Uniquely Y-O-U!

Uniquely Y-O-U!

January 3, 2018

 

In this day and age when we have technology which can help us proclaim our individuality, many hide instead.  For instance, many people utilize the Internet to write every day about personal doings, preferences, style, etc.  These web logs, commonly known as blogs, reach billions each day since there are an estimated 354 million blogs worldwide, this being one of them.  Yet, even with such technology, instead of emphasizing individuality, it has made many of us lemmings.

 

Lemmings are mammals that live as locusts, those winged insects that can strip a habitat bare, wreaking the same destruction to an environment as a plague.  The thing about lemmings is that they follow the group without forethought.  Thus, the word lemming is also a term used to describe someone who joins a movement without proper consideration. 

 

Generally speaking, human lemmings are one of many, lost in a crowd.  The use of the word in this manner describes a person who has forsaken mindfulness.  They are living with no originality and have silenced their own voice.  It takes courage to be one’s true self, to show our uniqueness to the world.

 

In his book “The Crown of Individuality” William George Jordan writes:  “The supreme courage of life is the courage of the soul.  It is living day by day, sincerely – despite all opinions, all obstacles, all opposition.  It means the vine of inspiration comes from the crushed grapes of our sorrows.  This courage makes the simple life great; it makes the greatest life, sublime.  It means the royal dignity of fine individual living… Every man [or being] reigns a king [or queen] over … self.  He [She] wears the crown of individuality that no hands … can remove.”

 

Living a bountiful life means being present in each moment, practicing mindfulness.  Mindfulness reminds us to be our true self, our best self, our highest self, our self victorious.  We are all wonderfully created unique – no one better than another, just different, unique and special.  A box of crayons all the same color would be boring and dull.  Diversity and uniqueness create life.  With mindfulness we can break out of the cocoon of sameness and soar above the crowd to discover our own beauty and true life.

Really? You Seriously Expect Me to Believe That?

Really? You Expect Me to Believe That?

Detours in Life

Pentecost 44-45

 

Two years ago in the late fall, we delved into 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 very interesting because the religious explanation(s) of the universe are derived from the philosophies of various spiritualties.  Today it would seem that religion and spirituality have both been detoured by politics.

 

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, our focus during Lent, 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 around the eight principles of right, mindfulness, right action, right intention, right livelihood, right effort, right concentration, right speech, and right understanding.

 

Then the 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 seemed 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.  Recently one very prominent politician has been noted for saying one thing and then within twenty-four hours professed to believe something else.  The earliest statements were then said to have been said in irony and that the general public simply was not clever enough to understand.  One’s belief should be constant and steadfast, not something that wavers like a dried up cornstalk on the Kansas plain in a windstorm.

 

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.  We are often so busy navigating life’s detours that we do not appreciate the scenery or the lesson the journey can teach us.

 

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.”

 

Detour Around the Bullies

Detour Around the Bullies

Detours in Life

Pentecost 19

 

Physical appearance is often the most often-used excused for bullying.  Whether it is because of the color of one’s skin, the shapes of one’s eyes or height, weight, or disfigurement, appearance can affect a person’s life.  The old cliché “never judge a book by its cover” has failed to translate into our reactions to people.  We might prefer it to be otherwise but appearance does matter and it is the number one reason people are bullied.

 

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?  Most of us, after a certain age, start to see our parents or grandparents.  We realize that we have Grandma’s nose or Dad’s ears.  Perhaps we’ve always known about the family stature and delighted in either reaching it or passing it.  For some, their vocation is also a matter of family tradition.  There has been an on-going debate about what skills and talents might be genetic since man first realized inheritance applied to more than just land holdings and revenue.  No one has ever denied that we often inherit our appearance, though.

 

I had an acquaintance once that looked very much like her mother.  She was not very happy about this and I could understand why.  It is to be hoped that all parents nurture and support their children but the truth is that some people never really mature in their roles as parents.  In short, some people bear children without having a clue as to how to nurture them.  My acquaintance’s mother was not a supportive person to her daughter and often was a hindrance.

 

Having known this person for several decades and upon a chance meeting, I inquired about her mother.  I was being more polite than expressing any real interest but was very surprised nonetheless when my acquaintance smiled and said her mother was doing well, having outlived most of her contemporaries.  I asked if their relationship had improved.  My friend smiled and said that it had not.  She then casually said that while one might grow older, one did not always mature with age.

 

I had seen this acquaintance through several crying bouts when we were younger because of the pain and neglect of her mother so her offhanded remarks caught me by surprise and I told her so.  She replied that she still looked like her mother but now had accepted the resemblance.  “Just imagine,” she asked, “what the woman would have done if my looks were not proof I was her own child!”  While her mother’s behavior had not grown with age into a more loving relationship, my friend’s acceptance of her familiarity of physical appearance had brought her comfort.

 

All too often our value as a person is based upon anything and everything except who we are inside.  Regardless of which creation story you believe, we are uniquely made and individuals in our own right.  When we allow the behaviors of others to be the currency of our souls, we are denying our right to self-worth. 

 

What do you see when you look in the mirror?  Do you see what the bullies are screaming and taunting at you?  I hope you are looking into your mirror and seeing past your reflection.  Our true value is found not only in physical appearance but in our actions and our words, our compassion and treatment of others.  At some point we are all alone with ourselves. We should strive to get to know ourselves and then become a person we can like, a person we feel as value. 

 

It is not easy to stop hearing the words of a bully but it is necessary.  We need to be sure to detour around the negativity of bullies and be true to who and what we are.  We create our own currency.  No one else can do that.   No one else can be us.  When we allow someone else to deny us the right to be ourselves, we are abdicating our own presence and bankrupting our self-worth.  Remember the sage advice of Harvey Fierstein:  “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.” 

Unique is Spelled Y-O-U!

Unique is Spelled Y-O-U!

Easter 24

 

In this day and age when we have technology which can help us proclaim our individuality, many hide instead.  For instance, many people utilize the Internet to write every day about personal doings, preferences, style, etc.  These web logs, commonly known as blogs, reach billions each day since there are an estimated 354 million blogs worldwide, this being one of them.  Yet, even with such technology, instead of emphasizing individuality, it has made many of us lemmings.

 

Lemmings are mammals that live as locusts, those winged insects that can strip a habitat bare, wreaking the same destruction to an environment as a plague.  The thing about lemmings is that they follow the group without forethought.  Thus, the word lemming is also a term used to describe someone who joins a movement without proper consideration. 

 

Generally speaking, human lemmings are one of many, lost in a crowd.  The use of the word in this manner describes a person who has forsaken mindfulness.  They are living with no originality and have silenced their own voice.  It takes courage to be one’s true self, to show our uniqueness to the world.

 

In his book “The Crown of Individuality” William George Jordan writes:  “The supreme courage of life is the courage of the soul.  It is living day by day, sincerely – despite all opinions, all obstacles, all opposition.  It means the vine of inspiration comes from the crushed grapes of our sorrows.

 

“This courage makes the simple life great; it makes the greatest life, sublime.  It means the royal dignity of fine individual living… Every man [or being] reigns a king [or queen] over … self.  He [She] wears the crown of individuality that no hands … can remove.”

 

Mindfulness reminds us to be our true self, our best self, our highest self, our self victorious.  We are all wonderfully created unique – no one better than another, just different, unique and special.  A box of crayons all the same color would be boring and dull.  Diversity and uniqueness create life.  With mindfulness we can break out of the cocoon of sameness and soar above the crowd to discover our own beauty and true life.

To Be Squeaky

To Be …Squeaky

Pentecost 16

 

Recently I heard someone give a speech about “Squeaky”.  This was the nickname of one of the delightfully special people on earth.  The speaker related a story in which a group of young college students were ridiculing Squeaky and mocking him.  Squeaky was a full grown man in body nut his mind still saw things with a child’s innocence so he failed to understand that this young men were not being friendly but actually very tacky and rude.

 

The speaker spoke of how he could have stepped up and stopped the situation but he did not.  I cannot tell where the speaker was going with his story because he simply said “We all have those times in our past where we could have done the right thing but did not.”

 

I really do not care what your particular faith is or if you consider yourself spiritual rather than religious.  I care not for the color of your hair or your intelligence quotient.  What I care about is your being and I think such an attitude is necessary is making anything something better than it is.

 

This series is about making the ordinary times of our lives count for something, make them extraordinary.  We are sixteen days into this series and I can tell you it is both the most ignored series I’ve written in over eight hundred posts and the most controversial, judging by the feedback.  Who knew doing good was controversial?

 

It is true that we all have had those instances in our lives, missed opportunities in which we could have put another’s feeling and being ahead of our own.  Being selfless for another is not an easy decision nor does it happen without forethought.  There are even those who feel it lessens their own being to consider the feelings of someone instead of just thinking about their own.  I feel very sorry for those people.

 

Often the ones who are putting others first are invisible.  After all, it is the squeaky cog that gets the oil.  Is there anything wrong with being invisible?  Check out Pentecost 9 of this series for an answer to that; the post published on May 23rd.  Emily Dickinson wrote a poem about being invisible, being an outsider in a world of egomaniacs.

 

“I’m nobody! Who are you? Are you nobody, too? Then there’s a pair of us -don’t tell! They’d banish us, you know. How dreary to be somebody! How public, like a frog To tell your name the livelong day To an admiring bog!”

 

Dickinson lived a life of obscurity although today she is considered one of the foremost American poets.  Only ten of her poems were ever published during her lifetime.  Emily Dickinson lived her life the way she wrote – one her own terms.  She has served as the inspiration for many great poets and is one of a handful of American female poets.

 

Of interest to us in this discussion is that she was present in her own life.  In the opening story, the speaker was present but not really living HIS life.  He was going along with the crowd instead of standing up for his friend Squeaky.

 

I once was told to put others first and they would in turn put me first.  Sadly, that piece of advice did not come true.  However, it did make me a much happier person in looking back on decisions I have made.  What we do today does not only affect our living in the moment but in the future.  The whole point of altruism is to act in such a way that it benefits the present AND the future.  Otherwise, what is the purpose of expending our energy?

 

Dickinson’s two stanza poem speaks volumes about the silliness of someone devoting all their energy to simply croaking about themselves.  Living in such a way that your good deeds speak for your is much more satisfying and leaves a legacy that will be remembered.  None of us is born by ourselves.  It takes two to create new life and that new life requires assistance from others.  If that is not proof that we need to help each other, I don’t know what is.

 

Maybe it is a bit whimsical to describe this series as making the ordinary extraordinary but there is nothing wrong with having a wee bit of whimsy in one’s daily life.  Life to make the most of yourself but remember, some of the best paths to doing such involve doing something for another.  Stand up for what is right and let your own voice be heard, squeaking among those that are simply croaking.  Take the opportunities life presents you and do the right thing.  Carpe diem – seize the day to be!

Breaking the Chains

Breaking the Chains

Pentecost 59

Mythology comes from the imagination but much of the stories of ancient times do have a basis in the history of the period. After all, a story teller must have some point of reference for his/her listeners, right?

We’ve already discussed how Rome was found in the eighth century BCE. The myths of Rome are plentiful but the one of the strongest following is that of Romulus and Remus. Having established the city and named it after himself, Romulus was not the proud ruler of men….and only men. His laborers and warriors were all male and no region wanting to grow can do that with only men. Even for a story full of gods and goddesses, the lack of the female and the mothering of successive generations must be included.

The Feast of Consualia, a festival invented by Romulus after discovering a buried temple to the god Consus, drew neighboring families to Rome. Romulus had sought permission for his men to marry women from surrounding towns but had been rejected. He hoped that such festivities were attract women who would be impressed by his brave men. This story was written about by Roman historian Livy and the Roman writer Plutarch. It is in ancient Rome that the lines of fact and fiction become blurred and forge together in the history of the culture.

The neighboring town of Sabine was well represented by men, women, and children. In Livy’s own words written in his history i, cap 9, here is an account of what happened next. “When the games began, and each was intent on the spectacle before them, at a signal given, the young Romans rushed in among the Sabine women, and each carried off one, whom however they used in the kindest manner, marrying them according to their own rites with due solemnity, and admitting them to all the rights and privileges of the new commonwealth. The number carried off on this occasion amounted to near seven hundred; but this act of violence produced disastrous wars between the Romans and the Sabines, which were at last happily terminated by the mediation of the very women whose rape had been the cause of their commencement.”

The myth is that the Sabines returned home without their virginal brides and returned to fight with their king Titus Tatius. They soon discovered their women assisting the Romans and, according to legend, at one point, the women rush forward imploring both sides, their fathers and their new husbands, to lay down their arms. Romulus and Titus agreed to a ceasefire and an alliance. Sabine politicians held seats of power within their newly formed allegiance with Rome being the capital. The allies remained together for centuries to follow.

A similar story is told in the Book of Judges, found in the Holy Bible, a book of scriptures and stories about the Jewish and Christian faiths with many crossover characters found in the Koran. Here is the description of Chapter 21 of Judges from Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary with verse numbers for the chapter given: “The Israelites mourn because of the desolation of Benjamin, and consult the Lord, 1-4. They inquire who of Israel had not come to this war, as they had vowed that those who would not make this a common cause should be put to death, 5, 6. They consult how they shall procure wives for the six hundred men who had fled to the rock Rimmon, 7. Finding that the men of Jabesh-gilead had not come to the war, they send twelve thousand men against them, smite them, and bring off four hundred virgins, which they give for wives to those who had taken refuge in Rimmon, 8-14. To provide for the two hundred which remained, they propose to carry off two hundred virgins of the daughters of Shiloh, who might come to the annual feast of the Lord, held at that place, 15-22. They take this counsel, and each carries away a virgin from the feast, 23- 25.

Mythologies are stories, stories that were told to illustrate an aspect of living. A common aspect since the dawn of time has been the use of women as a commodity. They are the only ones in the species who can give birth and thus have a value that no man can duplicate. Sadly, this has led to gender bias and acts of violence against women. In some cultures they are seen a nothing more than breeding animals and felt to be too dangerous if educated or respected.

This has led to many women perceiving themselves as victims. Victim mentality is not a condition that results from a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is an acquired or learned trait. No one is born with it but rather, develop it because of how they perceive they are treated, a perception that in the case of many women is justified. Victim mentality is a personality trait wherein someone perceives they are always the recipient of negative behavior, a “poor me” attitude.

For me, the lesson of the Sabine women is one of breaking the bond of victimization. Several years ago a young girl was tortured for no other reason than she was riding a bus to her school. Her injuries were plentiful and deadly yet she persevered and remained strong. Last year, that young girl Malala received a Nobel Peace Prize. She continues her fight for the education of all, especially women, in her Middle East native lands and worldwide. She found strength in her injuries rather than bondage to the fears of others.

Persecution exists. It is a sad fact of life. However, it is not a natural phenomenon but rather, the result of another’s fears. We can find it in the humanity of ourselves and others to combat such fears and turn them into strengths. Empathy is a vital component of our everyday living. Empathy is a state of mind in which we vicariously experience the feelings, thoughts, and attitudes of another, often unlike ourselves. The word comes from two Greek word, “em” meaning before and “path”. The Greek word “path” comes from the word “paschien” which means to suffer. It is interesting to me that empathy translates as before suffering because if we live with empathy, we can stop suffering.

The Sabine women found strength in their position and used their love of family to stop a war. Most wars involve fighting of cultures that share a common bond or ancestry. How glorious it would be if people of opposite sides found a similar strength. How many lives could be saved? What new alliances could be forged?

Losing one’s victim’s mentality does not mean giving in nor accepting inappropriate behavior. We can and should seek resolution that teaches. I myself give a person three chances to apologize and see what I perceive as the error of their ways. Then I continue on, realizing their right to be, in my opinion, wrong. During that time in which I bring up the matter in order to give them a chance to correct their discrimination or wrong-doings, some might feel I am wallowing in my misery. I disagree. I think I am showing hope for their potential in becoming the better people I think they are. Ultimately, though, it is the choice of each individual to be as smart and kind or as rude and small-minded as they choose. We cannot let their beliefs and actions victimize us, though. We cannot then become a part of our own persecution by living in it day and night.

Life is about moving forward. The past should have our respect but the future is built by our living our faith, living in such a way that our beliefs are evident with each word and every action. IN the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “A ‘No” uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a “yes” merely uttered to please, or, what is worse, to avoid trouble.” It takes courage to break the chains of peer pressure, of overcoming past hurts. It also makes for a great life and bright future.

You Really Expect Me to Believe That?

You Really Expect Me to Believe That?

Easter 35

As I reminded you yesterday, last Advent we delved into 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 very interesting because the religious explanation(s) of the universe are derived from the philosophies of various spiritualties.

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, our focus during Lent, 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 around 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 seemed 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.”