Kleshas and Tanhas

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Posts Tagged ‘religion

“Dishes thou art, to dishes returnest”

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Recommended to listen to while reading

There ain’t never been a more patriotic act for volunteers than dishwashing. The whole history of dish washing is simple and easy for anyone and everyone to comprehend. From the Dawn of time, cavemen ate off of bone plates and drank from seashells. Apparently, legend has it, there were no recycling bins; the term “renewable resource” wasn’t the buzzword it is now. There were no bone or shell recycling plants yet for little Jimmy Grotto to partake in school-wide recycling challenges. And so, the origin of dishwashing came about from the lack environmental awareness of our monkey-ancestors.

               To this day, the art of dishwashing has been passed from some of the field’s greatest. Jesus Christ is most notable; the Bible botched the account of whose feet, or rather what chalice, he was washing that one Passover night. (You can’t say that Jesus didn’t help clean up after the Sadr Supper; it wasn’t kosher to eat and run.) Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto was really a call for the laborers to become more in touch with their roots, that is, dishwashing. Back in the day, supply and demand had obviously not existed, and there was no need for clean dishes. But during the second week of Genesis’ creation story, Adam had to address a more serious issue than original sin; the huge stack of dishes on their kitchen sink.

In his Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffet must’ve had quite a few empty glasses to clean up after that extravaganza. We can only infer that this lyrical genius was pointing to something greater in his songs. That is, the consequences of drinking out of glassware meant that glasses needed to be cleaned. In a not so similar way, Ghandi was known for his fasting. However, this did not mean he was exempt from cleaning up after others if not himself. Taoism’s unknown founder was a dishwasher. And on that note, anyone who has ever eaten a meal at some point in their life has encountered the dish dilemma: Do I clean these dishes or do I slip out the back and run?

The universality of this most sacred (in terms of health) tradition is something to marvel at. In partaking in this elementary act, one gains powerful insight to the greater cosmos of dishwashers. So when I was asked to deviate from my usual service by my superiors to do kitchen duty, I answered the call. Did I know what I was getting into? I sure as hell did! Dishwashing, if it has not been built up already, is the one act that I can string through my past, present, and most-hopefully future acts of service. There’s something rejuvenating about sticking your hands in scalding hot water for the greater glory of sanitization.

And by the way, there’s a reason why there are only men mentioned as some of the mythic heroes of dishwashing. At some point in time, the world became skewed. Somehow, the world’s reflection of itself portrays women performing women work. Today, in a very sexist manner, women are stereotyped as members of Occupy Kitchen. I would like to make a personal testimony that I have bled over dishwashing (quite literally) and find the task to be daunting for the rookies of the trade, male or female.[i] After the first few encounters, one can quickly calculate how many hours x a stack standing at y height will take with z washers.

So there was no surprise on my side when I walked into Mercy Neighborhood Ministries’ kitchen and stared down about an hour’s worth of dishwashing. Ms. Antoinette quickly recognized that I was no newbie when it came to dishwashing. Lessons on how to use an industrial-sized dishwasher are for suckers. By the end of it all, I had those dishes shining like the high-end dishes at the fine dining restaurant I work at back home. It’s inevitable. It’s one’s duty. “Do your dharma” is commonly used phrase in Eastern religions. It means “do your duty.” Do your dishes.

[i] The level of stress a volunteer dishwasher takes on in one load of 2.5 hours’ worth of dishes can take its toll. When I was asked with several other volunteers to do evening dishes in addition to morning dishes, the sight wasn’t pretty. About 30 minutes in, we found ourselves dazed in a mirage of soap n’ bubbles as if we were taking on some task like crossing the Nairobi Desert. In a heroic, maybe more so sporadic, attempt to cheer up one of my fellow volunteers in our grudging work, I blindly grabbed a wet knife fresh from the dishwasher machine. My plan was to emphatically stab the knife into the rubber carton that the cutlery was cleansed in as I shouted a “this is Sparta” line. Let’s just say in this not-so-bright moment, chaos got the better of me as the oddly-shaped cheese knife slid up out of my grip, and through my pinky finger. No cutlery was harmed in this scene. No blood was spilt either, so all health freaks, calm down. (We even ran that batch of silverware back through the washer.)

 

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Written by Jack Viere

March 22, 2012 at 4:28 pm

A Farewell to Service for Christmas Time

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My last day of service began like it always does with the infamous cloudy weather that seems to initiate all of my posts pertaining to my service learning experiences. Rain is pretty miserable to endure without proper rain gear like umbrellas and thick jackets. I’m constantly reminded this as our Ford Focus whips along West Hunting Park Avenue, passing more individuals on foot than in vehicles.

I’ve never had to make a Christmas tree before. I guess that says a lot about where I come from; the haves and the have-nots of the holidays. One of the sisters at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries asked us to assemble a six foot tree. Apologizing in advance, she forewarned us that we might be gnawing at each other by the end of this grueling process. Yikes. This wasn’t really my idea of easing into the preliminary Christmas spirit; up until then, all the coursework that my professors have been throwing my way have busied my schedule so that I could not sense any tinge of secular X-mas. (I’d say that’s a good thing from a faith standpoint!)

here we are after getting that tree together

The Christmas tree assembly brought out the worst of us as my service partners and I poked harmless  fun at each other’s ideas on how to mantle the tree with lights and decorations. A string of three year-olds passed by as we figured out which branches were the longest and were to be placed on the bottom of the rod. There were more ooh’s and aah’s from their mouths than you’d hear for that overdecorated house your family drives by every Christmas to marvel at its grandeur. The tree wasn’t even finished. You could see the ugly metal that the fake “fir” branches were stemming out from; it was hideous. Yet, I began to wonder how many of these kids had trees. For Thanksgiving, various community programs affiliated with MNM donated turkeys and other supplies for the parents of these children (and other age groups) to take home and serve as their feast. So I’ve got the vibe from this act of charity, as well as from the walks we’ve taken in the immediate area, that this community includes individuals who don’t have that financial excess to purchase a tree; real or fake. (And apparently, those fake one’s are price fairly high; it made me feel less guilty that I blurted out we had a real one every year back home.)

On our way home, we always find it difficult to meet everyone’s musical tastes. My service partner Earl has resorted to bringing his iPod. Graziella and I have agreed upon cheesy 80’s music that we can sing along with most of the time. After setting up the holiday decorations at MNM, what better genre to listen to than the Christmas stations? On immediately pulling out of Venago Street, we tuned into hear “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” It was drizzling at this point, and the only thing my mind would focus on was the stark contrast between the bright and cheery words of Bing Crosby and the darkness from our immediate surroundings; factors were the predominantly black neighborhood and rain. Similarly, as we sat in traffic on City Avenue,  Perry Como’s Home for the Holiday’s lyrics really spoke to me:

From Pennsylvania folks are trav’lin’ down
To Dixie’s sunny shore
From Atlantic to Pacific, gee,
The traffic is terrific!

I couldn’t help but think, “Hey! That’s me in PA, and I want to travel back home to Dixie. My oh my, what horrible traffic we are sitting in!” This song proved to be an excellent soundtrack for my self-absorption as I watched a disabled man in an electronic wheel chair traverse a puddle in the downpour.  We all saw, witnessed, and quickly looked away as we knew we couldn’t do anything to help his pathetic case even while our whole service learning class’ focus was an empathy-over-sympathy approach. That really put me in the Christmas spirit! And what fostered this lively mood came after a cement truck cut us off; a bumper ornament of a male’s genitalia dangled in front of us as Frank Sinatra sang Let It Snow.

A Little Dialogue

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I responded to a post titled Bad Arguments for Atheism: Philosophy is Useless on the blog called Students for Christianity. There are two points I think the author was making in his response: Don’t presuppose that Philosophy and Theology are compatible, and just because Philosophy is the basis for everything, it somehow remains irrelevant to the compatibility between the two fields.

My initial reply was:

Nice to hear this as I am currently undecided-humanities, planning on double majoring in philosophy and theology.
I’d agree with the comment above that “philosophers don’t truly examine the whole realm of knowledge.”
That’s the beauty of seeing both theology and philosophy as compatible and interrelated!

To which he replied: (bold: the points I was answering/replying to.)

Jack, it’s a tragic philosophical start to already believe that theology and philosophy are compatible. I’m not specifically saying they aren’t here, but you never want to start with a conclusion and then try to find arguments for it. That’s a brilliant way to create fallacies both inside and outside of philosophy. You can say they are interrelated, because necessarily philosophy stands at the fundamentals of anything, so its interrelated with everything but this is, practically speaking, irrelevant. They are two different studies that may or may not be compatible. Go to your studies and engage in critical thought on what you learn, formulate opinions over reason and never dogmatically hold them true. The best kind of dogmas are the ones we never hold, but eliminate by proving them true. But as mentioned earlier, if you start with a belief you’re more likely to fall into fallacy so hold no assumptions outright if ever possible (which I’m quite certain it always is!). It’s much harder to change your mind once made up, so whenever possible leave it open.

To which I replied:

I think that compatible might be a stretch if its meaning is to be taken as synonymous. I could’ve had some better diction there; maybe complimentary was more appropriate. My point, via analogy now, is that you take a religious powerhouse thinker like St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas. One was heavily influenced by Plato, the other Aristotle respectively. As a student, I can say that I studied one or the other. But to be influenced means that they (the saints) somehow took on the general concepts, ideas, or structures from the philosophers and synthesized/based/related them to their topics.

What I initially meant by compatible was that there’s a trait of mutualism between the two separate fields of study; they give and take from each other. Why does Western philosophy seem so teleological while Eastern philosophy appears cyclical? It’s quite a stretch, but in general, the concepts of Heaven, Purgatory, and Earth are vertically linear depicted in Dante’s Inferno (a great example of that synthesis between philosophy and theology.) Samsara, simply portrayed in Siva Nataraj artwork, implicates our live(s) are a continuous cycle until we achieve moksha. In general, we get the West thinking like l while the East is like O
At this, I’d say the average person subconsciously processes information in either way depending on his/her culture and what religious background effected his/her environment.

I don’t understand how philosophy can be irrelevant in this argument if it’s “interrelated with everything.” I understand that my point appeared to be presupposing that ALL things related to the vast fields of Philosophy and Theology are all one in the same thing. That wasn’t what I intended. What I do see in many situations is many a parallel between Christian morals that can be seen as a result of philosophies, or philosophies resulting from Christianity (it doesn’t matter which way.) The parallels are not always the same. I am not arguing that A B and C are all the same when it comes to Philosophy and Theology. But, there are many shared qualities that I FIND TO BE SUFFICIENT ENOUGH TO BELIEVE THAT A RELATIONSHIP EXISTS BETWEEN PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY. There is quite of giving and taking both ways.

Written by Jack Viere

November 17, 2011 at 12:37 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