From Broken to Beauty

From Broken to Beauty

May 23, 2018

Pentecost 2018

 

Often we encounter people who think we are “broken” because we are not exactly like them.  We are different.  No two people are ever exactly alike and yet, we tend to spend a great deal of our life trying to be like each other.  Whether you believe in the happenstance of creation or you believe it to be the orderly work of a deity, one thing is quite true.  Our world, our planet, our universe is quite diverse.  The world does not have just one type of flower or tree, one vegetable, one type of protein, etc. 

 

People tend to fear that which is different and so, in an effort to protect themselves, they treat those who are different as if they were broken.  They bully; they battle; they belittle; they hurt.  Those of us who are different are left feeling broken and worse – we become ashamed of who and what we are.

 

Some of the world’s most beautiful buildings are those with stained glass windows.  The stained glass window would be nothing if it had not started out as broken.  Each window is made up of hundreds of broken pieces of glass made beautiful by an artist.  The times in our lives when we feel broken are just setting the stage for the beauty of living that is to come.

 

During Pentecost this year we will delve into ways to fill the broken places in our lives.  We need to incorporate the Japanese art of Kintsugi into our lives. Rather than disguising the breakage, Kintsugi restores the broken item incorporating the damage into the aesthetic of the restored item, making it part of the object’s history.  A piece of plain pottery suddenly glistened as lacquer and gold dust would be used to fill the broken crevices.   Pottery pieces of Kintsugi were said to have such value that some purposefully broke their pottery so as to have the repair work add value.

 

The world can be a risky place and none of us escapes without bruises and scars.  We need to value these as mementoes of our survival.  Just like the Kintsugi pottery or the stained glass window, our brokenness is the palette for our true beauty to be revealed.

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Fairy Tale Come True – A Royal Wedding

Fairy Tale Come True – a Royal Wedding

Pentecost 2018

 

I took a delightful sabbatical and discovered a renewed need to connect my faith and my living.  The past thirty-odd days without a blog post have reflected nothing new in the world.  Children are still going to school hoping to learn and instead have to run, literally, for their lives.  It is with a heightened sense of hope that I await tomorrow and the Feast of Pentecost.  I pray it brings us an improved sense of living the faith we purport to hold dear.

 

Today a fairy tale came true, fitting that it occurred on the eve of Pentecost.  One commentator this morning stated that no one would have ever written the script of the wedding of Harry and Meaghan Sussex – the new Duke and Duchess formerly known as Prince Harry and Meaghan Markel.  Yet, this is the time when the spirits make dreams happen.

 

The season of Pentecost celebrates the time when Christian believers received the spirit of their deity.  The mythologies of the world celebrate the spirits of one’s beliefs.  The world fate often is used as one’s destiny but in truth, the word comes from the Latin “fatum” a form of the verb “fari” which meant to speak.  Thus one’s fate was something spoken, a decision.  It became a word that ultimately meant one’s destiny since what one said reflected what one believed and how one lived.  The spirits that help influence this were known collectively as the Fates, much like the Greek Moirai, a group of spirits who determined the course and end of one’s life.

 

We tend to think of mythological creatures as being larger than life; most deities are as well.  After all, we want those spirits that can affect the history of mankind to do so with great fanfare.  We think of miracles as large “Hollywood-style” productions.  While the focuses of some spiritual beliefs are calmer, even their main characters possess great power and knowledge.

 

In 1691, a Scottish minister named Robert Kirk put pen to paper to tell of a different type of mythological creature.  His characters were not new and had been a part of Celtic folklore and myths forever.  Once depicted as being quite tall, by the time Robert Kirk wrote of them, their size had been greatly reduced.  “These Siths or Fairies they call Sleagh Maith or the Good People…are said to be of middle nature between Man and Angel, as were Daemons thought to be of old; of intelligent fluidous Spirits, and light changeable bodies (like those called Astral) somewhat of the nature of a condensed cloud, and best seen in twilight. These bodies be so pliable through the subtlety of Spirits that agitate them, that they can make them appear or disappear at pleasure.”

 

The word” faeries” has an often disputed etymology and the faeries we see pictures in children’s books are a relatively new version.   Their origins are a melting of various elements of mythologies and folklore from different parts of the world.  Many believe they were originally minor goddesses, spirits of nature who took their revenge upon mankind when the natural world was mistreated.  Thus the term faerie has been used to indicate trolls, goblins, gnomes, or ethereal spirits.  They are sometimes called wee folk, good folk, people of peace, or the Welsh “tylwyth teg which translates as “fair folk”.

 

Celtic faeries are said to live in nature, often hiding, and are portrayed as a diminutive race driven into caves and underground by invaders.  These enchanted creatures either protected the good people or could extract revenge upon the evil.  In western parts of Europe ancient mythologies described faeries as personified aspects of nature, similar to the ancient gods and goddesses who had their origins in personified elements of life and questions about it.

 

The advent of Christianity in the first century ACE had no room for such mythological creatures as faeries.  The Irish banshee and Scottish “bean shith” were referred to as a ghost, a woman who lived underground.  There was no room in the Abrahamic faiths for such creatures.  Their angels might seem like faeries but they were divine creatures, not creatures of nature.  While medieval England portrayed faeries as both helper and hindrance, Victorian England explained mythological creatures as aspects of nature and faeries as metaphors for the night sky and stars.

 

Faeries are also found in ancient Greek mythology and are closely aligned to the Greek word “daimon” which means Spirit.  The nymphs the classical poet Homer wrote about in his works “Iliad” and the “Odyssey” could be considered faeries.  The Roman penates, lares, and genii from Roman mythology were also faery creatures.  It is easy to see how the word “daimon” came to mean evil faeries known as demons.

 

I think the real benefit of our mythological spirits and stories is found in the Victorian definitions of them.  A metaphor is a figure of speech in which something is compared to another thing, both things being very different.  One example is: “The road was a ribbon of moonlight.”  Victorian England sought to justify the telling of these stories without compromising one’s religion. They became metaphors, much like the stories found in the scriptures of the Abrahamic faiths.  The difference was that religious stories were held to be true while myths were considered fables of the imagination.

 

The real test of validity lies in the spirit of the believer.  In 1891 W.B. Yeats wrote:  “Do you think the Irish peasant would be so full of poetry if he had not his fairies? Do you think the peasant girls of Donegal, when they are going to service inland, would kneel down as they do and kiss the sea with their lips if both sea and land were not made lovable to them by beautiful legends and wild sad stories? Do you think the old men would take life so cheerily and mutter their proverb, ‘The lake is not burdened by its swan, the steed by its bridle, or a man by the soul that is in him,’ if the multitude of spirits were not near them?”

 

The legends and myths of the world give us a better understanding of both the world and mankind.  Like the word fate, they speak of what we believe, how we live, and ultimately how we will die.  Whether you consider something folklore, mythology, or doctrine, the spirits in which we believe shape our lives.  “Fate often saves an undoomed man when his courage is good.”  Those words from the classic “Beowulf” are an example of the importance fate has been given by mankind.  For many, fate is an inescapable shadow.  For others, fate is merely the road upon which we travel, neither threatening nor constrictive.

 

The characters of the myths of man are really metaphors and if we take heed, they can assist us in our living.  We might not live on the top of Mount Olympus but we can make every abode our own palace and live our own beliefs.  Small children delight in the stories of faeries and often have a favorite.  Such differences in their likes and dislikes are seen as individual, not threatening.  Yet as adults, we often see the differences in beliefs as fearful.  Hopefully one day we can truly learn from such myths and create our own fate, a road of success for all built upon a foundation of respect and reverence for all life.

 

As William Ernest Henley wrote in his “Echoes of Life and Death”: “It matters not how strait the gate; How charged with punishments the scroll.  I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” The new Duke and Duchess of Sussex have already established themselves as believers in the future.  May we also come to share their faith and live with strength.  May our faith and our lives be wedded.  We too can make a difference.
 

 

 

 

 

 

Death – May the Force Help You

Death – May the Force Help You

May 4th, 2018

 

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 two weeks due to death and the forces surrounding it.  It has been my habit to be silent in times of terrorism and/or tragedies but these weeks have been fraught with national, international, and personal situations of death.  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 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.

 

 

The Chance to Learn & Thrive

The Chance to Learn; the Chance to Thrive

April 17-18, 2018

 

Leonore Zweig grew up the daughter of a bricklayer.  She grew up in a village called Lusatia and upon graduating from what we might call high school, she continued her studies.  She eventually received a doctorate from Heidelberg University in 1921 and worked as a teacher in both England and Berlin, Germany.  In 1923 she married a lawyer named Ernst Goldschmidt and they had two children.

 

 Upon receiving an inheritance from a murdered cousin, Leonore established her own school in 1934.  Leonore had lost her job the year before she opened her own school.  Working for eight years at the Sophie-Charlotte-Gymnasium in Berlin, she was fired in 1933 because of her religious preference.  You see, Leonore was Jewish.

 

The Private Judische Schule Dr. Leonore Goldschmidt or the Private School of Dr. Leonore Goldschmidt as it would have been known in English was granted a license to hold official examinations in 1936.  In 1937 Leonore’s school became an examination center for the English University of Cambridge.  This meant her students could enter universities in the rest of Europe and North America if they scored high marks on their examinations.  The school was shut down by the German government in 1939 and the Goldschmidt family, along with many students and teachers, immigrated to England.

 

Leaving their German home was not easy for the eighty children that accompanied their school’s founder.  Most left behind parents and many never saw them again.  Those that returned to Germany after World War II found a very different landscape and homeland and many discovered their parents had been victims of concentration camps.

 

A roll call of the students of Dr. Leonore Goldschmidt is something like a Who’s Who of professional and influential people.  Clearly they had potential and all achieved it.  They made contributions to their world and the world was a better place because they lived in it.

 

The purpose of today’s post is to ask you to think about how we limit the opportunities of others simply because we might have a “perception” about them.  The legal definition of the word discrimination has nothing to do with statistics or science.  It does not involve theology or proven results.  It simply is “disparity of treatment”.  Like the Golden Rule that has been around for almost as long as there have been beings that walked upright on two feet, it refers to the treatment of others as we ourselves would like to be treated. 

 

The Golden Rule, reflections of which are found in every code of conduct known to mankind, is an ethic of reciprocity.  It is a moral directive that relates to basic human nature: Treat others as you would like to be treated; do not treat others in any manner that you yourself would not like to be treated; be careful because what you wish upon others you also wish upon yourself.

 

The so-called Golden Rule makes all of mankind inclusive in acknowledging that we feel and receive things similarly.  It is not the same as another maxim of reciprocity, “do ut des”.  That states “I give so that you will give in return.”  The Golden Rule is giving without any expectation of something in return.

 

Dr. Leonore Goldschmidt taught her students without knowing what their lives as adults would be or how far they would go in their studies.  She willingly helped them escape a Nazi regime that would have put them to death simply because she was devoted to creating a chance to learn for all who desired such.

 

I recently received a recipe that touted itself to be the healthiest brownie recipe ever!  Since I am human and like brownies as much as the next person, I was thrilled.  A healthy snack with chocolate is like winning the lottery!  The recipe contains only four ingredients and even a vegan would love it.  With almond butter, protein powder, cocoa powder, and bananas, the recipe would seem like winner, right?  Unfortunately, it is not for me.

 

The perception and headline for this recipe stated nothing incorrect.  I completely understand why their perception that it is healthy would seem an accurate perception.  The problem is that it is not healthy for all people.  The number of people allergic to cocoa powder is low, very low.  Less than four percent of people have actual food allergies and of that four percent, less than half of one per cent are allergic to the cacao bean, the source of cocoa.  A brief note here is probably in order.  The bean or fruit of the cacao plant is called cacao.  Once ground into a usable powder, the name changes to cocoa.

 

Generally speaking, people who are allergic to chocolate are allergic to something added to the chocolate and not the actual cacao bean.  Fortunately for me, I am not allergic to chocolate although my waistline might like it if I was.  I am allergic to several, make that, many things, however, and one is included in this recipe.  I am allergic to bananas.

 

The perception that the recipe is healthy is correct.  It just is not healthy for me.  As someone who is in that four percent and having severe allergic reactions, I have to be a wise consumer of what I eat and put into my body.  IN other words, I have to be a food detective before opening my mouth to consume.

 

We all need to be fact detectives when it comes to deciding what we like or don’t like or what we feel is not in keeping with our beliefs.  Yesterday’s post about Dr. Leonore Goldschmidt is proof that the Jewish are capable of many great things and the Nazi regime’s claim that they held no benefit for mankind was false. 

 

Nannie Henry Burroughs was a woman who also opened a school.  Her school was in Washington, D.C., the capitol of the United States of America.  Nannie’s father was a free man but her mother was born into slavery.  Born in 1878, Nannie was born free but had few opportunities being a woman of color.  Her father was a Baptist preacher and Nannie herself gained national recognition speaking at the National Baptist Convention at the age of twenty-two years.  Her speech was entitled “How the Sisters Are Hindered from Helping”. 

 

Nannie Burroughs founded the National Training School for Women in 1909, a school which continues today.  She also established the National Association of Colored Women.  Thirty years later a world war would be fought, in part based upon racial, ethnic, and religious discrimination even though Nannie Henry Burroughs had already proven such to be ridiculous.

 

Nannie Burroughs is proof that the perception that race determines ability is false.  She valiantly worked for all wage earners but especially for those of African descent because their discrimination continued even after the War Between the States, commonly called the Civil War.  She would later be appointed to a national position by President Herbert Hoover.

 

The perception that religion calls for us to divide mankind based upon skin hues is an incorrect perception.  No true religion or spirituality embraces such.  The fear that propels such beliefs is just that – fear, not fact.  It is nothing new.  In her book “Jane Eyre”, Charlotte Bronte wrote: “Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.”

 

In deciding who to feature for this post, I purposely elected to feature women who invented schools and created the chance for education to be received.  I agree with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn who said: “It’s an universal law– intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”

 

“What we need are mental and spiritual giants who are aflame with a purpose . . . We’re a race ready for crusade, for we’ve recognized that we’re a race on this continent that can work out its own salvation.  When [one] learns what manner of [man/woman he/she] is spiritually, [he/she] will wake up all over. [We] will rise in the majesty of [our] own soul.”  The words of Nannie Henry Burroughs ring true even today.

 

Recently several states within the United States have or tried to enact legislation that goes against the chance for all to experience the same opportunities.  Similar legislation has been introduced in other countries and many terrorist groups advocate the same or similar beliefs as those supported by these laws. 

 

When we single another out and label them in such a way that prevents them from having the same chances as others, we discriminate.  Sometimes such discrimination leads to people being fired, refused service or even being captured and killed in concentration with ovens designed to murder those “different” people.

 

Such actions do not give anyone an advantage and they restrict the future of us all.  The students of Dr. Leonore Goldschmidt and the workers helped by Nannie Burroughs are just two examples of how important it is that we recognize the inclusiveness of mankind and not look only at our differences.   When we open up opportunity for one person to learn, we create the opportunity for better living for all of us.  If we want to continue the chance to make a better world, we need to live smart and live with kindness and equality towards all.

 

In-Between to Birth

In-Between to Birth

April 15-16, 2018

 

Last year I joined millions in watching the live feed from an animal park in New York.  A giraffe was due to give birth and the world seemed fascinated.  There were various feeds one could follow and several offered advertising with proceeds in the form of pet supplies and food being given to local animal shelters.  I happily participated in making my watching count.

 

There were those, however, who felt it all a great deal of nonsense.  “Get a life” was the most common negative comment seen.  Some readily admitted to watching in-between commuting and so felt they were not for whom such comments were directed.  Others felt they were being mindful to the miracle of birth.  I claimed to be a part of neither camp.  I watched because I find giraffes fascinating creatures.  I do wonder at their evolution and creation for they seem to be a bit in-between the larger mammals and the delicate faces of the smaller ones.

 

The Rt. Rev Steven Charleston wrote a wonderful blog comment about our being “in-between”.  This time last year as I was watching the birth of the giraffe calf so many had eagerly awaited, Bishop Charleston posted this:  “We are in-between. Right now, we are in-between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But in reality we are always in-between in life. In-between is where we live and move and make our reality. We go from birth to death between many polarities: health and illness, joy and sadness, hope and despair. We inhabit these spiritual spaces of transition, constantly moving from one level of experience to the next. It is in the in-between that we discover the presence of the sacred, that creative force that helps us transition and adapt. We are the people of the in-between.”

 

Watching the young giraffe calf be born, along with millions around the world, I realized that we were all in-between and teetering on the edge of something very similar to world peace.  This young calf and his two giraffe parents had united millions around the world, something no politician or political party had ever been able to accomplish.  As we spent time in the in-between of a fifteen-month pregnancy and its culmination in birth, we were all feeling hope and fear, joy and wonderment.

 

Being mindful of our living is something we often fail to experience.  The reality of this birth was beautiful.  As the calf slowly edge his way out, the mother would welcome him with her tongue and kisses.  It was as if she realized her calf’s reality was changing drastically and she wanted to encourage him and comfort him that all would be all right. 

 

It has become very trendy to engage in the practice of mindfulness.  The experiences of “being mindful of the moments we live” are said to bring one joy and enlightenment in your living.  Life is all around us and while we need to spend less of it online and more of it in person, we can learn from all aspects of it.  Every day is a new day and our reality changes with the dawn of each new day.  Let us give thanks for this new day and recognize the new life ahead of us all.

 

The first few days of Easter this year I have looked to past blog posts and themes in an effort to be more mindful of what is and what will come.  History is a great teacher if we take the time to learn from our past.  Nothing is lost in the present if we take the time to really be in each moment.  Each day is a new birth for us.  It is our responsibility to live the life we have been given.  The future is there waiting for us to make it something meaningful.

The Reality of Being

The Reality of Being

April 14-15, 2018

 

American author and artist James Thurber once stated:  “Philosophy offers the rather cold consolation that perhaps we and our planet do not actually exist; religion presents the contradictory and scarcely more comforting thought that we exist but that we cannot hope to get anywhere until we cease to exist. Alcohol, in attempting to resolve the contradiction, produces vivid patterns of Truth which vanish like snow in the morning sun and cannot be recalled; the revelations of poetry are as wonderful as a comet in the skies, and as mysterious. Love, which was once believed to contain the Answer, we now know to be nothing more than an inherited behavior pattern.”

 

Born in Ohio and raised in both Virginia and Ohio, Thurber had a rather typical early twentieth century American boy’s childhood.  Not so typical was an injury he suffered as a child when an arrow of his brother’s resulted in Thurber being blinded in one eye.  He worked as a journalist in Ohio after attending but not graduating Ohio State University and then moved to New York City where he obtained a position on the staff of ”The New Yorker” magazine.  Thurber become known for his cartoons of animals and his drawings of dogs soon had their own career on pages of periodicals, newspapers and books, often watching strong-willed women and seemingly weak men.

 

Thurber once remarked “The wit makes fun of other persons; the satirist makes fun of the world; the humorist makes fun of himself, but in so doing, he identifies himself with people–that is, people everywhere, not for the purpose of taking them apart, but simply revealing their true nature.”  Many enjoyed both his drawings and his books, of which there were more than just a few.  Often people saw themselves on the pages of Thurber’s drawings; always they saw their neighbors.  Few took offense, though, knowing that Thurber was pointing his pen not only at them but also himself.

 

“There but for the grace of God go I” is an idiom attributed to Anglican priest James Bradford.  It is also a paraphrase of the scripture found in the New Testament, I Corinthians 15:10.  That the quote in English form is also attributed to a Roman Catholic priest is no surprise and quite fitting given Bradford’s life.  Ordained an Anglican priest shortly before the Roman Catholic Mary Tudor took the throne as reigning monarch of England, he was later imprisoned and hung for his beliefs.  Bradford preached of the connectivity of mankind and saw himself in the face of the lowest of it.  Mostly, Bradford saw each man has a reflection of another except for perhaps life’s circumstances.  He advocated spreading good will not judgment.

 

However you might define reality, we are real.  If you doubt that, get a hammer and bring it down intensely upon your finger.  I really doubt you will question the pain experienced.  Life is transitory but the travails we experience are very real to us.  “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”  Elie Wiesel was referring to events leading up to World War II specifically but his words ring true for everyday living.

 

We are not only real, we are connected one to another.  Three years ago Nepal suffered a terrible earthquake.  About that same time Face Book began running a streamer at the top of personal pages giving ways people could contribute to charities helping the victims of the earthquakes in Nepal.  Some people protested this.  They were good people with no motive for malice but they really did not like the streamer inviting them to help others.  “Wouldn’t it be better to help people in our own country?” was a common response people posted on their own pages.  “Why do we have to see this ticker about giving to Nepal?”  The unspoken meaning here was that one should let the Nepalese help themselves while we help our neighbors closer to home.

 

That is a great thought except for one thing – Nepal was a country in dire straits even before the earthquake.  The victim of countless regimes whose only purpose was personal greed, these “live and let live” people were in abject poverty before nature took its revenge on them.  How can someone with nothing have their lives and homes literally upturned by seismic events then pull wealth out of their empty pockets to “help themselves”?

 

Every country has its poor, its disenfranchised societies.  For many, these populations are simply uneducated, sometimes on purpose based upon gender, and/or the wrong ethnicity, again the victims of deliberate discrimination.  Sometimes these populations suffer from illnesses that are not fully understood or greatly feared.  Do these Face Book subscribers donate to these groups within their own countries?  No one country has enough money given to completely render all needed assistance to these groups.  The reality is that there is always a need for which we could render aid.

 

Reality may be a word that means different things to different people and sadly, many feel they are invisible and that their lives do not matter.  Another thing all countries share is that somewhere today someone will take their own life.  In spite of a number of terminal illnesses, accidents, and crimes that will result in death, people will feel their own personal situation has no meaning and is just a riddle too hard to contemplate resolution except by death.

 

Einstein might have been correct when he said “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”  I prefer to believe that human stupidity is reversible, though.  Another in common is countries where children and adults wear socks is that, at some point, one will end up with a mismatched sock.  Seeming to defeat the laws of physics, one sock will magically disappear.  Once during an epic spring cleaning, my spouse and children put all their mismatched socks into bags.  The final count was an even one hundred pairless socks.  Of course, once the socks were all laid out, pairs were found or someone remembered the puppy tearing a sock up, another was worn outside and holes appeared, etc. 

 

Just as our socks were real, the mystery of the disappearance of their matches had resolution.  For an hour, said spouse and kids enjoyed making up stories about the disappearances.  Their imaginations took flight and they did indeed come up with delightful tales.  In fact, I think at least two children, now adults, still imagine at least two socks are orbiting the earth as I type today!  The reality was far less exciting and entertaining but resolution was found.  We did not find all the socks but those that remained single became adorable little snowman figures sold at a charitable auction.

 

Mankind is real.  We have problems but we also solutions if we have faith that we can find them.  It will not be easy but then, most things seldom are.  Pain cannot be seen or even quantified on a scale with weights and balances and yet, pain is all too real for those experiencing it.  We should not share in another’s blame or guilt but we can and should offer to help.  Life is hard but it is not impossible.  All we need to do is believe in ourselves.  Perhaps that is the hardest problem philosophy has to solve.  This weekend I hope you smile more than you cry and, when you pass another, your eyes are opened to not only see the worth of that other person but also your own value.  We are real.  We all matter.  Our lives have purpose and meaning.

I Think. I Feel. Is That Wrong?

I Think.  I Feel.  Is that Wrong?

April 11-13, 2018

 

Philosophy is the quest for knowledge, the searching to determine, analyze, and arrive at conclusions that are either proven or taken as proof.  Philosophy asks “What are we?”  Emotional intelligence is using knowledge in a social setting, recognizing emotions, both of one’s self and of others.  Emotional intelligence is learning what different feelings are, how to discern them, and how to apply them in making choices and in one’s behavior.

 

There are three basic models of Emotional Intelligence.  The “ability model” was developed by Peter Salovey and John Mayer.  Aptly named, this model is concerned with a person’s ability to process emotional information and then the application of that knowledge in social settings.  Konstantin Vasily Petrides proposed the “trait” model.  Defined as the ability to encompass “behavioral dispositions and self-perceived abilities”, this form of emotional intelligence is determined through self-reporting.  The third model is a combination of the other two and was suggested by Daniel Goleman who determined that emotional intelligence was a combination of abilities and traits.  Goleman maintained that this array of skills and characteristics was vital in leadership ability.

 

While it may seem like emotional intelligence is counter-intuitive to the early teachings of ancient philosophers, it cannot be discounted.  Scientific studies indicate that people with high emotional intelligence also have greater mental health, perform better in their careers, and make more effective leaders.  Does this type of intelligence exist, though?  How does it interact with established belief systems?

 

One of the earliest forms of emotional intelligence is often overlooked, in my humble opinion.  In my brief research of this subject, I found no mention of the earliest admonitions by both eastern spiritualties and early Abrahamic religions which speak on this subject.  As discussed a variety of ways and times on this blog, the so-called Golden Rule addresses emotional intelligence quite simply by encouraging us to think of others as we would want them to think of us.

 

A growing concern worldwide is the attraction young adults have towards joining internet families which encourage them to maim, kill, and even commit suicide.  These are not young people without families.  They are, however, young people who feel disenfranchised from their environment.  Some might say they have poor emotional intelligence.  Is the problem really with them or with us?

 

Man is a social animal.  Much like the wolves that roam forested regions across the planet, man is a pack animal and seeks companionship.  Young people will find their own “pack”.  How we employ our own emotional intelligence often determines whether or not these young people will connect with their physical neighbors or their internet friends, sadly many of whom are false friends.

 

Young people are knowledge seekers.  They thrive in exploring the wonders of the world and, like any young thing, need guidance in their explorations.  Emotional intelligence should be more than a way of connecting and convincing others of our own beliefs, though.  True leadership means guiding people towards what is ultimately healthy for everyone, not just one particular set or cliché.

 

Too often, these young people are being swayed by promised of family, of communion, or belonging.  They are welcomed with what appears to be open acceptance and are encouraged that they are valued for being themselves.  Their energy is what is valued, not their being or personality.

 

What makes us unique individuals is not what we have in common but what we have that sets us apart.  In a world that values popularity, though, the uniqueness is seen as a threat.  Conformity based upon popular trends is the barometer, not individuality.  If a young person who rebels against wearing a school uniform suddenly runs away to join a faction that requires everyone to look alike or women to completely cover and hide themselves, what is our correct emotional response?

 

I do not try to deny emotional intelligence.  I think it could be the saving grace for the world and the one sure road to peace.  We must be certain, however, that we do not insist others be just like us because that then will lead us nowhere.  Mankind is a group of unique individuals that share commonalities but we are all individuals.  As such we have the right to develop our own beliefs and traits.  If we gauge another’s emotional responses based upon our own set of standards and our own personality, then the other person will never measure up because they are not us.  All too often those who are different from us are seen as being “freaks”.  IN a world where many seek to find their own individuality, will they find it only to become labeled as aberrations, weird, wrong for being themselves?

 

People with what is termed “high emotional intelligence”, often called “EI”, recognize their emotions and are able to describe them accurately.  “Sad” is a term that covers a variety of feelings.  Someone with high EI seldom says they are sad; they are frustrated, depressed, scared, irritable, anxious, worried, etc.  They are curious and embrace change, knowing when to learn from the past and when to let go.  People with high EI accept themselves and their strengths as well as their weaknesses.  Acceptance does not mean one stops trying to improve; it means one knows where the starting point for improvement is.

 

Life takes courage to live and learning takes greater courage.  As we go through our daily living, we cannot forget the basic reason for such – learning about life.  Aristotle once said “Happiness depends on ourselves.”  We must take care of ourselves and be healthy physically in order to develop good emotional health and intelligence.  Perhaps the greatest thing to learn is that life must be lived and lived wisely in order to gain wisdom.