SIMPLICITY: Jesus Of Nazareth by Philip Harnden

February 8, 2018

From Journeys of Simplicity Jewish carpenter whose life and teachings inspire the Christian faith. “And what I say unto you, I say unto all: Watch.” JESUS SENDS FORTH THE TWELVE Take nothing for your journey save a staff no knapsack no bread no money not two coats be shod with sandals Go, preach Heaven is at hand heal the sick cleanse the lepers raise the dead cast out [...]

SIMPLICITY: Bilbo Baggins by Philip Harnden

February 1, 2018

From Journeys of Simplicity Son of Bungo Baggins, grandson of the Old Took, and diminutive hero of J. R. R. Tolkien’s mythological novel, The Hobbit. A hobbit hole means comfort, Tolkien tells us, and Bilbo Baggins is a very comfortable hobbit indeed.  His bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, and dining rooms have paneled walls and carpeted floors.  He has cellars and pantries full of food and entire rooms devoted to clothes.  To Bilbo, “adventures” are nasty and uncomfortable affairs that make you late for dinner. But when he is visited by thirteen dwarfs and a wizard, “something Tookish” wakes inside him.  Before he can stop himself, he has left comfort behind to join one of the great adventures of modern literature. BILBO SETS [...]

SIMPLICITY: A Celtic Woman by Philip Harnden

January 25, 2018

From Journeys of Simplicity Hebridean householder and keeper of the songs, prayers, and blessings of Celtic Christianity. Nineteenth century in the Outer Hebrides, those wild islands off the west coast of Scotland.  A woman rises in the cold morning, her household still asleep.  In her small hut – day in, day out – she begins the quiet, essential rhythms of daybreak: bathing her face, kindling the night-banked fire.  With each act she breathes a prayer-of-three to the Trinity.  Kneeling there on the earthen floor, she transforms her ordinary chores into sacrament, her daily journey into pilgrimage. Esther de Waal, in her rich and sensitive writings on the Celtic way of prayer, so describes one anonymous woman of more than a hundred [...]

SIMPLICITY: Annie Dillard by Philip Harnden

January 18, 2018

From Journeys of Simplicity (b. 1945) American writer, poet, and pilgrim. Dillard wrote the second half of her Pulitzer Prize-winning Pilgrim at Tinker Creek in a second-floor, cinderblock room with a window that overlooked a tar-and-gravel roof and a parking lot.  “Appealing workplaces are to be avoided,” she maintains.  “One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.” In this writer’s cell she kept her fielder’s mitt (for afternoon softball games), some books, a bag of chocolate-covered peanuts, two or three quotes taped on index cards, a dozen different-colored pens, some piles of big index cards, and her messy yellow legal pads.  One day she shut the window blinds and never opened them again. [...]

SIMPLICITY: Henry Beston by Philip Harnden

January 11, 2018

From Journeys of Simplicity (1888–1968) American naturalist and writer best known for The Outermost House, his chronicle of a solitary year on a Cape Cod beach. “The world today,” wrote Henry Beston, “is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water welling from the earth, for air, for the dear Earth itself underfoot.” To immerse himself in those elemental things, Beston had a neighbor build him a small house atop a dune on the farthest eastern reaches of Cape Cod, just thirty feet from the great Atlantic beach.  His “outermost house” measured twenty feet by sixteen and contained two rooms (a bedroom and a kitchen / living room) with a brick fireplace in the wall between.  Its [...]

SIMPLICITY: John Muir by Philip Harnden

December 21, 2017

From Journeys of Simplicity (1838–1914) Scottish-born American naturalist, inventor, writer, rover, and crusader for wilderness preservation. John Muir was a lifelong pacifist who moved to Canada during the Civil War conscription.  He was a mechanical wizard who refused to patent his inventions because “all improvements and inventions should be the property of the human race.”  When a factory accident temporarily blinded him, young Muir resolved to devote the rest of his life “to the study of the inventions of God.”  Upon regaining his sight, he set off alone on a thousand-mile botanizing walk from Indiana to the Gulf of Mexico. “Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the [...]

SIMPLICITY: Thomas Merton by Philip Harnden

December 14, 2017

From Journeys of Simplicity (1915–1968) French-born American Roman Catholic priest and Trappist monk Father Louis, as Thomas Merton was known to his fellow monks, lived his last years as a hermit in the woods near his Cistercian abbey.  His hermitage was small and unadorned, a cinder-block building with cement floors.  He cut his own wood for the fireplace, hauled water from the abbey, cooked on a Coleman stove, and read by kerosene lamp.  Eventually, as his health deteriorated, electricity was installed.  Typically, he arose at 3:15 a.m. to begin the prayers of the day. He was perhaps the first Trappist hermit of the modern era.  He was surely a monk whose living and passing brimmed with irony.  Vowed to silence, he was known [...]

SIMPLICITY: On Traveling Light by Philip Harnden

December 7, 2017

From Journeys of Simplicity Twelve hundred years ago in China a middle-aged man named P’ang Yün loaded everything he owned onto a boat and sank it all in the Tung’t’ing Lake.  After that, we are told, “He lived like a single leaf.” See him there in the early morning, treading water in the middle of the lake, watching the last bubbles rise from the depths.  The air crisp and quiet.  The lake misty and as still as sky.  Then turning, stroking toward the shore. Justine Dalencourt, a French Quaker, was forced to leave her home at Fontaine-Lavaganne when the German army invaded France in 1914.  But first she planted her garden, saying, “I would rather they found something to eat at my house than that they should have to steal [...]

POETRY: Washing Sheets in July, by Jane Gentry

July 16, 2014

Thin clouds work the sheet of sky— jays cry, flat and starchy. Against the white garage hollyhocks flicker. The sheets, wet, adhesive as I hang them, smell of soap and bee-filled air. Flags of order in the palpable sun, how they snap in the new breeze! Watching them balloon on the line, I swell with an old satisfaction: I beat them clean in the Euphrates. Poems half-conceived drift off— unwritten essays muddle, fade. The white sheets crack in the wind, fat bellies of sails, sweet as round stomachs of children. Tonight they’ll carry me to sleep in joy, in peace, muscles unknotting, tired eyes clearing in the dark under their lids. The sheets, fragrant as summer, carry me into realms of cleanliness, deep dreams of [...]

SATURDAY READING: Devotion — The Way Of The Psalm Singer by Paula Huston

April 26, 2014

From The Holy Way Let us consider, then, how we ought to behave in the presence of God and his angels and let us stand to sing the psalms in such a way that our minds are in harmony with our voices.(Rule of Saint Benedict) Surprisingly enough, it was my mother who first told me about them.  She actually got the newspaper out of the trash just so she could show me their picture – the four members of a new rock group with oafish haircuts who were causing a major sensation.  It was 1964, I was twelve, and they were the Beatles.  That week they sang, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” on The Ed Sullivan Show, and on the playground the day after their performance, I realized that I now understood the term devotee.  This was a word I’d [...]

POETRY: Simplicity

April 23, 2014

Twinings Orange Pekoe Judith Moffett The gas ring’s hoarse exhaling wheeze, Voice of blue flamelets, licks the kettle’s Copper underbelly, which crouches Closer, concentrates, by [...]

SIMPLICITY: A Second Simplicity by Richard Rohr

April 22, 2014

From Falling Upward Beyond rational and critical thinking, we need to be called again.  This can lead to the discovery of a “second naiveté,” which is a return to the joy of our first naiveté, but now totally new, inclusive, and mature thinking. (Paul Ricoeur) People are so afraid of being considered pre-rational that they avoid and deny the very possibility of the transrational.  Others substitute mere pre-rational emotions for authentic religious experience, which is always transrational. (Ken Wilber) These quick summaries (not precise quotations) are from two great thinkers who more or less describe for me what happened on my own spiritual and intellectual journey.  I began as a very conservative pre-Vatican II Roman [...]

SATURDAY READING: Seek Solitude by David Yount

March 22, 2014

From Spiritual Simplicity Make Peace With Yourself   Simple living is not trouble free.  Simplicity offers no permanent protection against adversity, but it will help you to deal with ill fortune more calmly and sensibly, while giving you the foresight to head off unnecessary setbacks.  By establishing reasonable expectations and responsible habits you will no longer be a ready candidate for victimization.  You will anticipate ups and downs, but you will not be down for long. The only sure things in life, we’re told, are death and taxes, but they are the things we worry least about.  Only about one American in four frets about dying, but two-thirds of us worry about ending our days in a nursing home because of physical frailty [...]