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Archive for June, 2020

A RECOGNITION THAT. . .

Love and Compassion are necessities, not luxuries. –Dalai Lama

One of the things that gives me hope is that it seems as if our emerging consciousness is, more than ever, manifesting itself through the recognition that there does exist a common humanity among all of us; we seem to realize, especially among the young people of our world, that we are all bound together by a more fundamental unity than that of thought and/or doctrine.  We all possess the same human nature, the same primeval tendencies, and the nature that what we all hold in common is a rational one, subject intellectually to the attraction of the same basic objects (e.g. food, water, relationships, shelter, etc).  This seems to be the inherent law of human beings.  Reality is to be found in the link of word and deed, in the relationship of person and person.

We are, it seems to me, to be in the age of suffering fueled by a crisis of morality – the continued eroding of moral standards.  This crisis presents us with theoretical and practical problems.  This crisis influences us (directs us, guides us, coerces us, seduces us) as to how we think and as to how we act.  It seems to me that this crisis is rooted in a growing disconnection between moral issues-challenges-problems and available knowledge (i.e. the knowledge of ‘God’ or the Divine or the Transcendent, the knowledge of the nature of the human being – are we inherently good AND inherently evil; are we free to or free from; the knowledge of ‘nature’ herself and our continuous efforts to control her or predict her actions; and what is the relationship between all of these anyway).  Regarding morality there is a growing chasm between what is and what ought to be – this is rooted in the lack of consensus about what is and what ought to be.  In our country, our centuries old issues of race, equality, and justice – what is and what ought to be.

As a species we are called, I think, to a reevaluation of the moral principles and precepts as they were consecrated by Confucius, Buddha, Socrates, Moses, Isaiah, Jesus and Mohammed (the moral sanctions effective in other periods of our cultures); we are called to cherish these in our daily life so that moral action, brotherly love, and human dignity may be experienced in deed and in word.

Most of us humans agree that ‘good’ and ‘evil’ exist; a challenge is to emerge a shared definition of each.  We are truly in this together; we are truly interdependent; our world is rooted in relationship and interdependence.  There is an indispensable relationship between and among all aspects and groups of diverse cultures. 

This calls for a transformation (transformation = a fundamental change in structure and character) – a personal and a societal and a global transformation.  The extent of our freedom and of our accepting of our freedom [Note: Eric Fromm’s Escape From Freedom] is revealed through our deeds (a combination of our attitudes and actions).  Forgiveness is a must for we are all imperfect and we will stumble, some will fall, and so we must be committed to forgiving, reconciling and healing.    

One challenge is live as if we are one global society that embraces one ethical system WHILE retaining our cultural pluralism and individuality.  This is a big dream, a big vision and like all big dreams and visions our charge is to hold them and journey together toward them.  The corollary is that we continue to fragment and name the other, the stranger, as evil; the result of this will be our own destruction. 

There is something in us that is moved by the plight of our fellow humans; this something helps give birth and sustenance to moral insight (we are truly our brothers’ keepers) and moral goodness (like the Samaritan, we will not pass our brother on the road).  This something is not identical in all of us, nevertheless this something does not isolate us from one another (we are truly in this all together and we are all responsible).  We can continue to make technological advances a positive source for connection and understanding across all cultures.  By becoming more connected to one another via technology we can continue to understand that there can be no physical necessity without moral necessity.  

In the end we need to depend on faith and belief (in the other and in the Divine or Transcendent), we need to depend on love (human and Divine or Transcendent) and through these we renew in ourselves the essence (sacredness, value, goodness) of the person and the reality of the global community (we are truly in this together and the fate of one society will, in the end, determine the fate of all). 

In the end, all there is is love and friendship. –Robert K. Greenleaf

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CONSIDER: COMPASSION. . .

Compassion and love are necessities, not luxuries.  Without them humanity cannot survive. –Dalai Lama

As a Christian I seek to find truth, beauty and good in all faith and humanistic-philosophic traditions.  As part of my commitment to be a searcher-seeker I spend time reading and reflecting upon a number of ‘Scriptures.’  One of these is Islam’s Quran.

The following words open every chapter of the Quran save for one: In the name of Allah, Infinitely Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful.  God’s Compassion and Mercy are cited one hundred and ninety-two times in the Holy Book.  Simply stated: Compassion and Mercy are the essence of God. 

God wants us to be Compassionate with all others AND (remember, Gentle Reader there is always an ‘AND’) God wants us to, first, be Compassionate with ourselves.  A Muslim, Sufi mystic offered us this counsel: ‘Can we learn to receive our pain and tenderness and love?  Have mercy, for we are precious in God’s eyes.  Little do we know who we are, where we come from, and where we are going. Our beings deserve to be touched by compassion every step of the way.’

I am reminded over and over again, by all the wisdom figures, that whatever work I do on myself, if I don’t do it rooted in compassion for myself, I will not make much progress when it comes to be the person I am called to become.

To be compassionate with myself does not mean that I avoid or deny what needs to be looked at and worked on in aspects of my imperfection.  Even though I am imperfect I strive to live rooted in Compassion, Love and Mercy. 

I continue to learn that if I am not able to be compassionate with myself then I am not able to gift others with compassion, nor then with love or mercy. 

Compassion encompasses each person, including the offender.  Judge the offence and be compassionate with the person.  As one Sufi mystic put it: ‘Do what is right and just AND please do not shut the person out of your heart.’  Talk about a daunting challenge for us, imperfect beings.

In Islam, God says: ‘Whoever approaches me walking, I will come to him running, and he who meets Me with sins equivalent to the whole world, I will greet him with forgiveness equal to it.’

I believe that our basic nature is deeply compassionate, loving and mercy-full.  If we do not know this it is because we are not awake and aware – we have hardened our hearts.  When we are not awake and aware we are rooted in fear and are unable to offer ourselves and others Compassion, Mercy and Love.

As we wake up and become aware we soften our hardened hearts and we become aware of a divinely lit lamp in us.  The lamp contains the flames of Compassion, Love and Mercy and these three dissolve the darkness within and the darkness without and we bring our light to the world – a light that is life-giving and life-healing. 

I am reminded of the words of Rumi: How should Spring bring forth a garden on hard stone?  Become earth, that you may grow flowers of many colors.  For you have been heart-breaking rock.  Once, for the sake of experiment, be earth!’

Here is a practice-discipline that one of my Spiritual-Guides offered me many years ago.  Add a word of endearment to your name and develop a life-long habit of using that affectionate name with your given name whenever you talk to yourself.  The truth is that all of us do talk to ourselves a lot and, sadly, much of the talk is negative.  First become aware of this internal conversation (or is it internal condemnation) and then make it a practice to relate to yourself with affection and Compassion.

Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all, beginning with our self. –Albert Einstein

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Have the courage to trust one more time and always one more time. –Maya Angelou

As I noted at the end of PART III, our conventional view of trust is often hindered by two mistakes.  There are, of course, more than two mistakes that hinder our view of trust.  Given all that has been unfolding in our nation these past weeks there are two that, for me, we need to consider.

The first is that civic engagement creates trust.  By the time we are old enough to consciously choose to participate in civic engagement our view of trust (think: particularized vs. generalized) has already been integrated.  This contributes to the second mistake.  Given that our view of trust has already been integrated we generally, then, choose to engage and interact with people like ourselves.  These mistakes limit our ability to expand our scope of our moral community. 

Given these two mistakes, we might well learn to trust those who are like us – we reinforce particularized trust.  We are less likely to embrace and enact generalized trust (generalized trust means that most people are trust-worthy).  For most of us there is no easy way to get to generalized trust from an integrated particularized trust.  At worst, particularized trust will hinder moralistic trust and reinforce suspicion of the ‘other’ – the ‘stranger.’ 

Trusting others we know does not ensure that we will trust our government to do what is right – the current civil unrest we are experiencing confirms this.  Trust in government is rooted in our experiences, not in our trust of others.  To complicate this, politics is, it seems, inherently polarizing.  Politics involves choosing sides – we choose one ideology over another.  For example, in our Country we are rooted in the concept of ‘Freedom’ and ‘Justice.’  However, conservatives and progressives (middle-right-left and far-right and far-left) have different definitions of both of these concepts.  At minimum this leads each side to be suspect of the other and at worst to view the other as ‘Un-American’.  Trust is absent; judgment is rampant.

Democracies and Civil Liberties do not induce trust.  They do open the pathways to trust AND the citizens must still choose to trust – especially to trust the ‘other’ – the ‘stranger.’  Trust is developed and enhanced and thrives when people choose to ‘lead with trust’.  Will some betray trust – ‘YES’.  But only ‘some’ – a true minority will betray trust.  A community, a society, a nation that seeks to become more just, caring and loving must take the risk of embracing generalized trust – the people must lead with trust.  Because we are imperfect beings we must also develop our capacity for forgiveness, reconciliation, healing, and re-building trust. 

There is much more we can explore when it comes to this concept, but this brief exploration will have to suffice for now.

The other when rightly and fully trusted will return the trust. –Abraham Lincoln

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Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you. –Confucius

Good morning Gentle Reader.  It is crucial for you to remember that I have a charge, challenge, and commitment to invite you to consider what I offer as my current thinking.  I am not charged with, nor challenged with coercing, converting nor convincing you.  My goal in offering you my current thinking about ‘Trust’ is to explore the mysteries of trust and to convey to you why I believe trust matters and where it matters.

In some ways my perspective on trust is different though I do not believe it is unique.  When it comes to trust the conventional wisdom is that we trust other people because we know a great deal about them – we have a relationship and/or a history with them.  This, I think, is partially true for we can – and do – trust the stranger.  There are, as we know, different types of trust.  For example, putting faith in the stranger is what Uslaner calls moralistic trust.  Having confidence in people we know is called strategic trust.  The latter trust depends upon our experiences, the former does not. 

It seems that trust in strangers is largely rooted in an optimistic view of the world and a sense that we can make the world more just, caring, loving and egalitarian.  Now, Gentle Reader, consider this: Our personal experiences have minimal effects on whether we trust the stranger.  For most of us, in order to trust the stranger we must suspend or let-go of our judgments, our stereotypes, our prejudices, and one or more of our deep tacit assumptions about the stranger (this, of course, implies we know what these are or we take the time and spend the energy required in revealing them to ourselves – caution: this knowledge might well be disturbing). 

Our history as humans also teaches us that we are more likely to be open to change or, more importantly to transformation, if there is a ‘collective experience’ that moves me and us to change or transform (think; our current collective experience these past weeks). 

For folks my age, the war in Vietnam made many of us less trusting and the civil rights movement of the 60s increased interpersonal trust among many ‘strangers.’  We humans are more likely to trust each other when we feel/experience common bonds with each other (again, many of us are experiencing the ‘common bonds’ at this time).  We learn to trust the other the more we interact with the other – this is also being affirmed during this time when folks are waking up and are becoming more aware (and hence more disturbed by what we are learning). 

A conventional view of trust is often hindered by two common mistakes.  I will briefly explore these next time. 

You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust. –Frank Crane

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To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved. –George MacDonald

Consider, Gentle Reader, that the moral-ethical tap root of trust means that we are called/challenged to do more than cooperate with those we believe to be trust-worthy.  We are called/challenged to embrace a positive view of the other, the stranger, who is different from ourselves.  We are called/challenged to presume that the other, the stranger, is trustworthy – we lead with trust. 

We embrace a commitment to others to trust first.  This means that we choose to become involved in the good works that benefit our communities.  We embrace and live into this commitment because we believe that all of us are in this altogether – that we are truly interdependent.  Thus we believe that it is morally-ethically wrong for some to have advantages that others do not have (think: educational, health, medical, legal, etc.). 

‘Trust’ is not, we know, a cure-all.  It is, however, one of the – if not ‘the’ – most important tap roots that feed, nurture and sustain a healthy community (think: family, city, society, global community).  The moral-ethical tap root of trust enables us to choose to connect to others who are different, to people beyond those we know – with those who are ‘not like us.’ 

Trusting in this way enables us to hang out with those we generally don’t hang out with (the current non-violent marches in our country confirm this – trust is being extended to the ‘stranger’ as we walk together in protest).  Trust enables the better angels of our nature to emerge and take center stage in the drama we call ‘life.’  Trust is the moral-ethical tap root that enables us to come together and embrace the big challenges (think: creating a more just, caring and loving society). 

If we truly believe that we are connected (think; interdependent) to people who are different from ourselves AND that we do, indeed, have a moral-ethical responsibility – and response-ability – for our and their fate we are more likely to embrace trust as a, if not ‘the,’ moral-ethical tap root. 

When we embrace the others’ moral-ethical claims seriously we begin to treat them – to respond to them – as equals.  We demonstrate that we truly believe that ‘all are created equal.’  [NOTE: A major challenge for us, together: to discern and name those ‘moral-ethical claims’ – in our country our Constitution and our Declaration of Independence provides us with a powerful, initial, list.]

A Culture of Trust depends upon the idea, the belief, that things will get better for those who have less (this ‘less’ must also be clearly defined); it is in our power to heal our fractured world. 

History affirms that as nations become more equal that the tap root of trust becomes healthier AND as nations nurture the tap-root of trust they become more equal.  BOTH are required for a nation to be healthy and health-full.  History also affirms that as a nation becomes less equal (think: educationally, economically, medically, etc.) it becomes less trusty-worthy. 

Most conversations about trust focus on instrumental reasons why one should trust the other.  IF you kept your promises in the past, I will trust you.  IF you have not, I will not trust you.  Trust is rooted in the probability that you will keep your promises.  True, I-You-We do talk of trusting specific people based upon our experience.  AND (remember, Gentle Reader, there is always an ‘AND’), there is another side of trust. 

This side is not based upon experience it is rooted in a ‘faith of the other’ – the stranger.  It is a belief and an action that demonstrates that ‘most people’ are trust-worthy.  This belief in others is what I mean by the ‘moral-ethical tap root of trust.’ 

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. –Ernest Hemingway

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