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

Monday, March 31, 2014

Batter up: All the way to heaven?

Willie Mays  (Library of Congress)
Who knew that "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" could be such a religious experience?

Apparently, New York University president John Sexton did.  In fact,
he wrote a book titled "Baseball as a Road to God."  No kidding…

During an April 2013 Religion & Ethics Newsweekly interview, Sexton explained his unusual perspective.  He stated that both baseball and religion have a way of moving people beyond "the plane of ordinary existence into the plane of extraordinary existence."

Sexton sees baseball as a portal into "the ineffable" due to "the ecstasy" of such moments as Don Larsen's 1956 "perfect game" and Willie Mays' 1954 "seemingly impossible catch and throw."  Moments like these can bring about an "intensified heightened sensitivity" that seems religious in nature.

Baseball encourages "an appreciation of living slowly and in the moment."  It can help to teach lovers of the game that the sacred is not dependent upon dogma, but rather upon approaching everyday activities from a mindful perspective.


Copyright March 31, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Anti-Semitic harassment of Jews in France

(1889 Anti-Semitic Poster)
The Huffington Post reports that during the last few weeks alone, there have been three serious attacks on Jews within France.

Last Thursday, a Jewish teacher was hit in the face and chest by a vicious group of three.  These thugs also forcibly drew a swastika "on the man's bare chest" with a black magic marker.

A week ago, an Israeli in Paris was "attacked with a stun gun outside a synagogue."  Two weeks ago, "a French Jew was assaulted on the Metro."

If it seems as though such incidents are becoming fairly common, statistics bear this out.  According to an EU survey, almost one third of French Jews have "experienced anti-Semitic harassment in the past year."  


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Ancient tattoos: Mummified messages

"Michael" in Hebrew  (Public Domain)
They say that the dead tell no tales, but a recently-excavated Sudanese mummy had this Christian message tattooed on the inner
thigh:  M-I-X-A-H-A (which, translated from Ancient Greek, means "Archangel Michael").

According to Megan Gannon of Live Science, this is far from the first mummified tattoo that archaeologists have discovered.  Body art was prevalent "in places like Peru, Egypt and the Philippines." 

Otzi the Iceman is not only the world's oldest mummy, but also sports "the world's oldest surviving tattoos."  This 5,300 year-old male corpse "was found frozen in the Alps in 1991."  His tattoos, "etched in soot around his joints," are thought to have been a therapeutic attempt.  (What?  No glucosamine back then?)

A much "younger" (a mere 2,500 years old) mummy was found in Siberia in 1993.  This frozen "body of a woman in her late 20s" had tattoos of "intricate animal motifs, abstract shapes and mythological creatures..."     


Copyright March 29, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 28, 2014

Sedna's little sister: In the pink

90377 Sedna   (NASA Photo)
Sedna (aka "Mother of the Deep" and "Big Bad Woman") is an ancient Inuit goddess.

As these names imply, she was banished from terra firma long ago because of her wayward actions (such as attacking her parents and marrying a dog).  Her own father, the creator-god Anguta, became
so incensed that he threw her into the sea.

Defiant as ever, Sedna attempted to claw her way back into her father's boat.  As she clung to the sides of the vessel, Anguta cleverly sliced off her fingers (they don't call him the creator-god for nothing).

As Sedna presumably sank into the underworld, her fingers allegedly morphed into seals, whales and walruses.  However, it is quite possible that fragments of her body were also hurled into space.  This would account for her namesake (and new zip code), 90377 Sedna.

90377 Sedna (or simply "Sedna") has been hiding within the deepest recesses of outermost space for eons.  The AP reports that this shiny red, and probable "dwarf planet" can "loop out as far as 84 billion miles from the sun at its farthest point."

Long thought of as alone out there, Sedna has been secretly harboring a little pink sister who goes by the name of 2012 VP113 (aka "VP" or "Biden").  This icy pink world, only "280 miles across," has been recently co-discovered by Yale researcher David Rabinowitz, who announced:  Sedna is not a freak.
(To which some say:  Perhaps…)


Copyright March 28, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Popes, Presidents and First Ladies

(Public Domain)
For 52 minutes today, Pope Francis and President Obama set aside some differences in order to focus upon some commonalities.

NBC News reports that the two met face-to-face in the papal library of the Vatican.  Francis greeted Obama with "Welcome, Mr. President," and Obama replied: "Thank you… I'm a great

This is not the first pope that Obama has visited.  He spent some time with Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. 

Neither is Obama the first POTUS to visit with a pope.  Presidents and first ladies of the United States have been doing so for decades.

Wikipedia explains that Woodrow Wilson was the first POTUS to officially have such a meeting.  He and Pope Benedict XV met at the Vatican in 1919.

In 1965, Pope Paul VI became the first reigning pope to visit the United States.  He met with President Johnson in New York City (and had met with Catholic President Kennedy at the Vatican in 1963).

Pope John Paul II later became the first reigning pope to visit with a president at the White House.  He and Jimmy Carter met there in 1979.

Although first ladies have met with popes while accompanied by their husbands (see photo of Nancy and Ronald Reagan with Pope John Paul II in 1982), Jacqueline Kennedy may have been the only reigning first lady to have independently met with a pope.  She did so with Pope John XXIII in 1962.  



Copyright March 27, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Anzu wyliei: Now who's chicken?

Colonel Sanders c. 1974 (by Edgy01)
They say what goes around comes around, and if the anzu wyliei is any indication, they might be right.

What scientists are now calling the anzu wyliei (aka "chicken from hell"), is what the AFP described as "a newly identified species of feathered dinosaur as tall as a human" which "roamed North America
at least 66 million years ago."

This was no happy-go-lucky Big Bird.  No… if anzu wyliei spotted you quivering behind a tree, chances are you ended up resembling a Kentucky Fried Human.  (Colonel Sanders, beware…)

The very name "anzu wyliei" reflects a history of dread.   It refers back to a "monster of Akkadian mythology" that was known for such acts as demonically stealing the Tablets of Destiny.  By so doing, Anzu was hoping to rule the universe – but alas for him (and lucky for us), Marduk (a Babylonian deity) ended up dashing these hopes.

Just in case there are any survivors left hiding in the brush, here's how to recognize this fine feathered foe:  With a hen-like crest on its head, lanky legs like an ostrich, sharp claws on its forelimbs and jaws built for crushing eggs and prey, the Anzu Wyliei weighed a hefty 440-660 pounds…


Copyright March 26, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Jimmy Carter: Women not inferior

James Earl Carter  (Public Domain)
In 2009, former U. S. President Jimmy Carter made a painful break from a decades-long religious affiliation.

Carter, who had been connected with the Southern Baptist Convention for 60 years, parted company with them over the issue of gender equality. 

He called this an "unavoidable decision," due to their beliefs that "Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin… [and] women must be 'subservient' to their husbands and
prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service."

Carter considers these beliefs to be based upon "a twisted interpretation of the word of God."  He points out that in some nations "if a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime."

Carter adds that his fellow Elders ("an independent group of eminent global leaders") are equally committed to bringing about worldwide gender equality.  This group has published a statement that condemns the justification of gender discrimination on religious grounds.

Carter concludes that the teachings of Moses, Jesus, Paul, Muhammad, and prophets of other religions have "called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God."


Copyright March 26, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Crimea: Russia's holy place

Chersonesos Cathedral      (Photo by Andreev720) 
Although geopolitics has certainly played a major role in Russia's ties with Crimea, historian Maria Kozelsky recently reported in The Washington Post that the religious aspects of this connection should not be underestimated.

Crimea has been called the "Cradle of Russian Christianity" because it was there that "Byzantium passed the mantle of Orthodoxy to Russia."  Not only was the Kyivan Rus Prince Vladimir baptized by the Byzantine emperor in Crimea, but St.
Andrew the Apostle was also thought to have passed through this region on his way to Scythia.

After first-century Pope Clement was exiled to Crimea by then-Roman Emperor Trajan, the pope "founded an early Christian community that hid among neolithic caves."  Traces of all these holy events were sought
after by "Russian archaeologists, historians and biblical scholars" until the time that communist leaders had insisted upon atheism.

After the Soviet collapse, Crimea was once again brought into Russia's "spiritual orbit."  Russian President Vladimir Putin himself once joined with then-Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma for the raising of the Russian Orthodox cross "over the completed church on the ruins of Chersonesos." (St. Vladimir Cathedral in Chersonesos, near Sevastopol, had been restored during the 1990s and early 2000s after being destroyed during World War II.)     


Copyright March 25, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 24, 2014

Church properties: On the move

Jehovah's Witnesses headquarters (Photo by Sergio Herrera)
Those who associate the Unitarian Universalist
Association with Beacon Hill, and the Jehovah's
Witnesses with Brooklyn Heights, are due for a
paradigm shift sometime soon.

That's because many denominations are now
shifting their locations (along with their focus)
from the traditional to the innovative.  Whereas
Beacon Hill and Brooklyn Heights have housed
their share of elite tenants, denominations are now seeking more affordable  headquarters.

Michael Paulson of The New York Times reports
that the UUA's "headquarters building… two grand homes and an office building" near the "red brick
sidewalks, gas streetlamps and superrich neighbors" of Beacon Hill will soon be left behind for "a section of South Boston" that has been dubbed an "innovation district."

The Jehovah's Witnesses are "selling their 34 buildings in the sought-after neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo" in favor of a more "modern world headquarters on a 253-acre property in the Hudson
Valley town of Warwick…"  This is their first such change since 1909.

This trend, which is also underway in other major denominations, not only reflects the secularization of American society, but also the current economic and technological situations.  Administrative workers no longer need to congregate in centralized locations; they can now do their jobs from virtually anywhere. Money that has been spent on high-end buildings can now be freed up for projects more in keeping with the heart of Christianity.   


Copyright March 24, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunny side up: Beyond eggs

Winter Sunshine (Laszlo Mednyanszky)
Numerous studies have shown that people tend to be more upbeat on sunny days.

Melissa Dahl of TODAY reports on the "extensive literature" that shows "a link between weather and mood."  Social psychologists have found that "life really does seem better in the sunshine."

Dahl explains that even just the suggestion of sunshine can inspire
customers to leave better tips.  If a server so much as mentions a sunny weather report, some extra cash could soon be flowing in his or her direction.

There is also a "Sunshine Samaritan" effect in which people are more likely to practice acts of kindness while
catching some rays.  During one study, a glove was purposely dropped on the sidewalk by someone walking in a crowd.  It turned out that passersby were much more likely to return the glove to its obvious owner if the skies were bright at the time.

If you're into positive feedback, try this:  Ask people how life is going on sunny days, rather than on dreary ones.  In this way, your exposure to tales of woe might be greatly diminished.  You may even walk away beaming.


Copyright March 23, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 21, 2014

March moon: By any other name

(Photo by HighInBC)
When lovers look at a full moon, they think romance.  However, some of the traditional names for the March full moon are not all that romantic.

For example, March is the month (in some locations) when robins return to herald the coming of spring.  Since the early bird catches the worm, it is also the month in which earthworm castings begin to poke through the melting snow.  Hence the name "Full Worm Moon…"

If that isn't enough to make your libido wilt, these other names might be. explains that the March full moon also goes
by these titles:  Full Sap Moon (no, not people - maple trees), Full Crow Moon (caws abound), and Full Crust Moon (as the remaining snow cover thaws by day and freezes by night).

Nevertheless, spring is in the air – a time when young men's (and women's) fancies turn to - well, you know…  And when that occurs, who care what the moon is called? 


Copyright March 21, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Titan: Saturn's combustible sibling

Titan Globe    (Author: Hargitai) 
Titan, also known as Saturn VI, is the largest moon of Saturn.  Shrouded in smog, it has also been shrouded in
mystery for centuries.

You too might want to be cloaked in secrecy had you done to Uranus (the mythological father of all Titans) what Chronus (aka "Saturn") and his Titan siblings did.

It seems that Chronus was a bit envious of his father's power.  He therefore went ahead and lopped off Uranus' most private of parts.  Fair or not, the Titan name has been somewhat tainted ever since.

This combustive Titan nature is reflected within Titan's surface liquid.  Wikipedia explains that Titan "is the only object other than Earth for which clear evidence of stable bodies of surface liquid has been found."

This surface liquid, however, is not water.  Due to Titan's frigid temperatures, the water there is all in the form of solid ice.  Instead, Titan's surface liquid is mostly composed of methane and ethane (combustible

Because Titan has a windy atmosphere, its surface liquid might also have waves.  NBC News recently reported that "scientists say they see the glint of waves rippling across those seas."


Copyright March 20, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

More Bang for the Big

BICEP2 Telescope at South Pole  (Public Domain)
As impressive as it sounds, the Big Bang is still only a theory. 

Nevertheless, scientists have recently discovered something that they’re hoping will change theory to fact.  According to The Verge, that something is thought to be “a signal left by ancient gravitational

These waves are about as ancient as it gets.  In other words, they are believed to have originated within “the early slivers of the second during which the universe began…”

What is particularly significant about this discovery is that it somewhat “tracks” the initial expansion (aka “Bang” and “inflation”) of the universe.  It may also be a vital link between gravity and the other fundamental forces.

The signal (aka "B-mode polarization”) was detected via the use of a “small telescope in the South Pole.”  It showed up as “a curl in the cosmic radiation left over from the Big Bang.”


Copyright March 19, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

David Brenner: Chesed before fame

Laughter  (Public Domain)
Maybe it was because he grew up in the rough sections of Philadephia, or maybe it was because he was raised in the Jewish
tradition of chesed (loving kindness) – who knows?

Nevertheless, it seems that comedian David Brenner had his heart in the right places when it really counted.

Wikipedia explains that Brenner had prioritized having custody of his son Cole.   In order to achieve and maintain this, Brenner had to seriously curtail his professional engagements (including appearances on The Tonight Show).  Otherwise, the courts would have deemed him to be an absentee father.

This prioritization of family over personal ambition somewhat mirrored a decision that David’s father had made.  When Brenner Senior was a young man, he too was in show business.  However,
his own father (David’s grandfather, who was a rabbi) felt that it was wrong to work on the Sabbath.  In deference to this, Brenner
Senior also deliberately curtailed his career.

David Brenner not only prioritized his children, but also showed a great deal of kindness to up-and-coming comedians.  Wikipedia reports that “Richard Lewis, Jerry Seinfeld, David Letterman, Paul Reiser, and Jay Leno” were all influenced by him.


Copyright March 18, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 17, 2014

Manifest Destiny: Does space count?

Manifest Destiny   (Painting by John Gast)
Although the concept of Manifest Destiny was rejected by such luminaries as Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant, it nevertheless played a significant role in 19th century America.

Wikipedia quotes historian Frederick Merk while
explaining this central theme of Manifest Destiny:  “A sense of mission to redeem the Old World by high example […] generated by the potentialities of a new earth for building a new heaven.”   

Unfortunately, today's version of Manifest Destiny might not sound nearly as noble.  Since the West (and most of Planet Earth) has already been won (or lost, depending upon one’s perspective), it’s time to literally move on up (as in up, up and away).

Nowadays, Manifest Destiny is rocket science, and what’s fueling these spaceships is not so much idealized religion as it is commercialized materialism.

In her article “The dark side of space: how capitalism poses a threat beyond Earth,” Izabella Kaminska discusses such business ventures as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, and Robert
Bigelow’s Bigelow Aerospace.

Although Article II of the U.N. Outer Space Treaty clearly states that “outer space… is not subject to national appropriation,” Kaminska fears that capitalistic “barons” won’t necessarily play by these rules.

She envisions the possibility of a “megalomaniac” one day renaming Mars.  Whereas Earth at least has the semblance of legal hoops through which capitalists have to jump, outer space at this point does not. 

Kaminska therefore wonders:  Will space be the next Wild West?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Scrunch interruptus: Elders vindicated

Scrunch Time  (Photo by Julius Schorzman)
Although Ronald McDonald is as jolly as can be most of the time, occasionally he really trips up.

Yahoo Odd News reports that an elderly couple (both in their 80s) had been in the habit of enjoying what they called “scrunch” (a snack between supper and lunch) at the Culpepper, Virginia McDonald’s.

Then one day a “Grinch” type employee attempted to whisk them right out of there for sitting “too long.”  She literally and figuratively slung dirt their way by sweeping the floor right near to where they were sitting.

Before you could say “Big Mac,” the manager came by and announced: You two have to leave.  Your half-hour’s up and we have to clean this floor now.

Them’s fightin’ words.  The couple wasn’t about to take this sitting down.  They got up and left, but not before telling the manager that he needed additional training.  And not before making up their minds to do something about it…

A letter was afterwards sent to the editor of the local newspaper.  This informed the public of what had happened.  The story then quickly spread via social media.  Pretty soon, a compassionate response came through loud and clear.

A local restaurant owner offered the couple free “scrunch” one day a week for life.  Not only that, he will henceforth be offering all seniors and veterans free coffee on Wednesdays.


Copyright March 16, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Glenn Ford: And it shall be opened

(Public Domain)
When Glenn Ford was first released from 30-odd years on death row for a crime he did not commit, his defense attorneys drove him out from “Louisiana’s notorious Angola prison.” The Atlantic reports that on the way home the jubilant attorneys wanted to treat Ford to his first “freedom” meal.

Because Ford was quite hungry at the time, they     opted to stop at a nearby gas station on their way back to New Orleans. This gas station served Krispy Kreme donuts, and Ford hadn’t had a donut “since Ronald Reagan was president.”

The lawyers pulled up to the station and got out of the car. When they started walking towards the station, they realized that Ford was still sitting in the vehicle. Truth is - it hadn’t occurred to Ford that he could open the door and walk right out.
Attorney Gary Clements told The Atlantic: “He was just sitting there and waiting for someone to come and tell him he could get out.” Due to the persistent knocking by Ford and his lawyers, this exoneree is now free to open his own doors. May the same strength that saw him through these many torturous years guide Ford to those doors that offer healing.


Copyright March 15, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke All Rights Reserved

Transfiguration: Peaks and valleys

(Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen)  
Matthew 17:1-9 (NIV) tells the thought- provoking story of “The Transfiguration.” The three disciples (Peter being one) who were led by Jesus “up a high mountain” got considerably more than they were expecting.

It wasn’t enough that Jesus’ face suddenly “shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” There were also the “guest appearances” by Moses and Elijah, as well as the “voice from the cloud” which proclaimed: This is my Son, whom I love… Listen to him!

This epiphany turned out to be even more “terrifying” for mere humans than seeing grizzlies on the peaks of Yosemite. The three astonished disciples “fell face down to the ground” upon hearing those holy words. Even Peter, who up until then was still offering to pitch some tents and perhaps sing Kumbaya, was temporarily halted in his hyperactive tracks.

If the story ended there, it would have been inspiring in a frenzied sort of way. These were certainly unforgettable peak experiences (both literally and figuratively). Some of us might even be thinking: “Wouldn’t it be nice if worship services (and life itself) were that exhilarating?”

However, Jesus seems to have thought otherwise. He immediately told the fallen disciples two things: “Get up” and “Don’t be afraid.” As he led them back down the mountain, Jesus added a third: “Don’t tell…”

Mother Theresa used to reassure her own students that it’s not necessary to do great things, just small things with great love. Sanctity can be found even within valleys of despair - as long as we courageously and humbly pick ourselves back up again each time that we fall.

Copyright March 15, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All rights reserved

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Gifts wrapped in sandpaper

Sandpaper Sheets (Photo: Simon Eugster)
We call them blessings in disguise, these gifts that enter our lives wrapped in sandpaper. 

Perhaps we are ill.  Perhaps we have recently lost a job.  Perhaps we are widowed or divorced.

Under these and other difficult circumstances, it is tough to transition "from stressed to blessed."  Nevertheless, ESSENCE offers us some ways to at least begin.

In order to let go of stress, it is important to first acknowledge its presence.  We become so accustomed to feeling on edge that we no longer even notice tension's insidious grip.

Once we've acknowledged the stress, it's time to also acknowledge the joy.  What is it about life that can be truly celebrated?  And what are the silver linings in even the cloudiest of setbacks?

ESSENCE emphasizes that a person's own hopes and dreams should be taken very seriously.  In this way, "optionals" such as "I'm going to eat more healthfully" would become "non-negotiables."  The commitments made to ourselves would then be as steadfast as the ones made to others.


Copyright March 13, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Holocaust survivors: Firsthand witnesses

(Public Domain)
The very best antidote to those who insist that the Holocaust never happened are the firsthand accounts of living survivors.

Todd C. Frankel of St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that their numbers are dwindling fast.  Because World War II ended almost 70 years ago, there are only approximately 500,000 Jewish survivors still alive.

Deborah Dwork, Director of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University, put it this way:  Living memory is now about to
come to an end.  And when memory ends, history kicks in.

To insure the accuracy of this history, vigorous efforts are being made "to document stories and interview survivors."  Although the Shoah Foundation at the University of Southern California has even created "three-dimensional holograms of survivors recounting their experiences," this still cannot match the impact of experiencing a
firsthand account from a live presenter.

Frankel details the recent visit of 84-year-old Holocaust survivor Philip Bialowitz to St. Louis, Missouri.  Bialowitz traveled there from Florida for the express purpose of sharing his story at Washington University. He described his journey there as having "a mission to perform," and his story as "bearing witness."    


Copyright March 12, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dalai Lama 'votes' bipartisan

(February 21, 2014 Meeting)
If "voting with the feet" is a good indicator of how a person truly feels, then the Dalai Lama seems to favor a bipartisan approach.

The Washington Post reports that the esteemed spiritual leader helped to "open the Senate's formal proceedings" last Thursday by offering "prayers of joy, good fortune and the fulfillment of wishes."

On that same day, he met with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California).  Boehner reportedly noted that the Dalai Lama has attended "a bipartisan meeting with congressional leaders" during each of his visits to the Capitol.

The Dalai Lama not only "voted" with his bipartisan feet, but also "talked his walk" by verbally "stressing the need for political powers to work collaboratively and positively."

He included the media in this regard by pointing out their pivotal role in educating people.  The spiritual leader then added:  Sometimes the media people are only showing the negative side.  Don't do that.      


Copyright March 11, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 10, 2014

Imagine Fearlessly: Spring Equinox at One Spirit

Interfaith Symbolism (by Pass a Method)
Wherever you happen to be in the world, you are invited to attend (either in person or via live webinar) One Spirit Learning Alliance's Spring Equinox Open House Celebration.

According to its website, One Spirit Learning Alliance (OSLA) aims "to encourage an authentic science-integrative spirituality
appropriate to the 21st century."  This is accomplished via an Interfaith Seminary, an InterSpiritual Counseling program, Clinical Pastoral Education, Workshops & Events, and a Community of Sacred Practice.

One Spirit focuses upon two fundamental questions:  Are we truly happy?  Have we left the people we met and the world we live in a better place?  The aforementioned educational offerings have helped many to answer these crucial questions affirmatively.

It is one thing to read about One Spirit, and quite another to experience it.  The Spring Equinox Open House Celebration is designed to give participants an experiential feel for what OSLA's about.  It will be held on Thursday, March 20th from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at 247 West 36th Street, Sixth Floor, New York, New York for in-person attendees (and anywhere the Internet is for all others). 

Additional information can be obtained at (212) 931-6840, or at  There is no fee for the general public.  Seminary students and alumni are asked to bring a friend.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Music: Take it or leave it

Bach Fugue Bar  (Public Domain)
Although many people feel drawn to at least certain types of music, there are those who feel neutral about everything from Beatles to Beethoven.

Live Science attempts to explain "Why Some People Don't Like Music."  Results from a recent study at the University of Barcelona showed that there are people who enjoy other rewards such as food, sex and money – but simply don't get pleasure from music.  This condition is formally known as "specific music anhedonia."  

Anhedonia differs from "amusia."  Whereas amusia involves "a specific impairment in music perception" (perhaps due to brain damage), anhedonia simply indicates that a listener is "emotionally oblivious" to music of pretty much any kind.

Unfortunately, this study more addressed the "how" than the "why" of anhedonia.  The condition therefore
remains as essentially mysterious as music itself.


Copyright March 9, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Obituaries a comfort to some

Abigail Van Buren   (Public Domain)
If you're feeling like Eleanor Rigby at times (or are a member of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band), then reading obituaries might actually be a source of comfort.

When Abigail Van Buren (aka "Dear Abby") was once asked whether looking forward to seeing known names in the obituary column was weird, she answered that it was.

This response elicited numerous comments from readers who begged to differ.  "BEEN THERE TOO" from Rhode Island pointed out that while reading obits, lonely folks can feel a "sense of closeness" to those who  have passed on.  "JULIE IN WISCONSIN" agrees that "seeing a familiar name may bring back memories of better times..."

"SANDY IN PENNSYLVANIA" praises the historical value of these mini-biographies.  She explains that obituaries are not only "scrapbooked and prized," but are also "researched for generations by genealogists, historians and relatives looking to complete their family tree."

Obituaries serve as a vivid reminder that life is both fleeting and precious.  They may evoke a sense of compassion for the deceased, which can be expressed by passing forward acts of kindness.

Obits can also inspire those still living to get out there and grow their own biographies while there's still time...


Copyright March 8, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 7, 2014

Pope Benedict XVI: A 'wise grandfather'

(Photo: Agencia Brasil)
The Washington Post reported not too long ago that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI joined Pope Francis "at a historic cardinal ceremony."

This event was "an unprecedented blending of papacies past, present and future," partly because cardinals are the ones to elect new pontiffs.

Nevertheless, the question remains:  Why would a retired pope, one who had been expected to lead a monastic sheltered life, be actively present at this key ceremony?

Although Benedict's participation could be construed as "a blessing of sorts for
the 19 men Francis had chosen to join the elite College of Cardinals," there may be more to it than that.

During a recent interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Pope Francis offered the following explanation:  He considers his predecessor to be "a wise grandfather" who is not just a "statue in a museum."

Pope Francis then elaborated upon this grandfather metaphor by stating:  "I thought about grandparents who with their wisdom, their advice, strengthen families and don't deserve to end up in an old folks home."    


Copyright March 7, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ice fishing on Europa

Europa    (NASA Photo)
If Earth hasn't been cold enough for you lately, you might want to consider ice fishing on Europa someday.

Dubbed Jupiter's "watery moon" by The Associated Press, Europa is "a place where astronomers speculate
there might be some form of life."

Wikipedia explains that Europa is not only the "sixth-closest moon of the planet Jupiter," but is also the "sixth-largest moon in the Solar System."  Its "tenuous" atmosphere is composed primarily of oxygen, and its surface is composed of water ice.  "Clay-like minerals,"
often associated with "organic materials," have been found on its surface.  

NASA has allocated $15 million for planning a robotic mission to Europa.  This mission, to be launched circa 2025, will surely concentrate on "searching for life in the strange liquid water under the ice-covered surface."

Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb has speculated:  "There might be fish under the ice."

Sashimi anyone?    


Copyright March 6, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Pope more Clark Kent than Superman

Jorge Mario Bergoglio (4th from left, 3rd row from top)
Although some might attribute powers even greater than Superman's to the pope, Pope Francis maintains that he is "a man who laughs, cries, sleeps calmly and has friends as everyone else."  In other words, "a normal person…"

That being said, NBC News nevertheless reports that "Francis-mania" is as strong as ever.  For example, there is a graffiti-like depiction of Pope Francis as a flying, fist-clenched superhero on an outside wall
near the Vatican.

The Pope's reaction to this?  Francis has humbly stated, "To paint the Pope as some sort of Superman, a star, is offensive." 

Clark Kent couldn't have said it better…   


Copyright March 5, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Jupiter still rules

Statue of Jupiter (Photo by Andrew Bossi) 
It is not surprising that Jupiter, king of all planets, is one of the
brightest objects in the heavens

In an article for SPACE, Geoff Gaherty tells us that Jupiter is
dominating the night sky this week.  It is currently visible "even in cities with the worst light pollution." 

Jupiter's moons can be seen with with the help of binoculars or "the smallest telescope."  They could also be seen by the naked eye if Jupiter itself weren't so bright.

King Jupiter has not only ruled the heavens, but mighty regions of Earth as well.  Wikipedia explains that Jupiter was king of all gods within the ancient Roman Empire.  His ancient Greek counterpart was Zeus.

To the Babylonians, this planet was a manifestation of the god Marduk ("patron deity of Babylon").  In the Far East (Korea, Japan, China), it is referred to as the "wood
star" (with reference to the Chinese Five Elements). 

Jupiter's astrological symbol is "a stylized representation of the god's lightning bolt."  Germanic tradition associates Thor, the Norse god of thunder and lightning, with this jovial gas giant.


Copyright March 4, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 3, 2014

Church politics in Ukraine

St. Volodymyr's in Kiev  (Petar Milosevic) 
Back in the Soviet days, evangelical and Baptist churches were illegal in the Ukraine.

Nowadays, The Huffington Post reports that Ukraine is "2.4% Protestant," and the Baptist church has particularly grown.  In fact, Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov is not only a Baptist, but a Baptist pastor at that.

This is perceived by the European Baptist Federation (EBF) as not only a victory for Baptists in Ukraine, but also a victory for all
Christians there. 

A recent EBF statement declared:  During all these days of protests and confrontations the Christian community in Ukraine has been the light and salt for both parties…Ukraine needs love, mercy and forgiveness!  Ukraine needs Christ!  

Orthodox priests have also been quite active in Ukraine during this time of turmoil.  They "maintained a visible presence in Kiev throughout the protests, offering prayers to demonstrators and police alike." 

Although impeached President Viktor Yanukovych has been Orthodox, during recent months the Orthodox
Church has distanced itself from his government.           


Copyright March 3, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Drum rolls better than eye rolls

(Photo by Cryptic C62)
If spouses were to greet one another with drum rolls (or the psychological equivalent thereof), marriages could vastly improve.

Alas!  Many instead douse the flames of love with eye rolls.  These sarcastic ocular gestures scream DISRESPECT, and often end up spelling DIVORCE.

Zahra Barnes of SELF reports that many such eyes are so used to rolling around like a bunch of billiard balls, they don't even realize that they're doing it.  She cites Dr. John Gottman, "the lead researcher behind a landmark study about divorce predictors," as stating that eye rolling shows contempt – and contempt is "the number 1 predictor of divorce…" (worse yet than "criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling").

Since habitual eye-rollers don't necessarily realize when they're
engaging in this behavior, how can they possibly stop?  The trick is to nip the behavior in the bud.  As soon as a feeling of frustration
begins to well up, they can assume that eye rolling is about to begin.  They can therefore purposely look down at that very moment. 

This downward glance may evoke humility rather than contempt, and might even eventually become an authentic response.      


Copyright March 2, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

From married father to Maronite Father

Peshitta (Syriac Bible)
Last Thursday was an "historic day" for the Maronite Catholic Church in the United States.  It marked the first time in almost 100 years that "a married priest" was ordained there.

NBC News reports that this ordination took place at St. Raymond's Maronite Cathedral in St. Louis, Missouri.  Wissam Akiki "was welcomed by hundreds of supporters" during the ceremony.  Two of these supporters were his wife and daughter. 

Another supporter of this ordination is Pope Francis, who gave permission for it to occur.  NBC News explains that "over the years popes have made exceptions on a case-by-case basis for married men to become Eastern Catholic priests in America."

Wikipedia states that the Maronite Church (aka "The Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch") is an "Eastern Catholic Church in full communion
with the Holy See of Rome."  Today's Maronite populations are mainly in Lebanon (up to 22% of the population), Syria (approximately 51,000) and Cyprus (about 10,000).

The Maronite Patriarch of Antioch serves as the head of the Maronite church.  Although Maronites "share the same doctrine as other Catholics," they have their own liturgy (in Syriac, a language that is also known as "Christian Aramaic"). 

Although Maronite priests outside of North America are not required to be celibate, within North America
they generally are (due to "a long-term understanding with their Latin counterparts").  Therefore, Wissam
Akiki's transition from married father to Maronite Father can be thought of as highly unusual.


Copyright March 2, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved