Community in Community

When thinking about the previous post, I came across this post from the politywonk blog.

It’s difficult to extract a meaningful quote from the post, but here’s something at least. “But what is the value of this to the regulars? Free rangers (which is not the same as wanderers who stumble through ) know they have a vested interest in the regulars who covenant.”

I’m not certain yet what I’m getting at, or why this post was so affecting for me. I’m rusty in my habit of thinking through this stuff.

I also want to touch on the fact that our Sunday community is, conventionally speaking, not a religious community. But I’m going to refer to it as one in these posts because (1) I don’t want to use convoluted language, or try to come up with some other word, and (2) my general usage if religion is a way of organizing a community life around questions of meaning.

In looking at possible etymologies of the word, there’s Cicero’s idea of choosing to reconsider, and there’s also Campbell’s idea of binding. Reconsidering and binding together, living in community and making meaning–that’s religion. So I’m going to use the language I’m going to use when I need to express what I need to express.

How do we live like that?

I have begun this post a few times. I keep getting bogged down in throat clearing.

What I want to talk about is how my current religious community informs the way I live my life. The background here includes the UU posts from a few years ago (see the This is Worker Speaking posts in the Categories list). Especially the posts about free-range UU. Take a look.

My wife and I (and children) are not currently attending a UU congregation. Instead, we are members of a community with its own peculiar twenty-year history, moving from a member congregation of a reformed denomination to a “community from all backgrounds, spiritual and secular, who have come together to honor and explore what it means to be fully human.”

Someone from a UU congregation would probably feel pretty comfortable pretty quickly with our form and substance. I certainly did when we started attending in earnest. There are even moments when, sitting in our Sunday Gathering, my subjective experience is one of being perfectly right. This this is the place where being and becoming perfectly overlap.

But the difficult thing about where we are is similar to the difficult part of being UU. How does that actually inform how we live? We are kind, and sensitive, and try to walk lightly on the earth, we read–seek out–perspectives which are not our own, and we try to remain conscious of those experiences. We do these things independently of our membership in our religious community.

So.. why do we need the community? What makes it better to be with?

And… separately, how does with work? That’s what I’ll be working out here.

The Voynich Manuscript

Mysterious hoax or mysterious guide to the good life, Medieval Style?

Yale University has long held the only copy of The Voynich Manuscript, and now Yale University Press brings you the only bound edition, as it was meant to be seen!

Finally, and for the first time anywhere, you can examine this stunning and though-provoking text for yourself. Or, as one scholar has put it, go down the rabbit hols, and find the key to its meaning!

The Haunted Spy

1782660._SR1200630_I have a bunch of books from my childhood I’m fond of… the Frog and Toad books, Jerome (a book about a frog… hmmm…), and Trubloff: The Mouse Who Wanted to Play the Balalaika.


But if I consider what my favorite book from my childhood is, then a major contender has to be The Haunted Spy. I checked this book out of the school library more times than I can remember.

As an artifact, it’s a kind of strange thing for me at a kid in the mid-1970’s. It’s heavily illustrated, but not really a picture book. The style is kind of Giacometti-like. The illustrations are shades of brown on brown.

But the story–oh, the story, and the way it’s told. It haunts me still. A retired spy buys and moves into a castle. And it’s HAUNTED!! By a knight who used to own it. They become pals, bonding as professional colleagues. It’s great.

There were a few of these Haunted… books by Barbara Byfield. Thank-you internet for helping me find the author information, and the list of books. As you might expect, the later books aren’t as good as the earlier ones. But I revisited them a couple of years ago, thanks to the magic of interlibrary loans. And The Haunted Spy holds up quite well. The Kirkus review linked above (which came out about 6 months after I was born!) identifies the things I liked, and still like about it, and isn’t as impressed as I.


The Penguin Book of Hell

When a topic like Hell floats into a conversation, it’s a great thing to be able to move beyond the aphoristic sort of “Hell is other people” comment, and have some material to really dig into. This book, with its historically wide net, gives the reader plenty to chew on and consider. Especially important are the 20th Century passages where Bruce allows the idea of Hell to expand beyond its imaginative and theological roots and encompasses human-made hells including solitary confinement and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity. –Douglas Adams