Saturday, April 18, 2009

Blue Jean Bonus Babies

Did you see George Will's column in Thursday's Post? He used the space for a rant about blue jeans.
Among other declarations about the demon denim, he wrote, "Denim is the infantile uniform of a nation in which entertainment frequently features childlike adults ("Seinfeld," "Two and a Half Men") and cartoons for adults ("King of the Hill").
Cheryl read it and thought that surely it was sartorial satire, but the punch line was missing.
I tested Will's opinion with the three octogenarian women with whom I have lunch most Thursdays. They are mature enough not to need advice from a whippersnapper such as Will. Of course, two of them were wearing jeans to lunch.
We decided that perhaps Will has worn a tie so long that it cut off the blood flow to his brain.
Our brain-dead theory got us to thinking about the well-dressed men (and it was mostly men) who brought Wall Street tumbling down and cut deeply into the retirement savings of many of our nation's elderly. Perhaps we would be better off if the masters of the universe, who seem to worry more about bonuses and Brooks Brothers than they do about their fiduciary responsibilities with other people's money, were replaced by some good ol' boys and girls in jeans and flannel shirts.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Spirituality for Mii

I'm breathing out the deep sigh of relief that hits pastors post-Easter, and breathing in some spiritual practices for the coming 40 days.
We got Cheryl and Wii Fit for her birthday last week. It's a total hoot, with all kinds of silly games that, if you follow the instructions, actually give you a good workout. The games include some yoga movements -- most of which cannot actually be done in our basement without crashing fingers into the ceiling. But the ones that can be done feel surprisingly good. I've long thought that yoga would be good for me because I am among the least flexible people ever. I suppose I make up in "closed-bodyness" for my open-mindedness! In any case, stretching and breathing deeply is a lot more invigorating than I would have guessed.
Alas, my Wii Mii is a rather squat fellow because the sweet voice of the Wii tells me that I need to loose weight. No surprise in that, but did my doppelganger have to get so rotund so quickly?
Ah, well, perhaps by Pentecost he will have slimmed down a bit.
In the meanwhile, I'm stretching body and spirit in a 40-day journey with Sister Joan Chittister. I'm following a little book that is one of Augsburg Press's 40 Day Journey With ... series.
I began this morning, and, perhaps not surprisingly, the first reading concerns the nature of spirituality. Sr. Joan writes, "Spirituality is about the hunger in the human heart. It seeks not only a way to exist, but a reason to exist that is beyond the biological or the institutional or event the traditional."
Those words leaped out at me this morning because I'd just read Michael Gerson's column in the Post, in which he responds to neuroscientist Andrew Newburg's new book, How God Changes Your Brain.
Gerson writes,
Using brain imaging studies of Franciscan nuns and Buddhist practitioners, and Sikhs and Sufis -- along with everyday people new to meditation -- Newberg asserts that traditional spiritual practices such as prayer and breath control can alter the neural connections of the brain, leading to "long-lasting states of unity, peacefulness and love."

In other words, some combination of my reflections with Sr. Joan and Wii Fit breathing my lead me to be more loving. Hm ... time will tell.
The more challenging part of Newberg's findings, as Gerson reports them, comes with the insight that the kind of God one imagines determines the part of one's brain that is strengthened through religious practice. In other words, if one imagines a God of love, the part of one's brain where empathy resides. On the other hand, if one imagines a God of wrath the part of the brain where aggression resides is strengthened.
As Gerson puts it, "The God we choose to love changes us into his image, whether he exists or not."
As for me, I'm holding fast to the God of love I know through Jesus. No other god is worthy of my time -- especially if such a god is going to get inside my head and rot my brain!