Can YOU say the “G” word?

I guess you could say I’m Religious.

I was just re-reading a little book that American author and public intellectual Chris Hedges wrote a while back called I Don’t Believe in Atheists. It is a brilliant and passionate refutation of absolutism regardless of it’s ideological underpinnings. Now on the face of it that would seem obvious but when applied to the arrogant musings of folks like British Scientist Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens it provides a healthy inoculation against those that claim that their total rejection of religious faith is somehow superior to the reductivist and cartoonish image that they claim all religious pursuit represents.

Hedges is relentless in his critiques and brings an admirable lack of ‘need for affection’ and careerism to the task that holds so many of us back from articulating a much needed and clear eyed analysis of what a world without non-rational modalities looks like. Many times I have found that saying that I am ‘religious’ has placed me across the divide. If one is religious they must be an extreme anti-intellectual at worst or naïve and misled for those who see themselves as ‘understanding’ of my condition.

Hedges deals with the need for non-rational ways of seeing and the rituals and traditions that can foster the nurturing of those elements of the human condition that lack scientific definition: Love, sorrow, beauty, evil et al. It is through religion that I encounter and am humbled by my imperfection; that I place in myself in an unimaginable and breathtaking universe. It is my weekly nod to my smallness and the rituals in which I partake bring me closer to the wonder and awe that people like Creation Spirituality founder Matthew Fox speak of.

Recently I had a friend over for one of our weekly Shabbat dinners. He is a good and kind man — an atheist and scientist. We sparred good naturedly about our differing beliefs as all around the table friends, new and old, gave blessings for the meal and reveled in each other’s company. The evening, as all of our New Sabbath Project Shabbats seem to be, was warm and meaningful. He argued that all can be explained through science and that we are responsible to each other to be moral and ethical, not to some magical being. Only after he left did it occur to me that science has given us so much but science could not have given us Shabbat. It is through the ritual and practice that religion obligates us to convene to show gratitude and to connect.

I’ll end with an excerpt from Chris Hedges and I Don’t Believe in Atheists: “Religion is our finite, flawed and imperfect expression of the infinite. The experience of transcendence-the struggle to acknowledge the
infinite-needs to be attributed to an external being called God…God
is, as Thomas Aquinas argues, the power that allows us to be ourselves. God is a search, a way to frame the questions. God is a call to reverence… What are we? Why are we here? What, if anything, are we supposed to do? What does it all mean?”

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Devotional Music in a Post Modern World

It has been described in some literature as an Experience of Devotion – a PROCESS of generating an aesthetic feeling as opposed to creating musical “product” per se – as a way of connecting with the divine. A process that involves rhythm, repetition, music and gestures. But when many of us think about devotional songs in our society – we often think of musical songs, chants mantra, hymns, meditations. Church hymns often come to mind. In the west, devotional songs were founded in the Roman Catholic Church, Russan Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox Church and others. But we know that devotional songs have a rich and diverse history outside the church as well – though certainly the devotional songs from the church were and are important. In India, devotional songs in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Carnatic, Malayalam and many more languages were composed and sung by different singers. Sufi Devotional songs were also very famous in this part of Asia. In fact, Sufis in other parts of the world – continue this tradition in the face of persecution in some areas. On this week’s show on CIUT radio 89.5 FM we speak to a couple of musical artists who have both more recently begun journeys into devotional music, one of whom has brought his traditions with them from Morocco to help him through the often lonely and difficult journey as newcomers to Canada.

You’ll hear my conversation with Moroccan born Hassan Al Hadi. He has been in Canada for more than 15 years – playing Arab-fusion music as an oud and guitar player based out of Montreal and putting out several albums. But lesser known than music on the albums he’s put out is his devotional music. It’s a spiritual tradition he brought with him from his community and family near Marakkesh Morocco where they regularly engaged in the Sufi tradition of devotional songs and chanting. Al-Hadi finds great comfort in the devotional songs of his family and community from back at home.

You’ll also hear my conversation with the lead singer of the award winning, world music, fusion based band Jaffa Road. Aviva Chernick only more recently delved into devotional Jewish music. We talk to her about her experiences and her journey here in Canada.

Hope you’ll join us and write in to join the conversation at newsabbathproject@gmail.com. You can also join in under my name at Twitter or Facebook.

Be well and take care of each other.

If you miss the show on CIUT 89.5 Sunday at 2, you can also listen at:
TuneIn Radio App
iTunes Radio (listed under campus radio)
StarChoice Satellite, Channel 826
Rogers Digital Cable, Channel 946
Bell Fibe TV, Channel 970

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Forcing Sabbatical on my Busy Busy Life

Various religious and spiritual scholars have written about the crisis of work, sabbatical of some sort and the spiritual disconnect brought about by our very busy lives. In one recent audio transcript found online people in contemporary society are compared to horses in a cavalry charge — moving forward so fast and just going through the motions, thus preventing them from thinking about the important things in life — including their enslavement to work. The idea is to make them so busy – that they can’t pause to think.

A part of this same audio file transcript reads “We become enslaved to the wrong path in life; we can’t even get our priorities straight; we can’t see the bigger picture”…and our spirits are low.

One way I think to free ourselves and reconnect to the things that matter is to literally force ourselves to stop doing what everyone else around us is doing, take a step back and think — but also to use that time to do something positive. Now I get that people stuck on that treadmill may say “Nice idea — but who’s got the time?” Getting off that treadmill takes tremendous courage and often lots of time — to say nothing of disposable income or a good savings.

Several years ago, American journalist Po Bronson wrote a book titled “What should I do with my life?” The book chronicled the experiences of a number of people who had either left a professional life they found unfulfilling or unsatisfying to pursue their passions. Think here for instance – a big city, high paid hot shot who decides that what he really wants is to become a chef and open a bakery. Or people, who due to circumstances like raising children , give up on their own professional dreams, only to pursue them later — somethings in their 60s, when their partners are ready to retire. Or others who have these powerful but rare spiritual “epiphanies” that come with forced sabbatical, silent retreat and meditation — quiet space and time to actually think.

I’m convinced these epiphanies or whatever you’re comfortable calling them are about more than just pursuing professional dreams. This is about a spiritual deficit where the individual reigns over community; where even the lowest paid — to saying nothing of the highest paid — jobs, want all of you — 110 percent — so there is nothing left for anything or anyone else. And then, hey, in case you’re tired, burnt out or stretched to your limit — the message is shut up and be grateful. There are 100 other people in line for the job.

On this week’s New Sabbath Project Radio Show on CIUT, we’re talking My Busy Busy Life. We’ll be speaking to two fantastic people – Molly Finlay and Richard Pietro of Citizen Bridge— who left big jobs and big careers in the search for meaning. Hope you’ll join us and write in to join the conversation at newsabbathproject@gmail.com. You can also join in under my name at Twitter or Facebook.

Be well and take care of each other.

If you miss the show Sunday at 2, you can also listen at:
TuneIn Radio App
iTunes Radio (listed under campus radio)
StarChoice Satellite, Channel 826
Rogers Digital Cable, Channel 946
Bell Fibe TV, Channel 970

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Sexing Religion

It’s become more than a cliche to say that “sex” is everywhere in contemporary, Western society. Hyper-commercialized notions of sexuality – and usually heterosexuality — saturate our public space — from advertising to music to infotainment programming parading around as news. Forget being tall enough to reach the porn magazines — sexual suggestion is insidious — at the makeup and so-called “fashion” magazine counters at the drug store. I’m reminded here of my seven year old, who I caught giggling recently at the magazine stand as I was at the checkout. I called over to him asking what he was laughing at. He pulled out a “fashion” magazine with little more than a woman’s cleavage on the cover. Completely normalized right? He told me he was laughing because he couldn’t believe they were (his words here) “putting this on the cover to try to sell us a magazine.” I was surprised and impressed by his analysis.

It’s no surprise then, that some of the world’s oldest religions and religious institutions have something to say about sex. But their response, perhaps predictably, is inundated with deeper ethical concerns where sex is inextricably linked with morality — both personal and communal.

On this week’s New Sabbath Project Radio Show on CIUT, we’re talking Religion and Sexuality. Hope you’ll join us and write in to join the conversation at newsabbathproject@gmail.com. You can also join in under my name at Twitter or Facebook.

Be well and take care of each other.

You can also listen at:
TuneIn Radio App
iTunes Radio (listed under campus radio)
StarChoice Satellite, Channel 826
Rogers Digital Cable, Channel 946
Bell Fibe TV, Channel 970

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