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Original Sin

I have spent most of my spiritual life avoiding argument. It is usually a better idea to find common ground where one can and let people have their own spiritual truths. The exception would be if someone’s religious beliefs promoted violence, oppression, inequality, or caused physical harm. There are aspects of these negatives to most religions, particularly Monotheism, in which, not only is only one specific deity is recognized, but the worship of the deity is specific to one religion or religious sect. However, most people recognize the importance of extending the courtesy of religious freedom to others that they themselves would want to have extended to themselves. It prevents war.

This argument is really more of the bomb throwing kind. I’m not actually looking to start a fight, but I could easily avoid one by not making the following thesis: The Adam & Eve story is so ridiculous that it could never have been meant to be taken literally. That is; it was written by someone who thought the very idea of what they were writing was too ridiculous to be taken literally. It was probably a kind of teaching story that we lost the lesson part of in the ensuing millenia.

Here’s what I mean: Adam & Eve are created without original sin by an all-knowing, all-powerful, Loving, forgiving God. A God so loving and forgiving, he eventually sends Jesus to save mankind from itself. God places Adam & Even in the Garden of Eden, where they can eat or drink anything they want. The world is literally their oyster. With one notable exception: They cannot eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. You will probably agree that this is a very specific kind of tree. It’s not the tree of bad haircuts, or the tree of drunk driving; it’s the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And, although, the completely new, innocent and inexperienced Adam and Eve can eat from any tree in their garden, they can not eat of this tree. that’s also in their garden, where they can eat anything they want.

So at first they do pretty good. But then the devil comes as a snake in the grass to tempt Eve. And it works. She eats from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And then she tempts Adam into doing it. And then God, who is everywhere, comes to the garden. The all-knowing God asks Adam and Eve what they were up to. Well, they hide, because what do they have now that they didn’t have before? Knowledge of good and evil. So they know they’ve done something wrong. So the All forgiving, loving God, what does He do to these first offenders? He Sentences them to death! And not just them; but all their progeny for all time. That’s me and you. We didn’t eat from the damn tree! Why are we being punished? So the all-knowing, all-wise God gave Adam and Eve free will and the all-powerful God put the temptation in their garden. In their refrigerator, if you will. “Hey, I’m gonna stock your fridge with food, you can eat whatever you want, but not this fruit that’s basically the same as all the other fruit except you can’t eat it.” “k. by.!”

What was the name of that tree? The tree of knowledge of good and evil. So, they didn’t know good from bad before they ate from the tree? So they couldn’t know it was wrong to do it? And God being all-knowing, knew they would eat from it. Hell, I knew they would eat from it, and I’m not all-knowing. So the all loving all forgiving, Just God punishes Adam and Eve for doing something they couldn’t conceive was wrong in the first place. And He’s punishing us for it, when we didn’t even do it! He gave them free will. He put the fruit tree in their garden and told them not to eat that one.

At this point, I would like to point out that I often use the analogy of a kid who sticks his finger in an electric socket when his parents have told him not to. The electric shock the kid suffers is not punishment for disobeying his parents, but merely the consequence of putting your finger in the socket. That’s not what’s happening to Adam and Eve. We are told specifically and repeatedly that this is punishment for disobeying God’s commandment. This God is an asshole.

That’s why I think this story was not meant to be taken literally. As Tori Amos says; “I thing the Good book is missing some pages…”

I think most of the fables in the Bible are meant to make us think. There are also some teachings that contradict others. There are some that I just don’t agree with. I think this is a case of “we don’t have the whole story.”

But it won’t make you think, if you just take it literally as this is how things are and how God operates. It’s not how things are, and it’s not how God operates. Learn to think, to ask questions.

I worship an all knowledgeable, all-powerful, all Loving God. This story does not depict that God.

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The New Adventures of Young Robin Hood

The sheriff went pale with shock. “You let Marian go and take me instead! If you can!”
“And who might you be?” yelled the sheriff.
“Why I’m Robin! Robin Hood of course!” and with that, Robin beat a retreat back the way he had come.

Join all your favorite characters and meet some new ones in this new retelling of the classic folktale.

Available here.

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Our Lady of Lourdes

When I set out to illustrate the story of Saint Bernadette, I was surprised to find that there were photos of her. After some digging, I found a whole cache of photos taken right after she had her visions. Someone had had the foresight to pose her in the positions and outfits she was wearing during her visions.
When it came time to paint Mary herself, I knew no photos would be forthcoming. I looked at a lot of Marian paintings (long one of my favorite subjects) and realized that Mary seemed to appear to people in ways that would make them comfortable: San Diego saw a woman who could be a fellow native, there are “Black Madonnas not just from Africa but Eastern Europe as well. In Italy she is depicted as blonde (more from the available models than visions, granted) I decided to find a model that looked similar to Bernadette herself. I didn’t have to look far. Although it had never occurred to me before, I realized my good friend Carmen bore a striking resemblance to Bernadette. She agreed to be my model.
Saint Bernadette describes her vision of the Virgin: ”She has the appearance of a young girl of sixteen or seventeen. She is dressed in a white robe, girdled at the waist with a blue ribbon which flows down all along Her robe. She wears upon Her head a veil which is also white; this veil gives just a glimpse of Her hair and then falls down at the back below Her waist. Her feet are bare but covered by the last folds of Her robe except at the point where a yellow rose shines upon each of them.”
With this as a starting point, I painted St Mary as Berndadette may have seen her on that fateful day. I painted this watercolor as an illustration for my Book “The Lady in White” (available here), and offer a print from the painting to you for the first time.
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Belief is a powerful thing. It is often misunderstood and as a word it is often misused. Belief shapes the way we see the world and the way we see ourselves and others. Jesus says repeatedly; “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” We are always being told to “believe in ourselves”. We hear it so often, it loses its meaning.
When I was in college, I took a small business management class. We were all art students at a prestigious art school and a common question was; “when will my work be worth a lot of money?” and the answer was always, “When you believe you are worth it.” The students wanted a pragmatic answer; “Oh you have to pay your dues learning the ropes for five years, then you can start your own business and in a couple of years, you will be in the top 5%” or something like that. Everyone’s journey is different and there is no pat answer to such a question. That’s what I thought this non answer was about. But the answer was pragmatic. Belief rules every decision we make.
In spiritual matters, belief seems to have a slightly different meaning that is tied to faith and implies doubt. Whereas knowledge is the elimination of doubt. I would differentiate the two like this: “I believe in God, but I know the sky is blue.” I know the sky is blue because I can see it. I have proof. I have no experiential knowledge of God. A Sufi teacher once told me that she would not give her soul to something she wasn’t sure of; something she only had read of in a book or been told of by others. Her soul was too important to her. She had to have experiential knowledge of God if she was going to give her soul over to such a being. She argued that this was not too much to ask, and that in fact it would be foolish to do otherwise. This has always stuck with me. She said she had found it in the Sufi path. Indeed this is a recurring theme among seekers and the guides we meet along the path.
I did not follow that teacher or dedicate my life to her school. I did follow her advise though.
She said: “The best way to get directions to someone’s house is to ask the owner. If, however, you don’t know how to contact the owner, the next best thing to do is get directions from someone who has been there.”
“If you don’t know how to get to God’s house, find someone who has been there who can show you the way.”
Then she said this:
“If you don’t know someone who has been to God’s house, pray for God to send someone to show you the way, and if your prayer is sincere, God will send you a guide.”
I went home and prayed for a guide. Soon after I met someone who after much cajoling would teach me to meditate. I learned a great deal from this teacher. I learned much more than just meditating. Being on the Path is a way of life. It is the ultimate endeavor in life, and should permeate every aspect of every action and thought. Of course we are human and will falter. We must live our lives, pay our bills meet our obligations, and we must live a life that will last a lifetime. If we dedicate ourselves to God and don’t do anything else, and it doesn’t pay off in a short time, we may quit. But if we have the long term in mind, we can carry on with our lives, but with a new focus, through this new prism of getting home to God’s house.
I have moved on from life with that teacher. She told me from the outset that she too was on the Path, but had not been to God’s house. She showed me what she could and we have moved on with our lives.

Perhaps my prayer wasn’t earnest enough. Perhaps I held a fear that an enlightened master would make me give up more than I was ready to give up. Whatever the case, God sent me exactly what I needed at the time. Just as I believed He would