The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
 
 
Saturday, January 20, 2018
Personal Reflections ... Photo ... Spirituality ...

At my office desk, I have a little “altar” hidden away on a shelf behind my computer monitor. This little altar reflects my own spiritual philosophy that God and reality are much bigger and difficult to grasp than any human system of understanding and belief can adequately deal with. And by “system of understanding and belief”, I include all religions, modern science, philosophy, art, literature, and “the voice of nature”. I think that the best that a “seeker” like myself can do is to listen to what all of them have to say, or at least as many as you have time for.

My little altar here is a tribute to the dynamic duo of world spirituality, Jesus and the Buddha. Obviously those two figures cannot represent all of the various “systems of understanding” out there, but they are two world-class heavyweights who saw things from very different perspectives. Jesus put his faith and emphasis in love and relationship, relationship between humans themselves and between humans and God. Jesus felt that humans could, with proper effort and with God’s help, achieve fulfillment and meaning in relationship and love. His vision of a “Kingdom of God” reflected his faith that humans were up to it, with God’s countenance. But the Kingdom that Jesus saw coming would require a lot of love, the kind of love that is a lot more than a Hallmark card sentiment. Jesus was not talking about sentimental niceness, but radical justice for the poor and oppressed.

The Buddha, by contrast,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 5:25 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Monday, January 15, 2018
Food / Drink ... Photo ...

Did you ever make a mistake only to find out that the outcome of your mistake was actually quite valuable? That recently happened to me. I had bought a big supply of apples in late autumn at a big food market, where the apples were very fresh and quite cheap (50 cents a pound). And there were a wide variety available. Anyway, I couldn’t store all of the apples in my refrigerator, so I put a bag of them in my car trunk, given that it was late October and the falling temperatures outside would be just as good as any indoor refrigerator.

Well, turns out that the weather here got surprisingly cold right after Christmas, and stayed well below freezing for two weeks. Just a few days ago, I finally thought of those apples, and went to my trunk to bring them inside. It turned out that the freezing temps had frozen them solid, and when they melted, they were all mushy and shriveled and brownish. It looked like they would have to be thrown out.

But just for the heck of it, I put one in the microwave for a minute or two, just to see what would happen. I took out the now-hot shriveled apple and got a knife and spoon to cut the skin and taste the almost-liquified flesh. And turns out that it tasted fantastic!! A bit like a baked apple, but not exactly. The inside got very juicy and sweet, and was quite delightful. The only problem was that with all the juice, eating the apple could be messy; you need a plate or bowl if you try this. Also, you need to work to avoid the pits and hard spots in the core, as they easily get mixed in with the soft, warm flesh.

Still, I think that a frozen and re-heated apple makes a very nice and tasty snack, and I will try this little ‘frozen apple mistake’ recipe again in the future!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:22 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Wednesday, January 3, 2018
Photo ...

It’s early January and the holidays are over. The season to be jolly has passed. In offices across the country (such as this one, where I work), Christmas decorations are being taken down and put back into storage. Eleven months from now, hopefully some merry soul will find the decoration box and once again deck the halls of bureaucratic cubicles. For now, it’s time to get back to work amidst the dis-inspiration of a dark and brutally cold January (we have a snowstorm forecast for tomorrow). When the holidays end in early January, they end hard — almost like it never happened.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:24 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Photo ...

Autumn is definitely presenting itself outside my kitchen window.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 12:03 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, October 14, 2017
Personal Reflections ... Photo ...

As the years go by and I face my old age, the autumn seasons become an almost emotional experience for me. I can no longer look past the shortening days, the growing dark of night, the cooler air, the gusty winds, and the falling leaves from the trees. I now take note of every flower that might still be in bloom, no matter how limp or scrawny, since it might be the last flower for the season. As such, I got my camera out the other day to record this brave morning glory flower rising above the yellowing, dying vines below it.

I heard on the radio that Bruce Springsteen just celebrated his 68th birthday. Even though he’s still famous, and right now he is appearing 5 nights a week on Broadway (i.e., his sold-out play “Springsteen on Broadway“), he had some bittersweet, autumn-like reflections about his own about mortality. “It’s the one thing I miss about growing older,” he said. “I miss the beauty of that blank page and the endless possibilities.”

Yea, Bruce, I know what you mean. But hey — it’s not like the beauty is all gone forever. I’m gonna go Buddha on Bruce and offer this autumn flower to him (and to everyone who feels this way — which must be a whole lot of people, since Bruce still seems to be considered the spokesperson for his generation, at least the working class portion of it). The blank page may be closing, but . . . the flowers will still bloom, in their own good time.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 1:38 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Sunday, August 6, 2017
Photo ...

Just another Friday night at just another Italian restaurant in North Jersey. “A bottle of red, a bottle of white . . . ”

(Actually this is a very nice place, so let me give it a plug — Bazzarelli’s Restaurant in Moonachie, NJ)

◊   posted by Jim G @ 11:02 am       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Monday, July 31, 2017
Photo ...

I haven’t gone hiking much lately — that’s become another casualty of old age for me. But I did get around to a short stroll not long ago up in one of the local “mini-forest” preserves nearby (Eagle Rock Park in Essex County, NJ). It certainly was nice to be surrounded by woods and sunshine once again.

Unfortunately, natural spots in urban areas are too often littered with human debris. So, the first shot shows a typical Eastern woodland scene on a typical summer morning. And despite the “typicality” of the scene, I think it’s quite easy to see the sacredness of nature in it, the preciousness of the living layer that envelops our planet. The next shot shows a soda can that someone felt they could discard at a spot like this, as though it was just another human garbage dumpster. How can people be so blind? This is hallowed ground!!

Sure, the world has much bigger problems today than litter in a park. E.g., nuclear missiles in North Korea, Donald Trump, access to health care, wage stagnation, climate change . . . where do you begin? Well, I think you begin with every individual’s mind and soul. And throwing garbage in a forest is a sign of a much deeper flaw in human character, a flaw that ultimately manifests itself as an increasingly troubled world. So start small and don’t trash the forest!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:37 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Monday, June 26, 2017
Photo ...

A group of nuns from the Missionaries of Charity (the order founded by Mother Teresa) are on a stroll through Newark, NJ on a sunny morning. The Missionaries have a small residence on Jay Street in Newark where they run a soup kitchen and provide other services to the poor.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:08 am       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, May 13, 2017
Photo ...

Walkin’ on broken glass — front steps to an abandoned building, University Avenue, Newark NJ.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 2:47 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, April 15, 2017
Photo ... Religion ... Spirituality ...

Although I haven’t been a practicing Catholic for many years now, and even though I disagree with the core belief of the Roman Church that

Jesus is the Son of God, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, who became one of us to free us from sin and to bring us the fullness of God’s revelation . . . Jesus Christ is the Messiah, God’s anointed One, the Savior of the world . . .

there is still one Catholic ritual that I like to participate in. And that takes place once a year on Holy Thursday, the evening of the Thursday before Easter. To commemorate the Last Supper and the vigil of Jesus as he awaited the fatal kiss from Judas and the Temple Guards of the Sanhedrin, some of the local Catholic parishes keep their churches open late so that the faithful can sit in silence. My brother, a practicing Catholic, visits four or five local churches between 9 and 11 PM every Holy Thursday, and so I tag along.

Hey, I still believe in God (pretty much the same kind of God that Jesus believed in), but at this point in my life, sitting in silence each week with a Zen sangha works better for me. And even if I don’t worship Jesus as the Messiah and Savior, I still find him to be a hugely compelling figure who should be taken very seriously. Most of the time, I take Jesus seriously by reading and learning as much as I can about his life and times. Over the past 15 years I’ve digested a lot of books, articles and programs from the “historical Jesus” movement in academia; my “Lenten project” for this year was an audio course by The Teaching Company entitled “Jesus and His Jewish Influences” by Prof. Jodi Magness, an archaeologist with extensive field experience in Israel.

But once a year it’s nice to actually participate in a Jesus-focused ritual with others, and there’s nothing that the good Catholics that I sit in silence with on Holy Thursday do or say that I would disagree with. We would certainly disagree regarding the ultimate implications of what happened on that Passover evening of two millennia ago in Jerusalem, but we all accept  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 12:15 am       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
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