From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Digging dragons: Qijiang fossil found

Emperor's  Dragon Robe  (Public Domain)
According to Wikipedia, Chinese dragons have long been depicted as “snake-like with four legs.”

References to Chinese dragons can be traced back to at least several thousand years ago.  These creatures have traditionally symbolized “potent and auspicious powers, particularly control over water, rainfall, hurricanes and floods.”

Farmers in Qijang City, China must have therefore been thrilled to discover a fossil that resembles “one of China’s mythical dragons.” This skeleton surfaced while the farmers were “digging for a fish pond.”

Dr. Tetsuto Miyashita from the University of Alberta explained:  Nowhere else can we find dinosaurs with longer necks than those in China.

Could that be why “dragons” have long played such a significant role within Chinese culture?


Copyright January 31, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 30, 2015

St. Louis 1 Cemetery cleans up its act

Marie Laveau (Portrait by Schneider/Catlin)
The destructive practices of some tour guides and other patrons have led the Archdiocese of New Orleans to ban unauthorized visits to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

This well-known historic cemetery is believed to be the final resting place of “19th Century voodoo priestess Marie Laveau.”  The Associated Press reports on a local claim “that Laveau will grant a wish for someone who makes three Xs on [her] tomb… knocks on the tomb, and shouts the wish.”

As a result, Laveau’s alleged tomb has been marked with crayon, eye shadow, ink and lip balm.  Some have even carved Xs into the marble.

The cemetery, first established in 1789, might not have been able to withstand such desecration had it continued unchecked.  In addition to markings such as these, the
cemetery as a whole was being vandalized and trashed.

The Archdiocese has therefore imposed a ruling that tour guides must now register before entering the cemetery.  Relatives of those buried there, along with scholars “conducting     genealogical research,” will be able to arrange for personal visits.


Copyright January 30, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Frosty the Forbidden Snowman

Not a snowman!   (Photo by Thelmadatter)
Upon first glance, it might seem as though the building of a snowman is an entirely innocent act.

However, when one considers the intricacies of religious doctrines, it becomes difficult to predict just what will or won’t contradict at least one of them.

Dubai Reuters recently reported that “a prominent Saudi Arabian cleric” issued a “religious ruling” against “the building of snowmen,” describing them as “anti-Islamic.”

Just what is it about snowmen that could be deemed anti-Islamic?  This cleric, Sheikh Mohammed Saleh al-Munajjid, has explained that a snowman is an image of a human being with a soul, and creating such an image is “considered sinful” by the strict standards of Sunni Islam.

Sheikh Munajjid added:  God has given people space to make whatever they want which does not have a soul, including trees, ships, fruits, buildings and so on.

One of the Sheikh's Twitter supporters wrote:  It [building snowmen] is imitating the infidels, it promotes lustiness and eroticism.  This comment might have been prompted by another Twitter   entry which included “a photo of a man in formal Arab garb holding the arm of a ‘snow bride’…”


Copyright January 29, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Yoda's kittens: Heart of the matter

Newborn Kitten (Photo by Aravind Sivaraj)
Yoda the Cat’s heart wasn’t always in the right place, but it sure is now.

When animal activist Beth Stern first laid eyes on Yoda, she had “never seen a more pitiful creature.”  There he was, “sitting in a cage… skinny… you could see his bones … and had poop matted in his hair.”

Stern soon learned that Yoda also had a life-threatening heart condition, “the equivalent of a human needing a heart transplant.”  He was quite depressed (who wouldn’t be?) and
just about to give up.

The Sterns, Beth and Howard, took Yoda into their hearts and home.  However, Yoda didn’t begin perking up until a new litter of kittens arrived.  He assumed the role of mother to these young ones, “grooming them twice a day” and making sure they ate.

Just a few months later, Yoda’s fostering efforts came right back at him.  The New York Daily News reports that Yoda then “looked like a cat in a commercial – fluffy, clean…”  Miraculously, even Yoda’s heart was on the mend.

Beth Stern recently said this about Yoda’s progress:  He’s better and totally off the meds for his heart.  It’s proof that love and purpose can heal.


Copyright January 28, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Metta: A little bit of good

Statue of Buddha   (Photo by Purshi)
Because there's (at least) a little bit of good in the (so-called) worst of us, it behooves us to encourage that good rather than criticize the bad.  It seems that what we pay most attention to is what eventually prevails.

The Buddhist practice of Metta is a way of directing attention to the good within us all.  Wikipedia explains that Metta means “amity, friendship, good will, kindness, close mental    union…  and active interest in others.”

It is a straightforward practice that can be done under practically any circumstances.  Metta entails “six successive stages of meditation” during which the practitioner “cultivates benevolence” towards the following:  himself or herself, “a good friend, a ‘neutral’ person, a difficult person,” all of these first four equally, and “then gradually the entire universe.”

How can this actually be done?  The Cunda Kammaraputta Sutta offers this Metta-type language: May these beings be free from animosity, free from oppression, free from trouble, and may they look after themselves with ease!

The gist of this sacred intention can be used as a meditation mantra by tweaking the grammar to fit the recipient (e.g., May I be free…  May he or she be free…  May they be free…).


Copyright January 27, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, January 26, 2015

The 'little woman' behind India's 'big man'

Modi at GNLU  (Photo by Uncletomwood)
They say behind every “big man” there’s a “little woman,” and the gist of that certainly rings true within India’s highest ranks.

Although Michelle Obama was right by her husband’s side as they dined with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi the other night, Modi’s wife was absent. 

Unfortunately, Modi’s wife has been absent from pretty much every important event in the prime minister’s life. In fact, Modi has acted for years as though his wife doesn’t even exist.

The Washington Post reports that Modi and wife Jashodaben Chimanlal Modi were promised to one another as children, according to the custom of their small-town Gujarat community.  They married as teenagers, but this union has allegedly never been consummated.

Shortly after the wedding, "devout Hindu" Modi wandered off to the Himalayas in contemplation of embarking upon a “religious life.”  He wound up returning to Gujarat, but not to his wife.  In fact, he joined a Hindu nationalist group (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, aka “R. S. S.”) that particularly discouraged marital ties.

Modi is now 64 and has never divorced.  His wife still patiently awaits a marital reunion. Her brother, with whom she lives, has said:  We try to tell her that he [Modi] will call her one day, soon.  She has full faith that he will call her to him.


Copyright January 26, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Unboiling Humpty Dumpty

Livin' on the edge...  (Public Domain)
It seems that what all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t do is now at least partly being done by scientists.

After Humpty Dumpty’s great fall, it’s a pretty sure bet that the wall was splattered with clear gooey slime. If some thoughtless
servant had then tried to boil him up for the king’s dinner, that slime would have thickened and whitened.

CNBC reports that this thickening/whitening process is caused by the tighter entanglement of egg proteins upon heating.  Their original “clear and mucus-like” state then becomes “white and rubbery.”

Now it’s bad enough to be cracked into smithereens, but morphed into something white and rubbery?  Not this egg!

Court magicians therefore scrambled to come up with a way to unboil Humpty, but with no luck at all.  Nevertheless, time has a way of smoothing all tangles.

All it took were a few hundred years plus some ace “researchers at the University of California, Irvine and Flinders University in Australia.” These days, it’s even possible for Mother Goose to lay a golden egg without worrying about whether all that glitter will end up white and rubbery. 


Copyright January 25, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved