Thursday, January 29, 2009
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009
On The Occasion Following the Inauguration of Barack Obama As President of the United States of America
This is very difficult for me to write about. It is now more than a week since the inauguration. I have waited to post this article in order to be certain I wanted to voice these concerns. On the day after the inauguration of Barack Obama, I was basking in the sense of hope and the realization of accomplishment that we have risen above the bigotry and racial separation that has long limited our full flowering as a people and as a nation. As I rode this wave of enthusiasm about the opportunities now open to us I was brought down to earth with a thud as I realized once again that not everyone feels the same as I do. For some this was still just another election. Still just politics. Still based in self-interest. I guess I am naïve after all. I guess it is too much to hope for that humanity could grasp the real potential for change that is before us. I realized that my path in life had perhaps prepared me to view life differently than many others.
Barack Obama stated in his address that 60 years ago his father would not have been served in a restaurant in the town where he, Barack, now stood taking the oath of office for President. I was so sad because I now realized and remembered what it was like those 60 years ago. I remember the hardship and deprivation and segregation. I did not experience it at that time. As a white person my whole culture and world offered a different set of opportunities and advantages that were taken for granted.
As a child growing up in Portland, Oregon I thought nothing about racial bigotry. I didn’t have any problems thinking about equality or non-equality. As far as I am aware my family exhibited none of the characteristics of racial bigotry. I was raised to respect the individual regardless of heritage or ethnicity. We had a black population and I had no problem with that. Today, I remember that one of the reasons I had no problem with segregation was because that black population was conveniently gathered in their own community. I did not see a black child in grade school. I did not see a black child in high school.
In the late 60s, as a faculty member at seminary, it became quite clear to me that two different worlds co-existed and not in harmony. The school had hired an imposing black man as an adjunct faculty member whose job it was to help bring awareness to our organization of ways we needed to face our white-based operations and open ourselves as Christians to the integration of ideas, cultures and persons within minority communities. It was a tense time of confrontation and it was not easy for many in the white community to understand what all the fuss was about. White people were guilty for the segregationist views that kept minorities in their place. White people often denied they had anything to do with such attitudes. They did not personally hold back minorities from progress.
This naiveté was brought clearly to my attention one day as I conversed with John, the black faculty member. I had asked why there was a general anger against all white people whether they were segregationist or people who never had any encounters with the black community. He said that because I was white I was guilty. It did no good to protest that I felt I had never acted in a way that harmed a black person. He made the point that as part of the white culture I was part of the limitation the black culture had to endure.
It is not my intention here to go into the subsequent details that helped me realize it is not enough to have not personally held segregationist ideas. One must begin a proactive intention to understand the issues and consciously change the cultural position in one’s thinking and acting. To the best of my ability I did that. Being able to attempt these changes among many other attitudinal changes I have made through the years brought me to a point where I tended more toward seeing the likenesses in others rather than the differences. I do not imply that I have perfected this process, but I do know that I have come a long way toward accepting others for who they are rather than requiring them to embody my expectations.
So, again, I have been given the opportunity to see that not everyone thinks as I do. Surprise, surprise! There is still work to do. No, not work to convince others to be what they are not. The work is to be clear about who I am and what I believe. As I make the effort to live what I believe and to share my thoughts and beliefs as clearly as I am able, perhaps others will find something that intrigues them to ask “Why does he believe that?” That, my friends, can be the beginning of openness to new possibilities.
I admit to times of deep discouragement and disappointment in my fellow human beings. That so many hang on to threads of thought that have never produced anything but disappointment is a mystery to me. My conclusion about that to this point is that we have given up our sense of personal responsibility for so long that now we believe it really is someone else’s job to take care of us. While we blame government and politicians for acting without regard for our well being, we at the same time tell them to stay out of our lives. A real community does not work that way. A live community, a successful community, calls on all members to participate in every way they are able. For that positive participation the community prospers and grows and all are served in harmony and satisfaction.
Something more is going on here than concerns about racism. There are major concerns about whether we can rise above politics as usual. It is time to ask ourselves in the context of personal responsibility and what we expect of each other and our government: “What do I believe and why do I believe it? Are my beliefs a positive contribution to my society?”
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
There is an old adage that says, “silence means consent.” After “Googling” this phrase I found numerous uses for it. However, what intrigues me is what is being consented to? Is the lack of response an indication that the ideas presented are just another ranting of a “whacko?” Is the silence recognition that some part or all of the idea is an exaggeration that does not fit anyone? Or, is the silence the acceptance of some theme that is recognized as common to many of us? How in the world does one know?
Ah, but there are those who dare to speak from their own hearts, whether it be in agreement or in lively discussion of opposing views. In this response there is hope for greater understanding for all parties in the discussion. Most of us read and find ourselves mentally or emotionally agreeing or disagreeing with the ideas presented. We may find a measure of enlightenment through the inner dialogue initiated by the reading.
Feedback can be a powerful beginning to broader understanding of a subject. Being willing to examine feedback can begin the process of opening the mind to yet another way of viewing an issue. Finally, however, feedback becomes most useful, in my opinion, when it motivates a person to behave differently as a result of the broader understanding. What do I do differently after receiving feedback that broadens my viewpoint? Do I listen more closely to others? Am I slower to react to the apparent judgment of others toward me? Am I more helpful or encouraging to those who need a lift up?
Each of us determines how we will respond to feedback that comes our way as a result of something we have said or done. Getting angry or feeling hurt by the criticism (feedback) from others will only make things worse. If we can look at feedback as informative rather than a judgment, the chances are good that we will benefit from a change in our behavior in some way. Such a change can result in more harmony, peace of mind and general well-being in life. Taking appropriate time to evaluate our feedback also gives us time to more appropriately consider the source.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Thankfully, I found my focus, not upon the days behind us and the acrimony around the misadventures of the last eight years. Rather, I truly took hold of the words of promise and hope spoken to us by our President.
As the President and Vice President and their wives bade farewell to George Bush and his family I wondered, how can I give voice to my emotions now? What can I say? I want to share, as do people all over the world, what it means to me to have witnessed this day and this incredible event. Finally, I realized I could not find the words. I could say only those that began this article. “Yes! Yes!” Then, the silence and a sense of composure embraced me. All is well now. All is well!
The road ahead will be extremely difficult. Many of us will join in making the sacrifices necessary in order for the country to regain its secure footing. The President acknowledged,
I say again, without naiveté, but with confidence, "All is well! All is well!”
“. . . the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America—they will be met.
“On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
“On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.”
Friday, January 16, 2009
The Adventure Begins!
On January 20, 2009 we inaugurate President Elect Barack Obama to office and America begins the long road toward restoring integrity and pride to government. As human beings we are all somewhat imperfect on the Divine scale of things, but there are those whose humility and desire to express the best that is within them stands out for all to see. We have entered a time where we all hope that the best and brightest have been chosen to serve and lead for the next period of our precarious progress.
There is so much to be done that it staggers the imagination of most of us who daily simply seek to stay ahead of the “reaper” who has already taken from many of us most of our resources and leaves us but paces ahead of total collapse. We have been in the long tunnel of despair for too long. Many have reached a point of desperation from which it might seem impossible to recover. Yet there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is an opening into new hope and new certainty about our survival. Even if hope is all you have, hold fast. Stand firm. You will survive!
In the great sigh of relief that has swept the nation since the election we have begun to feel the shift in direction. This is an adventure destined to include all of us, if only we bring our openness and commitment to expressing the highest and best that is within us. Anyone can sit on the sidelines and criticize what others are attempting. We are not asked to blindly follow anyone or any policy. However, hopefully we will give bold new ideas an opportunity to be nurtured long enough to fully flower before us.
Let the adventure begin!
(Photo by 3quarksdaily.blog)
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
As the container, so will be the shape of the substance filling it.
Just as water takes the shape of the container offered to be filled, so does the Essence of Life fill our mind and heart according to how we have shaped and developed them. I often write about our belief systems because they represent the key to the experiences we have. Our beliefs condition absolutely every part of our lives from how we choose and relate to our friends and families to how healthy, happy and successful we are. Our belief system shapes what we offer to be filled with the potential energy and abundance that is available for us to embody.
Obvious examples in the religious field range from fundamentalist Christians with their strong belief that we are sinners requiring redemption and salvation to so-called atheists who deny the reality of a higher power, whether named God or Spirit or whatever. If you believe in yourself as a sinner, you will act like one. The results will most likely be that you feel you do not deserve a better life and the hardships you experience are due to mistakes you have made in your relationship to God or “tests” that God gives you to prove you are a worthy person to receive His love.
On the other hand, if your beliefs are more like the potter working with the clay he shapes into his projects of art, then you will work with the understanding that God has given you every possible opportunity to succeed by providing His Infinite substance for you to shape and form by your thoughts, actions and reactions into a positive framework for living.
When the disciples of Jesus could not cast out the demon in a young boy and they came to Him asking why they could not perform the task. Jesus told them,
Your faith is too weak. I tell you this: if you have faith as a grain of
mustard-seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move hence to yonder place!” and
it will move; nothing will prove impossible for you.
-- Mat. 17:20 RSV
Jesus was not talking about the size of the mustard seed so much as He was talking about the pattern within the seed that indicated its potential to become the matured plant. In the same way, the acorn holds the pattern of the mighty oak. It is the pattern of our beliefs that determines what we are able to accomplish in our lives. That pattern is the shape of our container and the substance of God fills that shape accordingly.
In this connection I thought of persons who channel wisdom figures and it occurred to me that they present a framework or container of their understanding and that shapes the content of the information delivered. For example, Kathlyn Kingdon, who channels Master Djwhal Kuhl, has an extensive background in psychology, music, both as conductor and composer, and as an author and lecturer. It is natural that the information channeled from Master DK will utilize her experience, skills and vocabulary to present his lessons. In my opinion this accounts for the smoothness of the transition from Kathlyn to Master Djwhal Khul in her presentations. I must add, however, that the messages are not limited to the knowledge of the person serving as the channel. That knowledge is simply part of the framework or container through which the message is made relevant to the students.
So, what will be the shape of things to come for you? If you knew that you could decide how you wanted things to be, what would you decide? If you could go anywhere, where would you go? If you could be successful in achieving your goals, what goals would you set? You see, my friends, the shape of things to come depends on the choices you make in regard to the questions above. How you answer them begins the charting of your course. Your answers identify the container you hold out to be filled. In the final analysis this has little to do with religious doctrine. It is also more than simply positive thinking. No journey can begin without a goal and no hope can be fulfilled without the belief in the possibility.
Of course, there is always the choice for doing nothing different. You could continue to feel that things are out of your hands or that others control your decisions. I would urge you to consider the acorn and remember that you have the seed of Spirit within you. There is no limit to what you can bring forth in your life. What is required is that you believe in the possibilities and that you offer yourself as the container to be filled.
 See The Matter of Mind: An Explorer’s Guide To the Labyrinth of the Mind, Vajra Flame Foundation,
Friday, January 2, 2009
Being a fan of the music of Frank Sinatra, I thought of one of the songs he recorded, My Way1. In that song he offers a review of life many of us could identify with. Some of the words follow.
And now the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I’ll say it clear,
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.
I’ve lived a life that’s full.
I’ve traveled each and every highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
Of course, there are many ways to look at the words of the song. I do not think of it as bravado, but rather a reflection of a person seeking to believe he balanced his life and in the end comes out a victor and not a victim. I have to admit to realizing that I am where I am because of my choices through the years. I realize that I am one who has done it my way.
I used to think that if I liked where I am and felt good about myself, then whatever road it took to get me here was okay. I still believe that to some degree, but now I realize that being a bull in a china shop is probably not okay, even if you get out with only a few broken items. As I use this time of reflection to assess my journey, I have to admit there is sadness about some of the paths I have taken, and about some of the losses along the way. There are people no longer in my life that I used to care about a lot. Somewhere along the way we came to a juncture and they took the other path. I wonder, could I have done something differently at that point that would have done more to maintain our friendship even though we chose different paths? On the other hand there are those with whom the friendship has stood the test of many storms.
Ultimately, I believe, one who only does it his or her way will be a person alone. It is not necessarily difficult to be alone, but it is another thing to be lonely. I suspect that if you are alone long enough you will become lonely. If you get to the stage of loneliness, it is much more difficult to reintegrate socially. It is easier to find reasons why being alone is okay. Though I spend most of my time comfortably ensconced in my “nest,” I did not really feel lonely or lose my desire to communicate with others and to write. Of course, I didn’t have to go outside for that!
What I find appealing about writing is that I still feel a sense of discovery as new ways of thinking about things emerge from my consciousness and end up on the page before me. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun, as the saying goes, but personal discovery of an idea or concept or of a new way of looking at life stimulates my being and creative juices begin to flow again. Then I realize how wonderful it is to be alive! How satisfying it is to feel the very spirit of life, love and wisdom filling my day with a sense of productivity.
As I look back upon my life from the vantage point of my current years, I realize that part of living life my way has included honoring the values that I have discovered are important in making me the person that I am. In the final analysis, perhaps it is not so bad that I chose somewhere along the line of my life travels to do it my way. Again,
Regrets, I’ve had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.
(This is an excerpt from the complete article written for my planned upcoming book with the working title: Moments.)
1 (P. Anka, J. Revaux, G. Thibault, C. Frankois) [Recorded December 30, 1968, Hollywood]
Thursday, January 1, 2009
There are no easy answers for what lies ahead in 2009. We simply need to live into the questions as best we can. If we each do the right thing as often as possible even our enemies will recognize that love and forgiveness are answers because, in the end, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind (Attributed to Mahatma Gandhi). Let us each find grace amidst the squall so all can live in comfort with love . . . . Sky