December 17, 2013 Walking My, or Your, Talk during the “Holiday Season.” The "holiday" season, a euphemism for this religious period in December that includes more than the religion of Christianity, calls forth these ponderings in me. This is the season of giving but really it is the season of receiving. It is the season of supreme greed that comes from every direction. Yet it is the season of family gatherings, some good and some bad. It is a reverent period but it is an excuse for great partying as well so it is also a period of excuses for great excesses. We talk a lot, those of us from the Christian culture, of the “Spirit of Christmas” and ask what ever happened to it? It is the season of the perfect hypocrisy. Nearly all of us from Christian cultures partake in it even though we recognize the supreme irony of the touting of love and peace by the sellers who want our money and often will do a whole lot of questionable things to get it. Perhaps one of the hardest things to achieve, certainly for me, is to live life minute by minute according to my internalized system of values which are the ones I generally talk about, at least to myself, as I try to evaluate if I am being true to those values. Walking my talk or walking your talk is a little different. That means that whatever comes out of my or your mouths about right and wrong is what I and you demonstrate clearly through actions or omissions. We don't just say it but we must not do otherwise after it is said. I include here being true to one's own values. But first, I have to know if I have an internalized value system and if I do, do I know what this system says is right and wrong at any given time. That value system has to have deep roots as a result of testing, judging, and weighing. It is deeply set in experience. It makes sense and seems to render some fairness and justice to me and to others. It is BIG. It does not come and go and change with the winds of the times. To walk my talk I have to know the source of my talk. From what part of me does it come? Is it here today but probably gone tomorrow? Is it consistent even in its own discourse? Am I being faddish? Do I have a moral tether to something like a big rock or giant tree? Or is my tether a mere string that seldom holds for more than a blink of a shadowed eye? Consistency is not necessarily, I think, a great characteristic. To be consistent to values that are no longer meaningful or helpful and that we have determined to be shallow is foolish. Why do I accept as true what I do? I eschew the word believe for it means that I accept something on faith and not because I have experienced it. These questions are asked a lot because they are not simple for anyone. What do I accept as truth and why? I have to dig into that mine and discover that for myself. I have to get muddy and sweaty and tired. I have to know. How can I be true to myself if I do not know my own truth? How can I be true to anyone until I can be true to myself?
November 7, 2013
What good does this do? Once I recognize these pieces as my own, then I can become aware of how I throw them upon others and begin to withdraw my claws and look inward. I see this as gathering and eliminating trash that has accumulated in my mind, my personality, my essence. Some say it is not necessary or advisable to try to rid oneself of the these negative forces, that recognition is enough. Perhaps, unnecessarily, I sense that I must illuminate them and let them go to the extent that I no longer need to project them on others.
By doing this I make room in my mind, personality, essence and/or spirit for allowing more of the beauty of life and of the unseen world to find their way into my perceptions, so I may become a more powerful receiver of the vastness of the mysteries all around me.
David Swimm, cosmologist, advocates that we learn a new myth
for helping us to not only relate to the planet Earth but also to teach us the morality
lessons necessary to help us relate to the true position of life on
Earth. Earth is the "Tiny Pale Dot," as Carl Sagan called
Earth, as seen by one of the Voyagers that took the Family Portrait of part of
the Solar System as this Voyager sailed toward Jupiter.
The vast majority of our mythology was formed long ago when the Earth was considered the center of the universe and even flat and very young. This mythology was formed in a time that human beings stood as masters of the Earth and the only intelligent life anywhere and superior to all other life forms. Our mythologies were mostly tribally formed and had to do with "the others" and us. It taught local survival. That is not to say that hidden deep within a great deal of these myths were the messages of what we in the West like to call "How to Find the Holy Grille" and what all that might mean to any given person or tribe or group.
The concept of living on The Spaceship Earth, as Buckminster Fuller called our planet, that has as its neighborhood the Solar System of planets, a star and lots of meteors, comets and asteroids. Beyond this neighborhood is the Galaxy of the Milky Way, one of perhaps billions or trillions of galaxies and certainly our sun is one of billions of stars if not trillions of stars. Then there is the fact that the Earth, and our neighborhood, the Solar System, and our foreign world, the Milky Way are all speeding around stars and dark matter. When I say speeding I am talking about mind boggling speeds. Our sun will die but long before that the Earth will have become uninhabitable because the sun is getting hotter.
We are on a spaceship and we are all pilots. Our spaceship is doomed. So what do we do in anticipation of that? We are a life form that is still squabbling and warring over irrelevant differences. How will we ever become a united crew that will pilot the Earth and build and pilot the spaceships that will replace the Earth and take us into the Cosmos?
A small but vital step is to reframe our vision of ourselves in relationship to our planet by creating a mythology that reflects our smallness, the spinning Earth, the star that has finite life, the unknown out there in orbits that will bring mysterious objects right by our planet or into our planet at any time? We need to learn not to say sunrise and sunset for both our untrue. We notice the curvature of our planet and we recognize that we inhabit a spaceship with all life upon which we depend for our survival until we have escaped the Earth's hold on us in other spaceships bound for cosmos.
Empathy, Compassion, Generosity, Forgiveness and Revenge
October 13, 2013
I ask myself, do all four of these qualities have to be
present in order to be a completely whole human being with the possibility of
breaking free of karma or going to a heavenly place? Must their
counterparts like revenge exist in us? I am not talking about yen and yang as I
understand the concept and philosophy. I am really talking about personal values and
cultural values. When I speak of
culture, I am referring to the USA culture, the one that surrounds us all and
is delivered to us via electronics and media and each other. Let’s look at each word in the title
Empathy comes from the Greek words em (in) and
pathos (feeling) and means having an ability to share and comprehend the
feelings of others. Compassion comes from the ecclesiastical Latin
word compati, to suffer with, and means to be sympathetic with and
caring about the misfortunes of others. Generous comes from Latin
and means being kind and generous. Forgiveness, so the Oxford
Dictionaries on line tell us, comes from Germanic derivation and means to "stop feeling angry or resentful
toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake." Revenge means generally to inflict harm
on someone for a wrong suffered by the one seeking revenge or for someone else
and comes from the Latin word revindicare. See Oxford Dictionaries
on line at http://oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/,for
the above definitions and derivations.
We in the USA live in a representative democracy, a civil society which means a "society considered as a community of citizens linked by common interests and collective activity," according the online dictionary cited above. In order to attain this society we have established laws and government. Our body of laws must always weigh the interests of the individual against the interests of the whole community. It is not a society where we can say something is for the greater good unless the rights of individuals not a part of the greater good are protected. To start with, the word good is a slippery slope. Who determines what is good for me other than me? A society of law in a democracy gives everyone a voice and vote and through the law it maintains a peaceful and predictable (civil) society. There is a tremendous amount of certainty and reliability to our lives. I am not saying that our civil society is perfect but in general it is free of violence and it is relatively predictable. There are always exceptions like young Black men growing up in a drug infested and gang controlled neighborhood as an example. Whenever I hear someone say “it is for the greater good,” I cringe.
As a member of the civil society that is a society of laws and is run by a representative government, we must be ever vigilant and not taken in by such slogans as “for the greater good. It seems to me that over my lifetime of 68 years I have seen our cultural values shift in regards to the words I have defined above. Empathy, compassion, generosity and forgiveness were considered high values to be adopted and cultivated. Revenge was not so considered. In fact it was deemed to be a wrong action stemming from rage, and hate. It more than likely would result in an illegal act that is outside the law, outside the norms of a civil society. If you believed you or another were wronged then be vindicated, if warranted by the law through the law. Nonetheless, as I grew up have aged I have seen our popular culture raise revenge to the level of an accepted value, a good kind of action to take. After the Viet Nam war a whole genre of movies, and a little later on TV shows, hailed as “heroes” who were bigger than life, wantonly and “morally justified” murder the bad guys. This genre has exploded into video games, films, videos and nearly every other form of media. Now I think that it is expected for one aggrieved to take revenge or be branded weak and dishonorable. I ask what happens to empathy, compassion, generousness and above all forgiveness when revenge is a competing cultural moral value? Such an attitude inevitably undermines a civil society’s system of laws, the very same laws that maintain peace, predictability and individual rights. How can empathy, compassion, generosity of spirit and forgiveness exist alongside of and together with revenge?
I use the term higher power as a neutral and non-offending noun for my higher consciousness. I was born helpless. In my case my mother and father gave me the necessary sustenance to live and grow up. So naturally I would have a sense of something greater than myself to continue giving me that sustenance. So I create god. This could be God, the universe, a higher power, spirit or, in my case, my higher consciousness. Most likely all are valid and probably represent the same energetic force.
Every now and then, I have consciously communicated with this power. So, to some extent, I have experienced my soul. I think that for me to accept concepts such as spirit, to incorporate that into my essence and not just my intellect, I have to personally experience such connections. I do not think I am unique is this regard.
At times I see my soul as a piece of a great consciousness that is attempting to purify itself as it experiences life through the various forms of life on Earth. This consciousness is attempting to become whole but cannot until it purges itself of personality and individuality. Does this mean then that, I ask myself, I accept the concept of past lives? Maybe. But I do suspect that, as quantum physics suggests, everything is happening at once. If that is so, then there is really only one life for my soul experiencing everything now, masked by the concept of time.
If one views life whimsically then the rough and sharp edges to modern hectic and too fast life speeds gets smoothed out. One can take a deep breath and hold an internal smile. This, I think, is good for the soul.
Whimsey can also be spelled whimsy. I just like the way it looks with an e. When someone tells you that a performance was done with a great deal of whimsey, what does that mean to you? In that context it means to me that it was slightly humorous and a bit light-hearted and a tad unpredictable as a result. I have looked up definitions of whimsey and the synonyms for it. I found a lot of variety in both pursuits. So here is my preferred definition for whimsey and what I consider the most appropriate synonym. An act done with whimsey is playful, unpredictable, not logical, odd, impulsive, maybe humorous, fanciful, and unexpected. Caprice seems to be a good synonym but just a little stronger and more purposeful than whimsey. Logically, from what I have just said, whimsical acts or creations do not stem from the rational mind but from impulse. For me the word has no negative connotation but some definitions do and one such definition is: freakish. Whimsey is lighthearted because it does not get in our face and dare us to "get it." It doesn't beat us over the head. It also does not send us into spasms of hysterical laughter. Whimsey does not direct and has no one idea. It is a kind of juxtaposition of factors that provokes, perhaps, a rueful smile or a thought about how weird certain actions really are. Thus, it is playful and painless as it manifests some insane truth which may be different for each person who takes it in without much fanfare.
If one views life whimsically then the rough and sharp edges to modern hectic and too fast life speeds gets smoothed out. One can take a deep breath and hold an internal smile. This, I think, is good for the soul. Whimsey can also be spelled whimsy. I just like the way it looks with an e. When someone tells you that a performance was done with a great deal of whimsey, what does that mean to you? In that context it means to me that it was slightly humorous and a bit light-hearted and a tad unpredictable as a result. I have looked up definitions of whimsey and the synonyms for it. I found a lot of variety in both pursuits. So here is my preferred definitions for whimsey and what I consider the most appropriate synonym. An act done with whimsey is playful, unpredictable, not logical, odd, impulsive, maybe humorous, fanciful, and unexpected. Caprice seems to be a good synonym but just a little stronger and more purposeful than whimsey. Logically, from what I have just said, whimsical acts or creations do not stem from the rational mind but from impulse. For me the word has no negative connotation but some definitions do and one such definition is: freakish. Whimsey is lighthearted because it does not get in our face and dare us to "get it." It doesn't beat us over the head. It also does not send us into spasms of hysterical laughter. Whimsey does not direct and has no one idea. It is a kind of juxtaposition of factors that provokes, perhaps, a rueful smile or a thought about how weird certain actions really are. Thus, it is playful and painless as it manifests some insane truth which may be different for each person who takes it in without much fanfare.