Archive for December, 2017

This is the unresolved question: Where do I belong?  And what price do I pay for where I choose to stand? –Diana Trilling

Acting On what I/We have discerned; to act even if there is a personal/collective cost involved.  This second criterion embraces the ‘ideal’ of an integral person as reliable/steadfast.  Among other things this requires one to make and keep commitments.  For me, Diana Trilling’s quotation contains two of the essential questions that I must hold and respond to.

For me, and I believe for many others, this step is also a challenging one (at times it is a daunting challenge for me).  My life experience continuously reinforces that it is far easier to come to know what one believes (think: what is morally right from what is morally wrong) than it is to claim it (‘Where do I belong?’) and act on it and be clear as to the price I will pay for choosing to stand here/there.

I believe, for example, that the homeless require (or is it deserve) charity.  How often I actually dispense it belies my belief.  Nor, do I go to an extreme and believe that ‘those bums’ don’t deserve a dime.  I have given to individuals and to organizations that serve the homeless; I am, however, at best, inconsistent.

We, in our culture, have developed a remarkable capacity to say one thing and do another.  We are not, for the most part, hypocrites.  We are living paradoxes – at our healthiest we are BOTH virtue and vice; good and evil; light and darkness.

Pause.  Think a moment.  How could an antislavery judge in the early nineteenth century hand down pro-slavery decisions?  Today, why is it so difficult for political activists to recruit support from folks who espouse their causes with these words: ‘I don’t want to get involved!’ 

In order to live ‘integrity’ it is, at times, necessary for those of us who espouse to live an integral life to take that most difficult of steps – to get involved.  To champion openly what one believes to be morally true, morally right, and morally good.  To take the risk to pay the price for choosing to stand ‘here.’

I am concerned – about myself and about ‘us’.  I worry about the number of ‘us’ who seem to be too happy drifting along the river, avoiding the rapids of our beliefs; the rapids that might – perhaps that will – put us at risk (at risk for being judged, shunned, categorized, mis-understood,’ or physically harmed).

Rather than ending with a quotation, I have decided to end with a story.

During the first century the Roman general Petronius was ordered to erect a statue of the Emperor Caligula in the Temple in Jerusalem.  Thousands of unarmed Jews protested.  They stood at the entrance of the Temple, barred their throats and said they would die rather than allow Petronius to proceed.  Petronius was deeply moved by their commitment to their faith.  He wrote Caligula that ‘honor’ would not allow him to proceed.  Petronius was recalled to Rome and records indicated that he was beheaded (for this stance or for another is not clear).  Caligula’s statue was never erected in the Temple.

This leads us to the third step, the third criterion.




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Know thyself. –The Oracle

I concluded Part I with three criterion: Discerning what is morally and ethically right from what is morally and ethically wrong. Acting On what I/We have discerned; to act even if there is a personal/collective cost involved. Stating Openly that I/We have/are acting rooted in My/Our understanding of the difference between what is morally and ethically right and what is morally and ethically wrong.  This morning we explore the first criterion (given our limited space our exploration will have to be brief; yet, hopefully, it will be informative and perhaps challenging).

The first criterion, Discernment, captures the concept of ‘Integrity’ as requiring a commitment to moral reflection.

Too many of us, myself included, stumble when it comes to this criterion. [An Aside: ‘Being Perfect’ is not the goal, being more and more ‘Consistent’ is; as imperfect human beings we are more likely to ‘stumble the mumble’ more than ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to Discernment.]  Sadly, many of us have not developed the capacity nor the discipline for this criterion. Therefore, we do not take the time to discern moral-ethical right from moral-ethical wrong.

My experience, with myself and with many others these past forty-plus years, is that we are not morally discerning because we really do not know just what our ‘core values,’ ‘core beliefs,’ and ‘core guiding life principles’ are [you might remember, gentle reader, that ‘core’ means that to the best of our ability we will never compromise these values, beliefs, and principles and because they are ‘core’ we only integrate 2-3 of each of these – these are our ‘non-negotiables’ and all others are, by definition, negotiable].

Each of us has also integrated ‘core deep tacit assumptions.’  These are not easily accessible and yet they powerfully determine many of our choices, attitudes, beliefs, prejudices, stereotypes, values, principles and actions.  Robert K. Greenleaf ups the ante when he writes that: ‘To refuse to examine the assumptions one lives by is immoral.’

The question: ‘Do I really want to know all of these?’  I am not cynical enough to conclude that folks do not want to know, my life-experience working with others does not support this conclusion.  The main reason we do not seek to uncover and understand and affirm or change one or more of these is that we never really think about them.  Now there is a hidden – or in some cases a not-so-hidden – fear here.  I might well become disturbed by what I uncover.  Awareness, you might remember, does not bring comfort – it, more often than not, brings disturbance.

Discernment is hard work (an understatement, I know).  It takes commitment, time, and energy and more often than not we need a guide to help us along the way (a guide is one who has done the work and can literally help guide us as we develop our capacity for discernment).

Consider these questions: How often have you – have we – refused to think in terms of moral right and immoral wrong when we elect or reject those seeking our vote?  How often do you – or we – go along with the ‘tribe’ rather than ‘think independently’ and risk choosing against the ‘tribe’? [An Aside: It is crucial to remember that one of the greatest harms that can be done to an individual human being is to ‘isolate’ him/her; to shun him/her; to expel him/her from the ‘tribe’ and each of us will do almost anything to avoid these].

As citizens of a democratic republic it is crucial for each of us to engage in a bit of soul-searching – we must, I believe, discern our core values, beliefs, etc. and emerge our deep tacit assumptions and then decide whether to affirm-confirm them or change them.  Our Founding Father knew that this process was going to be a major key when it came to democracy’s survival.

Without engaging this first criteria it is impossible, I believe, for you-me-us to live rooted in ‘Integrity.’

The unexamined life is not worth living. –Socrates




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Few are guilty, but all are responsible. –Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

‘We, the People’ of the United States have a chronic dis-ease: too many of us today, more than ever before in our history, neither mean what we say nor say what we mean.  We espouse the concept of ‘transparency’ and we enact the concept of ‘opaqueness.’  We have upped the ante for we do not expect the other(s) to mean what he/she/they say either.  We have transformed from a Culture rooted in ‘trust’ and ‘trust-worthiness’ to a Culture rooted in ‘cynicism’ and ‘suspicion.’

There is irony here.  Ironically, ‘We the People’ continue to espouse ‘Integrity.’  Our Founding Fathers fell in love with this word/concept and to the best of their ability they sought to integrate it into our Culture.  Today ‘We the People’ continue to have a love affair with this idea/concept.  But, here’s the question: How many of us can actually define this word/concept?

How many of us agree on a definition of Integrity?  Given that ‘We the People’ continue to nurture our cynicism, our lack of ‘trusting them,’ I thought it might be helpful to explore this concept called Integrity.  Even though we are awash in ‘cynicism’ – we are, it seems to me, coming close to becoming our cynicism – we continue to want more ‘Integrity.’  We especially want more integrity from the other(s) – on the other hand, we tend to see ourselves as being rooted in integrity.

We want our elected officials to be rooted in integrity and yet we do not elect people who are rooted in integrity (few of us really believe what our elected officials are telling us).  I cannot recall a person seeking my vote who has not espoused: I will bring integrity to government.  How many, after taking office, quickly begin to compromise their integrity?  Sadly, ‘We the People,’ have come to expect it.  Why?  I think because we did not believe them when they promised it.  ‘We the People’ have – our behavior tells us – embraced the ‘forked tongue’ of those seeking our vote.  We have, by our behavior, resigned ourselves to ‘this is the way it is and we can’t do anything about it.’

My current thinking is that most of us don’t understand the concept of ‘Integrity.’  We aren’t even sure why integrity might be a good thing.  We aren’t sure whether we all need an equal amount of integrity (in our Culture we love to weigh and measure things so it is not surprising that we measure the amount of integrity one has).  In our Culture – perhaps in all cultures – there is no single definition for this concept.  I am not sure that there could be or should be – the fact that we don’t seek to emerge one continues to be a major concern to me (to us?).

I have decided to invite you, gentle reader, to come and explore this concept – ‘Integrity’ – with me.  Let us begin our exploration with a simple (not simplistic) definition.  Consider that there are three steps that we must take in order to emerge a simple and specific definition.  This morning I will list them and next time I will put some flesh on these three bones.

Discerning what is morally and ethically right from what is morally and ethically wrong.

Acting On what I/We have discerned; to act even if there is a personal/collective cost involved.

Stating Openly that I/We have/are acting rooted in My/Our understanding of the difference between what is morally and ethically right and what is morally and ethically wrong.


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I have, once again, been spending time with one of my favorite Stoics – Seneca.  Technology is often held up to us as one way that we post-modern busybodies can use it to ‘save time.’  If this is true – and at times I have my doubts as to its veracity – then, gentle reader, what is it that we are choosing to do with our ‘time saved?’

Seneca was also interested in ‘Saving Time’ and he wrote a letter to his friend, Lucilius, focusing on this topic.  Today, gentle reader, I am going to offer you Seneca’s letter; in fact, I am going to re-address his letter – you are going to be the recipient.

Greetings: Gentle Reader.

 Continue to act thus, my dear Gentle Reader– set yourself free for your own sake; gather and save your time, which till lately has been forced from you, or filched away, or has merely slipped from your hands. Make yourself believe the truth of my words, – that certain moments are torn from us, that some are gently removed, and that others glide beyond our reach.  

The most disgraceful kind of loss, however, is that due to carelessness. Furthermore, if you will pay close heed to the problem, you will find that the largest portion of our life passes while we are doing ill, a goodly share while we are doing nothing, and the whole while we are doing that which is not to the purpose.

 What man can you show me who places any value on his time, who reckons the worth of each day, who understands that he is dying daily? For we are mistaken when we look forward to death; the major portion of death has already passed. Whatever years be behind us are in death’s hands.

 Therefore, Gentle Reader: hold every hour in your grasp. Lay hold of to-day’s task, and you will not need to depend so much upon tomorrow’s. While we are postponing, life speeds by.

 Nothing, Gentle Reader, is ours, except time. We were entrusted by nature with the ownership of this single thing, so fleeting and slippery that anyone who will can oust us from possession. What fools these mortals be! They allow the cheapest and most useless things, which can easily be replaced, to be charged in the reckoning, after they have acquired them; but they never regard themselves as in debt when they have received some of that precious commodity, – time! And yet time is the one loan which even a grateful recipient cannot repay.

 You may desire to know how I, who preach to you so freely, am practicing. I confess frankly: my expense account balances, as you would expect from one who is free-handed but careful. I cannot boast that I waste nothing, but I can at least tell you what I am wasting, and the cause and manner of the loss; I can give you the reasons why I am a poor man. My situation, however, is the same as that of many who are reduced to slender means through no fault of their own: every one forgives them, but no one comes to their rescue.

 What is the state of things, then? It is this: I do not regard a man as poor, if the little which remains is enough for him. I advise you, however, to keep what is really yours; and you cannot begin too early. For, as our ancestors believed, it is too late to spare when you reach the dregs of the cask.  Of that which remains at the bottom, the amount is slight, and the quality is vile. Farewell.


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To be depressed…is passive. It happened to us; we are its victim. We have no control over it. –William Glasser.

Consider, gentle reader, that to be a ‘victim’ – as I have been writing about it – is a form of passive aggression.  Some of the aggression is turned inward (think: depression as anger turned inward onto one’s self) and some of it is turned outward (think: manipulating others with my depression/condition).  You might recall, gentle reader, that when I was 21 I was, literally, one step away from taking my own life.  Among other things I was emotionally depressed.  One day, my therapist jerked me up – woke me up? – with this statement: You really like being depressed; it feels really good doesn’t it?

The victim compels the other(s) to come to his/her rescue – which, if the victim is really good at being a victim, never works (one unconscious goal of the victim is to defeat the rescuer).  Paradoxically, the victim can ‘hold the other hostage’ by vague threats (think: ‘I will become more depressed or I will have a mental meltdown or I will harm myself’ if you don’t…).

The victim is unhappy (an understatement, I know).  ‘I feel miserable’ is one of the victim’s mantras.  The victim is also bored (boredom comes from within and the victim, of course, externalizes it).  The victim has low energy (I cannot recall the number of times I just wanted to go to bed and stay there).  The victim believes that he/she is unlovable and unlove-able (victims ‘hate’ the person they perceive themselves to be).

Passive-aggressive behavior/attitudes easily leads to depression and self-loathing and thoughts of self-harm.  Self-depletion leads to self-harm which leads to self-destruction (the destruction of one’s ‘spirit’ and then of one’s physical life).

Our consumer culture doesn’t’ help.  All the victim has to do is purchase the right ‘medicine’ and all will be fine.  If one ‘pill’ doesn’t work, no worries for there are many others to try.  Some ‘pills’ come in the form of ‘legal drugs’ and some in the form of ‘alcohol’ and some in the form of ‘illicit-illegal drugs’ and some come in the form of ‘distractions/addictions’ (think: addiction to watching 11 or more hours of t.v. a day or of playing video games for 11-12 hours a day or…).

Paradoxically, one antidote to being a victim of depression is to become active – to nurture ourselves Physically (exercise helps), Intellectually (writing helps), Emotionally (changing our self-talk helps), Spiritually (deep mediation and prayer helps) and Socially (spending time with optimists helps).

My mom’s always told me, ‘How long you gonna play the victim?’ I can say I am mad and I hate everything, but nothing really changes until I change myself. –Kendrick Lamar

This above all, to refuse to be a victim. –Margaret Atwood


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