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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Competition

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.
~ Romans 12:9-10

The twelfth chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans is one of my favorite biblical passages (read the whole chapter here - it's short!).  The particular verse quoted above came to mind this morning while listening to a podcast of an interview with Simone Campbell of Nuns on the Bus.  In the interview she talks about a conversation with some of the most wealthy CEO's in the U.S. and discovering that their motivation was not making money but rather "winning" and that money just happened to be the standard of competition in our economy. Then, she mused about what it would be like if another standard were used.

That's when I thought of "outdo one another in showing honor (or kindness in many translations)."  Sister Simone's "what if" is, and has been for eons, the standard for moral, ethical, spiritual, and religious life as taught by just about every religious and spiritual tradition - love one another as if the other is you.
Paul steps up the standard a bit by saying "outdo one another" in this effort.

Now there's a "what if" for us!  Oh, how the world changes when love, kindness, and honor become the standard for competition and winning in our lives.

Let the games begin!


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Poison and Medicine

I just read a daily blog from Brian Johnson titled "Let's Change Poison Into Medicine."  In it he shares this wisdom from another author, Alex Lickermann:


“From the Buddhist perspective, I told him, all of us have the capacity to make use of any circumstance, no matter how awful, to create value. This ability to “change poison into medicine,” as it is known in Nichiren Buddhism, makes plausible the transformation of even the most horrific tragedy into something that enables us to become happier. . . .

... Believing in your ability to transform poison into medicine when you don’t know how, and often won’t except in retrospect, is difficult, I admit. But that’s the confidence you have to find. That’s the confidence that represents your greatest defense against discouragement.” 
Upon first reading this I couldn't help but think of the tiny pill I, and millions of other people, take every day that keeps us alive.  This tiny pill is commonly known as the drug Coumadine. It's generic name is warfarin.  That's right.  One of the most widely used and successful drugs in the world is actually a controlled dose of what was first developed as rat poison.

Without getting into the particulars of current events, let's just simply say there is a lot of poison in the world today.  Some of the most deadly poisons of human interaction are fear, hatred, greed, pride, and prejudice.  Perhaps it's time we as races, nations, communities, and individuals begin the difficult but necessary work of transforming our poisons into medicines.   

The very thing we fear may just be the thing we need to work with the most.  We just may need to first learn how to control the dose. 

   

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Nones, Dones, and Knots

There seems to be a lot of blogging, tweeting, talking, and just general buzz these days about different categories of people's religious and spiritual experiences.  We have the "nones" or "spiritual but not religious" people who do not identify with any institutional religions but still claim spirituality.  Closely related to nones are the "dones" who have been, and perhaps still are, part of institutional religion but are tired of traditional church and the way things have always been.  These people are done with business as usual and are looking for new ways to "do church," or "be church."

I want to add another category to this mix - the "nots."   The nots are the people with whom the dones are done with and the nones have nothing in common.  Nots are the people who are not going to change, as the old saying goes, "come hell or high water!"  Nots are happy right where they are and most of the time could care less about the nones or dones.  However, nots also see "the way things have always been" slowly slipping from their grasp.  So, they hold on tighter.

In many ways nots are like "knots" in a rope that get tighter or loose depending on which parts of the rope are pulled.  It you've ever untied a knot, especially a tight one, you know pulling at it from both ends only makes it tighter.  You must get in the middle of the knot and work or massage it, then pry and pull to create some space in the entangled loops.  Once this space is created the knot is easily untied.

I am not sure where all of this leads, except to suggest that perhaps the Nones and Dones of the world, whether in religion, politics, education, business or any other institution, may need to make sure they/we are not pulling from both ends and tightening the Nots.    

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Big Dots, Little Dots

To a worm in horseradish the world is horseradish.
~ Yiddish Proverb

Sometimes I wonder if there really is a dog.
~ The Agnostic Flea


When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?


Recently I've been pondering big dots and little dots.  What started this pondering was an observation in a blog by Seth Godin in which he writes, "If you were able to shrink the Earth to the size of a billiard ball, it would be the roundest sphere ever created. Hard to believe this if you live near the edge of the Grand Canyon."

Actually the "if" of Godin's statement is true when you consider our current ablility to see the earth from both outer and deep space.  The famous photo of the "blue marble" circa 1968 shows Earth as a round ball. Later photos from Voyger 1 show Earth as just another tiny dot in what we commonly call a "starry sky."  As for the Grand Canyon, compared to the entire surface of the Earth it is a tiny dot. And, when we stand on its edge we feel tiny in comparison.

This is where human consciousness and awareness comes in.  Our worlds are as large or small as we perceive them to be.   We can be like the worm or the flea above- oblivious to the vastness of Creation, or we can be like the Psalmist who dares to look beyond, wonder, and question our place in the Eternal.

As is common in the Psalms, the Psalmist immediately provides the answer to his/her own question: Yet you have made them a little lower than God...   Another way to translate this would be Yet you have made humans almost Divine.  Then reading a little further in Psalm 8 we discover it is our purpose, our job as little dots, to take care of the big dot.  Even so, we are reminded as "almost Divine" dots we are still little dots participating in Eternity.