Pentecost 168

Pentecost 168
My Proverbs 18

Relationships: Angles of Observation

An angle is where two lines come together. That is probably one of the simplest definitions I will ever post! The word comes from the Latin which meant corner. They could have decided to use a word meaning intersection but instead they selected the word for corner. A relationship is where two lives come together. We intersect with others on a daily basis but we seldom consider each interaction or intersection an actual relationship, do we? It is that coming together of two that forms the relationship.

In 1992 author and relationship counselor Dr. John Gray published a book entitled “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Your Relationships”. IN discussing the corner where men and women meet and in attempting to help improve that corner or relationship, Dr Gray employed something in math called a parallax.

A parallax is the difference in the position of an object when it is observed from two different positions or two different lines of sight. The parallax is then measure by the angle between the two observational sites. Not being a mathematician, I am certain my description of the definition is very simplistic but it basically is valid. Take for instance two people in the front seat of a car. The driver is checking the speedometer from his/her location which is directly in front of the steering wheel and needle of the speedometer. The passenger, however, is in the passenger seat and is viewing the speedometer at a different angle. The driver may be going exactly forty-five miles per hour but to the passenger it can seem either forty or fifty miles per hour, based upon the design of the dashboard, the height of the passenger, how the passenger seat is placed, etc.

In a relationship, two people often are discussing the very same thing but can seem to be speaking a different language; hence, the title of John Gray’s book. While a mathematician might consider it the angle of observation, Dr Gray refers to this “different language” as a part of who the man and woman are, their basic DNA of life: ““Men are motivated when they feel needed while women are motivated when they feel cherished.” This should not be interpreted as all men are the same or all women will respond and react the same. As Gray writes, “We are all unique individuals with unique experiences.”

Even when the angle or corner is between two people of the same sex, differences arise. All too often we define “normal” as “typical” and fear anyone or any opinion that is not what we expected or would think ourselves. The normal is actually the sum or average of all the parts. It is not to imply that anyone differing from that average is wrong. In order to have an average between sets of numbers, you must, by definition, have a list and that list, again by definition, must have a top number and a bottom number. Sometimes it is best to be the top and sometimes best to be the lowest number. Typical, however, is simply similar to what is expected. It is, by definition, nothing unique or creative or newly discovered. A small toddler pouring milk into a cup will typically spill the milk. This does not mean the toddle is clumsy; it simply means he/she is not yet in full control of every muscle group.

At some point, our angle of observation has become based upon fear. We disdain anyone that does not meet our expectations. In doing this, we are not allowing ourselves to grow and severely limiting any relationships we may have, regardless of what type of relationship they are. “If we are to feel the positive feelings of love, happiness, trust, and gratitude,” states John Gray, “we periodically also have to feel anger, sadness, fear, and sorrow.” We tend to disallow the right and need of relationships to grow by going through various stages. Again quoting John Gray from his 1992 book: “We mistakenly assume that if our partners love us they will react and behave in certain ways—the ways we react and behave when we love someone.”

An angle is not simply a straight line and we should not expect our relationships to be one either. Whether our relationship is between friends, partners, heads of states, or casual store clerk to customer, they all need to be based upon respect of the other person as a unique individual with their own set of unique responses. To paraphrase Gray, when two parties in a relationship are able to accept and respect their differences, then the relationship can flourish. Hopefully nations can learn this very valuable lesson and future beheadings, murdering of school children, and other atrocities can cease.

Together we will still face enemies, like weather-related disasters, or bacteria-based plagues like Ebola. We don’t need to kill each other. Life with its challenges provides the world with enough things to overcome. We need to embrace our angles and make our intersections places of peace. A life lived in harmony is truly the best relationship of all.

My Proverb 18

It is not my face and yet the heart beats the same. It is not my voice and yet the words are my dreams. They are not my tears and yet they show my pain. It is not my reflection and yet it is my life. When will we really see?

Pentecost 145

Pentecost 145
My Psalms 145

Problematic Faithfulness

Yesterday loyalty was discussed; actually, it was introduced. Today’s post continues on the theme of loyalty, in part two of what will most likely be a three-post discussion. It is a fitting topic and one that resounds through most spiritual and religious writings. Loyalty is not a one-way street. It is a relationship, a give-and take action. At a time when murders are being committed both by those who have been bullied and those who would bully, the key component in all is loyalty.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has discussed this subject in articles published in 2007 and updated in 2013. Loyalty is described as a problematic virtue. “It is constituted centrally by perseverance in an association to which a person has become intrinsically committed as a matter of his or her identity. Its paradigmatic expression is found in friendship, to which loyalty is integral, but many other relationships and associations seek to encourage it as an aspect of affiliation or membership: families expect it, organizations often demand it, and countries do what they can to foster it.”

While there is much panic and hysteria concerning the recent Ebola virus outbreak which has spread from Africa to countries that sent doctors to assist medically, the numbers of those outside the African continent who have died from the disease is small. Certainly even one death is one too many. One life lost diminishes all mankind. However, while one person in the United States has died from the Ebola virus in the past year, almost three thousand percent more have died from gun violence. That number includes those in the process of committing a criminal act, those who have committed suicide, and those who were victims of another. It also includes school shootings. This is not, for this discussion, a matter of gun ownership. It is a matter of the heart of the problem. People feel a loyalty to friends and do not speak up when another is being bullied. People want to “fit in” and so participate in senseless acts of violence to earn “street cred” or gang affiliation. Still others have become addicted and lose all rational thought except for one – obtain the object of their addiction.

The student who has seen another bullied, who knows another’s claims of retaliation but does not speak up is putting their loyalty with their peers and not with their future. The kid whose only family is the gang on the corner has misplaced loyalty in thinking the group actually cares about him or her when, in reality, they only see him or her as a means to an end, a commodity and not a person. The addict knows only one loyalty and that is to his or her drug of choice. The criminal who cheats, lies, or steals and ends up using a gun to defend himself has put loyalty in either material things or an over-inflated ego.

The fickle nature of man is what the entire Torah or Old Testament is based upon and very little has changed as man has evolved through time. Called fealty in the Middle Ages, where one put one’s loyalty often determined one’s status, one’s very future – if there was one or not. Align with the wrong clan leader or tribe, later king or dictator, and death was a certainty.

Quoting again from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “As a working definition, loyalty can be characterized as a practical disposition to persist in an intrinsically valued (though not necessarily valuable) associational attachment, where that involves a potentially costly commitment to secure or at least not to jeopardize the interests or well-being of the object of loyalty. For the most part, an association that we come to value for its own sake is also one with which we come to identify (as ours).”

The argument regarding loyalty and whether it is a value or a sentiment is also longstanding. Are we loyal because of the ethics and morals behind our decision? Are we loyal because we believe in that to which we have pledged our loyalties? Does one become loyal based upon the benefits of such a decision? Does loyalty become displayed in preferential treatment and behavior?

Stop ten people on the street and ask for an example of loyalty and you will get answers ranging from religion to sports. Ask those same ten people about the most loyal animal and you will probably get ten similar answers – a dog. Is a dog loyal because of its nature or affection with its owner or does the dog realize that loyalty will provide it with a better and safer life? If a dog is swayed by a burglar and a thick t-bone stone, is the dog being disloyal to its owner or has the training been lax? Perhaps the dog is swayed because of his/her nature in being a carnivorous animal that likes to eat steak?

To what do you pledge your loyalty? Is it you faith, a sports team, or a brand of six-inch fashionable heels? Where do we draw the line at how loyal we are? What about our misplaced loyalties? Can being loyal mean giving up good judgment? When we do exercise our good judgment, is there a price to pay and will we be seen as disloyal? When is it okay to be a “snitch” or a “whistle blower”? Again, from Stanford: “…The case of whistle blowing illustrates not only the importance of loyalty to many organizations but also the care that needs to be exercised when it is claimed that obligations of loyalty are justifiably overridden or forfeited.”

As a humanitarian, loyalty can be a tricky thing. Those who gave up vacation time and traveled to Africa to assist medically with the Ebola epidemic have returned home to a less than hero’s welcome. The have followed their Hippocratic oath, thought of their [global] fellow man, and shared their wisdom and loyalty to mankind only to return home and be labeled thoughtless, stupid, putting others in harm’s way. Their loyalty to living and refusal to panic has not given them the country’s support. Have we been disloyal to them?

Those who are loyal to a religion or spirituality, expect that loyalty to garner them something in return. The whole concept of prayer is a loyal relationship between one’s Great Spirit or God and the individual. Is that an equal relationship? Are we as loyal to that Creator as we expect Him/Her to be to us? Do we then share that loyalty with our fellow man? Where does responsibility enter into our loyalty?

My Psalm 145

You are greatness, Lord.
You are goodness, O God.
You are worthy of my loyalty.
And yet …..
There are those who mock my beliefs.
There are those who ridicule my behavior or lack of certain ones.
I cannot touch you.
I cannot see you.
Is believing enough?
The faithful know the truth of who and what you are.
The wind blows your mercy to all.
The sun reflects your goodness.
The world blossoms as your love and forgiveness do for those who know you.
You believe in me, Great Spirit.
I believe in you.
Help me to live a life responsible to such beliefs.
Let me not follow the world but your teachings.
Let my every breath whisper your name
And my every action be a reflection of your love for all.
Help me to be loyal to what I believe and responsible in my living.

Pentecost 100

Pentecost 100
My Psalm 100

Noise of Joy

As a supervisor, it would not take anyone working with me or under my supervision to learn that mistakes were best discovered after 9 AM. I did not mind someone making a mistake first thing when they got to work, nor did I mind realizing an earlier day had mistakes. What I minded was someone messing up the miracle of the new day.

I am an optimist. I do not think only good things happen. I do not think I have to like the reality of the present moment. What I firmly believe in is that all things can have a positive outcome. Sometimes that is a really difficult thing to believe. Yet, I think something good can come out of the greatest despair and tragedy. I see no point in wallowing in pain. It doesn’t burn calories. It doesn’t make one younger. It solves not a single problem and, in fact, is extremely unhealthy. Sometimes, the only good thing I can find in a person is that at the end of the day they go home to some other abode. Still, their life has purpose. After all, all life has value. Even the peskiest mosquito or fly has a purpose. [Having spent the last several minutes trying to coax one into the out of doors, I would find it hard to give that purpose, but perhaps it will be to make the peace I now have more valuable!]

Psalm 100 is my most favorite psalm. I memorized it for a school play at the illustrious age of six and have never forgotten it. “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!” It is a great way to start one’s day.

Okay, so maybe starting the day like this isn’t quite your style. My personal mantra for each and every day is this: “This is the day which the Lord has made. Rejoice and be glad in it….or else!” Give me garbage first thing in the morning and be prepared for the worst, biggest, most cutting response I could possibly give. Why? Is it because I’ve rested all night and have an excess of energy to expend? Is it because I feel that the person making the mistake is a sorry excuse for a human being? Maybe I simply am just mad that no one can achieve my level of greatness? The answer is “None of the above”.

It is true that my response will be a hundred times worse first thing in the morning but it has nothing to do with my greatness level, which is something negative forty on a scale of one to ten! Neither is it based upon my impression of the other person not any energy I may or may not have. It has everything, however, to do with Psalm 100. No matter one’s position in life, one’s type of home, ‘one’s clothing, one’s level of education – We can all make a joyful noise. I think to do less, especially first thing in the morning, is to ignore the gift of life.

Noise is simply unwanted sound. There are thousands of definitions based upon your area of science and ways to determine what is acceptable sound and what is trash. Municipalities have, in the past thirty years, enacted noise ordinances. As any teenager can tell you, the simplest definition of noise is what parents do NOT want to hear! Anti-noise or sound, pleasing tones are used for everything from celebrations to ordinations and yes, even in grief. Pleasing sounds, also called music, can be everything from one lone folk singer walking through a wooded area strumming lightly on a guitar to a magnificent festal performance in some of the most stately and historic of all settings.

I firmly believe how we greet the morning is how we live the day. No matter our responsibilities, no matter our station in life, no matter whether we are trying to stretch our resources or full of everything possible, we are faced with a choice each new day. Do we live it finding joy or do we live it full of grumpiness. Life is messy and negative things are going to occur. How we give them priority, though, is ours to decide. My soul cannot be taken unless I give it. Do yourself a favor today and make a joyful noise. Walk with a “yippee!” in your step. Stand tall with a “glorious” in your posture. Extend a “joyful” smile to a stranger. Yeah, okay so a few people will think you are crazy. Odds are, they were going to be judgmental about something anyway. You have just made sure, taken control, of becoming a vessel of happiness, whether that person realizes it or not.

Today it is a Monday and even if your Monday is in the waning hours or maybe has already passed (some are reading this on the other side of the International Date Line), it is never too late to make a joyful noise. Someone gives you an insult, thank them. Once I was leaving classes from my first day at a new school. Walking out a classmate, a stranger to me, ran up and yelled: “You are the ugliest girl in the world!” Not having ever been taught how to handle such, I simply said “Thank you.” The young man ran off and I waited for tears to well up in my eyes. Suddenly I realized I was still standing and had just lived through every girl’s nightmare…and was still standing. The world had not ended and was, in fact, a pretty beautiful afternoon. I also realized a slow smile was breaking across my face. I felt empowered! It may have been an insult but – wow! What a great experience of empowerment! I remember that whenever I face something I’m unsure about, a possible “big gulp” moment. Even in this highly technical and sometimes automated world, we can still make a joyful noise.

So go out there and make a joyful noise! It doesn’t have to cost anything except a smile. Most importantly, smile inside. Walk with knowledge that you have value. No matter your spirituality, your faith, your religion – you have value.

The first light of the new day, the first sunrise of the United States of America occurs in Guam. I leave you with a choir from Guam. Whether you thank Jesus, G-D, Allah, Buddha, or read the Veda texts, know that you have the power to act and react with joy on this beautiful day. This is a new day – your day. Make it a good one!

My Psalm 100

Creator of all, today my eyes opened.
I am alive. Glory be! Thank you!
As I put my feet on the floor, may I walk in joy.
As I meet the day, may I greet all with a smile.
As I bid the day goodnight, may I be grateful.
Thank you, Great Spirit, for the good and the bad.
I hope I used the former to the best of my ability and the latter as life lessons.
The world knows the magnificence of its creator.
I hope to live each day as a testament to you, O Father.
Hallelujah! Life rocks!

Pentecost 89

Pentecost 89
My Psalm 89

Purpose: Covenant & Togetherness

It is one of the most beloved films ever made. “It’s a Wonderful Life” tells the story of a man depressed who considers ending his life. An angel appears and shows him how his life has value. I will confess that this film is not one of my favorites. It never has been. If you are a regular follower of this bog, you know that I am an optimist. You also know a recurring theme is that we all live together on this planet and so we should also all work together in that living. It seemed so simple to me as a child that I felt the theme of this film redundant.

The truth is that very few people realize the covenant we all share simply by occupying the same planet. The need for harmonious living is overlooked as a means for success – politically, emotionally, mentally, etc. In the early part of the twentieth century, the composer Igor Stravinsky challenged the way audiences viewed and understood the word harmonious. His use of the twelve tones of the musical scale caused an uproar and audience walked out of performances of his compositions before they reached the halfway mark. Today, however, he is considered one of the greatest if not the greatest composers of his time.

Over a year ago I was asked where my “spiritual place” was. The person asking held an annual trip to a specific locale in which they found solace and comfort. It was here, they stated, that they had found their spiritual place. Another spoke of their favorite vacation spot as being their spiritual place. My response was somewhat ill-received. I said my spiritual place was internal; I thought the goal was to make life a spiritual place.

I look back on that conversation and realize I could have explained myself more thoroughly perhaps but I still like my answer. I think it is important to find spirituality wherever we are. For me, that makes me live harmoniously in the situation. I don’t have to like it; I just have to stay within my belief system while living in and through whatever is going on around me.

Many religious people have a covenant with themselves and their preferred belief system. I hope that covenant provides harmonious living for all. That often is the sticking point. We tend to think we know what is best for us but at a sacrifice to others. Let’s use an example of immigrants. Every country has those moving in, either by choice or to escape a difficult situation or regime in their native land. Usually there are laws governing such moves. The goal is to harmoniously integrate these immigrants into the country’s socio-economic structure without detriments to the citizens already living there. While discrimination exists, today it has become focused on those illegally entering as immigrants, even though their need is just as great or perhaps even greater. We have to harmoniously find a solution that assists all while being true to humanitarian needs and existing laws.

How we live in covenant with our beliefs is evident in how we respect the beliefs of others. The person who lives by the saying “My way or the highway” is really being egotistical and arrogant. They may be perceived as self-confident but in truth, they are hiding their fear of being wrong and making a mistake by being autocratic.

The need to have the biggest and the best usually is accomplished by sacrificing the natural ecosystem. Habitats are destroyed to make way for larger housing developments because the houses themselves are no longer a standard 1800 square feet but 12,000 square feet. Water is used daily for automatic sprinkler systems, even in the midst of a thunderstorm. We claim that reducing pollution from factories means a loss of jobs and so end up having to choose between the economy or the environment. What we fail to see is that without a healthy environment, the workforce will die because man will not survive.

The concept of covenant is seen as Old Testament, a forgotten term for an out-of-date society. In truth, we all live in covenant every minute. Some of us do better at it than others. The mother who dutifully changed her baby’s diaper will one day need her own daily care. The wooded stream that depends on a healthy ecosystem to run clear must be respected and not turned into a backyard party locale.

None of us lives completely off the grid of life. We rely on each other and that does not lessen our stature as people to admit it. We may not be within touching distance but what we do touches each and every aspect of living on this planet every day. We walk in the footsteps of the past, leaving our own for the future. Every action paints the future.

My Psalm 89
Great Creator, you passed this world to us.
Your gift is life for all.
May I walk gently, doing good.
I want to leave vestiges of love in my wake.
I alone must account for my soul.
I cannot do it alone.
I need the world and it needs me.
Ever thing has value.
No breathe exists with a past and a future.
Nothing leaves without a trace.
The future is built on the past.
May the foundation of my life,
Built upon those of my ancestors of life and nature,
Be strong for my descendents.
Let me walk in harmony with nature and man.
Let me do all that I can.
Let me have purpose.