What are You?

What Are You?

March 1, 2018

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

A Defining Moment

A Defining Moment
Feb 28, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rejoice or Mourn

Rejoice or Mourn?

Detours in Life

Pentecost 153

 

AS we travel life’s highways, we encounter detours and stop signs. Our reaction to these often determines the rest of our journey.  We can treat a detour much like a speed bump, something that slows us down but does not deter us, or we can let it be a dead end.  The choice is ours – rejoice or mourn – and it all based upon our perspective and subkectivity.

 

Subjective probability is an individual person’s measure of belief that an event will occur.  Most of us believe in the eventuality of our own death and the death of every other person living.  Death is the natural order of things begun with our birth.  It is the belief of what happens after our physical bodies cease their function that separates people into groups.

 

Without sounding trite, there really are two sides to every coin.  A famous hymn written for the upcoming Advent season speaks of this.  “The time of grace has come, what we have wished for… Where the light is raised, salvation is found…. Therefore let our preaching now sing in brightness.”  The hymn these words are taken from is titled quite simply, “Gaudete”.  It was published in a collection of Finnish and Swedish tunes in 1582 in a collection known as “Piae Cantiones” although it is believed to have been a chant used at least one hundred years earlier. 

 

The structure of the hymn is simple and reflects most of things written during this period.  A four line stanza composed the verse with a two line stanza being the chorus.  Today the chorus of a song is the part everyone knows and generally sings the loudest.  In the sixteenth century, though, such a two line stanza was known as the burden because it carried the song from verse to verse.  The difference between “chorus” and “burden” would be…you guessed it, subjective, in our modern times.

 

Generally about now, parents are running out of patience and time for upcoming holiday gatherings and chores is in short supply.  Meanwhile, children seem to pull energy out of thin air.  One does not have to believe in the meaning behind Christmas to feel the effects of the season.  As winter sets in, people are taking every chance they can to complete outside chores and get ready for that “long winter’s nap” known as “too cold to be outside” weather.  While lights adorn buildings and houses twinkling with glee, tempers become frayed and money woes abound.  There seems to never be enough time, money, or grace.

 

In selecting the themes for this blog, having decided to organize my posts by using a liturgical calendar, I tend to be a little bit tongue-in-cheek about things.  During Epiphany one year, Epiphany being the liturgical season which speaks of the recognition by nonbelievers and those not of the same culture of the true purpose of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth, I wrote about the epiphanies men and women had.  These epiphanies led to some very common and amazing inventions.  One Advent, the first or beginning season of the liturgical calendar year, I wrote about creation stories, those tales about the first people and first lands.  Last year, though, I went to the very heart of Advent for my theme.

 

Advent is known as the time to prepare and it is fitting since it falls at a time of year when the season are changing.  Depending on which hemisphere you are in, you might be preparing for summer or for winter.  Regardless, change is coming and we need to prepare.  Once we have prepared, though, what comes next?  After you get up and get ready each day what needs to happen once you are at your destination – whether it be the kitchen counter in your own home or the office?

 

The answer to that is the true meaning of our living.  It is not just the coming – the coming of a new day or the coming of a Messiah – of which Advent bespeaks.  Advent is about grace, grace received and grace shared.   We do not all perceive nor share that grace the same, however.  For some an incident is a time for rejoicing and for others, a period of mourning.  Advent reflects not just that time during December but actually every day of our living.

 

Subjective refers to personal perspectives, feelings, or opinions entering the decision making process.  It is easiest to understand this approach if we use an example of investing in stock.  Let’s say your best friend owns a company and you want to invest in it because you like your friend.  Objectively, though, the company is not performing very well. 

 

Investors that are successful make their decisions based on hard analysis of the facts. They select a stock option with the best return for their money or that best meets their objectives. When making investing decisions it’s always important to make sure you think about and consider whether you are letting subjective thoughts work their way into the process.

 

Should we use that same approach when investing in people, when we engage in a relationship with others?  The empirical approach to grace is based upon observation while the classical was based upon known theory.  For instance, if someone slapped another with a glove in the sixteenth century, it was considered an invitation to a duel.  Using a classical response, the two would meet at a specific time and place and with chosen weapons.  Using an empirical response, the person slapped would select said weapons based upon his opponent’s skill with the options.  A subjective approach might consider the reasons for the slapping and one’s basic instinctive feeling about the sincerity of the fight.  After all, a perceived insult might just be a matter of misunderstanding.  This is where grace would be of great help.

 

History is full of pages and pages of interactions without grace evident at all to the observer.  To those participating, it might be all about grace, grace and respect.  This week I hope you take a moment to truly approach your situation and the detours life places in front of you.  I hope you can find the grace in such situations, not just for yourself but for everyone involved. 

 

It is easy to get angry and to mourn.  It takes courage to find the joy and rejoice. Life, like Advent, is about grace, grace received and grace shared.    Faith and generosity overcome impossibility.  Poverty and persecution reveal glory.  Life is a journey of believing, in spite of detours. 

 

 

Me, Myself, and…Who?

Me, Myself, and…Who?

Pentecost 41 

 

Recently, a friend sent a picture of two different detour signs.  One had the word written all in capital letters while the other used both upper and lower case letters.  They asked why I thought two different states had the word on their signage written differently.  Does this evoke different response?  Is one less stressful than the other? 

 

My question to you is this:  When you think of who you are, do YOU use capital letters?  Most of us do not.  Why?   Generally speaking, the greater part of mankind is not that confident; we lack the self-love to think of ourselves in capital letters.

 

If you were around in the 1960’s, you probably were identified by the type of music you played.  Elvis Presley had brought hip grinding rock and roll to the masses but there were still those who enjoyed the last of the Big Band sound.  The end of the decade and Woodstock brought about a plethora of rock bands and in the next twenty years, they evolved into hard rock, heavy metal, and yes, even the teeny bop culture which then led to the pop culture and rap music.

 

One of those bands of the 1960’s began life as a group known as The Detours.  A group of school chums who considered themselves misfits, music gave them an identity.  Their band name was much too similar to another group, Johnny and the Detours, though, so a new identity was needed.  The new name illustrated one of their most popular songs and gave an entire generation their identity.  We have The Who to thank for the essential theme of today’s post – Who are you?

 

“There’s a place where I know you walked; the love falls from the trees.  My heart is like a broken cup; I only feel right on my knees.”  Pete Townsend’s lyrics speak to all of us and they ask the same question I am asking you today.  “Who are you?”  More importantly, is your answer written in capital letters?

 

Someone once told me to live so that each night, when I washed my face, I was neither ashamed nor afraid to look in the mirror.  In other words, I should live so that I liked the reflection I saw in the mirror.  That is not always as easy for us as it should be.  Personal accountability can be a hard thing.  Life is not easy.

 

One of my favorite comments from last year was someone who stated they were descended from the Sami.  I liked it because first, they obviously had read the post that day because it discussed heritage.  Secondly, I liked it because it taught me something; it taught me who the Sami were.  Like many people, I did not know the first families or tribes of the area we call Norway.  Each December I enjoy the representations of reindeer and the elves that attend to them.  This past December I went with family members to see some actual reindeer, animals that are not common where I live.  I AM

 

The Sami people are the first indigenous culture of northern Scandinavia.  Once oppressed and their culture in danger of dying out completely, the Sami (who have also been called the Lapps) are now the strongest of all aboriginal cultures in the world.  Their original habitat includes countries we call Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia although they never really had their own sovereign state.  Most of the world’s first families do not believe they own the land; they believe they are the caretakers of it.

 

Similarly, we do not own ourselves.  Much like the Sami, we are merely the caretakers of our bodies and regretfully, some of us do not do very well with that.  Nonetheless, we are the gardeners of our souls.  It is up to us to develop and determine who we are.  The really neat thing about gardens is that crops need to be rotated in order to reap the best harvests.  We are not locked into being just one thing; we are a beautiful tapestry of many things woven into one life.

 

“Who are you; hu hu hu hu?  Who are you; hu hu hu hu?  I really wanna know.”  All too often we find ourselves detoured on our way to being that great adult we dreamed of as a child.  Suddenly we find ourselves living a life that is much different from that we had imagined. 

 

omewhere along the way, life threw us a detour.   Perhaps you changed your dreams to follow the path of the detour.  Perhaps you are simply waiting for the chance to get back on your way.  The best way to travel a detour is to go slowly but with determination.  In her book “The Single Woman: Life, Love and a Dash of Sass” Mandy Hale wrote: “Sometimes it takes a wrong turn to get you to the right place.”

Defining Moments

Defining Moments

Advent

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Why?

Why?

Pentecost 156

 

What we think is based upon what we know.  So first one has to establish what it is that we think we know.   Hegel once defined or described philosophy as “the study of its own history”.  I might define it as the “Why?” that follow the “What?” once the “What?” is answered.

 

Theology has been, throughout time, one way of answering the question “Where did we come from?”  In answering that, the study of the meaning of life, also known as metaphysics arose.  That  led to questioning the nature of gained knowledge, the study of which is called epistemology. 

 

Epistemology asks questions.  How is knowledge justified?  What are the sources of knowledge?  How do we know what we know?  Rationalism believed that pure reason was the most reliable source of knowledge while empiricism maintained that experience was.  Skepticism purported doubts about various states of knowledge based upon external world skepticism (How can there be a world outside our own minds?) and what is called “other minds skepticism” (We have no proof of other minds other than our own.).  It also led to solipsism which stated “Only I exist”.

 

Our living becomes quite ordinary in solipsism because while it may seem like it would boost one’s focus and lead to greater things, it really limits us.  The person who only thinks of themselves is limiting their world.  The one who believes the world revolves around him has made him or herself the center of everything.  They fail to fully understand their place in a very large world with many other beings.

 

Logic and philosophy became elements of our living as did a multitude of philosophers and theologians.  IN addition to the theological texts and the great many who interpreted them,  people studied Plato and Socrates, Aristotle and Descartes, Fichte and Schelling…. The list is plentiful.  These philosophers agreed and then disagreed with each other, though since they occupied different periods in history, not unilaterally.  All sought to explain life while the religions and spiritualities of the world explained mankind’s relationship with life.

 

Two years ago this blog delved into various religions and spiritualities.  In discussing these, we found certain common truths.  The rule for living one with another often called the Golden Rule is found in eastern spiritualties as well as the Old and New Testaments.  It is difficult to have any discussions about theology that do not include philosophy.  The” Why?” that religion seeks to answer is part of the greater “Why?” that philosophy seeks to determine.

 

Where we do go wrong, how we limit our world and our potential is when we believe a form of solipsism that says not “Only I exist” but rather “Only my thinking can exist”. We cannot seek respect and then fail to respect others.  We cannot believe only one group or gender deserves life, education, or basic human rights.  Man is a varied animals with different colors of mane, eyes, skin; different shapes of eyes; different lengths of body, noses, arms and legs.  What we look like is about as important to our classification and right to live as the various colors of a rose.  The hues of a rose are beautiful and interesting but they do not change the fact that it is a rose. 

 

We must reach out to others as we seek to discover “Why?”  Our lives should include helping others because then we truly help ourselves and answer not only the “What?” but also the “Who?” and the “Why?”  Once we realize we are all in this thing called life together and need each other, the future is not only limitless, it becomes extraordinary.

Living the Ordinary

Living the Ordinary

Pentecost 117

 

All this series we have discussed Pentecost, the “ordinary time” as it is known in liturgical circles.  A great many people have asked if I was trying to sneak in some theology into what they felt was a spiritually-based blog.  This blog does discuss spirituality and no, I am not trying to put forth some hidden agenda which targets one specific religion.  I would describe this blog as more a philosophical discussion but let’s talk about all three of these and how they relate to our everyday, ordinary existence.

 

A recent trend has been to pit religion against spirituality.  There is good reason for this but one might ask: “Is it all a matter of semantics?”  The millennials of today and Generation “Y” live and breathe in part according to meme theory.  Many theologians blame it for the decline in their effectiveness.  What is “meme theory” and from where did it originate?  According to Wikipedia, a go-to reference for all millennials, a meme is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.”  The word is an abbreviation of the word memetic, a theory of mental evolution based upon the work of Charles Darwin, coined by British evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins.  Opposing the religious culture, which most assuredly could be said to be based upon a meme, the term has become the battle cry of atheists who ironically, in their attempt to be different, have formed their own communion. 

 

The battle between philosophy and religion is not new.  After all, they both seek to answer questions about the world and mankind.  Religion attempts to do this through beliefs, faith, and revelation that is said to come from deities or one supreme deity/spirit.  Philosophy seeks to discover answers by way of reason and argument.  In the medieval time, some religious leaders often saw philosophers as threats and branded them heretics.  Eastern philosophy, however, developed alongside the philosophers of the time and Islam integrated philosophy with its theology.

 

Spiritual Healer Nancy Kern explains it this way: “Spirituality is a direct experience of God, by whatever name: Source, Spirit, the Light, All That Is, Allah, Shiva, Jesus. Religion is learned, passed on through families and cultural institutions, including churches. Religion is built around form, characterized by dogma, ritual and social interaction. Religious organizations are built around spiritual values, and also encompass politics, fund-raising and identity built on beliefs and practices. 

 

“Spirituality involves a direct experience of grace through a bodily knowing; no intermediary is required, no particular beliefs are necessary.  The ego cannot manage spiritual experiences or make them happen. Spiritual experiences range from beautiful to frightening, and may contradict religious and scientific beliefs.  Both religion and spirituality can involve prayer, contemplation and/or meditation. Both can be positive forces of healing from emotional and physical distress.  Spirituality can be encouraged through sensitivity to nature and the cultivation of awareness, gratitude and loving kindness. Religion can encourage and foster spirituality, but does not necessarily do so.”

 

The Native American culture believed that everything had a spirit, a soul that was to be respected.  AS such, everything had a life force.  Based upon the Asian continent from which these people originated more than thirty thousand years ago, their manner of living was based upon metaphysical questions answered by their spiritual and religious beliefs.  Eastern traditions were much more focused on concepts of virtue and how life was to be lived rather than stories of one or more deities. 

 

Philosophy seeks to rationalize reason for our actions.  Spirituality would ask if fulfillment could be achieved by the harming and enslavement of another and religion would quote love for one’s neighbor rather than plotting murder and mayhem.  In many of the instances of young people leaving a country of freedoms and opportunity, their reason is the same:  They felt disenfranchised. 

 

If we continue to make enemies of spirituality and religion, then we are looking at the future with very poor vision.  Today’s young adults live passionately and want a passionate faith.  Religion should be a living entity that embraces and uses their spirituality.  We must let each other breathe, embracing that which emboldens our spirit to live.

 

Confucius and Buddha faced life with philosophical leanings that have become spiritual bases for living for many.  Most major religions could also do the same.  We need to stop looking at things from an “either-or” perspective and start thinking how we can make a healthy salad of life – combining various and often different things together to work for the betterment of all living things. 

 

Judith Kelman once said: “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”  Many people think they know how the world is supposed to revolve.  As we enter the political seasons in countries all over the world, we are promised answers and new life.  Location is now the magic key nor is a change in leadership.  The answer lies with each of us.  It cannot be bought on a store shelf, found in a bigger house, snazzier vehicle, or even by hiding behind the walls of a religious entity. 

 

“Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter, so that the world will be at least a little bit different for our having passed through it. . . . What frustrates us and robs our lives of joy is this absence of meaning. . . . Does our being alive matter?”  Harold Kushner asked this in his book “When All You Ever Wanted Isn’t enough”. 

 

What makes our living and our thinking matter is us.  What gives life meaning is what we do with it.  The problem is not with our thinking, it is with our actions… or lack of actions.  The person who says he/she believes must be able to show evidence of it in his/her actions.  Life is not lived in a state of constant meditation or even reflection, though both have great value.  Life is lived in the daily grind.  Life is successfully lived when we embrace it and all that is living.  Life is ours for the living.  We just need to live it in a way that respects all and in such a way that encourages new life for everything and everyone.  When we do that, our existence will no longer simply be ordinary.  We will be living with intention in an extraordinary way that provides a better future for us all.