Archive for the ‘Salvation’ 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”

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

Climbing The Mountain

June 8, 2012

I’m climbing the Spiritual mountain. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s hard.  Each step though is my step. Each handhold is mine also. Sometimes I stumble. Sometimes I go backward.  On really hard parts of the path I take two steps forward but go one step back. How I envy the mountain goat that can jump and leap and dodge these rocks and stones with nary a miss.

Along the way I have help.   Some of it is very good but some of it is suspect.

After trudging for a whole day I come to an overlook and I am immediately in awe of the view.  The horizon recedes in various degrees on mountains, lakes, trees, birds, and other natural beauty.  I sit down and try to take it all in.  Everywhere I look is another new and amazing sight.  I see a taller tree, a prettier bird, a clearer lake and a bluer sky. After a great while I pick up and begin anew on the spiritual path.  I realize that I found this path as a trail from the my main path.  It’s a path that I feel intuitively. In the weeks ahead I come across many sideline and divergent paths that lead to beautiful little nooks, and crannies, and grand vistas of awe inspiring beauty. I also find little shrines, and temples and synagogues.  I find chapels and churches and Grand Cathedrals of Holiness.  Each holds me in a transfixed state and I am hushed to humility and quietness.

Eventually I make my way back to the my true path and I realize that I have only been going around the mountain.   In short, I’ve made almost no vertical ascent.  I can see that I should stay mostly on my path and eschew these sideline trails and paths.  As wonderful and as holy as these places are, I realize that they don’t really lead me anywhere. I resolve to be more steadfast to an ever upward spiritual ascent.  If I come to a beautiful spot or a supposed Holy Ground, I recognise it but move on. To stay at these places is a dead-end.  I begin again.

I come to a landing that has many, many books.  The books appear as bibles, religious text, sacred writings, and ancient scrolls from all of the world’s religions.  I quickly recognise and pick up the main book from my geographic background and upbringing. I peruse through it and like what I see.

I start to follow it’s teachings again and it’s like a map that leads higher and higher up in the mountain. I’m starting to feel like I’m making headway and that the summit is near.  I come upon a winding stream with big canopy trees and foliage. My path leads right through it and I’m coming to a corner of the path to turn through.  As I turn the corner I am amazed at what I find.   I’m back where I started. I’m again at the landing with all the religious books and texts.  “How did I get here,” I think to myself. I sit down and ponder my situation.  I look at my book and find that it’s old and tattered.  It looks different now.  What initially appeared as an Authoritative guide has now turned to a useless book.   I quickly look at all the other books and texts and realize that they are old and tattered also.  I open another different book and look for the path given by that book and realize, “It’s the same path I just took.”   It slowly starts to sink in, “All of these books are just books and they all lead back to the same landing.”  Finally, I abandon the books and make my way for the path out of these woods and up the mountain again.   I realize after much thought that there are no sacred texts that are more important then a real reunion with God. I begin again.

As I ascend the path a brilliant light appears ahead of me at about a 45 degree angle. I have to arch my neck up just to see it. The light is emanating from some person.  I can only barely see through the light that someone is ahead of me. He has his hands folded in front and is sitting in the lotus position.  I call out to them, “Hey, who are you?” From the ledge a considerable distance above me a serene but authoritative voice answers, “It is me, your Teacher.  I’ve been sitting here waiting for you.” I become very excited because I’ve been looking for someone to show me the way.   It’s such a difficult journey and frequently I feel that I need all the help I can get.   The Teacher starts advising me on how to ascend to his platform.   The path starts to become  easier for it has obviously been walked on by others before me.   The Teacher keeps beckoning for me to hurry to him.

I’m getting excited because I’m halfway there and then I hear a voice from my immediate right about 30 feet away.   “Hey you. Where are you going?”  Another man is on an adjacent path but it doesn’t appear to be connected to mine.   “I’m going to meet my teacher.  I’m following the light that emanates from his being,” I say.  He calls to me to stop a minute.   “Please take another look for me will you.  I’m trying to find God and  I’m wondering if you can see his face? Is the light coming from his face?”   I can’t really figure out what he’s asking me but I look again and realize that I can’t see his face.  I see an aura of light emanating all around his head but I can’t see his face.  I look at the sideline climber again and say, “No, I can’t see his face. What does that mean?”  My adjacent climber friend shakes his head and says, “The light you see of the supposed leader is just a silhouetteHe’s standing in the path of the light of God and you’ve temporarily  mistaken it for God.”  I look again really hard and I realize now that my friend is right. I can’t ever actually see the teachers’ face even thought the aura of light is all around him.   I’m stunned  and realize that another illusion has interrupted my path.

I sit down and try to take it all in.  My adjacent climber friend has stopped also.   I look over to my friend and he sees my disappointment.   He calls across from our divided paths, “The Teacher, he’s not much farther along than you. He’s not at the top and he’s not cresting the horizon. If it was really Gods face, you would see his face and the light would emanate from his face.”   I nod my head and look  up the mountain again to the supposed teacher.   I turn and look again at my friend.   He calls to me and says,  “The Teacher is probably on his own singular ledge.   The path that leads to him is just a path to him.  He means well but has essentially stopped his ascent.”

As I regain my orientation I finally call back to my friend, “Hey friend, you were right.  I can see that you are on the right path so is it OK if I  tag along with you?”   He just looks a me with big sorrowful eyes.  Finally his gaze meets mine directly and he says, “No.  My path is mine and yours is yours.  Each of us has an absolute singular path. Each of us must follow that same path back.  When we left God we each left by ourselves.  Some ran down the mountain, some rolled down the mountain and some of us, like a big lazy river, just meandered down the mountain.  I happened to have JUMPED from the mountain and that’s why you see me now climbing the face of the mountain.   Follow your intuition and you’ll find your path.   Again, some of us jumped off the precipice and now we have to climb the face of it back up.  Your intuition will tell you your path because you’ll remember it as the path you took coming down.”  Before I could beg, plead or debate it with him he takes off and leaves me to my own thoughts.

I rested awhile and reviewed my friend’s words.  As I eventually start treading up the mountain again I realize that he was right.  If I jumped off the precipice, I have to climb it. To follow him is just a lateral move. The energy, time and space is exactly the same as pushing forward up the side of the mountain. I can see now that some people can just walk up the mountain but some people must straddle the face of a cliff.

As I come even with the teacher I can see that from his position that no path upwards exist.  The only path is the one I was on and that only leads to him.  I look along that path now and can see one person descending the trail to make it back to their own path.   Frequently those leaders will make their encampment on an adjacent ledge and proceed for a long time to regale themselves with their following and congratulating themselves with their level of attainment.   I realize that someday that teacher will descend his own path down and renew his real path upwards. More importantly he will make his path alone.

I can’t pass any judgement because from this height I can see that my own trail has ebbed and flowed, descending and then ascending again like waves. There are no books, places, or people that encapsulate God.  They are really just reflections.  I rest awhile….and then I begin again.

“We climb to heaven most often on the ruins of our cherished plans, finding our failures were successes.”

                                                              – Amos Bronson Alcott

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

When you listen, what do you Honor?

June 13, 2011
I’m trying to tell her but she just doesn’t get it.  She brushes me off. I explain again. I try to make her see how crucial this is to me.  I become more emphatic.  She ducks and dodges and weaves from my finest arguments.  Finally, I really am arguing and she is too.  Our voices get louder and more and more sarcasm enters the picture. Finally we both are in full-fledged battle.   We break apart……and lick our wounds. 
 
It’s taken me a long time to understand how most of us have learned to communicate with one another.  We learn from our parents. We learn from TV and the movies. But most of those experiences don’t really reinforce positive communication.  From the media, movies, and TV world, positive communication is not good drama or entertainment. A most striking example is the English Parliament where insults and embarrassment appear to be the standard fare. The resolutions appear disappointing if people resolve things without acrimony.
 
Frequently when people discuss things, their focus can be on winning, scoring points, laying down the gauntlet, embarrassing their opponent. Sometimes it can manifest as absolute and total denial.  People want to preserve their identity and their illusions, particularly about their own image. Especially in America where we definitely have a whole sports culture that says that winning is everything. Every issue is engagement.
 
In marriage, relationships, and sometimes the work world this doesn’t work well.  We can’t run over our spouse, dominate our kids, and do whatever we want. 
 
One way to have a more adult relationship is to be “continually & willfully mindful” of what we are saying and what we are doing. I call this CWM.   When I fix this thought with a little axiom I can then fix it in my mind.  This CWM can be hard to do since our upbringing has indoctrinated us by TV and Movies to act less than our best.
 
Recently(the past two years), I’ve been trying to not honor power, force, sarcasm, winning and self-righteous behavior. Not that I consciously honored them, that’s my point, but that I have been taught to honor them.  I’ve been trying to pay attention to how I talk, how I sound, what I mean when I say certain things. 
 
I’ve made a list of conflict resolution arguments that I stay away from. Most of this list if from TV, Movies and personal experience. It’s a lengthy list of “don’t do’s” for avoiding arguments and staying on track, getting what you want without resorting to boorish behavior. It’s difficult to do.
 
 
It’s important to not:  use sarcasm
It’s important to not: use knee jerk reactions,  in responses or baiting.
It’s important to not: change the venue, “Another thing you did…”          
It’s important to not: use name calling, “Doodlehead, Crazyman,…”
It’s important to not: use Demonizing or Polarization, “You did..,” Us vs Them
 
It’s important to not: use one-upmanship behaviour, “At least I am…….”
It’s important to not: use a negative tone, another form of sarcasm or disdain
 
It’s important to not: use a cavalier manner or attitude 
It’s important to not: use impunity, “That’s too small to even worry about!!”
It’s important to not: Gesticulate, arm waving, finger-pointing, giving the finger…
 
It’s important to not: use tagging, “Yea, Jim is that way.”  indirect positioning
 
It’s important to not: use inverse tagging, “I’m the good one.”
It’s important to not: use Short Shrifting to undermine others 
It’s important to not: use  Buckshot Charges, “You did A, B, C, D, & E.”
It’s important to not: use Blanket Denial, “It’s ALL WRONG, the WHOLE PACKAGE”
 
It’s important to not: use Stonewalling, (defensiveness) 
It’s important to not: use Stiff-Arming
It’s important to not: use “So What” Answers, People’s feelings, ideas & opinions count
 
It’s important to not: use Brush-Off Answers
It’s important to not: use Plausible Deniability
It’s important to not: use Punt, Fumble, Out oF Bounds Answers
or Arguments
It’s important to not:…………..
 
There are an endless supply of bad arguments and answers.
 
I’ve been trying to shift to good responses, earnest responses, and real answers to real questions.  I found that it wasn’t enough  to just agree with GOOD ANSWERS.  It wasn’t enough to just try to work with people.   I had to HONOR the sensible way out.  I have to lift that good measure up as an ideal and make it and keep it real.  
 
I realized from my list of conflict resolution arguments that it’s real easy to mess up and it’s extremely difficult to stay on track and resolve things honorably. 
 
The things that I HONOR now are civility, kindness, dialogue, others input, truth no matter the source.  It’s important to value the merit of ideas regardless of another’s high or low status.
I’m willing to take the short disappointments because now I’m playing the long game.  Not as a game but as a way to treat others and myself honorably and respectfully. 
 
P.S. This is a work in progress for me.
 
Civility costs nothing, and buys everything.
                                         -Mary Wortley Montagu
 
 
The shortest and surest way to live with honor in the world is to be in reality what we would appear to be; all human virtues increase and strengthen themselves by the practice and experience of them.”
 
        -Socrates

Empathy(101)

June 4, 2011

I was thirteen. I knew as much as any other thirteen year old boy which was almost nothing. We were crossing the football practice field on the way to my house.  My friend Jon was recently broke up with his girlfriend.  “What am I going to do now?”, he said. The breakup was not his idea.  He had been sullen and quiet all day. “I was really starting to like her a whole lot!  Do you think I should call her again in about a week?”   I started to say “Yea” but I didn’t really know and in fact I actually didn’t really care.   I didn’t really know what to say so I punted and said, “Gee, I don’t know.” I didn’t know anything way back then. Jon clammed up again.

We finally get to my house and sit down at the kitchen table. My mother comes in, says ‘Hi”,  and proceeds to take care of the dishes she had washed earlier. I’m talking to Jon and he really isn’t responding. My mother senses that something is wrong and asks Jon point-blank  if he’s OK. He blurts out that “Nancy and I broke up with each other.   She wants to see other guys.”   My mother just looks at him and then she says, “Really, did you want to talk about it?” He says “Yea.”  She sits down and him and her start talking.  He starts talking about Nancy.

I just sat there.  My hands propping up my head, my eyes going back and forth with their words.   I didn’t really want to do this.  I didn’t even know it but I was afraid to “go there.”

At this point an amazing thing happened.  I started to see. I listened and saw that my best friend, Jon, actually had very strong feelings for Nancy.  I saw that my Mom knew how to talk to him and how to listen to him.  I saw my friend and I saw my Mom in a totally different light. They talked for about 40 minutes.  For sure my Mom had talked to me like that before but she was my Mom, that’s what Mom’s do.  I didn’t know she could talk that way with others or that it was even acceptable. 

 My Mom saw a need that wasn’t food, wasn’t warmth, and wasn’t security.   She saw that my friend needed some solace, he needed a balm.  Her words weren’t magic, in fact I can’t remember one sentence that stands out from my memory.  She somehow managed to find out how he was feeling. More importantly she allowed him to vent his feelings and to validate them. She listened to HIM.  She affirmed that many people have had the same feelings. She shared some of her own experiences and knowledge of boyfriend/girlfriend stories.

He still didn’t feel great, but I could tell that what my Mom had said, had made an impact on him.  Finally he turned to me and said “lets go back to my house.” We left and made our way across the practice field.  Jon turned to me about halfway across and said without judgement that “the way your Mom let me talk and explain myself was the way I wanted you to talk with me.”  At the time I fumbled some sort a of an apology.  Inside I knew he that was right. What good are your friends if they can’t lift you up or support you?   But for me at that young an age, I didn’t even know what the word was for what had happened.  Later I learned the word was Empathy. The word means “the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another(Dictionary.com).”

My Mom showed me.

My friend told me.

The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.
                                                              -Meryl Streep

Spiritual Perseverance

May 29, 2011

Recently it was brought to my attention that “I’ll never find what I’m looking for.” The point was made that it’s obvious that I’m searching and I need to settle. I disagree, no surprise here. I’m not purposely trying to surf or spin. I’m not trying to say I’m constantly dissatisfied.  I’m not trying to be obstinate. 

Much of what people think that I need to settle on is “an external object.”  What’s my book? What religion am I in?  Who’s my Savior? What teachings do I adhere to? I believe that I’m a spiritual being and that you are too. 

I once read a story(recalled to the best of my memory) about a CIA analyst/Salt Treaty Advisor that was being interviewed on the history of the cold war and the US/Soviet Arms Race Buildup.  He was questioned at length about the cold war, what it was, how it happened. The interviewer finally inquired on the Advisors’ role in the Salt Treaty.  “Since you’ve worked for about 25 years monitoring the weapons and the Russians, why are you working with them now, what is different now?” he asked. The advisor put down his coffee and looked the interviewer right in the eye, “Yes, you’re right, I’ve been at this a long time. Most of my career, in fact. The difference today is that the Russians now are actually going to give something.”  The interviewer looked at the analyst and said, “You mean you have sat in your chair for twenty-five years just waiting for the Russians.”   The Analyst smiled and said “Yep, waiting for them to give something of value, something of substance and something real.  Everything before this was just words, research and posturing. We now finally, after twenty-five years, really have something we can hang our hat on.”

That’s the way I feel.

Part of what I’m trying to say is “We aren’t there yet.” How can we be since the world is so divided?

Spirituality is a process, not an object. It has no beginning and no end.  I or we, will never arrive.  We can stand still(an illusion), step back or step forward but no matter what we are in constant spiritual flux.

I, as much or even more than others, would love to find that spot or Ideal realized. Like a moth to the flame, wouldn’t any of us sacrifice ourselves for greater and total reunion with God.

My position is not anxiousness, it’s Patience. It’s not wanderlust, but the insistence of Spiritual Certainty.

I believe that our greatest communion is self to God, our greatest values are worked through our community, and Truth & Justice transcends Religion and Borders.

For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

                                                            – Matthew 18:20

Prayer(105)

May 20, 2011

There are about 6.8 billion souls on the planet(in human form). Obviously more souls have reincarnated at this point  in time than at any other time(we think). If you’ve read my Prayer(102) then you know that I’ve made an argument for praying for the supposedly deceased souls in the hereafter.

Since I believe in Reincarnation and since there are about 6.8 billion souls on the planet, many of the people who I’ve prayed for are probably NOT in the hereafter. In the prior post I made the statement of prayer for the deceased, even those that entered the hereafter centuries ago.  My tweak on that concept in this post is that since so many souls currently inhabit the earth, many of those that have supposedly passed on in the whole skein of time have probably been reborn NOW. They are right here with us on good old planet earth.   They are our peers again, or we are their peers.

 The people who by some providence had happened onto my prayer list may in fact be in our current time. Today’s prayers for the hereafter include Charlie Parker, Grace Kelly, Winston Churchill, Redd Foxx, and Claude Pepper.  But they may very well be in the Here and Now learning new lessons.  So again, why would we stop praying for people based on the theory that they have ascended or again been well-placed in the hereafter. Maybe they have been well-placed in the Here and Now. We can stand to think of reasons to pray.   Idle moments create a vacuum that can be filled with prayer.  Referencing the theme of my prior post, we can pray for the waiter, the bellhop, the bank teller, the mechanic, & the accountant.   But we shouldn’t pray on up and down status…so, we should also pray for the Kings & Queens, Presidents, Prime ministers, Senators and Representatives,  & CEO’s. Then we should also pray for the Minsters, Mullahs, and Priests.  We can decide to pray for ALL people like it’s one world. Dead, undead, reborn, recently returned, status or no status, religious and irreligious…makes no difference.   We are all ONE, all the time.

“Prayer is not an old woman’s idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.”

                                              – Mahatma Gandhi

 
 

Spiritual Capitalism

April 18, 2011

My friend Scott had recently turned his life over to Christ.  He told me, “Yea, by accident I overheard a Christian radio show at the pharmacy that asked its listeners if they were prepared to go to Heaven.   They talked about going to Heaven or going to Hell, what would be my choice, so I chose Heaven.”  For awhile some of my coworkers and I had to endure a continuous monologue of “I got mine. You better get yours too!!!”  As the weeks droned on I finally told him “Scott, you sound like a Spiritual Capitalist.”

When I said that, a little light went off in my head. I realized that actually some of Scott’s outlook is good.  What I realized was that actually we do want to invest in our Spiritual Life.  But not as solitary agents or beings.   The upshot as I understand is, “we are all in this thing together. That our Salvation, whether self or others is absolutely tied up in others.  No man is an island, no person can do it alone.” 

Our investment can be reading the Bible, studying scripture, and analyzing Spiritual things.  I believe though that our greatest “investment”  is in each other.  We should be nurturing our developement, helping one another, sharing lessons learned, and teaching Love & Respect.  It’s a communal thing.  If we want to understand God we should know that no person shall be left behind. 

I’m going to tell an experience here that I wouldn’t ordinarily share with anyone because I would consider it boasting.  My kids don’t know, my mom doesn’t know and my wife doesn’t know. But for example I wanted to share what I belatedly realized was to be a Spiritual Investment:

I was driving down the five lane Base Line Road.  All of a sudden I saw a fairly old woman standing beside the road with her bags and her four-point cane. Her grey hair was blowing wildly in the wind and she had her thumb out facing the traffic.  I initially thought “Oh my goodness, what is she doing, does she want to get hit.”   No one hitchhikes on this road. It was very unusual and I barely swerved around her.  As I passed I looked in my rearview mirror and saw her turn and stridently start hiking behind me, very determined and hurriedly. I almost never pick up hitchhikers but sensed that this woman actually did need some help.   I carefully slowed down, put on the brakes, looked for traffic and put on my emergency lights. Then I opened the passenger side door and watched as she seemed to take forever ambling up to my car. 

She got in and we talked, she had a German accent and was half out of breath.  I told her it was unusual to be hitchhiking on this road, and asked what was going on?   She said that she had just had surgery a couple of weeks ago and that she desperately needed to make her next appointment.   She had missed the bus and needed to catch the next one on Delaware Avenue.  I volunteered to drive her there(I was in no hurry for anything).  We talked and we talked and actually found out that we had some shared beliefs about life.  We developed a great rapport in a couple of minutes but knew that it would soon be over.  I dropped her off and told her,”If I don’t see you again then we’ll meet in the hereafter!”  She started laughing and said, “Sounds good but hopefully not to soon!”

We should become Spiritual Capitalists. We should invest in the Spiritual, invest in humanity, and invest in each other.  Thanks Scott.

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

                                     – Mother Theresa