The hymn of Purusha

Another in a series of stories for liberal religious kids. This is my adaptation of a hymn from the Rig Veda (book 10, hymn 90). Notes and discussion at the end.

Before the beginning of all things, a giant being named Purusha existed. Purusha had thousands of heads, and thousands of eyes, and thousands of feet. He was huge and embraced the earth on all sides; and at the same time he filled a space only ten fingers wide, the size of the space which holds a human soul. Purusha was the Primeval Man, the man who came before all human beings.

Purusha was everything, all that had once been, and all that which shall be in the future. He was the god of immortality, and he now lives through sacrificial food which humans offer up to him. All beings and creatures make up one quarter of him; the rest of him is immortal life in a world beyond this world. The three quarters of Purusha which are immortal life rose up high, and the remaining one quarter of him remains here on earth.

Before the beginning, Purusha gave birth to his female counterpart, who was named Virat. When she was born, she took the form of an egg. And then Virat in turn gave birth, and she bore her male counterpart, Purusha. Continue reading “The hymn of Purusha”

We try out “think-pair-share”

After a meeting of Sunday school teachers last night, Heather said to me, “You didn’t have the kids act out the story during Sunday school on Sunday, did you?”

“No, we didn’t,” I said, curious to know how she had figured it out.

“I knew it,” she said. “When I asked the kids what they had done in Sunday school, they said, ‘I dunno.’ I asked if they had heard about Joseph, and they didn’t remember. So I knew you hadn’t acted the story out.”

Because we had twenty children in one group, Joe and I had opted not to have the children act out the story. Instead, Joe had introduced one of his favorite pedagogical methods, think-pair-share. We asked a seventh grader to aloud the story of how Joseph’s brothers encountered him once again as a powerful official in Egypt. Then Joe asked the children think about a specific question about the story, pair up with another child, and share what they had been thinking about. After giving time for the pairs of children to share with each other, we called the children back to a large group discussion. Continue reading “We try out “think-pair-share””

How to translate “French seaside lifestyle”

Three of us were standing around talking this evening. Terry said she had gone to Paris this summer, and acted as the translator for the people with whom she traveled. Since she obviously knew more French than I did, I asked her if she could come up with a translation of a phrase Carol and I had been struggling with this morning, “French seaside lifestyle.” Would it be “le mode de le vie francais de le bord de la mer”? (Terry said “…au bord de la mer.”) And that got us talking about the French lifestyle.

Terry said that although the Parisians have a reputation of being rude, she liked how people were careful to greet one another: when you go into a shop, you always say, “Bonjour monsieur” or “Bonjour madame” to the shopkeeper, and he or she will greet you in kind. So when you walk around Paris, you may not speak to anyone whom you know all day, but you feel that you have been recognized as a person. This is in contrast to the Bay area, where you often aren’t recognized as a person. Terry said the Bay area can feel very isolating, and we both agreed with her.

Jeremy added that the French find little ways to enjoy life. Families will sit outside and spend two hours eating lunch. There are times and places built in to life that are devoted to simple enjoyment. This is unlike our society, where life can get reduced to work, or to buying and selling, or to being on the go all the time.

All three of us knew that we were idealizing French culture. But even so, U.S. culture can feel very isolating, and in the U.S. we often forget that there’s more to life than just being on the go all the time.

Getting in trouble

Last month, the prompt for our writing group at the Palo Alto church was this: Write about a time when you got into trouble as a child….

The old Hodgman farm was sold, and the road for the new development went in during the summer of 1965. A year or two after that, they started building a a house or two down the new road. The kids in the neighborhood would ride our bikes by where this one house was being built. We knew that when the carpenters were working on the house, we would not be allowed to set foot on the lot. But in the evening, or on the weekend, we might walk a little ways up the driveway to see what progress had been made on the building.

One day, a bunch of us were looking at the house. I know my sister Jean was there, and a couple of other kids her age, perhaps eight or nine years old. There were also a few younger kids closer to my age, perhaps six or seven. I can’t remember who the other children were, but at least a couple of them were members of the extended Hodgman family.

We looked at the house. The walls and rafters were framed up, most of the plywood sheathing had been nailed on, but there were no windows or doors, no siding or roofing. You could see that the stairs to the second floor consisted of nothing more than stringers with some boards nailed on for rough stair treads. It looked very interesting, and very inviting. Continue reading “Getting in trouble”

The end of summer slow-downs

This is a busy time of year for many of us who serve congregations as paid staffers or lay leaders. The summer slow down is over, and it’s time to ramp up to the regular schedule. It can be a stressful time of year in congregational life.

And for the first time, I’m feeling impatient with the stress. Why do we even bother to slow down in the summer? I know I have pretty much the same religious needs all year round, and the summer slow-down doesn’t make sense to me.

Not that I don’t value seasonal changes in congregational life. I used to love summers in the Unitarian Universalist congregation I grew up in because the senior minister would get other ministers to preach there while he was on vacation; we’d have several weeks of a rotating cast of characters preaching their best sermons from the past year. (Mind you, I have also been a part of a congregation where the summer services were led by ill-prepared and unskilled speakers; one member of that congregation called summer services “amateur hour”; but that’s a whole different blog post.)

But this idea of partially closing the congregation down in the summer no longer makes sense to me. Sometimes it seems like the only thing the summer slow-down accomplishes is increasing my stress and my workload in the month of August. I just want to put an end to summer slowdowns.

This is what you get when you raise your kids in a UU church

As a religious educator, when I watch kids grow up as Unitarian Universalists, I hope that when they become adults they will be thoughtful and critical of the world around them, they will value the arts, and they will have a sense of humor. Like this:

“A Song.” Written and performed by Eli Grober.

(Click through and leave your comments for Eli on YouTube.)

This year’s Berry Street lecture

The text of this year’s Berry Street lecture is now up on the Web. At the Berry Street lecture this past June, Rev. Dr. Deborah Pope-Lance spoke for over an hour to some six hundred Unitarian Universalists on the topic of clergy misconduct. I found it to be a riveting lecture in June, and it is well worth reading the text of the lecture, if for no other reason than the link to the Web page that discusses whom Carly Simon might have been thinking about when she wrote the song “You’re So Vain.”

After Deborah gave the lecture in June, I was one of the many people who crowded around her, wanting to shake her hand. She shook my hand, and all I could say was “Thank you.” I meant: Thank you for telling the truth of clergy misconduct, and for doing so with grace and humor, and in such a way that rather than provoking resistance perhaps we can deal productively with the aftereffects of misconduct. And now I would add: Thank you for pointing out the role of narcissism in clergy misconduct, and thank you for pointing out how “clergy misconduct is nested in an ecology that either promotes or inhibits breakdowns in the ministerial relationships.”

But enough of this. If you weren’t at the Berry Street lecture in June, now is your chance to go read this important document.


My friend and fellow blogger E wrote a brief post on the magnitude 5.8 earthquake that hit Washington, D.C.: nothing was broken, the cats were scared, a few things fell. And as I started reading her post, sure enough Carol and felt a small magnitude 3.9 earthquake* here in San Mateo: there was a little bit of a noise, the house shook noticeably for about five seconds, and it was over. E ends her post by saying: “What a great reminder that we cannot change much of what happens, but we have a choice in how we behave in response.”

* Later downgraded to 3.6.