Mirror Image

Mirror Image

March 18-19, 2018


“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.”   Mark Twain spoke golden words when he said that.  How often do we look in the mirror and think we are not as good as we should be?  What happens when we are too full of ourselves?  When are we being prideful and when are we practicing self-respect?


Many would say that pride and self-respect and the same thing while others have written that they are two different sides of the same coin.  I have no worldly wisdom here.  Let me say that before we go any further.  As stated many times before, I am on a quest.  If I was perfect and/or had all the answers, I would no longer being seeking.  I would have arrived.


In my humble opinion, pride is fine as long as it does not include a sense of betterness, of being on a higher plane of existence than anyone else.  I might even go so far as to say there are many times in which pride and self-respect can be synonyms.  However, pride that elevates one’s personal worth to being “better” than another is wrong.


Self-respect means seeing the value in one’s existence.  That existence will not be perfect and it will have its challenges.  It will be a journey and like most journeys, have its detours and delays.  However, the journey will have a purpose and value.


The Reverend Peter Marshall once said Americans should not look to their Constitution as carte blanche to do whatever they wanted but rather as an opportunity to do right.   When you live with intentions, you live with purpose.  Anyone who lives with a purpose has to have self-respect.  You cannot and should not separate one from the other.


The dilemma about self-respect and building it is not a new challenge.  In his “History of the Peloponnesian War”, Thucydides spoke of it.  “Self-control is the chief element in self-respect, and self-respect is the chief element in courage.”

When we look into a mirror, we see a reflection staring back at us.  That reflection is just an outer covering.  What we should respect is the deeper self the character within the outer shell.  Joan Didion explains:  “Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs.”
Life is not for the weak or lazy.  It takes courage and it requires an intention to live.  When we accept those two gauntlets that being born shoves on us, then we can live and build our self-respect.  Author Adrienne Rich agrees.  “Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work.”


The reward to really being the image we want to see in the mirror is the best prize of all.  We gain self-respect and control over our being.  No one can ever deny us that.  You will never be without yourself when you can respect yourself.  Happiness requires that we have some measure of self-respect.  Be happy and start building your own bed of self-respect.  Life is much easier when you look into the mirror and can smile at your own reflection.




March 17, 2018


Having recently had eye surgery I am reminded of a quote from Harper Lee about the value of reading:  “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read.  One does not love breathing.”  Breathing is an essential part of our living.  Without it, we have no life.  Harper Lee was correct, though, because we often overlook it.  It is so much a part of our living that we forget its importance.  Self-worth is much the same way.  Until we love ourselves, we do not allow ourselves value.  Unless we first love ourselves, we have no true self-worth.


Joybell C. is an author, writer, and community developer. She also sits on the board of the Scientific Journal editorial board. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, she also is excellent at keeping the focus off of herself and very much on her work.  She is, I believe, a great example of someone who values herself and her work and knows the difference between the two.  “Life is too short to waste any amount of time on wondering what other people think about you. In the first place, if they had better things going on in their lives, they wouldn’t have the time to sit around and talk about you.  What’s important to me is not others’ opinions of me, but what’s important to me is my opinion of myself.”


During the liturgical season of Lent we tend to go back to our roots, so to speak.  This series is about cultivating a better self, growing a better being.  One of the best writers on this subject is Shannon Adler.  Shannon Adler is not some great scholar or a cosmopolitan literaturist from a distant continent.  She is a regular woman with the same challenges in life we all face.  What is so great about her is her ability to make lemonade from life’s lemons.  She knows her self-worth and that gives her the courage to see beyond the hurdle and stay on track.


What I have described as self-worth, Adler would probably call dignity.  She has quite a few definitions for this:  “1. The moment you realize that the person you cared for has nothing intellectually or spiritually to offer you, but a headache.  2. The moment you realize God had greater plans for you that don’t involve crying at night or sad Pinterest quotes.  3. The moment you stop comparing yourself to others because it undermines your worth, education and your parent’s wisdom.  4. The moment you live your dreams, not because of what it will prove or get you, but because that is all you want to do. People’s opinions don’t matter.   5. The moment you realize that no one is your enemy, except yourself.  6. The moment you realize that you can have everything you want in life. However, it takes timing, the right heart, the right actions, the right passion and a willingness to risk it all. If it is not yours, it is because you really didn’t want it, need it or God prevented it.   7. The moment you realize the ghost of your ancestors stood between you and the person you loved. They really don’t want you mucking up the family line with someone that acts anything less than honorable.  8. The moment you realize that happiness was never about getting a person. They are only a helpmate towards achieving your life mission.  9. The moment you believe that love is not about losing or winning. It is just a few moments in time, followed by an eternity of situations to grow from.  10. The moment you realize that you were always the right person. Only ignorant people walk away from greatness.”


Self-worth is not something we can purchase, no matter how many times we try.  It is not the latest fashion or snazziest vehicle.  It is neither the biggest house nor the most friends on Facebook.  It is not even guaranteed if you repost that blurb on Facebook or Twitter or share your latest and best snaps on Instagram.  It is, as Adler says, “the moment you realize that you were always the right person”, that “happiness was never about getting a person”, and that “no one is your enemy, except yourself”.


What do you see when you look in the mirror?  I did not ask what do you think you should see but what DO you see?  I think selfies are so popular because we are striving to see ourselves from the eyes of another.  We seek to see what the objective eye of the camera sees.  Of course, we are interpreting that vision through our own eyes so it still is blurred but we continue to try, taking picture after picture.


I recently came across a picture of our family pet taken when said pet was just a tiny baby.  It was his first day with our family and the picture was taken at the pet store as we purchased the necessary items to become his caregivers.  “Goodness!” I thought.  “If I had known I looked like that, I never would have walked out of the house!”  Needless to say, I thought I looked less than desirable.  Yet, we had been approached by an animal rescue group, an international group, to adopt said pet.  Clearly, regardless how horrible I thought I looked, someone thought I looked caring and responsible.


Perception is everything when we view a reflection of ourselves.  “You can be the most beautiful person in the world and everybody sees light and rainbows when they look at you, but if you yourself don’t know it, all of that doesn’t even matter. Every second that you spend on doubting your worth, every moment that you use to criticize yourself; is a second of your life wasted, is a moment of your life thrown away.”  C. Joybell C. speaks a great truth in these statements.  “It’s not like you have forever, so don’t waste any of your seconds, don’t throw even one of your moments away.”


Writer Elizabeth Gilbert makes an important point that we often forget:  “Never forget that, once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you saw yourself as a friend.”  For most of us that time was when we were children.  Children have this undoubting talent for embracing life, embracing passion, and finding joy.  We need to tap into that part of ourselves we think we have outgrown and embrace it, reflecting a zest for life and ourselves.


“Let’s tell the truth to people. When people ask, ‘How are you?’ have the nerve sometimes to answer truthfully. You must know, however, that people will start avoiding you because, they, too, have knees that pain them and heads that hurt and they don’t want to know about yours. But think of it this way: If people avoid you, you will have more time to meditate and do fine research on a cure for whatever truly afflicts you.”  This advice, written by Maya Angelou in her “Letter to My Daughter”, is right on track but very hard to do.


Value yourself to live honestly and realize that if someone doesn’t share the value you bring to the world, you probably do not need them in your orbit.  Be yourself – honestly and joyously.  You have value.  You are worth having value.  Most importantly, in the words of Malcolm X, “We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.”


Street-side Prayer

Street-side Prayer

March 12-13, 2018


Someone asked me about the people who “pray on the street corner”.  You know what they are talking about.  In large cities all over, people set up a mini pulpit of sorts.  Their congregation is anyone who passes by.  The other night I heard someone describe the experience of walking past such a corner.  “They stand there screaming “Repent!”  I end up feeling guilty and I am not ever really sure why!”


Some would call this a type of prayer, this evangelical display.  Others simply call it annoying and a few might even go as far as calling it “crazy”.  Many feel we need more “overt Christians” but I am not certain standing on a street corner and shouting out scripture and what happens to sinners is gets the message across.


I really don’t know if these street preachers accomplish much but they definitely are not afraid to let others know what they believe and I commend them for that.  I also don’t know if what they are doing really falls under the category of prayer.  Most of these faith peddlers consider themselves to be Christian so let’s use their religion to describe their actions.


Many Christians use the following acrostic when praying: A.C.T.S.  Each letter represents one of the four elements of prayer.  “A” is for adoration; “C” stands for confession.  Many prayers begin with a description of the deity being addressed, an adoration that recognizes the deity’s place and role in our lives.  The confession part we all understand albeit many of us seldom confess what or all we should.  “T” represents thanksgiving while “S” is for supplication.  These latter two are self-explanatory with thanks often given less than confessions.  Most humans are very good at prayers of supplication, prayers that ask for something.


There are those theologians who believe the A.C.T.S. acrostic also illustrates the priority one should give each facet of prayer.  This is often a characteristic of a denominational belief.  [I find it interesting although I am not certain I agree with those theologians.]  Certainly there are more prayers of supplication than elements of adoration and thanksgiving.  Usually one’s prayer life is more along the lines of S.C.A.T. with the “a” meaning ask again and “T” meaning tearfully.  Regretfully, the old adage “No news is good news” is how many thank their deity – No prayer means all is good.  I really think that is missing the point of prayer. 


Many have pointed out that the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer supposedly given by the man known as Jesus of Nazareth who Christians believe to be the son of God, contains no thanksgiving.  The “hallowed by thy name” is an adoration.  “Forgive us our sins” is certainly a confession and there are supplications – “Give us this day our daily bread; Thy will be done on earth.”  Perhaps the second part of the confession is a type of thanksgiving, “as we forgive those” but I really doubt it.  Perhaps the acrostic is a bit incomplete and thanksgiving is something to live, illustrated instead of prayed.  Truthfully, the fact that we have a deity to be pray to should be reason enough for giving thanks.


But what about those street corner praying faith peddlers?  We all are corner prayers.  We come to a crossroads and what do we do?  We pray.  Life requires us to make choices and as we stand between two or more things trying to decide, we pray.  Hopefully we aren’t judging others as they pass, screaming “Repent!” but we do stand on the corner of life and buy our actions, peddle our faith. 


Life is not for the weak or spineless.  It takes courage and deliberate action to live a faith-filled life.  Being connected is something uncomfortable; it makes our lives busy and, at times, non-complacent.  We pray for many reasons but in most of them, it is because we are standing at the corner of life. 


If you find yourself in a large city, on a corner needing to cross the street, you have to not only look at any traffic signals but also listen for traffic and look to see if any vehicles are coming.  Prayer is not a monologue.  We need to listen and act.  We have to engage and then follow through, crossing the street and continuing our path in life.  No matter who we are, praying on the corner as we stand on the crossroads of everyday life is a great way to avoid traffic and then move on down the road we call life.





Wolves, Gardens, and Life

Wolves, Gardens, and Life

March 3-5, 2018


Knowledge is a wonderful thing and the purpose of this blog is to discuss the value of self-knowledge.  However, much like electricity, knowledge must be used and used in a timely fashion.  Electricity cannot be successfully stored for long periods of time.  Knowledge can be stored but when one fails to apply the knowledge known, then it will be replaced by new knowledge.  It is a fact of life and one of the definitions of evolution.


Being “raised by wolves” is often used to describe people who should know better, usually regarding behavior, but fail to act accordingly.  In short, it is an insult.  The use of this phrase has always puzzled me, though.  Wolves are social animals, living quite successfully in packs of fifty or sixty animals.  There are several so-called alpha males and females who mate only with one partner for life.  The cubs or babies are born blind and deaf and are carefully and attentively nurtured for their first few months of life.  The mothers of these cubs are brought food and water by the other members of the pack and then together, the pack nurtures the new members.  Older wolves do venture off to start their own packs and the cycle begins anew.  In short, the behavior of wolves, especially regarding their young, consists of nurturing and teaching with the support of the entire pack.  Mankind would learn a lot and be much better off if we applied our knowledge in the same manner as wolves.


Originally I planned this post to discuss selflessness but perhaps we should take a moment and think about how we apply our knowledge of others in judging them.  Do such actions truly reflect well on ourselves?  How does our living today reflect our knowledge and faith?  In the past forty-eight hours did we act like wolves in a nurturing manner or were we acting like hateful, fearful animals who strike first and never show any sign of compassion or humanity?


In the past I have compared the approximately forty-two days during Lent to growing a garden.  After all, many people sacrifice during Lent, the purpose of which is to reap a harvest  will hopefully be a better self.  For all of you out there thinking “It’s my life” or “I am an adult and can do what I want” or even “Who cares what I do?”, let me assure you that you are both right and terribly wrong.


We think of our world evolving and ever changing because it is and does.  This is not because it was an imperfect creation, though.  There is great evidence to show that the world of millenniums ago might have been a healthier world than the world in which we are living today.  I marvel when I watch programs like “Barnwood Builders” where they disassemble and then reconstruct log cabins.  The rebuilding is done with today’s tools and is not easy but to imagine the original structure built with rudimentary hand tools simply boggles my mind.  It is very easy to assume people of the past were not as smart as we are today but I really think that is incorrect.  The fact remains that the world todays suffers from our progress.   What is changing our world is us, we the people.


Earlier I mentioned the phrase “raised by wolves” and how it erroneously is used to insult.  Wolves live very successfully in packs and are very good parents, teaching and nurturing their young.  Wolves also get a very bad rap because they are so very good at what they do – forage and acquire food.  It is often said that they habitat encroaches on mankind’s.  In reality, our habitat infiltrates theirs.  We spread out and build ranches on land that was once theirs to hunt.  They continue the hunting, this time acquiring cattle from those ranches.  Decades ago the United States decided to get rid of all the grey wolves in Yellowstone National Park and Forest.  It did not happen overnight but it did happen.  It took until the past ten or fifteen years to reintroduce these animals back into their natural habitat.  Once grey wolves again roamed in Yellowstone, nature began changing…for the betterment of all, even mankind.  The forests flourished, the balance of nature was again restored and the waters flowed smoother and clearer.


So why has mankind not been a good visitor to earth?  The answer is because we live selfishly.  I am reminded of the death of a very old friend.  This friend was a marvelous filmmaker, once nominated for an academy award and winning at the Sundance Film Festival.  He was a neighbor with whom I walked home from school in elementary school and a classmate later on through high school.  My friend smoked since before he could legally.  It was the popular and trendy thing to do.  It was perhaps one of the only selfish things he did.  Then came the night his house burned to the ground with him in it; the cause a cigarette which burned while he slept. 


Last week a young man shot and killed his parents on a university campus which initiated a lockdown for the students and faculty.  Two weeks ago a young man killed seventeen at a school in Florida.  Mass shootings and terrorism are not acts of religion and to dismiss them as the behavior of the mentally ill is simply a cop out.  They are, at their core, selfish acts.


We cannot live only for ourselves.  Our spirituality must include others and religion cannot be a matter of convenience.  The air we breathe is the result of air others breathed.  The trees that help cleanse our air are trees planted by our ancestors, not the ones we planted last year.  We are a product of the past.  As we look towards tomorrow and beyond there are some important questions to consider.  What are we leaving for the future?  What are we doing today to provide for a better tomorrow?

Seuss and Sensibility

Seuss and Sensibility

March 2, 2018


Four years ago during Lent on each Wednesday I discussed a book written by Theodor S. Geisel.  Today is his birthday (post humorously) and I can think of no greater writer to discuss when it comes to knowledge than Geisel, or Dr. Seuss as he is better known. 


In “Horton Hears a Who”, Dr. Seuss introduces us to universal citizenship, a theme common in all the Horton books.  Horton hears a voice coming from what looks like a speck of dust.  Dust usually doesn’t speak so Horton investigates and learns that size does not matter.  Horton discovers that the tiny speck lives in a very small world, a world he does not see but one that exists that same as his big world does.  He realizes that he doesn’t know everything and that the possibilities and potential of the universe are endless.  He also comes to understand his role as caretaker and wise citizen of the world in which he lives.  He realizes he has a role of responsibility in life.


Any gardener will tell you that everything you plant is not going to grow.  As mentioned yesterday, I was not born with a particularly vibrant green thumb and almost half of what I plant becomes avant-garde artwork on the canvass of my yard, not lovely beautiful plants.  Interestingly enough, I have the best luck with the smallest of seeds, tomato seeds.  Spend a quarter and buy a pack at your local dollar store and then open them on a damp paper towel.  They are miniscule!  One cherry tomato plant, the little tomatoes, can produce 10-15 pounds of tomatoes.  A regular size tomato plant can yield up to 30-40 pounds of tomatoes.  All that fruit (Yes, tomatoes are a fruit that we consider a vegetable due to their nutritional value.) can come from that one little tiny seed!


Of course, like Horton, we must look where we are going or, in this case, where we are planting our tomato seed(s).  Starting them indoors is ideal but I have just messed up the soil outside, tossed some down, and had them grow.  [This comes from the woman who does a good job of killing even the weeds in her yard!]  Key is the soil, watering, and the temperature after you plant the seed(s).  Horton heard a voice and knew regular specks of dust don’t talk so he should take care and investigate.  His caring was the seed that allowed the Who to live, just as the gardener’s care allows the tomato seed to live.  Horton could have heard the voice and not cared.  He could have seen the dust and swept it away. 


A seed will only grow if it is in the right soil and cared for in order that its purpose might be revealed.  As we strive to grow in knowledge and self-knowledge, we need to remember that we often place ourselves in environments that are not conducive for our growing, our personal development.  From one little seemingly speck of dust, Horton heard a voice that opened up the possibilities of the universe to him and his role in it.  A mighty faith can grow if we are wise in where we plant ourselves.  Invite some friends or family over and celebrate the miracle of multiple pounds of friendship that come from that one little seed known as invitation and companionship.  I hope you find that your communion of loved ones and nature will yield you a bountiful time as you grow a better self.


Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss!  Happy new day of the rest of your life to each of us.



What are You?

What Are You?

March 1, 2018


If you are a somewhat regular reader of this blog, then you know my penchant for coffeehouses and children.  Although I usually order tea and not coffee, the throng of humanity found at a coffeehouse is delightful.  Add children to that and you have a writer’s mall for thoughts and conversations.  In short, at a recent visit, I found myself in a compositional heaven.


The grandparents were at their regular Bible Study/Social meeting and the young boy had accompanied them.  His delight at the large-sized orange juice his grandfather had ordered for him was heart-warming.  “I’m gonna grow big and strong with this!” he exclaimed.  His grandmother offered him a spoonful of her coffee upon his request and the expression on his face made everyone laugh.  “That cannot be good for you.” He advised his grandmother.  “You need to drink more orange juice.”  [Somewhere the Minute Maid company had just loss a great commercial idea.]


Introductions were made to the young lad as others joined their group.  I was impressed with the “adult” way they introduced themselves to him.  After all introductions were made, he then asked if he could repeat their names.  It was clear no one expected him to do so but he did.  Upon saying the name of the last person, his grandfather began to open their meeting.  The young boy politely told the grandfather he was not finished talking.  Chuckles were heard and the grandfather pointed out he had named everyone, correctly. 


The young boy looked around the coffeehouse and then leaned over to his grandfather.  “I just learned their names,” he explained.  Now I need to ask them something.”  The group seemed amenable so the grandfather sat back and encouraged his grandson to continue.  The wide young person then looked at the first he had named and asked:  “What are you?”  The gentleman began to say he was s retired teacher when the boy interrupted him.  “No, that is what you did.  What are YOU?”


Last fall I took part in a retreat in which twice we had to answer the question “ What are you?”  To be sure, we were asked to answer the question “Who are you?” In truth, however, we were really trying to discover what we were in our attempt to improve and grow some self-love.  The next day I heard some chatter as participants realized they felt they had left out some important aspects of their lives.  Did we forget who or what we were or was it really about what we wished we were?


Any good gardener knows there are various things that need to be done in the process of growing a garden.  There is the cultivating and tilling of the soil, preparing the soil, nurturing the soil with water and perhaps fertilizer and plant food.  The list might seem endless to a non-gardener but to those who believe in growing things, the list is simply a part of daily life.  Essential to gardening, though, is knowing what one is planting.


I do not have a “green thumb”; that is to say, my talents do not include being a master gardener.  The truth is that I can grow a nice garden, whether it is flowers or vegetables.  What hinders my success in gardening is my lack of interest in learning about the plants themselves.  I can bore you to no end about the difference between a xylophone and a marimba because I am interested in those things.  The nutritional needs and their differences between a cauliflower and a bell pepper hold no interest for me at all.  For one thing, I am allergic to bell peppers and mildly so to cauliflower.  Ask me about tomatoes, though, and I am right there with answers.  You see, I adore tomatoes. 


Life cannot be lived just eating tomatoes, though.  While they hold great nutritional value for our bodies, we do need other things.  I have come to learn how to grow carrots and cabbage, lettuce, spinach, and kale, and attempt to grow beans, although pole beans and legumes are still at the “getting to know you” stage with my gardening skills.  Corn and I have an on-again-off-again relationship and I have never attempted fruit trees although I do love to eat their bounty. 


Clearly, if I had to grow my own food I could survive but I would have to alter my eating habits and pray for good health and weather.  I rely a great deal on the convenience of shopping at local markets and stores.  I can grow an avocado plant but cannot get it to bear fruit.  Life for me without avocadoes is unthinkable and I am grateful for imports from other states and neighboring countries.  The same is true for olives.  I am something of a cheese-a-holic and yet, having a herd of cattle and goats would not yield me any cheese homemade.  Again, I am grateful for those for whom making cheese is a talent they share.


When it comes to growing my soul, I also rely on others.  I myself can only do so much based upon my skills and knowledge.  I reference many things and listen to many people.  Just as with an actual gardening, there needs to be some weeding out of the information we have available.  Not everything is beneficial and unfortunately some people are more interested in creating followers than helping people grow.  I hope this new month of March you find your own sources of nurturing to help you.  More importantly, I hope you find and increase your self-worth and are then able to answer to the question is1 someone asks you…”What are you?”

A Defining Moment

A Defining Moment
Feb 28, 2018

Two weeks and about nine hours ago, seventeen families went about their daily rituals. Clothes were donned, breakfasts gobbled down, parents went off to their jobs, some started their daily chores, and children went to school. They came from all local ethnicities and walks of life. Their common bond was in their routines and their shared location. Those mundane moments of February 14th were probably sprinkled with expectation of the day being Valentine’s Day as well as Ash Wednesday but at that time of the day, it was the routine that took precedence, None realized that those mundane moments would become defining moments, the last they would share with their beloved high school students.

Time stands still when you are in the middle of such moments as experienced during the shootings at a high school in Parkland, Florida that day. Time takes much too long if you are a first responder trying to render aid or a parent trying to locate one’s child. Those defining moments become echoes as we strive to recover from such a tragedy and the philosophy of who we really are becomes self-evident.

In the nineteenth century philosophy became something of a tongue twister at times. According to Arthur Schopenhauer, “Man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills.” Georg Hegel believed in what he called a “system” of philosophy but maintained that reality was a historical process, examples of changes in the Spirit as a whole. Ludwig Feuerbach believed almost the opposite of Hegel. He believed in no spiritual realm and felt reality was, in the end, immaterial.

Interestingly enough, these different viewpoints formed the basis for a huge shift in political thinking and laid the groundwork for the history of the twentieth century. A student of Hegel rejected an individualistic state of nature and believed that mankind’s life was social. Thus, human nature was an expression of labor and activity, all done for the benefit of mankind or, in the trendy term of the period, society. He expressed Hegel’s theories in terms of material rather than spiritual terms. History to this student was a series of class struggles and his vision for the future was to create a classless society. His name was Karl Marx.

Born to German Jewish parents who then converted to the Lutheran faith, Karl Marx believed “criticism of religion is the foundation of all criticism.” Marx wanted to make history a science and believed that in doing so the problems of the past could be alleviated. “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.”

Throughout its history philosophy and religion have been together – as friends and as enemies. Since the beginning of philosophy was man’s quest to determine what life was, what the world was, and what mankind itself was, the various creation theories and/or myths that exist had to be considered, studied, and related. It is simply impossible to separate philosophy from belief and yet, for the most part, they seem to be at odds with each other.

For many, philosophy strives to explain an anguished existence in an irrational world. For others, philosophy seeks to prove what they believe through faith. Thus is the question for today: Is philosophy what we believe or is what we believe contradictory to the study of philosophy? For some, the study of philosophy is blasphemous. For others, it is a refreshing proof of their beliefs.

As we try to answer that question, I ask you to consider how you show grace rather than how we live as the answer. Philosophy is the science of thinking but life is the art of doing and what we believe is evident in what we do. If I say I have love for my neighbor, based upon Christian beliefs, then I cannot hate those who are different. If I say my life is dedicated to Allah, then I must live the peace the Qur’an speaks of in my daily living. If I believe I am a child of persecuted children of Israel, how can I fail to have sympathy and empathy for others who are persecuted, even if they are of another faith? In all of these examples and if you consider yourself to be a spiritualist, then what part does grace play?

Karl Marx is famous for having said “Religion is the opium of the people.” Having absolute certainty is one’s knowledge might also be said to be addicting, even lead to the ego-driven state Marx so harshly wished mankind to avoid. We all believe in something. Does our manner of living and interacting with society bolster their beliefs and make them evident, defining us correctly, or do they seem at odds with our words, making a mockery of both our faith and our living?

In 1726, Daniel Defoe wrote in his book “The Political History of the Devil”: “Things as certain as death and taxes can be more firmly believed.” In 1789, writing to a friend in France, Benjamin Franklin wrote, in giving an update on the newly formed country and US Constitution: “…nothing is certain except death and taxes.” All we can be truly certain of is what we are doing.

There are many ways to define living and most of them do involve spiritual and/or religious beliefs. However, what really matters is that we have tried to live as we believe. Whatever our philosophy is, we need to make sure that it ascends to the primary core of our actions, that it is the reason behind those actions. Then our personal philosophy will be one we support and believe. To quote Mahatma Gandhi: ““Your beliefs become your thoughts; your thoughts become your words; your words become your actions; your actions become your habits; your habits become your values; your values become your destiny.”

As is my habit after mass tragedies, I have not posted for several days. I do this out of respect for those who perish but also for those who survive. Mostly I do not want to profit from someone else’s grief. We must speak out, though, against the policies that allow such tragedies to continue. Our actions after such events must combine intelligent thought, grace, and compassion. Most of all, we must move forward in respect for the fallen to ensure that such events are prevented in the future.

I propose to you that to whom and in what manner we show grace defines who we are. The purpose of living is not to collect the most objects, toys is you will, but to do the most kindness to others. The worth of a person is not based upon their bank account but rather upon the goodness they leave behind.