Minister's Post, Fri Nov 5

Dear Ones,

As I child in the Atlanta area in the late 60s and 70s, I cheered for the Atlanta Braves baseball team. In 1969, the first league championship series was held (before that, the World Series itself was the only post-season baseball), and the Braves qualified for it. My 5th-grade class set aside the lesson plan, wheeled in a TV, and we watched the games. (Yes, they had day games back then.) That's what a big deal it was in the Atlanta area. Of course, as many New Yorkers will remember fondly, 1969 was the year of the "miracle Mets" -- who, on their way to the World Series that year, swept Atlanta three games to none in the inaugural National League Championship Series (NLCS). My 5th-grade class was soon back to our multiplacation drills and spelling exercises.

The Bravos returned to the NLCS 13 years later, in 1982, and were again swept -- by the Cardinals, this time. I only know this because I looked up the list of NLCS matches on Wikipedia. I was age 23 then, and wasn't paying much attention. Another 9 years of mediocrity went by before the team got to the NLCS again. I was 32, and this time I was paying attention. I taught myself how to keep a scorecard, and recorded each of the 7 games as, this time, Atlanta prevailed. They advanced to the 1991 World Series, which some (including me) regard as the greatest World Series ever. It went the full 7 games, 5 of them were decided by a single run, and three of them, including games 6 and 7, went into extra innings.

The Bravos of the 90s made it to the World Series five times that decade, winning only once (1995). With a roster chock full of stars, the 90s Bravos were generally regarded as underachievers. (Brooklyn Dodgers fans can relate to the disappointment-amidst-excellence feeling -- their team made it to the World Series six times during the 1947-1956 decade, winning only once.) This year's Bravos, on the other hand, didn't face the high expectations of the 90s team. They had the worst regular-season record of any team in the play-offs. So it was a pleasant surprise for me that they did so well, even winning the World Series.

I mention all this by way of background for a spiritual point I want to mention. During the World Series final game Tuesday night, Atlanta's first-baseman, Freddie Freeman, hit a solo home run in the 7th inning. Broadcaster Joe Buck exclaimed: "How about that! In what might be his last at bat for the Atlanta Braves, he's just made it seven to nothing." Buck was alluding to the fact that Freeman is headed into free agency and might not be with the team next year. It's true; he might not be. And Buck emphasized, "might." Nevertheless, some fans were upset. They regarded Buck's reminder of Freeman's pending free agency as spoiling the moment that they just wanted to enjoy. Numerous tweets were tweeted expressing anger at Buck.

Such a reaction is a spiritual failure. Through cultivating our spiritual development, we grow increasingly able to hold all the various aspects of reality at the same time. "Mental health," wrote Scott Peck, "is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs." It's the spiritual disciplines we follow that help us stay dedicated to reality and help us simultaineously hold the beauty and the tragedy of existence. To celebrate a feast while also holding in mind those who are starving, to exult in a beautiful panoramic view while also holding in mind that others have no view of anything other than the dispiriting slums around them, to fully enjoy a moment while also being mindful that the conditions of that moment are fleeting -- this is the dedication to reality that comes with spiritual maturity, and it is the fruit of ongoing spiritual practice.

May your life be filled with celebrations, and may your enjoyment of them never involve pushing anything out of mind.

Yours in faith,

Join a Journey Group: http://cucwp.org/journey-groups

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It)

The Oct 31 worship service, "Samhain," is here:

See our channel for many other past services HERE.

BYDMI (Because You Did Miss It)

Time ran out at the Oct 31 worship service before I could share with you my Samhain reflection. I have posted the text on "The Liberal Pulpit." See: Samhain Reflection

Covid Review

The Worldwide numbers are not reliable, and likely are greatly underestimating the actual prevalence of Covid-19. These numbers may nevertheless give us an indication of trends.

New Cases
Average New Cases per Day, worldwide:
Peak week (Apr 23-29): 828,591
Lowest since peak (Jun 15-21): 360,876
Highest since the June low (Aug 24-30): 659,956
Two weeks ago (Oct 15-21): 412,403
Last week (Oct 22-28): 427,526
This week (Oct 29-Nov 4): 434,354
Note: new cases increased from Oct 17, when the 7-day average was 402,429, through the end of October. For the first 4 days of Novemeber, new cases per day have been essentially flat.

Average New Cases per Day, US:
Peak week (Jan 5-11): 255,931
Lowest since peak: (Jun 15-21): 11,960
Highest since the June low (Aug 27 - Sep 2): 167,503
Two weeks ago (Oct 15-21):76,351
Last week (Oct 22-28): 71,690
This week (Oct 29-Nov 4): 69,809
*Down 58% since Sep 2 (an average rate of decline of 1.4% per day for 63 days)

Average New Cases per Day, Westchester County, NY:
Highest week of 2020 (Mar 23-29): 949
Lowest week, post-peak, of 2020 (Aug 19-25): 29
Highest week of 2021 (Jan 6-12): 861
Lowest week of 2021 (Jun 17-23): 11
Highest since Jun low (Aug 15-21): 212
Two weeks ago (Oct 15-21): 77
Last week (Oct 22-28): 75
This week (Oct 29-Nov 4): 73

Average Deaths per Day, worldwide:
Peak week (Jan 20-26): 14,818
Lowest since peak (Jun 29 - Jul 5): 7,695
Highest since the July low (Aug 19-25): 10,274
Two weeks ago (Oct 15-21): 6,732
Last week (Oct 22-28): 7,138
This week (Oct 29-Nov 4): 6,783

Average Deaths per Day, US:
Peak week (Jan 7-13): 3,524
Lowest since peak (Jun 30 - Jul 6): 247
Highest since the July low (Sep 17-23): 1,982
Two weeks ago (Oct 15-21): 1,587
Last week (Oct 22-28): 1,265
This week (Oct 29-Nov 4): 1,073
*Down 46% since Sep 23 (an average rate of decline of 1.5% per day for 42 days)

Average Deaths per Day, Westchester County, NY:
Highest week of 2020 (Apr 9-15): 52
Lowest week, post-peak, of 2020 (Sep 27 - Oct 3): 0.0
Highest week of 2021 (Jan 28 - Feb 3): 11
Lowest weeks of 2021 (Jun 16-22; Jun 28 - Jul 14; Jul 18-27, and Oct 6-19): 0.0
Highest since May (Sep 10-16): 1.3
Two weeks ago (Oct 15-21): 0.3
Last week (Oct 22-28): 0.9
This week (Oct 29-Nov 4): 0.6

The new cases per day in the US continues to decline, but the rate of decline has been slower lately. From Sep 2 to Oct 24, new cases per day were declining by an average 1.6% per day. Since Oct 24, new cases are declining by an average of 0.4% per day (for an overall average decline since Sep 2 of 1.4% per day).

Worldwide, new cases per day have been slowly climbing, though the rate has flattened out for the first four days of November. Blessedly, the worldwide Covid deaths have been declining again since Oct 30.

The US vaccination rate continues to slowly climb. As of Nov 3, 58.2% of the US population is fully vaccinated. The rate has slowed: it took 21 days to increase the last percentage point. The percentage point before that was gained in just 15 days.

Meanwhile, the Westchester County fully-vaccinated rate is 70.5% (as of Nov 3) -- up 1 percentage point in the last 15 days.

Be careful out there!

Practice of the Week

Mandala Spiritual Practice

Mandala. It’s a Sanskrit word meaning “circle” and also meaning "to have possession of one's essence." At base, it is a sacred circle with a centerpoint – an image that has been a source of the experience of oneness and wisdom in many cultures the world over.

Its symbolic forms draw out truth from the unconscious and connect our inner life to our outer life. The circle represents wholeness. Drawing a mandala evokes an attitude of receptivity and reverence. The one drawing is plumbing for and recording the inner self at one moment in time.

Mandalas touch layers of the mind which may otherwise be hidden from us. The great psychoanalyst Carl Jung drew mandalas in his notebooks, finding that such drawings made visible his own psychic transformations from day to day. Gradually, he came to find the mandala to be a mirror of the psyche in its totality, and he incorporated mandalas into his practice with patients.

The mandala is both whole and fractured at the same time – just like us human beings. To make a mandala, you could try free-handing. Or use a compass to make concentric circles to use as guide lines. Find a quiet place for about thirty minutes.

Begin at the center with whatever form suggests itself to you. Work outward from the center. When you are finished, date it and give a title. Maybe make a journal entry about the experience of drawing it. For more about Mandala Spiritual Practice, see the post: "Mandala Spiritual Practice."


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