Laughter

Laughter and Kindness

2019.01.02

Twelve Days of Kindness

 

As we reached the end of 2018, statistics came to light about how divided the United States had become.  Living as a minority or a woman, a handicapped individual or in poverty reached good levels in 2016 but in the past two years have fallen to where life as someone in one of those categories has become very hard.  Thus I decided to spend the twelve days of Christmas discussing twelve ways to be kind.  I think we need to spend a bit more time talking about kindness, not just in the USA but worldwide.  Someone asked me a characteristic of being kind and the first thing I thought of was … laughter.  “Laughter is timeless.  Imagination has no age.  Dreams are forever.”  These words were written by J. M. Barrie in his 1904 play “Peter Pan” and included in the novelization of the play published in 1911, “Peter and Wendy.”

 

It is said that someone who is kind to animals must be kind to people and I confess I have always taken in account how a person treats dogs.  I guess you could say my standard of kindness for a person, their breeding if you will, is exhibited by their response and reaction to dogs.  In other words, one of my standards or ways to determine someone’s kindness quotient is their treatment of canines. 

 

 Generally when a breed is recognized, there are certain standards.  Different breeds of dogs must conform to these standards when competing in dog shows.  An English bulldog, for example, cannot compete if the coloring is piebald.  Piebald, not to be confused with merle, is a spotting pattern of an animal found not only in the hair but often on the skin as well.  The word “piebald” is a combination of the word “pie”, derived from the magpie bird which has a distinguishing black and white plumage, and the word “bald”, referring to a white patch or seemingly hairless spot.

 

Many different animals have the piebald coloring.  In horses it is found in the pinto breed although the coloration is usually brown and white.  The national bird of the United States of America gets its name from its white cap of hair – the American bald eagle.  Many birds have this coloring as do dogs, such as the English bulldog.  While a piebald English bulldog may not be allowed to compete, they are adorable animals. 

 

I will admit I have three rescue animals and all are black and white: two piebald cats known as tuxedo cats and one giant dog whose coloring could be called barely merle or piebald.  I like the coloring of the black and white.  It reminds me of the keys on a piano.  However, I also like the symbolism of how the dark and light come together.  After all, none of us is perfect.  We have a bit of dark and light in ourselves.  We go through our life trying to fix the dark and tinker or improve the light in our souls.

 

A tinker was a person who traveled around fixing things.  J. M. Barrie gave his fairy friend of the main character Peter Pan the name Tinkerbell since she tended to “fix” things for Peter and the fairy folk.  In the original musical stage presentation, the voice of Tinkerbell was performed by a percussionist and resembled a tinkling bell although it was actually played on an instrument known as the celesta.  Originally, though, “Peter Pan” was not a musical and Tinkerbell was a darting light that seemed to dance around the stage.  Her voice was a collar of bells that belonged to Barrie himself.  The program, however, listed a Jane Wren as playing the part of Tinkerbell.  Eventually the Inspector of Taxes filed a legal demand that Jane Wren pay taxes for her salary for the play and the truth finally came out.

 

The tinker folk of the British Isles have been portrayed as thieves but generally they were respected for the handyman abilities and cheerful natures.  They moved about seeking work and seemed very content with their lives.

 

The opening quote of this post is said by Tinkerbell who did indeed gain a voice in later productions.  Though Barrie wrote in the death of Tinkerbell a year after Wendy and her brothers leave Neverland, the fairy remains forever a prominent role for children.  Barrie explained her tempestuous nature as being caused by a personality too small for her body.  Sometimes we feel much the same with life.

 

“Laughter is timeless.  Imagination has no age.  Dreams are forever”.  Dreams are forever and one of mine is that we all practice kindness each and every day.  Dreams are the portals through which we imagine and create goodness, greatness, and kindness but action is what makes those dreams become reality.  Victor Borge, a great entertainer and humanitarian once said, “Laughter is the closest distance between two people.”  Share laughter and you will share kindness.   Hopefully we will find laughter in 2019 and grow kindness to new levels.

Dare

Dare

2019.01.01

12 Days of Kindness

 

It is an old colloquialism. “Milking” someone means to con them out of something. In the song “Twelve Days of Christmas”, day eight is “eight maids a milking”. While it is doubtful that this is what the song means, eight maidens going about conning people out of their possessions or money, it is quite fitting if you live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. For it is on this day eight of Christmas tide, this celebration of the New Year, that people participate in what is called the oldest American folk tradition still in existence – being a Mummer!

 

The Christian calendar has December 21st as the feast of St Thomas and to commemorate it, people went about collecting money for charity. Prior to that, the poor would stand outside the wealthy landowner’s house begging for a bit of starter for their Christmas or plum puddings. The puddings were more a wheat porridge with things added such as fruit or meat suet since most poor people could only obtain the discarded part of the meat. Over time fermenters were added to prolong the shelf life of the pudding and plums were replaced by the more affordable and available raisins.

 

The first president of the United States of America George Washington supported the tradition of mummers, groups who by this time had evolved into charitable carolers who celebrated the joy of the season of Christmastide and showed love for their fellow man by collecting things given to the less fortunate. Today this tradition continues in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania every New Year’s Day. The Mummer’s Day Parade is not just a time of festivities amid the bleak winter horizon. It is a joining of cultures and traditions.

 

In Ireland mummers were often seen on St Stephen’s Day or December 26th. Groups of young men had adapted the custom begun by children in going about and singing. Once children had wandered the streets, begging for a cup of hot wassail and perhaps an apple but now groups of young men would stand outside a home a sing until given a “donation”. History records that, since their singing was not always harmonious, money was sometimes given just to make them continue on to the next house. These carolers became mummers as Swedish, African, German, and the Anglican customs were all joined together in the new colonies and later the new country on the first day of the New Year.

 

“Here we stand before your door; As we stood the year before; Give us whiskey, give us gin; Open the door and let us in! Or give us something nice and hot; Like a steaming hot bowl of pepper pot!” The modern mummer is from age fifteen to eighty. Instruments never seen in a marching band, like a baritone sax, stringed instruments, or the accordion, are found in a mummer’s parade. Brightly garish costumes are made by groups who consider it a part of their patriotism as well as human benevolence. Like many things, the official Mummer’s Day Parade fell victim to harsh economic times itself but, in true mummer tradition, it also has been saved by the joining of strangers to help out a good cause.

 

When the winter winds are blowing cold, it is a good time to remember that no matter our faith or belief system, it helps us to help others. The goodwill on the streets of Philadelphia, the city known for “brotherly love”, on New Year’s Day is evidence of the hope that exists in the world. It is always a good day to be a mummer – to reach out and help others while reveling in the joy of life. There is no better way to celebrate a new year’s dawn than to be joyful and show love for one’s fellow beings on earth.

 

It takes courage to dare to show such kindness, though.  This post is being posted a day late because I thought I should not challenge you on the first day of the New Year 2019.  Life itself is sometimes its own challenge.    Throughout the past days I have challenged you, though, to participate in twelve days of kindness.  Today, on the eighth day of our twelve days, I give you this challenge:  Dare to be kind.  You can select the manner and format but ….Be kind, please.  Accept the dare and show someone a bit of kindness that we all crave and yes, need.  Dare to be the one who is kind.

 

Calling All Others

Calling All “Others”

March 26-30, 2018

Maundy Thursday / Good Friday

 

Atheists and Non-Believers:  This post is for you.  I confess that when I began this blog over four years ago, I did not expect to write a post specifically for non-believers.  It is, after all, a lifestyle blog about incorporating faith and daily living, connecting our spirituality with our relationships.  During this time commonly known as Holy Week and especially on Maundy Thursday and the weirdly named “good” Friday, though, the story is really more about atheists and non-believers than about the faithful.

 

The last week of Lent is designated as “holy” because it depicts the final days of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth.  One cannot ignore the story.  It has changed the face of history, brought about world wars, been used as the basis for genocides throughout the centuries and still is the impetus for many works of art and musical presentations, the latest being NBC’s concert version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” on Sunday, April 1st.

 

As a child, I always connected the term atheist with the character in the story known as Caiaphas.   Caiaphas is one of the lesser characters who seemed to be pulling the strings and controlling the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, the one who gave the order for Jesus’ crucifixion.  There was very little separation of church and state in the Roman Empire since Roman law titled the Roman Emperor as the savior of all within the Roman Empire.  Succinctly put, no one – man or god- was higher than the Roman Emperor.

 

The faith of the Jewish people was insignificant to those in power within the Roman Empire.  Someone violating Jewish law meant nothing to the powers that controlled the land.  Caiaphas and his five brothers-in-law saw Jesus as a threat but knew Rome would not care that he cured the sick on the Sabbath or went about preaching without being an actual Rabbi or living what we might call a “kosher” lifestyle.  When John the Baptist, however, called his cousin Jesus the new Messiah…well, Caiaphas could take that to Rome and claimed treason.

 

The Jewish historian Josephus, a fist century historian and writer, lists Caiaphas tenure as a high priest as beginning in 18 ACE.  Caiaphas married the daughter of the previous high priest Ananus, the son of Seth, Caiaphas was known as Joseph.  We know very little about his life or other duties as a high priest.  In 1990 an ossuary was found that many claim contained his remains.  Another was found in 2011 and was declared to be authentic.  Because of this later find, Caiaphas has now been assigned to the priestly course of Ma’aziah which was instituted by King David.  It is thought Caiaphas (Joseph) served eighteen years as high priest so he apparently got along quite well with the Roman authorities.

 

It is written that Caiaphas and others felt Jesus posed a threat to their faith, its holy places, and would give Rome cause to destroy them all.  In both the gospel of John and the book of Genesis, references are made that it would be better for one man [Jesus] to die rather than the Jewish nation be destroyed.

 

The villain of the final days of Jesus to many is the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.  He in fact says he has no reason to charge Jesus with any crime and urges the priests to take their own action.  They tell him they have none and only Pontius Pilate can do so.  Pilate then gives the assembled crown a choice of which prisoner to set free.  Jesus is not their choice.  Caiaphas would go on to reign as a high priest longer than any other under Roman rule.

 

Maundy Thursday is the day many remember the last supper Jesus had with his disciples, the event which ended in his capture by the Roman soldiers.  The character Jesus knows what is coming and tells the disciple who points him out to the soldiers to hurry up and do what he must.  He then tells the others to be as servants to each other and purportedly washed their feet, placing himself in a servant role to them.  They eat and then sleep in spite of his asking them to stay awake with him.  They are awakened by the soldiers and watch helplessly as their leader is taken away.  Within the next twenty-four hours, the disciple peter would pretend not to know Jesus.  Good Friday ends with his torture and crucifixion.

 

We all live on this big blue marble called Earth one with another.  Whether we are believers or atheists, we must interact with each other.  To intentionally do harm to another does not benefit any of us.  The last advice Jesus gives to his disciples about helping each other are not just words for those who believed in him.  They are the key to successful living for us all. 

 

Whether your messiah is a man called Jesus, a political figure, or someone who has yet to come, the wisdom still works.  To help one another, to serve humankind …. This means successful living for us all.  Not everyone loves themselves so I am not going to say love others as you love yourself.  What I will say is this:  Please treat (love) others as you would want to be treated.  We truly are here to help each other.

 

https://youtu.be/kdmgpMfnjdU

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Light and Dark

Light and Dark

Detours in Life

Pentecost 143-145

Mega Post 10

 

Several  Advent seasons ago 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.

 

This past week many of the Hindu faith celebrated Diwali, a five-day celebration of light over darkness, goodness over evil.  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 on 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.   Detours in life often challenge not only our beliefs but how we live those beliefs.   “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.”  Hopefully, you will approach whatever detour life places in your path today as an opportunity for goodness to conquer the darkness of extra time, temporary frustration, etc.  To paraphrase a Diwali wish … “May today find your in the light of prosperity, good health, and wisdom.”

 

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.” 

Present and Accounted For

Present and Accounted For

Easter 2

 

Most of us began our childhood days in school by answering to a roll call.  A teacher would call out our name and we would answer “Here”.  Then the teacher would send a note to the office or record in the roll book that all were “present and accounted for”.  A teacher needed to keep track, especially since school attendance is compulsory in many areas.  Knowing that your child is safe inside the halls of academia is also a good feeling for the parents.  It does, however, set up expectations for us that perhaps go too far.

 

First, in today’s world, school is not always a safe haven.  Young girls are abducted by fanatical groups who see strong women as a threat and educating girls as the first step in creating strong women.  Mental health issues unaddressed have also been at the heart of most school shootings and have resulted in many school now spending as much on security as they do on textbooks.

 

Taking attendance at school is not a bad thing and school security has been important for over forty years.  The problem comes when we expect our life to be as clear and simple as taking attendance.  Just showing up is important but as we go through our living, are we truly “present” or do we just go through the motions?

 

If we are to really live what we learned during our Lenten series, we must be mindful of our living.  We must be present each hour and not just go through the motions.  All too often we awake dreading the day.  Life is not always fair.  There is no getting around that basic fact.  There will always be someone who appears prettier, has more toys, gets ahead in what seems like an easier and faster career projector.  Life is messy and, at times, unfair.  It can still be good, nonetheless.

 

Instead of waking up thinking of all the things you “have to” do that day, why not open your eyes and marvel in those things that you “get” to do?  You have to get up early and go to work?  Rejoice that you have a job; not everyone does.  You have to clean house; be grateful you have a house.  Someone made fun of your religious head covering?  It is always wrong for someone to bully another based upon religious or spiritual preferences but give thanks that you are strong and secure enough in your faith to wear it in public because not everyone is or can.

 

Life is not always fair but it is always good and a blessing to live.  Hopefully in these fifty days of Easter we will explore the many things we get to do in our living.  I hope today you will be mindful of those blessings and present as you do them.  Life is the greatest gift of all and we get to experience it each and every day.  When we are truly mindful of that, then we are not only present, we are able to recognize and account for the beauty that life can be.

Goodness

Goodness

Lent 1

 

During Lent our series will focus on the Beatitudes, those eight to ten, and in one location, four saying about goodness, happiness and spirituality.  While the basis for this series will be taken from the New Testament, this will not be a purely religious series.  It is a series about goodness and our search for it in an overall sense – goodness of living, of health, of being.  We will delve into such distinction as the difference between a happy person and an optimistic person and there will be, hopefully, a vignette to explain and explore our discussion each day.

 

Most Creation stories open with “In the beginning” and the world seems to have been complete, whole, and happy.  Then something happens and chaos ensues.  While it may seem hard to relate to something like that, most of us experience it every day when we go to check social media.  The science of happiness would tell us that while the caveman did not have a Facebook account and the only twitters he heard or saw were from birds in the trees, he did fall victim to the same social pressures that we do when reading about a friend’s seemingly perfect life.

 

We are all connected and the people in our lives play an important role in the basic goodness we experience and the happiness we feel.  Both of these are contributing factors to our sense of well-being and our actual physical health.  Skeptics argue that optimistic people may not necessarily live longer and we certainly have discussed that topic before.  However, recent scientific research and the resulting evidence indicate that there is a strong link between happiness and health and it goes both ways.

 

Our approach to living is key in our trying to improve our lives and the world.  Being happy will never be as simply as taking a pill and seeing the goodness in life will not be accomplished with an increased prescription for a new pair of glasses.  We can, though, take the wisdom of the ages and look at our own approach to living. 

 

Lent is traditionally a time of introspection and, let’s face it, dreary feelings of guilt and shame.  Our source material is a wonderful way to change that and improve ourselves without beating ourselves up – figuratively or psychologically.  Let’s replace those pounds of guilt with feelings of goodness and happiness!  Life will always be a work in progress.  I hope you join me for this series in making lemonade out of lemons.  Who knows?  We might even find a way to make a lemon tart or pie without fewer calories!

Pentecost 126

Pentecost 126
My Psalm 126

The Gift of a Smile

“You need to give to get. Giving does begin the receiving process” is the belief of Robin Sharma. Sharma is a Canadian attorney who has written fifteen books and owner of his own business leadership training company. His best seller, “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari”, was adapted as a play and produced in Mumbai. Considered a world leadership guru, Sharma believes making altruism a habit is a key essential to productive living.

Indian writer George Kochu, on his blog Positive Way Living states: “Giving is a virtue. It has been considered so even form the ancient times. We can trace this virtue is being praised even in Mahabharata when Krishna speaks of the Niskamakarma (giving without expecting anything in return) to Arjuna. Giving something to someone with the intention of getting back is nothing but barter system or a business. It becomes a virtue, when we give without expecting anything in return.”

In 1989 James Andreoni coined the phrase “Warm Glow Giving” to describe the effect some charitable acts have on the giver. Research conducted by Harbaugh, Mayr, and Burghart in their 2007 “Neural Responses to Taxation and Voluntary Giving Reveal Motives for Charitable Donations paper demonstrated that the reward centers of the brain activate in response to charitable giving and helping others, suggesting physiological evidence for the warm-glow phenomenon.

The study of altruism is not just about giving to charities, however. Municipalities and governments have investigated it as to whether it can be utilized in funding services. In both the Czech Republic and South Korea, studies were conducted to determine if a WTP or Willingness to Pay for services could provide a revenue stream for library services. The South Korean study found a disparency in results between traditional WTP and newer methods and reasons. In the Czech study researchers Hajek and Stejskal discovered “Payment mechanism is an important issue in the process of the elicitation design. Various payment mechanisms are employed in this study. Our findings suggest that the willingness of people to decide about the allocation of a certain amount of their taxes (tax decrease or increase) represents a compromise between the increasingly discussed out-of-pocket willingness to pay and in-pocket willingness to accept compensation approaches. The main determinants of public library value (in the case of the Municipal Library of Prague) include available income of the households, frequency of use of the services, and alternative costs. Furthermore, the effects of both the use and importance of services on the public library value is investigated. The importance of loan services is the major determinant of the value.”

The study of why people give to charities and how much people will give for government services is a popular and varied field of study. Working for Monash University’s Department of Economics, researchers Grossman and Eckel discovered the following: “Our study focuses directly on subjects’ willingness to contribute to and take from a charity. We do this by allocating the initial endowment in one of three ways: either all to the subjects, all to the charity, or evenly between the two. Subjects are allowed to either contribute or take back as little or as much as they wish. We find that framing is irrelevant when comparing the two extreme cases. The final amount allocated to the charity is independent of how the choice option is framed. On the other hand, we find evidence suggesting that, when the endowments are evenly split between the two parties, the initial even split seems to act as a powerful focal point: the final outcome is insignificantly different from the initial allocation.”

Andreoni relied on another phrase is describing why people did not make charitable contributions and coined it the “cold-prickle” effect. Much of his research involved how a proposition or opportunity to do good was offered to the doer. Subsequent research, used by advertising executives worldwide as well as by governments, seems to refute his first studies. While Andreoni focused on how such an opportunity is presented or framed, others have long considered these scenarios in terms of philosophical, religious, and psychological contexts.

The basic concept of “Do unto others”, coined in the seventeenth century Europe as “The Golden Law”, can be traced to Confucianism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, etc. Simon Blackburn also states that the Golden Rule can be “found in some form in almost every ethical tradition”. Regardless of the religion or spirituality, all of these variations of the Golden Law or Rule have one thing alike – treating someone as you would like to be treated. It was even referenced in the Code of Hammurabi when defining the limits of acceptable retribution limits: “An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth.” The Golden Law was adopted by the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1993 as the basic principle of all religions and signed by one hundred and forty-three world leaders..

Many of us haven’t a great deal to give another but charitable acts can be done every day with little cost to the doer. After all, it costs nothing to give a mile to another. Holding the door open required a few seconds of your time and no added effort since you’ve already opened the door for yourself. Leaving a penny on the counter, paying for an extra cup of coffee for whomever might come along behind you….there really is no end to the list of what is possible when we think of others. The added health benefits are documented.

Confucius said it best: “Zi Gong asked, saying, “Is there one word that may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?” The Master said, “Is not reciprocity such a word? Never impose on others what you would not choose yourself.” Seneca concluded” No happiness is gained from inflicting sorrow on another.”

My Psalm 126

We thank you, Great One, for the blessing of life.
We thank you for the blessing of family.
We thank you for the blessing of health.
We thank you for the blessing of love.
May we walk so as to continue all life.
May we consider all children of God the family of all men.
May we live in a way to promote continued good health.
May we leave a trail of goodness as we walk through the world.
May a smile be our shadow.