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News

Obama visits Los Altos area

Obama visits Los Altos area

President Obama made a fundraising stop today at a private residence in Los Altos Hills, an appearance that spurred traffic disruptions, helicopters scouting overhead and protesters. In the wake of his visit, unknown persons, apparently no fans of ...

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Schools

MVLA rolls out laptop integration this fall

MVLA rolls out laptop integration this fall


Town Crier File Photo
Starting in the fall, daily use of laptops in the classroom will be standard operating procedure for students at Los Altos and Mountain View high schools as the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District launches a pil...

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Community

Generations blend behind the scenes at 'Wizard of Oz'

Generations blend behind the scenes at 'Wizard of Oz'


Altos Youth Theatre and Los Altos Stage Company rehearse a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.” ELIZA RIDGEWAY/ TOWN CRIER

A massive troupe of young people and grownups gathered in Los Altos this summer to stage the latest iteration of a childhood sta...

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Sports

Football in July

Football in July


Town Crier file photo
Mountain View High’s Anthony Avery is among the nine local players slated to play in tonight’s Silicon Valley Youth Classic.

Tonight’s 40th annual Silicon Valley Youth Classic – also known as the Charlie...

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Comment

Pools should be included: Editorial

Los Altos residents should be receiving calls this week from city representatives conducting a survey to determine priorities for a revamped Hillview Community Center.

Notice that we did not say “civic center” – chastened by a lack of public support...

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Special Sections

Looking for life without lows, local diabetic tests artificial pancreas

Looking for life without lows, local diabetic tests artificial pancreas


Photo by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Dr. Trang Ly, left, reviews blood sugar readings on a smartphone with Los Altos resident Tia Geri, right, and fellow participant Noa Simon during a closed-loop artificial pancreas study for Type 1 diabetics.
...

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Business

Palo Alto law firm coming to 400 Main

Palo Alto law firm coming to 400 Main


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Longtime Palo Alto law firm Thoits, Love, Hershberger & McClean plans to open an office at 400 Main St. in Los Altos after construction is complete in November.

A longtime Palo Alto law firm plans to expand into L...

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Books

"Frozen in Time" chronicles harrowing WWII rescue attempts


Many readers can’t resist a true-life adventure story, especially those that shine a spotlight on people who exhibit supreme courage in the face of adversity and end up surviving – or not – against the odds.

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People

RICHARD PATRICK BRENNAN

RICHARD PATRICK BRENNAN

Resident of Palo Alto

Richard Patrick Brennan, journalist, editor, author, adventurer, died at his Palo Alto home on July 4, 2014 at age 92. He led a full life, professionally and personally. He was born and raised in San Francisco, joined the Arm...

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Travel

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway


Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe offers fall getaway packages that include spa treatments and yoga classes.

Fall in North Lake Tahoe boasts crisp mornings and opportunities to spend quality time in the mountains. Specially ...

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Stepping Out

PYT stages 'Shrek'

PYT stages 'Shrek'


Lyn Healy/Spotlight Moments Photography
Dana Cullinane plays Fiona in Peninsula Youth Theatre’s “Shrek The Musical.”

Peninsula Youth Theatre presents “Shrek The Musical” Saturday through Aug. 3 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts...

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Spiritual Life

Foothills Congregational: 100 years and counting

Foothills Congregational: 100 years and counting


Courtesy of Carolyn Barnes
The newly built Los Altos church in 1914 featured a bell tower and an arched front window. Both continue as elements of the building as it stands today.

Foothills Congregational Church – the oldest church building ...

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Magazine

Festival features fun for everyone

Festival features fun for everyone


TOWN CRIER FILE PHOTO
The Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival boasts more than 375 craft and arts booths.

This weekend’s 35th annual Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival promises to be jam-packed with fun activities for just about everyone. The eve...

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Religion at Burning Man: Exploring the holiness that unites us

Following is the second in a three-part series on Young’s experience as a Christian pastor at Burning Man, the annual art event and temporary community based on radical self-expression and self-reliance in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.

Burning Man, the weeklong festival in the northern Nevada desert, is one of the largest religious rituals in the western world.

We danced, created and destroyed things together. We talked, cried, yelled and sat in silence. We came to the holy desert from wildly different places, but even in our ecstasy and despair, mostly we were one – like the future city that John of Patmos calls the New Jerusalem.

Burners greet each other with hospitality, saying, “Welcome home!” For me, this means, “Express your wonderful uniqueness, because we act as a kind of family for each other.”

I talked about God with Vedic priestesses, Unitarians, yogis, Quakers, entheogen voyagers, Episcopalians, Hindus, Roman Catholics, shamans, atheists and Zen teachers. I met people there who hate Christianity, people who, often for good reasons, associate it with bigotry and condemnation. But this was a minor part of my experience. Mostly in that holy desert, we shared what we have in common. In outlandish costumes, creating breathtaking works of art, building friendships, we tried to express more completely who we genuinely are. Perhaps for a short time we even became more visible as children of God.

This year’s theme, “Cargo Cult,” refers to religions established in the Pacific theater during World War II, when islanders first experienced the tremendous wealth and material power of American soldiers. After the war, these peoples designed ritual acts and stories hoping to bring back the cargo that had disappeared.

In our context, this anthropological phenomena concerns the connection between the things we own and what we believe, the relation between spirituality and science; the primitive and the modern; superstition, technology and the holy.

The massive structure at the heart of everything was the Burning Man, standing on a spaceship, inviting participants to imagine an encounter with a vastly different culture and how it might change our self-understanding.

Among the 300 different official art installations, many explicitly employed religious symbols. On the Playa this year, artists constructed at least four churches (including the very Protestant-looking “Church Trap” and the more Catholic “Photochapel”), along with a variety of temples and pyramids. The artists may not have intended it, but I felt strangely at home in each of the churches as they gestured to the poverty, grandeur, oddness and ordinariness of our longing for God. I enjoyed playing a church organ in one at sunrise.

Perhaps the most spectacular place we shared in common was called “The Temple of Whollyness.” By the end of the week, this pyramidal holy space, for prayer, meditation and yoga, had thousands of inscriptions written on it. These could be funny and thoughtful. Often they expressed pain like, “Let my dad be happy, and don’t let me go down the same path,” “I’m done living in my anxious past” or “Mom and Dad. Please find it in your hearts to forgive each other. I love you.” People wrote about searing losses. In this place, they cried together and realized again that everything we know and love will one day die. The temple seemed like a physical embodiment of the line the priest says in the Ash Wednesday liturgy, “Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.”

A young woman mourning the end of her eight-year marriage asked me to come and pray with her as she left a box of wedding memorabilia at the temple to be burned. The next night, as the shamans leaped and the chanters droned and the flames devoured the temple, she experienced this as a divorce ritual, a way of laying down burdens that she no longer needs to carry.

What if churches could be more like this? Could they be less segregated by belief and family background? Would it be possible for them to bring together all kinds of people into an experience both of our mortality and our connection to God? Perhaps instead of always building for eternity, Christians should do more to make visible the temporary holiness that unites us.

The Rev. Malcolm C. Young, author of “The Spiritual Journal of Henry David Thoreau” (Mercer University Press, 2009), is on sabbatical from Christ Episcopal Church in Los Altos. For more information, visit ccla.us.

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