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Archive for May, 2018

The trouble with lying and deceiving is that their efficiency depends entirely upon a clear notion of the truth that the liar and deceiver wishes to hide. –Hannah Arendt

Three weeks ago part of my energy switched; I began noodling about ‘Lying.’  The impetus for this was rooted in a bit of news.  The Wall Street Journal, a bastion for Republican Thinking, noted that beginning on his inauguration day and through April 15, 2018 – 15 months – D.J. Trump lied to ‘we the people’ more than 3,000 times.  The Journal noted that these were the lies that we knew about.

I found myself holding a number of questions; here are three of them: What is lying?  Do we, in our Culture, lie so much that we have become immune to its consequences – so immune that we accept lying as simply a part of our Culture?  Have we, our Culture, come to cynically believe that certain people (think: Politicians) will, as a norm, lie to us? Yesterday I decided that I had noodled enough so that I might put finger to key and write a bit about this interesting topic (interesting for me, at least).

Hourly, it seems, social media resonates with accusations of lying and with disputes concerning a diversity of prevarications, evasions, perjuries and outright lying.  Hourly, it seems, social media reveals to us a parade (remember Stafford’s poem: ‘A Ritual to Read to Each Other’) of public-elected officials, bankers, lawyers, union leaders, and executives of all types who have been ‘caught’ lying.  It appears as if the abnormal, lying, has become the new normal.  The sheer volume (think: 3000+ lies in 15 months) leads us to shut down and turn off – ‘It’s all too much!’ a fellow told me two days ago.

Here’s another question that emerged into my consciousness: Is lying more excusable in the context of prurient and humiliating probing of intimate affairs? [I am thinking of two Presidents – Clinton and Trump; you might recall, gentle reader, that we did elect one of two Clintons to be our President].

Here are two more questions that have emerged for me:

What are the arguments for and against lying to family members, lying to protect the ‘other,’ lying to presumed-or-actual liars, and lying to my-our enemies?

 Under what circumstances does lying inflict the most damage or the greatest unintended consequences?

Given all that has been unfolding with D.J. Trump, I began to reflect a bit upon President Clinton’s sexual-scandal and his lying in order to avoid.  As you read what follows, gentle reader, you might think about what D.J. Trump might be caught up in – a lie, or a series of lies, that might do him in.

With President Clinton, the intertwining issues of lying and truth-telling and of concealing and revealing secrets came to be joined as never before at the highest level of our government.  As one consequence, these issues were explored, sometimes to the point of exhaustion, in every quarter – families, class rooms, board rooms, courts, Congress and globally (can we even begin to imagine what social media would have done with the Clinton-Consequence).

As the controversies engulfing President Clinton intensified, some folks argued that there could be no moral problems whatsoever about lies protecting privacy, and especially, sexual life, least of all when it comes to our elected officials [D.J. Trump might well become caught up in one of the unintended consequences of the investigation that President Clinton was put through].

As I recall, when pressed, few maintained that claims to privacy automatically justify not only silence but falsehood; much less that elected officials who have taken an oath of office to uphold the Constitution ‘without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion’ should go so far as to present intentionally misleading testimony.

Nevertheless, even while most of us living in the United States took the President to have acted wrongly, we also overwhelmingly rejected impeachment as too harsh.

On April 12, 1999, a ruling Federal Judge, Susan Webber Wright, in Little Rock, Arkansas, helped to bring a measure of closure to some of us.  Referring to his August, 1998, televised address to the nation and his deposition under oath [yes, the President can be required to testify under oath in a civil case] the previous January, Judge Wright found President Clinton in civil contempt of court, having given false and misleading responses designed to obstruct the judicial process.  She wrote:

It is simply not acceptable to employ deceptions and falsehoods in an attempt to obstruct the judicial process, understandable as his aggravation with plaintiff’s lawsuit may have been…  Sanctions must be imposed, not only to redress the President’s misconduct but to deter others who might themselves consider emulating the President of the United States by engaging in misconduct that undermines the integrity of the judicial system.

I conclude this morning’s post with this question: Are we lying more today than ever before?

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Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and diligence. –Abigail Adams

In September, 1962, I was 18 years old and I entered a Monastery.  I lived there 16 months.  I began to consciously learn about and find the truth, beauty and goodness in other faith, philosophic and humanistic traditions.  My learning continues; I still have much to learn.

When I was 18 years old I learned that ‘Traditions’ of all types (faith-philosophic-humanistic) often depend on unchanging and unchangeable ‘doctrines-dogmas-rituals’ that resist shifts, changes, adaptations and transformations.  They state with great surety that we have THE revelation.

For faith-traditions who hold the surety that they hold the ONLY path to salvation and that they hold the answers to the deepest questions position themselves as knowers rather than as continual learners.  Consider, however, gentle reader that once we seek to understand that the ‘Creator’ is working in and through us now, co-creating our world, it would seem that my-your-our ‘faith’ would continually provide us with new eyes with which to recognize GOD’s ongoing creativity.  ‘Our eyes’ would not limit us to looking inward but would direct us to look outward and to discern GOD at work in all traditions.

For me, ‘I believe’ is rooted in doubt and ‘I know’ is rooted in surety.  Too often we humans equate ‘I believe’ with ‘I know’ and these are not the same.  When I find myself saying that ‘I know’ I also find myself closing the doors to searching-seeking-understanding.  When invited to consider or when I am challenged I up the ante by becoming rigid and judgmental and, at my worst, I strike out rooted in ‘righteous surety.’  I do not believe I am out of the norm.

On the other hand, when I say that ‘I am learning,’ I feel as if the doors of my perception, receptivity, searching and seeking have opened wider (or at least a bit wider).  I actually feel most alive when I am searching and seeking; I also feel most creative.

I also know that BOTH my ‘learning’ and my ‘knowing’ ground me in the soil of commitment.  Yet, they also ground me in very different soil.  The ‘soil of learning’ is tilled often, diversity thrives and cross-development occurs.  The ‘soil of knowing’ thrives by pulling up the ‘weeds of difference’ and helps ensure that cross-development does not occur.

My-Your-Our ‘learning’ in this way can happen if we are open to ‘Entheos’ – the Spirit that sustains us and animates us and instills us with the confidence to embrace searching-seeking-understanding.  For me, this is the Holy Spirit that I believe is always working within each of us and that calls us together so that together we can confront our human condition and be formed by the Holy Spirit in truth, beauty and goodness (see: John 15:26, 16:13).

For me, a critical piece is that my ‘faith, rooted in doubt’ enables me to keep my heart and mind open to all faith, philosophic and humanistic traditions.  Why would I choose to limit my searching and seeking?

When a great moment knocks on the door of your life, its sound is often no louder than the beating of your heart and it is very easy to miss. –Boris Pasternak

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What have you done with the garden entrusted to you? –Antonio Machado

 One of the ‘gardens’ that we humans have been entrusted with is the garden we call ‘intellect’ or ‘mind.’  Our intellect and its capacities continue to evolve and develop.  How our intellects develop is crucial to how the garden called ‘earth’ will evolve or devolve.  It is crucial to remember that everything is either evolving or devolving; ‘steady state’ occurs when there is ‘death.’

Consider if you will, gentle reader, that we humans tend to take great pride in our capacity to know yet, is there anything that we know – anything at all – that has not changed (evolved or devolved) in the course of our lives?  I have two adult-children.  Their love for me has evolved – more breadth and depth; they ‘love me differently today than when they were one and two year olds.

Evolution and devolution provide us an opportunity to understand ourselves and embrace ourselves as continual learners (whether or not we embrace this opportunity depends upon what we choose).  If we choose to embrace continual learning as primary then choosing to be knowers becomes secondary.  As a species, we humans cannot, it seems, stop ourselves from seeking, searching and learning.  We cannot stop from changing (think: either we evolve or devolve).  For example: No matter how hard we try we will ‘age’.  As we age (evolve or devolve) our story changes.

Now consider this if you will, gentle reader: God’s story changes as well.  For example, we have had to re-learn creation and know it now not as something that has happened once but is a continual process.  God didn’t just create ‘in the beginning,’ God continues to create (we call this evolution); at times we are co-creators with God.

There has been a steady movement, a ‘push, ’toward deepening consciousness, increasing complexity (think: technology for example) and diversity.  If I am, if you are, if we are searchers and seekers today, more than ever before, we are seeking to understand that the universe is a single, continuous event happening every moment and this requires us to embrace an evolving (radical?) interpretation of who and how our God is.

Huston Smith (one of my favorite authors – gentle reader, you might check out his book, The World’s Religions) reflecting on our efforts to speak of God, wrote: Minds, taken in their ordinary surface sense, are the wrong kind of instrument for the undertaking.  The effect, as a result, is like trying to ladle the ocean with a net, or lasso the wind with a rope.  The awe-inspiring prayer of Shankara, the Thomas Aquinas of Hinduism, begins with the invocation, ‘Oh Thou, before whom all words recoil.’ 

Perhaps we should always write and speak the word GOD in caps, bold, and italics, to remind us that in fact we don’t know what we are really talking about!

God wants us to know that life is a series of beginnings. –Bernie Siegel

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