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April 2007
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June 2007

Morning meditation - Finding heaven or hell

There is an old wisdom story that tells the tale of three masons building a cathedral. When asked what work they are doing the first replies that he is doing very heavy, backbreaking, difficult work which is killing him while the second replies that he is working hard to provide income for his family whom he loves very much, and the third replies that he is working as part of a team to build something beautiful that people will enjoy for centuries to come, and which will bring greater honor and glory to God.

What is the "moral" to the story?

There could be many interpretations and lessons a person could take away from it, but perhaps the most insightful is the idea that the meaning we make from the events and activities in our lives can make all the difference in the quality of the lives we experience and that other people experience through us.

The third mason will have a much richer, more satisfying, and fulfilling life, and the second will gain much satisfaction from his sense of achieving purpose, and the first will continue to be miserable finding no purpose or higher calling to explain to himself the point of his labors.

Jesus said that the Kingdom Of God is within you. It is in our own mind and heart that we find either heaven or hell.


Morning meditation - Too ineffable for words but God is there for us

God whispers to us softly. He appeared to Moses in a burning bush, to the apostles in the rushing wind of Pentecost, as a luminous sun in the Tranfiguration, but to most mortals Godliness is manifested in quiet moments of awareness, in the inspirations that come from reflection, in the muse of creative impulse.

Our attempts to externalize the intuition are feeble, fragile, tentative, and also can be immensely satisfying and fulfilling. As St. Paul says, we look through the glass darkly and see the dimmest glimmer of that which we seek, simply a spark.

In the spiritual life we are grateful for whatever insight we can gain, whatever movement we can feel, whatever awareness we can achieve. We know the divine source is there, too ineffable for words, and yet articulation is attempted which always falls short and leaves us somewhat disappointed, unfilled. But deep in our hearts we know that God is there for us.


Morning meditation - Faith is a matter of the mind and heart

God is the force which cannot be named. We are told this repeatedly in the teachings of various religions and yet with human arrogance those same religions go ahead and attempt to name God claiming that their book is "revealed" and that it is the only "true" account of who or what God is.

These claims, of course, are ludicrous to the rational mind and so clergy counsel that these claims are a matter of faith. The more preposterous the claims the more revered is the faith which asserts their truth especially because of the lack of rational evidence. This Alice in Wonderland world of religious teaching and practice is what gives religion a bad name and holds back human progress and in some cases even actively sets it back.

In the spiritual life there is an awareness that "faith" is as much a matter of the heart as of the mind, and there is a willingness to suspend rational belief in favor of the symbolic, the iconic, the metaphor which points to deeper truth than the rational mind alone can comprehend. However, literalness and inerrancy of scripture is fueled by the delusional beliefs of fundamentalists who pervert and subvert the religious enterprise by coercing ignorant people to give up critical and rational analysis of the truth.

When fear of truth leads to subjugation, oppression, discrimination, mental, verbal, and physical attack you can be sure that the religious operation promoting such practice is off the rails, going down the wrong track, insecure, and of limited usefulness.

As the bumper stickers say, "Don't believe everything you think" and "My God is too big for any one religion."

In the spiritual life there is the recognition that faith is a matter of mind and heart and the mind need not be checked at the door of the church.


Rites of funerals - The Wisdom of Thomas Lynch

"A funeral is the way we get through a death. It has not changed fundamentally since the species began doing it forty thousand years ago. The fashions have changed, but the fundamental obligation of the funeral is to bear witness to a death in the family and to initiate remembrance - that's pretty much the same."

Thomas Lynch, "Limning the Rites of Death" in The Life Of Meaning, eds. Bob Abernethy, William Bole, p. 9

"I keep telling them that for every dead guy, there are 150 or 200 people to whom that death matters."

Ibid., p.9

"We have, in some ways, the women of the baby-boom generation to thank for the hospice movement. They refused to see their parents die surrounded by the machinery of intensive care and said that the would, as an alternative, bring their people home where they could really take care of them. Even though the medicine had to be downsized, humanity was upsized in that transaction, and I think all to the good."

Ibid., p. 10

"And funerals operate in the same way that poems do. They operate by metaphor and icon and liturgy and symbol."

Ibid., p. 11

Mr. Lynch offers his opinions of pre-sold funerals which tend to be negative. He argues that funerals are for the living not for the dead, and the living should not try to control the preferences of the survivors by pre-planning their own funerals. He tells the story of one man who left his son an extensive letter outlining his ideas of his funeral but then at the end of the letter the man has a disclaimer. Here is what Lynch says in part in the telling of this story.

"On and on he went in this letter. And at the bottom of the letter was a paragraph that I've always thought of as a kind of coupon. It was a disclaimer, and it said, 'I've felt, furthmore, that all this is done for the living. So do whatever you want. It won't bother me one bit.'"

Ibid., p. 13

Link: Thomas Lynch - Poet, Writer, Essayist and Funeral Director - Milford, Michigan.


Beyond tolerance - Can we be welcoming?

Welcome Marco Vissher, the managing editor of Ode Magazine, has a small article in the  June 2007 issue of Ode which is entitled, "Beyond Tolerance: Putting Up With People Is Not The Same As Welcoming Them". Mr. Vissher states, "But the word 'tolerance' implies a hidden ambivalence. It suggests a kind of reluctant acceptance of something we actually want to condemn or give a wide berth."

Rather than just "tolerate" diversity, perhaps we should "value" diversity. What would happen if we welcomed the different, the threatening, the other into our life?

If you are white, what would it mean to welcome the black, the Hispanic, the Asian? If you are black, what would it mean to welcome the white, the Hispanic, the Asian? If you are Christian what it would it mean to welcome the Muslim, the Jew, the Atheist? If a Muslim, what would it mean to welcome the Christian, the Jew, the Atheist?

Being human, differences will not only continue to exist among us, but will be celebrated among us, because as humans, whether we are aware of it or not, we crave diversity. We want things to be different, perhaps not too different, but different nonetheless, otherwise we are bored . We crave some stimulation.

It would be a better world as Mr. Vissher points out if we were not just tolerant, but actually welcomed the other who is different from us and came to value the variety rather than feel threatened by what we do not know or understand.


Morning meditation - The truth will make us free

How does one out of patriotism, chauvinism, parochialism, honor the immoral acts of willing participants in an immoral war? Immorality hides the truth, denies the truth, twists the truth to justify its own actions. Immorality loves deceit, innuendo, rationalization, justification, glamorization of base emotions to exalt inself against authenticity, sincerity, accuracy, and acknowledgement of right judgment.

Human beings have a longing to surrender themselves, to give themselves to something bigger than themselves, to something that transcends their individual ego, something that they have been told will give them honor and glory. However, when this desire gets manipulated for political ends, great evil ensues which brings the opposite: shame, dishonor, death, destruction, and horrendous guilt now medicalized as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

The human psyche unconsciously knows at a deep level when it is wrong, when it is off the path, when it has turned against what is just, good, and holy, and it is this knowledge which fuels the desire for repentence, for confession, for the deep examination of conscience which desires to exhume the truth.

There are those in denial who have such a vested interest in the status quo, in the need to be right, that to acknowledge the truth would lead to psychic suicide which is unbearable for the ego. The ego thinks it better for the spirit to die so that the ego should live rather than the opposite: that the ego should die so that the spirit should live.

Those living a spiritual life know that we should never fear the truth because the truth will make us free.