycles, sleeping bags, fishing poles, and one year Captain Midnight uniforms (shades of the coming of Kirk and Spock)

Santa Claus was for me the most significant author of a sense of mystical magic which informed my older self in relating to the power of imagination in all things spiritual and creative.

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I could never describe him any better than this:

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

“Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!
On, COMET! on CUPID! on, DONNER and BLITZEN!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!

 

On chapels cathedrals and temples – I agree with Charles Eastman , a Santee Dakota physician:

 

 

“There were no temples or shrines among us save those of nature. Being a natural man, the Indian was intensely poetical.

He would deem it sacrilege to build a house for Him who may be met face to face in the mysterious, shadowy aisles of the primeval forest, or on the sunlit bosom of virgin prairies, upon dizzy spires and pinnacles of naked rock, and yonder in the jeweled vault of the night sky!

He who enrobes Himself in filmy veils of cloud, there on the rim of the visible world where our Great-Grandfather Sun kindles his evening camp-fire, He who rides upon the rigorous wind of the north, or breathes forth His spirit upon aromatic southern airs, whose war-canoe is launched upon majestic rivers and inland seas—He needs no lesser cathedral!”

How a new spiritual culture developed in America.

occult-america

Occult America: White House Seances, Ouija Circles, Masons, and the Secret Mystic History of Our Nation

We finished this audio book today. Well worth the time and a survey that covers many fascinating aspects of what spirituality has come to mean in the United States over more than just the 240+ years since the founding. Recommended reading or listening (audio should be available at libraries).
“Occult” is not written about as something akin to satanic rituals, evil combinations, conspiracies or religious nut jobs. Occult simply defined is something hidden of which discovery through human effort is possible.

Napoleon Hill: Think and Grow Rich
Dale Carnegie: How to Win Friends and Influence People
Og Mandiono:The Greatest Salesman in the World
Tony Robbins’ silliness
Prosperity Gospel doofuses like Rev Joel Osteen
Ouija Boards
Seances, Divination Spiritualism and Spiritism
Course in Miracles
Entire New Thought movement
American embrace of Eastern Religions like Buddhism, Zen and the like
Most of the Self Help publishing genre
Most of the How-To religious advice books where writers pretend to know the mind of god in ways us run-of-the-mill humans don’t. (Such pretended wisdom has led to the rise of every American religion, spiritist and new age movement coming out of the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries)

all these and more are addressed

From Publishers Weekly

America has provided fertile ground for alternative spirituality, particularly the form known as occult, whose American leaders, unlike their more grandiose European counterparts, sought to remake mystical ideas as tools of public good and self-help, says Horowitz, editor-in-chief at Tarcher.

Looking back at the growth of the spiritualist and utopian movements, he introduces the reader to a parade of personalities, both familiar and obscure: dreamers and planners who flourished along the Psychic Highway.

He begins with Shaker Mother Ann, who arrived in America in 1774 followed by, among many others, pioneer prophetess Jemima Wilkinson; Poughkeepsie Seer Andrew Jackson Davis; Madame Blavatsky, who founded the Theosophical Society in 1875 and popularized the word occultism; Frank B. Robinson, the Mail Order Messiah; and Edgar Cayce with his past-life readings.

Horowitz covers a wide variety of topics, from voodoo to the tenets of the New Age, psychics in the White House, Rosicrucianism, Wicca, arcane Masonic imagery, Tarot cards, the controversial reincarnation of Bridey Murphy and the origin of the science fictional Shaver mystery. Employing extensive research while writing with an authoritative tone, Horowitz succeeds in showing how a new spiritual culture developed in America.

 

21st-Century Parenting, church, goodness and personal virtue

Frame Sign

What is it that draws people to religion?

We hear contemporary couples with young children expressing the idea that if church is to be part of family life, they want to find one that teaches lots of goodness morality and a lot less about a judgmental and punitive god that expects the same from believers.

Some of these couples have not set foot in a church since they themselves were children. Other folks come to churches seeking an alternative to spiritual and psychological attitudes that have not served them well. Some are drawn to religion and to churches after some sort of personal trauma or loss, seeking answers to questions to which they’d never given conscious prior attention.

There are also those who seek an opportunity to teach families and children in particular about giving service, expecting that the social circle within a church congregation will provide that opportunity as well as one for greater social contact and interaction. Opportunities to give service in contexts other than church congregations are abundant and I would not suggest that the primary appeal of religion is an opportunity to perform some good work in a formalized moral setting.

Just what is it that our church congregations offer in their communities – and does that offering have a real potential of satisfying the needs or hungers of those looking through the doors and windows?

The enduring power of religion is not as a social club. Rather, it lies in the realm of the needs for meaning and purpose in living. The venue in life that seems to require endurance is more in the perceptive realm of mind and spirit and is not better countered by an approach of moralizing and exhortation to conscious believing with strict conformity to tradition and doctrine.

When our non-physiological internal hungers flare up, the void to be filled is not satisfied by lasagna, a hot bath or a good night’s sleep. These hungers generate not a weakness in body, but a powerful uneasiness or restlessness with life.

Often we think we are just worried about things, wanting things we don’t have, dissatisfied with work, with marriage, with friends, our community, the economy or even our favorite pro team that’s never going to win a championship.

We may even mislabel internal spiritual restlessness as being the above those particular kinds of dis-satisfactions or perhaps as something worse, some sort of depression. TV ads now tempt us to a kind of self-diagnosis where we are encouraged to take a predisposition toward depression to a medical provider in hopes of a prescription of the advertised “feel-better-medicine.”

Religion ought to hold out the possibility to the internally restless that there is something available that fills the void – something more than just Sunday worship, potluck suppers, and cliched generalities around believing.  It should be no surprise that a hunger for something more powerful arouses not just laity, but the clergy as well.

If being spiritual  means more than just going through weekly motions and repeating worn out slogans then what ought to be offered is something responsive to that internal hunger, what Alan Watts called a “non-verbal experience of the divine.” However, such an objective currently seems out of place. In Watts’ words (written in 1947 but absolutely true today), “The Church is still overwhelmingly didactic and verbose.”

The power behind our beliefs is not our ability to become educated in what scripture SAYS, thereby permitting us opportunities to publicly display how well we can read or memorize famous verses. Power lies in what scripture, prayer, tradition and reason prompt within and I’m not talking about being prompted to obey, conform and donate.

The non-verbal experience of the divine lies within the potential of every spiritual congregation but remains somewhat elusive – even perhaps hidden. The more common emphasis seems to be more on social behavior and an effort to cause or resist change by religious rhetoric.

What about a belief system that acknowledges the mystical in our psychologies of perception? Working in a mystical venue has always been a part of living. Farmers plant corn because in their minds eye they see a field of ripe corn. Buildings are constructed because an architect visualized in his mind what he later designed on paper. Meals are prepared from scratch by mothers who know recipes by heart, bring together separate materials and turn them into tasty and satisfying dishes. What is visualized internally is the source of what is created externally.

Martin Buber, referring to a non-verbal experience of the divine, wrote,

“God is the mysterium tremendum that appears and overthrows, but he is also the mystery of the self-evident, nearer to me than my I.”

That which we have labeled “mystical” is in reality a part of most everything we ourselves create and accomplish. Can we not truly say that the Mysterium Tremendum is the ultimate end we seek in actively involving ourselves in a spiritual life?

Without a mystical sense and approach to both worship and daily living, do our congregations busy themselves as social clubs more concerned about public opinion and conformity, perceiving themselves as an island surrounded by a sea of hostile, stupid or indifferent waters?

So long as our active participation is limited to a purely social venue where participation is mentally easy, almost a lazy alternative to a personal pursuit of the kind of intimacy with God portrayed by Jesus, we will go through life running the risk of doing what we do out of social habit.

Perhaps even worse, we will ultimately suffer a church-social burnout.

Clergy – all ministers – ought to openly seek a growth of independence from themselves within their congregations. Publicly telling God what to do and the people how to behave is a poor substitute for teaching and modeling spiritual independence and spiritual self-sustenance.

Telling congregations that “God has a plan for you!” Followed by some behavioral and ritual formula by which a pleased God then activates some ephemeral plan for you and your loved ones, you are invited to enter into a literalistic interpretation of a religious reality that has very little to do with the reality defined by our own intuitively activated senses.

 

I have a Plan Fer God’s Plan Fer Me

Ask a score-keeping Christian to define his belief system.

Keepin the Lord’s Books

More’n likely you’ll get some sort  of recipe or formula about some kind of plan that was figured out from readin scripture. You might also hear that God has revealed such a plan to man for his eternal salvation. And that means that you better listen, cause in the mind of the score-keeper, conformity to that plan is the hinge that connects eternal happiness in God to man satisfyin that dang plan.

But if you ask a mystery-mnded Christian to define his religion, he’s liable to give ya some sort a answer that the kingdom of God is within you,  “the Father and I are one, … and so are you.”

Now ain’t that just a little bit better?

Like trying to grab and hold onto pudding, score-keeper Christians don’t seem to understand the impossibility of possessing God. Fer such folks, owning God is not distinguished from any sense of God as the source of how we experience the mysteries of living. They’re gonna tell ya that be’in religious is mechanical – like mowing the law with the correct riding mower.

By them kind a mechanical of living by creeds, score-keepers are focused on fixed ways of seeing and believing instead of the state of yer mind.

Another way of sayin it is that whatever the heck “God” is, The Almighty’s made real only by somehow owning His Almightiness …

believin imaginatively that you can and are havin a connection to Old Wrathful as a function of something called “faith.”

There’s a smarty-pants way of sayin that. Fer me one of the best smarty-pants was Mr. Alan Watts who wrote,

    …man is frightened of this living, ungraspable mystery, and is always trying to have it securely boxed up in some philosophical, ethical, theological, or psychological formula, where its vitality is destroyed  …
    
    In trying to hold God in one fixed form, we exclude him from all others, and, so far as our apprehension of him is concerned, “devitalize” him in the one that we hold. We lose his immanence because we try to grasp and draw down his transcendence.

So ya got yer score-keepers and they need to figure out and promise themselves to score-keepin theologies. And that of course sinks humans to congregations in communities in which worryin about yer personal score is what it means to be .. you know … a godly human being.

Well, I’ll tell ya … Life ain’t no dang formula and it sure don’t recognize and reward score-keepin religious doofusing.

Life is spontaneous (Hey! i used a big word in a sentence without gettin my laces untied!)

God is spontaneous.

And we – whether we like it or admit it or not – are spontaneous … even when we work like the dickens to try not to be. Either conscious or unconscious we think about most of the stuff of life ebbing and flowing within our thoughts. We do it according to what smarty-pantses call our attention spans.

Then there’s our own playfulness … you know, when we listen to the whimsical nature of promptings, hunches and impulses.

Living Dangerously

Some folks are more doofus  than others cause they think those promptings, hunches and impulses are from something religious … something from outside of us … like space invaders . Score-keepers are mostly in that crowd and they don’t call the source “space invaders” … that’d be you know … supernatural … so they call it something natural … something that makes sense … like … are you ready for this? … like the “Holy Ghost.”

Well, I’ll tell ya. Score-keeping religiousizers seem ta think they have to move up the stairs of eternal climbing by pretending there’s a big Score-Keeper with a big Plan and that they got to demonstrate by cooking with the recipes of the plan … maybe cause they’re scared in their pride and want nothin to do with God being all mysterious and stuff.

Only way then is to set it in cement … believing in the formula and not the real thing.

Ain’t it more seductive to be mysteriously connected with God through yer own within kingdom than to live constantly worrying about yer score?

Ain’t it more adventuresome to live by trusting the spirit of spontaneous God and human stuff?

Ain’t it more exciting to feel them promptings, hunches and impulses … and trust em … and act on em?

Ain’t that better than fixin yer mind on “commandments” as if the score and the reward is what it means to live a good life?

Truth is … all that score-keeping ain’t justified by something solid. It’s all imagined itself and can’t be proven or established in some real way. And that’s why there ain’t nothing but weakness in all that old-time guess work about original sin.

And if ya ain’t got yer original sin, the god-talkers’d have ta leave out sin, atonement and redemption from their sermonizing. None of them concepts are now nor ever been real in a supernatural, let alone spiritual, sense. Only in the mind’s eye’s of those early Roman guessers did such weeds sprout and grow up to be noxious for the rest of us.

Now why couldn’t those scribes

have added a concordance

so I could look up original sin.

Once they guessed out the plan and the score sheet, the rest of us became mushrooms. And you know how mushrooms are raised … kept in the dark and thrown nothing but poop. But then only in the mind’s eyes of score-keepers who was afraid of the mystics among them could greater weeds in bigger fields be sewed and reaped.

So what ya got is yer imagined environment where a score-keeping God who is somewhere outside of humanity like maybe the moon. And it’s imagined that this invader created rules as an emperor – as if we needed such a divine emperor – with rules, wrath and punishment fer low scores.

The score-keepers got nothin.