Summa This & Summa That (in which we hold forth on everything from the wonders of Super Glue to Obama’s interview of a great American (Christian) novelist. . . .
So just last night I posted this on my Facebook page after (mis)using some Super Glue:
“When Super Glue drips all down your finger and you feel icky and stoopid.”
Super Glue is a super invention if you have the manual dexterity to use it without sticking a couple of fingers together or dripping it on things you can never remove it from.
(I know, nail polish remover gets it right off the skin, but I don’t keep a lot of nail polish or remover in my man cave.)
A good friend who used to be in the medical profession replied with this:
“I worked with a heart surgeon who used it when he couldn’t suture a blown heart ventricle during a case. It was a last resort and this was back in, like, 2001. That was a legendary case for all of us who worked on the team.”
Like I say, it’s a super thing Super Glue.
And then today–lo!–another Facebook friend in Austin happened to note on his Timeline that he heard a street preacher say: “God is the Super Glue that holds everything together.”
As we Methodist clergy types say, “That’ll preach.”
There is no such thing as death. It doesn’t exist.”
— Methodist religions scholar Huston Smith
Huston Smith’s life was a long, strange trip.
I was required to read his classic book The World’s Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions in seminary. I was swept away by how he immersed himself in major religions in order to know them inside out and, more importantly, to connect all the dots that bind them.
He didn’t just study religions, he lived them. He sought enlightenment in a Zen monastery in Japan. He joined a secret Muslim fraternity. He made pilgrimages to Himalayan holy sites. He probed the religious import of mind-altering drugs. (He once said “the goal of spiritual life is not altered states, but altered traits.”)
It wasn’t exactly a 9 to 5 work life.
The son of Methodist missionaries in China, Smith, an ordained Methodist minister himself, died Friday at 97.
Some may remember him from the PBS series “The Wisdom of Faith” with Bill Moyers.
The World’s Religions is an eloquent, reader-friendly book for people outside of seminaries and theology academies. It’s worth checking out if you’re interested in learning more about everything from Confucianism (a fascinating religious philosophy) to Islam. Many of the interviews with Moyers and lectures by Smith are on Youtube as well.
And here’s yet another interesting quote I once posted here at the blog from an interview Smith had with United Methodist Communications:
“I have given my career to immersing not just my intellect and knowledge in the eight great religions that have most effected human history, but I have also engaged in their practices.
“So when Bill Moyers completed his 5-part PBS special “The Wisdom of Faith with Huston Smith,” Newsweek had a two-page spread on the series. And they liked it a lot, and they came up with an amazing headline: Huston Smith – Spiritual Surfer.
“That’s a great headline, but it’s not actually true. I used two metaphors. Christianity has always been my meal, but I’m a great believer in vitamin supplements. And I glean spiritual vitamins from these other religions, and they weave their way through my life, and they make it more spiritually healthy. But you can’t live on vitamins only. And my meal is Christianity.
“My other metaphor is a basketball player pivoting, the left foot planted in the same place, and the right foot moving from place to place.
There is a kind of fad today in new age religion that I call the cafeteria approach. A kind of do-it-yourself religion, in which you take a little bit from this one, and a little bit from Buddhism, and something from Tai Chi from China, and maybe some Hatha yoga.
“The trouble with that cafeteria approach is that most of the people who go down the cafeteria take what they like. They don’t necessarily take what they need. Nutritionists know a lot about what we need. And if we knew what we need when we went down that line, we would be at the end of the religious journey, not the beginners that we all are in ways.”
I thought one of the interesting interviews in politically charged 2016 wasn’t a political interview at all, even though it touched on a good bit of politics between two card-carrying liberals.
It was President Obama’s interview with Marilyn Robinson, one of the greatest American novelists and thinkers–who happens to be a deeply Christian novelist and thinker.
They had a long, free-wheeling discussion in Iowa, where Robinson is a professor, about all things religious. It was a wonderful meeting of two great minds.
During the discussion Obama said, “Someone once said that there has to be a problem with Christianity because four hundred denominations later they still can’t get it right.”
Robinson said: “People in the churches worry about that, but would we be richer for the loss of Catholicism? Would we be richer for the loss of the Quakers? Isn’t it true that every one of these traditions expresses Christianity in a way that the other traditions could not? It’s prismatic.
“Religion, however, has presented itself in some extremely unattractive forms. It has recruited people into excitements that don’t look attractive to their neighbors. People seem to be profoundly disposed toward religion, yet they’re not terribly good at it.”
To which I would say, “Ain’t that the truth.”
Obama noted at the outset of the conversation that he loves Robinson’s novel Gilead about a pastor in Iowa. “one of my favorite characters in fiction is a pastor in Gilead, Iowa, named John Ames, who is gracious and courtly and a little bit confused about how to reconcile his faith with all the various travails that his family goes through. And I was just–I just fell in love with the character, fell in love with the book, and then you and I had a chance to meet when you got a fancy award at the White House. And then we had dinner and our conversations continued ever since.”
Gilead is a beautiful, meditative novel loved by many and very many clergy and theological types, myself included.
So I commend to you serious readers the discussion between the POTUS and a great American writer which can be read (or viewed) here.