Pentecost 163


I’m back!  After taking a week for some introspection and reflection, I am back!  Earlier this year we discussed that, while philosophy may have many definitions, it primarily is the study of knowledge, the science of obtaining wisdom.  If you are a reader of this blog, you then “know” that this blog is not a personal journal but a series of articles regarding philosophy, psychology, theology, spirituality, and basic living principles and how we put these into action in our lives, wherever those lives may be lived. 


Reflection is an important part of living.  After all, what we learn has to be taken in, digested, and then reflected upon for it to have meaning or, perhaps, to be rejected.  I spent the first part of my time off at a convention for everything geeky, nerdy, sci-fi, fantasy oriented and just plain fun! IN the midst of many people , most dressed as their favorite fictional character, I found myself wondering…  How do we know what it is we think we know?


Rene Descartes is often quoted. His “I think, therefore I am” is used both for and against a great many arguments.  I found it an undercurrent in a discussion between a Darth Vader and a Strawberry Shortcake with both of them using the quote to defend their postulate.  I think Descartes would have been pleased.


Descartes is considered the father of modern philosophy.  He considered knowledge not to simply be learned information and he often compared it to what we do not know.  Knowledge to Descartes was certain knowledge or “scientia” and lesser grades of conviction or” persuasio”.  He explained:  I distinguish the two as follows: there is conviction when there remains some reason which might lead us to doubt, but knowledge is conviction based on a reason so strong that it can never be shaken by any stronger reason.”


Many portray Descartes’ definition of knowledge as being based upon doubt.  He himself felt knowledge needed to withstand tests of being absolute truth and that it should withstand any doubts.  “First of all, as soon as we think that we correctly perceive something, we are spontaneously convinced that it is true. Now if this conviction is so firm that it is impossible for us ever to have any reason for doubting what we are convinced of, then there are no further questions for us to ask: we have everything that we could reasonably want. … For the supposition which we are making here is of a conviction so firm that it


How do we know what we know?  Descartes felt relying on sensory information only could prove false.  He used dreams as an example.  He used this as an example.  “How often, asleep at night, am I convinced of just such familiar events—that I am here in my dressing-gown, sitting by the fire—when in fact I am lying undressed in bed! … As I think about this more carefully, I see plainly that there are never any sure signs by means of which being awake can be distinguished from being asleep. The result is that I begin to feel dazed, and this very feeling only reinforces the notion that I may be asleep.”


What we learn from our senses is not entirely objective.  Two days ago I found myself sitting in a room and feeling cold while others around me were not cold at all, maybe even feeling a bit warm.  Descartes called this his Argument from Error, the thinking that knowledge based upon perception could be flawed or false.  The experience of awaking from a dream in which one is running and is actually feeling winded was to Descartes proof that beliefs based upon perception might be the basis of dreams and therefore false.


He did, however, see limits to his own argument regarding dreams. “Suppose then that I am dreaming, and that these particulars—that my eyes are open, that I am moving my head and stretching out my hands—are not true. Perhaps, indeed, I do not even have such hands or such a body at all. Nonetheless, it must surely be admitted that the visions which come in sleep are like paintings, which must have been fashioned in the likeness of things that are real, and, hence, that at least these general kinds of things—eyes, head, hands and the body as a whole—are things which are not imaginary but are real and exist.”


In my week of introspection and reflection I found myself returning to a quote from an Anglican bishop, Bishop Appleton: “Give me a candle of the spirit, O God, as I go down into the deep of my inner being.”  Can reflection really lead us to a new definition of learning, of gained knowledge – whether through our senses or by scientific principles? 


My new definition of knowledge is centered on this:  going deep into life, exploring our inner living.  Some believe in precognition dreams while others see dreams as a replay of their life.  Depending on which school of psychology you believe and…spoiler alert… we will discuss all of the various ones during our next series, you might see dreams as a way of interpreting our consciousness as well as our subconsciousness.


In the end we need to integrate reason with sensory perceptions.  It is not wrong to check and make sure that what we THINK we know is actually true.  The acquiring of knowledge is not easy and often can be misconstrued, misrepresented, and misinterpreted.  What we feel is important but we cannot act upon feelings alone.  Neither can life be simply a series of science experiments.  Once we have arrived at a truth, we need act. Solipsism is an interesting aspect of this which, based upon a request from a reader, we will discuss later this week.  For now, take time to reflect upon the ordinary.  You might just discuss how extraordinary it is.





Ordinary/Extraordinary Stewardship

Ordinary/Extraordinary Stewardship

Pentecost 162


The other day I took a friend to the doctor for a check-up.  Parking was difficult so after obtaining a parking place, I remained in the car since my friend had already gone in a few minutes earlier to her appointment.  I sat, waiting, and actually was able to make the time a bit extraordinary.  So, in answer to the person who asked “Can anything possibly get done if you have to sit around all day waiting on others?” my answer is yes.  As I sat waiting, I did a bit of stewardship and found a way to make what would otherwise be a dreary upcoming November day out of the ordinary, all as I both volunteer and attend a concert.


For many in different denomination of faith, November and December is a time called Stewardship.  They define stewardship as raising money, getting pledges of tithing from their membership which creates a stream of income for the coming year.  Many view their attendance at their house of worship as a stewardship of prayer, a type of “praying it forward” to earn extra points for those times they mess up or do not live their faith. 


Let’s take a detour for a second and discuss the term “brownie points.  Like most slang terminology, there are several opinions about its origin.  In the 1960’s a system of brownie points was created in the Girl Guides/Scouts program.  In order to earn a badge, Brownie Guides or Scouts had to complete a certain number of tasks concerning the particular badge in question, usually six tasks.  As each undertaking was completed, they were said to have earned a “brownie point


After World War II the practice of issuing stamps based upon the amount of purchase became prevalent in many retail businesses.  The stamps would be accumulated and then exchanged for household items that were often a luxury for the average household.  The first such stamps were brown in color so the consumer was said to earn Brownie points while supporting the local economy.  In New Zealand a utility company still uses what it calls Browniepoints in their marketing. 


Although the earliest reference of brownie points in print is found in a 1960’s article in California, it is much more likely that the real credit for the term belongs to an American railroad superintendent, George R. Brown.   In 1886, Brown developed an innovative system of merits and demerits for railroad employees who worked for the Fall Brook Railway in New York State.   His system of rewarding and punishing employees was written about in business publications and it garnered great fame as other railroads began using it.  Railroad employees referred to the merits and demerits as “brownie points” and the slang term worked its way into our common vocabulary.


An important thing to remember is that brownie points are imaginary and are not free.  One earns them either through effort or by paying a monetary price.  Their imaginary existence is the result of very real action.  The concept of “paying it forwards” is a concept suggested by Lily Hardy Hammond in her 1916 book “In the Garden of Delight” in which a person does a good deed for a stranger instead of the original benefactor from which they received something favorable.  Paying it forward involves at least two or more people and usually can become a bit contagious with others following the example.  Its basis is generosity of spirit and thinking outside of self.


Many donate or tithe during Stewardship seasons based upon the knowledge that they are not perfect and will need forgiveness from their supreme spirit to which they believe they are accountable.  This use or practice of giving money as a type of “fine paying” treats forgiveness and being blessed as something that can be bought.  Indeed, there are some denominations and religions that still purport this concept.  It is, in fact, the reason many suicide bombers detonate their bombs; they believe it is the ultimate payment for the ultimate resting place for their soul.


I will not even get into the theology or lack thereof of such concepts.  The fact is that stewardship has really very little to do with money or even earning favor.  How often have you visited a busy shopping mall or large office complex and seen someone mopping up a spill or emptying the waste cans?  While the majority of such cleaning is done by a custodial staff after hours when the general population is not present, there are those little mishaps that require constant attention.  This is the real definition of stewardship, the caretaking of the establishment.  Do we stop to thank those stewards, those custodians or do we simply walk around them, maybe acknowledging their presence with a quick nod or the briefest of smiles?


Almost every culture has a flood myth and during Pentecost last year we discussed several of those, the most famous of which is the story from the Abrahamic faiths of Noah and the Ark.  What we fail to realize is the stewardship required of Noah and his family in this story.  Anyone who has had a household pet or lived on a farm or ranch knows the efforts required by owning animals.  Imagine doing that on a boat in the middle of nothing but water.  The mucking out of cages and stalls, the sweeping up of shedding hair…you get the picture.  All of a sudden the mythology of this story takes on a very different meaning than simply a man saving his family and two of each species so they can repopulate the planet.  Providing sustenance, a source of staying alive, a healthy environment…these are the realities of stewardship.


It is that “I haven’t the time”, the subconscious “NO!” playing in our heads that keeps us from actively making the ordinary time of our lives something more, something extraordinary.  Anywhere can become a sacred space as we discovered during Advent 2014 with the series that explored all the different sacred spaces on earth.  It is up to us to create that sacred space in our own lives, that time no matter how brief and that place no matter where it is that allows us to be faithful stewards. 


As I sat waiting for my friend to complete her appointment, something I would call ordinary stewardship, I used my electronic device to click on some websites to earn monetary points for several charitable organizations.  I also signed up to volunteer for several events in my area.  How? was launched on April 20, 1998 as a merger between Impact Online, Inc. and Volunteer America.  There is an interactive map now on their website and you can click on events in your area that offer volunteer opportunities.  You can offer to assist with area art or craft conventions, concerts, speakers … anything and everything.  You can lend a hand to a great organization, attend these events free of charge, and help others while having a great time.  Extraordinary stewardship is just a click away!



Pentecost 161


Occasionally, this daily blog is not published daily.  As was the case this past weekend, I devote my energies to other things.  I take a respite.  Maya Angelou once said that “Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.”  Is that really possible?


This past weekend I took part, as a volunteer convention associate/helper, in the Rocket City Nerd Con 2016.  Like many such conventions throughout that are billed as Comic Con [insert name of town here], Dragon Con, etc., #RCNC2016 celebrated all things geeky, nerdy, sci fi, comic bookish, fantasy, etc.


The event had relatively high ticket sales for the area and most in attendance seemed to delight in the panel discussions, author round tables, vendor wares, and costume contests as well as sing-a-longs, and even kids’ crafts.  It was the one place where, for the weekend, whatever you were wearing was absolutely weird and appropriate.


This two day respite vacation I gave myself did not fit with Maya Angelou’s description, however, of respite.  For multiple hours each day, I answered questions, resolved people’s problems, and searched for those solutions I did not already know.  IN other words, I confronted problems; that was, in fact, my whole purpose as a volunteer helper.


In discussing the stress and anxiety everyday living can bring, Alain De Botton proposes the following.  “Life seems to be a process of replacing one anxiety with another and substituting one desire for another – which is not to say that we should never strive to overcome any of our anxieties or fulfill any of our desires, but rather to suggest that we should perhaps build into our strivings an awareness of the way our goals promise us a respite and a resolution that they cannot, by definition, deliver.”


My goal in helping with the #RCNC2016 was not to escape my everyday life but to take a respite.  I did not avoid problems but I faced different ones and in doing so, I found new perspectives with which to approach my own issues.  I watched a small child attempt to eat a cookie through ma mask.  Reluctant to lose his Costume persona, this child strongly rejected his parent’s advice to push the mask up so he could eat.  Finally, an older sibling reminded the child that he would still be Spiderman if he took his mask off and that sometimes Spiderman was Peter Parker.  The toddler joyfully pushed up his mask and then ate his cookie.


How often do we refuse to remove the mask we present to others?  How often do we think helping someone less fortunate than us might lower our own value or if we donated money to a good cause instead of spending it on a fancy dress, we might be seen in last year’s fashion?   How often are we reluctant to step outside of our comfort zone to do a good deed?


Sometimes we need to take a respite just to appreciate what we have.  One of the volunteers I worked with this weekend was a retired individual who normally spends time at home reading and watching television.  This volunteer said they had offered to help to relieve the “boredom of my life.”  After two days of standing and helping register the masses, they said they were going to appreciate that boredom this week with happiness as they recovered from their happy exhaustion.


We all get bogged down and maybe even bored with our everyday routines.  When we take the challenge to help another we often step outside of our own comfort zone.  Such a change, a respite if you will, can serve to remind us just how lucky we are.  When we take off the mask we feel we must wear to our contemporaries, we often discover who we really are and how much we have to offer.

Investing in Life’s Balance

Investing in Life’s Balance

Pentecost 160


There is an old saying: “Put your money where your mouth is”.  There is an old scripture that says “Where your heart is, so will be your fortune.”  Most of us do very poorly when it comes to balancing our finances.  How do we do when it comes to finding balance in our lives?


George Soros is an example of both.  Born in Hungary, he survived the Nazi invasion and World War II.  He escaped the Communist-led regime in the later 1940’s and found his way to England where he graduated from the London School of Economics.  He then made his way to New York City and began his life as a financier.   George Soros was listed in 2012 as the twenty-second richest man in the world.  However he did not simply make money and then live lavishly.  He also shared his wealth.  In fact, a list of charities and causes his foundation supports can take up to five hundred pages when printed out.


As a student in London, Soros read a book that has influenced his humanitarian efforts.  Karl Popper’s “The Open Society and Its Enemies” explores the philosophy of science and is considered a critique of totalitarianism as seen by Popper.  What Soros took from the book is that no ideology owns the truth, and societies can flourish only when they operate freely and openly and maintain respect for individual rights.  Soros has benefited from some trade transactions that greatly hurt others and his critics are many.  Is he simply very good at his job or does he profit while thousands of other traders perish?  Soros maintains he simply sees trends in the market and acts accordingly.  It cannot be disputed that while he trades heavily on futures and marketplace trends, making calls that others fail to see, he also invests in mankind.


Almost three years ago the International Rescue Committee, first formed to help Jewish people during World War I,I awarded its Freedom award to George Soros, describing him as a “democracy and human rights supporter, philanthropist, and businessman”.   In his acceptance speech, Soros discussed the crisis of humanity in Syria.   “Right now we are witnessing a major unresolved humanitarian crisis in Syria,” he said. “People are starving. Soon they will be freezing, children are malnourished and the first cases of actual starvation have been observed.”


Today the world is struggling to deal with several crises crisis as the flood of refugees washes into every country in Europe.  Strict rules have been imposed in many countries and ongoing debates are held in the United States with many state governors refusing any refugees in their states.  What some simply call illegal immigrants are often people trying to escape deplorable living conditions, hatred, and entrapment, child slavery, and forced prostitution.


While many are wallowing in the fear, George found balance in his life and has acted.  In 2013 at his awards banquet he pledged over one million dollars “to encourage the IRC to step up its efforts with the dual aim of activating global public opinion and mobilizing a meaningful response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria.”  To date Soros has donated over one billion dollars to humanitarian causes.


So what can the average person struggling to make ends meet do to help such causes?  First, act with your heart and your brain instead of running on fear.  Fear can be a good response when used appropriately.  Fear is what keeps us from driving our cars off cliffs or trying to kiss a rattlesnake.  However, when we allow fear to blind our vision, then we fall victim ourselves. 


We should not allow the exaggerated rhetoric of the greedy determine our own responses to our fellow beings in need.  We need to ask ourselves how we can help intelligently.  George Soros is not a saint; few of us are.  Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker once described him thusly:  “George Soros has made his mark as an enormously successful speculator, wise enough to largely withdraw when still way ahead of the game. The bulk of his enormous winnings is now devoted to encouraging transitional and emerging nations to become “open societies”, open not only in the sense of freedom of commerce but—more important—tolerant of new ideas and different modes of thinking and behavior.”


Investing in people is investing in our future.  When we find balance in what we need versus what we want and what we have, then we are freer to help others.  Everyone has something to offer.  We can do that by supporting local agencies and programs that help others.  The International Red Cross is a worldwide organization that operates on donations and helps all in times of personal and global crisis.  By donating money but also food and clothing, each of us can assist those in need, refugees from their countries and lives in crisis.  There are countless other programs like Good will Industries, the Salvation Army, that assist people in need.  We can all invest in another being and by helping others, we invest in our own future.




Pentecost 159


Many times it is either education or work that opens our eyes.  Sometimes, as Wednesday’s post mentioned, it can even be fear.  Most world leaders that are not dictators have very little power.  Their duty, their primary duty is to inspire.


“We cannot close ourselves off to information and ignore the fact that millions of people are out there suffering. I honestly want to help. I don’t believe I feel differently from other people. I think we all want justice and equality, a chance for a life with meaning. All of us would like to believe that if we were in a bad situation someone would help us.”  Actress Angelina Jolie is as well known for her movies as for her beauty.  It may be hard to believe but she was once that outsider in her school – the girl with glasses and braces that no one befriended.  Through the adoption of her first child, she found a calling and a way to not only lend aid but to inspire.  Jolie not only committed to her first son, she made a commitment to the children of the world.  As a humanitarian she has traveled the globe and helped inspire others to also help.


It can really be that simple.  You do something and somebody else follows.  Behavior is contagious.  We usually say that about inappropriate behavior but it is also true for good behavior patterns.  “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”  Jane Goodall’s words may not seem like they could change the world but they speak the truth.


American statesman Thomas Jefferson once said “Action will delineate and define you.”  We are all doing something.  Right now you are reading this blog.  Earlier I wrote it.  What comes next?  Will you simply sit back and ignore that people are starving and children are freezing or will you contribute to a food bank and go through your closet donating items you don’t need or haven’t worn for several years?


Recently candidates for the Presidency of the United States lost two opportunities to inspire people.  Instead they engaged in destructive rhetoric.  Most of us will never have such public forums as these two candidates did this week but we do have a platform in our own corner of the world.  Edward Everett Hale was a nineteenth century historian, writer, and Unitarian clergyman who once stated “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”


We are all someone.  We may not have won multiple awards or have plentiful bank accounts but we can do something.  What will you do today that benefits another?  When we help someone, we help ourselves.  When we help someone, we help the world.  We can all do something.

Real Fear Motivates

Real Fear Motivates

Pentecost 158


Recent events have indicated that stress levels in the United States are directly linked to elevated levels of stress.  Many blame the rhetoric of the Republican candidate while others feel it is the alleged dereliction of duty and proper security protocols by the Democratic candidate that are the cause.  Some have washed their hands of the election process completely which adds to the stress of others who firmly believe such an attitude will lead to anarchy and the dissolution of the nation.


None of this stress is creating anything but more accusations, however.  Where is the cause and effect?  While negativity does lead to elevated stress, it can also create action.  IN today’s climate, the higher stress levels claimed by many are simply leading to more verbiage without greater action.


Jon Huntsman, Sr. is well known as the founder of a global chemical manufacturing company.  What might not be as well known is that he gives away a great deal of his income.  He became a serious humanitarian in 1992 after a diagnosis of prostate cancer.  En route to the hospital, he wrote a one million dollar check to a homeless shelter, another to a local soup kitchen feeding the homeless and poor, and half a million dollars to the clinic that first diagnosed and discovered his tumor.  He later began his own cancer foundation at a cost of over one billion dollars.


This humanitarian has long been giving away his money, which totals well into the billion dollar range. Founder of a global chemical manufacturer, his serious giving days began in 1992 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. On his way to the hospital, he gave a one million dollar check to a homeless shelter, another million to a soup kitchen, and $500,000 to the clinic that first found the malignancy. Huntsman would go on to found his own cancer foundation, which cost him more than one billion dollars alone. His donations have even gone so far as to knock him of the Forbes list of wealthiest individuals. 


It is said that there are no atheists in a foxhole during war when bullets or missiles are flying overhead.  True fear motivates people.  The reality is that fear creates its own cause and effect and in order to withstand the fear, we seek to do something, to make the situation better.  There are those times where we have no control over the fear.  We can control our response, though.  Behavior to bring about positive changes helps us destress.  Making what has become ordinary during this election something extraordinary can be as simple as doing something.


Volunteering to be a mentor or, if you do not feel academically capable, volunteering to help behind the scenes at such locations, is a perfect start to living your beliefs and helping your local community.  Rather than listening to someone tell you how to live, go out and live according to your beliefs.  Baking or providing cookies for public servants like firemen or police officers is an easy first step.  Being a Big Brother or Big Sister is another and these programs have training sessions to help you get started.


If making hats or weaving plastic bags into water proof mats is more your style, your local homeless shelter would be happy for donations of your handiwork.  One of the easiest ways to make a blanket is to purchase a yard of flannel and then fringe each end.  That is done by cutting slits five inches long on either end.  The strips become fringe and the blankets is an easy yet warm addition to any homeless person’s bedroll, lightweight yet a good layering insulator for cold nights.


Hopefully, you will not wait until you are scared or have a diagnosis of a life-altering or possible life-ending disease.  It doesn’t take a million-dollar paycheck to become a humanitarian.  We all have the ability to help another and when we live grace, we receive grace.  Life is really just that simple.  Life is much more that going about your daily schedule stressed out.  Life is about making positive change with positive action.



Pentecost 157


St. Francis of Assisi reportedly said:  “Start doing what’s necessary and then what is possible.  Suddenly, you will then find yourself doing what is impossible.”  What if we cannot agree on what is necessary?  How do we move forward?


In the Declaration of Independence one can find an often-quoted phrase written by Thomas Jefferson:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all … are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”  Jefferson went on to describe these rights as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.  Are these necessary?


We cannot help others is we do not agree on what is necessary.  How can we ever seek to make ordinary time extraordinary if we cannot agree on what should be ordinary or common in one’s life?  This is an important issue because if education for all is ordinary, why do people have to go to such extraordinary lengths to obtain it and why do others go to such terroristic lengths to prevent it?


Recent aid organizations have requested assistance in helping those areas devastated by Hurricane Matthew.  Many in those areas have asked that people donate to local charities rather than the international organizations.  The problem is that many times the local groups are fraught with malfeasance, even more so than the larger groups.  Local officials prefer to build their personal coffers rather than distribute the aid received because their idea of what is necessary is skewed and narcissitic.


In my humble opinion, it should be necessary for a nation to provide food for its citizens as well as availability to health care.  That health care should include mental and emotional health as well as physical, dental, and vision.  Currently, a national healthcare program in one country for the elderly will pay for an eye examination but not for any required reading apparatus such as glasses.  Most people know when their eye sight in waning.  Why bother to have a doctor verify it if the program will not correct the vision problems?


The education of women is a hotly contested debate in many Islamic countries and yet, in others where Islam has existed since its infancy, many women are renowned scientists and mathematicians.  The Quran emphasizes personal growth and achieving what one is capable.  Why then are young girls abducted from their schools and sold into slavery?  Why is it not necessary for the gender of the human race that brings life into the world to be afforded a full life themselves?


Maybe it is because of the root of the word “unalienable”.  The word comes from the Latin “alius” which means “other.”  There are many words in the English language that use this word as their root.  They include alien and alias.  Say the word “alien” to many people and they began to think of little green beings from another planet.  The legal definition is not even in agreement on exactly what an alien is except to describe it as “other”.  This might be one Latin word whose derivatives actually are quite close to the root word.


In Great Britain, legally an alien might be a citizen of the republic of Ireland.  In the USA they are legal aliens and illegal aliens.  In common law they are “friendly aliens and enemy aliens, with the latter comprising not only citizens of hostile states but also all others voluntarily living in enemy territory or carrying on business there; enemy aliens are subject to additional disabilities.”


This concept of aliens having authorized disabilities was of great interest to me.  It refers to their not being able to own property but they can amass what is called a personal estate which means they can have personal possessions.  Another disability is that they are subject to taxation of all earnings and wages, cannot be a member of Congress or elected to President (in the USA) or, in many states, serve as governor.  They also cannot vote, fill any office, or serve as a juror.  For this reason, all illegal aliens found to have committed a crime are sent to their home county and not prosecuted here.  It would be necessary to have a jury of their peers if such prosecution occurred and one could argue that they would be impossible since their peers would be other aliens who could not serve on a jury.  In this case, necessary would mean deportation.


Is food and proper clothing necessary?  Certainly medical science has proven that it is for one to have a healthy life.  Why then, are there not programs that guarantee such for all, especially our children?  One of the most stable ways to store food is the canned food industry.  While other industries have suffered in the past fifteen years, the canned food industry has reported a steady increase in production and revenue.   The canned food industry is involved in the retail sales of canned ready meals, canned vegetables, canned fruit, canned pasta and noodles, canned desserts, and canned seafood and meat products.


What if each of us donated a can of canned good for every can we purchased?  Even if we donated one can for every three purchased, we could go a long way in providing necessary food for those who have none.  Canned vegetables represent the leading market segment, generating $1.2 billion in 2010, accounting for almost 31% of the overall market in the United Kingdom.  The Asia-Pacific canned food industry recorded yearly growth in excess of 4% between 2006 and 2010, reaching almost $15 billion in 2010. Canned meat products represented the leading market segment at close to $7 billion, accounting for 48% of the overall market.  Canned vegetables represented the leading market segment in the USA generating $4.5 billion, accounting for over 31% of the overall market.  Last year this number was expected to rise to $16 billion. These figures, by the way, are from the canned food industry, not arbitrary estimates.


Given the above statistics, if one third of purchases were matched by donations, the hungry of the world would have $5 billion to eat in the Asia-Pacific market, $400 million in the UK, and $5.3 billion in the USA.  For the cost of one canned good item, we could give to the world of hungry children almost $6 billion worth of food.  Is feeding the hungry necessary?


In 2002, Abby Adams-Silvan wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times.  In it she wrote: “Food for the starving should be a major priority in the war against terrorism. The survivors of today’s famines and the diseases of starvation may well be the terrorists of tomorrow. This is not only because of sociological consequences, but also because nutritional deprivation, before as well as after birth, causes brain as well as body deformation.  The failure of the rich countries to place a high priority on efforts like the World Food Summit, and the startling drop in global aid, reflect a dramatic lack of self-interested foresight as well as of altruistic humanitarianism.”


We can do batter in our fight for a better living.  We do have to stop defining those who are the ‘other” as sub-human and realize we are all in this living together.  When we address the ordinary and make it possible for all to experience it, then we will have made life extraordinary.





Pentecost 156


What we think is based upon what we know.  So first one has to establish what it is that we think we know.   Hegel once defined or described philosophy as “the study of its own history”.  I might define it as the “Why?” that follow the “What?” once the “What?” is answered.


Theology has been, throughout time, one way of answering the question “Where did we come from?”  In answering that, the study of the meaning of life, also known as metaphysics arose.  That  led to questioning the nature of gained knowledge, the study of which is called epistemology. 


Epistemology asks questions.  How is knowledge justified?  What are the sources of knowledge?  How do we know what we know?  Rationalism believed that pure reason was the most reliable source of knowledge while empiricism maintained that experience was.  Skepticism purported doubts about various states of knowledge based upon external world skepticism (How can there be a world outside our own minds?) and what is called “other minds skepticism” (We have no proof of other minds other than our own.).  It also led to solipsism which stated “Only I exist”.


Our living becomes quite ordinary in solipsism because while it may seem like it would boost one’s focus and lead to greater things, it really limits us.  The person who only thinks of themselves is limiting their world.  The one who believes the world revolves around him has made him or herself the center of everything.  They fail to fully understand their place in a very large world with many other beings.


Logic and philosophy became elements of our living as did a multitude of philosophers and theologians.  IN addition to the theological texts and the great many who interpreted them,  people studied Plato and Socrates, Aristotle and Descartes, Fichte and Schelling…. The list is plentiful.  These philosophers agreed and then disagreed with each other, though since they occupied different periods in history, not unilaterally.  All sought to explain life while the religions and spiritualities of the world explained mankind’s relationship with life.


Two years ago this blog delved into various religions and spiritualities.  In discussing these, we found certain common truths.  The rule for living one with another often called the Golden Rule is found in eastern spiritualties as well as the Old and New Testaments.  It is difficult to have any discussions about theology that do not include philosophy.  The” Why?” that religion seeks to answer is part of the greater “Why?” that philosophy seeks to determine.


Where we do go wrong, how we limit our world and our potential is when we believe a form of solipsism that says not “Only I exist” but rather “Only my thinking can exist”. We cannot seek respect and then fail to respect others.  We cannot believe only one group or gender deserves life, education, or basic human rights.  Man is a varied animals with different colors of mane, eyes, skin; different shapes of eyes; different lengths of body, noses, arms and legs.  What we look like is about as important to our classification and right to live as the various colors of a rose.  The hues of a rose are beautiful and interesting but they do not change the fact that it is a rose. 


We must reach out to others as we seek to discover “Why?”  Our lives should include helping others because then we truly help ourselves and answer not only the “What?” but also the “Who?” and the “Why?”  Once we realize we are all in this thing called life together and need each other, the future is not only limitless, it becomes extraordinary.

Harvesting Life

Harvesting Life

Pentecost 155


Autumn is harvest time.  It is also that time in which farmers and gardeners begin to prepare for the next growing season.  It is easy with an infant to see growth.  After all, from one six month period to another, many changes occur, physically and emotionally.  With toddlers the intellectual growth becomes evident as they learn to test the boundaries they previously took for granted.  No longer can one put the child in a crib and rest assured the baby will remain there.  As the child grows intellectually, their problem solving skills develop.  Hungry?  Push the chair over to the counter, climb up, open the cupboard, and find the cookies hidden at the back.  Bazinga – instant resolution for the hunger!


Somewhere along the later teen years we seem to stop emphasizing our own personal intellectual growth.  Once our heads stop growing, some think so should our brains and minds.  Ancient cultures told stories to keep educating.  Regardless of the  age of the stories or the listeners, these stories still packed a powerful punch when told and retold. 


AS the nights grow longer and the days shorter, we spend more time inside and with each other.  The family stories and cultural myths get retold, gathering a new audience and reaping a new and different harvest.  With the coming holidays, these myths and stories are enacted and retold.


It is easy to get wrapped up in the telling and to forget that myths are like neighbors, the neighbors that the cultures of mankind truly are.  While one culture was developing one skill set, another was not necessarily sleeping.  Rather, they were busy doing their own thing.  Before Alexander the Great had reached the Indus River, what would become the farthest point of his empire, Buddha had been born and buried as had Mahavita, founder of the Jain religion.


Karl Jaspers, a noted German philosopher, described the period between 900 to 200 BCE as the “Axial Age”, a pivotal time in the development of mankind’s spiritual growth and religious development.  Axial refers to relationships, the axis being the central point around which things revolve.   Jasper pointed to this period during which four main world traditions developed:  Confucianism and Daoism in China; Hinduism and Buddhism in India; monotheism leading to the Abrahamic faiths in Israel; philosophical rationalism in Greece.  Many believe we are still in this period while others feel we have diluted the messages they presented to the world. 


Today we consider the mythologies of our ancestors as being either religious or spiritual.   To these cultures, though, they were similar to the stories we tell today.  Whether the stories were of Thor striking the heavens with his hammer to create lightning or an offering of either material sacrifice or whispered prayer to a deity omnipotent, the intent was the same.  The purpose of their believing was to create change, positive change in one’s living.


These were not just stories told to an primitive audience that had no meaning.  These are primordial stories, a genealogy of mankind.  If our lives are to have any meaning today and for tomorrow, we must recognize our origins and those things that gave life meaning.  We need to harvest the truths from the past in order to move forward today.  We could learn quite a bit from those early beings that lived what we might consider very rudimentary and ordinary lives. 


In her book “The Great Transformation” Karen Armstrong emphasizes this:  “What mattered was not what you believed but how you behaved.”  The intent of all the mythologies we will explore during this series is that5 fact that they were told to explain and improve life.  The worships, the sacrifices, the rituals were not merely drama or entertainment.  Their purpose was to profoundly change the believer.


All too often today we go through our daily lives like robots or lemmings following the current trends as we attempt to swim upstream to some imaginary prize or status.  The mythologies of the past were all about creating a better tomorrow, inhabited and lived by a better mankind.


Tomorrow will be determined by what we do today, how we live today.  Who we harm, who we ignore, what will attract our attention, where we will spend our money…These are the things that define us.  These are our mythologies of today that we ourselves will write.  The future is ours to harvest but it will be based upon what we do and plant today.

Fright and Sight

Fright and Sight

Pentecost 154


As stores prepare for the final two weeks before Halloween and costumes receive their last minute drops of blood and ghoulish masks are fitted, many of us look forward to the future with great trepidation.  When the prospect of looking forward is too scary, we simply try to avoid it.


“I think, therefore I am.  I think, therefore I fear.  I think, so ….I’m gonna go to sleep!”  Change is not something many of us easily accept.  Whether it is a big change or small, the body perceives it as a threat and reacts accordingly.  Perhaps our reaction and the emotion we experience which we call fear is due to its etymology.  It is a most interesting history but could its scariness really be that simple?


The noun form of the word “fear” comes from several Middle English words such as feer, fere, and fer, which meant danger, as well as the Old English faer which meant danger.  It is also related to the German “fera”, defined as danger but also the Proto-Indo-European word “per”.  Unlike the modern English usage of the word “per” which is used to single out, this earlier “per” translated as an attempt, to try or research, to risk.


Our modern usage of the word “fear” is three-fold.  It can refer to the uncomfortable emotion of fear; ir can be a phobia which is usually defined as an irrational amount of fear.  Fear can also refer to how one worships or holds a belief or deity in reverence.  Psychologists such as John Watson, Robert Plutchik, and Paul Ekman consider man and woman to have only a few innate or natural emotions.  Fear is one of them.  Many believe fear to be the backbone of evolution and the fear responses the reason mankind has survived.


I am particularly interested in the connection between the definitions of fear.  When we hold something in great esteem or reverence, it can be said we “fear” it.  Does that threaten us?  After all, fear we fear something when we perceive it to be a threat or to pose a danger to us.  Fear is not the same as anxiety and that is an often overlooked fact.  Anxiety is our reaction to threats that are uncontrolled or unavoidable.


We have discussed the fight or flight response to fear in past articles.  The body perceives a threat and it does what it thinks best to protect itself.  It varies based upon personalities, cultures, and genus/species, but it really is something all animals have in common.  Fear exists to protect us.  Anxiety, however, is another matter.


Anxiety is all about our perception.  Some anxiety can be useful.  It can remind us to check and double check situations, making sure we have all our bases covered, so to speak.  Often, though, anxiety is very limiting.  What we call a fear of change is actually an anxiety of change, even though change is one of the constants in life.  The following quote is sometimes attributed to nelson Mandela but was originally said by Marianna Williamson: Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?”


Could that possible be true?  Do we fear or become anxious about change because we worry about being successful?  What could we accomplish if we embraced change?  What could be the repercussions if we embraced change and it…gulp… failed?  Is that even possible?


At a recent wedding rehearsal, the mother of the groom was heard to remark: “I’ve had two weddings; don’t worry.  We will all get to where we are supposed to be and if not, we’ll have a great anecdote to tell for the rest of our lives.  My first wedding was a training exercise so the second has been wonderful because of what I learned the first time.  Relax and enjoy!”


Weddings are the perfect example of how we fear change and yet, at the same time, often embrace it.  Many believe civilization is on the brink of its greatest change since the ACE began.  Maeterlinck said: “At every crossroad on the way that leads to the future, each progressive spirit is opposed by a thousand men appointed to guard the past.”


Those believing in this great change feel that the world is going to be divided into thinkers, who will lead, and non-thinkers who will follow.  Bertrand Russell believed “Men fear THOUGHT, as they fear nothing else on earth.”  I disagree.  I don’t think people really fear thinking as much as the fear the results of our thinking.  What husband hasn’t felt a stab of intense fear when, after settling into his easy chair, heard his wife utter these words:  “Honey, I think….”  That husband fears a list of chores is about to be uttered, all the result of his wife’s “thinking”.


Some would say war is the result of thinking, some thinking they deserve to be the leader and are willing to make that happen regardless of who must die.  Is that really thinking?  Let’s go back to our definition of fear and the Proto-Indo-European word “per”, Remembering that this earlier “per” translates as “an attempt, to try or research, to risk”.


Most of us have had a great idea – that one thing that will make everyone’s life easier. Few of us take it to the next level.  Why? We are afraid of failing.  Nothing has ever been invented on the first try and had instant success.  Even if the first generation of a device is successful, the inventor(s) were not newborn babies.  They used their gained knowledge from their life as their teaching tool and their thinking which led to the invention was predicated upon that living.


Clearly the woman in our wedding story was at peace with her past.  She had taken the risk of getting married the first time and used it as a life lesson.  Most of us would rather only have one marriage for a number of reasons.  Allowing ourselves to be victimized because we made a mistake, however, is not healthy.  We all make mistakes.  That is how we learn. 


Peace comes when we accept our human-ness.  I know several people for whom spiders are a wonderful creature, delightful in their movement and fascinating in their varieties.  For me spiders are not pleasant.  They may be, in some varieties, warm and fuzzy but the feelings I experience upon seeing them are definitely NOT warm and fuzzy.  I do not remember which spiders can be harmful and so, I fear them all.  I realize, though, that my anxiety about spiders should not take center stage.  The best thing to do is for me to remain calm and simply remove myself from the area…or ask someone to remove the spider.  Occasionally, I even move it myself.


Tony Robbins is often quoted:  “Change is inevitable.  Progress is optional.”  There are many justified instance where we will feel fear.  It might save your life.  There are also many instances that will bring about anxiety.  These can either be opportunities to check and recheck to make sure we are doing things correctly or they can be crippling, life-stopping events. 


When we realize that anxiety is simply a yield sign and not a stop sign, then we can grow and learn and yes, even think.  Change is the hallmark of being alive.  As we live, we evolve and evolution is simply change due to living.  Peace comes when we embrace our living and hang on for the ride of our life. 


The foundation of peace is knowing we are strong and can overcome whatever the future might bring.  We do not do this alone, however.  Living the ordinary and making it extraordinary is a group effort.  Together we can face the future and do so without fear.  The choice is ours.