Thu, 25 Dec 2003

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let there be light

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i woke up ok today. it's a dark, dreary, gloomy winter day, as wintery as it can get in southern california, and it's raining, but i am at peace.

whatever needs to be, will be.

that is the simplified essence of my faith these days.

sitting at midnight mass, as the priest droned on nonsensically in the stark, underdecorated church and the soloists missed their notes and flubbed their lyrics, i pondered how ridiculous it is that people dream of a white christmas. (which, incidentally, is a song that is ruined for me because too many people keep reminding me about the possible racial interpretation of this.)

nevermind the fact that jesus was probably not born in december (corroborating with the fact that he was supposedly born during the first roman imperial census), and that december 25th was chosen by the early christians because it coincided with the saturnalia, allowing them to celebrate without undue scrutiny from the romans. but consider that bethlehem is located near the mediterranean. if anything, the winter weather in southern california is probably the closest to palestine more than anywhere else in the u.s.

i reminisce about all the peri-Christmas seasons I've spent crossing the Mojave Desert (and this year was no exception, crossing from eastern edge to western border) and i think about fantastic spiritual kinships with the magi (star of wonder, star of night.... westward leading, still proceeding) and maybe the Mojave is at least a little reminiscent of the wastelands that John the Baptist wandered, and later, where Jesus Christ was tempted by the Adversary, the desert of the Essenes, the desert where James A Pike met his demise in search of his faith, the desert where war continues to brew (o come, o come, emmanuel, and ransom captive palestine....)

the desert is such a strong human archetype. if you've never experienced the desert, i do not think you can be a sincere adherent of any of the religions of the book (zoroastrianism, judaism, christianity, islam). the desert is the crucible of these faiths. the desert defines many of the tropes found in the sacred scriptures, and i do not think it is possible to authentically interpret the scriptures without understanding the desert.

i do not claim that i know the desert, only that i have been around it for a greater part of my life, that i have many bittersweet memories attached to those wondrous wastes. (i need to expand on this idea i've been trying to develop as i was driving westward.... but not here. in any case, like lao tzu mentions, many things we find useful are defined as much by their emptiness, their lack, as they are by their materiality. "We join spokes together in a wheel, but it is the center hole that makes the wagon move. We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want. We hammer wood for a house, but it is the inner space that makes it livable. We work with being, but non-being is what we use." in the same way, civilization is probably defined by its deserts. anyway.)

but that is what christmas makes me think of. the holy land, the desert. the clear, brilliant sky with a trillion stars that kept the shepherds company as they tended their flock in the crisp desert cold.

more later.

11:36:56 25 Dec 2003 > /soul > permalink > 8 comments

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