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Archive for May, 2021

OUR ADDICTIONS

We are addicted to speed; we have a hurry sickness. –Milan Kundera

Addiction = the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming…

Addiction = When you can give up something anytime…as long as its next Tuesday. –Lemmy

We are a society of addicts.  I could end there but I won’t. 

What are we addicted to?  The number is legion.  Here is a short list of our addictions.  Gentle Reader, I invite you to choose the ones you are addicted to and I also invite you to add to my short list.  My list is in no particular order.

Kundera leads my list: We are addicted to speed; we have a hurry sickness. We have been addicted to speed for generations.  We take pride in our addiction to speed.  We are not patient gradualists.  We love riding the waves – and crashing as the waves do.  We do not like the deep currents for they move too slowly for us.  Patience is not our middle name.  In our arrogance we roll things out in the belief that we can fix stuff along the way. 

We are addicted to noise & distraction.  We are addicted to internal noise and distraction and to external noise and distraction.  Silence is not soothing.  Even as I am putting finger to key this morning I have music to study by playing in the background.

We are addicted to busyness.  We preach the values of slowing down & relaxing.  We do not, however, practice what we preach.  Hurry up and relax! This is our mantra.

We are addicted to consuming

We are addicted to the next best or most improved thing.  This addiction is directly related to our wave-addiction

We are addicted to violence.  We love violence.  We love sports that are violent.  We love movies that are violent.  We love video games that are violent.  We pay hundreds of millions of dollars each year so that we can get our fix of violence.  The fix of course does not last and so we seek out our next fix of violence.  Our daily news programs almost always lead with violence; the old adage if it bleeds it leads is still followed.  Ironically we become stunned when certain types of violence manifests itself; we deny the connection between our addiction to violence and the violence that crosses the line.  Yet, even the violence of more than 500,000 of us dying during this pandemic has not moved enough of us (we are not beginning to pay enough attention to the world-wide violence as a result of the pandemic). 

We deny that we are addicted to so many things.  The awareness of our addictions would, it seems, be too much for us to admit to.  Will we bottom out & become aware once we hit bottom? 

Check back with me next Tuesday. 

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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As you might recall, Gentle Reader, the garden metaphor is one of my favorites.  One of the reasons I embrace this metaphor is because it is a paradox: I am BOTH the garden and the gardener.  Another reason is because gardens require seeds.  And as the gardener of my own garden I sow seeds – I also offer some of my seeds to others for their gardens.  Some of these seeds I find and choose and some of these are given to me by others and I then sow these for any number of reasons: I might choose a seed because it appeals to me; I might choose a seed because some ‘authority’ in my life tells me that it will be ‘good’ for me to sow this seed; I might choose a seed because I am coerced or manipulated into choosing it; I might choose a seed because of a character strength (i.e. virtue) or a character weakness (i.e. vice); there are other reasons that I might choose a particular seed but these few examples should suffice for now [by the by, Gentle Reader, why do you choose to sow certain seeds in the garden that is you?]. 

Consider that some seeds come in pairs and that in choosing to sow one the other tags along.  Once we have chosen to sow a particular seed we then must choose whether to allow them to lie dormant or whether to nurture them into life.  The time it takes for a seed to be ready for harvesting varies greatly; if we nurture the seed in certain ways it will, at some time, be ready for harvesting.  We then share the abundance of our harvest with ourselves and with others; in sharing we also pass along more seeds to be sown and the cycle continues [we also receive the harvest and the seeds from others]. 

Consider, gentle reader, some seed-pairs that are common to us humans – these are listed in no particular order.  You might pause and reflect upon each pair and think of the ways that you nurture each into life; which you harvest and give to others.  You might also think about your favorite ways of nurturing and/or of sharing your harvest with others.

  • Apathy – Engagement
  • Resignation – Surrender
  • Dogma – Critical Thinking
  • Surety – Doubt
  • Indifference – Compassion
  • Resistance – Experimenting
  • Compliance – Commitment
  • Adaptation – Co-Creation
  • Buy In – Emotional Ownership
  • Pessimist – Optimist
  • Despair – Hope
  • Dishonesty – Integrity
  • Unprincipled – Scrupulous
  • Shunning – Welcoming
  • Intolerance – Forbearance
  • Patient – Restless/Agitated

It seems to me that one definition of ‘maturity’ involves our accepting that as ‘mature humans’ we can – and do – accept the responsibility and response-ability for choosing which seeds to nurture, harvest and share and which seeds to accept from others and which of these to sow, nurture, harvest and share.  So, I ask myself: ‘Which seeds are you going to sow and nurture today?’

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FEAR — BEING FEAR-FULL

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.  [FDR].

The fairway looms ahead, open and inviting.  To the left lie a multitude of cavernous bunkers.  To the right meanders a five foot wide rivulet outlined by red stakes.  The golfer looks and notices the fairway but clearly sees the cavernous bunkers and the little rivulet.  The golfer’s self-talk goes something like this.  ‘I must avoid the bunkers and the creek.’  Driven by this dual motivational-fear the golfer swings and soon after the golf ball leaves the clubface the golfer knows… it will be the bunker or the creek, never the fairway.  And so it is.  When we act rooted in fear, fear often wins out and our fear comes to be true. 

For more than 50 years now, I have been privileged to be of service to a wide variety of professionals [and some amateurs, like parents and volunteers].  As I think about them and the fears they carry it seems to me that ‘fears’ fall into two categories: fears about self and fears about how one and one’s efforts are perceived and received by others.  Consider, Gentle Reader, that fears about yourself prevent you from doing your ‘best’ work; fears about how others perceive and receive your efforts hinder you from doing your ‘own’ work.

These two fears feed a judgment: ‘I am the great pretender!’  I cannot begin to count the number of times someone has told me, with a voice laden with great sorrow, ‘I am a fake’ [or phony, or pretender, etc.]  It seems to me that the fear that ‘I am pretending’ is a direct result of doubt.  One doubts one’s gifts, talents, abilities, experience, judgments, perceptions, interpretations, and motivations [to name a few].  [NOTE: By the by, Gentle Reader, I cannot remember how many times I have uttered these words to myself.]

When we are awake and aware we all seem to know, better than anyone else, all of the elements that originated with others and that we borrowed from them.  This ‘knowing’ can actually feed our fear of being a pretender.  Fear that we are not ‘real’ causes us to question or undervalue what we have to offer. 

The indictment increases when things are not going well [in our profession, or as parents, or as a volunteer] and ‘we know’ that for the true professional [parent or volunteer] there is ‘no doubt’ – our doubts during tough times confirms that we are great pretenders.  We see the ‘other,’ the ‘true’ professional [or parent or volunteer] as extraordinary; as being what we can never be – authentic [they certainly don’t have to pretend as we do].  The upside of this is that we now have some built-in excuses that we can call forth when the going gets rough or when others don’t honor or appreciate or understand or accept or even tolerate our efforts. 

Intellectually we know (and we also know that ‘knowing’ doesn’t change anything) that one antidote to ‘fear’ is ‘courage’ (the root of which is ‘to have heart’).  We also know that ‘walking the talk’ is impossible for no one is perfect; we know that we more often than not ‘stumble the mumble.’  Most of us will stumble and many of us will fall down.  We know that it is important for us to learn from our stumbling and mumbling and then we try again. 

In order to put our ‘knowing’ into action we will need the support of others [the form this support takes differs from person to person and situation to situation].  We will also need to continue developing our innate skills, talents, abilities and we will need to develop other skills, talents and abilities depending upon the context.  Furthermore, we will need to build our capacity so that certain skills, talents, and abilities can be more effectively utilized.   

‘Fear’ & ‘Being Fear-Full’ have been with us since recorded history (and probably existed well before); all major philosophical traditions and all faith traditions have imbedded within them this phrase, with which we might be quite familiar: BE NOT AFRAID!   On the other hand, if I give up my favorite fears and if I give up being fear-full, then what?  ‘Then What?. . .indeed!’

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DISOBEDIENCE

This morning I was going to edit my post for today and then post it.  I was up early and I turned on the local news in order to check the weather report.  As I as waiting for the weather person to tell me the forecast I heard a piece that caught my attention.  The main spreader of ‘The Big Lie’ was once again spreading the lie.  That was not surprising.  What did give me pause was the growing number of his senior followers that continue to support the lie.  They continued to be obedient followers.  I began to ponder: ‘When is it important to be disobedient?’ 

‘Disobedience’ as I use it here is an act of the affirmation of reason, truth and will.  Disobedience is, in this sense, not primarily an attitude directed against something, but for something: for one’s capacity to see, to name what one sees, and to refuse to say what he does not see [Think: to see the ‘truth’ and name it and to see the ‘lie’ and name it].  In order to do this one must open one’s eyes, one must be fully awake and aware and disturbed (in this case, disturbed by the negative effect the lie continues to have upon so many – upon our democracy itself).  One must be aware of and disturbed by the danger inherent in supporting the lie and betraying the truth.

It has been noted that Prometheus once said that he ‘would rather be chained to his rock than to be the blind obedient servant of the gods.’  Prometheus might well be the patron saint of the disobedient.  Most philosophers, for example, were not disobedient to the authorities of their time.  Socrates obeyed by dying.  Spinoza declined the position of a professor rather than to find himself in conflict with authority.  Kant was a loyal citizen.

Yet those very persons were disobedient to the authority of traditional thoughts and concepts, to the clichés and the lies (big and small) that were believed and taught.  They brought light to the darkness, they were waking up those who were half asleep (those who are deeply asleep – think: the supporters of the big lie – are, it seems not ‘wake-able’).  These persons dared to seek, discern, embrace and spread the truth.  And they, like many truth-tellers, paid a price. 

The truth-seeker is disobedient to clichés and to public opinion because the truth-seeker is obedient to the well-being of mankind and to reason.  ‘Mankind’ is crucial for the truth-seeker is a citizen of the world, not just of his country or state or city. 

Why does one choose not to seek and support the ‘truth’?  Why does one choose to be blindly obedient – as the supports of the big lie choose to do? In 1916 Bertrand Russell provided us an insight.  In his challenging work, Principles of Social Reconstruction, he writes: “Men fear thought more than they fear anything else on earth – more than ruin, more even than death.  Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible; thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages.  Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid.  It sees man, a feeble speck surrounded by unfathomable depths of silence; yet bears itself proudly, as unmoved as if it were lord of the universe.  Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.”

If thought – the rational thought that challenges the big lies (and the little lies) – is to become the possession of many, not just of the few, we must have done with fear (the fear of not being chosen as the Majority Leader of Congress, for example, or the fear of not being re-elected by the big lies followers).  It is fear that holds us back – fear lest our cherished beliefs should prove delusions, fear lest the institutions by which we live should prove harmful, fear lest we, ourselves, should prove less worthy of respect than we have supposed ourselves to be. 

Sadly it seems that too many of us believe that it is better for us to be stupid, slothful, oppressed and blindly obedient than that our thoughts should be free and that we should be truth-seekers.  If my thoughts are free and if I am a truth-seeker I might not think as the herd thinks and I might be shunned or even attacked (Think: Senator M.R. or Congresswoman L.C. – truth-seekers both). 

The opponents of ‘thought’ argue that the herd will protect them and so the members of the herd continue to embrace thoughtlessness in their churches, their schools, their universities and their public lives.  ‘BE OBEDIENT at all costs’ is, ironically, the mantra that will lead to their – perhaps even our – destruction. 

If one truly loves then one will seek the truth and challenge the lies and be willing to choose to be disobedient.  Perhaps the mantra of the disobedient is two-fold: ‘Love one another as I have loved you’ & ‘Be not afraid!’  For politicians: ‘The truth will, indeed, set you free – it might not get you elected or re-elected.’    

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PRAYER

The mystics counsel us that when we pray we are to begin where we are.  For example, if we are obsessed and charged up with loneliness and self-pity and feelings of injustice, how can we be sincere if we do not pour out these sentiments?

The great spiritual guides agree, insist actually, that we persevere, that we continue in prayer and pray through it until the conscious becomes aware of the pre-conscious – perhaps even the sub-conscious – wounds and blessings.

These spiritual guides also remind us (or try to teach us) that in deep prayer what we bring is graced by a power that loosens the arms that are struggling to carry the bundles of defective goods – our arms begin to relax and soon (or later) the bundles fall away. 

Out of our deep prayer a question arises: ‘What is God willing to have us learn from this time of prayer-full silence, of being alone listening for and being open to the whispers of the Spirit (Holy Spirit for some, Spirit that sustains for others)?

In our prayer-full silence more questions emerge: ‘What new (or old) step of surrendering is HE asking of me now?’  ‘What am I called to be and do NOW?’ I am invited to stop talking, to silence the noise that resides within, become silent and listen for the whispers.  The mystics remind us, over and over, that too often we miss the whispers for we are not able to discipline ourselves with silence and with openness to hearing the whispers.

We are also reminded, over and over again, that it does not matter how self-involved/absorbed a prayer begins if our prayer opens a pathway to listening for/to the whispers. 

Consider, Gentle Reader, that corporate prayer is like that described in private prayer.  Corporate prayer, the mystics again remind us, is essential; private prayer is not enough (whatever ‘enough’ means). 

We gather in Community in order to wake-up and become aware of ‘God within.’ To become aware of our dependence upon God.  To become aware of what we owe God in return for God’s constant, abiding love and acceptance of us imperfect beings.  A Community also strives to become aware of God’s call – what we are invited to and charged with living into and out of (beginning with, perhaps, loving one another as God loves us). 

We come into Community with individual and collective heavy freight, loaded with distractions, addictions, weapons that wound, burdens and wounds (some self-inflicted).  Our heavy freight blocks our ability to enter into a prayer-full frame of mind.  We come to Community tired, if not exhausted.  We come to Community looking for little pieces of light for we know that the darkness around us is deep and is seductive (the ‘dark side of the force’ is not just a line from a movie).

We might also come into the Community feeling dull, stale, and perhaps even satisfied with the routine of our lives and of our perceived station in our lives (some call this ‘resignation’ and ‘resignation’ is a pathway to despair). 

Community is charged with embracing these words: ‘Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.’  The Community is charged with being the place where we can bring our rucksacks loaded with heavy freight and set them aside (perhaps even begin to empty them a bit) and be unconditionally accepted and loved and cared for. 

Community is a living organism where neighbor loves neighbor, where neighbor helps neighbor carry the freight and where neighbor helps neighbor heal and recover and renew in order to re-enter life.  Individual and communal prayer are two of the balms that heal and strengthen both the Individual and the Community. 

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