Category Archives: Lenten Meditations

A View of Vegas: the Beast & 7 Deadlies

Vegas: the Beast & 7 Deadlies

I admit that the tourist spectacle of Las Vegas, the very shamelessness of its gilt-edged tawdriness, stirs a certain repulsive fascination for me.

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But that aside, my sense of the city is that it combines a manifestation of the Beast of the Apocalypse with a showcase for the Seven Deadly Sins.

The photo below shows Lust, but even greater is greed (primarily on the part of the hordes clustered around the gambling, including me mthe other night for $2 worth)

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Then there are legendary buffets that cater to gluttony (I went for a very Chocolate French pastry by the Eiffel Tower.)

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Pride, in the form of hubris,  pervades everything. It shows above all in the confidence this endlessly lavish, spectacle of pointless, metastasizing consumption can be plopped down & maintained in the middle of a desert.

image This hotel has it right: it’s a mirage. And the Mexican section of “The  World’s Largest Gift Shop” jauntily shoves at customers the underlying reality of it all: memento mori! Eat drink & be merry, suckers, because tomorrow. . .

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I photobombed this advance guard for El Dia de Los Muertos. Can you tell?

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. . . Oh, but there is no tomorrow in Vegas.

Only one of the Seven Deadlies eluded my prying gaze here: sloth, acedia. Every where I turned, people were working hard, from the pimps on the corners, to scurrying hotel clerks,  the dealers at the craps tables,–even most of the revelers crowding the Saturday night street appeared diligent to the point of obsession in their-pleasure seeking; I certainly was.

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But what about the culminating deadly sin of Anger/Wrath? Seemingly it doesn’t fit the city’s painstakingly maintained image of naughty fun.

But fear not: it’s right offstage, just up U.S. 95 at what is reputed to be the biggest U.S. Killer drone facility, Creech Air Force Base.  (There was a round of little-noted anti-drone protests there early this month, and a “Sacred Peace Walk” from Vegas to  Creech is underway this week.)

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A drone at Creech AFB. The biggest gamble of all?

Think these two places aren’t connected?

That’s exactly what they want you to believe.

You can bet on it.

 

wanting the Best of Everything: Including Opinions

We Interrupt These Lenten Meditations for a Few Stray Words of Wisdom:

I’ve not read any of Saul Bellow’s novels, or non-fiction either.

But the following quote from a new book of his essays may force me to banish this ignorance. It comes out of his reflections on life & culture among the outwardly well-educated, usually solvent and seemingly liberal:

“People who have the best of everything also desire the best opinions. Top of the line.” He added: “As the allure of agreement — or conformism — grows, the perils of independence deepen. To differ is dangerous.”

That says so much in so few words, one can only add a few more of his stray comments:

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That is all. Have a thoughtful day.

 

Lenten Meditation: Bartram faces A Murderer, Alone

Lenten Meditation: Bartram faces A Murderer, Alone

IT may be proper to observe, that I had now passed the utmost frontier of the white settlements on that border. It was drawing on towards the close of day, the skies serene and calm, the air temperately imagecool, and gentle zephyrs breathing through the fragrant pines; the prospect Continue reading Lenten Meditation: Bartram faces A Murderer, Alone

Lenten Meditation: Bartram On Human & Animal Hunting

Human & Animal Hunting
From Bartram’s Travels, by William Bartram, 1791:

 I AM sensible that the general opinion of philosophers, has distinguished the moral system of the brute creature from that of mankind, by an epithet which  implies a mere mechanical impulse, which leads and impels them to necessary action without any premeditated design or contrivance, this we term instinct which faculty we suppose to be inferior to reason in man. Butterfly-Bartram

        THE parental, and filial affections seem to be as ardent, their sensibility and attachment, as active and faithful, as those observed to be in human nature. Continue reading Lenten Meditation: Bartram On Human & Animal Hunting

Lenten meditation: Trying To See Like William Bartram

Trying To See Like William Bartram

[Been very busy & traveling the past couple weeks, so haven’t kept up with my fellow-traveler/Spirit Guide, Friend William Bartram.]

But here he is, talking about plants, and especially trees. And one kind of tree jumped out at me from his list, the Live Oak. That’s because I’ve seen and been captivated by some magnificent specimens thereof, in a cemetery in Alabama.SM04-Liveoak-Selma-red

There’s lots of human history in that graveyard. But we’re gonna skip all that here, and just dwell on the chlorophyllic history. The place is only a few acres, but I think I could wander in it for hours, maybe days.]

Continue reading Lenten meditation: Trying To See Like William Bartram

Bartram & The Seminole King – A Quaker Lenten Meditation

Bartram & The Seminole King From Bartram’s Travels, published 1791 Alachua Indians

 AFTER crossing over this point or branch of the marshes, we entered a noble forest, the land level, and the soil fertile, being a loose, dark brown, coarse sandy loam, on a clay or marley foundation; the forests were Orange groves, overtoped by grand Magnolias, Palms, Live Oaks . . . with various kinds of shrubs and herbacious plants . . . .

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Alachua Savana — in Florida, a land of the Seminoles, sketched by bartram

 

We were chearfully received in this hospitable shade, by various tribes of birds, Continue reading Bartram & The Seminole King – A Quaker Lenten Meditation

William Bartram: Up To His A** In Alligators

William Bartram, A Quaker Lenten Journey: Up To His Ass In AlligatorsTravels-book-open

William Bartram, traveling by canoe alone, somewhere in Florida, circa 1773. What I’m reflecting on: this was what he most wanted to do, what he felt was his leading. (I have divided some of his long sentences & longer paragraphs, for modern readers. The spelling is original.)

     THE evening was temperately cool and calm. The crocodiles began to roar and appear in uncommon numbers along the shores and in the river. I fixed my camp in an open plain, near the utmost projection of the promontory, under the shelter of a large Live Oak, which stood on the highest part of the ground and but a few yards from my boat.  Continue reading William Bartram: Up To His A** In Alligators

Traveling With A Divergent Friend For Lent: William Bartram

William Bartram: Divergent Friend

I’ve taken a fancy to do some traveling for Lent this year. I plan to join William Bartram, an independent-minded Quaker naturalist and artist, in a  journey through much of the southeast U.S.

WilliamBartramThis is not the Southeast of today, but that of 1773, so technically there wasn’t a U.S. yet; whatever. Bartram spent four years wandering the Southeast, drawing plants and animals, maps, and doing sketch portraits of Indians he visited with, and he visited with many.

I call him a “Divergent Friend” because he went his own way, following his own leading.  He was not a “rebel” or a troublemaker; yet he was hardly typical or “normal” either.

Continue reading Traveling With A Divergent Friend For Lent: William Bartram