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Archive for June, 2018

The greatest of the virtues is Love. –God

Gentle Reader, I concluded my last entry by naming two of my major blocks; blocks that, at minimum, hinder me from releasing love.  The two blocks: Belief and Attachment.  As I explore these this morning I invite you, Gentle Reader, to take some time and reflect upon the one or two major blocks that you have integrated – blocks that, at minimum, hinder you from releasing love.  I cannot speak to your blocks, I can only speak to mine.

Belief.  I have learned that for me, Belief, is a tent that houses a number of brothers and sisters.  Within my tent of Belief resides, at minimum, a core assumption, a core stereotype, a core prejudice, a core surety, a core judgment, a core value, a core attitude and a core ‘truth’ about the other(s).

As a living paradox I am both virtue and vice, light and darkness, good and evil.  I have, therefore, ‘cores’ that are also virtue and vice, light and darkness, good and evil.  What hinders me from releasing love are the ‘cores’ that are rooted in vice, darkness and evil.

For me, a ‘Belief’ involves a conclusion that I hold about a person – or about a group of persons. The fixed negative ‘Beliefs’ I hold first hinder my ability to be sensitive.  I no longer ‘see’ the other(s) as fully human beings; at worse I no longer see the other(s) as human at all.  I do not encounter a person, for I de-humanize the other(s); as Martin Buber put it, I do not relate ‘I-Thou,’ I relate ‘I-It.’  How can I choose to be sensitive (think: compassionate, empathetic, caring, loving) to the other(s) that I do not even ‘see’ as being fully human or worse I see an ‘It’?

Once I harden my perception – my ‘Belief’ – I harden my heart.  My life-long challenge is to become aware of the ‘Beliefs’ I have integrated that enable me to release love and that enable me to withhold love.  Awareness, as we know, brings disturbance.  It is the disturbance that is a gift, if not a motivator, for me to consider whether I should ‘hang onto’ or ‘let go of’ a ‘Belief.’

There is another ‘tent’ that I have erected that sits next to my tent of ‘Belief’ and that is my tent of Attachment (among other things I am attached to my beliefs).

Attachment.  I have discerned the how I become attached.  Here is my how:  First I experience something that gives me pleasure (think: satisfaction, peace, joy, wonder, etc.).  This experience can be concrete, a new car or book or person.  This experience can also be abstract, a word of praise.  I cross the line into attachment when I then develop a desire to hold onto, to keep, and/or to ‘own.’  Then it is but a small step for me to come to the conviction that I will not be happy without ‘it.’

For me, what comes along with an ‘Attachment’ is an exclusion of other things or people or experiences.  I become insensitive to that which is not part of my attachment.  At worse, I become obsessed with having to have my attachment – nothing else matters (I think they call this an addiction).

Like my harm-full ‘Beliefs’ my ‘Attachments’ harden my heart.  Not only am I not able to release love, I, too often, move love from the sacred to the profane.

It is then an easy step for me to choose to cling to my harm-full Beliefs and Attachments.  Years ago I wrote a poem about this.  I will conclude by sharing this poem with you, Gentle Reader.

TO CLING. . .

In Afghani, the verb to cling
Is the same as the verb to die.

He clung to his beliefs
like some things, superglued,
permanently attached
but not integrated.

He moved into the crowd
of life.  Paths, not hearts, opened
before him.  Space was created,
but not soul-connections.

Clinging, still, his beliefs
slowly emptied his soul
of spirit, of compassion.

Clinging, he slipped into
the death he so wanted
to avoid, but could not.     –Richard W Smith, 21 February 2003

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Love one another as I have loved you. –Jesus

These past two weeks I have been crying a lot.  My tears flow in response to the pain that the children and parents are feeling as the children – some as young as 18 months old – are torn, literally, from their parents arms and placed in ‘detention centers.’  Even as I type these words my eyes are tearing up.  I find myself crying out: ‘Where is the love?’  My pain is exacerbated because the perpetrators of this evil claim to be ‘good Christians.’  I still hope that Love… is …Waiting to be Released.

I believe that God is Love.  Given this belief I also believe that God’s Kingdom is Love.  What does it mean to love? 

‘Love’ means many things.  Love means that I am sensitive to life, to things, to other human beings.  Love means that I feel empathy and compassion for everyone – no one is excluded.  No exclusion.

I choose to exclude when I harden my heart, when I choose to close the doors of my heart (the poet says that when I choose to close the doors to my heart I am as good as dead).  I have learned that the moment I close the doors of my heart then my capacity to be sensitive, empathic, compassionate and loving dies (the poet says that when the fire of love is extinguished that my soul is filled with dense smoke and I suffocate from within).

My belief is that it is easy for us – for you Gentle Reader and for me – to reveal examples of our being sensitive, empathetic, compassionate and loving.  Many times the effects of our actions are not known to us – we will, in our life time, never know the impact we have had on the other(s).

Have you, Gentle Reader, felt pained at the wanton destruction of the rain forests or the wanton destruction of other human beings?  Have you ever chosen to go out of your way to help a stranger – a person you will never meet again – not because you would be ‘rewarded’ but because you believed that ‘it was the right thing to do’?  When have you experienced ‘Love…Waiting to be Released’ – and then consciously choosing to ‘Release Love’?

I remember holding this question: How can I come to possess this kind of love?  Many years ago a spiritual guide told me that ‘This love already exists within you!  All you have to do is remove the blocks you have stacked up in order to hinder and block love’s release.’

After months of conversation and reflection and praying I came to an understanding.  I had erected two major blocks – and a number of smaller blocks.  My two major blocks enabled me to be less sensitive, less empathic, less compassionate and less loving.

What were these two Big Blocks?  Belief and Attachment.  Next time we will begin to briefly explore these two.

For now, Gentle Reader, I leave you with a question: What are the Major Blocks that you have put in place that help hinder you from being more sensitive, more empathic, more compassionate, and/or more loving? 

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THREE POEMS. . .

Recently I shared my poem ‘Be Aware’ with an educator.  This morning I re-read this poem and after sitting with it for a bit I decided to share it with you, Gentle Reader.  Although the poem is dedicated to ‘Educators’ you can replace the word ‘Educator’ with many other words: Parent, Leader, Coach, Spouse, etc.

As I was preparing to post this poem a number of others emerged into my consciousness.  I stopped and read through them and two others ‘called’ to me.  After sitting with them I decided to add them to this post – hence the title, ‘THREE POEMS.’  I also see how they complement one another; perhaps you also, Gentle Reader, will see how they complement one another – then again, perhaps not.  Here are the ‘THREE POEMS.’

BE AWARE!
–A Guide for Educators–

Be aware of who you are,
others will be
and learn.

Be aware of the words you use,
others will hear
and learn.

Be aware of what you choose to do,
others will notice
and learn.

Be aware of how others mirror you
to you
and learn.

Be aware of the questions you muse,
they determine the path you choose.

Be aware of the path you choose,
others will notice
and may follow.

Be aware that your life
will influence beyond
what you can see.

Be aware of the light you shed
and the shadow you cast,
others will be.

Be aware of the voice you bring – or refuse to bring.

Be aware of the story you live – or refuse to live.

Be AWARE.

BE aware.

BE AWARE!           ©Richard W Smith, Singapore, 4-15-09

CHALLENGED BY CONFUCIUS

For more than forty years now
Confucius has been my teacher,
my guide, and a role-model.

I have sought and continue to seek
how I might serve others so they
choose to nurture more than deplete.

Like Confucius, I invite those I serve
into conversations; I invite them to
consider questions; I walk with them
as one who travels the same path of
seeking, searching, and learning.

When I am healthy I am a living paradox;
I am, it seems, a living contradiction.  At
my best I am able to accept others as
living paradoxes.

When I am full of dis-ease I engage
my favorite ways of depleting myself
especially my spirit.  At my worst, I
deplete others with heartless judgments.

Confucius continues to challenge me:
Serve my father as I would expect my
son to serve me;
Serve my ruler as I would expect my
ministers to serve me;
Serve my elder brother as I would expect my
younger brother to serve me;
To be the first to treat my friends as I would expect them
to treat me.

These are my challenges;
Like Confucius,
These I have not been able to do.
Like Confucius,
These I continue to strive to live.

Like Confucius,
I seek to be more and more consistent.
Like Confucius,
I know that to seek perfection
is to seek failure.                      Richard W Smith, 30 May, 2011               

WHEN I A VIRTUE

When I am virtue
My actions are effortless.
I do not dwell upon
The goodness of my conduct.

When I practice virtue
My actions are dutiful.
I dwell upon the value
They bring to me and you.

When I feign virtue
My actions are ego-centered.
I dwell upon my own goodness
And how you honor me.

When I feign virtue, then
Image triumphs over substance
Conduct displaces character
Externals transcend the internal
Shell trumps the core.                 Richard W Smith   28 March, 2010    

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WHOSE APPROVAL?

As human beings we yearn for love and approval.  The Sufi poet, Hafiz, puts it well.  Hafiz says that each of us has a voice inside of us that cries out, ‘Love me!  O, please love me!’  Most of the time we utter these words with our inner voice; it is not polite to utter this cry aloud.

I recall the amount of energy I expended in order to seek others’ approval; it was emotionally and physically exhausting.  Today I use less energy.  Because I was a searcher and seeker, I learned a number of things from this ‘seeking approval’ business.

I learned that the Mystics were right: ‘Whosever approval you seek, you are their prisoner.’  Whose Approval did I seek?  Why?  Gentle Reader, in your life, Whose Approval are you seeking?  What I learned – what I continue to learn – is that my response provides me clues as to the quality of my own life.

I-You-We have choice.  So it behooves us well to choose our jailors with care and deliberation.  Because we are beings who need to be loved and who need others’ approval we will choose attitudes, actions, and attributes that we believe will lead to our being loved and that will lead others to grant us approval.

Today, I am better at choosing individuals and communities that embody values that resonate with my heart: love, empathy, compassion, graciousness, patience, forgiveness-reconciliation-healing, and courage (think: heart).

The Sufi Mystics advise us to ‘Keep company of those who remind you of God.’  One of my Spiritual Directors counseled me to seek approval of those who guide you not with the tongue of words but with the tongue of deeds.

The Sufi Mystics also tell me that since I am going to choose a jailor I might as well choose God as my jailor.  Then to speak and act in ways that please this jailor.

So, Gentle Reader, I invite you to reflect a bit.  Here are some guiding questions:

  • Who are the people and institutions whose approval you seek? Why these people and institutions?  Write down their names.  Examine whether this person or institution exemplifies the core values you believe in? 
  • Who are your current ‘jailors’? If you choose to change a jailor or two, craft a simple statement of ‘letting go’ and then craft a simple statement of ‘taking on’ a new jailor. 
  • Is it possible to be ‘jailor-free’? [This is a question I am currently holding]

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ESSENTIAL, DEEPER QUESTIONS. . .

When I was a child a near-by neighbor had a rolling front yard.  When I was seven I used to wait until dark and then go and lay down just below the crest of the hill.  It was a great spot from which to view the sky.  I would do this during the summer months’ clear nights.  We could go out at night (until 9pm) as long as we were within shouting distance from home; unless we were at a friends’ home – generally when that occurred one of the friends parents or older siblings would walk us home (ah, those were the days).

One night I was lying on the gentle slopping rise and my friend Danny had joined me.  I was asking some essential questions: Why does the moon change its shape?  Where do the stars come from and where do they go?  How many stars are there up there?  How far away is the moon?  How high is up? [One of my favorites].  I remember asking this question: Where do we come from?  Danny, who always attempted to answer my questions became thoughtful.  He then intoned with great conviction: That’s an easy one to answer.  You and I came from St. Agnes Hospital!  As far as I knew he was correct.

Gentle reader, if you have been reading my postings these many years you know that I love questions.  There are, as we know, many types of questions.  The ones that I revisit over and over are the Essential, Deeper Questions.  Here are a few of them: Who am I?  Where did I come from? Why am I here?  Am I a spiritual being who has, for a brief time, a physical manifestation or am I a physical being who might or might not have a spiritual manifestation?  Why do humans die?  Who is ‘God’?  Why do we humans choose to limit God and yet claim that God is limitless?  Many of these, and others, are truly baffling.

Poets, sages and mystics attempt to help us by capturing in words our sense of bafflement.  The Bengali poet, Tagore asks: ‘What was the mystery that made me open up like a little bud in the forest at midnight?’  One of my favorite Sufi poets, Rumi, cries out: ‘The Lover visible, the Beloved invisible/Whose crazy idea was this?’ 

Alas, none of our human or divine revelations arrive with footnotes or clear explanations.  The Sufi’s remind us that ‘Of knowledge, [God] has given you but a little.  This reminds me that I am not expected to know all the answers.

On the one hand it is futile to search for definitive answers to life’s Essential, Deeper Questions.  What is fruitful, I have learned, is to simply be present with the Mystery of the questions.  As the great German Poet Rilke advises: ‘To live the questions themselves.’  Someday we might live into the answers.

The Mystics advise that we perfume our hearts with awe and wonder and the delight of the Mystery will awaken something more essential and deeper in us.

Can we mere humans expect to obtain a more essential and deeper insight into the mysteries of Life?

Consider Hinduism.  Hinduism teaches that there are four stages in the life of a human: student, householder, forest dweller, and wandering ascetic.

In the forest dwelling stage, husband and wife, after fulfilling their duties retire physically or metaphorically into a forest to ponder the meaning and purpose of their lives.  What was it all about?  Becomes one of their Essential, Deeper Questions.

Flashes of intuitive perception and glimpses of secrets beyond the veil were revealed to ‘ordinary’ men and women who had retired to the forest and dwelt there for some time in deep reflection.

The collective wisdom of these ‘forest dwellers’ forms a crucial part of Hindu Scripture.  For us, too, whether we go to the forest, the mountains, the ocean, or a quiet place in our own hearts, insights will emerge, veils will be lifted, if we would only be still and listen.

Alas, for we who are addicted to busyness and speed and the short-term, withdrawing into the forest and dwelling there is a challenge (think: invitation) that we seldom choose to embrace.  Now, we also know, that a person who is ‘forced’ to go to the forest (that dark place that we fear) will, at times, find that dwelling there is truly a blessing (think: the person with terminal cancer, or the person who has become disabled in certain ways).

Gentle Reader, what are some of the Essential, Deeper Questions that you have held or that you continue to hold?  Are you ‘living the questions themselves’?  Rumi reminds us that ‘the answer is inside the question.’

Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.  Cleverness might be opinion, and bewilderment, naked vision. –Rumi

 

 

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HAPPY FATHER’S DAY. . .

My father never told me how to live. . . he lived and I watched.

Here is a photo of my Father and Mother on the day they celebrated their 60th Wedding Anniversary; they were married 65 years and my father died in January, 2000 at age 91.

Mom & Dad 60th Wedding Anniversary - Copy

In honor of my father I have decided to share a few ‘remembrances and stories’ – the ones that have made a lasting impression upon me as I watched my father live his life.  Gentle Reader, I invite you to step aside today and think about your father and/or ‘father-figures’ and reflect upon the remembrances and stories that emerge for you.

My father was a person who spoke few words.  Here is a remembrance and a story.

As an ‘old time’ small city/country doctor he was almost always ‘On Call.’  He would often, it seemed to me, answer the phone in the middle of the night and then get up, get dressed and drive to a family’s home (in the city or in the country – I grew up in Wisconsin amidst the town-folk and the farm-folk).  Often when he would return home or at times before he left our house he would come to one of our bed rooms (there were six kids, my brother Steve and I shared a room for years).

Upon entering our bed room – or later on when it was ‘my’ bedroom – my father would sit on the edge of the bed and place his hand on my forehead.  He would keep it there – as if he were praying– and then after a short time he would gently pat my forehead and leave.

Sitting here this morning I can still feel the warmth of his hand upon my forehead; my eyes are tearing up as I feel the warmth of his love.  My father and I never talked about this – it felt, still feels, too sacred to talk about.  The sacred cannot be verbalized; there are no words that can even begin to capture the sacred.

Once in a while my father would wake one of us up and invite us to go with him as he made his ‘house call.’  I was eight years old.  My father woke me one night and asked if I wanted to go with him.  I don’t recall anyone of us ever saying ‘no’ for the experience provided us ‘alone time’ with our father.  We drove, in silence, out to a farm house.  As my father opened the car door he announced that ‘I am here to help a mid-wife deliver a baby.’  (An Aside: I knew about mid-wives and the tremendous service they provided the folks in our community).

I sat in the car.  I dozed a bit.  A number of hours later (it was still dark outside) my father emerged from the farm house.  He was followed by the farmer who was carrying a bushel of vegetables (beans, peas, potatoes etc.).  My father opened the trunk and the farmer placed the bushel in the trunk.  He shook the farmer’s hand – the smile on the farmer’s face said it all.

After my father settled in the car I asked him: ‘What’s in the bushel basket?’  My father’s response was, as was his wont, short. ‘It is my payment!’

What!  I remember looking at my father and saying: ‘You’re a doctor don’t you get paid a lot of money?’  My father paused.  Turned to me.  He looked at me intensely.  He said: ‘You don’t help others simply for the money.’  He paused and then added: ‘The health of the baby is payment enough!’

As an old-time family doc, my father served others for more than 60 years.  I watched him serve.  I learned.

Thanks Dad.

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The liar’s punishment is not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else. –G.B. Shaw

THE LIAR (Continued and Concluded)…

Bias skews all judgment, but never more so than in the search for good reasons to deceive.  Liars are apt to overestimate their own good will, high motives, and chances to escape detection; it also leads to overconfidence.

Bias causes liars often fail to consider the many ways to which deception can spread and give rise to practices very damaging to human communities.  The veneer of social trust is often thin.  As lies spread – by imitation (think: the increasing number of those seeking our vote are now lying with impunity – lying, it seems, has become the new norm), or in retaliation, or to forestall suspected deception – trust is damaged (an understatement to be sure).

TRUST is a social good.  TRUST is a virtue that we have all been entrusted with.  When trust is damaged, the Community and the Culture suffers and when it becomes the norm to break trust then societies falter and fail.

Sadly, today we live at a time when the harm done to trust by Liars can be seen, if not experienced, first-hand.  Consider just one element: Confidence in public officials continues to be eroded.  This erosion is a natural response to the uncovering of practices of deceit.  Consider all of the trust that has been broken in the name of ‘national security’ – the latest, infants, toddlers, young children and adolescents being literally torn from the arms of their mothers and sent to detention centers (the images are at minimal gut-wrenching).

These practices engender distrust and feed our dis-ease.  They are entered upon not just the officials but by countless others, high and low, in our government and outside it.  ‘WE THE PEOPLE’ are ultimately responsible.

Are we fear-full of the harm done by the Liar?  Are we fear-full of the harm that lies bring to all of us?  Consider the following (Revelations:22.15): These others must stay outside [Heaven]: …everyone of false life and false speech.

It is the deep-seated concern of the multitude which speaks here.  Consider, if you will, Gentle Reader, that there could be few contrasts greater than that between this statement and the self-confident, individualistic view by Machiavelli (and held, it seems, by many of our elected officials).  Machiavelli writes: Men are so simple and so ready to obey present necessities, that one who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived.

‘WE THE PEOPLE.’ who allow ourselves to be deceived. are ultimately response-able, responsible and accountable.

 

 

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