Monday, September 24, 2012

Art...Loving/Living Life

What is art?

The sensory experience. What is life for most people? Busy, loaded, dull, empty, meaningful, pointless, secret, awesome, painful, weird, stressful, boring, irritating with highlights of high expectation weekends and the covetted holiday break. Yet life is so beautiful, so amazing, living in the now, life is full and it is great. I took a switchpoint in life, seeking the city Zion, on this journey I have found the Spirit of Zion. I have seen and heard it in others.

I do not know if this will explain it to anyone, other than those who have experienced it. Also, as I read it over, I see things that I don't really know and haven't experienced on any level, yet they came to me and I put them in writing.

What is scripture...what is the gospel...what is that legendary beings have shared...Art.
If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once a week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied would thus have been kept active through use. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness. -Charles Darwin
When you hear an amazing singer and you get the that your body grabbing it, in excitement? Probably. The same as when you are cold, being covered in a warm blanket. It feels sooo good. Even when you are warm and feel a cool breeze. That chill is similar if not the same. Why does music do the same as the weather and temperature? That beauty, we hunger for. Our bodies are starved. I mocked the monks and yogis who starved and tortured themselves, thinking they were so ignorant and foolish. Yet I and all of us do the same thing on a different level.

I remember as a child and seeing my own children at the beach. In the Pacific Northwest, the beaches are in my opinion, the most beautiful on earth. The water is frigid. Adults are scared of it. Children love it. They splash around and will play all day in the water, exploring the tide pools and loving/living life. A friend once explained that adults priorities are different. They are concerned with survival/comfort, while children are concerned with enjoying the moment and playing. How true that is. Man, Jesus couldn't have said it any better when he showed us the be as little children. That is what he speaks of. Not some idea of obedience. It's living life...loving life. Do our lives have life if art is dead to us?

Darwin, who was able to see what few could see, saw this. 

What is Art? Art is when we experience something sensually. Think about it. When you see a painting, when you hear a song, when you feel the rhythm and dance, when you smell a delicious meal, when you taste the beautiful art that is the person you love. Art is an experience on the sensorial level. If we don't, it is dead to us. That is why the scriptures for many only occur as a result of goals as Zomarah mentioned rather than passion. For example, without ART, words on paper or computer screens, are just that...words. Which are symbols, not the actual thing they represent. When we experience the art, we go through words to what they symbolize, we experience them as one would a song or painting or a meal...something on a different level.

For example, what is GOD? God is not much. It is a three letter word. That is it. Is Jesus Christ GOD? No, he is a mask we have put on God. We have to go past the mask, which is the legends and stories of a Carpenter's son. We have to experience who that being is. Such an experience is art. There is beauty beyond the black and white text. In the 4th chapter of the Epistle of John, he speaks of love. Why? Because he wants us to have a spiritual, metaphysical experience. He wants us to go inside ourselves, re-experience love that we know and then connect with God through love. Art.

Martial arts. The spiritual seeking, lead to the physical side. Which in a way, can be a manifestation of the spiritual side and when coupled with physical, amazing things happen. The first becomes the last and the last becomes the first. Most martial arts schools and instructors, do so for money. What is the purpose for students? To learn respect, get into shape, build self confidence, kick someone's ass, etc. Self discipline, which can be a natural result, not an effort, but a way of living, an aspect as a result rather than the goal or purpose. Look at the way it has been polluted, diluted now. How did that start/change/go? A thorough examination is for you. I want to share that it can be different. There was a time when I thought that focusing on the body was wrong. How foolish? That comes from a perspective that doesn't understand this experience on earth. The body is amazing and so much can be experienced. Martial arts can be both spiritual and physical. So much can. Look at the name...martial arts. Martial:inclined or disposed to war; warlike, which this whole term is a western term of an eastern philosophy (though it is abused there for war as well). It has been used for war, yet the art still can be experienced.

Becoming alive in Christ. That is what can happen. It is beautiful. Living the art around us, that is us.

Reconciliation? Just as in the works of my people, (aka, those I'm associated with via culture, work, heritage, Facebook, etc.) are dead works, the same is the case for most other peoples.

The native Americans have only a hollow shell of their works. Not that the works of the ancestors were perfect. I do not look back and wish for the good old days. Looking at the now, the works of people are mainly dead. They feed the ego and the body and starve the spirit. Even though what they feed the body is obviously corrupt and poison. The same goes for the little spiritual nutrition we consume.

We have become sick. Most don't really know it because everyone else is sick. Like the Siddhartha, where he didn't realize the world, because his environment was skewed so as to not see anyone old or sick. When he went outside the palace, his world changed. It reminds me of a song Sacar la Voz, by Ana Tijoux. One of her lines

Liberarse de todo el pudor, tomar de las riendas no rendirse al opresor
Caminar erguido sin temor, respirar y sacar la voz 
En un cordel a colgar la copla que el viento mece
Que pocas veces merece, cada pena suelta voz, cada toz
Pensando en sacar la voz

Uno respira--va adentro...donde estás TÚ. Búscate, encúentrate, hállate.
Y sacar la voz---záfate de lo que está dentro de ti.
Cada pena---el dolor y la pena que nos hacemos, que nos hace la "vida/mundo" nos causa soltar la voz. Es lo que me pasú a mi. Lo que dice Max Skousen en cuanto a la religion...o sea, cualquiera institucion.

An annual even in Seattle, a Pow-Wow, that my family went to in my youth, had an event planned for this year. But a short time before the event, it was cancelled. It was very disappointing. I was excited to take my wife and children to their first such event. I read online, that the event was cancelled due to lack of money. The spiritual/physical manifestation and celebrations are now dependent on money? One of the commenters online, said that money isn't necessary. People should just show up and share, bond and celebrate. Money is not necessary. There are those who understand Zion.

When we have Zion in our heart, Zion will then become a physical manifestation. Both are important. The Gemini. Once the zion heart happens, reconciliation will be in our heart, reconciliation then will become a physical manifestation.

So much is now sold. It shows the lack of understanding of what is. If they sell it, they believe it has a set value that is defined. Also, it shows that it can be possessed. It is a commodity.

When people start to experience Art in their lives, in their culture...then things change. Art has no price.

Neil Gaiman, in a college commencement, said something great about this. The whole speech is amazing, but for the part about money, jump to....5:39
Make Good Art

sidenote I do realize how he is dressing. Where he is at. A major stumbling block for so many, is descrediting and dismissing truth for petty reasons. Do you believe Neil sees his attire the same as you? Probably not. Though he does mention that he never saw himself going to college, let alone giving a speech at one...he does mention that he sees value in what his friends have learned in college. I have too. As a whole, I think it is off. The premise of the system is off. But there are beautiful people on campus who have taught things that opened my eyes. Even the Carpenter's Son spent time in the synagogues.

Experience Art. 

Reconcile the whole.

Friday, September 7, 2012

"Culturally Mormon"

This is not an anti-Mormon blog. While I am not in charge of what other contributors write, it is not my personal intention to attack the SLC-based, LDS Church. Reconciliation, to me, means loving your enemies. If you love your enemies, you always want to hear what they have to say. You're always willing to hear them out, to engage them, to try to understand. That is, “enemies” must always hold a place at the table. In fact, reconciliation means having no enemies, which I think is what Jesus was getting at—even when people try to make enemies of us. So it should go without saying that traditional, orthodox Mormons are more than welcome to join the Mormon Reconciliation Movement and share their ideas with others.

The idea for this blog and corresponding Facebook group came to me after a discussion with a friend (who is also a contributor on this blog and goes by the name ProvoJoe). The conclusion, ultimately, was that the Book of Mormon was a book about reconciliation. Many Latter-day Saints mistakenly think the Book of Mormon is about the righteous Nephites and the wicked Lamanites. It is assumed that whenever the Lamanites came around to the Nephite way of thinking, there was peace and prosperity and all sorts of good results. However, this is simply not the case, and the Book of Mormon is saying something far, far different. The Nephites were as wicked as, if not more wicked than, the Lamanites. The Lamanites had forgotten their status as a covenant people. The Nephites, however, never forgot, but were outright rebellious at times (also consider the Amalekites, Amulonites, and Zoramites). The Nephites were beset by pride cycles and more tolerant of the Gadianton Robbers. The Lamanites shared neither of these failings, but were the more stable of the two groups. If one actually reads the Book of Mormon without racial bias, things were actually at their best when the Nephites and Lamanites were reconciled and got along as one people. The Lamanites compensated for the cultural shortcomings of the Nephites, and the Nephites did likewise for the Lamanites. They were hopelessly incomplete when they were at odds with one another. In the end one group was annihilated culturally, the other literally.

I think that is the overarching message of the Book of Mormon...and why the Mormon Reconciliation Movement exists. I also think the modern-day, Utah Mormon bears many of the underlying characteristics of the ancient Nephite. We are, I would argue, hopelessly Nephite. But if we are wary of ourselves, we will adopt the Book of Mormon as our own, unique history. We, too, are beset by pride cycles that threaten to destroy us (the 2008 Global Financial Crisis was part of a modern-day pride cycle). We must heed the warnings of the Book of Mormon and learn from the Nephites’ mistakes (that’s why we have the Book of Mormon in the first place of course).

Again, this blog is not intended to tear down the LDS Church. However, it is my personal opinion that we are not, by and large, heeding those warnings. I still identify as a Mormon, but I no longer identify as a member of the Monson-headed, SLC-based Church. That is, I am a Mormon, but I disagree with the LDS Church’s interpretation of Mormonism. Furthermore, I do not believe said Church has a monopoly on Joseph's religion. The point being that Mormonism should be open to interpretation all of the time—a living, dynamic, expanding religion.

Admittedly, I have some opinions about the role the Church of Jesus Christ should be fulfilling—just bear in mind that these opinions are my own and I do not speak for the entire group. I think Mormonism can be compared, somewhat loosely, to the Eleusinian Mysteries of ancient Greece. When I think of Mormon temples, and the purpose they serve, there is a great deal of overlap between what the Eleusinian Mysteries did for the ancient Greeks, and what the Mormon Temple rituals do for modern-day Mormons. The distinction I want to point out, however, is that the Greeks also had their popular state-religion, which was flavored by the common customs and traditions and superstitions of everyday Greek culture. Mormonism has this, too, in its Utah religion.

The parallel I’m drawing here is of "Temple" Mormonism and "Cultural" Mormonism—the sacred versus the profane. Cultural Mormonism has very little resemblance to Temple Mormonism, but shares a great deal in common with your average, run-of-the-mill, christian sect. Throw in some aspects of the American Dream and the Protestant Work Ethic and a deeply conservative bent, and you’ve got modern-day, cultural Mormonism—a brand of Mormonism that I reject outright because I think the branches betrays their roots.

“Profane Mormonism” flows in the opposite direction of “Sacred Mormonism”. Sacred Mormonism really has nothing to do with the Word of Wisdom, or pioneer heritage, or wearing a white shirt to church and being clean-shaven, or keeping up appearances, or being nauseatingly nice, or the undoctrinal doctrine of self-reliance, or Jell-O, etc. Sacred Mormonism—though marvelous and unique—is trying to accomplish the same thing that all of the great religions—at their core—are trying to accomplish. Pure religion is about achieving mystical union with God but also about achieving that union with each other. It is, in a word, about reconciliation—that we may “be one,” Jesus says, “as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee.”

The problem with Profane Mormonism is that when it abandoned the ideal of Zion, we gutted Mormonism of its heart; it became totally cut-off from Sacred Mormonism. Zion is the heart of Mormonism, the culmination of the gospel of Jesus Christ on Earth. Nobody really had the authority to say we should put Zion on hold indefinitely. On the contrary, the Doctrine and Covenants includes repeated warnings to those who would transgress the “everlasting order” of Zion—that they would be delivered over to the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption (D&C 78: 11-12, 82: 20-21, 104: 10).

We still have the temple, and many of us even attend it, but few of us comprehend it. Sacred Mormonism is not a cultural religion—bogged down with all of the traditions and customs, dogmas and creeds, and other baggage that make us appear strange and insular to “outsiders”. Sacred Mormonism, or pure Mormonism, is what I would term a meta-religion. It doesn’t have a culture, or a tradition, or a particular religious flavor. Its purpose is to tear down the barriers to reconciliation and dispel the myth of separation. WE ARE ONE. GOD IS IN US. WE ARE IN GOD. Pure Mormonism is trying to remind us of that sacred truth. And once reminded, we should live by it.

So what is a Mormon? What is his or her mission? Is it to convert people to the church in Salt Lake City? Is it to make people stop drinking coffee and tea and alcohol? I really don’t think so. If you read Don Bradley’s talk here, you will recall that Joseph Smith laid out the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism as truth, friendship, and relief. In my old ward the members were deeply preoccupied with how to convert the local Mennonite population. But we had it all wrong. We were trying to get them to trade in one religion for another. But what was the point? Rather, we should have been preoccupied with the work of reconciliation—with converting them, and ourselves, to the principles of truth, friendship, and relief. Or, in other words, reminding them of the one great truth that underlies it all. It is the truth that Jesus Christ lived and died for, and the truth that many prophets presently understand, i.e., that solemn reminder: We are one, and we ought to live as one. This is what Zion is all about. Zion, the Millennium, the Terrestrial phase—they all rest upon the ideal of reconciliation—when the “wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.”

The job of a Mormon is to direct others to the Tree of Life, as Lehi did in the Book of Mormon. A Mormon should not be engaged in trying to make people abandon their old religion—essentially committing cultural genocide across the globe. Brigham Young suggested that Zion would include non-Mormons. I’ll take it one further. I don’t even think Zion will be mostly Mormons. I don’t even think it will be Mormon-ish. A Mormon’s job is to be an Ephraimite. That is, his or her job is to gather others. They’re not even supposed to build Zion. They don’t know how after all. I think Jesus himself defined what a Mormon should be: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” All of the good religions lead to God (as do art, philosophy, and science); our job is to strengthen people in their religious traditions and help make their religions come alive for them (including, ironically, Mormonism). Just add salt. Our job is to make bad Buddhists good, and good Buddhists better. Or bad Atheists good, and good Atheists better, etc., etc., etc. This is why the Mormon Reconciliation Movement is a movement. It isn’t about hunkering down in Salt Lake City, building a shopping center, and declaring ourselves an ethnically and culturally unique people. It is a movement because it’s light on its feet; devoid of dogma, creed, and tradition; inclusive rather than exclusive; and wholly committed to gathering Israel. If you want to be culturally Mormon, fine, but it certainly isn’t the price of admission. “For behold the field is white already to harvest…. And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.”

As a final note, I want to say I have a great deal of respect and appreciation for what John Dehlin does. I absolutely love the Mormon Stories podcast. He espouses and promotes big tent Mormonism, which I agree with wholeheartedly. I support the “us, too” message and thrust of his work. However, the inclusiveness of the message is based on the notion of culture. That is, we are all befitting the label “Mormon” because we are all “culturally Mormon”. If that’s your religion, your heritage, then so be it. I'd like build upon John's ideas, which have inspired me. I think we should engage Mormonism in a much deeper, more profound way. I believe we should invoke the Spirit of Elijah and become true Ephraimites. The “us, too” message should extend beyond Mormon feminists, LGBT Mormons, and liberal Mormons. That is, Zion should (and will) include feminists, LGBTs, and liberals who are not members of the SLC church. It will include Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus. It will include agnostics and atheists. It will include black, white, and brown. It will include young and old, men and women, priests and priestesses. Zion’s strength is in its diversity. It is not homogenous as many Mormons believe it will be (it is not, to put it another way, about falling in line with the Nephites). “And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.” That is what the Mormon reconciliation is all about.