Archive for January, 2017

What do you, gentle reader carry?  What do I carry?  What do we, as a ‘Nation,’ carry?

What do we carry that we no longer need?  What do we carry that continues to burden us or weigh us down?  What do we carry AND we are not aware of or we deny that we carry?  What should we be carrying and we resist or refuse to carry?  How do we know what we should pick up and carry?  How do we know what we should put down?

The person who seeks to follow Christ is asked to pick up his cross and follow Christ.  Talk about upping the ante when it comes to carrying something.  How do we identify the ‘Cross’ that we are to pick up and carry?  Are we to pick up and carry more than one cross?  Do we, out of love of our neighbor, help our neighbor carry his or her cross?  Who is our neighbor (for Christians, Christ clearly answered this question).

Christians are also asked to carry their ‘brothers.’  Who are these ‘brothers’?  Ah, this is the rub!  ‘You’re not heavy, you’re my brother!’ is more than just a pretty statement; the implications are daunting.  Our ‘Statue of Liberty’ clearly states who we, as a Nation, are the ‘brothers’ we are to carry: Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/ The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me/ I lift my lamp beside the golden door!  Today, how are we doing when it comes to ‘this caring’?

What are the gifts, talents and abilities that we carry?  Which of these do we ‘carry’ but not make use of?  Why do we choose not to make use of them?  Speaking of ‘choosing’ – Each of us does carry ‘choice;’ we have the ‘power’ to choose.

We carry our ethnic and family heritages.  How well do we carry them—with dignity or shame or fear or guilt or pride?

Do we carry patience, love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, healing balm, tolerance, acceptance, safety nets, hope, freedom (freedom ‘for’ and freedom ‘from’), integrity, and wisdom?

Do we carry intolerance, suspicion, frustration, cynicism, despair, resignation, fear of…(think: fear of the ‘other’ and fear of the ‘stranger’), guilt, rage, hate, shame, denial, hubris and self-righteousness?

Do we carry open wounds – wounds that might have been delivered by another or, more powerfully, by one’s self – wounds that might be new or wounds that might have been delivered years ago and hence are festering and poisoning us today?  How do our ‘wounds’ serve us?

Do I, you, we truly want to know and acknowledge all the things we carry?  Would the awareness that comes with ‘knowing’ simply become another burden that we carry?  Are we better off not knowing all that we carry?  Would ‘knowing’ add to our dis-ease or to our health – perhaps to both?

Is there a ‘bottom line’?  Perhaps.  Perhaps the ‘bottom line’ is that I-You-We carry ‘Choice.’ 


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Two weeks ago I overheard the following exchange: ‘You look exhausted this morning?’  ‘I am, I am carrying a lot these days.’   Upon hearing this exchange I immediately thought of Tim O’Brien’s powerful book about American soldiers during the Vietnam War. His book was published in 1990 and is titled: ‘The Things They Carried.’  By the by, in 1993 I had the privilege of sitting in a room with 20 other folks and Tim O’Brien; we engaged in a two hour searching conversation about ‘the things we carry.’

After hearing this exchange, I took out my little black book and made a note of the exchange and of Tim O’Brien’s book.  I held both in my preconscious for more than ten days.  A few days ago both moved from my preconscious to my consciousness; it was then that I decided to write a bit about ‘The Things We Carry.’

Tim O’Brien wrote that the foot soldier (called ‘legs’ or ‘grunts’) carried symbols for hope, ‘necessaries,’ wounds, failings, dreams, darkness, fear and trembling, inspiration, regrets…’ 

 Gentle reader, here are a few other excerpts from his book:

To carry something was to hump it, as when Lieutenant Jimmy Cross humped his love for Martha up the hills and through the swamps. In its intransitive form, to hump meant to walk, or to march, but it implied burdens far beyond the intransitive.

What they carried was partly a function of rank, partly of field specialty.  As a first lieutenant and platoon leader, Jimmy Cross carried a compass, maps, code books, binoculars, and a .45-caliber pistol that weighed 2.9 pounds fully loaded. He carried a strobe light and the responsibility for the lives of his men. 

 As a medic, Rat Kiley carried a canvas satchel filled with morphine and plasma and malaria tablets and surgical tape and comic books and all the things a medic must carry, including M&M’s for especially bad wounds, for a total weight of nearly 20 pounds.

The things they carried were determined to some extent by superstition. Lieutenant Cross carried his good-luck pebble. Dave Jensen carried a rabbit’s foot…  Mitchell Sanders carried a set of starched tiger fatigues for special occasions. Henry Dobbins carried Black Flag insecticide. Dave Jensen carried empty sandbags that could be filled at night for added protection. Lee Strunk carried tanning lotion.

Gentle reader if you have not read Tim O’Brien’s book I invite you to do so.  I believe that you will be moved to awe and tears if you do so.

Here is another take on ‘The Things We Carry.’  I love this story.  In 1140, so the story goes, the first Emperor of Germany, Conrad III had laid siege to and captured the city of Weinsberg.  The Emperor decreed that all women, children and non-combatant men could go free and that they could only take with them what they could carry.

The city gates were opened and what emerged were the women, older children and non-combatant men carrying the soldiers and the defeated Duke himself.  The Emperor was so taken by their compassion that he decreed ALL in the city could go free.  In response to why he chose to do so Conrad is said to have uttered these words: ‘I should sooner surrender my anger to compassion than to esteem.’   When we are self-righteously angry how many of us carry ‘compassion’ rather than ‘esteem.’










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Yesterday I had the privilege of serving the members of an on-line servant-leadership course.  After my time with them I stepped aside in order to reflect a bit.  A number of questions emerged into my consciousness.  Here is one: ‘Knowledge, what does it lead to?’

Knowledge = an acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles; awareness.

Consider, gentle reader, that ‘Knowledge’ is a pathway – more like a series of pathways – that might lead one to ‘greater knowledge,’ or to ‘insights into…,’ or to ‘more options, opportunities, choices, etc.’  ‘Knowledge’ can also inform, form, be a guide for, or hinder ‘movement’ (think: ‘movement’ = a shift, change, transformation, or evolution).  ‘Knowledge’ can be of ‘value’ for its own sake and yet having ‘more knowledge’ can mean ‘nothing’ (think: ‘nothing’ will be different).

Two of the ‘big questions’ that the students were holding were: ‘How can we help individuals change?’ and ‘How can you help an organization change?’  An illusion for many of us is that ‘Knowledge’ will lead to ‘Change.’  Anyone who has attempted to obtain ‘change’ via providing more ‘knowledge’ understands this illusion.  For example: How many folks who smoke ‘know’ that their smoking puts them at high risk for cancer and yet they do not ‘change’ their behavior? 

AN ASIDE: For me, ‘Change’ is not descriptive enough.  Consider the following: Shift, Change, Transformation, and Evolution.  Having more ‘Knowledge’ will not ensure that any of these will occur AND yet without ‘Knowledge’ the possibility of their occurring is minimal.  Here are my definitions for these concepts (these concepts emerged out of my own need to understand ‘change’):

Shift = a movement from here to there; to move from one place or position to another.

Change = a physical or social maneuver; to alter, to pass from one phase to another; to substitute – so the identity is preserved.

Transformation = a fundamental change in character or structure requiring, at minimum, a change in one or more deep tacit assumptions, core values and guiding principles. 

Evolution = a conscious process embracing ‘maintaining’ and ‘experimenting’ over time so that a ‘third way’ will emerge, be embraced and become integrated.  This ‘third way’ will contain some of the ‘old’ and some of the ‘new.’ 

So, am I, are ‘We,’ striving for a shift, change, transformation or am I/We seeking to evolve?  AND what is the ‘knowledge’ required for Me/Us to engage one of these pathways?

Because of ‘space limitations’ I will only offer us one important consideration this morning: What is My/Our Need?  The ‘Smoker’s Lesson’ is crucial.  A ‘Want’ might sustain for a time a ‘shift’—it will not sustain a ‘change,’ or a ‘transformation’ or an ‘evolution.’  We are sustained only by what I call: High Priority Need.  A ‘Need’ always trumps a ‘want’ or a ‘desire’ or a ‘wish’ and a ‘need’ is trumped by a ‘high priority need’ (think: The smoker’s ‘need’ is greater than his/her ‘want’).

Thus, in order to shift, change, transform or evolve, it is crucial that 1-2 high priority needs are identified and then it is crucial to discern, generate, embrace and integrate the ‘knowledge’ that is required in order to address the need.  Remember, gentle reader, that ALL ‘wants,’ ‘desires,’ and ‘wishes’ will be trumped by ‘needs’ and that a ‘need’ can only be trumped by a ‘higher priority need.’  ‘Knowledge’ can help – ‘High Priority Need’ is, however, the linchpin.  Without this linchpin Knowledge – Leads to. . .



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Since I posted my first entry in February, 2012 I have periodically offered us excerpts from Marcus Aurelius’ ‘Meditations.’  This morning I will, once again, offer us a few excerpts and I invite us to reflect upon Marcus’ thoughts.  But first a reminder.

Between A.D. 167 and his death in 180 the great Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, spent most of his time directly overseeing the effects of a plague that was ravishing the Empire and at the same time he was directly overseeing military campaigns.  It was during this time that Marcus felt compelled to write almost daily philosophical reminders to himself.

His entries were made in order to help him remember his own philosophical training – he was a Stoic – and to remind him of his duty as a committed Stoic.  He did not intend his ‘Meditations’ to be read by others – thus they provide us windows into the mind, heart and soul of the known world’s most powerful man.  Marcus’ ‘Meditations’ continue to be read by and continue to influence tens of thousands of people each year.

Marcus writes

 BOOK 10.15: Your life is almost over.  Live as though you were on an isolated mountaintop, for it makes no difference where someone is, if they can live anywhere in the world as a citizen of the greater human community.  Let them see, let men come to know a true man…  If they cannot bear this true man, let them kill him, for this would be better for him than to live as they live.

 BOOK 10.16: Stop philosophizing about what a good man is and be one.

 BOOK 10.23: …whoever goes against Law is a fugitive.  Similarly, giving way to anger and fear is to wish that things past, present or future not exist which are assigned by the Governor of all things, which is Universal Law ordering what is given to each person.  Therefore, whoever gives in to fear, pain, or anger is a fugitive.

 BOOK 10.27: Continually be mindful of how everything that happens now has also happened in previous times and will happen in the future.  And place before your eyes all the dramas and stage-sets, which you have learned either from experience or from older accounts, such as the royal court of Hadrian, of Antoninus, of Philip, Alexander, and Croesus – for those were the same dramas as we see now; only the actors are different.

BOOK 10.29: For each thing you do, stop and ask yourself if death is to be feared because it deprives you of this.

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Thanks to my friend, Tamyra, I have recently been noodling about ‘What’s Real?’  This question is, for me, a powerful intellectual stimulant.  Given this question, what emerged for me was this response: ‘Consider that what’s ‘real’ are the three classical virtues: Truth-Beauty-Goodness.’ 

I have found that sometimes ‘definitions’ help. So, first, an unabridged dictionary will provide us with a variety of definitions for ‘Real.’  Gentle reader, I refer you to your unabridged dictionary since we are ‘space-limited’ here.  I will, however, provide us with a few of the definitions.  Second, I think it might be helpful to list some synonyms and some antonyms for ‘Real.’  A short-list will follow ‘Real-Defined.’

‘REAL’—DEFINED: Actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed – ‘My friend, Tamyra, is a real person.’  Used to emphasize the significance or seriousness of a situation – ‘There is a real danger that our Nation will become even more divided.’  Relating to something as it is, not merely as it may be described or distinguished – ‘The philosopher made a distinction between the real and the nominal essence of things.’ Genuine – ‘That is indeed made of real silver.’  True – ‘Her real name is Tamyra.’  Proper – ‘She’s my idea of a real friend.’ Used to convey that an idea or statement is foolish or overly idealistic – ‘You want me to believe that there is a single definition of ‘Real’ – ‘Get real man!’ 

 SYNONYMS: absolute, actual, authentic, certain, evident, honest, legitimate, original, palpable, physical, positive, sincere, solid, substantial, substantive, true, undeniable.

ANTONYMS: vague, counterfeit, dishonest, disputable, doubtful, dubious, false, fraudulent, hidden, indefinite, invalid, mental, obscure, questionable, spiritual, uncertain, unclear, unreliable, unsure, untrustworthy.

Confusing enough?  Well, gentle reader, thanks to our deepening immersion in the ‘digital age’ where everybody can offer us his or her definitions, synonyms and antonyms for ‘Real’ we are just beginning to experience the power of ‘confusion.’  Don’t believe me?  Step back a moment and recall our recent presidential election where misinformation, half-truths, and outright lies washed over us like an out of control tsunami.  How many of us accepted – continue to accept – the misinformation, half-truths, and outright lies as ‘REAL’?  Given this, imagine what our next presidential election will look like 2 ½ years from now when those seeking our vote will emerge onto center stage.

Will ‘Real’ become a meaningless concept?  Has it already become meaningless?

Speaking of ‘meaningless concepts.’  For thousands of years our wisdom figures were in clear agreement as to what were ‘virtues’ and ‘vices.’  Beginning with the ‘Industrial Age’ in the West, a change, if not transformation, began.  For example, for thousands of years in all cultures (according to recorded history at least), ‘Greed’ was a ‘vice.’  During the ‘Industrial Age’ this vice called ‘Greed’ morphed into a virtue: ‘Greed Is Good!’  It became a mantra for more and more folks.  Today it is so ingrained in our culture that only when it becomes ‘blatant’ do we pay attention (and then, not for long).

To complicate all of this – as if it were not complicated enough – the digital age continues to enhance – broaden and deepen – the concept of ‘Relativism.’  ‘All is Relative’ is another of our mantras.  All ‘virtues’ are now at risk for becoming meaningless.  The ‘Big Three’ –The ‘Cardinal,’ the ‘Classical Three’ – have been at risk for some time now.  Thanks to our embracing ‘relativism’ and thanks to the ‘digital age’ and thanks to an increased ‘anti-intellectual movement’ Truth-Beauty-Goodness are at risk and, consequently, so is our world.

Don’t believe me?  Try engaging folks in a searching conversation about ‘Truth’ or about ‘Goodness’ or even about ‘Beauty’ (it is, according to the relativist ‘truly in the eye of the beholder’).  Conflict, not common ground, becomes the norm.  There is a paradox here or is it irony.

‘Relativism’ won’t actually ‘win out.’  We will not do ourselves in because ‘Relativism’ will make all nonsensical but because of the destruction that will result due to the ‘warring camps’ – the ones able to ‘define’ are the ones who have the power.  By the by, gentle reader, this is an age-old ‘truth’ – power resides with those who are able to define things and then have their definitions accepted and integrated.

I am a theist.  For me, then, ‘Truth’ is the province of the ‘Prophet’ (to name but a few: Confucius, Buddha, Amos, Jesus, Muhammad, etc.); ‘Beauty’ is a gift of the ‘Creator’ and ‘Goodness’ is the gift of the Spirit who animates all life.  These triumvirates, when working as ‘One’ provides us humans a Path and Hope.

Gentle reader, what do you think?  What’s ‘Real’?  Are ‘Truth-Beauty-Goodness’ relative virtues?  When have you lived out the mantra: ‘Greed Is Good!’?  When have you experienced the impact of the Big Three acting as One? 

What’s ‘Real’? – Consider: Truth-Beauty-Goodness.





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