Saturday, July 30, 2011

Evolution of Belief: When Dogs Pray Part I

Be kind when you pray - to Whomever or Whatever you worship. It's not easy being G-d. I know this by personal experience.

I've lived with dogs my whole life: Siblings, Babysitters, Guardians, Confessors, Friends. And now it seems I've been given a promotion. Not to Sister or Leader, but to DEITY, FIRST CLASS. H. sapiens sapiens is apparently not the only species we should suspect of having DNA code for religious Belief .

Humanity's Belief genes themselves, if we find them, are probably quite complex and variable. Not all people Believe the same things in exactly the same ways. Some people may be incapable of Belief, despite repeated, sincere, systematic efforts of Total Believers. All genes act in concert with other genes, and are subject to environmental influences.

Complicating any one person's spiritual journey is the fact that religious ideals and practices are vigorously presented to children before the age of eight years, before critical thinking can be used to reject unlikely or inconsistent precepts. Is this manipulation of the "magical" child mind the bedrock of Fundamentalism? Adults espousing extremist ethics use over-simplified, childish language and reasoning.

Hafta think about that some more.

Fundamentalist fakery aside, I have been present during several instances of genuine religious conversion: dramatic readjustments of mind and life strategy in people from diverse cultures following their exercise of Belief. Just as though a switch was turned ON. They Believe and begin to live differently, naturally, in accord with their new perspective.

Myself, I cannot make a fairy come back to life by clapping my hands. I've never gotten the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart just by singing about it. My wide and fulfilling spiritual practice is not the product of any single, profound revelation. Rather, it is an unending series of plateaus leading to increasingly open vistas which words cannot attain. My truest spiritual moments consist of Silence and Wonder. Western Belief models do little to support this experience.

I digress. A lot. You've been warned.

Dogs don't give their young religious instruction. They teach them (by example) to be careful, respectful and sensitive members of their immediate social group. In wild conditions, they'd further teach pups to forage and fend for themselves. What meaning is (or is not) assigned to life stages and experiences is left entirely to each individual's interpretation. Dogs don't preach, proselytize, apologize or attempt exegesis.

It would be a mistake, however, to assume that dogs are merely Behavioral in their function and outlook. Canids are very keen to detect intention, suffering and other Essential qualities in living beings around them.

We've selected our canine companions over tens of thousands of years to "fit in" with us more and more. We've suited a great variety of breeds to a great variety of functions. Have we also been selecting them for their potential to Worship?


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Always Lead with Hospitality!

It's brain-melting hot here on the hillside. So, while I'm gearing up to get some essays together for your reading pleasure, how about a little refreshment?

The lemon sorbet I buy at the food store costs nearly $5.00 for a quart-sized container. Cheap lady that I am, I knew there must be a better way to cool down on a moment's notice! Don't worry if you're not a "cook": I've included a fancy-free, single-ingredient suggestion at the bottom of the Alternate Flavors.

You need:
- 4 cups water (if you own a counter-top ice chipper, you only need 2 cups of water to make a flavored syrup)
- 2 large (or 3 small) lemons
- 3/4 cup sugar (or equivalent measure sugar substitute of your choice)
- 1 black tea bag (optional)
- 1 sprig mint (6-10 leaves) (optional)
- heat-safe mixing bowl
- micro-plane
- citrus reamer
- whisk or fork
- freezer-safe container with lid

Wash and dry the lemons. Micro-plane ("zest") their rinds into the water. Scrape the yellow, outer rind only; the white rind is very bitter and will spoil your batch. Heat water to the boiling point (stove top or microwave). Stir in sugar until dissolved. Steep the tea bag and mint in the lemon-zest-sugar water; let stand covered until desired strength of flavor. Juice the lemons into your syrup mixture (pulp optional).

I like to prepare my solution the evening before I want to freeze will take about 3 hours for the initial freezing process to begin, so refrigerating the solution overnight gives me the whole next day to work on the ice.

Pour the finished solution in a freezer-safe container (uncovered), and move it to the freezer. When the ice crust begins to form, break it down with a whisk or fork, turning the ice under the liquid solution. Check the solution hourly to prevent it freezing into a giant ice glob. IMPORTANT: If you forget, or get side-tracked, and find your batch is frozen solid, simply return the container to the fridge and let it melt. Begin the freeze process again later. No biggie!

Keep breaking and mixing the ice/liquid mixture until the entire batch is frozen, but flaky. Cover the finished product; it will keep up to several weeks (theoretically!).

Scoop and enjoy! Your friends and neighbors will find you very attractive, I promise.

Alternate Flavors:
- plain lemon
- orange
- blood orange
- lime
- tea (you will need to steep 3-4 bags to get a good, intense tea-only flavor)
- if you don't fancy yourself handy in the kitchen, use frozen orange juice or grape juice concentrate (about 1/2 a thawed container for 3-4 cups water)