Spiritual Almanac – Navajo Poetry: Friday, January 22, 2021

Spiritual Almanac – Navajo Poetry: Friday, January 22, 2021

In Native American culture, there are two kinds of literature: mythology and poetry. Myths and legends communicate sacred truths and history. But traditional Native American poetry serves a deeper purpose — it’s an integral part of everyday life.

For Native Americans, poetry has a sacred quality. Sometimes spoken, sometimes sung, words harness spiritual power. And indigenous poets hold a place of honor because they have a special, holy responsibility.

The most common themes in indigenous poetry involve spirituality and finding balance in life. And even though their poetry speaks to the Native American experience, it also has a sort of universal quality that speaks to all of us.

And so, we’re looking for inspiration today from a short Navajo poem. The author’s unknown, but it’s a personal and intimate piece that describes the writer’s perspective of the world around them. It’s titled, “Beauty Is Before Me.”

 

BEAUTY IS BEFORE ME

Navajo (anonymous)

 

Beauty is before me,
And beauty is behind me.
Above and below me hovers the beautiful.
I am surrounded by it.
I am immersed in it.
In my youth I am aware of it,
And in old age I shall walk quietly
The beautiful trail.

Some more inspirational nuggets for today:

  • On this day in 1953, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible premiered at the Martin Beck Theatre on Broadway. Set during the Salem witch trials of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1692, Miller’s play shined a spotlight on religious intolerance, hysteria and persecution. He wrote it as a condemnation of McCarthyism and the persecution of American citizens suspected of being communists. But in a case of life imitating art, Miller himself was dragged before the House Committee on Un-American Activities and convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to provide the names of people who were present at meetings he attended.
  • Today also marks the death of the hymnwriter, Anna Bartlett Warner, in 1915. You might not recognize her name, but you probably know her work — she’s best known for writing the children’s song, “Jesus Love Me.” But she also wrote a catalog of books, poems and hymns. Warner was born the daughter of a wealthy New York lawyer, and started writing hymns to earn money when her father lost his fortune during the depression of 1837. She also taught Bible classes to the cadets at nearby West Point, and her family home is now a museum on the grounds of the U.S. Military Academy.
  • And on this day in 1908, a woman named Katie Mulcahey was arrested for smoking a cigarette in New York City. It happened the day after the city enacted the Sullivan Ordinance — a local law that banned women from smoking in public. Mulcahey was arrested on the spot and fined $5. When she appeared before a judge, she said, “I’ve got as much right to smoke as you have. I never heard of this new law, and I don’t want to hear about it. No man shall dictate to me.” The mayor struck down the law a few days later, but it set a legal precedent that allowed women the same public activities as men. And in a twist that city legislators never saw coming, the Sullivan Ordinance became a rallying point for suffragettes who preached that women have the same God-given rights as men.

Way to go, Katie. We’re proud of you. And that’s today’s Spiritual Almanac.

Be kind, take good care and we’ll see you soon.

 

“Beauty Is Before Me.” Public domain.

For the audio podcast, visit https://spiritualalmanac.buzzsprout.com.

For the video podcast, visit https://www.youtube.com/c/Granolasoul.

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Spiritual Almanac – Navajo Poetry: Friday, January 22, 2021

Spiritual Almanac – Ryokan Taigu: Thursday, January 21, 2021

Today is National Hugging Day. Started by Rev. Kevin Zaborney in 1986 in Caro, Michigan, it’s purpose is to encourage more people to show emotion in public. If you decide to give someone a hug today, do yourself — and the rest of us — a favor and ask first.

Our inspiration for today comes from the great Zen Buddhist monk, Ryokan Taigu. Nicknamed the “Great Fool,” Ryokan lived most of his life as a hermit. His practice consisted of meditation, walks in nature, writing poetry and the very un-hermit-like habit of making daily rounds in the local village.

But he was famous for his kindness, generosity and sense of humor. Once, a visiting monk saw him eating fish and since monks were forbidden from eating meat, he asked why. Ryokan answered, ““I eat fish when it’s offered, but I also let the fleas and flies feast on me when I’m sleeping. Neither bothers me at all.”

Ryokan’s poetry reflects the playful nature of the Zen tradition. Although he refused the title of poet and never published his work in his lifetime, he continues to be one of Japan’s most beloved poets. In today’s reading, Ryokan gives us a peek into his humble philosophy of life and offers some pretty good spiritual advice, especially for those of us living in the Consumer Age. It’s a short poem titled, “You Do Not Need Many Things.”

 

YOU DO NOT NEED MANY THINGS

By Ryokan Taigu

 

My house is buried in the deepest recess of the forest
Every year, ivy vines grow longer than the year before.
Undisturbed by the affairs of the world I live at ease,
Woodmen’s singing rarely reaching me through the trees.
While the sun stays in the sky, I mend my torn clothes
And facing the moon, I read holy texts aloud to myself.
Let me drop a word of advice for believers of my faith.
To enjoy life’s immensity, you do not need many things.

Some more inspirational nuggets for today:

  • On this day in 1977, President Jimmy Carter pardoned Americans who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War. It happened on Carter’s second day in office and it was a controversial move. Critics complained the pardon allowed unpatriotic lawbreakers to avoid prosecution, but Carter argued it was necessary to put the divisions of the war behind us. During the draft, Mennonites, Amish, Quakers and other “Peace Church” members were granted conscientious objector status and allowed to serve in a civilian capacity. Other draftees simply fled north to Canada, and about half of them stayed there permanently, even after the pardon went into effect.
  • On this day in 1525, the Swiss Anabaptist movement was founded in Zurich. It started when a group of radical evangelical reformers broke ranks with Ulrich Zwingli, the leader of the Reformation in Switzerland. Reforms weren’t moving fast enough for the radicals, but their key sticking point was the baptism of infants. They objected to the practice of infant baptism on the grounds that it isn’t mentioned in the Bible, and their refusal to baptize infants carried forward into many of today’s fundamentalist and evangelical Christian churches.  
  •  Today is also the birthday of the Russian mystic, Grigori Rasputin, in 1869. Born in Siberia, Rasputin became an advisor and healer to the Romanovs. Although he never held any formal positions in the Russian Orthodox Church, he became Russia’s leading holy man by healing Tsar Nicholas’ son, Alexei, from hemophilia. But Rasputin had a darker side and he was eventually killed by a group of nobles for scandalous behavior that included bribery, sexual promiscuity and rumors of an affair with Nicholas’ wife. “When I go to confession,” Rasputin said, “I don’t offer God small sins like petty squabbles or jealousies … I offer him sins worth forgiving.”

Well, that’s one way to do it. And that’s today’s Spiritual Almanac.

Be kind, take care of each other and we’ll see you soon.

 

“You Do Not Need Many Things” by Ryokan Taigu. Public domain.

For the audio podcast, visit https://spiritualalmanac.buzzsprout.com.

For the video podcast, visit https://www.youtube.com/c/Granolasoul.

*As an Amazon Associate, Granola Soul may earn income from qualifying purchases.

Spiritual Almanac – Navajo Poetry: Friday, January 22, 2021

Spiritual Almanac – Inauguration Day: Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Today is Inauguration Day. At noon, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States in a tradition stretching back to Franklin Roosevelt’s second inauguration in 1937.

Although there’s a lot of history around presidential inaugurations, the only part of the ceremony required by the Constitution is the presidential oath of office. The oath is traditionally administered by the chief justice of the Supreme Court, but not always. In 1881, a New York Supreme Court judge named John Brady administered the oath to Chester Arthur in Arthur’s living room following the death of President James Garfield.

In addition to fixing the time of the inaugural at noon sharp, FDR’s second inauguration introduced prayers into the inauguration ceremony. So, for our inspiration today, we’re taking a look at the invocational prayer at Barack Obama’s second inauguration in 2013.

It was a prayer delivered by Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of murdered civil rights leader, Medger Evers. After Medgers’ murder in 1963, Myrlie moved to California, earned a college degree and became a civil rights leader in her own right. She was the first woman and the first lay person to have the honor of leading the invocation at a presidential inauguration. Here’s an excerpt from her prayer that day.

 

EXCERPT FROM THE INVOCATION AT THE

OBAMA 2013 PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION

By Myrlie Evers-Williams

  

As we sing the words of belief, “this is my country,” let us act upon the meaning that everyone is included. May the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of every woman, man, boy and girl be honored. May all your people, especially the least of these, flourish in our blessed nation.

… They are a great cloud of witnesses unseen by the naked eye but all around us thankful that their living was not in vain. For every mountain you gave us the strength to climb. Your grace is pleaded to continue that climb for America and the world.

… Bless our families all across this nation. We thank you for this opportunity of prayer to strengthen us for the journey through the days that lie ahead. We invoke the prayers of our grandmothers, who taught us to pray, ‘God make me a blessing.’ Let their spirit guide us as we claim the spirit of old.

FOR ADDITIONAL READING: See Myrlie Evers’ book, For Us, the Living.

More inspirational nuggets for today:

  • Joe Biden’s road to the presidency has been a long one. He was born in 1942 in Scranton, Pennsylvania to a middle-class Irish family. Thirty years later, he was elected the junior senator from Delaware. But before he was sworn in, his wife and daughter were killed in a car accident while Christmas shopping. His two sons were seriously injured in the crash and Biden initially considered resigning to take care of them. But he was talked out of it by the Senate majority leader and was re-elected six times. When Biden takes the oath of office, a Catholic will occupy the White House for only the second time in history. He attends mass every Sunday and carries his son, Beau’s, rosary in his pocket. But more importantly, his faith fundamentally influences the way he views the world. In August, Biden said:

“Like so many people, my faith has been the bedrock foundation of my life. It’s provided me comfort in moments of loss and tragedy, it’s kept me grounded and humbled in times of triumph and joy … And in this moment of darkness for our country — of pain, of division, and of sickness for so many Americans — my faith has been a guiding light for me and a constant reminder of the fundamental dignity and humanity that God has bestowed upon all of us.”

  •  In addition to being the first woman and first person of color to hold the vice presidency, Kamala Harris will also break new religious ground when she’s sworn in today. She considers herself a Black Baptist, but she was raised in Christianity and Hinduism, and her husband, Doug Emhoff, is Jewish. In a nod to her mother’s Hindu roots, her name, Kamala, is the Sanskrit word for “lotus.” Speaking at a drive-in church service in Detroit last fall, Harris said:

“For me, the church has always been a source of strength and a place for reflection. And in my private conversations with God, I usually ask for strength and protection and guidance to do the right thing … We must live it in our actions. That’s the kind of faith I was taught early on.” 

Amen, Madam Vice President. And that’s A Spiritual Almanac for this Inauguration Day.

Be kind, take good care and we’ll see you soon.

 

Excerpt from Myrlie Evers-Williams invocation prayer at Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2013. Fair use.

For the audio podcast, visit https://spiritualalmanac.buzzsprout.com.

For the video podcast, visit https://www.youtube.com/c/Granolasoul.

*As an Amazon Associate, Granola Soul may earn income from qualifying purchases.

Spiritual Almanac – Navajo Poetry: Friday, January 22, 2021

Spiritual Almanac – Mordechai Gebirtig: January 19, 2021

Today’s inspiration comes to us from the Yiddish poet and songwriter, Mordechai Gebirtig. A working-class Jew from Krakow, Gebirtig was a furniture worker by day, and a musician and actor the rest of the time. He published his first collection of songs in 1920 under the title Folkstimlekh, or “of the folk.” and his songs quickly became fixtures in Yiddish theater. But Gebirtig’s life was cut short in 1942 when he was killed by the Nazis during the “Bloody Thursday” shooting in the Krakow ghetto.

Gebirtig’s best-known work is a song titled, “S’brent” or “It Is Burning.” He wrote it in 1938 as a response to anti-semitic violence in the Polish town of Przytyk. During WWII, the Jewish resistance adopted “It Is Burning” as its anthem and it was sung in ghettos across German-occupied Europe. Although it was written for a different time and place, it still serves as a call to action against fascism and injustice for people around the world.

 

IT IS BURNING

 By Mordechai Gebirtig

It is burning, brothers, it is burning.
Our poor little town, a pity, burns!
Furious winds blow,
Breaking, burning and scattering,
And you stand around
With folded arms.
O, you stand and look
While our town burns.

It is burning, brothers, it is burning
Our poor little town, a pity, burns~
The tongues of fire have already
Swallowed the entire town.
Everything surrounding it is burning,
And you stand around
While our town burns.

It is burning, brothers, it is burning!
You are the only source of help.
If you value your town,
Take up the tools to put out the fire,
Put out the fire with your own blood.
Don’t just stand there, brothers,
with your arms folded.
Don’t just stand there, brothers,
Put out the fire, because our town is burning.

 

FOR ADDITIONAL READING: See Notes From the Warsaw Ghetto by Emmanual Ringelblum and Jacob Sloan

Some more inspirational nuggets for today:

  • This day in 1943 saw the first Warsaw ghetto uprising. It was triggered by the Nazis’ attempt to deport Warsaw’s Jews to the death camps. Led by the Jewish resistance, hundreds of Warsaw residents took up gasoline bottles and smuggled weapons to fight off German troops. Most knew their efforts held little chance of saving them. But it was about the honor of the Jewish people. Author Wladyslaw Szpilman wrote, “It’s a disgrace to us all … We’re letting them take us to our death like sheep to the slaughter! … We could break out of the ghetto, or at least die honourably, not as a stain on the face of history!” During the first uprising, the Germans deported 5,000 Jews from the ghetto — 3,000 less than they had planned to remove. But the people’s victory was short-lived. By May, the Nazis had completely destroyed the ghetto and deported its remaining residents to the camps.
  • On a lighter note, today is National Popcorn Day. Popcorn’s roots trace back to the Aztec empire, and there’s evidence they popped corn as early as 4700 BC. But popcorn wasn’t just a snack food for the Aztecs — it was also an element in their religious rituals. When the Spanish conquistador, Hernan Cortes, encountered the Aztecs he reported they wore popcorn garlands in dances performed in honor of the rain god, Tlaloc. The Aztecs used popcorn in a religious ceremony for the protection of fisherman, too. They believed the popcorn looked like hailstones, and they offered it to the gods of the water to satisfy them. Popcorn also figured into the celebration of the festival of Toxcatl during the rainy season. While the men performed a winding procession called the “serpent dance,” the women mingled among them to perform the “popcorn dance,” dancing and jumping in a way that resembled popping kernels.

Eat your heart out, Orville Redenbacher. And that’s today’s Spiritual Almanac. Thanks for listening.

Be kind, take care of each other and I’ll see you tomorrow.

 

“It Is Burning” by Mordechai Gebirtig. Public domain.

For the audio podcast, visit https://spiritualalmanac.buzzsprout.com.

For the video podcast, visit https://www.youtube.com/c/Granolasoul.

*As an Amazon Associate, Granola Soul may earn income from qualifying purchases.

Spiritual Almanac – Navajo Poetry: Friday, January 22, 2021

Spiritual Almanac – Martin Luther King Jr.: Monday, January 18, 2021

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. day. The idea for a federal holiday honoring MLK first came to Congress in 1979, but it fell five votes short. Opponents argued that a paid holiday for federal employees would be too expensive. They also argued that because King never held public office, a holiday to honor a private citizen went against tradition. President Ronald Reagan opposed the idea, too, but he was forced to sign the holiday into law in 1983 when Congress sent it to him with a veto-proof majority.

 Even today, several southern states refuse to acknowledge MLK Day as a standalone holiday. Instead, they recognize it as a combined celebration of the birthdays of MLK and, if you can believe it, the confederate general, Robert E. Lee. But for most of the nation, MLK Jr. day is recognized as a day of service that involves volunteering at nonprofits and charities in the local community.

 In recognition of MLK day, our inspiration comes from King’s last Sunday sermon. He preached it at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. on March 31, 1968, just a few days before he was assassinated in Memphis. Here is a short excerpt from his sermon, “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.”

 

Excerpt from “REMAINING AWAKE

THROUGH A GREAT REVOLUTION”

By Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 I say to you that our goal is freedom, and I believe we are going to get there because however much she strays away from it, the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be as a people, our destiny is tied up in the destiny of America.

Before the Pilgrim fathers landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before Jefferson etched across the pages of history the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence, we were here. Before the beautiful words of the “Star Spangled Banner” were written, we were here.

For more than two centuries our forebearers labored here without wages. They made cotton king, and they built the homes of their masters in the midst of the most humiliating and oppressive conditions. And yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to grow and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery couldn’t stop us, the opposition that we now face will surely fail.

We’re going to win our freedom because both the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of the almighty God are embodied in our echoing demands. And so, however dark it is, however deep the angry feelings are, and however violent explosions are, I can still sing “We Shall Overcome.”

We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

FOR ADDITIONAL READING: See MLK’s A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches 

Some more inspirational nuggets for today:

  • On this MLK day, we remember the birthday of Daniel Hale Williams, the surgeon who performed the first open heart surgery. Both the surgeon and the patient were Black men. The patient’s name was James Cornish, and the surgery took place in 1893 at Provident Hospital on Chicago’s South Side. It was a hospital Williams helped found to improve Black residents’ access to healthcare. According to the Chicago Tribune, the rest of the medical community believed operating on a human heart was too risky. But even though he lacked X-rays, antibiotics, adequate anesthesia and modern surgical tools, Williams went forward with the operation. His gamble paid off. Cornish survived the operation and in 1894, Williams was appointed chief surgeon at the Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington D.C., an institution that provided healthcare to formerly enslaved Blacks.
  • Today also marks the death of Sargent Shriver. A World War II veteran, Shriver married JFK’s sister, Eunice Kennedy, in 1953. Shriver worked closely with minority communities during his brother-in-law’s campaign for president, and became the first director of the newly formed Peace Corps after the election. He also helped launch the Head Start program and served as the ambassador to France during the Johnson and Nixon administrations. Following his death from Alzheimer’s in 2011, Shriver’s son, Mark, said of his father: “Daddy was joyful ’til the day he died and I think that joy was deeply rooted in his love affair with God … Daddy loved God and God loved him right back … Daddy let go. God was in control and, oh, what a relationship they had.”

That’s today’s Spiritual Almanac.

Be kind, take good care and we’ll see you soon.

 

Excerpt from “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution” by Martin Luther King Jr. Fair use.

For the audio podcast, visit https://spiritualalmanac.buzzsprout.com.

For the video podcast, visit https://www.youtube.com/c/Granolasoul.

*As an Amazon Associate, Granola Soul may earn income from qualifying purchases.