Category Archives: musing

you say you want a(nother) revolution…?


revolution                                                               © erin dunigan 2013

Because I don’t have a tv, I am not accustomed to the 24-hr a day news stream put forth by the American media outlets. So, I was somewhat shocked to begin hearing that folks who get their news from such outlets were using words like coup and seemed skeptical and somewhat doubtful about the people’s revolution unfolding in Egypt, as opposed to the celebratory sense I got from those actually on the ground in Egypt. 

Here it is, July 4. The day we celebrate our independence – and yet we cannot celebrate with another people’s revolutionary movement, half a world away? This, to me, seems odd, and a bit sad.

Why wouldn’t you be celebrating? I wondered to myself.

Haven’t you seen the images that have been coming from Egypt, the images of hundreds of thousands (and many say millions) of Egyptians taking to the streets to stand for ‘Egypt?’ Can you not see what I’m seeing? How is your view of the same events so different?

Perhaps I got it wrong – perhaps I missed something.

But, upon further checking with friends in Egypt – friends from many different places and sources, the message was clear and it was unanimous – this is a good day for Egypt, for Egyptians. This is a people’s revolution against a sect that had tried to hijack the events of January 2011. So, rather than sit back in resignation, the people decided to take their revolution back.

It is a beautiful story. A story of courage. A story of hope. A story of unity amidst so much diversity – Christian and Muslim, just to name one of the most obvious factors to be seen amongst the protestors.

Of course this is just the beginning. Of course the ‘work of democracy’ is hard and messy and not always linear. Of course it is something that can be hijacked (again) –  but this is precisely what gives these days hope – that the people have awakened from their slumber and have come together to say ‘enough’ – or, in the Arabic slogan for the June 30 re-revolution, تمرد, tamarod, rebel.

It was said during the January 2011 revolution that there were those called couch potatoes, the couch potato party – those who did not come down from their high-rise apartments to join in, but who stayed safely upstairs in their apartments, on their couches – what we might call armchair quarterbacking. Those who did not want to get involved, get messy, or participate in the demonstrations but who preferred to hang back and see how it all played out.

It seems that we in America, sitting in front of our TVs, safely on our couches, are more prone to provide commentary than commendation, to be cynical rather than celebratory.

I wonder if, on this July 4th, as we celebrate our freedom, hard won, often fought for, if we might also take a moment to celebrate ‘revolution’ – for that too, is in our history, in our heritage.

Revolution – a sudden, radical, or complete change, a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something, a change of paradigm.

I wonder if we too might not need a bit more ‘revolution’…

jesus and the big gay shrimp boil


that way                                                                      © erin dunigan 2013

In light of Wednesday’s supreme court decisions, and in light of what has come to be the inevitable outrage expressed by ‘Christians,’ I feel something of an obligation to contribute to the conversation.

I am a Christian – a minister, no less. I’m even technically categorized as an evangelist.

Even still, I find myself more and more a bit hesitant in claiming the word ‘Christian’  –  a term that seems too often hijacked from its original meaning (Christ follower) to become something synonymous to hatred, bigotry, narrow-mindedness, fear, and exclusion. One only has only to google “Why are Christians so…” to see that the most often used completions for that phrase are ‘mean, annoying, weird…’ As someone who has been ordained not just as a ‘minister’ within the Presbyterian church, but as an ‘evangelist’ I’m no stranger to trying to take words back from those who have sought to tarnish them with such ugliness. At its heart the word evangelist means someone who shares ‘good news’ – but you’d hardly know that based on the placard waving ‘Christian evangelists’ whose news is often only ‘good’ for them.

I am a Christian. I am a minister. And the night of the Supreme Court’s overturning DOMA I attended a ‘Big Gay Shrimp Boil’ to celebrate the SCOTUS rulings – not in spite of the fact that I am a Christian and a minister, but precisely because of the fact.

This, as I understand it, is what it means to follow Jesus – the same Jesus who was accused, in his day, of being a ‘drunkard and a glutton’ and of hanging around the ‘wrong kind of people’ while the ‘right kind of people’ hurled insults.

Christian brothers and sisters, how can we be so blind?

How can we not see that, were Jesus to walk this earth today, odds are he would be at the Big Gay Shrimp Boil enjoying his apple martini along with the rest of the guests? That this is precisely where he would be – amongst those who have been told that they are ‘other’ that they are somehow ‘unclean’ or that they are not worthy enough of God’s love…

The Jesus that I follow came to bring good news – for all people – that life, abundant life, real life full of goodness and love and compassion and justice – that this life is available, here and now, and that this God-infused life is already at hand, already here, already now. It is not some fire insurance to keep you out of the fire pits of hell when you die. Jesus offered healing to those who approached him. He touched lepers who no one else would go near. He gave women dignity in a society that did not value them. He excluded no one, regardless of their ‘sin’ – and had his harshest critique for the self-righteous religious who thought they had it all together.

I am so thankful for my upbringing in an evangelical Christian church that taught me to take the Bible seriously, to take Jesus seriously, to take my faith seriously and to seek God. My faith has shaped me. It has made me who I am today.

For it is precisely that foundation that led me to this place.

It is because I follow Jesus that I found myself, that night, cheering in celebration as we toasted to love, commitment, and justice – to rainbows, not to hate.

What was a Christian minister doing at a Big Gay Shrimp boil? Ask Jesus – I followed him there.

subways, hospitality and risk

I had been warned about Cairo subways. I love to travel, to try new things, meet new people, experience things so different from my daily life. But it’s also been somewhat beaten into me – as a woman, you must be careful. As a woman, things are different.


cairo at night                                                                                       © erin dunigan 2013

I’ve ridden plenty of crowded subways in my life − in New York City, in Osaka Japan, in Mexico City amongst them. Subways where one has to push ones way just to board the train. Subways where women are warned to stay close to their male companions, lest the pushing from strangers become a bit too directed.

So as we descended into the station for the Cairo subway I was prepared with such stories. There was even a car just for women, I had been told, to help mitigate some of these issues. I chose instead to remain with my male colleagues, not wanting to get separated in the journey.

We stepped onto the car. It was rather full, but not so full that we had to push our way on. But standing room only full. As I looked around I saw that I was the only woman in the car.

And then it happened.

A man next to me, seated, got up and stood next to me. As he did so he motioned something to me. I quickly realized what he was suggesting. Was this really happening?

He was offering me his seat. I smiled, and thanked him, using one of my five Arabic words – Shukran. As I settled into my seat the man next to me leaned over and spoke something in my direction. “Welcome to Egypt,” he said and smiled.

I am not doubting that there are harrowing experiences for women on Cairo subways. I’m not doubting that it is wise to keep aware and watchful when traveling in new places, navigating other cultures. I have myself experienced such harrowing subway situations in other parts of the world, as have friends of mine. Caution and entering situations with eyes wide open seem to be wise ways of being.

But what I was struck by that spring evening leaving Tahrir Square, was that I had been taught to fear, to approach the situation with skepticism, with a bit of distance, while my experience had been so entirely opposite – one of welcoming, hospitality, and graciousness.  How often are we taught to fear ‘the other’ rather than to be open to him or her? I wonder if that fear of the other doesn’t keep us from the encounters, like my own, that would so completely disprove that generalized sense of disease? For there are some who, I am sure, would have avoided the subway entirely, having heard the stories, and in so avoiding, would have also barricaded themselves from the encounter to disprove those very stories.

This theme made its way to the surface again in a passage from Esther de Waal’s Living on the Border where she discusses white South Africa during the time of apartheid:

“The white proponents of that regime were so completely and utterly confident of the righness of their stance that they shut the door totally on the other. Metaphorically, they barricaded themselves into their laagers, those circles of upturned wagons that the Afrikaners traditionally used to protect themselves on their long marches. Two worlds had now become polarized, without contact, without sympathy or understanding.”

As I pondered her words it was not long before these stories began to overlap – mine on the Cairo subway, de Waal’s about borders and exclusion of the other, and, of course, current debates within my own society and culture about inclusion, exclusion, of whom to fear and what places and people to avoid.

I find that more than any other emotion, I am thankful for that nighttime subway ride in Cairo. Something that could be seen as inconsequential, or even as reckless or unwise. Perhaps it was more of a risk that I realized. But I wonder, if we barricade ourselves off from the other, if we keep ourselves ‘safe’ from encountering those we perceive as different or strange or alien, if we are not, in actuality, putting ourselves at a far greater risk.

“Across the border then, whether it’s a human border or the strange frontier with God, is something or someone who is more hospitable than we dreamed; and we learn this by taking the risk of hospitality ourselves.”                 -Ester de Waal

unexpected hope

TI0A0203It’s my first visit to Beirut, and though I’ve been in the region before, it’s my first time returning since the conflict in Syria. Hearing stories of displacement, violence, fear and destruction made for a good but heavy day. I was full of such thoughts, wondering how one could possibly offer any word of hope, encouragement, or life in the midst of so much that reeks of death and despair, when a bit of something resembling hope came from an unlikely encounter.

I had returned to the restaurant where we ate the night before – wanting to try the artichoke salad that I had turned down in favor of wild mushroom risotto (yes, I love my food). The same waiter was there – the same waiter I had asked the night before for his recommendation between the two. “I had to come back to try the artichoke salad,” I explained. “I knew you would,” was his response.

As I ate, I tried to sort through the many difficult stories we had heard during the day – stories much more complicated than what we seem to hear on American media sources. I wasn’t surprised by this, but I was troubled with all that we had learned in such a short time.

As I asked for the check I couldn’t help it – I needed to know. So, I asked my waiter what he thought of the situation in Syria. “Well, I’m not a political person,” he began – and then shared one of the more beautiful explanations I had heard yet.

“We Lebanese, we just want to dance and to love and to live our lives,” he began. “We don’t want war – we’ve had enough of that already,” he continued.

He explained to me that, though he was a Muslim, those people who were resorting to violence, hatred, and destruction did not speak for him. In fact, he wondered if they really were Muslims at all, since their actions and their stands are so counter to the Islam that he knows and follows. I knew what he meant immediately, as I realized how often I, a Christian, want to distance myself from those who call themselves Christians but whose actions of hatred, killing, and violence do not represent the Christ whose love I aim to bear witness to in the world.

But he also admitted that peace, in his estimation, would not come easily or quickly. Though he and those he knows prefer to live in peace – even with the state of Israel – a state which will not allow Lebanese to enter, and a state whose citizens cannot enter Lebanon – he realizes that not all Lebanese are ready to accept such a view.

I wish now I had recorded our conversation – his responses were beautiful and life giving in the midst of so much conflict, so much violence, so much fear and mistrust.

“We know that peace will not come soon,” he continued. “Maybe not for ten years or even ten years more – but there will be peace. And, in the meantime, we are the ones to work to build the peace in this world.”

Amen. May it be so. And thanks be to God for the gift of this chance conversation – a bit of unexpected grace.


ebikes and wine tasting in Baja’s Guadalupe Valley

I turned onto the dirt road from the paved highway, having seen the small ‘ebike’ sign with an arrow pointing left. Billed as something akin to a cross between a pop-up restaurant and an outdoor adventure, I was intrigued and anticipating the day’s journey – while also a bit concerned about the combination of wine tasting and bike riding. I decided a helmet would be a good option, just in case.

That thought was confirmed as I took my first test drive of the ebike, electric bike, and felt the acceleration far beyond my capacity as I began to peddle. This is going to be a blast, I thought to myself, a smile like a child’s plastered across my face, making the u-turn along that dirt road and accelerating my way back to the rest of the group. Seven of us, newbies to the ebike scene, had signed up for this maiden voyage of ebike wine touring, the brainchild of Allen Jones and Agnes Cameleyre.

TI0A6369Part of what drew me to the adventure was the extensive knowledge of the wine valley I knew Agnes to hold – and her generosity in sharing those stories, histories, and fun facts of an area of the world that is rapidly becoming known as a destination not just for wine aficionados, but foodies and students of ‘local and sustainable’ as well.

This anticipation was not disappointed as we made our way, a bit wobbly at first as our very eclectic group acclimated to the ebike and dirt road combination,  across the valley floor to its north side and up a gentle incline to one of the valley’s newer wineries, Las Nubes.  “This is an example of what a new generation is doing in wine-making,” explained Agnes, as we sat down at the long rectangular table in a tasting room whose floor to ceiling windows offer expansive views of the valley below. Las Nubes, from winemaker Victor Segura of Mexico City, is a large scale operation – an example, Agnes suggested, of what the ‘big business’ of wine making looks like as it comes into its own in the Guadalupe Valley.

Thankfully as the dusty and somewhat sweaty group of us sat down for our tasting the first pour was water – to quench a thirst we had already worked up in our short 20 minute ride, and final ascent into ‘the clouds’ in the 80 degree heat of midday. We opted for the 5 wine pour – as opposed to the 7 – knowing that we had another bike ride, wine tasting, and still more riding before we’d encounter anything resembling a meal. The pouring began – with a somewhat rare to the valley savignon blanc chardonnay blend. Up until the past few years, and the blossoming of so many new wineries in the region, it was said that the best white wine in the valley was red.

From Las Nubes we headed down the hill – electric bike power turned off, so as not to unintentionally accelerate while speeding down the curved dirt road – and across the valley floor, first on a bit of the narrow (and shoulder-less) paved road until we came upon another dirt road and our turn into JC Bravo winery – the opposite, in many ways, of Las Nubes.

jcbravoJC Bravo is small, hidden almost. Rather than nestled on a hillside in the clouds, it is smack dab in the middle of the small pueblo of El Porvenir, just across the street from a taco stand, and down the road from Casa de Paz, an orphanage trying to be sustainable by growing some of its own food. At JC Bravo it was a two wine pour – a white, Palomino, and a red, Carignan, both local valley blends, grapes grown by the owner and winemaker, Juan Carlos (JC) Bravo.

Agnes again shared a bit of the history with us.  JC (pronounced in Spanish as ‘hoe-ta say’) is one of the valley’s few wine makers who is, himself, local to the valley. His family had been growing grapes for more than four decades – selling those grapes to other wineries. The family’s grapes were among the finest the valley had to offer, but they had never taken advantage of their own production to make wine. That changed a decade ago, and now JC Bravo, though small, produces not only wine, but also a cold pressed (by hand) olive oil that is rich and with such depth that you practically want to drink it as well. Small cubes of bread provided the ideal vehicle for soaking up as much as possible of the earthy yet sweet aceite – alive with its freshness.

As often happens in Baja, our day began to run a bit behind schedule, which meant that we could not linger long at JC Bravo but got back on the bikes and headed still further south to our final destination, one of the valley’s hidden gems, 3 Mujeres winery.

The thirty minute ride (though for most of us it was less of a ‘ride’ and more of an ‘acceleration’ as we gained confidence with the power of the electric bike, and the ease of simply twisting the throttle, versus exerting oneself unnecessarily by actually pedaling) wound its way down that dirt road, past ranches, olive groves, and grape vines. I found myself longing for a helmet mounted camera, so that I could take it all in photographically as well as experientially. A few times I tried to take video with my iPhone, but realized that, on bumpy dirt roads, riding one handed after two wine tastings might not be the best of ideas.

3mujeresWhen we arrived through the gate onto the property of 3 Mujeres we were greeted by two small round tables set up under the trees. Their table cloths rustled in the breeze that brought some refreshment to the day’s heat. A simple centerpiece added an elegant beauty. The flower arrangement came from a vine growing on the adobe home of Ivette Vaillard, one of the three women, who lives there on the property  This was a pop-up restaurant just for us – the menu put together by Ensenada Chef Ismene Venegas.  To call the spontaneous eatery an oasis would not do it justice.

TI0A64243 Mujeres, meaning 3 Women in Spanish, is one of the valley’s only wineries run entirely by women. Ivette Vaillard, Eva Cotero, and Laura McGregor joined together more than a decade ago to nurture their common passion for wine making. The three had all been students at the local ‘escolita’ (wine school) run by Hugo D’acosta. They began to realize that though none of them could take on the task of wine making on their own, together they could. In the words of our ever knowledgeable guide and storyteller Agnes, destiny put them together – destiny, and the adventure of making wine.

The first of three pours began – each of the 3 mujeres makes her own unique wine – as a tartar of curiel (yellow tail), avocado and cucumber arrived on our plates. The second pour led us into the main course of the meal – three different salads of nopales, couscous, and local greens, followed by a garlic potato puree to die for, and the tri tip that had been on the outdoor grill as we arrived. Bread, flat bread and chimichurri sauce rounded out the meal as we enjoyed the third and final pour.

Already past the time that we supposed we would return to our cars in the field, the conversation was as delightful as the ambiance, and no one seemed to mind. It was then that a new spoon was placed in front of each of us, and we realized that the adventure was not yet over. Valley fresh strawberries in a rosemary-infused heavy cream was to be the final taste on the pallet. It did not disappoint.

As we said our goodbyes to our chef and our gracious hosts the sun had begun to lower in the sky, casting that magical golden light on the vineyards as we wound our way back toward the north side of the valley and our awaiting vehicles. The magic hour, is what that time of day is called – that time of perfect light. More than that, it had been a magical day.

To set up a a winery ebike tour, contact Allen and Agnes at

all photos © erin dunigan 2013


Yx3 (on things hidden)

Recently at our monthly Not Church gathering our theme was the parable of the jewel hidden in the robe. If you have not read or heard the parable, you really should before proceeding and you can find a link to it here.


labyrinth    ~    © erin dunigan 2013

During the gathering that particular Sunday, the parable was read three different times, by three different readers, each reading spread throughout the rest of the morning’s activities.

There was quite a stir after – why three times? Was the big question. Why did we read it three times?

Some assumed that each of the three readings would have a different telling of the story. But, alas, all three readings were the same story, the parable of the jewel hidden in the robe.

The topic came up again last night, more than a week after our gathering, at a dinner with some friends. “Why was the parable read three times?” again was the entry point into the conversation, which unfolded from there.

For though we read the parable three times in our gathering, there was never any direct teaching from it, upon it, about it, or regarding it. The rest of the ‘sermon’ for the day came from a re-telling of the movie version of the Life of Pi, woven together with a discussion of the recently confirmed discovery of the Higgs Boson particle. The written version of the sermon can be found here, for those who were not present to hear it.

“I believe that the parable means that God is planted within all of us (the jewel) and we have only to look within, rather than to search so many outward paths, to find that, to realize that, to experience that,” the conversation continued as I listened. “So why didn’t you just say that?” was the question begged.

Why not tell people this amazing, beautiful and life changing truth – that what you are seeking out there is to be found in here, that that which is inside of you doing the seeking, is, in a very real sense, already that which is sought. The answer is to go within, to awaken to this ‘jewel’ that already is.  “So why didn’t you just say that?” hung in the air as the conversation unfolded. I listened.

It is a good question. A valid question. A worthwhile question.

Which, in response, brings me to a question of my own –  Why didn’t the rich man in the parable tell his friend he was leaving him with the jewel?

“Because the friend was inebriated, passed out,” you answer. The rich man could not tell him – it was impossible.

Okay then – why did he not leave a note? “Hey, by the way, when you wake up, check your hem – I left something for you.” Or, better yet, why didn’t he just put the jewel in the man’s hand, so that when he woke up he would find it right there? Why ‘bury’ it within his hem?

It would have been so much easier! It would have saved the man so much undue suffering – he would not have found himself in such want, in such need. In fact, it seems almost wrong that he did not leave the gift in a more obvious way – what is the point of such a precious gift, if the receiver doesn’t even know that he has it? It is a waste, isn’t it? Would it have been so hard to leave a simple note?

But there was no note. The inebriated man woke up, found his friend gone, and went on his way, blind to that which he had, clueless to the reality of the precious gift which he now carried with him – unaware of the seed that had been planted.

It was now up to him to look within and discover that it was there all along.

hidden gems, the life of pi and the higgs boson


light                                                                                        © erin dunigan 2013

The Jewel Hidden in the Robe*

Once upon a time there lived a man who had, as a friend, a rich public servant. One day the man called on his rich friend, who entertained him with food and wine. He became completely inebriated and fell asleep. The rich friend, however, suddenly had to set out on a journey involving urgent public business. He wanted to give his friend a priceless jewel which had the mystic power to fulfill any desire. But his friend was fast asleep. Finding no other alternative, he sewed the gem into the hem of his sleeping friend’s robe. The man awoke to find his friend gone, totally unaware of the jewel his friend had given him. Before long, he allowed himself to sink into poverty, wandering through many countries and experiencing many hardships. After a long time, now reduced to sheer want, he met his old friend. The rich man, surprised at his condition, told him about the gift he had given him, and the man learned for the first time that he had possessed the priceless jewel all along.


A month ago today there was a rather catacysmic discovery in the world of science (pun most definitely intended).

On March 14 it was reported that scientists had apparently discovered the elusive Higgs Boson – that which is thought to explain what has been called one of the most fundamental riddles of science’s understanding of the universe – how the Big Bang created something out of nothing.

“The discovery explains what once seemed unexplainable and still is a bit hard for the average person to comprehend. But it means the key theory that scientists use to explain everything works – for now at least,” according to a piece in the Huffington Post.

To understand what this might mean, consider something along the lines of molasses or snow – when other particles pass through it, they stick  and form atoms – thus giving them their mass, their being, if you will. It is for this that the Higgs Boson has been referred to as ‘the God particle’ – that which holds everything together and gives it its substance.

Though the existence of such a concept was first theorized some 50 plus years ago, it has only just, as it seems at least, been confirmed. This confirmation has come from a network of scientists who have been working on it, and with the help of the world’s largest atom smasher – CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland – which produces huge surges of energy thought to replicate those that may have existed just after the big bang. Crushing energy. Intense. Powerful.

This Higgs field is thought to be everywhere around us, surrounding us, with all particles moving in the presence of this field. If there was no such thing there would be no mass – everything, in fact, would be ‘massless.’

Prior to this discovery every particle within the Standard Model of particle physics had been discovered – except the Higgs Boson, which is the very key to what holds it all together.

Missing. Undiscovered. Yet all around us – even, in fact, within us. Predicted, but not yet proven. Theorized, but not  quite concretized.


I finally decided I had to see it for myself.

People had been telling me about it, wondering what I thought of it, and suggesting that I might find it interesting. So, upon hearing that Jim and Ross had a copy, and knowing that they have the best way to experience such things, a few weeks ago I invited myself over to watch the Life of Pi.

If you do not know the story, I’m sorry, I’m going to spoil it for you – here’s your excuse to duck out!

The story is about a young Indian boy, Pi Pattel. Born a Hindu, he has a sort of religious conversion – or more like addition, and realizes that Vishnu has lead him to Christ and finds his spiritual practice in the space of a mosque.

His father runs a zoo and so Pi grows up amongst the animals and his three faiths until one day his dad says that they and the animals will be moving to Canada. They board a Japanese cargo ship and set sail, only to encounter rough seas that sink the ship. Pi, we later find out, is the sole survivor, cast away on a lifeboat for 227 days.

We are invited into the story through the grown up Pi, now living in Canada, talking to an American author who has been sent there to hear his story – a story, the author has been told, that will make him believe in God. The author, ironically, is without a story, having thrown his latest novel away after years of work. He has come to Pi looking for a story.

A story is most definitely what he gets.

As Pi’s story of the shipwreck unfolds, we come to find out that he was not actually alone on that lifeboat – initially he shared it with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutang, and, the biggest surprise, a Bengal tiger. The hyena quickly takes care of the zebra and the orangutang, to Pi’s anguish. Fearing that he might be next, he is saved when the tiger makes quick work of the hyena.

For the next two hundred plus days Pi struggles to keep himself alive, but also to keep the tiger fed with something other than himself. It is a beautiful movie – one you must see for its stunning images, if for nothing else.

Finally, after an encounter with a carnivorous island, Pi and Richard Parker, the tiger, wash up along the shore of Mexico. Barely able to continue on, Pi looks up and sees Richard Parker disappear into the jungle. Pi is rescued shortly after.

Because he is the lone survivor from the shipwreck, officials from the Japanese company come to the hospital to try and get a report from Pi of what happened. Pi tells them the story – of a zebra, a hyena, an orangutang, and of course, Richard Parker, the tiger, who he credits for keeping him alive. Without needing to provide for and also be careful of Richard Parker I would not have made it, he says.

Needless to say, the Japanese officials are left speechless and rather incredulous from this report.

What else do you want from me? Asks Pi.

A story that won’t make us look like fools, they respond. We need a simpler story for our report. One our company can understand. A story we can all believe.

So, a story without things you’ve never seen before? Without surprises or animals or islands?

Yes, they respond, the truth.

And so he told them another story – a story of a lifeboat with a sailor, a cook, a mother, and a young boy. A story of cannibalism in which the cook kills both the sailor and the mother, and finally is killed by the boy. A story that is raw, detailed, harsh.

As Pi gets to the end of this story, now back in the present day in his living room with the author, he poses a question:

I’ve told you two stories. Neither explains what caused the sinking of the ship and no one can prove either one. In both stories the ship sinks, my family dies, and I suffer.

So, which story do you prefer?


The man awoke to find his friend gone, totally unaware of the jewel his friend had given him. Before long, he allowed himself to sink into poverty, wandering through many countries and experiencing many hardships. After a long time, now reduced to sheer want, he met his old friend. The rich man, surprised at his condition, told him about the gift he had given him, and the man learned for the first time that he had possessed the priceless jewel all along.


Finding a Higgs more or less as expected is actually a bit deflating, one of the scientists interviewed remarked. Physicists had  hoped that, rather than confirm what they had theorized, instead perhaps new mysteries might have been opened up through the discovery.

“Scientists always want to be wrong in their theories. They always want to be surprised,” he said. “It’s a bittersweet victory when your theory turns out to be right, because it means, on the one hand, you’re right, that’s nice, but on the other hand, you haven’t learned anything new that’s surprising.”


As modern day Pi brings his story to a close there in his living room, there is a sound at the door.  “That is my wife and children, would you like to stay for dinner?” He asks the author who is visibly surprised.

You mean you have a family?

Yes, a wife, two children and a cat.

So your story does have a happy ending, responds the author.

That is up to you, says Pi.  It is your story now.

So, which story do you prefer? Pi asks him. The one with the tiger. That’s the better story – responds the author.

And the man learned for the first time that he had possessed the priceless jewel all along….


*Our theme for the April Not Church gathering, The Jewel Hidden in the Robe, is actually a parable – a short story, more like a Buddhist koan than what we might think of as a fable or morality tale.  This parable comes from the Lotus Sutra, thought to have been written sometime in the range of 100 BD to 200AD. It is said to be a discourse delivered by the Buddha, most likely toward the end of his life, written down at the time, then hidden away for five hundred years.