Posts Tagged ‘Salvation’

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”

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: 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

Moral Theory Part 2 (What Liberals Need To Know)

May 22, 2011

I’m trying to cover all facets of Spirituality so that includes the practical.  My Spirituality posts includes prayers, dreams, relationships, people, history, & how things work. Morals would certainly fall under that category so lets look at Moral Theory. Moral Theory is sometimes hard to understand. The reason it’s important is because we are no longer children.   As adults we can see that things are no longer wrong or right, black or white.  In trying to make moral decisions we have entered the realm of Abstract Thinking, trying to balance multiples of concerns to find right answers.  Take your time to assimilate Moral Theory research. It can be examined at the websites as shown at the bottom of the post.

When I became aware of Jon Haidt’s(and his colleagues) research of new Moral Theory concepts it totally amazed me.  Most of my life I’ve been a bleeding heart liberal.   Mr. Haidt and his colleagues have pursued research beyond some of the Original Moral Theories.     In essence there are more deciding issues of  moral decision-making then if things only fall into the 1) Harm/Care and  2)Fair/Reciprocity categories.   He(and his colleagues) have  investigated an ongoing realization that  3)Authority, 4)Ingroup/Loyalty, &  5)Purity/Sanctity were concepts that many people use in the moral decision process. 

Liberals make decisions  principally with:

       1) Harm/Care

       2)Fair/Reciprocity

                 Or put another way : Does it Harm anyone and is it Fair?

Conservatives also take into account the issues of:

      3)Authority

      4)Ingroup/Loyalty

       5)Purity/Sanctity

               So Conservatives also add in :  What Authority does it have to make it right, is it in the group and are they loyal, &  does it uphold sacred values and purity.

 These precepts are important reasons why Liberals and Conservatives are different.   While liberals are deciding if the issues are doing harm or if they are fair, conservatives are also asking What does the Boss think, does it fit the group and loyalty model, & does it uphold sacredness and purity.

Mr. Haidt(and his colleagues) realized the Psychology/Sociology/Moral Theory Community was mostly liberal and so in some ways couldn’t really support their theses and Scientific Papers on their selective and subjective research methods.  In essence, they suffered themselves from confirmation bias(the idea that they favored their own position).  The Psychology/Sociology/Moral Theory community was about 80 – 90 % Liberals and so they could not even judge real Moral Theory because they only listened to their own voice. 

At this point in time Mr. Haidt(& his colleagues) also realized that History & Anthropology showed a preponderance of evidence that people have mostly used the added Conservative Values of 3)Authority, 4)Ingroup/Loyalty, & 5)Purity/sanctity.  Our county, America, is one of the first nations that ensured Liberty, Freedom, and Independence. Because of that we have a very modern Liberal constituency that could argue with Authority, deny Groupthink, and to even  question and oppose Sacred Issues.   Most countries and societies are still Authority, InGroup/Loyalty, and Purity/Sanctity oriented. In essence the Psychology/Sociology/Moral Theory Community was wrong(or at least very slanted) and they should have at least considered these values in their research, papers and books.

NOW WE COME TO THE REAL POINT OF THIS EXACT POST

It appears the Mr. Haidt considers his position now, not as a liberal, but a centrist liberal(he used the words liberal Democrat and centrist Democrat).   I THINK THAT I DO TO.

As a former bleeding heart liberal I NEVER CARED WHAT THE AUTHORITIES THOUGHT,  I DIDN’T CARE WHAT THE GROUP THOUGHT, AND I DIDN’T CARE ABOUT FALSE SANCTAMONIOUS ISSUES.  I now realize that I may have been at least partly wrong(…a little crow,….slice of humble pie,…gulp).

The quick and dirty way that I can finish this is to give those examples of the other three Moral Theory choices that I know now have enriched my life.

Together we are greater than the sum of our parts(Authority, Ingroup).

Without my family I would be a mess(Ingroup, sanctity)

Without these things the center will not hold(Authority, Ingroup).

Mob rule needs direction and cohesion(Authority, Ingroup)

Preservation of society is important(Authority, Ingroup, Sanctity)

Children deserve to mature to adulthood(Ingroup, Sanctity)

Authority  & Society can sometimes provide role models, leadership, & direction(Authority, Ingroup, Sanctity).  

More sometime later on “Why I was only liberal.”

The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creature that cannot.”

             – Mark Twain

 These are the big ideas that take some time to wrap our heads around, the full meaning can’t be understood until we digest it slowly and completely. Because of that I highly recommend that you, the reader of this post, examine it at length on you own.

Here is The MoralFoundations.org Site: 

http://faculty.virginia.edu/haidtlab/mft/index.php

John Haidt’s Morals lesson in video.  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vs41JrnGaxc

New York Times article         

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/08/science/08tier.html

Take a test to find out your “Morals position” 

http://www.yourmorals.org/explore.php

Spiritual Book Review: Your God Is Too Small

May 11, 2011

“Your God Is Too Small” by J. B. Phillips is an excellent book . This is a classic Religious/Spiritual book that was originally published in 1952.   I read it for my first time around about 1989. The book details the outdated ideas and misconceptions that people may have about God.  First, let me say that I don’t know if God is definable.   I have matured(a little) that I know a lot of what God isn’t.   This book basically shows how our childhood, teenage, & even adult definitions are probably out of date and that we ourselves don’t believe them.   After dispelling some old-time myths and misconceptions it then goes into thinking of  what God could be and such like that.  Because this writer was a thinker with abstract thoughts, it can sometimes seem dry. The book sections are Destructive Concepts and Constructive Concepts.

Allow me to cite some chapter names with some observations, that kind of says it all.  

Destructive concepts

1. Resident Policeman  

              This is God as a disciplinarian

2. Parental Hangover

            This is God as the nagging parents.

3. Grand Old Man

             God as GrandDad

 Excerpt interpretation…a research project of teenage youths revealed their sub-conscious thought about God being outdated.  When asked in the research “Does God understand radar?”  Instinctively many answered “No”.  Then they laughed because obviously God knows more than radar, Right?

4. Meek and Mild….

              Sweet Jesus

5.Absolute Perfection

              God is perfect, I think,….but is he/she static and inert or is he/she constantly growing also. Perfection may not exist.

Eight more Destructive Concept chapters.   You’ll have to read the book.

Constructive concepts

1. God unfocused

 My take on this chapter…..one of man’s projections of God with human attributes is the belief that if God is impersonal and gigantically huge than he can’t possibly know all things about all people.  This is making God out to be as a CEO or President of the United States. He can run the store but has little conception of the detail.  If we stop ascribing to God human attributes then we could see that God probably does know all things, everywhere with everybody. This is the belief that God is finite and his energies will thin out and be less applicable. In truth God is the Ultimate multi-tasker.

2. A Clue To Reality….

…….

11. Christ and the Question Of Sin

14.The Abolition If Death

A total of 16 Constructive Concept chapters. You’ll have to read the book.

Why this book is important is because as children we are told what God is and slowly over the years that initial idea may be tweaked or modified.   The problem with that is that the nature of God is very rarely completely explored and examined in-depth. 

I would rate this book 8 out of 10 stars, ********.  In all honesty I have to say that this book is NOT inspirational, I didn’t feel uplifted as in a sermon or a feeling.   However it does give great insight and understanding about our wrongly held beliefs in God.  I personally found that very  helpful.  It may be in the local or university libraries.  

 ISBN Number 0-7432-5509-7

124 pages

http://www.amazon.com/Your-God-Too-Small-Believers/dp/0743255097/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1305072558&sr=1-1