Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

On To Better Things…

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Are you a book reader?  For me it’s both adventure and wonder on paper.

I just finished reading Philip Caputo’s , The Longest Road – Overland in Search of America, from Key West to the Arctic Ocean. I was drawn to the book  not only because is it a travel adventure in a vintage Airstream trailer, but it’s also  a quest to discover how the United States stays united. From Key West, Florida to Deadhorse, Alaska the author poses this question to travelers along the 6000 plus mile journey ; how does our country stay united?

Willa Cather, another fine writer said in her marvelous novel, Death Comes For the Archbishop,

               ” Men travel faster now, but I do not know if they go to better things.

It’s not news that our country seems increasingly more divided, at least on the political front of late. But there was a time we worked and played together as a country to move it forward. Right now we seem unquestionably mired down in the muck of not agreeing how to move forward together again. Extremes have illustrated how deeply we feel about what and who should take us to a better future. People are finding the discord very unsettling and while some jump into the mix, others run for shelter and avoid the whole mess. I think these times are important. How will we know the proper way forward unless we dig deep and uncover the important truths? I don’t mind the mess or the fight. I am eager to hear all sides and remain very HOPEFUL that through the fog of confusion we currently reside in, we will find a clear path out and move forward again. 

I won’t do a book review, but I will leave you with a little spoiler that left me feeling , well, hopeful.

It ends on an observation that HOPE has been not just what keeps us together, but what brought us together. And maybe we can start moving again by agreeing to be hopeful.

At Christmas time, the followers of Christ are called to be “in” the world, but not “of ” it. Being “in” the world means that we have a calling to support, celebrate, and participate in those things which are good and positive, while simultaneously avoiding the bad. So let’s move at the speed of light towards the good and see how quickly we can come out of the fog.

Merry Christmas people.

growing up in the ‘question’… or, cheer up P. J. O’Rourke

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Wall Street Journal  – dateline Sat/Sun November 30-December 1, 2013 . REVIEW section, front page feature article , THE BOOMER BUST, by P. J. O’Rourke – essayist.

P.J. O’Rourke has a thing or two to get off his chest about  being one of and observing the 75 million odd baby boomer generation. He seems to be deeply troubled by our  existence and wallowing in baby boomer’s remorse  while he speaks for ALL of us. His musings embrace  his own self- loathing and our collective one as well. Thanks for worrying about us  P.J. O’Rourke.

The baby boomers have an exact definition. Did you know that? A precise demography we are told in his essay.

‘We are the children who were born during a period after WWII when the long-term trend in fertility among American women was exceeded.’

This definition is further broken down into the following catagories.

Seniors – those born in the late 40’s.

Juniors – those born in the early 1950’s ( your’s truly)

Sophomores – those born in the late 1950’s

Freshman – those born in the early 1960’s

This time span from the late 40’s to the early 60’s was  generally characterized by a profusion of opportunity concurrent with a collapse of traditional social standards. Mr. O’Rourke opines that this perfect storm of opportunity and social standard breakdown led us ‘en masse’ to become …” greedy for love, happiness, thrills, fame, inner peace and money.”

Furthermore, we are ‘NOT a generation who listens to anybody, including God.’

We are ‘the generation who insisted that a passion for living should replace working for one.’ All we cared about was our ‘personal universe.’

                                    Hey! Baby boomers…are you feeling BAD about yourself yet?! 

P.J. concludes his essay by pointing out that we now must come to the obvious conclusion that in our dotage, ‘everything you were told , was wrong and we must despair!’

I will hold off on the despair for just a bit while I make some of my own observations… from a Junior’s point of view.

We were most definitely born in an age of wondrous opportunity – certainly more than our parents ever could have imagined for us. We were, however, just children born into that time with no knowledge that it was a ‘golden ‘ era of prosperity or that we were destined to be the gigantic know- it -all generation of selfish leeches on society that according to P.J., we have become. Anyway… as we were growing up, mysteries did still abound. Like, why did our father’s spend hours on the couch watching old black and white movies about Hitler? Why would you watch that when the Three Stooges could entertain you so much better? Hitler was boring, and we had no way to relate any of that piece of history to our young, shiny, hopeful lives that our parents had born us into. They wanted to shield us and move us on from that dark time in both our history and the world’s. It was a new day and we were destined to move it forward with their help. We added hope to our ‘personal universe’.

Much like many of my generation and the seniors before me, our parents did not go to college. Yet they were not so uneducated that they did not see the great value it would be to us in the new world we were born into. So off to colleges we marched in great numbers, as much to get educated as to spare their young sons the horror of fighting in the Vietnam War. A war, as a generation, we questioned. We added education to our ‘personal universe’, with a healthy dose of questioning authority.

Now equipped with fine college educations, hope, and a questioning mind we went on to advance technology, medicine, religion, sexual equality, racial equality, women’s choices, career stereotypes, music, arts, literature, science , and the quality of life for 75 million people – just here in our country alone.

My goodness…what had our parents wrought? We were certainly NOT the Greatest Generation. We know who they are and what they did and sacrificed for us, and they deserve that title. The Greatest Generation gave us the age of opportunity and we embraced it whole heartedly. I’m frankly mystified by what perfect world we were obliged to create to satisfy P.J. O’Rourke’s viewpoint of our wasted lives. We have clearly been negligent to his thinking.

It is my contention that the best thing we learned and then shared as a generation was to QUESTION EVERYTHING. We questioned authority endlessly and on every front until we got answers that led us to a better understanding of our world and those on the planet that we shared it with.

                                   I believe as a generation, we learned to’ live in the question’.

And in doing so, we have kept an open and hopeful mind to the future. That is personally what I believe I have passed on to my son and his generation.

I do not share P.J. O’Rourke’s snarky, sad viewpoint on the 75 million baby boomer’s impact on society over the last 67 years. Perhaps his own personal expectations and achievements have led him to this rather dark and unfulfilled viewpoint. All I can say is, cheer up P.J., and peace out.


( featured image , WHAT HAVE I LEARNED? , canvas collage by Catherine Massaro)


higher ground

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I have always loved organizational principles. It’s one of the things I love about the process of creating a piece of art – organizing both my ideas and the technical constructs of how I am going to communicate my idea through the work. One of my canvas collages from the TO END IS TO BEGIN series is entitled, PEARLS of WISDOM. The piece is about the many, many ways there are of embracing higher principals. Or as Stevie Wonder said in his beautiful song…Higher Ground.

They say, with practice, adherence to higher principals instead of personal prejudices can become second nature. For instance, you could practice a different value each day of the week. This great weekly approach is from Dr. Amit Sood chair of the Mayo Mind Body Initiative

 Monday : GRATITUDE – find 5 things to be grateful for.

Tuesday : COMPASSION – intend to decrease pain & suffering throughout your day, recognizing that everyone experiences pain, loss and suffering.

Wednesday : ACCEPTANCE – live your day by accepting yourself as you are and others as they are.

Thursday : MEANING & PURPOSE – with some humility and perspective, focus on the ultimate meaning and purpose of your life.

Friday : FORGIVENESS –  start by forgiving yourself for past mistakes and then move on to others.

Saturday : CELEBRATION –  celebrate your life and the lives of those around you, savor the joy that brings.

Sunday : REFLECTION – This may be through prayer, meditation or simply awareness.


And there you have a weeks worth of mindful living in the moment.

Mindfulness is a way of life … and life can be full of meaning , purpose and joy. And that is what PEARLS OF WISDOM is to me.

color my world…

“Of all God’s gifts to the sight of man, color is the holiest, the most divine, the most solemn.” John Ruskin

To my memory, I grew up in a pretty colorful environment. In  the 1950’s, our  house was turquoise,  and our car was fushia. In our living room – bright lime green chairs and flamingo pink curtains. In the kitchen, colorful Fiestaware dishes. But the experience of color that lit the fire of an artist in me, was watching my mother paint a trio of circus themed paint-by-numbers for my soon-to-be baby brother’s nursery. I watched at her elbow daily as the paintings took shape, mesmerized by the tiny color- filled paint pots, the smell of turpentine, and the magic as she placed one color next to the other until forms took shape as a giraffe,  an elephant, a circus pony. It was nothing short of magic to eye of a six year old. I watched till the very last brush stroke was placed ever so perfectly on the end of the giraffe’s tongue  – a tiny dot of  shiny white. My mother was a genius! I wanted to do that someday too, and as time passed, I did that and much more.

Fast forward to me an artist in 1972,  a new mom, setting up my soon-to-be son’s nursery, hanging that sweet and colorful memory on his wall. I still own that treasured set of paint-by-numbers, and they have photographs taped to back of them.  One of my mother proudly propping up her new son in his blue polka dot diapers with the circus paintings on the wall behind them and another, me with my new baby boy, and  the same set hanging behind us.

Now, it’s 2013 and that set  of paint-by-numbers hang in my Texas studio as a constant reminder of  how color can in fact, be the greatest gift to the sight of man, and a nod to my mother, for raising me in such a colorful, joyful environment.

There is a Hindu festival called Holi, during which crowds of celebrants hurl colored powders at each other in commemoration of Krishna’s pranks. It’s a frenzied scene of crowds with whirls of color and the faces of people covered in hot pink, yellow,  and orange. So as solemn and holy as John Ruskin’s comment on God’s gift of color is, I prefer the Holi celebration where worship is a loud and joyful festival of color. But he is most certainly correct on the divine part.

May you live in a world of  joyful color.

open heart

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keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come…

( featured photograph by Catherine Massaro)

catching up on the world

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It’s Sunday … a day of rest. Do yourself a favor and really embrace that concept whether it’s from a religious point of view or not. The world has gotten so complex, so overwhelming, with instant knowledge of everything around us from all parts of the earth and even beyond that realm. It’s simply too much for us to comprehend.
What we can practically change or impact is so very limited and small compared to what we hope to accomplish, it’s exhausting to our minds and spirit. So don’t try and catch up on the world because it’s a day off, instead sit still and let it go by. Revel in the slow and stillness and take a day off from the complexities of life.
Trying to catch up on the world can’t be done and trying to will get you nowhere; like this poor guy in the featured photograph.

Relax everyone.

(featured photograph by Catherine Massaro)

Happy Birthday Dalai Lama!

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Yesterday was the Dalai Lama’s 78th birthday. I love the Dalai Lama. I love the baby Jesus too. And Buddha as well. I mean, what’s not to love?

It wasn’t always that way for me. Religion was so damn confusing to me as a child. Being raised Roman Catholic had lots of rules, but it narrowed down to one basic rule … having faith. No matter what confusing question I posed to the nuns at Sunday school, the pat answer to all the mysteries in my life was always answered with…have faith. This answer was very unsatisfying to me. I was looking for some real answers. Why are all those children in Africa starving? Why did my dog have to get run over by a car? Where is that pony I prayed for every year? Then as I got older – what’s the deal with that Vietnam War? Why are so many people dying of cancer? Why did my friend commit suicide? The world’s problems kept getting bigger and more out of control. I heard no good answers, and faith  certainly wasn’t cutting it. I was a fallen Catholic.

The road back to any kind of faith came after a 3 year experience with the Unitarian Universalist Church. The first year I attended happened to center around the teachings of world religions. Each service was a different speaker, about a different country and its’ religion, and the after service refreshments were pot luck donations of food that featured the culinary experience of that country. And as the adults were upstairs at the service, the children were downstairs learning about customs and geography and beliefs of the children of those different worlds and world religions. Gosh it was eye opening. Suddenly the commonalities of world religions started coming together for me and I began to get my own sense of how religion could work for me.

                                I learned it’s better to believe too much than nothing at all. 

And the best thing I learned, was in the beautiful words of Vincent Van Gogh – “But I always think the best way to know God is to love many things.” I think the Dalai Lama would like that birthday wish. Love many things.

Anyway, don’t get all worried about religion, having one, following rules … we all find our way if we have an open heart. So go get your own glimpse of God. Because the only possible spiritual path is your own experience.



(photo detail from FORSAKEN , canvas collage by Catherine Massaro)