Sun Moon Lake Wen Wu Temple, Taiwan

I stood before the gods on a rainy Monday morning at a gigantic temple overlooking Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan. Once again, the question came to mind that haunts me when I approach any kind of altar: Am I allowed to pray before you if I don’t understand you?

And how do I pray? Forty-something years old and I still do not know even though sometimes I try. Thankfully these temples offer a ritual that kept my anxieties in check: toss two moon-shaped blocks, ask a question, draw a numbered stick, and receive your fortune from a machine. A beautiful collision of technology and ancient rite. Soon I was gripped by a Vegas-style fever as I tried to upgrade my “very inferior fortune” to a superior one. Setting luck and superstition aside, the simple act of articulating a wish forced me to remember what matters in my life, followed by a small catharsis. Leaving the temple, I passed an elderly woman in a t-shirt that said “Stay wild and free.”

McIntosh County Shouters

Wade in the Water, Vol. 2: African-American Congregational Singing
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