Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Religious Boxes and Spiritual Cafeterias

December 14, 2012

My friend is arguing with me and blurts out, “you can’t just choose your values,  religion is not a cafeteria!”

I laugh and realize his quick synopsis catch-all answer has some merit.

I reply in kind and state just as firmly and just as loudly that “religion is also not a box.  A provincial viewpoint will never be a Universal Truth.”

How is the Religious/Spiritual World Organized?  That is a recurring theme in our lives.  It’s a philosophical question as well a question of placement.   Where do we belong?  It becomes a question of structural reality and placement.

When we are born in this world we are usually raised in a particular religion.  It is usually the religion of our immediate predecessors(i.e. our parents).   I currently believe that whatever religion we are born into is the possible continuation of the religion that we have built and established in our prior lives. But it could also be the religion that teaches us the lessons that we need to learn most in this lifetime.

I was raised as a Methodist and believe pretty firmly that it’s a carry over from my last life.

I believe that there are currently both Boxed Religions and Spiritual Cafeterias and that we are headed for a world in which Spiritual Awareness is completely and totally self-evident.  We are entering a world in which our spiritual consciousness is so evident in our lives that we can finally understand the greatness, the interconnectedness and beauty of all things.

The merits of boxed religion are that the individual can learn discipline, order, respect, progression, and teamwork.  The faults of a boxed religion are possible continued spiritual error, polarization, self-righteousness,  domination, constrainment of creativity and individual initiative.

The term Spiritual Cafeteria alludes to the idea that we can cherry pick our values and religious ideas. I don’t belive that we can pick our own Ideals and Values but that we sometimes grow beyond earthly systems.  Yes some people do abandon systems and abandon God(at least temporarily).  But some of us do seek greater spiritual answers and we “choose” to partake of the right Spiritual Nourishment.  We do know that “man cannot live by bread alone” and so we do exercise the right to choose responsibly.   We choose the Spiritual salad and vegetables that provides fiber and vital spiritual nutrients.  We choose the Spiritual meat/legume protein that grows our Spiritual Body.   We utilize the Spiritual carbohydrates that gives us the energy to fulfill our Spiritual Goals.   If we do not exercise our own discipline we may revert back to a religious method that instills the proper self-restraint to make wise choices. The clue isn’t will we choose individual answers that are self-serving but whether we will finally adopt Universal Laws and Understandings that have never been owned or constrained by any one group.

I believe that actually each of us is micro-managing our way back to God.  A system or box has merits and we learn from those until we outgrow them.  We stop believing in a paternalistic Santa Claus/Grandfather God and realize that God has greater dimensions than we could possibly perceive.  We realize that God is not an external agent controlling our lives as little puppets.  God is greater than we can imagine and is in all things. If we strike out on our own to learn greater truths those steps will inherently lead to some missteps. Those mistakes will be our own and we won’t have them thrust on us from someone else.

The box religions serve their purpose. Imagine a solder that hates the Jewish people. It doesn’t matter what era, Roman times or the modern era.   He completely doesn’t understand the Jewish world and holds it in great contempt and disdain. He dies and goes to heaven but God forbids him to enter(at least for now).   Finally they have a meeting.  The soldier states his case but God decides that he still has lessons to learn.

God tells him that he will return to earth and live in Brooklyn, U.S. A.   He will return to earth and become an Orthodox Jew.  Not as a punishment but as a spiritual lesson. He will learn to play accordion in a Jewish Klezmer band. He will observe the Sabbath and read the Torah. He will learn the values of family, community, discipline and order.    Most importantly he will learn to love others as he loves his own being.  He will love those he didn’t understand.

Another person has lived their prior life with blue blood sophistication, modern gadgetry, urbane polish, and social networking for career and a socially upward life.  In his next life he “gets to” fulfil new direction as a Pennsylvania Amish midwife.  From these the soul learns lessons of simplicity, earnest work, child-rearing, and a return to nature that brings great spiritual meaning.

Another soul still has lived a life as an ardent religious priest who values duty, self-sacrifice, and carries an attitude of serious composure and restraint.   His next life finds him as a tuba player in a New Orleans Jazz Band.  He finds that joy, happiness, music and laughter are important in life for himself, but also for others. He derives his greatest joy playing in the New Orleans funeral processions.  From these he feels value from his work ushering the deceased into the next world while bringing solace to the people of this world.  He plays at every party and enjoys the parties like it’s 1999.   In this instance it’s a tradeoff of one box for another.   One was the monastery, the other being the Ninth Ward of New Orleans.

Meanwhile, the religiously graduated Boxed  Saint realizes  that there are new lessons of Love and Law that were not taught within his prior systems.   He/She has matured to a new point that places the onus of the Spiritual Life on Him or Her.  In this manner people can learn their co-creativity with God.

Rest assured that real life will find the weaknesses of any boxed religion. Real life also provides the crucible that enables us to amend, correct, and adjust our own lives according to God’s Laws.  Part of the difference is if it’s better to be compelled to conform verses us choosing God’s Laws based on knowledge, experience and wisdom.  It’s a question of Spiritual Maturity.   While in our infancy, WE DO need guidance, direction, focus and discipline.  As we Spiritually evolve we can see that the Spiritual kindergarten is over.  We must now attend High School, College, or Graduate School.

When you think you have to defend something is when you will realize the deficiencies of your philosophy.  I’m unable to describe the meanings of all Religions or Spirituality. I’m unable to describe all boxes and paths.  I believe now though that every individual is somehow forging their own Reunion with God and that relationship is between him and God. Whatever God’s plan is, somehow it’s Natural and Real.  It’s not given to man’s own proclamations and utterances. The answer is you can be wherever you want to be and we all choose when we will change, amend and apply ourselves to God’s plan.  The mature realization is that everyone is on their Religious/Spiritual Path.  The mature realization is that individually and collectively we all are choosing our Spiritual Destiny and our Spiritual Reunion.

“Think outside the box”                      

but remember…..

                               “No man is an island”

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I’m not scared of Hell but my impending Karma terrifies me!!!

June 22, 2012

I don’t believe in Hell.  I don’t believe in an unjust and eternal place of torment and regret.   I think it’s just a scare tactic to compel me to do what others want.  “If you don’t do A, B and C then you’ll rot in Hell forever but if you follow us we’ll get you on the right train” they say.   It’s the basic “carrot and the stick theology”.  The God I believe in could not be so A) mean, B) unjust, and C) unloving.

However, that being said, that does not mean that God is not a teacher, that God is not working with me, that God does not have plans for me.   He does.

His plans require me to eventually conform(of my own choosing) to the Universal curriculum of Love, Law, and Truth.  The more I resist, the more bad Karma I incur.  The more good Karma I fulfil the more good Karma comes back to me.

When I first became aware of what Karma was I realized that it was only just and fair that I receive the bounty of my actions.  When I loved, love was shown to me.  When I did otherwise, that was shown to me also.

When I think of my impending Karma it really does terrify me.  In fact though, it seems worse then Hell because it will by so very, very real.

Instances of a Karmic Path:

The time I was arrogant…..

………I guess I can expect arrogance to me.

The time when I was stubborn…..

……..I guess I can expect stubbornness coming to me

The time I was a gossiper……

……..I can see that people will gossip about me

The time I was clannish….

……..will find me next time being excluded from the group

The time I insisted on deference to me…..

……..will find others asserting their own will on me

The time I analyzed so completely……

……..will find me being under the microscope of others

The time I made nice to win people over……

……..will find others fawning all over me to compel my confidence

The time I needed to exert my power over others….

……..will find me powerless with others

The time I boasted of truth to others…..

……..will lead me to my own untruths in spades

The time I was cold and callous…….

……..will find me shivering in my shoes from my interactions will others

The time I was rebellious…..

……..will find insurgency against me

and last

The time I sold out others……..

……..will find me being betrayed by others

Although this post may seem somewhat ominous I must point out that I still believe that God is fair, just, and loving.   The lessons we incur are our lessons. We chose them.  As we modify and amend our own behaviour we incur the good Karma. We incur God’s blessing.  The beauty, symmetry and logic of such a system really is unassailable.  In all honesty I can’t think of a better system.  Like King David, we can each seek to redeem ourselves and seek God’s own heart.  From this day forward I will change my Karma.  Not as a system though, but rather again as those values, principles and Ideals that I have subsequently outlined in my other posts.  I resolve to be Loving. I resolve to be Universally Lawful. I resolve to seek Truth.

“Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it’s at the end of your arm, as you get older, remember you have another hand: The first is to help yourself, the second is to help others.”
                                                           – Audrey Hepburn

All We Need Is Love(…..and Law,…..and Truth)

May 18, 2012

As I’ve progressed through my life I’ve realized certain things that seemed self-evident actually require further exposition and explanation. Growing up as a child of the 60’s and the 70’s many of the people of my generation became very acquainted with the phrase, “All you need is Love.” It was the height of the hippie era and life actually seemed quite simple and direct with that wonderful appealing mantra. “Yes, all we need is Love and the world will work, the world will be better, our Universe will be Grand.” An old rock group “The Beatles” even had a song called “All You Need Is Love.” I want to abandon, change, or modify that singular concept.

I now believe that we should actually expand that Ideal to include Law and Truth. A trilogy of Ideals that are all completely intertwined and are in fact ONE IDEAL.

LAW: Somehow, someway the Universe needs, wants or has A STRUCTURE. It has a bottom line, it has a remedial and corrective force in our lives that propels us ever upward toward greater and greater goodness. We can call this Man-made Law, Natural Law, or Karmic Law.

I believe that Man-made Law is like a reflection in a pool of water. Man-made Law is just a mere watery reflection of God’s Law. In the end it is found wanting. It’s less than perfect and in fact seems to rely quite a bit upon punishment instead of remedial, corrective teaching. Still, temporarily, it’s the best that we have and the best that we can currently understand.

More attuned to God’s Laws and acting more as a true “mirror” is Natural Law. Most of this is observable by mankind in his everyday environment, i.e. Nature’s Law. When we look at our external world we find the discoverer of real world Laws: Newton’s law of universal gravitation, Newton’s law of heat conduction, Gauss’s law for magnetism, Faraday’s law of induction, Faraday’s law of electrolysis, Kepler’s laws of planetary motion.

If I understand these correctly, most of these laws are immutable. I can’t fly, I can’t go backwards in time, I can’t create a perpetual motion machine. However, if I work within the laws, I can fly in an airplane, I can learn from history, and I can become a steward of God’s earth and energy.

Last is Karmic Law. True Law. The total embodiment of Law. The will of God made manifest. What goes around, comes around. What you sow , you also shall reap. Do unto to others as you would have them do unto you. The Golden Rule. This Karma is both a backward correction and a forward momentum. It is a Universal Mill Grindstone that grinds down to make a renewed substance in refined Spiritual Flour. It also works like a Universal Weaving Loom that is constantly creating new weaves of Love and Opportunity. The one(the mill) is wearing and grinding down the supposedly useless weeds into a Renewable Spiritual Nourishment while the other(the loom) is building newer and finer tapestries of Spiritual Cohesion and Fabric.

This is why it’s important to understand science, it’s describing our world.

This is a good point also to show the main connecting point between two supposedly opposite institutions, Religion and Science. In various degrees both are interested in the…..

TRUTH: Both Religion and Science want to know how the world works. While religion frequently expounds on the truth, science tries to discover it. For one, it’s self-evident and for the other it’s a frontier. While one(religion) may appear delusional the other(Science) can appear as Godless. I don’t just gobble up the dictates of religious authorities and I also don’t believe in a world of just rocks, stars, and DNA. In actuality we are all trying to find the Truth whether we are religious scholars or scientists. We all want answers that really are self-evident and that are real.

As I expounded in my earlier post, Truth is like light. It broadcasts and illuminates everything everywhere. We all seek the truth and we all have various ways of concealing our own falsehoods. Besides the song “All We Need Is Love,” one the songwriters of the Beatles, John Lennon, wrote another great song of Spiritual Ideals called “Gimme Some Truth.” The song is really a plea for honesty, sincerity, earnestness and justice. It’s a simple plea from a single man on the state of the world.

Part of my point here is not any exaltation of the The Beatles or John Lennon but to illustrate that these ideas and Ideals are actually very common. These Ideals are sought out among Rock Stars, Religious Scholars, Scientists and everyone. Everyone wants to know the Truth. Everyone knows a little bit of truth.

LOVE: I could write a ton of words about this subject but it’s actually our greatest life lesson. It will permeate every facet of our lives as Mother, Son, Spouse, and Elder. We will each change seats in our lives and take up the different positions to learn new facets of Love and Connection. As I stumble through this life I keep finding myself in each of those different positions and marvel at the thought of each new assignment. “Oh, this time I’m the Good Son, now I’m the Good Dad, soon I’ll be the Good Grandpa(I hope I can do it).” Try as I might to write it down and capture it in a phrase or a word, it just doesn’t translate, it has to be lived.

These three Ideas are actually ONE IDEAL that are all absolutely interconnected and inseparable.

To understand how these truly do fit together we need to understand that actually each precept overlaps the other:

We can be responsible, structured, scientific and lawful and still be unloving.

We can be Truthful and still be a loveless being.

We can be Truthful and still be irresponsible, unruly and unlawful

We can Love another but still be unfaithful and untruthful.

We can Love another but still be irresponsible, unruly and unlawful

Although I could probably make an analytical Venn diagram of these three components I think that the point is made that these three are all part of ONE IDEAL. To have one without the other is a short selling of Spirituality And God.

A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend upon the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the measure as I have received and am still receiving.

– Albert Einstein

Love

May 11, 2012

This is the third of a series of posts with a soon to come final summation.  The first two posts dealt with Law and Truth.  This post is about Love.  I should say that I am no expert on Love. In fact, Love is the principle of what people are supposed to learn from this earthly experience.  Again though, it’s not mine to own but I have some things to share.

I have three ideas of Love to share here.

First Part. I’ve read a book called “The Art Of Loving”, by the renowned psychologist Erich Fromm(http://www.amazon.com/The-Art-Loving-Erich-Fromm/dp/0061129739/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336741193&sr=1-1).

As I pondered this great book by Erich Fromm I realized that love as we commonly understand it has primary and secondary meanings.   Usually we imagine Love as a couples romantic Love or family Love. In Mr. Fromms book he highlights other loves of Brotherly Love, Motherly Love, Self-Love, and Love of God.  Even two of these are Family love.

I pondered his ideas and realized that there was in fact an infinite or near infinite variety of ways to Love.  I realized that Love should be practiced in any interconnectable capacity.   I realized that there are different degrees and levels of Love to be practiced and used by all of us.

Sticking with the idea of family love I could see that we should strive to be good and loving Mothers and Fathers.

I could see that we should be good and loving Daughters and Sons.

We should strive to be good Aunts and Uncles, Nieces and Nephews.

We should strive to be good and loving Grandmas and Grandpas, Grandchildren and Cousins.

While we all know of blood ties and relationships to various family members, I don’t think we understood the opportunities and responsibilities of loving all within the family(In certain ethnic families this is automatic but here in America we often have far flung and separated family ties that inhibit our love instinct) .

If we expand the Universal Net Of Love we can see that we can be loving individuals in all of our relationships.

Are we good Neighbors?

Are we good Co-workers?

Are we good Teachers and/or Students?

Are we good Citizens?

These last four examples are other ways in which we wouldn’t ordinarily think of these relationships as Love situations.  But, if handled deftly and with awareness instead of mechanical and  arbitrary motions, a greater understanding of the world can be known.

Part of the point here is that we tend to think of love as high and mighty, big and important without realizing the true Love opportunity unfolds around us everyday and in every way.

Second Part. My friend Ed and I were talking one day and he shared with me the true nature of the love for our respective children.   He explained to me that, “the kids and teenagers don’t even know how much we love them.  They think that love is birthday parties and teen age infatuation.”  Being a new parent at the time I just nodded my head, “Yea, you’re right.” He continued on, “If you think of the love that we have for our kids you can see that it’s a pure Love…..it’s not romantic, it’s not sexual….it’s not driven. It flows and falls off of us to our kids.   There is nothing we wouldn’t do for our kids. Nothing.”   I sat up now and realized exactly what he was talking about, “Yea, that’s absolutely true. I’ve never really loved in this way before.”   When Ed left later I pondered his message for a long, long time because I realized that it was true.  The Love that my wife and I have for our kids is totally different from anything I had ever experienced. It is in fact one of the most pure and selfless loves we can give.

Third Part. In my late twenties, my mother and I were talking one day and the subject was about a local boy who had made a big mistake in his life and everyone knew it. His actions made him the local pariah.  He was being scorned very much by our local village. Unfortunately, no one wanted to know him or even be around him.   I felt sorry for him(bleeding heart liberal) but understood the hatred of the community.   The amazing part of this whole story was that the Mother of this boy was absolutely certain that he didn’t do these things. She was absolutely defending him to the bitter end. This was even more confounding in the community because all the facts indicted and convicted him. It appeared to be a tragedy upon a tragedy.  Soon the local people couldn’t stand to be around her either.  It was a loyalty and love I couldn’t understand.

It wasn’t until I became a parent and I reflected on my friend Ed and his story that I finally understood.  The mothers love was absolutely Unconditional.  I realized too that this must be how God loves me! More and more I realized the absolute vehicle of motherhood confers a certain love that is magnified a hundredfold over our other understandings.

When I think of the function of Motherhood and how pre-life decisions are made I wonder how we could ever do what we do?

I have this image of God speaking to a soul/spirit and conferring with them of their spiritual curriculum this time around,  “Angel #99, I have a special mission for you this time to fulfill one of my main objectives.   This time I want you to be Steve’s mother.”

Angel #99 says, “But why? What’s in it for me?” God gives an infinite love and sternful expression all at the same time and says,  “Your job this time is to give absolute, unconditional love to Steve.  You’ll care for him, cloth him, feed him, and defend him no matter what. You’ll love him the same way I love you, with your whole heart, your whole mind, and your whole soul.  Any questions?”

“Yea,” Angel #99 says, “why do I have to do it. I don’t even like him.  How can I do this?   Isn’t this asking a lot of me?  Maybe someone else can do it.”

God laughs and says, “You and Steve are perfectly suited for one another.  Your respective life lessons go hand in glove.  You needn’t worry, the chemical, biological and instinctual feelings will take over.   Soon….very soon…you will see what I see in Steve and you will also see more clearly exactly what I see in YOU.  I’m not asking you to do anything different or even asking the impossible. I’m just asking you to love someone like I love you.”

Angel #99 shuffles the feet, flaps the wings, and says, “In God we trust, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Happy Mothers Day,

All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. 
               – Abraham Lincoln

Truth

April 27, 2012

I believe that Truth is a very important component of Spirituality.

As I’ve studied various spiritual tomes, religious tracts, bibles, Near Death Experience books I’ve come across a theme that recurs over and over again.   In the hereafter nothing is SECRET.   Everything is known.  Everything is understood or can be understood.

Now that is a thought that both scares me and highly intrigues me.

It scares me because I don’t really want the things of my life to be public knowledge.  I don’t want my indiscretions of selfishness to fly as a flag from the tallest mast on the biggest ship in the widest ocean. YES, I”M AFRAID THAT PEOPLE WILL SEE ME AS I REALLY AM.    Some of that is very, very good because sometimes I am very, very good.  But I am all to aware of the multitude of times that I have let  down my brothers and sisters.

The good part of a hereafter with no secrets is all man-made political and spiritual systems will be laid bare as provincial, ego-building systems. The Universal truths will be self-evident and undeniable. Spirituality will be plain and forthright. TRUTH will be as evident as the clouds in the sky, the streams through the wilds, and the trees in the forest.  In short, incontestable, undebatable.  I believe that I will finally have real answers to real questions of the Universe and God’s world.   I WILL UNDERSTAND THINGS.  Reality won’t be open to interpretation.   All the different positional sides of people will enable us to see ourselves as ONE.

I believe that there are two kinds of Truth: Provincial Truths and Universal Truths. The provincial truths are those that are primarily geographic, local and temporal.  The Universal truths are true despite geogaphy or time.   They are true everywhere, all the time, for all people.

Provincial Truths can further be broken down into true or passing for true(talk about doublespeak).   A real provincial truth is usually small personal, geographic and timely. The love of my family is a provincial truth. It’s real to me but but does not carry over to other people, other places, or other times.

The false provincial truths are provincial truths trying to pass for Universal Truths. These are truths that the religious, the political, and particular try to pass off as “We Are The One”.  In short, it is various groups trying to “co-op” and “incorporate” the truth to their personal use.

The discovery of a false provincial truth can be seen by trying to take it to another part of the world and imparting that truth there.    If it appears at all self-serving or self-directed then it could be met with jeers and disdain.   “You believe what?” they would say.  It becomes a propositional  truth that has to be sold.

The Universal truths can be recognized everywhere, all the time.   Truths that are Universal can be recognized as, “whatever you do unto others will be done to you”, “As you give you gain in understanding”, “you must first save yourself if you would save another.”  These are truths that can usually be recognized by all people, anywhere, anytime.

It will behoove us to learn NOW to be as honest as possible. If upon entrance to the hereafter we try to carry on as we did on earth our foolish lies will pervade our whole existence. We will be embarrassed that we can’t face the truth.

Imagine a world in which every mistruth exposes us as a long-nosed Pinocchio, or the naked Emperor upstaged by a child(“The Emperor’s New Clothes“). Could we live with our lies emblazoned like NEON signs on our forehead? Don’t you think that we would grow mute if we couldn’t tell the truth. If every word we uttered was an attempt to amend and modify our world to our selfishness wouldn’t we see the need to change?  If our normal shortcut answers failed to help us wouldn’t we try to align ourselves to Universal Truth?

Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away.

                                                                     -Elvis Presley

Spiritual Book Review: “Your Life….Understanding the Universal Laws” by Bruce McArthur

April 20, 2012

This particular post is a kind of trilogy of understanding that I’m recently embracing and hope to share with others.  We know what Love is, is there more?

Bruce McArthur has undertaken an adventuresome book.  The full title is “Your Life: Why It Is the Way It Is and What You Can Do About It – Understanding the Universal Laws” by Bruce McArthur.   It’s too long of a title to have as the name of this particular post.  Compared with the wisdom and insight of this book the lengthy name is inconsequential .  The book is ISBN #0-87604-300-7 and is about 276 pages long.

Bruce MacArthur was an Electrical Engineer and an Executive.  He pondered that state of the world and had the courage to wonder “How does it work?” He was familiar with the teachings of Jesus and understood learning the lessons of Love.

In his introduction he makes a very clear case for his questions and searching.  He sought to know how the Universe works.   What is the Spiritual Structure of this world?    What is the bottom line?

He begins his case with  the thought that God’s Laws must be Universal and unmutable (unchangeable), they must apply equally  to everyone.   He makes the analogy of electricity laws.  He learned these laws of electricity in his youth and realized that they were so perfect he could imagine and design whole circuits with nothing but pen and paper.  Upon leaving his study he could then build these circuits right every time, the first time.  He knew too that these electricity laws were equally good in India, Ohio, or Sweden.  The electricity laws are Universal. From these simple electrical explorations he realized that God’s Laws must be like this.   In fact, he again realized that even the mere electricity laws were part and parcel  of God’s Laws.    Nothing is separated, nothing is isolated.

He began a more earnest journey to know these Universal Spiritual Laws and eventually found the  teachings of a spiritual healer that imparted these laws sensibly.

In short, but not all, some of these Laws are:

“As you sow so shall you reap”

“Like begets Like”

“There is nothing by chance”

“As you give you gain in understanding”

“Spirit is the Life, Mind is the builder, Physical is the result”

These are but a smattering of his so-called research of the Universal Spiritual Laws.  In the back of the book he lists 32 separate laws that should be applicable in one’s life.  They are very good laws.

My own thoughts: electricity laws and Universal Laws share other common attributes.   Like electricity laws the Universal Laws are impartial, they shock, harm or alarm exactly alike or the can build and shine a light unto the world.

Addendum: I haven’t referenced the teacher healer by name because while I give credit where credit is due I realize that Mankind desperately wants to play the “My guru is better than your guru game.”   If each of us searches in the same manner that Bruce McArthur has, we can actually see more, be more and understand more.

http://www.amazon.com/Your-Life-About-Understanding-Universal/dp/0876043007/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1319457949&sr=1-1

“There is an orderliness in the universe, there is an unalterable law governing everything and every being that exists or lives. It is no blind law; for no blind law can govern the conduct of living beings”
      -Mahatma Gandi

Water, Land, and Religion

March 30, 2012

In 2005, a movie called “The Corporation” was released.  In that movie they told of the Water Rights Movement of Cochabamba, Bolivia.  Apparently in the year 2000 the water was privatized and Law #2029 gave the water rights to a private company. The broadness of this law debatably gave the company control of people’s irrigation systems, personal water wells, and even the rainwater. The protest movement of the Coördinator questioned whether God’s rainwater from the sky could ever be properly or rightly owned. Eventually the people of Cochabamba had their own water rights restored to them, The “Corporation” book/movie was certainly highlighting the overreaching control of corporations. I have since been informed that the rainfall water rights of Western America are controlled by the Government and related water corporations.

In 1626 Peter Minuit purchased Manhattan from the Carnasee Indians for gifts with a value of 60 Dutch guilders.  While this has variously been described as being worth $24.00, when it’s truly adjusted for inflation it’s a sum more than $1000.00 in today’s market.  The nearby Raritan Indians supposedly sold Staten Island at least six times.  This probably means one of two things: the Indians either knew what they we doing or they didn’t understand what property rights were.  There’s no evidence that either party attempted to swindle the other but it seems to me that the Indians must have at least pondered what was going on.   Did they in fact wonder whether they could also sell the moon, or the sunshine and the stars?  Did they think the land was being leased?   Again how can land be owned?  Does anyone anywhere have the deed from God?  Did Mother Nature give anyone the title to those resources?  Isn’t it really just a manmade invention.

Mankind has an inordinate desire to own things and this has even been seen in our Spirituality and Religions.   Many people want to OWN God, to make him their own.  Religion has become a possession. “In my church….”,  “In my religion….”,  “In our beliefs….”!!!  It’s a natural expression of wanting to belong to something and to have that thing belong to us.

I feel that we should release our feelings from the temporal qualities of this world and realize that we are just passing through.  Yes we should adhere to God’s laws and we should be part of the community and we should love  one another but beliefs of ownership polarizes us.   You and me, yours and mine, us and them are just examples of claiming God’s world as our own.  Mankind frequently does that to control others and to control resources.

It also undermines our real relationship with God because we put others up as intermediates to God and others put themselves up as intermediaries to God.   No person, group, institution, or organization has greater connection to God than your own self.   God wants me to ‘remind’ you that your greatest connection to God is your own Self to God. No one anywhere can speak for your needs better than your own Self to God.

Lastly, I hope that we can realize that we walk through God’s rain, we travel through his Land. The rivers and mountains and streams are his domain. God’s plan is his alone and we can’t own it, change it, amend it or control it. We are stewards of God’s land and we can walk through it but we will never own it.

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books”
                                                                                                                                                                 – John Lubbock
 

Spiritual Book Review: Dating Jesus

August 30, 2011

The Spiritual Book reviews actually covers ANY book that has any spiritual/religious insight or meaning.   Slight Spoiler alert: If you are an ardent believer in God and your personal faith and feel that your faith is sufficient than you may not want to read anymore.    I personally believe that God is working everywhere all the time.  I believe that God is teaching things in those individual religions for an individual instruction to fulfil that person’s total reunion with God.  Sometimes though God wants us to grow in other ways and we may have a path that is less than traditional. 

“Dating Jesus” was written by Susan Campbell and published in 2009.  In trying to write an honest review I have to be truthful about the less than good things about this book.   Please keep in mind though that I feel the book is meaningful and worthwhile to read otherwise I wouldn’t write a review at all.  

1. The book could have been longer, it was only 205 pages long.

2. She skips important and meaningful things in her personal life that probably had a direct impact upon her religious/spiritual values.

3. The larger development  about her faith is questioned as to whether it crumbled away or a full-blown spiritual realignment occurred. 

I believe that the editor and publisher should have compelled a greater input and direction for the answers to the above shortcomings.  

There….I got that out-of-the-way.  I don’t like being negative but at the same time if it’s the truth I can’t paint over it and let future readers believe that the book  is supremely great.  It’s just merely GREAT.

I admire Susan Campbell for her courage to write this book. It’s very honest account of growing up in a bedrock, good as gold fundamentalist religion from Missouri, the back bone of middle America.  This is not altogether a book about spiritual growth as much as it is a book about the spiritual realizations about her own faith that she was raised to believe in. She still believes in God, but differently.

As a child growing up she followed her faith and did as she was asked.  She was Baptised and then Baptized again.   He community, her friends were almost all belonging to the same church. She and her friends would proselytize door to door to find new members.  Frequently she made clear to others that belief in God and Jesus were not sufficient, that their church was the one true church. Any other church wouldn’t do.  She attended church three times a week.  That was an important facet of their social world.  She became an excellent Bible student and would attend Bible camps.   It soon becomes apparent that Susan Campbell does know her Bible because several Bible quotes are referenced throughout the book.  

As she states so aptly, “”So begins my memorization of vast snatches of the Bible-Old and New Testament. I can recite the books and the apostles and the Beatitudes.”  Her teachers proclaim, “that girl know her Bible.” 

Her realizations of unfairness and differences came as she watched her brother ascend to a beginning ministry position.   It was made clear that she could never do that or be that. Further dashed hopes were the differences in the sports area.   The boys were encouraged and applauded.  The girls were merely tolerated.  One was real and earnest, the other was just entertainment. When Title IX was enacted to promote equality in high school sports some things even changed.  It still took a long time to bring about even a semblance of fairness and equality.

The most important thing that I learned from the book is that in 1909, two bothers named Lyman and Milton Stewart, compiled a number of religious writings of the time and published them as The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth. It was originally a twelve volume tract that essentially defined and gave birth to the beginnings of Fundamentalism.   These books were then sent FREE  to several ministers, missionaries, YMCA and YWCA  secretary’s, College Professors, Church superintendents and other like-minded leading Christians throughout the United States and the World.  While many of these ideas are  subject to great debate and controversy I believe that the authors intentions were sincere.   I am not an advocate of fundamentalism but  I understand now how these ideas became so widespread even though many themes have non-existent or debatable reference in the Bible and even the exaltation of the Bible. For more information see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fundamentals.

The other main point of the book is when Susan Campbell goes back to Missouri and visits with her brother and his family.   They attend church while she’s there and she sees that it’s different….very different.   The church has modern musical instruments while her original church didn’t even have a piano.   The choir doesn’t have that familiar closed four-part harmony.  It becomes obvious that many members don’t really know their Bible, at least not like her and her brother did when they were kids.  

This realization becomes something that she realizes is lost.  Not just for others, but herself too.  She laments and regrets that at one time she had total and complete conviction, total religious understanding, total purpose and spiritual meaning in her life.   There was NOTHING grey or fuzzy or uncertain.   Her religious life had purpose, meaning and direction. 

In moving from children to adults,  in seeing reality intruding, we observe that things are not always what we have been taught. Sometimes, such as in Susan’s case, we question ourselves and the so-called values we’ve been taught.   We try to find real answers for real questions.

Many of the things Susan has been through have occurred in many others, myself included.  I applaud her courage and vision to dispense with the old even if she doesn’t have a replacement of new values and spiritual understandings.   That’s what takes real courage.   She didn’t switch, she didn’t just change religions or try something else.   She just evolved and grew.  That is FAITH.   She truly is letting go and letting God work it.  

Even with all the things that I think I know, I pray that I will be able to discard my old ideas and rise to new understandings. I know that even now I’m relying on old ideas that are probably just a bridge to new understandings.

I rate this book an 8 out of 10 stars,    ********.  

Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl.      ISBN:    978-0-8070-1066-2

They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.
                                          Confucius

Faith(102)

July 1, 2011

A famous entertainer had developed a habit that upon arising in the morning and taking care of the morning preparations he would stand in front of the mirror and recite special affirmations.   These were personal and uplifting and filled with love and appreciation.  He was a great star and had great faith in himself and his abilities.  Unfortunately his life ended with less than satisfactory results and social approval.   I’m purposely not revealing the name so as to not besmirch the individual.  The reasons I cite him in this post though is because I question “What went wrong?”    If he had faith how did his life end differently than what he would have wanted? I’m not sure if he had faith of if he was living in an illusion.

A  young adolescent boy about nine years old was asked one day “Son, what do you think faith is?’  He looked up and said plain as day, “Faith is something you believe in even thought in your heart you know it really isn’t true.” <(Source Unknown)   It’s hard to really pinpoint exactly what faith really, really is.   We know it when we see it but again it’s not really something you can hold in your hand.

According to Merrium-Webster Dictionary:

Definition of FAITH

1
a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1) : fidelity to one’s promises (2) : sincerity of intentions
2
a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
3
: something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs <the Protestant faith>

I am intrigued by 2b(1) “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.”

When I think of Jesus baptism  and his travails in the desert for forty days and forty nights, wasn’t he examining his faith?   When he prayed in Gethsemane and expressed that this cup be taken from him, was that doubt?

Faith is the belief in something outside of ourselves.  In many ways it is denial.  It is living outside The Consciousness of Now.  It is Future Redemption. It is Something More, a Greater Reality and Something Ahead and Something in the Future.

Again I say the our faith has to have Substance.  It must be Real.  It must be made Whole. The Entertainer was in some ways living an illusion, maybe his faith was misplaced(himself), maybe he also had contradictory thoughts throughout the day that voided his faith. Many many people have had misplaced faith and illusions.  Many of my friends and relatives have invested heavily in dreams, illusions, hopes and fears that I could see were bound for failure.   Frequently too, after the fact, they politely let me know when I had believed in a false Ideal. I also have seen people express great energy, vision and faith and proved me wrong.   Are those having the greatest faith just madmen living in institutions?  Are those that live in a purely materialistic, faithless world living on an island?  Should our faith be more practical? Now comes some of the favorites words that I like to say, “I don’t know…..”

I invite your input here about illusion, practicality, and faith. What are your experiences?  This is something that I need further imput on. It’s something that I am constantly trying to figure out.  Do I lack faith or do I just not want to believe in the wrong. I obviously do have faith because I have endured many, many trials in which I realized “Yes, Yes, you were right in your convictions!!”

I do have an absolute faith so allow me to quote from one of the most direct, simple, practical visionaries of our time:

I am looking for a lot of men who have infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done.

                                                                        -Henry Ford

Empathy(102)

June 28, 2011

After my teenage introduction to empathy I proceeded along in life and more growth.   I did try to be empathetic with various individuals and although I was better than before I realize now that I was still a novice.  It wasn’t until I was 30 years old that I got my next lesson in empathy.  I hate saying there are empathy skills because that goes against the whole grain of humanness.  Skill and empathy shouldn’t be in the same sentence.

I had joined for a short while a group that tried to help people with their problems.  This volunteer group was a group that was started around the local university in the 1960’s.   Their basic modus operandi was to take anonymous calls from people who seemed to be immediately experiencing problems or depression.     There was a rotating crew to handle the phone lines.  A caller might get a different person every time.  Dependency was to be discouraged but if people needed to call back again then so be it.

When this group was started it was at the height of Viet Nam, political upheaval, emerging drug use and experimentation,  the arrival of birth control  and with it free love.   Broken relationships, bad drugs trips, social disorientation were common everyday events.  The calls were anonymous for both caller and receiver.   Part of the reason was to ensure confidentiality.   The other reason was to help people open up and also to keep people from being dependant. If its anonymous it goes to the grave and no one knows. I heard about the group and it sounded like a great helping and learning opportunity.

I attended the two-day orientation and sat down in the auditorium.  Methods, rules and expectations were discussed for the potential members.  I was assimilating these things when the next most important life lesson in empathy occurred before me.   They proceeded with onstage demonstrations of caller/responder episodes.   Since it was visual and there didn’t need to be any phones they had the caller/responder sit back to back.  This aided us, the audience, because we still wanted to see them speaking but also it helped us concentrate on the voices as supposed phone calls.

I listened to the first caller and she was having a relationship problem.  She was pouring her heart out and the responder was giving these short, terse answers.  Now this is where the first disconnect with me came in.  I didn’t understand what was going on.  Truth to tell, the problem as I saw it was that the responder didn’t give any answers and I didn’t understand that.   As a man I’m a problem solver, a fixer, a repairer of anything with only baling wire and duct tape.  In a quick man’s synopsis I surmised that she should “dump the bum.”

The second caller/responder came on.  This caller was “higher than then a giraffe.”  A drug induced dialogue ensued.  The responder basically inquired on the caller’s safety and security. He asked what drugs the guy was on and if he was going to be OK.   The druggie rambled on and he sounded like he was lonely.   Again the quick, furtive responses were given and then the caller finally hung up.   In my mind I couldn’t figure out why the responder didn’t say “Hey dummy, don’t do drugs. They’re against the Law.”

The third caller came on.  He said that he sometimes contemplates suicide. In fact though he was still far from suicide.  The responder made the inquiry if that was an immediate condition(possible suicide) and found out it wasn’t. Again the responder replied in short “Uh huh” answers.   He listened and listened and listened.   There was no solution.  This guys life was a mess.  I didn’t know what I would’ve said.   Finally the call ended.  It did appear that the caller was feeling differently after the call.

The mediator came out and asked what had happened, did anyone notice anything.  A woman to my left said “He didn’t gave any answers.”   Everyone starts talking, “yeah or neh.”   I’m thinking it’s a failure, where’s the helping hand.  As the sound tones down the mediator says, “We don’t provide answers.  That’s Ann Landers job.   What we do is try to give people their voice,  we let them talk and that’s why they called.  They want someone to listen to them without judgement, acrimony, or fear.”  My second “empathy lesson” light was coming on.

The Volunteer Group’s job was helping people through right now, to carry on to tomorrow.  They didn’t believe in answers because of several reasons. Each human being should discover their own answers.  Frequently no one right answer exists.   None of the people were licensed psychologists or counselors.  To provide a so-called answer was against the law.   Instead references and directions were made for various forms of professional help if people were open to it.

To summarise the Group’s philosophy, they Validated people and they recognized their problems as real and urgent.  The means to reply wasn’t to give answers, it was to listen and communicate the worth of the individual. Their talking style was to say, “I understand, I feel for you, you’re important, your feelings are important, your ideas are important.”  That doesn’t mean that they never used the NO word, they did.  The object was to allow the caller to Vent their immediate feelings, to somehow come to grips with their own problem after a sometimes emotional discourse and then the caller could begin to SOLVE their own problems.   Frequently it would never make it that far.

What I learned was that solutions were out.  The other person’s thought’s and feelings are just about more important than anything in the world.  To facilitate this dialogue certain words and sentences are used to compel the caller to talk EVEN MORE.  The best way to get them talking is for the responder to talk almost as little as possible and to use momentum pushing words.   I’ve made list of the phrases and words and sentences that best accomplish this.  These are not my own but they do push the caller along. These are the MAGIC WORDS:

un huh

yep

really?

you don’t say!

tell me again!

for true!  (a southern expression)

what did you do next?

that must have been terrible, (or heartbreaking, difficult, taxing, frustrating, unbearable, embarrassing)

I hear that!

why!

what then?

you feel how?

I’ve done that too, many people have!

me too! (indicating their not alone)

whose says?

Each sentence is about 5 words or less. It’s important for the caller to go through the emotional catharsis first and then IF a solution can be found by the CALLER  they can make it their own.  Most of our solutions will be useless.   Again as I stated in another of my posts this is why therapy takes so long. The therapist is trying to guide the patient to their own conclusions.   This is the only way they can own them.

“To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation.”

                                                                                                                 – Chinese Proverb