Tag Archives: monuments

A Monumental Effort: Workout of the Week #68

Last week I went to Libby Hill Park for the first time.  I’ve been trying to get in good enough shape to do some real hiking, and I figured the famous Libby Hill stairs would be a great training opportunity.

I put on my 40 lb. pack and explored the park.  Then I went down and up those 153 insufferable stairs four times.  They feel like standard 7.5″ steps, so each time up equates roughly to a 10 storey building — 4o storeys in all on the day.  I’m guesstimating of course, but that’s roughly equivalent to climbing the stairs of the James Monroe Building.

When I was done I met my friend Chris for coffee, after which I went with him to Shamballa meditation group at Ekoji Buddhist Sangha.  Yep, I’m in Christian seminary.  But I really enjoy sharing spirit with others, and there was a period in my life many years ago when I might’ve called myself a Buddhist.  During discussion at the end of the meeting, some in the group expressed complex feelings about having not gone to Charlottesville to stand against the white supremacists gathering around monuments there.  Some agreed with me that the most powerful message possible was to ignore them.

Later that day the tragedy in Charlottesville unfolded.  And no there’s even more talk about monuments.   I wrote another post about that, if you’re interested in such things.


And now for the workout of the week.

Cabal Fang Workout of the Week #68

  • Pick up something heavy and carry it up something steep.  Get the heaviest thing you can safely handle — backpack, auto tire, sandbag, weighted vest, whatever — and find the steepest hill or a flight of stairs in easy striking distance.  Get your heavy thing to the top as many times as you can in 40 minutes.  Take as few 12-count breaks as you need to finish, and be careful going down on noodle legs or you’ll fall.
  • Honor the chalice.  When you’re done, stand at the top and pay homage to the chalice by reciting your interpretation of the devotional from Chapter 15 of the Cabal Fang Study Course — feel free to make changes as needed to fit your spiritual worldview: “O Holy Chalice, blood of God and Goddess, blood of ancestors and kin, blood of friends and heroes, blood of sacrifice and nourishment — thank you for your love, support, and inspirational example. But most of all, thank you for my rich inheritances—material, emotional, spiritual and philosophical. Blessings to you all; please know that you all live on in me.”  If it wasn’t for the people who came before you, who carried some very heavy chores and responsibilities up some very steep inclines, you wouldn’t have most of what you have today.

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On Taking Down Monuments

Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument

Last weekend I went for a hike in Libby Hill Park where stands the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument.

Afterward I went to Shamballa meditation at Ekoji Buddhist Sangha with a friend.  Although I’m in Christian seminary, I enjoy sharing spirit with others.   Some in the group expressed complex feelings about having not gone to Charlottesville to stand against the white supremacists gathering around monuments there.

Later that day the tragedy unfolded and an innocent young woman named Heather Heyer died while spreading love.  It was hard to think straight on the subject of monuments.  But I think I’ve processed enough now that I can think and speak clearly.

I fear that we’re missing an opportunity to be culturally vibrant, awake and mature and that we’re failing to engage with ourselves, each other and our ancestors.

Robert Mitchell — November 21, 1934 ~ July 8, 2008

Realizing as boy that my father wasn’t perfect, well, that was part of growing up.  But the day I realized, as a young father myself, that I had been unconsciously trying to be my father was the day I began becoming my own man. Growing into an adult means figuring out which of your parents’ ideas and behaviors  you should carry forward and which ones you shouldn’t.  Pop was awesome.  My assignment is to be even better.

We have to try and outdo our parents.  And we had better succeed.  Because if we don’t there’s no hope for the future.

And if I do succeed in being a better man than Pop, would it be right for me say so out loud?  When I discovered that my father was human, did I disrespect him?  Did I rub his nose in his faults?  Now that’s he’s gone, do I bash him in conversation or on my blog?  No, no, no and no.  I respect his accomplishments too much to do anything other than focus on what he did right.

It’s no wonder ancestor veneration and worship are still very common practices worldwide.  Almost everything we enjoy — our science, art, architecture, music, customs, fashion — comes to us as a fantastic gift from our imperfect predecessors. If they hadn’t invented agriculture and medicine, for example, we’d be sick and starving. We owe them big time.

Taking down a monument is a metaphorical act of patricide.  And that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

One of my favorite monuments — the “Iron Mike” monument to the Civilian Conservation Corp in Shenandoah National Park.

I personally dislike Christopher Columbus.  I think he was a buffoon who thought the earth was pear-shaped, a mercenary who butchered the natives of Hispaniola.  But to the 2 million members of the Knights of Columbus, who do great charity work, Columbus is a hero.  Should we tear down all of the Columbus monuments?  There was time when I might have said “yes.”  Now I’m not so sure.

Thomas Jefferson bowed to public opinion and gave up on emancipation.  Davy Crockett bought votes with liquor and tobacco.  Teddy Roosevelt had imperialist tendencies and made some bigoted remarks.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt put 100,000 Japanese Americans in internment camps.  All of those guys are heroes of mine.  I’m not forgetting the facts, I’m just choosing to focus on the most positive attributes of those great men — not their faults.

If we only allow monuments to perfect people there will be no monuments.  

Millions died at the hands of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.  That’s a clear cut distinction.  No monuments to genocidal maniacs should be allowed.  But what about Robert E. Lee?  I’ve read Bruce Catton’s A Stillness at Appomattox, and my personal opinion is that Lee was a good man who faced an impossible, unwinnable choice — fight against and kill his fellow Virginians and his own family or side with the secessionists with whom he disagreed.  After the war he became a college president and set a positive conciliatory example for his fellow southerners.  This man was no monster, no murdering despot.  The decision to take down his monuments should be made calmly, fairly and respectably.

But it’s impossible to have a calm conversation about any of this when there are evil, bigoted, white supremacists, Klansmen, Nazis and other domestic terrorists standing in front of our monuments spewing hate and and killing people.  Perhaps we’ll be able to talk about it later when we’ve locked up the killers and healed our wounds.

In the meantime, let’s not surrender to our anger, over-react to what happened in Charlottesville, and start smashing things that don’t belong to us the way they did in Durham yesterday.

Remember, we need to do better than our forebears.  Violence begets violence and two wrongs don’t make a right.