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Three Major Tap Roots that nurture and sustain me are three virtues. My commitment to myself is to nurture more than deplete these in myself, to be aware of the times I need to ask other beings (human and Divine) for help and then to ask for help and, if requested, to help others nurture these virtues in their lives.  The three virtues are: Faith, Hope, & Love.  Here is a simple definition for each of these virtues:

FAITH = Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing; belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. Faith is rooted in doubt not in surety.

HOPE = A wish for something with expectation of its fulfillment; to have confidence; trust.

LOVE = A deep, tender, ineffable feeling and demonstration of affection and solicitude toward another and toward one’s self.

Since I am a living paradox; a person who is both light and darkness, a person who is both sacred and profane, a person who is capable of great good and great evil I have to be awake, aware and intentional and purposeful when it comes to my living into and out of these three virtues.

For example, I can, and have been, easily seduced by my own pride.  My pride is manifested in two forms (I am a paradox after all).  One form is manifested in the following statements: Look at how wonderful I am.  Look at how I have grown and developed.  Look at all I have accomplished. 

Notice that no other being – human or Divine – has been recognized and honored for helping me, supporting me, caring for me, etc.

The other form of pride is, at first blush, seen as something other than pride.  It is demonstrated initially in the frustration I experience when I ‘fail to live up’ to one of these virtues; if unchecked, frustration will morph into shame which will morph into self-loathing which will morph into I am so evil I am not worthy of being forgiven!  Years ago, a spiritual guide helped me see the great pride I exhibit when I move into this latter mindset – paradoxically the end result is that I am more powerful than God!

For me, FAITH, HOPE & LOVE are the antidotes to my pride.  Each day I consciously hold the following questions: How will I manifest love today?  How will I choose to love today?  What is a hopeful thing to do today?  What choice will I make today that will manifest my hope – especially my hope in others?  Today, how will I demonstrate that I have faith – especially faith in others? Who and/or What will I have faith in today? 

I end today’s entry with a passage that both sustains me and challenges me; it is found in the Christian Bible: 1 Corinthians 13.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.                                                                

  Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.      

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.                        

 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

 

 Abide in me as I abide in youThis is the invitation from the Divine (God, Yahweh, Allah, Christ).  It’s as if the Divine is waiting patiently on the other side of the door.  ‘Open the door and come in,’ the words of invitation are uttered.  This utterance is like a soft breeze that we notice only if we are paying attention.  We don’t feel the breeze; we don’t hear the invitation, because we are full of busyness and noise.  ‘Come in and join me and discover how we might become one.’  Yet, here we stand outside of the door.  We want to read one more book about How to Open the Door.  We make copious notes in our journals – one more entry about what it will be like to open the door and cross the threshold.  If we stop and pay attention we become aware of the deep longing of our heart’s desire; a desire that is unfulfilled because we don’t open the door and we don’t cross the threshold.

The Divine has left the door unlocked; perhaps the door is even slightly ajar.  The Divine is patient.  The Divine is waiting to find out how we respond to the invitation to abide in me as I abide in you.  Each morning, each afternoon, each evening the Divine patiently repeats this invitation and waits patiently for our response.  What is the Love that engenders such patience?  What is the Love that is so committed to each of us that no matter how we respond the invitation is always offered; the door is always unlocked and, is I think, slightly ajar.

Each of us is starved for the Love that patiently waits on the other side of the door.  Why do we hesitate?  Why do we resist Love’s invitation?  Why do we, day after day, turn and walk away?  Are we more afraid of the light than we are of the darkness?  Are we, like children, testing the Divine Love – Do you really love me?  Will you still love me even though I turn from you today?  Is your love truly an abiding love? 

Be Still.  Can you hear the invitation?  Do you believe that even if you cannot hear it that if you turn just ever so slightly that you will see the door that is unlocked and is, perhaps, slightly ajar?  Do you want to turn?  Do you want to see?  Perhaps, you say – as I have so many times – it is better for me not to turn and see.  If I turn and see and accept the invitation and open the door and cross the threshold I will, like the rich young man, have to leave ‘stuff’ behind.  Perhaps I love my stuff more!  I am reminded of a routine by the great George Carlin that had to do with all of the stuff that we collect and refuse to let go of.  What’s the ‘stuff’ I love more than the Love that wants to abide in me?  This is a challenging question and once again, I can see myself turning away from the door and yet. . .

Ever since I began seeking to understand the Chinese concept of Wu Wei [literally, ‘effortless action’], I have become more and more interested in and intrigued by Confucius and ‘The Analects’, or Lunyu (literally “Selected Sayings”), also known as the Analects of Confucius. This is the collection of sayings and ideas attributed to the Chinese philosopher Confucius and his contemporaries, traditionally believed to have been written by Confucius’ followers.

It is believed ‘The Analects’ was written during the Warring States period (475 BC – 221 BC), and it achieved its final form during the mid-Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD).  The status of ‘The Analects’ grew to be one of the central texts of Confucianism by the end of that dynasty. The Analects has been one of the most widely read and studied books in China for the last 2,000 years, and continues to have a substantial influence on Chinese and East Asian thought and values today.  This morning I will be quoting from BOOK I.  Perhaps, gentle reader, you will find a passage or two that will inform, if not stretch, your own thinking.

BOOK I

Chapter IV  The philosopher Tsang said, ‘I daily examine myself on three points: — whether, in transacting business for others, I may have been not faithful; — whether, in intercourse with friends, I may have been not sincere; — whether I may have not mastered and practiced the instructions of my teacher.’ 

Chapter VI The Master said, ‘A youth, when at home, should be filial, and, abroad, respectful to his elders.  He should be earnest and truthful.  He should overflow in love to all, and cultivate the friendship of the good.  When he has time and opportunity, after the performance of these things, he should employ them in polite studies.’

 Chapter VII Tsze-hsia said, ‘If a man withdraws his mind from the love of beauty, and applies it as sincerely to the love of the virtuous; if, in serving his parents, he can exert his utmost strength; if, in serving his prince, he can devote his life; if, in his intercourse with his friends, his words are sincere: — although men say that he has not learned, I will certainly say that he has.’

Chapter XIII The philosopher Yu said, ‘When agreements are made according to what is right, what is spoken can be made good.  When respect is shown according to what is proper, one keeps far from shame and disgrace.  When the parties upon whom a man leans are proper persons to be intimate with, he can make them his guides and masters.’

Chapter XIV The Master said, ‘He who aims to be a man of complete virtue in his food does not seek to gratify his appetite, nor in his dwelling place does he see the appliances of ease; he is earnest in what he is doing, and careful in his speech; he frequents the company of men of principle that he may be rectified: — such a person may be said indeed to love to learn.’

 Chapter XVI The Master said, ‘I will not be afflicted at men’s not knowing me; I will be afflicted that I do not know men.’ 

Here is an image of Confucius that I like:

confuciusID_400x400

 

All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered, the point is to discover them. –Gandhi

The Consensus Theory of Truth.  This theory is rooted in the idea that truth is what the ‘vast’ majority of the people believe.  In our example from PART I, if the vast majority of the people at the game affirmed that this certain player did play in the game (and you were not there to see it for yourself) then you could accept their affirmation as truth.  This theory of truth is frequently drawn on by folks in order to confirm that what they are saying is true.  This ‘truth’ can easily be disconfirmed and turned into ‘fallacy’ – ask any politician who uses this theory as a means of telling us the truth.  [Note: the word ‘consensus’ is/ can be misleading for we are not talking about ‘true’ consensus; we are talking about the ‘majority’s’ position.]

The Pragmatic Theory of Truth. Pragmatism holds that truth is whatever is useful and profitable to us, and whatever brings us benefit.  For William James, one of the great pragmatists, this meant that truth was ‘changeable,’ rather than something concrete and absolute.  James believed that it often takes a long time to figure out whether something is true or not, based on whether it ‘works successfully’ [much like one trying to distinguish the true prophet from the false prophet; only over time can you really be sure who is who].  For example, when it came to God, James said that there was no real proof for God’s existence and so there was very little ‘reason’ as to why one should believe that God does exist.  However, James believed that if a person found that believing in God help’s one live a virtuous life and a more fulfilling life, then for that person, the truth is that there is a God.

How do we know if a claim is true?  Put simply, what kind of evidence counts depends upon what kind of claim is made as regards what is ‘true.’  Here is one:

Opinions.  These are never false, because the evidence is in the mind of the person giving the opinion.  For example: ‘I don’t like lima beans.’  Is this statement true or false?  In order for you to know you have to be able to enter into my mind – this is impossible (at this time anyway).  Since it is impossible, there is no ‘reason’ to doubt my statement.  Of course, opinions don’t count for much when it comes to ‘persuading another about a truth’ – for all of us have our own opinions.

In order to decide if evidence is convincing we first of all have to know what type of claim is being made.  Claims come in at least three types:

An Empirical Claim.  This claim makes a statement about the world.  For example: The moon is made of green cheese.  We need scientific knowledge in order to test an empirical claim.  Scientific knowledge is public information gained by careful observation, experiments and confirmations.  Today, we have a great deal of evidence that the moon is made up of certain types of rock, not green cheese.

An Analytical Claim.  The claim makes the statement about the meaning of words or other symbols.  For example: The Constitution gives us freedom of speech.  We need knowledge about words and symbols in order to test an analytical claim.  We might consult a document (e.g. The Constitution) or a dictionary or some other reference in order to discover how people have agreed to interpret a word.  This is no easy task; ask anyone who has attempted it. [Consider: ‘Freedom’ – Progressives and Conservatives do not embrace the same definition for this word/concept.]

A Valuative Claim.  This claim makes a statement about what is good or bad, right or wrong.  For example: People should read books and not watch reality t.v. programs.  To test a valuative claim we generally appeal to standards of value.  In this case, the standard might be the value of literacy.  Valuative claims are rooted in deep assumptions about empirical claims (reading and watching t.v.).  For example, we might assume that reading makes us more literate than watching reality t.v. programs; we might assume that being literate is important when it comes to being a good citizen; we might assume that being literate is more valuable than being illiterate.  Responding to valuative claims requires us to decide which value standard is higher.  Like analytical claims, engaging valuative claims is challenging if not daunting.

So, here are two ‘simple’ questions to help guide us: What kind of claim is being made?  What evidence supports the claim?  The search for the truth is not an easy search.  I end this brief exploration with one more question: Is the search for truth worth my time and energy?   Mark Twain remind us:

If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.

The great enemy of truth is not the lie…but the myth. –John F. Kennedy

After reading my entries ‘The Lies We Tell’ a regular reader, Steve, wondered if there are a number of ways of telling the truth.  In our country, when one is in court and is called to the witness stand and is sworn in one is asked to tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  So what is truth?  Perhaps our friend the dictionary can help us.

Truth Defined.  Truth is the state of being the case: fact; the body of real things, events and facts: actuality; a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality; fidelity to a standard. 

We bandy this little word about a lot without paying too much attention to what it means.  ‘Truth’ even forms part of our definition of knowledge – ‘justified, true belief.’   But here I sit wondering what this little word ‘truly’ means AND how can we know it when we see it, hear it spoken, or experience it in action?  I don’t think that this is a silly nor inconsequential question.

How many different ways do we use this word truth?  Here are some examples (and Gentle Reader I invite you to add to this short list) – notice how the idea of truth varies in each statement:

  • He is a true friend
  • He has remained true to his beliefs
  • I love you, truly I do
  • She is wearing true diamonds
  • That is a true replica of a Green Bay Packers football jersey
  • That door is not hanging true
  • He did not stay true to his commitment

It quickly becomes clear that there are many different uses of the word true.  It is synonymous with many other words – genuine, faithful, loyal, original, honest, etc.  This is not surprising for words that are important, like true, often represent a number of different ideas or concepts.

What is truth?  There are four theories of truth – or ‘truth tests’ – that might help us as we embrace this question.  The four are: The Correspondence Theory of Truth, The Coherence Theory of Truth, The Consensus Theory of Truth, and The Pragmatic Theory of Truth.  Let us take a brief – a very brief – look at each of these.

The Correspondence Theory of Truth.  This theory of truth asks whether the proposition matches up to what we know/experience via our five senses to be true.  For example: I go to a football game and afterwards I claim that a certain player was playing in the game.  My claim is based upon my being present at the game and then my seeing said player on the field participating in the game – my senses confirm the truth of my claim.  This theory of truth ‘demands’ that I rely on my own personal experience to be able to discern whether a truth is afoot or not.

The Coherence Theory of Truth.  This theory of truth relies on the proposition fitting in with what we know to make sense.  If I had made the knowledge claim that the football player was playing in the game on Sunday without having been at the game and observing him playing in the game, then my claim would have been made based on other pieces of information that makes my claim to be a claim of truth.  Perhaps I knew he was ready to play; perhaps I heard the coach in a pre-game interview tell us that he was going to play; perhaps my friend, who was at the game, told me he played.  This theory of truth ‘demands’ that I use information not acquired through my personal experience to ‘logically’ reach a truth-full conclusion.

There are two additional theories that we will briefly explore in ‘Part II’ – I am being truthful when I tell you this; honestly I am going to be true to my word (or not – we will see next time).

The truth is found when men are free to pursue it. –Franklin D. Roosevelt

Did I offer peace today?  Did I forgive?  Did I love?  These are the real questions. –Henri Nouwen

Good morning Gentle Reader.  If you have been reading my posts these many years you know that I love stories and questions.  Two nights ago, before turning off the light and putting my head to pillow, I found that I was holding a question: What are the questions we do not ask?  Yesterday morning I decided to think more about this question and mid-day I decided to write a bit and as I put finger to key the working title emerged: The Questions We Do Not Ask…

Gentle Reader, I invite you to consider that within each ‘Culture’ and within each ‘Sub-Culture’ there are certain questions that are not asked.  A simple reason is that the circumstances that give rise to them do not exist.  Ah, if only the ‘simple’ truly existed.  It seems to me that there are many reasons and most of them seem simple but are anything but.  Here is one example.

All faith traditions are taught to be response-able, responsible and accountable to those within their tradition.  How many of these faith traditions hold and seek to be response-able to this question: To what extend are we response-able, responsible, and accountable for those who are not members of our tradition?  Here is a corollary question: Do we have a collective responsibility that extends beyond the boundaries of our faith community? 

It appears to me that even today, given the reality that a ‘global community’ truly exists, that our faith traditions are more concerned with defending their ‘interests’ rather than emerging and holding/responding to questions that are truly global.  How many faith traditions are more concerned with ‘conversion’ rather than with ‘serving’ (all faith traditions are rooted in ‘serving’ – the question is: To what extent are we self-serving?).

Consider if you will, Gentle Reader, that one of the reasons we do not frame certain questions is that questions lead to our becoming more aware and, as one sage reminded us, awareness does not bring comfort or solace, awareness brings disturbance.  During this pandemic how many of us are asking questions that are disturbing us?  As a friend noted in a recent email: How much awareness can we really handle?  A great question.

Gentle Reader, I invite you to emerge some questions that you do not ask.  Here are a few of the ones that emerged for me this morning: Why do I continue to choose behaviors that are at minimum depleting and at maximum self-destructive?  Why do I continue to avoid behaviors that are nurturing?  How do I nurture ‘Hope’?  How do I deplete ‘Despair’?  How do I nurture ‘Despair’?  How do I deplete ‘Hope’?

The great German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, encourages us to love the questions themselves and to live your questions so that perhaps someday you might live into the answers.

I leave us this morning with what I call Essential Life Questions.  Here are four of them: Who am I? Why am I here?  Where am I going?  Why am I choosing to go there? 

 

[Gentle Reader, please see 15April, 2020’s posting for the context of today’s posting – this morning’s post will be the last in this series]

‘The only form of lying that is beyond reproach is lying for its own sake. –Oscar Wilde.

DELUSION.  ‘We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves.’ – Eric Hoffer.  I am a master when it comes to delusion.  Like the alcoholic I can delude myself that my problems are the real reasons for the self-violent choices I make; I ignore that many of my problems occur because of the self-violent choices I make [Note: a self-violent choice is one where the result is that I deplete myself in one of four dimensions: Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, Spiritual].  Delusions support my version of the ‘truth.’  On the other hand (it seems with many forms of lying there is always ‘the other hand’), delusion is a survival mechanism. If I (or you or we) were to contemplate the true effect of global warming, increased consumerism, increased national debt, increased gun violence, etc. I would be so whelmed-over that functioning day-to-day would soon become a challenge.  Too much reality can be paralyzing; as a dear friend once asked me, ‘How much awareness can we stand?  Delusional thinking helps us cope and survive today [of course, the piper will show up one day and expect to be paid – but that is ‘then’ and this is ‘now’].

LYING WITH INTEGRITY.  ‘Never forget to lie.’ – Marian Marzynski, a holocaust survivor.  There are times when we must lie if we are going to act with integrity; telling the truth becomes an immoral act.  The young Jewish children in Poland who were taken in by non-Jews were given new names (literally) and new identities and were taught to lie and were taught ‘never forget to lie’ and learned how to live a lie.  If they did not they would not survive the holocaust.  Families who hid Jews had to learn to lie so that those they were hiding could survive.  On 30 April, 2013 the PBS program FRONTLINE aired the documentary that Marian Marzynski produced and directed.  In it the children who were saved because they learned how to live a lie told their story and Marian himself shared his own story of learning how to live a lie.  Telling the truth can be an immoral act and telling a lie can be a moral act; lying can be an act of integrity. 

PUNISHMENT‘The liar’s punishment. . .is that he cannot believe anyone else.’ – George Bernard Shaw. We all lie, I believe.  And we all have many ways of doing so and we all have many different motivations for doing so.  No matter how we try at some point during the day we will tell or live a lie [there is, by the by, a great difference between telling a functional lie and living a lie].  Nevertheless, our acceptance of lies is like a cancer that we come to accept as ‘normal’ and like the fish who is not aware of the water, we are not aware of the many lies that we swim in every day.  As I sit here pondering all of this I am reminded of what Martin Buber once said – and I will close this piece with his words:

‘The lie is the spirit committing treason against itself.’