Thursday, February 3, 2011

Andrew Thursdays: Opening and Closing Doors on Spirituality

Exciting news came today. I am in the works for having my name removed from the Church. I just got a confirmation letter today, so legally I am no longer considered a member. The Church, however, will take two to three more months to process my request, which I do not understand and find very frustrating. It's exciting that the steps have finally been made on their part because I've been trying since the beginning of December. I just don't really understand how the bureaucracy of the Church can take this long.

I've been recently attending the Men's Spirituality Group (MSG) on campus, which Olivia suggested I join. It's really been great. It's been a place for honest discussion about belief. One of the guys, Thomas, a senior and the clerk of the Guilford Council of Religious Organizations (GCRO) is a really cool guy. He is an agnostic, non-christian seeking ordination in the Episcopal Church. His father, a priest and geneticist, gave a really good talk during Religious Emphasis Week. The thing that stood out to me from him was when he said that "the majority of religion is finding the language of awe." Religion is not meant to tell you what you believe but to help you be able to describe what you believe. That's what I think at least.

This past Monday, we did some guided mediation. We were told to imagine the ruins of a temple of a lost civilization and then imagine what it was like when it was prosperous. The result of that ten minute meditation was pretty powerful. I saw a circular building with no walls that had more space underground beneath it than it did above ground. It had a spring in the center which ran down the side of the passage going underground. 

It was beautiful.

Compared to the bright desert light outside of the temple, it was cool and dark. Underground the light never reached. I saw it as a refuge where animals were using the space as dens. We were told to imagine the priests and I saw them meditating with a family of coyotes. One of them had spent so much time underground that he went blind. It was such a simple lifestyle, they wore plain clothes, shaped like pillowcases, the same color as the light grey of the temple. Olivia pointed out to me later that they weren't teaching but learning.

A man came bringing an offering of a young lamb. Instead of burning it or giving it to the priests, he gave it to the family of coyotes. So instead of giving his offerings to "the gods" he was giving it to life. I knew that the reason that he was making the offering was because his pregnant wife had an infection from a crocodile biting off her hand.

It was just so simple and beautiful and perfect in the way it worked that when we were told to imagine it becoming ruins, I couldn't. I could imagine it becoming abandoned, empty, but never in ruins.

Life is sacred.

Here is my rendering of the temple, excuse my lack of skill.

Now on to Ornithology labs! I've seen so far Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, Ring-Billed Gulls, Cardinals, Mourning Doves, Carolina Chickadee, Brown Creeper, Tufted Titmouse, Robins, Yellow-shafted Northern Flickers, Red-headed Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker (although not well enough to include in my field notebook), Hooded Margansers, Mallards, White-Throated Sparrows, and soon much much more! We got to see the Bald Eagles in their nest, and see the rookeries of the Great Blue Herons (surprisingly close, considering that Bald Eagles enjoy eating Great Blue Herons and the herons came later). And the place we saw all the woodpeckers had a bunch of dead trees sticking up out of the ground like finger bones. Beavers had built a dam, which flooded the trees and killed them, but later the dam was breached, leaving a bunch of dead trees perfect for woodpeckers.

At the Natural Science Center I've also been having fun. For the first time today I got to pet Wallabies! And Kisa, one of the tigers, chuffed back at me! Chuffing is like purring, but on the exhale only, because tigers can't do it on the inhale.

Journalism has been keeping me really busy. I've had a story each week, and this week I'm writing about the protests in Egypt, which is going to be the big World and Nation article. Alexandra, the World and Nation section editor, has a lot of faith in me. And my forum article on Religious Emphasis Week is coming out tomorrow.

This past Monday was not only MSG but also was the one year anniversary of when Olivia and I started dating. It's been a really happy year.  It was really nice, but unfortunately we were both kind of busy. We celebrated it last Friday though. It was fun, and we're looking forward to more years to come.

 Anyway, between Ornithology, Journalism, MSG, Quaker Leadership Scholars Program (QLSP) Friday Worship (I got invited to their retreat, but I couldn't go :( ), Volunteering at the Natural Science Center, Intro into Scientific Inquiry, Fiction Writing Workshop, and Chemistry 112 Lab TA-ing, I'm not sure how I have the small free time I do have this semester.

In Conclusion: I might overwork myself and die.


  1. Don't worry honey, we can get Leelah to draw it....

  2. Olivia... ha ha...

    Andrew... I saw this coming, but not in this particular forum. I don't see religion as something that 'tells you what you should believe' either. I do see it as something that has truth or doesn't and recognizing, gaining a personal knowledge of, and living up to that truth as an individual responsibility.

  3. Not in this particular forum? Are we forgetting Ruth's beautiful first post already?

    I was under the impression that the blog was to be a place where you guys could become closer by understanding the condition of which you all live in terms of experience, fun, love, and spirituality. Of course everyone should say what they are comfortable saying, but if Andrew wants to tell you guys about the events that are relevant to his condition, it should not matter the forum. I think it's great that he has the courage to say some of this stuff here in the first place.

    Also, I don't see how your opinion of Andrew's statement really differs from he said himself. Andrew made it clear that he is on a path of self discovery and has lived up to his personal knowledge of his truth, (which, it a vague term as you use it, the truth to you is not the truth to me, and my truth is not Andrew's). In his ability to do so, he is living up to individual responsibility is he not?

  4. well, I think we can all at least say: please don't die

  5. Olivia,

    I wasn't challenging his right to say it in this forum, only that I didn't necessarily expect him to choose this forum to do so....

  6. Dad, that was the feeling I got from your comment. Not trying to attack you or anything, but I felt like you were telling me this wasn't the correct place to talk about this. I think this blog is a perfect place to talk about this because I won't get heated or feel pressure.

  7. Hey, tranquilo. Don't take it the wrong way. I thought it was clear that Dad just said he didn't expect you to break the news on the blog. He didn't say that you shouldn't have made this post, or that using the blog was inappropriate in any way, in fact he commented on the one of topics you brought up, expressing his views, and continuing communication and discussion, just as you expressed yours.
    We love you bro.

  8. There has been a misunderstanding, and I, Olivia Louis Holmes, will clear it up.

    First off John and Joseph, Andrew got what John was saying about being surprised.

    We have accepted this as fact.

    After accepting that this is indeed what was meant, one major question remains that had Andrew on the defensive:


    Why are you surprised?

    See, by asking that question, Andrew and I take some offense. We all know that Andrew is redefining things for himself. So for me, as I did not make clear in my first comment, I think it is perfectly normal for Andrew to post this here and saw him enthusiastically writing without hesitation.

    So why is it a surprise to you?

    This is where I felt that saying "I didn't expect you to write this here" sort of undermines Andrew's growth, and I think that is what he felt too.

    Also, we encourage conversation! As you can see, I responded (quite well I believe) with my own take on Andrew's topic. Unfortunately, It was drowned out by this topic.

  9. Maybe it's not my place, but I feel very much like saying shame on you all. The correct response is, "Andrew, we love you for who you are, and mormon or no... we love you and we support your decisions." Whether you believe what Andrew believes or not, he is your brother, your son... HE is still Andrew. He knows you don't share his beliefs. Why can't you NOT state the obvious, but tell him what he really needs to hear, which is simply, "Ok. Thanks for letting us in instead of shutting us out. We love you unconditionally."

  10. Andrew, strive to find your path to spiritual contentment. All must do so. Your grandmother and I did ours in our early 30's.

    As you travel this path look first for happiness and then contentment.