Archive for September, 2020

Such as are your habitual thoughts, so also will be the character of your mind.  For your soul is dyed by its thoughts. –Marcus Aurelius (‘Meditations’)

Consider, Gentle Reader that in addition to the three threads – Awareness, Attitude & Action – that there are other threads that connect us all together.

Two sciences, psychology (Carl Jung) and physics (David Bohm) inform us and confirm for us that we are all united (we are truly interdependent as a human community).  Jung reminds us that together we share a ‘communal sub-conscious’ – we share a common deep consciousness (think ‘unconsciousness’).  Bohm reminds us that we are united on a physical plane by a bond of invisible connections (think: ‘energy’ & ‘spirit’). 

Physics teaches us that we are composed, among many things, of photons (invisible packets of light and heat) and every photon is in constant motion and connects with and interrelates with all other photons.  Lynne McTaggart noted that: ‘The more scientists look, the more they discover how dependent on, and finally indivisible from, everything is with everything else.’  We are, indeed, beings who intermingle in an undetectable way with one another – ‘Amazing’ is an understatement.

This ‘Attitude’ of a common bond plus the other ‘Attitudes’ that I have integrated into my being (think: values, beliefs, assumptions, stereotypes, judgments, etc.) are major tap roots that form and inform the ‘Action’ I choose to take. 

Consider, Gentle Reader, that in order to choose an ‘Action’ that is rooted in love, caring, healing, forgiveness, compassion and/or empathy I must become aware of suffering (an awareness that is disturbing because of my common bonds with the one suffering and because I strive to be loving, caring, etc.).  I weave my being aware to an ‘Attitude’ of wanting to alleviate the suffering.  I then choose to weave the threads of ‘Awareness’ & ‘Attitude’ with the thread of ‘Action’ so that the fabric that emerges brings relief of suffering.

As I am weaving these threads together I am also trusting that when one is cared for then ALL are cared for.  A wise person once noted that it is always one person and one action at a time (this is a concept that continues to challenge my thinking – as in: ‘Do I really believe this?’). 

As a follower of Jesus-the-Christ I am aware of this three-thread weaving when Jesus approaches the widow of Nain (Lk7:11-17).  He becomes aware of her suffering; ‘He had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep”’ [Lk7:13).  Jesus’ heart was moved for he understood, via experience, loss and sorrow.  His empathic connection with the widow rooted in loving kindness, moves him to action – an action rooted in the desire to alleviate her suffering. 

Like Congressman John Lewis (see PART I), we seek to trust the spark of divinity dwelling in humanity.  We are a living paradox: We are individuals AND we are a human community.  We are isolated and we are interconnected.  The deeper we look the more connection we see – we are, truly, more alike than different.  Each one of us knows fear, suffering, sorrow, loss, the pain of non-acceptance, the pain of wounds delivered and received.  Each of us wants to be loved, understood, honored, embraced, supported, forgiven and healed.  The great gift God has given us is that ALL LIFE IS ONE! 

I-You-We are the weavers.  We have been provided the threads so that together we can weave the fabric that we so desperately need today.    

Our capacity to be a cause of suffering and our capacity to end suffering live side by side within us. –Christina Feldman

Read Full Post »

We become what we habitually think and do. –Aristotle

Good morning Gentle Reader.  I invite you to consider three threads that are interwoven and when they are bound together in love they help weave an organic fabric that is life-enhancing, life-nurturing and life-sustaining for all.  Here are the three threads: Compassion = to suffer with; Heal = to make whole; Religion = to re-bind together

Consider that these are the threads that bind together the deepest boundaries of life that lie beneath the borders of race, gender, faith-traditions, tribe and culture.

Consider also, Gentle Reader, that there are three disciplines that one must embrace and strive to integrate.  These three guide our weaving.  Here are the three disciplines: Awareness, Attitude, & Action.  These are three essential life-disciplines.   

Consider that unless we become Aware we are not able ‘to see’ and ‘to empathize with’ the tearing, the breaking of bonds, the dis-ease and the suffering.  Our lack of Being Aware hinders us – often directly blocks us – from responding with compassion, healing and re-binding.  As I have noted in many previous posts, awareness does not bring comfort and solace, it, more often, brings disturbance – I, You, We are disturbed by what we ‘see.’ [AN ASIDE: It is, at minimum, ironic that all faith-traditions have contributed – and continue to contribute – in significant ways to the tearing, the breaking of bonds, the dis-ease and the suffering.  They are not truly ‘religions’ for they do not seek to re-bind rooted in love, compassion and healing.  Hence, I make a distinction between ‘religion’ and ‘faith-traditions’.]

Compassion, Healing and Re-Binding also require a certain Attitude.  [Attitude = a disposition or feeling]  One attitude is the attitude of ‘oneness’ – some refer to this as interconnectedness of all.  We are not truly isolated individuals – even though we do experience being isolated.  The tearing, the breaking of bonds, the dis-ease and the suffering of one affects ALL.  We know, by experience – if we are awake and aware and reasonably disturbed – that what we think and feel about people who are suffering in these ways – especially if they do not match our notions of how they ought to believe and act – powerfully impact and affect our response to them and their suffering (which is why we can guilt-free tear children from their parents and put them in detention camps – a cultural sin that we will be held accountable for). 

For years now I have been feeling, at minimum, disgust when it comes to one of our elected representatives.  His constant hard-hearted approach to the most vulnerable people moves me beyond disgust to denigration.  Recently I remembered a phrase from a poem: ‘sitting on a ledge of light.’  I also remembered that many years ago I met an elected representative who told me his story – a story that helped me change my view of this man from ‘politician’ to ‘human being.’  I am striving to ‘see’ and ‘experience’ and ‘believe in’ the humanity of the politician I am disgusted with.  This person was, at one time, an innocent ten year old and has been deeply wounded (I believe).  I am striving to embrace the ‘human’ and at the same time continue to judge the behavior (which is disgusting). 

I am going to conclude PART I with a long quotation from Congressman John Lewis of Georgia:

You have to be taught the way of peace, the way of love, the way of nonviolence.  In the religious sense, in the moral sense, you can say that in the bosom of every human being, there is a spark of the divine.  So you don’t have a right as a human to abuse that spark of the divine in your fellow human being. . .  If you have someone attacking you, beating you, spitting on you, you have to think of that person.  Years ago that person was an innocent child, an innocent little baby.  What happened?  Did something go wrong?  Did someone teach that person to hate, to abuse others?  You try to appeal to the goodness of every human being and you don’t give up.  You never give up on anyone.

Let he who has ears, hear. –God

Read Full Post »

You should love your crooked neighbor with your crooked heart. –W.H. Auden

The Golden Rule does not solve for us our ethical problems but offers only a way of approach.  It does not prescribe our treatment of others but only the spirit in which we should treat them.  It is often a challenge to apply – what principle, discipline or virtue is not?  It certainly does not direct that we treat others as others ‘want’ us to treat them – that would be absurd.  For example, the convicted criminal wants the judge to set him free. 

On the other hand, if the judge acts in the spirit of the Golden Rule, within the limits of the law, he might instead reason as follows: “How would I feel the judge ‘ought’ to treat me if I were in this man’s place?  What could I properly ask the judge to do for me, to me?  In this spirit I shall assess his guilt and his punishment.  In this spirit I shall give full consideration to the condition under which he acted.  I shall try to understand him, to do what I properly can for him, while at the same time I fulfill my judicial duty in protecting society against the dangers that arise if criminals such as he go free.”

“Do to others as you would have others do to you.”  The disease to which we are vulnerable is captured in this, not uncommon, sentiment: “I am right: I have the truth.  If you differ from me, you are a heretic, you are in error.  Therefore while you must allow me every liberty when you are in power I need not, in truth I ought not to, show any similar consideration for you.” 

While ‘you’ are in power I advocate the equal rights of all creeds: when ‘I’ am in power, I reject any such claim as ridiculous.  This is the position taken by various brands of totalitarianism.  For example, religious groups have followed the same line.  Roman Catholics, Calvinists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and others have on occasion vociferously advocated religious liberty where they were in the minority, often to curb it where in turn they became dominant.   This powerful inconsistency on the part of many religious groups was flagrantly displayed in earlier centuries, and examples are still not infrequent today. 

Belief is powerful.  When you and I believe something we are convinced that we are right.  We have to be.  That is what ‘surety’ means.  As human beings we all believe some things and we are ‘sure’ about some things.  For example, I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church is entitled to declare that all other religious groups are sunk in error.  But what follows?  What follows is that all other faith traditions have the right to believe that they are right. 

Theoretically, one faith tradition does not have the right to repress another without granting that faith tradition the same right.  Truth is not advanced by the forceful suppression of those who believe differently from me or from you.  Beyond this lies the distortion of meanings which claims that liberty is only the liberty for me to do what YOU think is right.  This is a perversion of the meaning of liberty; a perversion that has been the delight of all totalitarians and all ‘want-to-be’ totalitarians. 

If history means nothing to we who call ourselves Christians and we still claim exclusive civil rights for each of our particular traditions, at minimum we, each of us, might blush before the words of the one we call Savior: “All things therefore what so ever you would that men should do unto you, even so do you also unto them; for this is the law. . .”   

Read Full Post »

Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom. –Francis Bacon

The principle of the Golden Rule makes for a vastly greater harmony in our relationships for it contains no dogma.  It invites each of us to follow our own ‘rule,’ as it would apply apart from the ‘accident’ of where our birth places us.  It also invites each of us to enlarge our own rule no matter our circumstances. 

It seems that there is a deeper truth here also.  The truth that when I mistreat another I detach myself from them, from my being able to understand them, from my being able to understand myself.  I insulate myself, I narrow my own values, I cut myself off from that which you and I have in common.  Because of this, the evil I do to another I do to myself.  On the other hand, if you and I simply choose to refrain from doing evil to one another we will both benefit; of course, we might well benefit more if we choose to do good to one another.

Consider, Gentle Reader, that the greatest evils inflicted by human to human over the face of the earth are delivered not by the self-seekers, the pleasure lovers, or the merely amoral, but by the fervent devotees of ethical principles, those who are bound body and soul, heart and mind, to some larger purpose – the nation, the ‘race,’ the ‘church,’ – whoever they may be. 

In the heat of our devotion to that exclusive purpose there is bred the zeal and fanaticism that corrodes and finally destroys all that connects one to our common humanity (in fact, it becomes easy for us to de-humanize the other and thus to guilt-free cause them harm). 

In the name of the cause we will guilt-free torture and starve and trample underfoot millions on millions of our brothers and sisters.  In its name we will cultivate and nurture into life the darkest treachery.  And, history tells us, when they fail – as fail they must – they will be ready, as Hitler was ready, to destroy their own cause or their own people, ‘the chosen ones,’ rather than accept the reality their blinded purpose denied.  On the other hand, today, there are some ‘people of the book’ fundamentalists who are actively seeking to bring about Armageddon as a result of their fanaticism with the belief that they will be saved and others will perish. 

Does the Golden Rule disqualify the intrinsic values of these people?  I think not.  Consider the Grand Inquisitor, Torquemada.  In the name of his values Torquemada burned at the stake many persons who differed from their fellows mainly by being more courageous (some would say foolish), honest (is honesty always the best policy), and faithful to their faith.  What, I wonder, were Torquemada’s values?  He was a servant of the Church and the Church was a servant of Jesus Christ.  [Pause to ponder].  It was not, I think, the intrinsic values of his creed that moved him and his masters to reject the Christian Golden Rule.  I will concede that he had some kind of devotion to religion.  It was the distorted, fanatical way in which he pursued the dimmed values he cherished; it was not the values themselves, to which his inhumanity can be charged.

Given his experience as a German during and after World War I, Hitler, like many Germans, sought to restore Germany to its ‘rightful place’ in the world.  Hitler was committed to Germany.  However, he conceived the resurgence of Germany in the distorted light of his vindictive imagination.  Had Hitler been a member of some small country like his native Austria, he might have cherished the same values with no less passion, but his aspirations might well have taken a different form and probably would not have ever expressed themselves in the horror and tragedy of those years. 

Consider: We are literally what we think, our character being the complete sum of all our thoughts. –James Allen

Read Full Post »

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

How is it possible for ‘reasoning’ to decide between my values and yours, especially between our core values?  Values do not claim truth in any scientific sense; however they do claim ‘rightness.’  They do not declare what is so but what should be so.  I cling to my values; you cling to your values (you might remember, gentle reader, that in Afganhi the verb ‘to cling’ is the same as the verb ‘to die’).  Some of your values might not hold for me; some of mine might not hold for you.  Some of your values may be repulsive to me or even threaten me; some of my values may be repulsive to you or even threaten you.  What then?  To what ‘court’ of reason shall we approach?  From what court of reason would we both accept a judgment?

As far as I am able to discern there is no such court – this seems to be a ‘fact’ about core values.  It is a fundamental fact.  It can be a terrifying fact.  It can also be a challenging fact.  This fact gives me, you, and us our lonely autonomy – our response-ability and our responsibility.  We humans have more than the choice to obey or disobey.  If I accept authority I also choose the authority I accept.  I am responsible [response-able] not only to others, but more deeply, to myself.

Does all of this mean that a universal ethical principle, applicable to all of us, even when – perhaps especially when – our values diverge if not conflict, is impossible?  That there is, in the end, no rule to go by, based on reason itself. 

There appears to be no rule that can prescribe both my core values and yours or that can decide between them.  On the other hand, there appears to be one universal rule that can be laid down, on ethical grounds – that is, apart from the creeds of particular religions and apart from the ways of the family, or clan or tribe or state or nation.  What might this rule be?

Do to others as you would have others do to you.  The Golden Rule, which appears in many faith and philosophical traditions [in a previous posting I listed many of the faith and philosophical traditions where it is found].  This is the rule that stands by itself in the light of its own reason, the rule that can stand by itself in the naked, warring universe, in the face of the contending values of individuals and groups.

Why might this be so?  First, this universal is one of ‘procedure.’  It prescribes a mode of behaving, not a goal of action.  On the level of goals, of core values, there seems to continue to be irreconcilable conflict.  For example, one rule prescribes humility, another pride; one prescribes abstinence, another commends lust, etc. – there are endless variations.  As humans we wish that our principle could be the universal principle; some of us even believe it should be. Our ‘ought’ should be everyone’s ‘ought.’  BUT, we do differ and so this will not happen (in the foreseeable future anyway). 

Consider that when we want to make our ethical principle prevail we set out to ‘convert’ the other.  Some may respond positively; some may resist violently; some will seek to ‘convert’ us – why shouldn’t they?  If we are strong enough we can resort to force, to coerce the other; or we can resort to bribing the other [of course both of these could also happen to us].  Even if we were to become masters of the world our principle would not become universal.

Consider that when we attempt to make our values prevail over those cherished by others, we end up attacking their values [if we live long enough we will, indeed, experience this; we might even be the perpetrators].  If we carry this far enough we end up assaulting their very being.

For me, the deep beauty of the golden rule is that instead of attacking the other it offers the other a different path: “Do as you would have others…”  Put another way: As you would will others to do.  It invites us to expand our vision, to see ourselves in new relationships. It invites us to see ourselves in the place of others and see others in our place.  It invites us to test our values via our thought, motivation and behavior.  If I would disapprove of you treating me as I treat you would this not be one sign that I am, in fact, mistreating you?          

If you were already in possession of the Truth, it would be reflected in your flawless behavior. –Epictetus

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts