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Lions, Attachment, Punching a Pooch

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I needed something to be my next blog post victim as I headed north on my Amtrak trip back to Philadelphia; some topic would become my prey. Something easy, agreeable-like when a lion catches an antelope; it’s right because it’s natural. Hmmm, I thought. What’s my blog’s antelope? What’s shooting fish in a barrel for me?

People. An easy target. Look at how pathetic we are capable of becoming. And I’m not pointing out any physical qualities that would suggest our devotion to brand-names, cosmetics, and semper-updatable-technology. No, if I was to go after that topic, that would be like kicking a kitten, punching a pooch, or stealing candy from a baby. I said antelope. That lion has to burn some energy in order to catch his next meal! So I hope what I have to say next doesn’t come off as a kicking a kitten tone.

Attachment. The word doesn’t really seem like a “buzzword” as it does in Eastern religions. I think we tend to see it as a negative harm (not always) when someone becomes too attached in a relationship; “attached at the hip.” Yet,  Buddhism likes to state that the Second Noble Truth (of reality) is the origin of suffering derives from attachment. So, as we  humans, we have so incredibly and profoundly discovered that what we don’t like, we don’t do. What tastes bad doesn’t end up in our mouths a second time. Genius. We evolve. In the instance of attachment equivocated with suffering, we would conclude that we sever all of our attachments to things, peoples, and emotions.

that doesn't taste good

It’s a pretty tall order, hence, so many Americans turn elsewhere for a more comfortable interpretation of reality. (Still, in Christian language, actions deemed as sinful fall into this larger category; the harmful effects of attachment. In this instance, Christianity uses the language of lust, envy, and greed to name a few.) “When greed is our motivation, no matter how much we have, it’s never enough…When generosity is our motivation, we can find satisfaction in the simplest of things.” (Noah Levine, Against the Stream, 97.)

Last night on the Amtrak, I witnessed a lot of needless attachment; individuals being overly possessive of seats, luggage space, and leg room. And I’m not describing the people who just kicked back and relaxed once on board. I was guilty of this too; throwing a bag on the seat next to me to avoid any confrontation with any passerby that even dared to sit next to me. In this scenario, as well as more instances than we would like to imagine, our relationship of attachment to comfort causes suffering. “We begin to understand that clinging, attachment, and aversion are the primary causes of the extra layer of suffering that we create for ourselves.” (Noah Levine, Against the Stream, 85.)

okay, so it wasn't this crowded...

This is where I think my example of shooting fish in a barrel is appropriate. We can clearly see that in blocking the seat, we are being greedy and self-satisfying. And while my focus in this little piece isn’t about to go into depth on what the harms of attachment are, we can deduce that greed and self-absorption have a negative effect on our relationships. By perverting our relationship of attachment for comfort to serve our own needs, we ignore or blot out the needs of others. In this example of the Amtrak, individuals just walked to the next car for the next open seat. No serious harm was done unto the other passengers; most-likely inconvenience at the most.

Yet, beginning with the small things, our relationship with attachment to emotions and desires could cause us to become acceptable of larger hurts produced by unhealthy relationships. Sexism, racism, and social injustice are just a few to name. We like to turn that blind eye that we often turn when we experience something that is morally wrong. What enables us to do so is our subtle but continuous establishment of a sickened relationship of attachment to others. It’s not obsequious to say that a small hurt will lead to a larger one if the smaller one is continuously exacerbated. Pick a healing scab, and you aggravate it to the point where it bleeds fresh blood.

So we are pathetic. Especially when we look around for the origins of the negative ISM’s (like the three mentioned above,) we point fingers and ask questions about slavery in the 19th century that distance us a great deal from the racial tensions that thrive today. There is no mystery where our problems come from; especially those that revolve around relationships.



Written by Jack Viere

November 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Map vs. GPS

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Today, there’s a readiness and willingness to accept information from machines at face value with no discernment. Technology is just a machine, a computer at best. There’s no human judgement values, personal experiences, or wisdom in technology. Specifically, GPS’s are not really giving you an actual destination. It’s a computer that is taking you from point A to point B in the GPS’s system. A simple equation. (We use to be able to solve it with a thing called a map.) The problem arises from our believing that the GPS is really depicting an actual, tangible place. It has the undetectable illusion that is presenting the driver with a real place by showing qualities of the destination. Just because a computer can intake data and spit it back out to the user does not mean it discerns like a human mind.

Google has the ability to run specific search engines that evolve regularly due to its tracking bugs that automatically find new data to intake.  A person had to preprogram the logarithm for that bug to have the illusion of working self-sufficiently. Technology is the extension of human discernment that is propelled by our seeming growing need for convenience. Technology is NOT its own entity that should outweigh or completely for stomp out the individual’s ability to make decisions, especially those affecting him or herself.

I felt motivated to write out the above reflection as a reply to a classmate’s self-righteous exclamation: “Do you even know how to use a map?” Directed at my professor, I couldn’t help but smirk at his idea that maps are already outdated. Maybe they are, but I thought it was quite the assumption to make. Anyways, to me, it sounded like someone saying, “Don’t you know that 2+2=4?” to a college professor. Of course it was said with the tone inclining some sort of rhetorical question. Our professor said he preferred maps over GPS’s; I concurred at which the classmate proceeded to say that maps are susceptible to being outdated. I don’t think you need Garmin and MapQuest to tell you that, buddy. I think the cartographers  back in the day were well aware of the fact their product was susceptible to change when new information and details were procured from further research. On reflection, this gradual process of receiving and editing new data seems more plausible (in my opinion) than the GPS saying, “Turn left now,” leading you into a ravine, which (I’d argue) most people would do as they have their heads down, texting away on their iPhone 4s’s. When the smoke clears, and we crawl out of the ditch, we would then proceed to say, “Stupid GPS! It did not update itself!”

So basically that argument is whether you trust a map that will become outdated or you trust a voice on a GPS. That’s really not my point because it boils down to preference. (I don’t think a map has ever misled its user into a ditch though…even if the roads are rerouted, we don’t follow the road as intently as a GPS, hunched over, waiting for Mr. Australian Accent to lead us to the next point within the list of directions.)

My point is to question why or how do we find ourselves so ready to accept information from technology. Why do we have a desire to let things take control (like machines) as we sit back and take the passenger seat? Is it really out of convenience? If it is, how are we any better than animals if our rationale is only to make our life more convenience? (Medicine, machines, weapons, computers-making everything a little easier for us, allowing everyone to take the passenger seat and let technology take us for a spin.)

I think Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity all point to being in control of one’s own actions and one’s own mind.

Buddhism: the Eightfold Path has a few points worth mentioning. Falling under a broader category of Mental Development, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration all speak of  self-control. There’s really no presence of those three in our lifestyle when we take the backseat with technology.

Hinduism: the Eight Limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga; I’ve been reading a lot into this in one of my courses. Pratyahara, control of the senses. Dharana, concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness. We might be shutting down our senses (and survival skills at that) when we choose to allow technology dominate our decision-making. We really have no shot of cultivating any type of awareness, more or less the inner perceptual kind that many faiths shoot for.

Christianity: this could prove to be a little more difficult since there aren’t many lists in mainstream Christianity. I’d point out that in the Catholic context (which has many a good list) the Seven Deadly Sins has a little something-something called sloth and gluttony. While that may be a bit extreme in the instance of the GPS, taking the back seat in faith (which is a part of every day life, even when we choose to make it not,) is still letting other people”’ and other things do our work.

On a final note, in summarizing, I don’t think technology is wrong at all; that’d be to argue that all the scientific advances (like medicine-that does fall under that category) were for the worse. Absurd. But in the field of something like medicine, it’s not the meds that are making advances on its own. Its the researches, scientists, and physicians that propel medicinal advances.

So why, then, do we take the back seat?

Written by Jack Viere

November 16, 2011 at 4:47 pm

A Sense of Community

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Noah Levine really hits home the significance of community in spiritual circles in his Against the Stream. “Both inner and outer spiritual rebellion are relational experiences. The revolution cannot take place in isolation.” (Levine, 80.) While more moderately faithful may find the terms rebellion and revolution nonreligious, maybe even irreverent, I find that in this specific instance, his use of such irregular diction stresses a point of emphasis. Spirituality is in itself a rebellion. Metaphysics can be seen as an attempted empirical explanation of the unseen, rationality we possess. (But really, who can pull that out of their brain prima facie?) But believing in the unseen, nontangible stuff that quite a few people believe in could not succeed if there were no communities. Being radical takes a toll on you. You need a support group.

While in Western circles, the Catholic Church can be seen as the initial model of spiritual communities, I find this Buddhist point of view capable of tying down some loose strings many nonbelievers (and believers in some instances) may have with communal religion. Levine holds that communities must consist of believers “of both more and less wisdom and compassion than ourselves.” (ibid.) I think for many, those of us in, or having been through any higher education, understand the significance of those who possess more wisdom than us. They are our teachers. They hold the keys to knowledge. Their past experiences have led them (or not) to become more compassionate towards others.

But what about those who have less wisdom and compassion than us? This still might be easy to answer; they can teach us as well if we choose to respond “with understanding and friendliness.” (Levine, 81.) And in the instance of those with less compassion, which I find somewhat more difficult to answer the above question, friendliness really becomes difficult to embody.

Yet, when the going gets tough, such as it does when someone is being a jerk, Levine points out: “community allows us to put into practice wisdom and compassion toward all beings-even the annoying members of the revolution.” (ibid.) I find this the point of emphasis in Levine’s point on community. Personally, I have taken it for granted that my “community also serves as a teacher by challenging us in the places where we get stuck.” (ibid.)

This would be one of those loose strings I mentioned. I don’t think people, myself definitely included, would be able to make the hard right without some sort of support system. What makes spiritual communities stronger and more dedicated is the interlinkage of faith. And in some instances, which I have found while participating in other religious practices that are not of my own faith, you still share that same faith in something unseen (most of the time) that cannot be explained in plain rhetoric.

Believe in the believers!

Written by Jack Viere

November 13, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Gays: Not on the Radar

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A faithful and Welcoming Church. Not Pop-Culture’s way of describing the Roman Catholic Church. Especially of late. Yet, this unpopularity, bashing of the Church through the media has kept me faithful all the more. There’s no answer to your why. I just have been; it’s what I grew up with, it’s what feels comfortable. However, just like any other random believer, I somehow feel freely entitled to take the brunt end of the recent occurrences in the past year or so, even though I had no direct affiliation…

Unity Week  had me wondering; how does the Catholic college community deal with the reality of a multicultural student population (and even more diverse neighborhood; Philadelphia?) A lot of people buy into the sharp criticisms of the New York Times and many others. Even while people say (falsely) what the Church says, why not hear from someone within the Church? Who better than a strong advocate for Ad Hoc Committee for the Religious Liberty, Retired Archbishop of Brooklyn Joseph Michael Sullivan S.J.?

“This ad hoc committee aims to address the increasing threats to religious liberty in our society so that the Church’s mission may advance unimpeded and the rights of believers of any religious persuasion or none may be respected.” 

Through his charismatic personality and think Brooklyn accent, I witnessed a Catholic testimony firsthand. Repeatedly throughout the question-answer portion of the seminar, many people indirectly asked if he was speaking objectively for the whole Church. While he never directly answered, he did mention that Gaudium et Spes gave the green light for the formation of the Ad Hoc Committee without permission handed directly down from the Vatican. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops established the committee on its own. So I took that as an implication that he spoke both officially and unofficially. It wasn’t as if he was on tour, spreading this idea from the Vatican. I find that too often, both Catholics and non-Catholics want to hear the rarely-used word infallible. With that ability given only to the Bishop of Rome, people think, “Oh wait, this is a black and white concept. Let me see what the Church says…I don’t agree. Therefore, I don’t agree with the Church.”

That very mindset was what Bishop Sullivan aimed to clarify. That within the context of the gay/lesbian community in the United States. We see a passage of condemned sodomites and somehow immediately apply that to modern day gays. (I’ll come back to why I say modern in a bit.) Ad Hoc is the fluid medium that Bishop Sullivan has opened the dialogue with the gay community. Two things Bishop Sullivan addressed: a little bit of WWJD and what this dialogue currently looks like and what the retired bishops hopes it will continue to become.

Going back a little before Jesus’ time to say the Book of Leviticus, there existed the Holiness Code. Here’s a little lesson on the book of the Bible I skipped through when I read straight through Genesis and Exodus because it loses the plot of the Israelites for some time due to this law formation. Any mentioning of something similar to homosexuality was located among the teachings on Yom Kippur and blood sacrifices. More specifically, the words “a man could not lie with a man as a woman” fitted between the law that you cannot sacrifice children to a god called Molech and a law against bestiality. (Leviticus 18: 21-23.)

If anything, you can at least agree with Bishop Sullivan and me that there’s a denial of the person’s humanity in the context above. Not to deride the Jewish teachings, but homosexuality has been elevated from its position between holidays and sacrifices. We don’t celebrate the latter today very much, especially child sacrifices. This implicates that the social teachings of Leviticus were set in a different historical context and were set before a different people. (Calm down all ye literalists! This isn’t to suggest that ever teaching from Leviticus loses its validity! I’m not finished making my point.)

Furthermore, the homosexuality that was addressed in Biblical times closely revolved around prostitution. Another Jesuit at the seminar claimed that in his close reviewing of the Biblical context on homosexuality, a current work in progress, that Leviticus, formulating Jesus’ human understanding of homosexuality did not recognize the humanity of a different definition of homosexuality. That’s because it revolved around prostitution, a completely separate violation of human dignity. Yet, Jesus kicked it with the wrong crowd. Wasn’t Mary Magdalene a prostitute? So even when there’s this strong language condemning sodomites, is it really directed towards the gay couples that live prominently in our society? (as opposed to prostitution alone)

Bishop Sullivan acknowledge that homosexuality was a “discovering of one’s orientation.” Gradualism. Something our world is lacking. In its place we have this strong need to have information flashed at us. Some of it true. Some of it not true. This quickened world we live in does not allow us to make concrete relationships from which we can listen compassionately; trust comes from listening to individuals tell their story. It is therefore a necessity to listen if we are to be Christ-like, Dalai Lama-like via compassion. In order to listen, we must “know the person; better relationships [come from] knowing people,” the Bishop said. To create freedom, we need to be open. Gays cannot be pushed to secrecy in their solitude.  “A church where you’re known is a church that is hospitable.”

Bishop Sullivan’s continuation of his Ad Hoc activities included action beginning in the parishes. He thought a “bottom-up” approach is most appropriate in order to establish a dialogue with the gay community. I too agree that it starts on an individual level to make a difference in relationships.

Written by Jack Viere

November 2, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Ra-Ra for Ramen in the Rockies Day 1

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       July 27, 2011
     Mylast night in society ended perfectly after a spectacular day in Denver. Oncethe phone’s clock hit midnight, my luck came to a sudden end. I woke upabruptly like I had many times on the plane. I couldn’t really tell if I wasfully awake or in a daze. But this morning, I remained awake thanks to myhorrendous tummy ache. It still was nagging me for three days now.
Yesterday, we actuallyconsumed the toxin-filled water from the Platte River. I was giving Will a demoon how to filter water with the Platypus Gravity Filter. This morning, at thecrack of dawn, I realized the filtration had no impact on that filthy, flowingwater. I only drank two or three sips because my stomach ached from thirst.

I’m unbelievably pickywhen it comes to water and its tastes. Typically, I have found taste is affectedby temperature. The Platte River was lukewarm. So I gave up trying to drinkpoisonous water and faced being thirsty. When Will dozed off on this patio inCommon Park by the river, I tried a second water fountain that also didn’twork. Pushed by thirst, I compromised my water standards. Yes, I filled thewater bottle from a park bathroom sink that stank from the shit smeared allover the stall. The whole quest for water put me in a crappy mood.
Anyways, the river waterdidn’t have any immediate influence on my stomach pains. So by 1 a.m. the nextday, I woke up to the sound of Katy Perry playing in my head. Fireworksand the thought of diarrhea infested my brain to the point where all I could dowas doze off for a few minutes and wake up to the same verse in her songs. Ihate playing mind games. I try so desperately to convince myself that mystomach’s hurt will exit my body by taking a number two rather than coming backup the top hatch.
By dawn, the pain hadmade its way low enough for me to be convinced I could rid myself of the painby taking a number two. (I have a mental line drawn on my tummy that, when paincrosses below it, I wait patiently for my intestines to kick in.) When I hadwaited long enough for daylight to peep through the curtains, I braved theeight-step trip to the bathroom.
Platte River
Diarrhea didn’t resolveanything. In fact, it opened up more space in my belly for me to feel the painlurch around even more. I called it quits after sitting patiently on the toiletfor fifteen minutes as Lisa’s cat ponderously stared at me. (The kitten waskept in the bathroom so he would not disturb Will and me as we slept. Poor guy.)
So after locking thekitty back in his lair, I tried to fall asleep. Successful until Will’sobnoxious alarm went off, I had my eyes closed for about a complete hour. Thealarm somehow restarted and worsened the pain. I mumbled to Will, asking forthe garbage can, which was thankfully brought to me in the nick of time.
I dry heaved twice.Nothing came but an upward-yank feeling on my groin with each heave. I changedmy position from a shoulder-holding-my-weight stance to a cross-legged yogaposition. The Whole Foods paper bag, which served as a garbage can, was fittedbetween my legs as I heaved a third time. Finally something came up. The lightswere off so I couldn’t tell what meal the chunks came from. My eyes werewatering by the fourth heave. Subsequently, my nose began to drip; anuncontrollable side effect from putting contacts in daily and having my eyesrun with the saline solution. I was ergo, unable to smell the typically nosepiercing smell that puke emits.
This untimely fiascoforced me to forfeit my eggs and bacon that we excitedly bought the nightbefore, anticipating our final meal in society. Will, along with Lisa’s dog,Colby, shared my serving as I drank a stomach-soothing tea prescribed by ourhostess. It worked. But the reality of the day ahead loomed over me; hiking inthe high altitude of the Rocky Mountains.
Once in Denver, we wereon Lisa’s time. We eventually got to the trailhead after driving through theluxurious city of Boulder. Adorned by Colorado University’s red terracotta,Boulder was quite the launch pad for our adventure. Lisa brought Colby, the best-behavedBorder collie I have met. He endured the windy 10,000 foot ascent next to me inthe back seat. On any other day, my stomach would have been fine. But shortlyafter recuperating from this morning’s surprise, the poor thing (my stomach) wasviciously attacked by altitude sickness. In addition to stomach mayhem, Ibecame dizzy. But once inside the gates of Indian Peaks Backcountry, we pulledover for a much needed bathroom break.
The ride into themountains made me feel like I was five years old. You can fight altitudesickness, so I am told, with water. Let me point out that my three piecedilemma that I face while trying to feel better. First off, my stomach was amess and was not in the mood for any (liquid) medicine to take up space in itsregion in my body. Second, I played some more mind games and drank a waterbottle flavored with a spoonful of pomegranate tea. Third, the combination ofthe two prior components made me pee for a minute and fifteen seconds straightonce we finally got 18 year old Jacky-baby to a latrine. My, oh my how nicethat latrine was (especially compared to some of the latrines back home in theBlue Ridge Parkway…)
Lisa offered me somealternative, hands-on remedy for my remaining, but subtle pains. Her practice wasan interesting amalgamation of tapping different body parts that possessed highconcentrates of energy. Apparently these areas had nerve endings that sentmessages, like all other nerves, more effectively to my brain.

         Lisa happens to be themanaging editor for Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal (as well as senior editor, two separate executive editorpositions, and associate editor for four other periodicals.) She startedtapping my Crown Chakra (which, interestingly enough, in this line of work, shedid not refer to it is as such.) Still, she moved from tapping the center of myhead to a second point located below my eye, next to where my nose meets therest of my face; that little crevice there where sleep catches. There were anadditional six places, one of which possessed a lot of energy in my instance;the collarbone. I repeated some lines while she tapped: “I fully accept andlove my body, even though my tummy hurts me.” Lisa explained that usingpositive statements surpassed using negative ones (which, she elaborated, wereinitially used in this line of work before a modern shift to positive optimism.)The tapping of the nerve endings would stop my mind from thinking that mystomach was sick-or, at least, that was my understanding of her practice. On ascale of 1-10, my pain dropped from a six to a two after three separate roundsof tapping. Talk about mind games!

At the intersection of trails, looking back towards Boulder
Lisa and Colby cameabout a quarter to a half mile into the trail with Will and me. The late-Julysnow forbid her leather, work sandals to go no further. My same hiking teeshirt and zip off pants I used in the Virginia Appalachia fared just as well inthis thick, avalanche-prone snow! The temperature must have been thealways-perfect-72 degrees with a crisp breeze. Yet, the snow didn’t look likeit was going anywhere any time soon.
We departed from Lisaand Colby after a few Alp-like background photographs were snapped. Will and Imade our way to the intersection of Mt. Audubon trailhead and our path. Mt.Audubon somehow loomed over us in the northwest even though we started at theparking lot at roughly 10,000 feet. To say the height of these mountains wasdaunting would be to discredit their awe-inspiring presence; imminent andinescapable.
I fell immediately backinto the same dull, divided mindset I had on the Appalachian Trail back home inVirginia. Up until we started a slight descent, I didn’t feel much at all.Because ascents have me looking at myfeet, my physical and mental energies were channeled elsewhere. Out of nowherecame a wave full of emotions with the breeze. It touched my body, heart, andsoul in one swift gust of God’s breath. I almost cried. Multiple aspects of mysurroundings, feelings, future, and family formulated this abrupt mood swing.
Sawtooth Mountain
To explain, here’s theorigin of the effects on my body. I was undergoing a delayed reaction to thealtitude. When the fact of the matter of trekking at 10,000 feet hit mylungs, I felt an inverted high from the lightheadedness. On top of my bodilyreaction was my heart’s. Switching from burning to aching in an instant as anyyoung heart might, I missed my family. It was only the second day from home, ortechnically, the first full day. Eventhough I was hiking with my best friend and role model, I felt the distancebetween the rocky peak I was walking beneath and the rolling Blue Ridge athome. For the first time ever, I experienced a realer, more forceful sense ofindependence and solitude.
The vast mountains, nothills, stretched high into the clouds forcing me to feel almost abandoned; Icould not physically have what my heart yearned, whereas home fenced everyoneand everything within a reasonable distance. It’s undoubtedly indicative (as thefeeling still weighs my heart even now as I write this) of my departure forcollege. With that concept identified, the distance grew even farther as itsinevitable reality is now only 23 days away. In this quick sense ofdesperation, I listened to God’s voice in the over-used “Be not afraid, for Iam with you” quote. Being this high in the sky, I am almost certain one of thearchangels whispered the same words Gabriel whispered to Mary into my soul.
While my Senior Projecton the AT was titled “Spirituality in the Mountains,” I must confess that thespirits here are incredibly different from the inhabitants of the Blue Ridge.Appalachia emanates an innate sense of ancient and tribal spirituality. TheRockies, from what I can tell from Day 1, maintain an intimidating, butstrikingly beautiful, emotion-stirring animus,prana.
Different sects ofChristianity describe a similar, but virtually nonexistent-in-today’s-worldterm of “fear and awe of the Lord.” And in the Rockies this first night, Iimmediately thought of some Augustinian, if not Aquinas’ reasoning paraphrasedas “the Lord God created the heavens, and the earth, and the race of Man.Because God created us, we are inherently and consequently made with some sortof essence of God.”[1]I have no doubt that I feel God’s presence within His creation of both me andthe mountains and to feel that clear unity shared between both of us was primordial.
These first-time-feltfeelings left me as we continued descending. My body was running on a cup oftea as we eventually stopped to snack. The photos we’ve taken can say more thanthe thousands of words I’d struggle to find in order to describe the sceneryhere. We, or rather I alone, continued to struggle adjusting to the altitudewhile Will checked the map at the many stops my shallow breathing necessitated throughoutthe day.
The combination of bothhis and my wrongs had us thinking we were much further along than we reallywere. My fault was obvious; out of shape (or just poorly adjusting to the newclimate.) His was the repeated checking of the map (which was directly my faultfor having us stop frequently.) Still, the frequent map checking is a disease.Sometimes short-term, hikers face it when they start out on a trail for thefirst time. It’s a very cruel and unusualdisease since we could cure it if we just put the map away….
So with both faultsbeing committed incessantly and more frequently as we passed our predestine 12o’clock finish, we stopped for a two-thirty Ramen lunch. We were caught in acold drizzle. Very interesting to note: Will said the rains come consecutivelyat noon every day, but we lucked outand got it two and half hours later. It’s probably five-thirty as I finishwriting this after two, if not three hours since we stopped here; two, if notthree miles short of the lake Will initially planned for us to stop at for theday. There’s some river passing nearby, and we’re almost in the shadow of acouple mountains. The one huge comfort that consoles me is my book: The Game of Thrones! I look forward toreading it after I get out of this tent to pee! The rains left, came again, andnow left us with puffy white clouds. Though, those seem to be leaving. The bluesky fills in the cracks between the puzzle-pieced clouds as the sun begins toset.
I lied. It’s actually6:40! Gotta pee!
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[1]Now back among resources, I was able to do some “lite research” to figure outwhat I was trying to say. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church I found thesame idea I was trying to convey in several areas. Firstly, “‘God created manin his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female hecreated them.’ (Genesis 1:27.) Man occupies a unique place in creation: he is “inthe image of God”; in his own nature he unites the spiritual and materialworlds; he is created “male and female”; God established him in his friendship.”(CCC, 355.) Secondly, “But this “intimate and vital bond of man to God”(Gaudium et Spes, 19, 1.) can be forgotten…”(CCC, 29.) That bond is describedas such: “From the verycircumstance of his origin man is already invited to converse with God. For manwould not exist were he not created by Gods love and constantly preserved byit; and he cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledgesthat love and devotes himself to His Creator.” (GS 19, 1.) 

Written by Jack Viere

October 22, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Posted in Catholic Church

Hell No! I Ain’t Gonna Do That

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I feel like the last entries on myexperiences at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries have been abstract. At least,after today’s experience, I can now say that all my past reflections revolvearound emotions. My emotions shared through my relationships with members atMNM appeared to be pinnacle of my experience in this ‘gig’ called servicelearning. Up until today, I thought I had reached this experience-this end ofthe line, you cannot go any further ideal. I felt comfortable and accepted inmy new environment, I thought I was making somewhat of an impact on the peopleI was around, and I was likewise impacted by my experiences at service.
               Inwriting, I feel like using the ultimate phrase “I thought I had seeneverything” puts a cap on what you can follow up with your next essay. Hence, Ihate to use it when I am writing several periodic essays, like service learning;unless, however, I can see the end of writing on that one topic (which I cannotwith service learning.) I am making an exception today with that self-maderule.
The Technique
               I thoughtI had seen everything at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries. Easing into my routine,I found pleasure from the growth of my relationships. For anyone who might seeMNM or any type of time-with-others service as secondary to physical labor, youreally have not had the pleasure of piecing puzzles together. I was reallyenjoying this Zen-like trance I could enter into when I was around Ms. Shirleyas she told me about the rights and wrongs of society. Today she went on aboutthis newspaper article from the PhiladelphiaInquirer that I read to her. A seventy-two year old man shot his forty-twoyear old neighbor when the police did not arrive after he phoned in hiscomplaint. Ms. Shirley did not like that one bit; consequently, I listened toall the wrongs the world experiences. Her least favorite crime was apparentlyrobbery as she repeatedly mentioned how jewelry shops happen to be robbed whenpeople need money.   
               Butsomething happened today that I was not expecting. I was just starting to settleinto my newly formed comfort bubble. It was massage day. I admit that the firstthing that crossed my mind was, “Oh great, I really could use one for my soreshoulders,” as I imagined a massage-circle form; everyone was included. Nope. Icould not have been any more wrong. As service learners, we somehow became parttime masseuses. Gloves did not serve as a recompense for this odd, seeminglyout of place activity.
My mind split over what happenednext. Half of me thought this was incredibly weird, for lack of a better term,to just randomly start giving someone I knew for less than a month a massage.Massages are intimate. And after a certain age, when one reaches some level ofmaturity, you do not randomly line up for massages as teens do at summer campsand sleep overs. So I felt a little out of place for two reasons when it wassprung on us to get gloves and cocoa butter; the immediate intimacy and my precedentabout massages.
The Product
My second, more grounded half thoughtthat this was the epitome of service learning. Intimacy. My mind drifted to thecleansing of feet in Catholic tradition from John 13’s Gospel. “Afterthat, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet,drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13: 5.)In the recent past, when I volunteered at Camp Holiday Trails back home inVirginia, I could easily draw biblical parallels to my service. Now, for somereason, I find it border-line hokey to draw out those parallels. Maybe it isthe result of too many comparative religion courses that have opened my eyes tosee that Christianity is not the sole mission-oriented faith. It could also bethe consequence of returning to a heavily Catholic-dominated student populationthat helps facilitate the above misconception I have/had; I feel like I playdevil’s advocate too often when I hear the Bible being thrown around like sometextbook reference everyone knows.
Yet, as I rubbed the lotion into Ms. Gladys’ gnarled hands,I connected to something more than skin deep. I could see actual pain in herhands. And while the concepts of emotions and relationships are not tangible,(yet, both their objects are,) I found that physicality permeated the remainingdistance between me as “servicer” and my “service.” The emotions create,nourish, and hinder the relationship which is then escalated to an incrediblyintimate level. Even in the simplest act of a hand massage. Just to pull somenon-Christian connections into this deeper formof service; I think of yoga’s notion within the word yoga: its literal definition is “yoking.” I see that two sets ofemotions are yoked together through physical touch to form a deeperrelationship. Similarly, isn’t the term islamtransliterated as submission? Maybe it is a stretch to connect that withhumility-both of which I needed in order to massage Ms. Gladys. Confucianism:deep respect for elders.


I do not know how, since I had gloves on, the scent ofcocoa butter lingers as I type this. I admit again that I am still shaken upfrom the forced portion of me having to suddenly perform physical service.Nevertheless, it was a learning experience that I am continuing to think abouteach time I catch a waft of lotion.   

Written by Jack Viere

October 11, 2011 at 9:36 pm

The Weight Gays Carry and How This Should Affect Moralists and Conservatives

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I can’t help but point out that yes, there is St. Paul’s quote “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11.) and a statistic saying 97%, (Fr. Leonard Kennedy, Catholic Insight, “The Annulment Crisis in the Catholic Church”, March 1999 issue, re-posted by Janet Fernandez.) but there is more of a natural law that one can look at rather than faith (which doesn’t cut it for some, and a statistic certainly doesn’t do it for others.) I think that “this country was founded on Christian principles,” however, we have either strayed too far from them, ignored them, or mutilated them. (Celia Lamb.) And one doesn’t have to look much farther than the inability for two males or two females being incapable of reproducing a child. It is a matter of fact there is no natural way for gays to reproduce. St. Paul, along with many other Christian writers, does not necessarily write to always condemn and to “kill the fun of the party.” I think that especially in St. Paul’s context, Christian philosophy is an attempt to live life to the fullest. And one can view St. Paul’s writing as a restriction that bars homosexuality, but at the same time, he is stating a simple fact that God did not intend for two males to create a family. God, nature, genitalia-
whatever it is- does not work in favor of homosexuality. I think that because of this ultimatum, gay supporters in this instance are quick to lash out. There IS indeed a level of frustration that gays express which consequently points to the natural inability for two members of the same sex to have children. This is why the term marriage means one man, one woman. I think today, people tend to think that the buzzword(s) “definition of marriage” is deductive; that Christians or moralists believe that gays are wrong because Scripture says so-that argument doesn’t get very far when people don’t believe in it. However, being inductive with the concept of one man, one woman leads one to think of that marriage is just the word that gives a name to the reality of their union.
With that in mind, one should fully recognize the high wall of natural law (reality?) that homosexuals face. Condemning them is the last thing people should want to do, inherently we do though. Something innately different really freaks people out, and it does and it has shaken many peoples beliefs. But realizing what homosexuality does to heterosexuals, that is, discomforts them, one should always recognize the weight that gays carry in their inability to start a family through love, sex, and compassion for another.

Written by Jack Viere

December 1, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Posted in Catholic Church