Archive for September, 2013

During my many years of searching and seeking I have discerned a recurring theme: people and their cultures generally embody one of five elements: Fire, Water, Earth, Mineral or Nature.  It seems that the most commonly seen elements at the level of cultures are Fire and Water.  As far as I can discern, indigenous cultures identify with Water — they are mostly peace and harmony seekers.  Modern and post-modern cultures identify more with Fire — they are full of passion and action and challenge; disruption, not peace seems to be the norm.

Within these cultures individuals are born embodying one of these five elements; this element reflects their ‘essence.’  Each person carries the other four elements as support elements; no one is just one ‘pure’ element.  We need all five in order to thrive.  Another way of looking at ‘essence’ is to consider our primary element as our ‘genius.’  Our destiny involves our creating space for and developing our ‘genius’ so that the needs in our world are addressed.  Our genius is embodied in our character.

Consider, for example, that a person endowed with vision and passion who is always active and involved in numerous activities embodies Fire.  A person who is able to deeply focus and tends to seek peace and peaceful resolutions to conflicts and who sees harmony where others see dissonance embodies Water.  A person who tends to take care of others and accepts others as they are, and honors others for who they are, and welcomes others for who they are, and who, thus, values diversity, embodies Earth.  A person who possesses great social skills, who is drawn to connect with others and who holds the stories of others and of the culture embodies Mineral.  And finally, a person who is not able to tolerate phoniness, who finds it near impossible to ‘pretend’ and who is driven to be him or herself, embodies Nature.

I will be taking the next several postings to expand upon each of these five elements and as I do so, I invite you, gentle reader, to spend some time discerning which of the five elements is primary for you.  Which is the element you go to when the ‘pressure is on’ or when you are called to ‘be creative’ or when you are faced with a daunting challenge.

I am an Aquarian, a water-bearer and hence my primary element is Water.  In Myers-Briggs parlance, I am an ‘over-the-top’ INFP.  The ‘search’ not the ‘find’ is what is important to me.  I will have close to 40 books ‘in process’ at the same time — and I like a variety of topics; every once in a while I will actually finish a book.  I am more interested in questions than I am in answers.  I love paradoxes to be embraced, not problems to be solved.  Because I value ‘peace’ most people feel safe in my presence.

What about you, gentle reader, what do you know about ‘who’ you are?

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I am suffering. [To Suffer = to be subjected to, to experience, or to endure pain, distress, and/or loss]  In the past I have attempted to avoid suffering.  What I have learned, however — what I am continuing to learn — is that when suffering knocks on the door of my heart and soul and I say ‘I have no seat for you, so go away’ suffering quietly (and insistently I might add) responds with, ‘No worries, I have brought my own chair.’

These past eighteen months many doors have closed for me and hence my suffering.  These closings — losses if you will — require me to ‘let go of. . .’ and require me to ‘put things to rest.’  What was once available to me is no longer available; way has closed.

There is potential ‘grace’ in this — Jesus says.  He spoke of this grace to his disciples when, in John’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that a grain of wheat has to ‘fall to the ground and die’ if it is going to produce abundant fruit.  If the wheat seed does not die, it will not bring forth new life [John 12:24-26].  For me, I am attempting to hang onto this idea — doors must close before other doors will even become visible, must less open.

In a deep sense, the story of the ‘seed’ encompasses the idea of spiritual transformation.  If I desire spiritual growth, endings/closings and dying/letting go are part of the deal.  I know that a seed remains a seed unless it dies to itself and then there is the opportunity and possibility and potential for new growth to occur.  The question, of course, is: ‘Am I willing to surrender to the process?’  I choose the concept of ‘surrender’ because it is a choice I make — versus the concept of ‘defeat’ which is something that is done to me.

The seed lets go of what it is so that it has an opportunity to ‘become’ its potential.  I grieve the loss of the ways that have closed for me — I have spent energy trying to pry many of them open again.  I continue to face them, to move from one to another and pause in front of each one.  I wait for someone to open a door or I search in my pockets for the ‘key’ to open one or more of them or I knock in hopes that someone on the other side will hear me and open the door and invite me in.  Silence — the doors remain closed.

In facing these closed doors I am not turning to see what other doors are available to me — some of them may be open for all I know and I probably carry a key that will actually open one of them.  Sometimes I can sense my self slowly turning away from the closed doors — or is this turning away an illusion, do I really continue to face the closed doors and ‘hope’?  Thus far I have not discerned a door opening — ‘Do I want to?’ is a question I hold.  Another question I hold: ‘To what extent is my suffering a response to loss and to what extent is my suffering simply self-pity?’

Excuse me; I have to try this door one more time. . .

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Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (referred to as “the wise”) was Emperor of the Roman Empire from 161 to his death in 180. He was the last of the “Five Good Emperors”, and is also one of the more important Stoic philosophers. His two decades as emperor were marked by near continual warfare. Marcus Aurelius’ great work called Meditations was written by Marcus in Greek, not Latin.  He wrote this journal while on campaign between 170 and 180. Marcus wrote to himself; his goal was to reflect upon his own life and remind himself of his own life-challenges as a Stoic; it appears as if he did not intend his journal to be read by others.  It continues to be revered as a literary monument and has been read and savored by hundreds of thousands of people.  Marcus’ Meditations provide us a deep insight into both a human being who was striving to live a certain way (the Stoic way) and into an Emperor who at that time was the most powerful man in the Roman world. Today I quote again from Book 9.  Marcus writes:

Do not see death as a hindrance, but accept it, since even death is something that Nature wishes.  For just like youth, old age, growth, maturity, the growing of teeth, beard, and gray hair, conception, pregnancy and birth, and all the other activities of Nature which the seasons of life bring — so too is dissolution a natural process.  It therefore corresponds to what we are as being possessed of Reason not to be rash, violent, or arrogant toward death but to await it as one of Nature’s processes.  And just as you await the time when the child comes forth from your wife’s womb, in the same way you should welcome the hour when your soul emerges from its shell.

He who acts wrongly harms himself.  If a person commits an injustice, he acts badly toward himself, thus making himself bad.

Very often an unjust act is done by NOT doing something, not only by doing something.


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