What Do We Believe?

What Do We Believe?

05.30.2019

Easter 2019

 

Advent 2014 this blog discussed over twenty-five various religions and spiritualties.  Of recent years there has been much debate regarding religion and spiritual beliefs.  Usually it is in the form of an opposing debate: religion versus spirituality.  I always find this such a debate a bit confusing because the religious explanation(s) of the universe are derived from the philosophies of various spiritualties.  Can one really separate religion from spirituality?

 

The country of India was the beginning of many religious traditions.  The early civilizations of India all contributed their own versions interwoven with their specific cultures but most shared similar basic concepts.  Today we know these as forms of Hinduism which believes in reincarnation.  The samsara spoke of the cycles of life – birth, life, death, and rebirth.  A person’s rebirth was based upon their living a good life and introduced moral philosophy as a basic part of religion.

 

Siddhartha Gautama was born in India during the sixth century BCE.  Better known by most of us as Buddha, he introduced the Four Noble Truths.  They included suffering, the origin of suffering, the end of suffering and the Eightfold Path to the end of suffering.  This Eightfold Path told one how to live a life of fulfillment and centered on the eight principles of right, mindfulness, right action, right intention, right livelihood, right effort, right concentration, right speech, and right understanding.

 

Then a man known as Jesus of Nazareth was born and after living approximately thirty years began to spread his own version of philosophy around.  He claimed no great title or crown but neither did he seemed to be confused about life – its origins, its purposes, its ending.  He spoke of many of the same things Greek philosophers had wondered about and eastern spiritualties referenced.  Thus it is no surprise that the teachings of Christianity dominated the philosophical world in Europe through the first ten or more decades ACE.

 

Questioning was not forgotten, though.  The first noted Christian philosopher is considered to be Augustine of Hippo.  Augustine’s mother was a proud Christian but he himself at first followed Manichaeism, a Persian religion.  Intense and careful study of classical philosophy led him to his Christian beliefs, however.  He saw no divisiveness between his faith and philosophy and wrote “The City of God”.  In this book Augustine explained how one could live on an earthly place and also live in the heavenly world of what he called the kingdom of God, an idea he adapted from Plato.

 

While Augustine encouraged open thinking, he also warned against ego in one’s thinking.  “If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.”  All too often, we believe until it makes us uncomfortable or we believe only what we want to believe.

 

It is easy to believe in something that benefits us.  The true test comes when we believe in something that might not give us everything we think we want or should have.  “Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe.”  Augustine encouraged learning but lamented that many people saw this as an outward exercise, desiring only to learn about things and others, not themselves.  “And men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty waves of the sea, the broad tides of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars, yet pass over the mystery of themselves without a thought.”

 

Taking time to study one’s self or one’s life is tough.  It truly puts the test of learning through its paces.  After all, it is always much easier to see the dirt on another than on ourselves.  I remember hearing a friend remark on her recent weight gain.  Having been ill, she stayed inside recuperating.  She knew rationally that her medications could result in weight gain but really had not given it much thought, that is until she needed to dress for an outing with friends.  “I stood in front of the mirror every day, brushing my hair and teeth, putting on a robe, etc.  Yet, I never noticed I had gained weight until my “going-out” clothes did not fit when I put them on!”  From her perspective, the added weight was invisible until she had her eyes opened by a zipper that would not close.

 

Most of us know right from wrong.  We know it is wrong to drive faster than the posted speed limit but sometimes feel our reasons warrant the infraction.  Many people feel they can tell when they are inebriated.  Sadly, the statistics on deaths from drunk driving prove most people cannot tell accurately.  “Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.”

Life is about growing and growth comes from knowledge.  Augustine himself explained life as a journey of hope. “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” We cannot allow anger in all its many forms such as grief and discomfort or fear keep us from taking courage to have hope and grow, learning with each day. After all, to quote Augustine, “God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.”

“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”  We cannot allow anger in all its many forms such as grief and discomfort or fear keep us from taking courage to have hope and grow, learning with each day.  After all, to quote Augustine, “God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.”

 

So we are now at the debate mentioned in our opening paragraph.  Can there truly be a contest of “Religion versus Spirituality”?  Perhaps the true contest is in whether we choose to believe in anything other than ourselves.  What is our true motivation in life…To do that which is good and just or that which gains us the most profit here on earth?  What and why do we believe?

 

Success, Superstition, Supposition, Sparkle

Success, Superstition, Supposition, Sparkle

05.29.2019

Easter 2019

 

Philosophy has been studied, debated, argued, and discounted then believed for over two and a half thousand years.  The twentieth century saw not only world wars but also great advances in science.  For years, science had depended upon the discoveries and truths of Isaac Newton.  The twentieth century had barely been born when a German Jewish physicist introduced scientific theories that were incompatible with the accepted knowledge based upon Newton’s ideas.  Hume and Locke had introduced thinking that mankind had just accepted certain scientific principles as truth without being able to prove them.  Einstein challenged scholars in mathematics and the sciences as well as the field of philosophy.

 

Einstein challenged both the knowledge and how it had been learned.  “The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.”  Accepting Newton’s science as certainty had led the world into the Industrial Revolution.  For Einstein to suggest and then prove much of it incorrect asked not only what knowledge had been gained but just exactly what knowledge itself was.  Einstein, the genius who had never excelled at school seemed to discount all earlier ways of acquiring knowledge:  “Only daring speculation can lead us further, and not accumulation of facts.”

 

Karl Popper was another Austrian and he spent a great deal of his life as a professor of logic and scientific method in England.  Popper realized that, although some theories seemed to work, they were still simply products of the human mind and as such, were subject to being incorrect.  “Science is perhaps the only human activity in which errors are systematically criticized and, in time, corrected.”  Popper encouraged advancements; they might not could prove everything but some things could be disproven.  “All we can do is search for the falsity content of our best theory.”

 

Benjamin Franklin once said:  “I didn’t fail the test; I just found one hundred ways to do it wrong.”  The history of philosophy has been a series of advances and failures but it should never be discounted because of those failures.  Mahatma Gandhi often spoke of the wisdom found in failure:  “My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents and I lay them both at his feet.”

 

Perhaps one of the greatest contributions Americans made to twentieth century philosophy was their attitude about failure.  After immigrating to the USA, Einstein was quoted as saying “Failure is success in progress.”  Other Americans have agreed.   American automobile maker and magnate Henry Ford defined failure as “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

 

Ancient philosophers believed that in answering their questions, they would discover the secrets to success.  What we have learned since then is that there is much more that we do not know than was ever imagined.  We have also come to the realization that not everything will ever be fully known since much will never be scientifically proven. 

 

The real quest now is not only the continuation of gaining knowledge but is acquiring patience and respect for all as well.  We need to continue to strive for success without experiencing a fear of failure that binds our living.  We need to realize that true success comes from living in kindness and effort, not in trying to make everything the same.  As Winston Churchill said, “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”

 

Philosophy has propelled man forward and, at times, been the basis for governments and nations.  Its value, though, remains not in what we know but in what is left to learn.  The French Voltaire one said:  “Superstition sets the whole world in flames; philosophy quenches them.”   The real value of philosophy, though, remains not in the supposition or superstition but it what it teaches us, the doors that open and lead us to greater understanding of ourselves, each other, our world.  That is when the real sparkle of life becomes evident – when we recognize the value of each and every being within the creation that is our world.

 

 

 

Instructions for Anger

Instructions for Anger

05-18-2019

Easter 2019

 

It has been an interesting eleven days.  Two students carried weapons into their school and created chaos.  One wondered what drove these two with no prior histories of trouble to such an act.  One student died saving his fellow classmates and others were injured.  All at the school, their parents, their community and the world experienced concern, pain, and anger at this act.

 

This week, in what should be a good thing in supposedly trying to reduce the infant mortality rate in their state, two governors signed legislation regarding abortion.  On both sides voices were raised in anger.  IN each case, the governors acknowledged that the laws they had just signed were unenforceable, causing even more anger.

 

Whether we are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Agnostic, Atheist, or somewhere in-between any of the above, we all experience anger.  I think anger can sometimes be a positive emotion.  The patient who is angry that a disease like cancer seems to think it can beat them will get angry and often, fight harder to survive.  But what about that deep anger that destroys us from the inside out?

 

Thich Nhat Hanh describes happiness as “not suffering”.  This Buddhist teacher and spiritualist reminds us that true happiness comes from within ourselves and not from material things or social standing.  Regardless of how it may seem, reality shows like “the Kardashians” are not about people who have it all but rather about people who struggle with an impossible race to reach happiness through impossible means.  The one emotion that drives such programs and thinking is anger.

 

Nhat Hanh explains:  “In our consciousness there are blocks of pain, anger and frustration called internal formations. They are also called knots because they tie us up and obstruct our freedom.  When someone insults us or does something unkind to us, an internal formation is created in our consciousness. If you don’t know how to undo the internal knot and transform it, the knot will stay there for a long time. And the next time someone says something or does something to you of the same nature, that internal formation will grow stronger. As knots or blocks of pain in us, our internal formations have the power to push us, to dictate our behavior.

 

“After a while, it becomes very difficult for us to transform, to undo the knots, and we cannot ease the constriction of this crystallized formation. The Sanskrit word for internal formation is “samyojana”. It means “to crystallize.” Every one of us has internal formations that we need to take care of. With the practice of meditation we can undo these knots and experience transformation and healing.”

 

It has become popular to “vent” one’s anger.  Sometimes people hit pillows but does this really release the anger?  As a parent I taught my kids to do jumping jacks, that exercise where you spread your arms wide over your hard and spread your feet accordingly while you jump back to a standing position.  For small children, this gives them a sense of being in control as they dictate what their body is doing and are no longer captive to their feelings of anger.

 

For adults, Nhat Hanh offers this advice.  “Whenever you feel yourself becoming angry, start practicing mindfulness.  Think of that one thing that makes you happy.  Visualize yourself in your most favorite spot doing something you enjoy doing.  Recall the feelings of happiness that that activity and that location bring to you and let yourself experience happiness.  To be happy, to me, is to suffer less. If we were not capable of transforming the pain within ourselves, happiness would not be possible.  Many people look for happiness outside themselves, but true happiness must come from inside of us.

 

“Mindfulness does not fight anger or despair. Mindfulness is there in order to recognize. To be mindful of something is to recognize that something is there in the present moment. Mindfulness is the capacity of being aware of what is going on in the present moment. “Breathing in, I know that anger has manifested in me; breathing out, I smile towards my anger.” This is not an act of suppression or of fighting. It is an act of recognizing. Once we recognize our anger, we embrace it with a lot of awareness, a lot of tenderness.”

 

We are going to feel anger.  It is an inevitable part of life.  It is up to us to decide whether to use it, embrace it, or to let it eat us up and destroy us.  Nhat Hanh suggests this analogy:  “When it is cold in your room, you turn on the heater, and the heater begins to send out waves of hot air. The cold air doesn’t have to leave the room for the room to become warm. The cold air is embraced by the hot air and becomes warm—there’s no fighting at all between them.

 

“Practitioners of meditation do not discriminate against or reject their internal formations. We do not transform ourselves into a battle field, good fighting evil. We treat our afflictions, our anger, our jealousy with a lot of tenderness. When anger comes up in us, we should begin to practice mindful breathing right away: “Breathing in, I know that anger is in me. Breathing out, I am taking good care of my anger.” We behave exactly like a mother: “Breathing in, I know that my child is crying. Breathing out, I will take good care of my child”, ourselves.

 

When we use our anger mindfully, we are showing compassion, not only to another but also to ourselves.  We must learn to do this because without it, we will not truly show compassion to others.  Nhat Hanh offers this very important piece of advice regarding life, its messiness and its inevitable feels of anger.  “To grow the tree of enlightenment, we must make good use of our afflictions, our suffering. It is like growing lotus flowers; we cannot grow a lotus on marble. We cannot grow a lotus without mud.” 

 

Anger will be a part of our lives.  We can either choose to let it be the medium through which we grow or something that drags us down like quick sand, destroying all within its reach..   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love in Action

Love Philosophy in Action

Easter 36

 

Mothers Day in countries like US, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Finland, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Turkey, New Zealand celebrated yesterday, May 12th, 2019.  Saudi Arabia, Oman, South America, Bahrain, Malaysia, Pakistan, Qatar,  and the United Arab Emirates celebrated on the 10th of May, 2019.  In Ireland and the United Kingdom, it was celebrated on the fourth Sunday during the Lenten season.  Despite their history of animosity, Ireland and the United Kingdom today are one in celebrating that which we all have in common – being born from the body of a female.

 

I fervently hope that you had a loving and involved mother.  I hope that she taught you that you have value and that the world is a better place because you were born.  I hope that you felt brave enough to live and worthy enough to defeat your challenges in life.  Sadly, though, many do not grow up with their birth mother.  Countries have policies that deny a mother the right to raise all of her children.  Factions exist that see children as tools which denies both the mother and child basic human rights.  Children are seen as threats for the future and as pawns for someone’s personal delights and perversions.   Infant mortality is very much a problem in all countries, not just those with limited health care.

 

We should truly honor our mothers and their necessary part in the continuance of mankind when we honor the love and life that they represent.  We cannot live in a divisive society and honor our mothers.  We cannot tolerate terrorism and honor life.  We cannot hate our neighbor without hating their mother and that definitely is dishonoring all mothers.  I hope that yesterday you honored your own mother and the life she gave to you.  Whether you live in a nation that is celebrating today or whether you ever even knew your mother, please take time to give thanks and show respect. The question is not how good a mother we had.  The fact remains that without a mother, we would not exist.  A mother is philosophy in action.  To be a mother is love in action.  

 

We often forget, however, that we are all mothers – even those considered male.  You see, we all give birth to our thoughts and our actions.  We are, in short, the mother of our own lives.  Those lives are love in action – love for ourselves, our world, our neighbors.  Ask yourself these three questions.  How do I know what it is I think I know?  How do I live that knowledge and how is it evident in my every action?  Am I open to new knowledge?

 

“Philosophy begins in wonder.”  Plato’s words may not seem like a very good definition of philosophy but they actually are the core of what philosophy is.  The science of philosophy began the first time someone asked “Why?”  By asking such a question they were giving birth to the possibility of a better future.  In 1628 Rembrandt painted “The Two Philosophers”.  It is a rather simple painting with two men sitting and conversing.  One is holding a book while the other is pointing to something on a page of the book.  It is a visual definition of philosophy.  Discourse, questioning, and debating are the core of philosophy.  Unlike other sciences which need a consensus to arrive at an answer, philosophy thrives on the difference of opinion. 

 

When someone asks “What is justice?” or “What is freedom?” they are not just wanting someone to read words in a dictionary.  They are seeking an in-depth understanding.  The most important aspects of our lives need not only definition but context.  How do these concepts function in our being and living?  How can they be used?  Are there any dangers associated with them?  What other concepts are they related to and what are the implications of those connections?

 

The sculptor Auguste Rodin carved a man without clothing in 1880.  The man is seated on a rock and appears to be thinking.  Rodin’s sculpture, known as “The Thinker” is also a visual definition of philosophy.  IN the search to know what we know and to be able to verify what we know, we must first strip away all preconceived thoughts.  We must start our search for knowledge bare.  Philosophy demands that we have good reason for believing.

 

The artist uses basic facts and then intuition to present his/her vision in a new and novel presentation.  The theologian also uses known facts but then combines them with faith which cannot be proven; hence, the name.  The philosopher seeks perhaps through intuition and certainly using faith to not only discover and believe but to know why we believe.  “The business of philosophy is not to give rules but to analyze the private judgements of common reason,” stated philosopher Immanuel Kant. 

 

Aristotle believed “All men by nature desire to know.”  In our hurried, busy world, that may not still be the case.  It would seem that many are content to follow and to do so without knowing, without thinking.  Once thought to be a hallmark of adolescence, peer pressure has now extended to the masses of adults as well.  Anything trending is considered to be good.  This is why young people join terrorist groups.  They are seeking community but also acceptance.  It is also why people shy away from their own personal preferences and instead “go with the flow” in fashion trends, popular car models, etc.

 

What if the world of advertising suddenly took on a new client?  What if every advertisement had to include something humanitarian, something of benefit to all mankind?  Nepal was the victim of another earthquake within the past twenty-four hours.  What if all advertisements for fast food restaurants today included ways to help these victims?  What if every magazine advertisement for make-up included a self-affirmation to be happy in one’s unique image?

 

 

Philosopher Thomas Hobbes might very well have been the man to whom we can place the blame on materialism.  “The value or worth of a man is, as of all things, his price.”  Hobbes believed that physical matter is all there is and explained everything using matter in motion.  “Words are wise men’s counters, but they are the money of fools.”  Hobbes mechanistic philosophy was not completely accurate but it served great purpose in future developments.  He saw mental processes as movements of matter inside a person’s skull.  Though incorrect, this set the stage for new ways of thinking.  Hobbes introduced the theory of a physical basis for mental thought which is accurate.  Thinking is not just an abstract; physical connections occur.

 

Considered a genius, the writer, art critic, and editor Denis Diderot once said: “The first step towards philosophy is incredulity.”  I would add the first step towards living a full life is incredulity as well.   When we allow ourselves to consider new thoughts, we give birth to new opportunities.  We become the mother of our own future.   Philosophy on paper is interesting but, as Hobbes said, they count for little until they become action. 

 

Today, as you go through your busy life, take a moment to recognize the incredulity in your steps.  Just as you honored the physicality of your birth and the woman who made it possible yesterday, honor your own future today.  Enjoy the philosophy of being alive, of living, of knowing you are present in the moment.  Even a small pebble can hold a world of mysteries if we but look and wonder.

 

What, When, Where but Mostly…Why?

What, When, Where but Mostly…Why?

05/07-08/2019

Easter 2019

 

In 2015 my series for Easter centered around philosophy.  This is a reposting of one of those posts.  I continue to be amazed at the people who feel philosophy and religion having nothing in common.  Then again, I am amazed at those who think spirituality and religion are polar opposites.  I received this question during that 2015 series and it is one that has been repeated throughout the past four years:   “I would describe this blog as a collection of different ways to think about theology so, as a believer yourself, what does philosophy have to do with theology?

 

In that first posting I wrote “What we think is based upon what we know.”  Today, four years wiser (hopefully!), I would “what we believe or hope to become true.”    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 think this blog is a study of sorts of our history.  So, to me, discussing philosophy is something I do in one form or another every day in this blog.

 

As you know I divide these articles into series and, for organizational purposes, I divide the series based upon the Christian church calendar of the Episcopal Church.  Before making that decision, I studied various calendars.  After all, a calendar is merely an organizational tool, a way to divide the days in a year.  A year is a broader tool for organizing our lives, decades for organizing years, centuries for keeping track of decades, etc.  By using such organizational tools, I know when to write about certain things, the perspective to use in my approach and also how to locate what I have already written or learned, of remembering when I not only wrote about something but learned something.

 

Such an organizational tool has been utilized for centuries by mankind.  It is the reason we have different divisions of study such as theology and philosophy.  Theology was one way of answering the question “Where did we come from?”  Before long, in mankind’s quest to determine the meaning of life which is metaphysics, branches of philosophy led to questioning the nature of gained knowledge, the study of which is called epistemology. 

 

Epistemology asked questions much like the reader mentioned earlier.  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”.

 

Logic or the study in an abstract form of the principles of reasoning was introduced and used to deduce and induce.  Deduction assumed certain truths without justification and then draws conclusions based upon those generally accepted premises.  Induction arrived at conclusions based upon certain premises and then employed hypotheses that could be proven after speculation.

 

Ethics came into being, that field of philosophy concerned with human actions, intent, and responsibilities.  Ethics involved not just knowledge but deciding what was right and what was wrong.  Amidst all the great philosophers is one man who is seldom thought of by the general populous as a philosopher.  That man’s name is Jesus of Nazareth.

 

Many people study 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 and the man known as Jesus of Nazareth explained mankind’s relationship with life.

 

In discussing last year the various types and sects of spirituality and religion, 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.  I don’t think one can 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.

 

I know a great many people in various religions and I don’t think I know just one person in any one religion or belief system.  I make that statement not because these people are confused about what they believe.  Most are adamant about what they believe.  I make such a statement because of the overlapping of beliefs that exist in various religions.  For example, most people in being generous and charitable to those in need.   Yet, none of those people all believe exactly the same thing in exactly the same way.  Our beliefs are as individual as we are and I don’t think that is necessarily wrong.

 

Where we do go wrong 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.  Philosophy reminds us to think, to question.  I hope that through this blog I encourage you to live.

 

May the Force Be with You

This week an acquaintance died. Six months ago I had advocated for this person and while that was and is a good thing, it did make some people angry. You see, I challenged them to step outside their comfort zone and help me. Some did; many did not. Two months ago this person finally got what was needed and upon her soul’s passing this week, I know it was worth it.

 

Today, May 4th, is known as Star Wars Day, trading on the famous quote from the movies, “May the Force be with you”, today rephrased as “May the Fourth be with you”.  It is a humorous play on words and yet, it is a great saying to share with someone.  Inviting them to recognize and acknowledge the life forces within and around us as well as celebrating each day we are alive.

 

This blog has been silent for several days due to the shooting at UNCC.  Someone told me it was a shame this was all happening during the Easter season and yet…. Easter itself is all about death.

 

“Death where is thy sting?  O grave, why is thy victory?”  It might very well be that the best time for death is during Easter because Easter is a story about victory over death and helps us overcome the pain and sting of losing someone.  Grief is inevitable and we need to honor the grieving process as the homage it is for the life that was lived and now has ceased.  All too often, we try to pretend all is well instead of allowing someone to mourn.

 

In a world where very little is certain and where sorting truth from fiction has become an endless maze, death is the one certainty we have.  We may not know exactly when or how we will die and for many of our, it will be out of our control but we can be certain that at some point in time, we will die.  It is the culmination of being alive.

 

Dr. Steve Taylor wrote the following about our own mortality for Psychology Today four years ago:  “We all have to face it at some point; an event of such enormity that it can make everything else in our lives seem insignificant: death, the end of our existence; our departure from this world….We live in a culture that denies death. We’re taught that death is something we should shy away from, and try to forget about. If we start contemplating our own mortality – so this traditional wisdom goes – we’ll become anxious and depressed.”

 

Taylor maintains that a healthy relationship and conversation about death can actually do just the opposite.  Why do we fear death?  Taylor explains that “To a large extent, it depends on the intensity of the encounter with our mortality. Anxiety usually occurs when we’re passively aware of death, thinking about it in a vague way rather than actually facing up to it. There’s certainly an important difference between being aware of death as a concept and being confronted with the reality of it, and being forced to deal with it as an imminent prospect. When we face up to death actively and directly, there’s a chance that we’ll transcend anxiety and insecurity, and experience its transformational potential.”

 

Taylor continues:  “An attitude of acceptance is important too. If we resist death, fight against its inevitability, refuse to let go of our lives, and feel bitterness about all the things that we’re going to lose and leave behind – then we’re much less likely to experience the potentially positive effects.”

 

In other words, once we accept our own mortality, we can turn that acceptance into a force that will help us live fuller lives.  “Death is always present, and its transformational power is always accessible to us, so long as we’re courageous enough to face it. Becoming aware of our own mortality can be a liberating and awakening experience, which can – paradoxically, it might seem – encourage us to live authentically and fully for the first time.”

 

So on this day, as I prepare to attend yet another funeral and say goodbye to one more soul, I will use the force of my mortality to become stronger.  The celebration of the Easter season answers the question about victory over the grave.  The real victory is in living to the best of our ability with kindness and health towards all.

 

 

May Day – A time to Bloom

Bloom Where and When You can

05.01.2019

Easter 2019

 

Today is May Day, a day historically set aside to celebrate spring and flowers as well as being a day to recognize Labor Unions and the common worker.  It is also less than twenty-four hours after yet another school shooting, this time at the University of North Carolina, United States.

 

The following is an excerpt from an article in the Fort Worth (Texas, USA) newspaper “Star Telegram”, written by Deanna Boyd.  Names have been omitted due to the age of the individual at the center of this article.

On Oct. 4, 2012, [X] called 911, telling a dispatcher, “Uh, I just killed my mom and my sister….”I felt like they were just suffocating me, in a way,” he told the dispatcher, according to a recording of the 911 call. “Obviously, you know, I’m pretty, I guess, evil.”

Responding Parker County deputies found [a woman] and her daughter dead of multiple gunshot wounds inside the house on [XX] Lane in [subdivision and town].  The young man was arrested at the scene.  In a written statement, he told investigators that he had devised a plan to kill several family members after watching [a] remake of the movie “Halloween,” in which a boy murders relatives.

“While watching it I was amazed at how at ease the boy was during the murders and how little remorse he had afterward,” [X] wrote in his statement. “I was thinking to myself, it would be the same for me when I kill someone.”

Sheriff’s officials have said [X]  used a gun stolen from his grandfather, a retired Fort Worth officer, to commit the slayings.  [X]  told investigators that he had intended to later kill his grandparents and two other sisters.   But after the slayings of his mom and sister, [X]  — in a state he described as “very shocked and scared” — instead placed the gun on the kitchen counter and called 911.

“I know now though that I’m done with killing. It’s the most dreadful and terrifying thing I will ever experience. And what happened last night will haunt me forever.”

 

We think we know so much and especially as young adults and teenagers, we can be intensely certain that we think we know something.  Philosophy is about the “knowing” but how do we know?  Sadly, many cult leaders never give their followers the chance to reflect upon their actions.  These misguided young people searching for knowledge and truth are sacrificed for the greed and egos of others.  At a time when so many are resorting to violence as an answer, we need to stop asking when will then killing stop and start asking what are these young people thinking.  Philosophy is about the search for knowledge and it is a search conducted without a great deal of physical action, just mental.  For that reason, many disdain it and consider it, to borrow from Shakespeare, “much ado about nothing”.  Some say that about spiritual sects and religious denominations and faiths.  We study to prevent knowledge from passing us by, from slipping through the hours of our living.  The ancient philosophers saw the world moving on and asked why.  We need to question our daily actions in the same way.  Did what I do yesterday have value?  Did I connect with another, friend or stranger?  Was there a purpose for my being?

 

There is no one hard and fast rule that will be sufficient as an answer.  The religions of the world usually claim love to be the answer but how do we live a healthy love for all?  We will each have our own answers and paths of both learning and exploration.  The future is, after all, ours to construct and write.  Hopefully, we will connect with others and thrive.  Hopefully, others will look back upon their connections with us and be thankful for them.  Mostly, though I hope you never feel what this young man has felt.  “It’s the most dreadful and terrifying thing I will ever experience. And what happened last night will haunt me forever.”

 

A common meme that has been around for decades is the admonishment to “Bloom where you are planted.”   Mary Engelbreit, a children’s author and renowned illustrator and artist, is often credited with this saying but it predates her.  Some claim the phrase is Biblical and cite Jeremiah 29:1, 4-14 but it never actually says we should bloom where we are.  Others claim that was the intention of Paul in his writing to the church in Corinth, the text of which is found in 1 Corinthians 7:17.

 

The advice is good but is comes more from common sense than from spiritual or religious teachings.  What about the saying thrive to survive.  Often people ask if they are merely surviving or if it possible for them to thrive.  In writing for the website The Chopra Center, Tamara Lechner suggests that “There is a fundamental difference between thriving and surviving. Surviving means, “to continue to live or exist,” while thrive can be defined as “to grow or develop well, to prosper or to flourish.”

 

In many countries surviving is a difficult task.  Is it possible to break out of the mindset of survival mode to thrive?  Lechner offers this advice:  “Thriving happens when you have a life of purpose, vitality, connection, and celebration. This isn’t tied to a specific salary, job title, type of car, or relationship. Material possessions are not part of the recipe to thrive. Follow these four steps to stop surviving, and start thriving.”

 

Life is not about being haunted.  Life is for living and living for the best outcomes for all of mankind.  Enjoy today.  It is the first day of the month of May and, in many areas, the true first day of spring.   Live your faith.  Exist, believe ,rejoice.  Mostly, I hope you smile – at another but also at yourself.  When we seek to thrive and help others do the same, then we have a much brighter future, one in which everyone has a chance to bloom, grow, and flourish.