Clemency – Day 4

12 Days of Kindness

Christmas 4



“Hakuna Matata…It’s a wonderful phrase!  Hakuna Matata; ain’t a passing craze!”  If you have ever seen the movie “The Lion King”, just hearing those opening lines of one of the more popular songs has you already singing the rest of it.  “It means no worries for the rest of your days.  It’s our problem-free philosophy…”  The 1994 movie was not the first time the Swahili phrase was used in a song, however.


A Kenyan band used the phrase in the chorus of their hit “Jambo Bwana” and several years later a German band released an English-language song entitled “Jambo – Hakuna Matata”.  It was “The Lion King” that made it a household familiar saying which is really quite interesting since it is seldom used by native speakers of Swahili.  They prefer to either say “hamna shida” or “hamna tabu”.  The song from “The Lion King” is so popular that a Hebrew version exists online.  Everyone likes the thought of “no worries” as a way to live, it would seem.


Considered an unofficial motto of the country of Australia, “no worries” is a phrase that seems to speak to the supposedly relaxed nature of Australians.  Usage of the phrase goes back only about fifty years but the relaxed carefree and easy going, quick to forgive Aussie reputation dates to much earlier times.  Many feel it also characterizes the casual optimism which seems to permeate the Australian culture.


Dr Richard M. Jacobs of Villanova University feels there is quite a bit of difference between a sermon and a homily.  The sermon, he writes, is in “the form of a lecture or discourse given for the purpose of providing religious instruction or inculcating moral behavior.”  One would seldom expect to hear the phrase “no worries” or “hakuna matata” in a sermon.


Dr. Jacobs characterizes a homily very differently.  “In general, a homily is a scripturally-based reflection [which] provides food for thought about the challenges of living in today’s busy and hectic world.   Ideally, the material conveyed by a Sunday homily addresses the real daily lives of ordinary people.”  While a homily might mention “no worries”, it is also doubtful that “hakuna matata” would be encouraged.  The homily is designed to be a shorter format than a sermon and was made popular by St Peter Chrysologus, a bishop appointed in 433 ACE.  Known as the “Doctor of Homilies” for his short but inspired talks, he supposedly feared boring his audience. His piety and zeal won universal admiration.


This leads us to an interesting point and our word and gift for this, the fourth day of our twelve days of kindness.  Today’s gift is clemency, a word which has all but become forgotten in everyday living.  Nowadays, it is used only in the judicial system.  Originally, the word “clemency” was derived from the Latin “clementia” which meant gentleness, calmness, or mildness.  It goes even further back as a compound word made from the “Latin “clemens” which translates as calm or mild and “clinare” which translates as to lean.


How often do we hear the phrase clemency is our daily instructions and spiritual teachings?  While most of us would admit to wanting an overall life philosophy of “no worries” and the ability to live “hakuna matata”, few would be able to cite examples of it in their beliefs.


Mercy is what most deities offer their believers.  It is what most believers are encouraged to share with others.  We are not created to be judge and jury for each person we encounter.  We are told to love and show mercy, to offer clemency to those who offend us.


My challenge to you today, on this the fourth day, is to show someone “hakuna matata”.  Perhaps it will be that person who cuts you off in traffic.  Instead of shaking your fist at them, wish them well.  That person who hurriedly sneaks in front of you in the line at the coffee shop or marketplace…smile and give them a “No worries” response.


It is not always easy.  As I write this I realize I need to let go of some anger and hurt caused by the words of another just the other day.  I need to simply say “hakuna matata” and move on with my living.  After all, hanging on to negative emotions doesn’t accomplish anything.  It doesn’t burn calories; it just deprives us of feeling good ourselves.


So live a casual optimism and focus on the positive.  Enjoy a carefree day with a problem-free philosophy.  As with other things, giving clemency to another will build our own character.  Gandhi described prayer as “a potent instrument of action”.  I think he would agree showing mercy and offering clemency is as well.  Lewis Carroll wrote:  “One of the secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others.”  Sharing clemency helps both others and ourselves.  “No worries, mate! G’day!”

Living the Dream

Living the Dream

Pentecost #167

If someone walked up to you on the street today and offered you a million dollars to go live out your dream life, could you  instantly describe what that dream would be?  Most of us, if asked, would define the word dream as something we do when asleep or perhaps, as a daydream, when we are bored in a meeting or class.  The whole science of dream interpretation, though, is based upon the premise that dreams are much more than simply images we see in our subconscious mind while sleeping.  If you study dreams, at some point you will come across this quote:  “everything in a dream is an aspect of ourselves.”

For many of us, dreaming is just something we do in our sleep.  From Plato to Carl Jung, however, man has been fasicinated with dreaming.  They saw and see our dreams as something we do in our sleep.  For others it is a roadmap of our mind, illustrating what we fear or what makes us happy.  For the Aborigine people of Australia, the past, present, and future are explained in their myths of the Dreaming, a concept over forty thousand years old.

The spirits of the Dreaming are eternal mythical creatures who die, only to become part of the natural landscapes.  Thus what may appear to be a barren dessert is actually a living myth.  Recent rains have turned dessert pastures into beautiful colorful fields of wonder.  It is easy to understand how these ancient cultures saw what once had been stark turn into beauty and think it was the result of a supernatural power.  The Dreaming myths have been kept alive through oral tradition, songs, tattoos, sand paintings, and conventional art.

Before we dismiss such beliefs as silly, think about this.  Dreams are mentioned in the Bible one hundred and twenty times.  It may seem crazy in our modern world to believe spirits in the Dreaming die and become part of the landscape but consider the fact that symbols are called the language of dreams.  Perhaps those spirits that seem so alive are just symbols that represent something.  I once had an aunt who named all her trees and shrubs.  While I never really believed these were the returned spirits of my relatives , some of whom had died and others who were still living, it was fun to water them all, speaking to them by the named given to them by my aunt.  Maybe what others called her “green thumb” was simply a different version of the Aborigine Dreaming.

The study of dreams is considered to be a behavioral science.  Older definitions of a dream centered on images seen while sleeping.  We’ve already discussed day dreams, those periods where our mind seems to take a mini vacation.  Maybe we should follow the example of the first people of Australia and ask ourselves if our dreams are trying to tell us something.

Aborigines believe even today that the terrain feature, the topographical distinctions of a region, have power.  Their former spirits of the Dreaming which are now rocks or creeks, mountains or trees have spiritual power and potency.  Our own dreams also have power when we apply action to them.  The only thing keep a dream from becoming reality is a lack of faith in ourselves.  Faith in one’s self can make a dream become a plan for success, a way to fully and completely live the dream.