About this blog

This Blog is named after an ancient gnoseological riddle which hints hidden, disseminated, omnipresent wisdom.
I invite you to search, listen and observe with me for "the word of tree, whisper of stone, and humming together of the abyss and stars."


Ora et Labora

Every day (almost) in the morning I iron my shirt for that day.
    For me it is not a chore, it is a spiritual exercise. Like any other spiritual exercise it engages deep and complex sensual experiences of heat, touch, smell; it also has its own proper time and rhythm. The rhythm is in the sequence in which I press my shirt. But there is also a rhythm of seasons with long and short sleeves, dress shirts and my Hawaiian shirts. Above it all, day after day I can even observe subtle changes of daylight as the Earth, and all of us with it, circle around our star. I understand why Homer sang about the rosy-fingered dawn.
    In my regular occupation as a church minister I usually do not see immediate results of my work. With ironing it is satisfyingly direct. There are results right away; before the iron there is a crumpled fabric and after is a nicely pressed shirt. And even if I make a mistake in a false or wrong crease, it is also immediately obvious and there are ways to correct it - a little bit more steam or perhaps some sprinkling. It is an interesting metaphor for our living.
    Of course I have my preferred shirts, based on materials and the makes. While ironing my shirts, I also come close to them. Thus I learned to value shirts by the quality of their fabric and how well they are made. For some time, when I buy new shirts, I have preferred those which I like to iron. The hands-on and down-close experience is changing the way I perceive the world and this is also an interesting spiritual insight.
    Every time I iron my shirt I remember those who taught me this skill. I remember my maternal grandmother who was still using a stove-top heavy iron to press shirts for my grandfather on his way to the glass factory. Of course we had electricity, but she clearly enjoyed the old fashioned way. And then, I remember my mom who taught me how to iron my shirts before I left home for seminary, clearly anticipating it might come handy. This chore is for me a spiritual connection with and expression of respect to my maternal ancestors.    
    Of course there are many and quite inexpensive places to have my shirts pressed and they can probably do it much better than I, but in no way I am giving up my spiritual exercise! At the same time, please, understand that this is my personal experience; you don’t need to start ironing your own shirts in order to get spiritual. I write about it to show that anything can become spiritual in the right context and with an open attitude. The truly spiritual is never detached from mundane life; it is often hidden right in the middle of it, in plain sight. 
   The lectionary reading this Sunday from the prophet Jeremiah will take us to the potter’s shop and help us to observe the miracle of creation and meaning of life. Come this Sunday to observe a master working with clay and should you so desire, put your own hands on some clay.


Magical writing

    As I learned to write in the first grade, almost instantly I put my newly learned skill in practice in one of its oldest, magical and also rather embarrassing ways. By that time, the novelty and charm of school had worn away and fresh, shy and well-behaved first-graders inevitably reverted to their natural selves and tested the nerves of our patient and longsuffering teacher. On one such hectic day during a short brake between the afternoon classes we amused ourselves by throwing at each other a blackboard sponge dripping with water. All the boys in our class gleefully took part in this skirmish, even some girls joined in, but only I and two of my best friends ended up with extra homework and notes for parents. As was often the case, it must had happened not because we were the fiercest but rather the loudest and most excited participants. (I used to have a very high pitched voice.)  
    Feeling seriously wronged and bitter we regrouped after school in a dark corner behind the gym. Almost no one knew about that place, even the school custodian hardly ever visited that spot. And there, on the wall, we fused our bitterness with our newly acquired skill of writing. In white chalk on a soot-stained bricks we wrote and drew our rather lowbrow opinion about our teacher. It wasn’t intended for anyone’s eyes, but writing it up on the wall made us feel immediately better. Certainly much better than just mumbling it to each other or to our friends.
    Little did we know that we had just reenacted the ancient magical use of writing. As people developed the script and learned to write, the inscribed words were perceived as having greater and higher powers. Thus archeologists find inscriptions and carvings in places where hardly anyone could see them. And an abundance of ancient monumental inscriptions were made while less than one percent of people had the knowledge to read them. These are all examples of the writing magic in action. Deep down in our minds we can still recognize that script retains some of these magical powers even today. Writing, and especially inscriptions, still feel somehow special, longer lasting and more potent.
    This Sunday, in our quest for forgotten religion, we will venture to the times before writing was ever imagined. We will go before religion was ever written down and recorded in scriptures. Of course, religion before writing and before scriptures has a much longer and deeper history than with scriptures! Join us as we discover serious dangers of scripted religion. And rejoice with us in venturing and discovering the charming and surprising realm of unscripted, oral faith.    

(I have never told anyone about that writing incident behind the gym, even this many years later I still feel a little embarrassed. All in all I loved my elementary teacher and I remember her with deep respect and love. When we accidently met fifteen years ago on a sidewalk of my old hometown, it was one of the brightest surprises of that whole year.)


Lotus Birth

Lotuses and water lilies are surprising and spectacular flowers. They seemingly grow on water and although, after closer inspection, they grow from mud, they nevertheless bring forward pristine blossoms. Lotuses have some of the simplest yet most beautiful flowers. Any time I visit a botanical garden, I am irresistibly pulled towards the lily ponds. Deep down, intuitively, I know why ancient religions chose the lotus – this evocative flower – and why they endowed it with layers of deep meaning.
    In Egypt, the waterlily was a symbol of birth and rebirth. In India, padma (the sacred lotus) is a symbol of purity and spiritual awakening (spiritual birth). In our own biblical tradition we perhaps have the most archaic form of this metaphor. In the Song of Songs, the lover is frequently mentioned as grazing in the garden - however, not among lilies, as traditionally misinterpreted, but on the lotus. As mentioned in theological dictionaries, the lotus is an ancient well known euphemism of love – more precisely, a place of conception and birth.
    This Sunday we continue our quest for forgotten religion and we will look directly at gestation and birth as a powerful religious image. Readings from the Hebrew as well as the Greek Bible will show us that the metaphor of pregnancy and birth has deep, powerful and meaningful religious roots in the birth of the world - its creation and ongoing recreation.


Surreal Sofa

Last Friday, Martina and I were in Edinburgh enjoying our short summer holidays. That day we visited the Royal Botanical Garden in the morning and then followed the Water of Leith up stream to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art where we enjoyed an exhibition of the XX century Surrealism.
    Outside, on the grounds of the gallery, was perhaps something even better: “Surreal Adventures” an interactive playground for children and adults alike - a playful introduction to surrealism composed of a surreal slide, a leaning refreshment booth with surreal sweets and ice cream, a fallen standing-clock for jumping, a surreal picnic table, and in the corner was a lovely gray Chesterfield sofa.
      You must understand that Edinburghian roasting summer means about 60°F highest day temperature and rain or drizzle twelve times a day. In such a climate a homely, well-worn, leather sofa on a moist green lawn looked indeed puzzling if not outright surreal.
    But it got even better as I took a seat on it, invited by a sign. The sofa wasn’t soggy-wet, it was made of cast concrete. Martina and I both accepted the invitation, sat, and enjoyed our shortbread afternoon snack, resting on the outdoor leather sofa made of gray hard concrete and still incredibly comfy. On the seat between us was a printed message: “Things are not always what they seem.” Indeed! It is so enjoyable, refreshing and stimulating to have our expectations challenged, transformed and transcended.  
    This Sunday, as we continue our series on forgotten religion, we will apply this approach to Isaiah’ scathing polemics against idol-making. Things are not always what they seem! It can be a major adventure to have our eyes, minds and faiths open.