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.

Power of the Voice

Power of the Voice

Pentecost 110

 

Last night a new winner of America’s Got Talent was announced.  The television franchise can be seen in around the world.  First developed by Simon Cowell for Great Britain and shown as a pilot, the program being aired in a complete format was delayed and the first full show of the franchise was “America’s Got Talent” in 2006.  There are now fifty-eight versions airing in fifty-eight countries.  While vocal talent is not the only talent allowed, more vocalists have won the competition than any other talent category and last night was no exception.

 

“The thinking man must oppose all cruel customs, no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo. When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another, even the lowliest creature; but to do so is to renounce our manhood and shoulder a guilt which nothing justifies.”  By far the most expedient way to do this is with our voices.

 

During this series of making the ordinary extraordinary, we are talking about effecting positive change.   You are someone who can make a difference and no, it will not always be easy or popular.  At the beginning of this year I wrote about how I left a meeting because a song that was going to be sung contained a derogatory term, a word of discrimination that I felt I could support.  My leaving attracted no attention but it made a statement.  I did not want to leave.  It was a great meeting with really great people but…I could not contribute to the discrimination of a group of people either.   I took a stand.

 

That’s the most important thing a human being does.  They take a stand for their cause.  They give a voice to their cause.  We often overlook the power of speech.  Ask someone who has difficulty with speaking and you will suddenly realize how important it is.  For the six million to ten million in the United States alone with speech impediments, life is not easy.  They are sixty-one percent more likely to be bullied and eighty-two percent more likely to be unemployed, despite their talents, intellect, and skills.

 

This coming October will be the fifth anniversary of the death of a charming seventeen-year-old young man.  Attractive with a great personality, it seemed like his future was bright with potential.  For James, reality was much different that the outward appearances.  He was bullied and lived in fear of being asked questions by his teachers, questions that would require an oral response aloud in class.  His online persona was delightful but his in-person persona was shy and reticent.  Teased and bullied whenever he spoke, James preferred to let his computer do his talking.  You see, James was a stutterer.  The world saw only that one simple characteristic and heard only the hesitated speech, not the beautiful thoughts.  On a fall day in Virginia, James ended the abuse and took his own life.  Peer pressure would not allow James to be himself and in the end, it caused him to take his own life.

 

The winner of America’s Got Talent 2016 sang for her audition a song about being different.  It was a song she wrote herself and broke a few so-called rules of music theory but it was a heart-felt song and struck a chord with many in the viewing audience.  The brief song told of wondering who we are and the pressure to be just like everyone else.  It ended with the glory of being unique and an individual.

 

We should not insist that only those who talk have perfect speech any more than we should only listen to songs that follow some arbitrary group of rules for musical composition.  If we did, then we would be listening to the Gregorian chants of the early 12300’s and the Beatles who never have been given a recording contract or concert venue.  There would never have been the Big Band era of music followed by rock and roll.  Michael Jackson and Prince would have never become household names.

 

None of us are perfect but we can use our talents and our imperfections.  We all have an obligation to our planet and neighbors to be the best representation of ourselves we can be.  For some, that might mean adopting healthier habits; for others, stop being afraid of people who seem different.  Last night, for a twelve-year-old girl named Grace Vanderwall who played the ukulele it meant standing in front of an audience and singing.

 

We all have our skills and our “not so good at that” areas.  Then use your voice to make the world a better place.  Last night it was wonderful to be Grace Vanderwall but in truth, every day is a great day to be her.  She is authentic and true to herself.  We all need to use the power of our own voice and be ourselves.  We will all know the amazing grace we offer the world and be winners when we use the power of our voices.

 

A New World

A New World

Pentecost #172

In our travels through the mythologies of the planet, we learned about remains found buried under frozen lands in Europe and Asia and followed belief systems across mountains to Mediterranean lands..  We conversed about the multitude of natural spirits from the islands of Great Britain and Ireland.  We explored the spiritual thoughts and lives of those in the Far East and Middle East.  We then went to the cradle of civilization, the area where it is believed the first beings walked.  In Africa mankind flourished and the number of cultures blossomed.  We then traveled to lands down under and island hopped across the Pacific, seeing the joy in living these ancient cultures expressed through their aboriginal art and music.  Now we are in the newest of all cultures, exploring what, in terms of the earth, are the babies of cultures.

The two continents of North and South America have always been called the New World.  Once never imagined to a world civilization that imagined a flat earth and later described the unknown as region as “Here there be dragons”, these two continents represented a different world.  They are the only two inhabited continents in which all ethnic groups were immigrants.  Regardless of the lands they came from and the cultures they recreated here, they then had to survive countless invasions.

Creation myths of the two Americas can be put into two categories.  One includes those of the Mayans and Aztecs we’ve already discussed, myths that cover the creation of the world.    The Mayan myths utilize beautiful poetry to describe the efforts of their deities in fashioning a mankind they found pleasing.  The Aztec myths have a more international connection.  The series of world created and discarded in the Aztec tales are similar to the Greek ages of man and the four age of man the myths of India proclaim.  The Aztecs also incorporated blood sacrifice into their stories, sacrifices comparable to those of the early Jewish histories.  Like the Mayans, poetry also played an important role with the Aztecs.  The other category of creation myths emanating from these two continents is more culture specific and focuses on the creation of a particular ethnicity.

I need to pause at this juncture and mention the beautiful islands of Caribbean.  They too were settles by native of other lands.  We will not focus on myths of this region, though, because the travelers to these islands not only brought their culture, they also brought their myths.  And, being as they were on islands, these myths remained true to their original versions.  In other words, we have already discussed these stories that were the result of ships from England, Spain, and Africa.  IN the Caribbean the emphasis was not so much on where they came from but in how they were living, the spirituality of now.

So who were these emigrants to this New World and where did they come from?  In Canada they are called “First Families”.  In the United States they are known as American Indians due to erroneous beliefs that they came from India; most likely they came from the area of the Caucus Mountains, often under Russian rule.  (A myth about the discovery of North America tells that the Italian explorer sailing under the Spanish flag Christopher Columbus landed on a Caribbean island thinking he’d reached India, proclaiming the natives as “Indians”.)   In the southern hemisphere they are simply tribes of history, people who met the Spanish and Portuguese and who learned to live in the varied landscapes of their continent.  Archaeologists tell us that these groups all are related, their ancestors having crossed the Bering Straits from the Asian continent to what is today known as Alaska over thirty thousand years ago.  Some followed the Pacific coastline and continued through Central America to South America.  Others traveled east to settle on the Atlantic coast and then move south.

One myth from these ancient immigrants tells of twelve brothers.  Their families became argumentative and so the brothers scattered to the four corners of the world so that each might have their own lands to rule.  I find it very interesting how often the number twelve reappears in the myths of the world.  Considered a “perfect number”, twelve does seem to pop up wherever we go.  The Sumerians developed a twelve-month calendar based upon the twelve lunar months, the twelve times the world has a full moon in a year’s time.  They also divided a day into twelve hours with six being in perfect sunlight.  Twelve is also found in the Bible, including the twelve sons of Joseph and the twelve disciples of Jesus of Nazareth.

Yesterday we explored the Aztec creation myths – at least five of them.  Like those of the Incas, the Navajo, and the Iroquois, these stories tell the origins of their ethnicity.  Like other cultures, there are other myths such as fertility myths and those of a protector deity, a caring god.  The Algonquin myths feature a need to control their environment while the Inuit wanted to placate their deity.

Perhaps it is in the Americas that the mythologies of the world come together.  Each tribe considered themselves a separate entity, a separate culture.  While today some may lump them together as tribes of American Indians, they saw themselves as unique being.  I like that because, after all, each of us is our own being and we are all unique.  I find it sad how easily people are categorized without civilization really seeing them for who they are.

Henry David Thoreau said it much better than I ever could.  “Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again.  And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are?

We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything.

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”