The Next Step

The Next Step

Easter 2019

 

The past sixteen days have been quite emotional.  First we had the anniversary of a college campus shooting that killed thirty-two students.  Then we had the anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred E Murrah building that killed eighty-two people.  In-between those two dates the Cathedral of Notre Dame caught fire and suffered disastrous destruction.  Then yesterday was the twentieth anniversary of the school shootings at Columbine that took the lives of eleven victims and the two shooters.

 

Living in the moment can be uneasy.  It is, however, vital, if we are to fully live and participate, even in something as simple as a sip of coffee.  Let’s say you have really thought about the last hour and fully been in the moments of each of those sixty minutes.  You fully experienced that sip of beverage and felt is as it entered and then followed its course through your throat.  You smelled that bite of food before partaking it and then thought about the texture and taste instead of gulping it down in a hurry.  You felt that air on your skin as you walked outside and heard the ambient sounds around you.  What comes next?

 

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, poet, scholar, and human rights activist, who was nominated by Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize. His books include “Being Peace”.  Nhat Hanh describes the process as being mindful as much more than just thinking about things.  “Mindfulness is the energy that helps us recognize the conditions of happiness that are already present in our lives. You don’t have to wait ten years to experience this happiness. It is present in every moment of your daily life. There are those of us who are alive but don’t know it. But when you breathe in, and you are aware of your in-breath, you touch the miracle of being alive. That is why mindfulness is a source of happiness and joy.

 

“Most people are forgetful; they are not really there a lot of the time. Their mind is caught in their worries, their fears, their anger, and their regrets, and they are not mindful of being there. That state of being is called forgetfulness—you are there but you are not there. You are caught in the past or in the future. You are not there in the present moment, living your life deeply. That is forgetfulness.

 

“The opposite of forgetfulness is mindfulness. Mindfulness is when you are truly there, mind and body together. You breathe in and out mindfully, you bring your mind back to your body, and you are there. When your mind is there with your body, you are established in the present moment. Then you can recognize the many conditions of happiness that are in you and around you, and happiness just comes naturally.

 

Nhat Hanh believes we are all entitled to being happy.  Many people do not.  They would rather wallow in their self-pity because it seems comfortable to them.  The next step after you have been mindful for an hour is to be brave and practice mindfulness for a day. 

 

Nhat Hanh explains:  “During the time you are practicing mindfulness, you stop talking – not only the talking outside, but the talking inside. The talking inside is the thinking, the mental discourse that goes on and on and on inside. Real silence is the cessation of talking – of both the mouth and of the mind. This is not the kind of silence that oppresses us. It is a very elegant kind of silence, a very powerful kind of silence. It is the silence that heals and nourishes us.”

 

The next step is to believe you deserve the right to be happy and let the silence teach you.  Listen to the advice of this monk.  We need to honor the past and learn from it but we also need to experience the joy of living. 

“Mindfulness practice should be enjoyable, not work or effort. Do you have to make an effort to breathe in? You don’t need to make an effort. To breathe in, you just breathe in. Suppose you are with a group of people contemplating a beautiful sunset. Do you have to make an effort to enjoy the beautiful sunset? No, you don’t have to make any effort. You just enjoy it,” Nhat Hanh advises.  “The same thing is true with your breath. Allow your breath to take place. Become aware of it and enjoy it. –  Effortlessness; Enjoyment. The same thing is true with walking mindfully. Every step you take is enjoyable. Every step helps you to touch the wonders of life, in yourself and around you. Every step is peace. Every step is joy. That is possible.”  When you achieve that, then your step will be one of joy.

 

Easter is a celebration of joy, of not letting death defeat us all.  It is about taking that next step mindfully and with joyful expectations.

The Monopoly of Life

The Monopoly  of Life

Easter – April 1, 2018

 

ON this day when many celebrate the victory of one over death, I want to speak to those who see life as a game.  Certainly there are many video games based upon this concept.  We should never mistake our breathing as being the same as an inanimate character on a video screen, however.  Life is far too precious to reduce to a competitive activity played for entertainment.  We need to own our living and make it count.

 

Ownership is usually considered when discussing material things like house, cars, business, or property.  The concept of land ownership is both new and old and is the reason behind many lawsuits, disagreements, and wars.  Throughout time cultures have advocated the communal use of the land while at the same time wanting to control such lands.  It may sound complicated but think of the game Monopoly.   Elizabeth Magie used this game she invented to protest unfair economic policy.

 

The point of Monopoly is to obtain properties (or at least cards with titles to spaces on the game board that signify properties0 and then allow others to use your land in the form of rent paid to the property or card owner.  The game player becomes the landlord and every time someone lands on a space for which he/she “owns” the card, rent must be paid.  Sound a bit unfair?  Elizabeth Magie thought so, too.

 

A monopoly is when a person or company is the only one offering a certain product, usually a necessary commodity.  A monopsony is a single entity’s control of a particular market to obtain an item and oligopoly is a few businesses dominating a particular field or industry.  Who would have thought all of these could be expressed in a game?  Elizabeth Magie did.

 

The examples I will use are found in the United States of America but none of these terms or economic policies are the sole characteristic of the U.S.A.  Every country on earth has them – regardless of their political structure.  In fact, the more restrictive a government, the more these terms are present and carried out in life.

 

If I want to see a professional baseball game in the U.S.A., I have to go see a team that is part of Major League Baseball.  There simply are no other professional baseball teams in the United States.  That was not always the case, however.  In the early 1900’s there were a number of professional leagues that were trying to make money by playing before paying crowds.  Baseball was a most popular sport, often called “America’s Game” although variations are found in many cultures worldwide.

 

These different leagues were not always playing fair or as gentlemen and in 1915, the Federal Baseball Club in Baltimore sued the National and American Leagues under the Clayton Antitrust Act, a law designed to help protect consumers.  If only one business offered a necessary product, that business could charge whatever it desired and consumers would be at the mercy of said business’s possible price-gouging.  The Federal baseball Club wanted to have a fair share of the public’s affinity for baseball but could not compete with the larger National and American Leagues.  Pardon my pun but they wanted to level the playing field, so to speak.

 

The court case made its way through the court system and eventually ended up at the U.S. Supreme Court.  The 1922 decision written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes has resulted in professional baseball being the only sport in America exempt from antitrust laws, a sport often called “America’s favorite monopoly.”  FYI – Major League baseball will begin its 140th season on April 3, 2016.

 

In writing the decision of the court, Justice Holmes penned:  “The fact that, in order to give the exhibitions, the Leagues must induce free persons to cross state lines and must arrange and pay for their doing so is not enough to change the character of the business. …  The transport is a mere incident, not the essential thing. That to which it is incident, the exhibition, although made for money, would not be called trade of commerce in the commonly accepted use of those words. …  Personal effort not related to production is not a subject of commerce. That which in its consummation is not commerce does not become commerce among the states because the transportation that we have mentioned takes place.”

 

Let me make his eloquent words more easily understood.  Baseball is not commerce because it does not “produce” anything.  Antitrust or monopoly laws refer to things that are produced and because baseball does not produce anything, it is not commerce and therefore not subject to laws of commerce.

 

Land ownership and land value might seem to fall under the same sort of issue.  Early American patriots advocated that the land was for all and all should benefit equally from its usage.  Certain economics philosophies such as Georgism gained popularity with many followers.  Georgism was so named after Henry George, the author of “Progress and Poverty”, a book in which George upheld that while people may individually own what they create, natural opportunities such as land belong equally to all.

 

Elizabeth Magie was a follower of Henry George and led an active life with varied careers.  In the early 1880’s she worked as a stenographer and was a writer.  She also worked as a comedian, actress on stage, an engineer, and not surprisingly, a feminist.  By the dawn of the 1900’s she had a job as a newspaper reporter and at the age of 44, married.

 

Magie invented a board game which was designed to demonstrate the ill effects economically of land monopolies and how land taxes could alleviate such problems.  She called her game “The Landlord’s Game” and obtained a patent on January 5, 1904.  In 1932 she revised the game and obtained a new patent for the newly named “The Landlord’s Game and Prosperity”.

 

Elizabeth Magie followed her own economic philosophies of Georgism with her game.  She did not have it sold to a commercial manufacturer.  Burton Wolfe explains:  “Players… made their own game boards so that they could replace the properties designated by Lizzie Maggie with properties in their own cities and states; this made playing more realistic. As they drew or painted their own boards, usually on linen or oil cloth, they change the title “Landlord’s Game” to “Auction Monopoly” and then just “Monopoly”.  One enthusiastic player of the game was student Priscilla Robertson who would later become the editor of “The Humanist”.  “In those days those who wanted copies of the board for Monopoly took a piece of linen cloth and copied it in crayon.”

 

The game grew a following and in 1932 Charles Darrow obtained a copyright for his version of the game.  It included the familiar white box of classic Monopoly games.  Also in 1932 Parker Brothers company bought Elizabeth Magie’s original patent for the sum of five hundred dollars.  In keeping with her original purpose of the game which was to popularize and spread the Georgism economic philosophy, by now whose followers were misnamed as “Single Taxers”, she was not interested in making money from her game but in illuminating the public.  She also insisted that Parker Brothers not make any changes to her game.  They reissued the game to the public but then immediately recalled it with very few being sold.

 

In 1940 just four years before her death, Elizabeth Magie, the original inventor of the game Monopoly, was still a strong voice for supporting what one believed.  “What is the value of our philosophy if we do not do our utmost to apply it? To simply know a thing is not enough. To merely speak or write of it occasionally among ourselves is not enough. We must do something about it on a large scale if we are to make headway. We must not only tell them, but show them just how and why and where our claims can be proven in some actual situation…”  Living one’s beliefs was not a game to Elizabeth Magie; it was life itself.

 

In-Between to Birth

In-Between to Birth

Easter 1

 

For almost a month, I joined millions in watching the live feed from an animal park in New York state.  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 claim 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 recently made a comment about our being “in-between”.  Yesterday, as I was watching the birth of the giraffe calf so many had eagerly awaited, He 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 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. 

 

Our blog series this Easter season will be on mindfulness.  I hope this period will bring you 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.  Today is a new day and our reality, much like the new giraffe calf’s has changed.  Let us give thanks for this new day and recognize the new life ahead of us all.

Thinking Differently

Thinking Differently

Easter 2

 

Two days ago Newsweek reported a change in a centuries old custom of Kenya’s Maasai tribe.  Like many cultures, the tribe had a coming-of-age ceremony for both men and women.  Unfortunately, for the past centuries, the ceremony included genital mutilation for the females of the tribe. 

 

Throughout their history, the traditions of the tribe have influenced every aspect of their living.  Now, traditional African communities like this one are accepting alternative ceremonies.  The result is that fewer girls are entering into marriage without their personal consent at the age of eleven or twelve and are allowed to remain in school.  As one young girl remarked:  “I am very happy because I will not be married off at this age.  I will now go to school and achieve my dream of becoming a doctor.”

 

Temple Grandin did not grow up in Africa but graduated from Arizona State University in the United States of America.  She escaped a different type of cultural enslavement, however, that of being labeled “different”.  Dr. Grandin achieved her dream of earning her doctorate in animal science.  Although she did not speak until age four, she is now a world-renowned teacher and speaker, having invented several animal-=handling devices that reduce stress and improve overall health of cattle in the world.

 

I will pause here to admit that for the vegans in my readership, Dr. Grandin may seem like an unusual subject to begin our series on women inventors.  However, the eating of meat provides life for many people, a large number of whom cannot obtain or perhaps eat enough vegetarian meals to substitute the nutrients obtained by eating cattle.  Yes there is methane gas produced by beef cattle but it is less than half that produced by dairy cattle.  Cattle are ruminants and their practice of grazing actually improves the world’s food availability.  While we need to improve our care of the environment and our living practices that affect it, let us save that discussion for later.

 

Let’s turn our focus back to the females who have changed our world and Dr. Temple Grandin, an accomplished female inventor who lives with autism.  Dr. Grandin credits her interest and belief that animals should not be mistreated or placed in situations that result in a lower quality of life to living with the stigma of a diagnosis such as autism.  She has designed a number of inventions that use behavioral principles instead of excessive force to help control animals. 

 

“Dr. Grandin’s restraint systems keep animals calm and prevent them from getting hurt and her center-track restraint system is currently used to handle nearly half of all the cattle in North America. She also has designed livestock handling facilities in the United States, Canada, Europe, and New Zealand.” This description is from the website women-inventors.com

 

She is also a prolific author on the subject of autism.  Dr. Grandin is currently a professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University.  Her achievements dispel the myth that people who think differently cannot contribute to the world, lead “normal lives” or have anything to offer.   Like all of our women inventors in this series, she overcame gender bias as well as other false assumptions to survive and thrive.

 

We all encounter people who have low expectations for us.  Perhaps it is because of our skin color, the shape of our eyes or the size of our nose.  What we cannot do is adopt those low expectations or stop trying to accomplish our dreams.  It is only by thinking differently that the world moves forward and new inventions arise. 

 

I will close with a favorite quote of mine which comes from a 1980’s era television commercial campaign for Apple computers.  Alas it was not written by a woman but by Rob Siltanen; no matter, it is perfect for our discussion about Dr. Temple Grandin.  I hope it inspires you to think a little differently today and to give thanks that we are all not carbon copies but unique individuals.

 

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

 

Pieta

Pieta

Easter 1

 

We are now in one of the most contested seasons of the calendar I use in my organization of this blog – Easter.  Perhaps it is fitting that we will, as a theme this year, discuss another contested subject – gender equality and the contributions of women as innovators.

 

A terrorist attack was thwarted today in Nigeria when watchful villagers noticed three young girls acting suspiciously.  One of the young girls escaped, to what no one knows.  The other two, however, were captured and found to be wearing suicide bomb vests.  One of the two captured was under the influence of very strong drugs and taken to a medical facility.  The other girl claimed to be part of two hundred and fifty girls kidnapped from a school in the Nigerian town of Chibok two years ago.  Only fifty of the original two hundred and fifty were able to escape and many have feared that the remaining two hundred had fallen victims to horrendous sexual abuse or forced to convert to Islam.

 

The very name of the group claiming to be behind the school girls’ kidnapping is “Boko Haram” means “Western education is a sin.”  The group protests women doing anything other than raising children and taking care of their husbands.  In other words, to this group and others like it, women have only the function in life to be slaves.

 

More than one billion people live in poverty today and most of them are female.  The issue of poverty is a highly complex one and its origins are not rooted solely in Western education but can be found in local, national, and international realms.  Part of the problem is the lack of gender equality worldwide.

 

One of the best resources remarking on this topic can be found at the website of the Peace Corps.  “Gender equality is a human right, but our world faces a persistent gap in access to opportunities and decision-making power for women and men. Globally, women have fewer opportunities for economic participation than men, less access to basic and higher education, greater health and safety risks, and less political representation. Guaranteeing the rights of women and giving them opportunities to reach their full potential is critical not only for attaining gender equality, but also for meeting a wide range of international development goals. Empowered women and girls contribute to the health and productivity of their families, communities, and countries, creating a ripple effect that benefits everyone.”

 

Women make up more than 50% of the world’s population and yet they only own 1% of the world’s wealth. Again I quote from the Peace Corps website:  “Throughout the world, women and girls perform long hours of unpaid domestic work. In some places, women still lack rights to own land or to inherit property, obtain access to credit, earn income, or to move up in their workplace, free from job discrimination. At all levels, including at home and in the public arena, women are widely underrepresented as decision-makers. In legislatures around the world, women are outnumbered 4 to 1, yet women’s political participation is crucial for achieving gender equality and genuine democracy.”

 

For centuries it was believed that women could not keep up with men in the science and mathematics fields.  Today the number of women in STEM – science, technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – fields is not proportional to their numbers in the population.

 

During this season of Easter, we will discuss invention of women.  Easter is both a religious and pagan holiday with some overlapping between the two.  It is not one specific date, even among Christians.  One of the lasting images of the religious holiday, though, is of the mother of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth at the foot of the cross where her son is being crucified and then her holding his lifeless body.

 

Michelangelo and many other artists have portrayed this image of the grieving mother in works of art called pietas.  The word comes from the Latin “pietatem” which meant mercy or compassion.  One of my favorite pietas is that of Kathrin Burleson but there are many and all are lovely.  While most of these depictions of the pieta are also called lamentations and feature Mary and her son Jesus, they could be representative of all women who have been subjected to gender bias and the resulting victimization of such.

 

Women comprise more than fifty percent of the population and no one is ever born without a woman being involved.  With the future of mankind literally their dominion, women should be respected, not reviled and enslaved.  #WithStrongGirls is just one of many organizations trying to bridge the gender gap.  Hopefully, with our discussions about these inventions over the next fifty-plus days, we all will realize that women have much to offer in addition to the ability to birth children.  They can also give birth to some great ideas and inventions that benefit all of mankind.  Please join me as we learn and celebrate women.  What helps women benefits us all.

The Art of Reason

The Art of Reason
Easter 1

The Act of thinking might seem a natural inclination. After all, most people would say it is thinking that differs man from other animals. We assume animals act by instinct while mankind acts by rational and sometimes irrational thought. On this day, this Easter which is marked by what some call an irrational act of a man rising from the dead, we will begin a new series. During this Eastertide, we will embark on a journey of thought. In scientific terms, we will be discussing philosophies of mankind.

Philosophy is defined in various ways but one common definition is that philosophy is the study of problems. In ancient times, philosophy was considered to be the love of wisdom. In practical terms, philosophy is the critical and systematic approach to the resolution of things. In other words, philosophy is how, why, and what we think. We consider it to me the sole habit of man (and woman), one of those “mental” things that separates us from other animals.

I keep bringing up the fact that other animals are considered to not engage in philosophy because I beg to differ. As one who is owned by two cats and one dog (Okay, the dog actually thinks we “share this life but the cats…they definitely think they are in charge and I am their servant!), I am absolutely positive that they engage in philosophical thought. More on that later, though ….

Thinking is not a stagnant habit. An art collector might simply enjoy a piece of art without exerting any effort except to be near the painting and keep one’s eyes open. The thinker must put some effort into the act of thinking. We might not end up burning calories as we think or even work up a sweat but any thought process that does not involve effort really is not much of a thought process.

Talking about philosophy is a great deal like discussing religion – an interesting activity fraught with landmines. There are many different areas of philosophy. During the next fifty days we will delve into many of them, much as we explored the different religions and spiritualities in the world last Advent. As usual, current events will also be integrated into our discussions, discussions whose purpose is to create new thought patterns that expand our thinking and allow new avenues of humanitarian thought and ways to live in peace to open.

We will not be going “all mental” during this time. Nonetheless, we will seek to learn how what we think and what we do integrate with what we profess to believe. Some philosophers believe thought needs an object of and for its purpose. Others feel it is a part of evolution; in fact, thought might be the impetus of evolution. And this is where my pets enter our discussion of the day.

As mentioned before, I am the major domo for two cats. The cats were both rescues; the term meaning that the cats were not previously in the establishment formally of any house. One cat was not even thought to be a cat. At approximately five days of age with eyes newly opened, she scurried up to my daughter and I while we were in our backyard. We were cleaning up from a delightful afternoon spent outside on a warm summer’s day. Suddenly I see what looks like a chipmunk or baby squirrel about to jump on my daughter’s leg and so I attempt to brush it away with my hand. The animal leaps up and bites my hand. I reach around with my other hand to capture the animal. We’d had a rash of rabies in the area and I knew I needed to keep the animal so it could be tested or else I’d have to undergo the two-week series of rabies shots.

We put the animal in a cat carrier on our back porch deck. I cleaned the small bite and scratches and then put some food in the carrier. The next day we realized two things. The wild rabbits that had a nest in the very back of our country yard did not have one dark baby rabbit. The mother rabbit had apparently been nursing this small animal along with her own babies. The second thing we realized was that, instead of a baby squirrel, I had quarantined a kitten. It has been eleven years since that tuxedo cat entered our lives. Three years after our first tuxedo cat we adopted a second, this time from a local animal group that takes care of stray animals and finds them homes. The first fetches, when she feels like it, much in the same manner as a dog when thrown a toy. The second cat is very aloof and independent but, when she has a hairball she has thrown up, will get my attention and then lead me to it.

Five years ago we were asked to take in, by another animal activists’’ group, a young puppy. His mother had been killed within hours of his birth and he’d been bottle fed by some good Samaritans. He had no socialization with other dogs so we took him to training classes. I will admit that I first said no when asked to take the puppy. I admit that while my writing moniker is “C. C. Ladee” which is a play on the term “Crazy Cat Lady”, I really am more of a dog person. However, I was told this puppy would only grow to be about twelve inches tall and weigh about the same as our cats. I had never had a dog that small, being more the medium-build dog person or even a large-size dog lover. My progeny reminded me I was getting “older” and perhaps should consider “downsizing your canine preferences” (Yes, those actually are the exact quotes!) so after two hours, protesting “I’ve never had a dog that small!”, I said yes to the dog.

In the past five years I have learned that size has absolutely no bearing on the heart. That puppy who came into our lives smaller than the cats soon took over a large part of our hearts and lives. Being orphaned at birth led to several allergies and a lack of natural instinctive bonding and trust but we’ve learned to communicate and understand each other. We also learned his running around and pulling me to go to my spouse was the dog’s way of alerting us to a medical crisis, something my spouse must content with due to a health condition. The dog became a warning system and has helped improve my spouse’s quality of health and my life.

Philosopher Henri Bergson rattled the science world’s cage when he proposed that intuition was more powerful than intellect. In his work, “Matter and Memory”, Bergson proposed that “creative urge” rather than Charles’ Darwin’s theory of natural selection motivated the wheels of evolution. Bergson maintained that man’s intelligence was the result of living, the reason we survived, not the act of surviving itself. The by-product of living intuitively, intelligence becomes the result and not the manner by which mankind has lasted.

My pets are not thought to possess the same intelligence that mankind has. They are, common house pets (but please, do not EVER let them know the term common was used to describe them!) and as such, are considered to have minute thinking skills compared to man. After all, when was the last time a dog performed geometric equations or a cat conjugated French or Latin verbs? Of course, my dog can curl his body up in a space roughly one-eighth his size, a size which was poorly estimated when he was a puppy. Now weighing one hundred and twenty pounds, standing forty inches at his shoulders, my dog is proof that what humans think they know and what comes to fruition are sometimes opposite things. Apparently the universe did not agree with my children that I was too age for a large – make that giant – dog!

Einstein believed that for every action there was an equal and just reaction. The Problem I have with his theory is the word “just”. I am not certain that the reactions we create are just for the actions which prompt them. Today those in many Christian churches will celebrate the story of a man they claim as their Messiah. His message of acceptance and love is portrayed in terms of divisiveness and hatred. His supposed accomplishment of rising from the dead should give his followers release from the fear of dying and yet, they live the lives of those who are in constant fear and paranoid of others with differing beliefs.

This is not an attack on Christians. I am one myself. It is a plea for us all to think before we act, think we before we speak. It is a plea to put what we believe into action and live our faiths. Easter comes at a time when many in the world are experiencing spring. Regardless of the season in your land, whether springtime or harvest time, Easter and Passover are times to rejoice in the strength of one’s faith and to live thoughtfully. Philosophy is that arm of science that looks at how we live our thoughts. Our lives are a reflection of how we live our faith and what we do says more about what we believe that any speeches or sermons preached on this day. I pray that today will be the beginning of thinking for us all and living intuitively in the love that mankind has. Our future evolution depends upon it.

Illustrated Ideology

Illustrated Ideology
Lent 44

Today is National Autism Day, a day set aside to educate, respect, honor, and spread awareness of what the diagnosis of autism is and the support that is and/or should be present for those with such a diagnosis. Tomorrow begins the Jewish celebration of Passover. It is also the day commonly known as Good Friday in the Christian community and Sunday is Easter for many Christians. Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter a week later. Though different, all of these days represent an illustration of ideas and beliefs.

Defining one’s ideology has become more difficult in recent years and that difficulty has seen a lack of interest in finding the sacred in our everyday. Controversy has arisen between that which is religious and that which is spiritual. Many conservative religious people disdain spirituality, even though their religion emphasizes spirits. Many spiritual followers believe religion to be full of hatred even though it preaches and encourages one to “love thy neighbor”.

Some spiritualities practice the art of Om Shanti, the consciousness of an eternal state of peace and awareness of one’s spiritual identity. Om is considered the sound of the universe – past, present, and future. Shanti means peace and is often recited three times to signify peace of the body, mind, and soul. Some might call this the peace of God.

IALAC is an exercise in the parenting program from Colorado called Dare to Be You. Participants are given a piece of paper upon which is written in a descending pattern I – A – L – A – C. They are asked to decorate the paper and are given crayons, glitter, stickers, etc. Only after the decorating is done and shared are the words revealed for their meaning. I Am Lovable And Capable. This seemingly innocent exercise, when put up on a refrigerator door or alongside a bathroom mirror, serves to remind all that they are worthy of the peace of God, Om Shanti, the peace of all that has been, is, and will come.

In the fourth century theological manuscripts began to be decorated. Those adorned with gold or silver were said to be illuminated since the colors seem to shimmer and emphasize the ethereal spirit of the message. Then the page borders bore decoration, often painted. Entire pages became works of art, a humble offering that gave testament to the beauty and importance of the texts decorated. Many such illuminated works of ideologies were painted rather than illuminated but soon the term began to cover not only Western art but Far Eastern and Mesoamerican texts as well as Islamic works.

Today these pages often seem overdone or strange. A child with autism may also seem overly engaged with certain aspects of living or possessing certain talents above those of the average person. While their social skills may seem lacking, those with such a diagnosis are often illuminating their special skills rather than everyday lifestyles with which we are more familiar. Just as illuminated texts may seem strange to us in the twenty-first century who are accustomed to mass printing of books, these hand-painted works of art are really unique gifts that illustrate the beauty and diversity of beliefs. The world’s unusual people are also gifts, gifts that remind us that everything in life is sacred and nothing is mundane.

Life is not just about the living; it is about the cycle, the steps. Those steps tend to go round and around so that everything old is new again. We practice Lent and celebrate Passover and Easter because we have encountered new things each year. We need to constantly celebrate our being and seek to discover personal and universal peace so that we can fully live. As we engage in these cycles, we are illuminating our beliefs and being reminded of their sacred meanings.

To discover the sacred in our daily living is to learn about new beginnings, the challenges and the conquests. “Everything old is new again” and we are a part of that, being both lovable and capable. How we live, what we do illuminates our beliefs. Faith is not something just for special occasions. Just as autism is an ongoing daily experience, so is finding the sacred and illuminating it in our lives. The purpose of illuminated texts was the exchange of ideas. The purpose of living is to honor the exchange of love and to be good stewards not only of the earth but in illuminating the gift that is life among all mankind.