Can We Say “Goofed”?

Can We Say “Goofed”?

Easter 5

 

The actor Gale Gordon spent a great many hours on stage and the screen with actress Lucille Ball.  The actress had been told she could not act and encouraged to seek another career but she held fast to her dreams.  Gordon remembered her tenacity this way:  “Lucille didn’t care about messing herself up.  A lot of stars of her stature wouldn’t do physical comedy because they were afraid they’d get their hair messed up of they’d look bad.  I remember once she fell into a vat of green dye.  She came out with not only her hair green but everything was green!”

 

Fear of failure often detracts us from being mindful of the moment.  Every failure is a lesson if we would but look at it that way.  Wayne Dyer speaks to this.  “Life is all about learning and one of the most memorable ways of learning something is by messing up.”

 

Being mindful means being aware and that includes being able to admit when we make a mistake.  As far as I know, no one ever died from admitting they goofed.  To be certain, some mistakes can result in death and such a tragic consequence is a lesson we all need to remember. 

 

What about the everyday mistakes we make?  We need to acknowledge our shortcomings, learn from them, and then grow from them.  Life is too short to wallow in self-pity or bemoan being human.  Life is too precious not to make it be the very best we possibly can.

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson has a great approach regarding the subject of our inevitable messing up and goofs.  “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

 

Tonight I will go to bed giving thanks for the day I lived.  It will have included some goofs but also some smiles, some tears but also opportunity for joy, some escaped opportunity but also a chance to learn.  Hopefully, you will also be mindful of the entirety of your day and be thankful for the chance to have lived it.

Do We Really Want to Know?

Do We Really Want to Know?

Pentecost 92

 

Over the weekend I became embroiled in an argument of sorts with one of those “friend of a friend of a friend” things that often occurs on Facebook.  Someone had posted something about the National Anthem and posed a question:  Who knew it had four verses?  AS a musician, I have lost count of the hundreds of times I have played this national treasure.  Its complexity often belies the tune’s origin, supposedly as a drinking song.  I responded that I knew all the verses and that knowledge apparently made me both expert and target.

 

If you’ve been reading any of my blog posts over the almost three years this particular blog has been in existence, then you know that mankind took the leap to discover knowledge at the dawn of man.  In the creation stories of the Torah and the Bible, it was curiosity that led to sin and evil.  For many belief systems, education is still a privilege granted only to a select few or group.  Last year the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the youngest recipient ever, a young girl who dared to follow her dream to learn.  Education is both the key that unlocks life’s mysteries and also puts a target on one’s back at times.

 

Many things seem to defy basic knowledge.  The Christian tradition tells the story of a loving God, a virgin birth, the crucifixion of the child of that virgin birth, and his bodily ascension into heaven.  In a world with the philosophies of Anaximander, Aristotle, Boethus, Diogenes, Empedocles, Heraclitus, Leucippus, Parmenides, Plato, and Socrates, how, you might be asking, could anyone believe that a man could be born from a woman and some Creator spirit, live, be crucified, buried, supposedly return from the dead to walk among people for forty days, and then ascend to the afterworld?  After all, Leucippus came up with the theory of atoms.  How did people think those atoms could be destroyed, rejuvenate themselves, and then vanish into thin air?

 

As it gained momentum, the Christian Church, the Roman Church of the time, became the vessel for all learning.  Scholasticism became the method of teaching and it used strict dialectical reasoning to teach Christian theology and to interpret the ancient classical texts of learning.  Using Aristotle’s approach of determining knowledge through our senses proved too down-to-earth for church leaders who felt it took away from the mystery of faith.

 

Nicholas of Cusa proposed something he termed “learned ignorance”.  According to Nicholas who was also known as Nicolaus von Kues, all knowledge came from “the One”, “the Good’.  God, according to Nicholas came before that so it was impossible for a mere human to truly know God.  Nicholas believed that one should use reason to understand this ignorance and that we only knew of God what we could through the “learned ignorance”.

 

Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus took exception with the Roman Catholic doctrine and felt one’s personal relationship with God was much more important that the doctrine of the Roman Church.  The knowledge of philosophy he saw as a hindrance to the basic human traits emphasized in scripture and preached by Jesus.

 

Knowledge had not been seen as evil by all belief systems, however.  Mohammed founded Islam and by the seventh century it had spread from Arabia to Asia and Africa and then to parts of Spain.  Rivaling the empire of Christian Europe, Islam entered into what is known as its “Golden Age” around 750 ACE.  This period lasted for more than five centuries as learning and discovery was encouraged in the field of math, sciences, and scholarship.  Major advances were made in astronomy, alchemy, medicine, and mathematics and Aristotle’s philosophy was smoothly integrated with Islamic tenets of faith.

 

The Islamic philosopher Avicenna proposed a “flying man” theory which married knowledge gained from our senses and reason.  He offered that a man flying blindfolded and floating in the air would still know he had a soul or self, even though his senses were not giving him any information.  According to Avicenna, one’s mind and body coexist but as distinct entities.  He also suggested that if this is true, then the mind or soul existed in a different realm than the body and did not die when the physical body did.

 

Not surprisingly, Avicenna’s theories were not accepted by all.  Al-Ghazali was an Islamic philosopher who felt such beliefs were contrary to the Qur’an.  The Iberian Islamic philosopher Averroes or Ibn Rushd disagreed.  He argued that the Qur’an presented metaphorical truths and that, instead of any incompatibility between religion and philosophy, philosophy could be used to interpret religion.  This way of thinking was similar to the paradoxes of Plato.  They also greatly influenced Christian philosophy of the period.

 

The conquests by Christian crusaders in the eleventh century are seen by many as an unjust invasion, a feeling easily and perhaps understood.  These invasions introduced Europe to the knowledge of the Islamic world, though, and soon the influence of such spread throughout Europe, leading to the Renaissance and the losing of control over scholarship and knowledge previously held by the Roman Church.

 

Whether you believe in the ascension of a man who previously presented as a mere mortal or whether you fail to believe in any religion, one cannot deny basic principles of life and our living.  We all need air to breath.  Plants use photosynthesis to convert light energy into chemical energy and then into carbon dioxide which is released into the atmosphere and creates the air we breathe.  The plants in my garden in one hemisphere are not the same plants I had when living in another.  Yet, they still follow the same basic processes in their growth, their blossoms or fruits, their harvest, their period of dormancy, and their value.

 

For one day a year, the Christian Church celebrates the ascension of the central figure in its teachings.  yet, don’t we all live every other day in dissension and the descent of knowledge?  Certainly my stating a few facts about the National Anthem led to great dissension by one “friend”.   What I do or do not do today affects my tomorrow.  The Hindu mystic Swami Vivekananda says “The will is not free; it is a phenomenon bound by cause and effect, but there is something behind the will which is free.”  American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “Shallow men believe in luck.  Strong men believe in cause and effect.  Cause and effect, means and ends, seed and fruit cannot be severed; for the effect already blooms in the cause, the end preexists in the means, the fruit in the seed.”

 

Mankind has always been curious and that curiosity has fueled a quest for knowledge that continues today.   Regardless of the period of history or location on the planet or even in space, we are constantly learning as we live.  Francis Scott Keys penned the verses to the National Anthem of the U.S.A. while actually a prisoner aboard an enemy ship, a ship he had boarded to broker peace and hopefully, a cessation of the fighting.  “Oh, say; can you see?”  Knowledge is out there for us to discern but only if we are willing to see.  Knowledge takes us out of our comfort zone.  Do we really want to know or are we too willing to stay comfortable in our ignorance?  Is that truly living?

 

 Living in the northwest part of the USA, young adult author Richelle Goodrich sums up our ascent into living and the subsequent knowledge gained from it this way:  “You are here to make a difference, to either improve the world or worsen it. And whether or not you consciously choose to, you will accomplish one or the other.”

 

 

A New Day; A New Story

A New Day; A New Story

Pentecost 48

Today history will be written. New myths will be created. Today we will not spend time in rehashing old living. Today is for living the here and now. It is, after all, the only door to the future.

Bold words, huh? Perhaps they are also a little bit scary. Tomorrow we will return to the legends the Greeks told but today, today is for the legend of you, the story that you yourself will write.

The Greeks lived with their gods and goddesses. They did not keep them on some high mountain, objects to be worshipped only. Their deities often posed as humans or animals. They interacted with mankind and mankind interacted with them. Their names became common words, not whispered only in hallowed halls. This interaction gave them life and gave their stories heartbeats that continue to be heard today, pulses that keep the myths alive.

Today is a blank canvass. Your story is yours to write. Interact with the world and live. Be the hero or heroine of your own wonderful, magical myth, the story of you today. How do you start? Share a smile. Give a hug. Hold the door open for someone, not just the elderly or the infirmed. “One of the secrets in life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others.” Lewis Carroll knew that each day we fall down the rabbit hole called life. He became the legend known as the author of many poems and the children’s classic, “Alice in Wonderland”. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, famously penned: “I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” The he was Charles Dodgson; now he was Lewis Carroll.

“Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him.” Ralph Waldo Emerson knew the value of the individual.

Today write your own story. Maybe one day we will read it; maybe not. What matters is that you live the life you want. This is your day to become what you desire. Today’s myth is the story of you.

Common Threads

Common Threads – Ties that Bind
Epiphany 43

My first experience with FaceBook was due to a position I had which involved people of the ages 16-35. Shortly after it was opening to the public, All of the young adults with whom I interacted in my career seemed to have FaceBook pages. If I wanted to maintain credibility, I needed one as well. Shortly After setting up my page, I started to get friend requests. One friend continually showed up and, once a week or so, would post a friendly nondescript greeting of sorts. Not knowing this person, I became a bit leery and eventually stopped using FaceBook. As it happened, I later learned that, as one of the first “public” users, that friend was none other than the founder of FaceBook, Marc Zuckerberg. Knowing the importance of connections which had led him to starting his Internet sensation, he was simply keeping in touch with those first general users.

Connections were also important to the scientists who worked on experiments at CERN, the Geneva, Switzerland laboratory dedicated to the study of large particle physics. CERN is an acronym which stands for Council European for Nuclear Research. Sitting on the borders of France and Switzerland, it was founded in 1952 for the express purpose of understanding the nuclei of the atom. Now often know as the European Laboratory for Particle Physics due to its expanding fields of research, CERN hosts many scientists from all over the globe. They arrive at CERN to participate in experiments and often, after they return to their home countries, are still evaluating and developing their research. Communication between the scientists and CERN was paramount and often inhibited by available means of communication.

In the countries of England, France, and the United States of America, electronic computers became of great interest and the US Department of Defense began awarding contracts to companies to develop packet networking, a means by which computers could communicate with each other. By the late 1960’s a system had been developed where different networks of computers could communicate with each other. This internet working system would become known as the Internet. In 1982 Internet protocols were developed and by the late 1980’s commercial internet service providers began advertising for customers.

Answering a need for connections between the scientists at CERN, Tim Berners-Lee had a bright idea. A software engineer from the United Kingdom, Tim knew all too well the difficulties faced by the affiliated scientists at CERN. He also knew the potential of the number of computers connected via the Internet. In 1990 he offered a proposal to his bosses at CERN that outlines a specific plan to make the Internet available and useful to people in general. His proposal was rejected but Berners-Lee believed in his idea and persevered. Within a year his World Wide Web became the first web page editor. By 1991 the public beyond the walls of CERN became members of the World Wide Web community. In two years CERN announced the World Wide Web technology would be available to anyone, free of charge.

Today the three technologies Tim Berners-Lee developed to be the core foundation of the Web still exist. We are all connected through the publishing format known as HyperText Markup Language or HTML which allows us to create documents and include links to other resources, articles, and documents. Just as we need to know a house number when attending a function at someone’s house, items on the Web needed an address. Berners-Lee developed a URI or Uniform Resource Identifier which is specific to each particular item on the web. Additionally, items are retrieved via the HyperText Transfer Protocol or HTTP.

In a world where peace seems like an impossible pipe dream, the World Wide Web and the World Wide Web Consortium are proving that connectedness can lead to productive and cohesive partnerships. Known as W3C, the World Wide Web Consortium was another epiphany of Tim Berkers-Lee. It acts as a meeting place for standards and guidelines regarding the Web. While only twenty-five percent of the world’s population currently uses the World Wide Web, the four billion smart phones currently in use enabled to access it will surely increase its functional ability and effectiveness.

The advantages and effects of the connectivity of the Internet are debated daily in most countries on the planet. William Ellery Channing believed in the power of being connected. “Others are affected by what I am, and say, and do. So that a single act of mine may spread and spread in widening circles, through a nation or humanity. Through my vice I intensify the taint of vice throughout the universe. Through my misery I make multitudes sad. On the other hand, every development of my virtue makes me an ampler blessing to my race. Every new truth that I gain makes me a brighter light to humanity.”

The positive effects of the World Wide Web have enabled doctors to cure people half way around the world. News reports are seen by millions within seconds of events happening. A soldier stationed in a way zone can watch the birth of his child. Unfortunately, the vices Channing mentioned are also occurring via the Web. Bullying has become the popular comment language for teenagers. It is also coupled with violence and has become a way for dissident groups to garner attention.

We should not, however, mistake the ability to publish something on the World Wide Web as acceptance nor power. Those who belittle or behead publicly have resorted to the Web because their cause has no real power to exist on good merit. The connectivity of the Web does offer a chance for peace, a chance for all parties to be recognized, a chance for improvement, respect, and an overall improvement in the basic human condition of all mankind.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “The purpose of life seems to be to acquaint a man with himself and whatever science or art or course of action he engages in reacts upon and illuminates the recesses of his own mind. Thus friends seem to be only mirrors to draw out and explain to us ourselves; and that which draws us nearer our fellow man, is, that the deep Heart in one, answers the deep Heart in another, — that we find we have (a common Nature) — one life which runs through all individuals, and which is indeed Divine.”

In the forty-three epiphanies we have discussed this Epiphany season, none benefitted only one person or even just one culture or country. Each invention or concept was a new approach which led to even greater events or accomplishments. The word epiphany comes from the Greek “epiphaneia” meaning an experience of sudden or striking realization. Most of the epiphanies we have discussed were the result of several attempts, failures turned into successes. Imprisoned for what was supposed to be the rest of his life, Nelson Mandela was released and became the president of his country. When asked how this could have happened, he explained his own epiphany of freedom: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”