Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Early morning is an exquisitely magical time in India; meditation begins at 4 a.m., worship at sunrise. There is a calm in the streets that is sprinkled with the bells of bicycle rickshaws and the glow of kerosene lamps. At the right time of the year the air is cool. This shot was taken around 3:30 a.m. during March of 2003. It is a side alley off of the main bazaar of Varanasi. If you look carefully you will see "a ghost" just to the right of the light at the end of the alley. This "ghost" is a man who was walking his bicycle. When he turned the corner into the alley he saw me and my camera on a tripod. He stopped as he didn't want to ruin my shot.
This shot is a 3 1/2 minute time exposure. The man was only in the scene for about the last 20 seconds. Because the illumination was so dark the 20 seconds resulted in the ghost like appearance of the man. For those of you interested in the photographic process, the blue in the shade is not something that I added. Blue is the color of shade. Most of the time we don't see the blue because human perception is not an objective process. What we "see" is frequently determined by what we have learned and not merely an accurate translation of the image on our retinas.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


For reasons that are still quite unclear to me I was born a Jew this time around. Judaism has certainly been very much a beloved part of my cultural experience but it has never fed me spiritually. As a child I would go to temple alone, not because of any parental pressure. Quite the contrary, as my father would frequently state that “God is wherever you find him” he didn’t need to go “to shul”. (The sub-text was that since he experienced himself as God, going to temple would be redundant.) Today my re-occurring experience of a typical service is that the front of the room is a race to see how fast everything can be said and done and the back of the room is a great place to catch up on social events and do some business. What I have learned over time is that I am much more interested in the direct experience of the divine rather than the prescriptions. As such I don’t really practice any religion but since Hinduism comes the closest to what has evolved for me I am officially a Hinjew. I bore you with these too many words just to set a context for what follows. I have absolutely no axe to grind with any religion’s fundamental beliefs as written, except to the extent that any religion believes that their way is the only way to God or salvation. I do have a great deal of difficulty with many religions as practiced.

Perhaps an overly simplistic characterization of the American political landscape is that our government has become the shill for multinational corporations. The work of our legislators appears to be the pursuit of the legalization of how much the corporations can take before the population will revolt. There is no secret that the legislators owe their jobs to the large contributions their corporate benefactors have bestowed upon them. (For some reason the names of Joe Lieberman and almost everyone else who is about to vote against a real public option or single payer insurance system in America come to mind). As reprehensible as this political prostitution is to me I am far more offended when I experience the same kind of dynamic in a religious context.

What is prompting this particular diatribe is an article that I read in the Canadian Globe and Mail newspaper when I was in Vancouver last month. On page A10 in the October 1, 2009 edition was a story that started with, "A Roman Catholic bishop who oversaw an historic settlement with victims of past sexual abuse by priests in Nova Scotia has been charged with possessing and importing child pornography." ( What outrages me is not the imperfections of people. As a therapist I am constantly educated and reminded about the creative ingenuity of people to devise new and improved ways of hurting each other. This is perhaps an inevitable outgrowth of our own internal wounds and may indeed be a necessary ingredient of our growth and development (a subject for another post).

What outrages me is the way the upper echelons of the church have responded to the revelations about the abuse of parishioners by priests. It appears to me that the Church's response is the same as the tobacco industry's to cancer or Exxon to oil spills: deny, delay, use lawyers to make the process both expensive and painful, attempt to blame the victim. But most of all never truly admit guilt or wrong doing and protect our assets at all costs. Don't fire offending employees just transfer them to other branches. In such a "holy environment" how could we ever expect the morality of the populace to exceed that of the "moral authorities"? As America is now beginning to fancy itself a "Christian Nation" how can we expect our politicians to not follow the lead of their religious leaders.

Imagine a story in which a woman is savagely raped and beaten by a policeman. She is left by her attacker and begins to weakly call out for help. At long last another policeman arrives as the woman struggles to stay alive and sane. At that moment the second policeman blames her for the crime and rapes her again. That is what it is like to be a victim of childhood sexual abuse by a priest and then have the leaders of the church do practically nothing or deny the events even took place. If this is how the Pope acts how can we expect anything more from Glenn Beck?

I again want to emphasize that I am not criticizing Roman Catholicism at all. There is so much of beauty in what Christ was and had to teach us. I just find it hard to believe that he died for our sins so that Bishop Raymond Lahey of the archdiocese of Antigonish could get his child porn in peace.