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Marble Mogul

I preached at First Parish U U in Needham, MA last Sunday and the high point of the service was the TIME FOR ALL AGES where I told the story of how I became a marble moguil

If you haven’t read my book, please buy it; if you read it and like it, please review it on amazon,

https://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Audacity-Disciplines-Human-Flourishing/dp/1634890760/gul

Ranger Elementary School was a small brick building that served kids from the poorer side of Tiverton, RI.  My family was among the poorest in town.   My father was the minister of a working-class Baptist church and I was the fifth of his ten children. Beginning in first grade, I discovered the boys played marbles at recess. I didn’t know how to play. Marbles cost money. No one was allowed to play unless you played for keepsies, where the loser must give his marbles to the winner. This felt like a form of gambling. And even if you won, you could still lose your marbles. If they spilled onto the floor, the teacher would confiscate them and give them to the janitor.

Many boys bought bags of fifty shiny marbles for one dollar per bag at the local variety store. For those who didn’t have that kind of money or couldn’t get it from their allowance or their parents, it was possible to buy three shiny new marbles for a dime. As a last resort, the janitor was willing to resell any used marbles gathered from the classroom floor for a penny apiece.  So everybody could play, except me. I had no money, not even a penny, and knew better than to ask my mom or dad for gambling money. I couldn’t afford to play marbles. Yet I had to play! I knew I could be good at it. If only I could find a way to escape being poor long enough to accumulate some marbles!

One day coming out to recess, I found a marble lying at the edge of the grass. Someone had forgotten it or dropped it running for the bell. Now I had my chance. I chose to play one of the smaller boys, Paul. Paul shot his marble and won.  I felt doomed to no money and no marbles. But Paul lent me a marble to keep playing. This time, I won. By the end of recess, I had played dozens of games and miraculously had won more than I lost. I went triumphantly back to class with two warm marbles nestled in my pocket.  Every recess thereafter, I played, and every recess, I got better. I brought an intensity and focus few could bring to marbles. By spring, I was the best marble player on the playground.

My marble collection grew to several hundred marbles. I began to sell them back to the other boys at two marbles for a penny, undercutting the janitor by half and virtually eliminating any competition from the variety store. Because my prices were the best in town, everybody bought marbles from me. Most days after school, my pockets bulged with marbles and increasingly with money. Now I had spending money. I no longer thought of myself as poor. I had financial resources.

By the end of third grade, it was no longer cool to play marbles at recess. But by then, I’d earned more than $18 from marble sales, plus gave over three thousand marbles to my younger brothers. My sense of the possible skyrocketed! I was an entrepreneur.  Much I would later accomplish in life took root in those playground victories. I would never underestimate the power of focused intent and awareness ever again.

In later years, when people would ask where and how I developed my unsinkable confidence, audacious resilience, and sense that anything was possible, and that many risks really are worth taking, I’d say I learned it all playing marbles.

 

Gurdjieff and Ouspensky

What does it mean to be a mystic, to live between two worlds, embrace all of life as a spiritual pilgrim, to treat every moment as if it matters, every step as if it is upon Holy Ground?  Perhaps I should begin by telling you some of what I know about mystics.  I have traveled to distant lands, over the course of decades, traversing diverse cultures and ways of being human, in answering this question of what it means to be living in divine mystery as a transient spiritual pilgrim.

There are so many spiritual pilgrims who have traveled this way before me.  I am not the first and shall not be the last.  You will meet many of my fellow mystics in the pages of this book.  As the English Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote, “You are going, not indeed in search of the new world, like Columbus and his adventurers, nor yet another world that now is, and ever has been, though undreamt of by many, and by the greater part even of the few.”

Perhaps the most famous, or perhaps notorious, such spiritual pilgrim in the beginning of the 20th century was the rascal sage George Ivanovich Gurdjieff.  Gurdjieff’s spiritual curiosity led him to travel over decades to Central Asia, Egypt, Iran, India, Tibet, Russia, and Rome.  He taught his followers how to attain unity of body, mind and spirit such that they could awaken as if from a hypnotic sleep, to transcend to a higher state of consciousness.  He called this discipline “The Work” or “The Method” but most mystics simply call it the “Way.”

His most famous disciple, P. D. Ouspensky, described The Work as a journey seeking the miraculous.  In his book on the teachings of Gurdjieff, In Search of the Miraculous, Ouspensky writes: “When leaving Petersburg at the start of my journey I had said that I was going to seek the miraculous.  The miraculous is very difficult to define.  But for me this word has a quite definite meaning.  I had come to the conclusion a long time ago that there was no escape from the labyrinth of contradictions in which we live except by an entirely new road, unlike anything hitherto known or used by us.  But where this new or forgotten road began I was unable to say.  I already knew then as an undoubted fact that beyond the thin film of false reality there existed another reality from which, for some reason, something separated us.”

In his master work, Tertium Organum, Ouspensky explored the mystic teachings of Immanuel Kant’s critical idealism, emerging concepts of space and time, the mathematical basis of being, the eternal now, the core teachings of Indian philosophy, reality and illusion, dimensionality, the limits of our perception, and the possibility of psycho-transformation.  Three generations later I would embark on a very similar journey of becoming.   To find these truths I needed to begin by understanding the mystic roots of my own religion of birth, and then travel outside and beyond this foundation to explore the mystic teachings of the world’s major wisdom traditions, traveling as a spiritual pilgrim in order to do so.  I set out on the Way.

 

SPIRITUAL PILGRIM

I just sent a rough draft of my second book, SPIRITUAL PILGRIM: Lessons from Mystic Journeys with Five Faiths, to my favorite editor to begin the process of polishing it.  I continue to enjoy the journey.  If you haven’t read my first book, SPIRITUAL AUDACITY: Six Disciplines of Human Flourishing, please buy it and read it.  If you enjoy it, please give it a five star review on amazon.  That is the only way amazon will offer it to others to read as well.  Thank you.  Jim

Beginning Well

When beginning a new adventure I always begin with hope, audacious aspirations, and a fair amount of fear of failure.  Yes, in my life I have taken great risks and succeeded beyond all expectations, but I have also ventured and failed so many times before.  So it is with great joy and relief that I report that sales of SPIRITUAL AUDACITY, in its first month post-launch, have exceeded all expectations.

It has been among the top 5% best selling books on amazon, has already garnered eight five star reviews, and my distributor has shipped over 200 copies of my book this first month.  I am very grateful for all of you who believed in me and encouraged me on this path.  getting this message of human flourishing out to a wider audience feels like my newest ministry.

If you have not yet read my book, please buy it and read it, I want to know what you think of it.  If you have read it, and liked it, please post a review on amazon.  Amazon says if I can get fifty positive reviews of my book then they will offer it to others seeking spiritual books as well.

Thank you all!

 

 

 

Transcendentalist Concord

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Last night friends and transcendentalists gathered at First Parish in Concord to welcome Concord’s latest transcendentalist author’s book SPIRITUAL AUDACITY: Six Disciplines of Human Flourishing  https://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Audacity-Disciplines-Human-Flourishing/dp/1634890760/ into the literary world.

First Parish’s senior minister Rev. Howard Dana opened with a poem from Mary Oliver, perhaps America’s leading living transcendentalist poet.  Then he offered a few words on human flourishing.  Next Rev. Dr. Jim Sherblom explained how the book came to be and read excerpts from the chapters on divine mystery and spiritual awakening.  The evening culminated with Louisa May Alcott, courtesy of Orchard House, wandering in to congratulate Concord’s latest transcendentalist author.  Now on to the October 5, 2017 author’s night at the Concord Library.

Audacity for Unitarian Universalists

Anyone who knows me well knows I delight in being audacious.  Like sitting down to write the story of my life as a spiritual memoir, and it becoming a guidebook to  help discover your own spiritual path. I have traveled a strange and mystic path and hope it helps you on your journey.

If you are anywhere near First Parish Unitarian Universalist in Concord, MA from 7 pm to 9 pm on Friday, September 22, 2017,  please come by and join our celebration and book launch party.  There will be readings, refreshments, and books to buy and sign.  All are welcome!