Category Archives: Qabala

All about breads

(Originally posted 11/02/13.)

I have been asked to share my vast wisdom on the subject of yeast breads (chometz).

I’m not a big fan of lots of different recipes for bread. My philosophy is to find one basic recipe and then do variations on it: experiment with different ratios; stir in a cup of raisins or nuts or grated cheese; make rolls, using cinnamon, sugar and butter, or jelly, or peanut butter and jelly; use milk or evaporated milk or even fruit juice or cream instead of water; and so on.

I’ve forgotten the basic recipe I used before becoming homeless. One could start with this one, and experiment with different ratios until one settles on one one likes.

Continue reading All about breads

Simple

In recent weeks, in my quest for spiritual growth and improvement of my own condition, I have had to deal with lots of complicated stuff — chakras, sephirot, different dimensions of the personality or psyche, previously unknown stages in the progression from infantilism to adulthood.

This flies in the face of my conviction that the Gospel must ultimately be simple; and the same for everyone, regardless of one’s circumstances or developmental stage.

I come to the conclusion that it is.  Simple.

Continue reading Simple

Sifting dichotomies

(Originally published 06/08/13 at Trojan Horse Productions.  Republished here 10/30/13.)

In recent days, I’ve spent much time trying to sort out my understandings of Good and Evil, order and chaos, darkness and light. I read a lot about Zoroastrianism, wanting to be sure my thinking isn’t “dualist” like that religion. On 06/11/13, I wrote:

Like Manichaeism, a truly false religion, Zoroastrianism emphasizes a conflict between Good and Evil, which is absent from my thought. I prefer to think of something more like Yin/Yang.

Yin and Yang are both necessary, and alternate but don’t necessarily conflict. Yet the traditional concept of them also errs, trying to connect that same dichotomy to almost every other one imaginable:

hot and cold life and death
female and male young and old
too much and too little north and south (magnetic)
stability and change negative and positive (electrical)
past and future truth and error
large and small night and day
wet and dry creation and destruction
grace and works mercy and justice

I wrote 06/12/13:

So, needy people fail to make the transition from infantile to post-infantile behavior. Regardless of worldview, and contrary to the notion that self-love is subconscious, Christianity’s teachings would tend to facilitate that transition; people can consciously learn right conduct.

Transition is a key concept. One could ask if Good and Evil don’t just correspond to stability and change; Vishnu and Siva. But the nutrients in my bloodstream are destroyed and converted into wastes as I use them. Fire releases light and heat, but destroys that which it consumes; and, in most cases, produces wastes.

Many of these dichotomies are independent, and many — as with fire — involve ambiguities and shades of gray.
on air talent, talk show host, radio talk show, the homeless blogger

For us

A grassy lot inspires a vision of what can be when a community cares for itself.

When I take the bus to church in the morning, I normally get off at the closest stop, walk three blocks north and one block east.  At the corner where I turn is a vacant lot.  I don’t know who owns it.  In months past, it has typically been heavily littered.

One morning not long ago, as I approached that lot, I saw that it had been cleaned.  I saw this from fifty feet away.  The way things are around here, that little bit of beauty nearly knocked me down.  It took my breath away.  It lifted my spirits.

A tiny bit of beauty can powerfully affect one’s mood.  A mere glimpse of a pretty face can make one’s whole day.

I reflected:  harmony is the essence of beauty, exemplified in the orderliness of the clean lot as contrasted with the chaos of its previous litter.  I reflected on the relatednesses among light, love, harmony, order and prosperity, on the one hand; and darkness, strife, chaos and need, on the other.  What does it take to begin to establish harmony?  I concluded that perhaps love, or self-love, is the beginning of creation.

What if the whole community cared for itself as someone cared for that lot? Continue reading For us

The poop on the stoop

The shelter boots us out at 5:45 a.m. daily.  You must take all your belongings with you and cannot come back until 2:30.

Until February 2013, my custom on non-work days was to go to Dunkin’ Donuts to pray, drink coffee and use the bathroom, until the library would open at 10:00 and I could go online.  Then the temp agency closed down, and I could no longer afford Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, and so began going to McDonald’s instead.

Some days I would arrive at Dunkin’ Donuts before opening.  One such morning, I arrived to find a large, neat pile of human feces on the doorstep.  It was clearly no accident.  Who had left it there, and why, had no bearing on the fact that it was there now.

When staff arrived we opened the door and stepped inside very carefully to avoid any contact between the door and the stool, or our feet and the stool.  However, I knew that if nothing were done about it, eventually, inevitably, customers who could not take the time to be as observant and careful would step in it and begin tracking it through the store.
Continue reading The poop on the stoop

A simple lesson

(Originally posted June 22, 2013 at Trojan Horse Productions.)

My normal day runs as follows.  After breakfast at the mission, at 5:45 I head for McDonald’s, where I drink coffee ($1.06) and do my prayer routines.  Around 9:15, I head for the library, stopping at a convenience store en route to buy smokes ($2.75) and a soda ($1.69).  From 10:00 to 2:00 I’m online at the library.  When my time’s up, I go to the Wi-Fi café, write in my diary and have another cup of coffee ($1.00).  Then it’s back to the mission, where I have to pay admission ($3.00).

Sunday mornings, I am normally left with bus fare to church ($1.60) and pennies.  I meet my patrons at church and obtain an allowance for the next week.

Continue reading A simple lesson

Carter Scott, Karma and Chaos

(Originally published 06/05/13 at Trojan Horse Productions.)

Short life of Carter Scott marred by accusations of family violence

It’s difficult to start this post, as the story’s prone to leave one speechless.

What sort of karma would impel a child to be born into that context?

At the shelter, we’re compelled to attend chapel every night. A different preacher comes each night, in a monthly rotation. These generally disappoint me in their utter failure to speak to the sort of situation in question here. About 40% of the presenters are preoccupied wholly with what will become of your soul when you die; whether you’ll go to heaven or hell; and your need to “believe in Jesus” as the key to salvation. It’s all about a cognitive assent, saying “yes” to a certain set of ideas. There is no presentation of Christianity as a lifestyle, nor any discussion of the role of discipline in following Jesus.

Another 40% of the presenters are preoccupied wholly with obtaining “blessings,” principally by the means of praise: “When the praises go up, the blessings come down.” A “blessing” here is always a material, for example monetary, advantage that one has done nothing to earn. It is as if God were some cosmic King Lear jealous for flattery.

Neither group mentions the call to repent, in terms of any need to change one’s ways.

The only hell that concerns me is the living hell that folk create in this life, here and now, for themselves and their community.
Continue reading Carter Scott, Karma and Chaos

A living hell

‘Case of sudden death’ in violence-torn C. Africa

The only hell of concern to me is the living hell, in this life, here and now, that people create for themselves and one another.

Today, the Central African Republic is a prime example.

There is a history to this conflict that goes back to 1960, but as far as I can tell this land has never known peace at any time.

It’s a matter of what the people there choose to want from day to day.
Continue reading A living hell

* All about breads

I have been asked to share my vast wisdom on the subject of yeast breads (chometz).

I’m not a big fan of lots of different recipes for bread. My philosophy is to find one basic recipe and then do variations on it: experiment with different ratios; stir in a cup of raisins or nuts or grated cheese; make rolls, using cinnamon, sugar and butter, or jelly, or peanut butter and jelly; use milk or evaporated milk or even fruit juice or cream instead of water; and so on.

I’ve forgotten the basic recipe I used before becoming homeless. One could start with this one, and experiment with different ratios until one settles on one one likes.

BASIC RECIPE

½ cup butter, melted but not hot
1 cup warm water
¼ cup sugar
1 large egg
1 package commercial yeast
flour: I don’t know how much. Have at least four cups available.

This is destined to produce a small loaf. You can increase amounts later.

Put all the ingredients but flour in a bowl and mix well. Begin stirring in flour, a little at a time, until the dough is firm enough to knead. (Note: There is not, and never will be, an exact amount of flour to use, as the right amount on any given day will depend on the humidity in the room, etc.)

Dust a cutting board or tabletop with flour; turn the dough out onto this, and knead. Sprinkle flour on the wet or sticky spots as needed. Kneading is done when the dough has become springy and elastic.

Put the dough into a greased bowl. Coat the surface with vegetable oil to keep it from drying out. Cover with a cloth, and put in a warm place to rise.

When it has doubled (about two hours), punch it down. At this point, you’ll form it into any special shapes you want, or make the jelly roll, etc. Put it in or on a greased baking pan, cover with cloth, and put up to rise for another two hours.

Bake at 325⁰ for as long as necessary, which will depend on the size and shape of what you’ve made. It’s done when it sounds hollow if you tap on it.

STRATEGIES

Using store-bought yeast, one can start a batch at noon and take it hot from the oven at supper; in which case the whole will probably be consumed that night.

Clean all surfaces and tools a.s.a.p. after use. Once the traces of dough begin to harden, they’re much harder to clean.

Be forewarned: you WILL “waste” flour; it’s inevitable. You WILL make a mess; it’s inevitable. Determine from the get-go to regard cleanup as fun rather than as a chore.

SOURDOUGH

The biggest difference between sourdough and other bread is that sourdough takes much longer to rise. If I start a batch this morning, I will anticipate baking it tomorrow night.

To make sourdough starter: half fill a small jar with flour, and stir water in until it becomes a paste. Cover loosely and put in a warm place, like the kitchen window. After 2-3 days the wild yeasts already in the flour will have become active, and it will be bublly. Now it’s ready to use.

You can keep it in the cupboard, loosely covered, indefinitely and it won’t go bad. Every day, discard 1 tbsp. of what you’ve got — our use that much to start a batch of bread — and stir in as much new flour to replace it. Thus you’ll keep the sourdough starter fresh and active.

How much water to use is up to you. The thicker the starter is, the less sour your bread will be; the thinner, the more sour.

SPIRITUAL CONSIDERATIONS

(1) All activities associated with breadmaking provide an ideal occasion for presence or mindfulness meditation: one focuses one’s attention wholly on the activity at hand, giving oneself completely to the experience.

(2) It’s a good time to maintain an attitude of gratitude. Give thanks to God for providing the materials. Thank God for, and pray for, the farmers who produced it. Thank yeast (or “Yeast”) and wheat (“Wheat”), who have been staunch friends to our species for thousands of years. Pray that your taxes, tithes and activities may so create shalom as to make bread more accessible to the hungry. Praise God that you can so pray.

(3) Love for “the least of these.” I’ve always made it my business to actually love the yeast. These tiny fun guys (fungis) are actually right to stand tall and take pride in themselves. No less than the Blues Brothers, they are “on a mission from God,” to destroy complex starches and create simple sugars (cf. Jeremiah 1:10); to consume those sugars and produce ethanol (:)) and carbon dioxide.

(4) The Parable of the Yeast —

Matthew 13:33: He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and [hid in] three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

— illustrates what happens when one begins to establish presence. A little harmony and peace facilitates greater harmony and peace, and one’s motivations become increasingly coherent, until one’s whole being is transformed.

Why shouldn’t I dream about these things?

Previous pertinent posts:
Jesus’ outrageous parables
What a homeless man dreams of

(Reblogged 02/02/17.)
on air talent, radio talk show, talk show host, the homeless blogger