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Sabbath Day

February 1, 2015

Thursday, January 29

My family is two weeks away from a move that will reduce our carbon footprint by 25%. Our family has purchased a coop apartment just four blocks from the house we currently rent. But the cumulative effect of being closer to the city, a short walk to the grocery store, with fewer rooms to heat and less stuff to store will reduce our energy use significantly. If our son takes the bus to school next year that will be a plus.

Much of this day was spent cleaning and packing in preparation for our move.

Nevertheless, in the course of this day I managed to find quiet time with a few good books. The first 20 minutes was used to finish the Ian Fleming novel, Dr. No. I collected all the original Bond books years ago but never got around to reading them. Now that I am downsizing and refusing to store things for a “someday” which may never come, I thought I ought to read at least one of these novels. The book was so different than the film that I am tempted to hold on to the set a while longer to read a few more. (Only God knows when I will have the time).

Anyone want to buy a complete Fleming set?

Another book I had time to skim completely today was Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of this World for Crucifixion and Empire by Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker. I spent a few hours reading at Lilli Pilli Berri Bar in White Plains, our local juice and health bar (one block from our new home). Brock and Parker trace how the Christian message of the triumphant life of God became an obsession with death; how salvation (literally – healing) became an imitation of, and acceptance of, suffering. I was drawn back to this book by my concurrent reading of Sara Lipton’s Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Jewish Iconography. Sara was my graduate school advisor, and I recognize much of this book from lectures and conversations. She traces the origin of anti-Jewish imagery not to hatred of actual Jews but to new trends in Christian devotion and self-definition; or, as another of my professors, Daniel Lord Smail, put it, “Christianity’s complex relationship with itself.” Read together, they not only tell a troubling story of Christian visual devotion, but highlight the critical resistance of key theologians to a theology increasingly focused on death.

Finally, before bed, I managed a few minutes to begin Belden Lane’s new book, Backpacking with the Saints: Wilderness Hiking as Spiritual Practice. I had not realized until now just how much I miss and need my Westchester Walks. I had also not realized how much I miss and need the classic contemplatives and masters of spirituality. I need more of both. (I think I have a few frigid hikes ahead me in the next few weeks.) Lane calls me back to an earth based, body conscious, spirituality that roots spiritual identity in divine majesty and human vulnerability.

“We are animal in our blood and in our skin,” says Jay Griffiths, exulting in the wilderness from which we’ve all come and to which our souls are still bent. “We were not born for pavements and escalators, but for thunder and mud,”

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