“. . . for unto us a child is born” or what constitutes a miracle?

Gold, frankincense, myrrh. Three wise men from the Orient on camels followed a star that led them to a manger in Jerusalem. There, a newborn lay in the arms of his virgin mother surrounded by animals – most likely cows, sheep, and a donkey.

RH-Wisemen2We do not know definitely where the men came from or even if they were only three. Most Biblical scholars say they would have come from Persia (Iran) and been followers of Zoroastrianism. As wise men, i.e. magi, they would have been of an educated class steeped in the belief that a person of holy origin was on his way. It was a widespread belief of the time. People were on the alert.

Since only three gifts were mentioned – glorious as they were! – it is usually assumed only three men came to the manger even though more learned men would have been in the region and vigilant for the arrival of a baby of the highest importance.

1-icon-of-the-nativity-juliet-venterShepherds also came to the manger, but they were from nearby fields where they were “keeping watch over their sheep by night.” An angel appeared to them and told them not to be afraid, but instead to rejoice for “This day in the city of David a Savior has been born to you. He is the messiah, the Lord.”

The shepherds went to Jerusalem where they found a babe lying in a manger, just as the angels told them they would.

I sense a timing issue. The shepherds were nearby, but for the wise men to arrive while Jesus was still in the manger, they either started following the star before he was born, or were, in fact, just over in the next village, or were beamed up. Given the appearance of angels, beaming up seems possible, as in “Beam me up, Scotty.”

It is a beautiful story of hope and wonder, one laden with miracles.

One star guided the way of three men 2000 years ago in a cosmos of more than 100 billion galaxies with an estimated 300 billion stars in the Milky Way alone, which is a relatively small galaxy but the one from which we can observe a universe with a radius of 13.7 billion light years expanding at an accelerating rate of 46 miles per second per megaparsec* and laden with black holes that attract anything near them into them, including galaxies, to potentially parallel cosmos that we cannot see but that, like ours, move through folding time warps and space twists, all of which is made of atoms that mimic really wild solar systems but are too infinitesimal to measure, further complicated by that atoms behave in uncertain ways influenced by the expectations of their observers and that atoms are made of even smaller elements called hadrons that are made of quarks that are divided into categories named up, down, strange, bottom, top, and charm, which may indicate quarks are made of even smaller elements, and in any case we know that quarks have been here since the beginning of everything 13.8 billion years ago when a single point exploded in a big bang and, from quarks to cosmos, all of it is held together by unseen forces named the strong force and the weak force that hold quarks together to make neutrons and protons that make atom nuclei, while magnetic and gravitation forces hold the earth together and hold humans on it.

Beaming up is a piece of cake in comparison.


Yet, so far as we know the cosmos doesn’t deal with human feelings of hope, joy, fear, guilt, or wonder. It does not ponder itself except possibly through entities like us, and surely it has no need for miracles, being itself beyond comprehension.

It is we who require miracles and long for what is just beyond our comprehension. Just beyond. We like our miracles guiding star-size, manger-size, angel-size, virgin-birth size. We like our miracles to bring joy and create wonder. That is an observable truth, and it is a fine truth, and it is a start. We should all be guided more often by the stars.


*A megaparsec is the distance of 3 million light years. Hence, every distance of 3 million light years in the cosmos expands by approximately 46 miles every second. 


Making God in our (racist) Image

My initial understanding of racism arrived deus ex machina when I was 14 standing in the back of a empty country church in Iowa. Years were still to pass before I met anyone whose ancestors weren’t northern European.

While I didn’t know any blacks, Latinos, or Asians, I knew “my people” well – good people, farming people. I was a keen observer from an early age. I knew “my people” were insecure about how people outside of the Midwest saw them. Farmers, bumpkins, clodhoppers, country folk.

The tenet that we were “made in God’s image” was spoken often from the pulpit and it was reassuring. Yes, humility might be praised and promoted – we could take pride in how humble we were – but knowing we were made in God’s image was a private pass in our back pocket if life went from humbling to humiliating. It was an assurance of value. We had affinity with the Almighty.

UnknownAlongside the push-pull between humility and God-heritage was the question of the nature of God. Our black earth, hogs, corn, and cows inclined us to believe in God as embodied, as a being with our senses but over-sized, while the vast formless sky revealed infinity. The trinity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit tried to meld these concepts, but anyone looking at the symbol can see it is too complex – this is part of this which is not part of that. It is contrived. Truth has to be more elegant. But that’s looking at it from now.

Creación_de_Adán_(Miguel_Ángel)Looking at it from then, my people assumed Michelangelo got it right regarding God the Father. White, male, mighty. And we knew the Holy Spirit from the miracles of nature around us and by the feeling inside when we were being saved. Salvation was pure spirit, a visitation of light.

And Jesus, well, . . . Jesus made the whole thing human. We could relate to Jesus. He was a shepherd, which is a kind of farmer. And a carpenter, and a fisherman. Jesus was an all-around capable amazing guy. He would have made a great neighbor.

But we weren’t told we were created in Jesus’ image. We were told we were created in God’s image, and God, we understood, was the Father – a Father who played favorites, kept score, and wanted allegiance; and He watched us. “His eye is on the sparrow” was not entirely reassuring. He held all the power, as in “. . the Power, and the Glory forever and ever. Amen.” Good thing we were in the same family – white and Christian.

He had to be white. We were made in His image and we were white. This special standing elevated us from backbreaking labor. If other races were equally loved by God, then we were no longer special – and we needed special.

At age 14 I melded the psychological premise of “I feel better about myself if I think less of you” to the priority of believing you are created in the image of a God that favors you, and that it did not allow for people who did not look like you to be equally favored by God. Standing alone in the back of that church, I understood that prejudice attached itself to the belief that you were in a special relationship to God.

While I could not have said it at that time, what this means is that instead of being made in God’s image, we made God in our image and we made Him racist.

Christians don’t have a monopoly on claiming special status as God’s chosen people. It is a self-serving fault line of extremists of the three Abrahamic religions – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Extremists use it now and have used it historically in the name of (so-called holy and definitely unholy) wars, forced conversions, justification of violence, the Inquisition, genocide, prejudice, ghettoes, the Crusades, pogroms, expulsions, and occupation of other people’s land and property.

Terrorists of these three religions believe they are God’s, Allah’s, Yahweh’s favored children. They believe they are superior, privileged, and – having kinship with their racist and vengeful God – can act with impunity. They are on a mission of the highest calling.

It is, of course, only a small minority of people of any religion who become fanatics, and what I am saying is, we all know, only a sliver of the multiply causes of evil enacted in the world. But among those causes, we must examine the ideological seeds that are planted in people.

Speaking only for Christians: If we had been taught that we were created in the image of Jesus who loved and forgave and didn’t suffer pomposity perhaps life on our communal planet might have turned out differently.

Or if we had been taught that we were created out of the Holy Spirit, perhaps more of us would have felt and found the light inside us. That flame has no ethnicity, no favored people, it burns from love.

But many of us, instead of finding our light, judged ourselves as inferior, sought – and created – an all-power father, and gave ourselves permission to harm and kill “lesser people” in his name.

It is a cyclical internal process that becomes institutionalized and fills our world with horrors. Syria, Gaza, Ferguson, torture, drones, Guantanamo, rape, injustice, police brutality, destruction of the planet, child abuse, slavery, prejudice. This list goes on, and it breaks our hearts.

It is revealing, isn’t it, that human hearts break from the harm we do to each other? Is this how the Holy Spirit makes itself known to us? Is this how we wash away false gods?



Diamond Out of the Rough

When the certified gemologist behind the counter asked for my husband’s name regarding all and complete contact information on me, I said “The diamond is the last of the husband.” People turned around.

He continued: “Well, I always have to ask.”

Me: “Really?”

But it was all done humorously. I was, after all, turning a ring that I hadn’t worn in more than six years because of the slightly malevolent vibration it emitted into a stunning necklace – an emerald cut diamond on a delicate 19″ gold chain. I handed over the gold part of the ring for credit.

The diamond has been with me for 24 years, the blink of an eye in its lifetime. I am just a passing mirage to it – and my story not particularly interesting I suspect.

Point is, things under immense pressure, including people, sometimes turn into diamonds – brilliant, clear, and radiant that stand the test of time. Other things, including people, go soft, rot, and crumble. Whether it is a matter of decisions made while under duress or only an organic process having to do with the initial carbon of the person is not a question I can answer.

I’ve nothing more to say on this subject.



Menagerie of Loneliness, or Making Mermaids out of Manatees

My relationship to loneliness is that of an amateur, not a true expert. We are sniffing out what to expect from each other. She arrives on panther feet during the night and waits, languid but alert, tail slightly flicking, for me to open my eyes.

black-panthers-wallpaper-hd-1440x900“You’re awake. Want to play?”
“No, go away.”
“You’re sure you don’t want to play?”
“No, I do not want to play.”
“Yes, I’m sure. Go away.”
“Why don’t you want to play?”

By the time I’ve brushed my teeth, she has skulked into the corner to wait 24 hours before trying to entice me again. I attribute her persistence to the fact that, like the majority of women of a certain age, I live alone. The panther of loneliness wants cuddling and petting and knows we do too. She knows that, even if we prefer dogs, we are in this way all cat women.

Loneliness is also a state of many older women who do not live alone, which is its own kind of hell. Great women of a certain age outnumber great men of a certain age by 10,000 to 1. My friends and I have done the math. Really, this is the true ratio.

It is single men, including the great ones, however, who are most ravaged by loss of intimacy and loneliness, but that is a little off track . . . though not so much. We will talk about mermaids in a bit.

First, let’s take the stigma off of loneliness. Loneliness is a sign of good mental health. It is a healthy natural response to being a social creature without enough meaningful warm social contact. It shows that you are tracking the reality of your socio-emotional life and registering that you are alive in real time and have needs.

By extension, it shows you are not willing to compromise yourself and the quality of your life just to avoid being alone. The last 1/3rd or 1/4th of your life is a time to contemplate, grow, explore, travel, learn new things, experience the wonder of existence, be awestruck, and bring to the world your experience, love, and wisdom. It is not a time to waste on meaningless diversions and social junk food. You are not a sitcom.

But while loneliness registers reality, it invites fantasy to ease the way. Our imaginations create solutions to life’s big and little problems. On to the mermaids.


Sailors created exquisite sea creatures – half-fish, half-human female – out of blubbery manatees and dugongs. With the sun flickering off their tails under the waves and their hair unraveled in golden skeins, mermaids lured them into impossible dreams. Lonely men on the same old same old unending magnificent ocean found solace in watery visions of intimacy that were possible only in their imaginations.

Imagined mermaids with good hearts wanted to mate with the sailors. Imagined mermaids with evil hearts, i.e. sirens, called them to crash into cliffs and to perish. (See photo of a mermaid of the nasty kind luring innocent sailors into danger. She’s also vain, note the mirror.)


Whether the mermaids wanted to make love with the men or were sirens luring them to their deaths had to do with the imagination of the sailor, not with the dugongs. Dugongs and manatees presumably have no need for fantasy. If they thought anything about the sailors, it was to stay away. Harpoons. (See photo of a dugong, kin of manatees.)

But humans have for millennia created beasties to lift us from burdens, boredom, and trials. We create and, in turn, are mesmerized by phantasmagoria – conjoined beasts or conjoined humans and beasts. We “in-body” our fears, desires, and impulses into imagined beings – good and bad – that reveal to us who we are. We used to think they were real. Now we go to Jungian analysts.

Still, in our minds we make love to mermaids, ride bareback on unicorns and winged horses, rise out of the ashes of devastation as brightly-colored birds. We also cringe and quake before werewolves, vampires, cyclops, and ogres. We ride some dragons and slay others. We invented these creatures in order to cope, to rise again, and to take our fears from amorphous into form – dragons and vampires can be slain.


Several months ago I commissioned a small painting of myself for a tabletop. (See photo.)

As a Sagittarius, I am a centaur, half-human, half-horse – and a hunter, wild and humane. The painting makes me feel capable and strong. It is good to own your animals.

I wish to own my panther. I realized that in the writing of this blog, which kept shifting and morphing over several days.

My dog Phoenix, named for the bird, and I as centaur would walk with the panther through the city, the country, relationships, and time. I would get her a collar with diamonds.

See how slinky and elegant she is? She would purr if panthers could. Instead she growls in a way that sounds like a purr. I ran out of excuses not to play.

full table1


PS: See photo of the centaur Sagittarius against a cosmos of star creatures, on a tabletop.