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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.  


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Ready-Made World

"When the Lord your God has brought you into the land that he swore to your give you—a land with fine, large cities that you did not build, houses filled with all sorts of goods that you did not fill, hewn cisterns that you did not hew, vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant—and when you have eaten your fill, take care that you do not forget the Lord..."
~ Deuteronomy 6:10-11

I've been thinking a lot lately about how humans are amazingly creative creatures.  Human imagination and physical skills are the source of so much that is around us.  Perhaps so much so that too often we take most of the wonderful things we call "modern conveniences" in our lives for granted. 

Actually many modern conveniences are imaginative adaptations of ancient ones.  Rarely does a truly new idea or discovery come along.  In so many ways we are given and live in a ready-made world. This is both a blessing and a curse.

The blessing is that as individuals and communities we don't have to start over. As the old expression goes, "we don't need to reinvent the wheel."  Countless intelligent, imaginative people have come before us who have discovered, adapted, created and left behind a world filled with art, industry, and institution.  Each of us is born into a ready-made world that we don't have to create.

This is where the curse comes in.  Because so much is handed to us from the beginning at least two dynamics come into play.  The first is that for many people so much is provided for us we lose our creative edge or use our imagination to create in negative or superfluous ways.  Our innate human creative nature becomes dull or dark.  The second dynamic is the assumption that everyone comes into the same ready-made world, that others have the same opportunities and advantages we have. The truth is some people's worlds are more ready-made that others.  In fact many people are born into worlds filled with the the dark, negative residue of the lost and misplaced imagination of others.

We live in a ready-made world.   Everything is a gift, even the imagination we use to create more. Many may think we hit a triple when we were actually born on third base.   Our challenge is to take the ready-made, innate, incarnate, God-given world and creatively adapt it for the common good of all which is the glory of God.