Patience and Thinking in Deep Geologic Time

This morning, Mark Nepo reminds me of Lao-Tzu’s wisdom:

I have just three things to teach
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These are your greatest treasures. 

Patience with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.

Nepo elaborates:

Fear wants us to act too soon.  But patience, hard as it is, helps us to outlast our preconceptions.  This is how tired soldiers, all out of ammo, can discover through their inescapable waiting that they have no reason to hurt each other.”  

Given enough time, most of our enemies cease to be enemies, because waiting allows us to see ourselves in them.

Richard Rohr, in this morning’s meditation, puts today’s political tensions in similar perspective:

I know the situation in the world can seem dark today. We are seeing theological regression into fundamentalist religions which believe all issues can be resolved by an appeal to authority (hierarchy or Scripture) and so there is no need for an inner life of prayer. In the United States we have seen the rolling back of a compassionate economic system and the abandonment of our biblical responsibility for the poor, the sick, and refugees. Fear and anger seem to rule our politics and our churches. We see these same things in many parts of the world.

The negative forces are very strong, and the development of consciousness and love sometimes feels very weak. But a “Great Turning” is also happening, as believed and described in many ways by such people as Teilhard de Chardin. There is a deep relationship between the inner revolution of prayer and the transformation of social structures and social consciousness.

The Apostle Paul has a marvelous line: “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). In so many places, there are signs of the Holy Spirit working at all levels of society. The church might well have done its work as leaven because much of this reform, enlightenment, compassion, and healing is now happening outside the bounds of organized religion. Only God gets the credit.

The toothpaste is out of the tube. There are enough people who know the big picture of Jesus’ thrilling and alluring vision of the reign of God that this Great Turning cannot be stopped. There are enough people going on solid inner journeys that it is not merely ideological or theoretical anymore. This is a positive, nonviolent reformation from the inside, from the bottom up. The big questions are being answered at a peaceful and foundational level, with no need to oppose, deny, or reject. I sense the urgency of the Holy Spirit, with over seven billion humans on the planet. There is so much to love and so much suffering to share in and heal.

So how are we to be patient if so much is wrong?  By keeping today in perspective of a long view of mankind and by tending to our own “solid inner journeys.”  Krista Tippett, also guided by Teilhard, shares in Becoming Wise:  An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, that he foresaw that the “realm of human intelligence, information, and action…like the Internet…would drive the next stage of evolution–an evolution of spirit and consciousness.”

Tippett makes clear, however, that “Teilhard thought in slow, deep, geologic time, and so must we.  A long view of time can replenish our sense of ourselves and the world.  We are in the adolescence of our species, not by any measure in full possession of our powers.  The twenty-first-century globe resembles the understanding we now have of the teenage brain:  dramatically uneven; immensely powerful and creative at times and in places, reckless and destructive in others.”

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Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening is an excellent guide book for one’s “solid inner journey.”

Richard Rohr’s daily meditations are solid gold wisdom found at Meditations@cac.org .

I’ve just started Krista Tippett’s book, Becoming Wise, but it looks to be the exact book I need to be reading right now.

My thanks to Ansel Adams for beautifully depicting visually, the massive stable strength that stands behind all of what we know as life.  Also, my eternal thanks to Lao-Tsu.

Generalizations are Generally Wrong

I will make one generalization here:  The black people I know personally here in Upstate South Carolina, amazingly do not seem to alter their sense of self-worth in response to how they are treated.  I have been in the company of black people when they were dismissed, ignored, and summarily rejected for no reason other than their color.  That, to me, reflects a deep sense of true worth, likely stemming from their intimacy with God.  Those of us who have not known the extent of oppression and animosity that they have known, would do well to learn from them.

I am re-posting this because …well, I think it is worth re-stating.

I think it is safe to say that, for the most part, generalizations are wrong.  Now, notice I said “for the most part;” that is intentional because whenever I fail to include phrases like “for the most part,” “usually,” “some,” “almost always,” etc., I almost always make a fool of myself.

When people are in a hurry to make a point, they often use generalizations; politicians and others with agendas, do this a lot.  But, usually, what they say is inaccurate, if not flat out wrong, and usually mean-spirited.  For example, if I were to say “all Pit Bulls are mean and dangerous,” I know at least three people who would straighten me out.  I might be better off by saying something like,”all Pit Bulls have the potential to be mean and dangerous, especially if they have been mistreated or trained to be that way,” but I have used 7 words in the first statement and 23 in the second; too many words for a politician or a mother whose child has been mauled by a Pit Bull.

Now, to be fair, some generalizations are true, particularly when they are simply restating the subject or are simplifying the definition: All pine trees are trees; All black cats are cats, All white people are people, All General Motors cars are cars, etc.  (My son could probably argue with that last point but I’ll leave that up to him.)

Sometimes, what you may think is a re-statement of the subject is, in fact, a fallacy  (“a mistaken belief, especially one based on unsound argument,” a definition provided by Google.)  For example, a lot of people think Christians are automatically followers of Jesus; Not so.  One can be a Christian and not be a follower of Jesus just as one can follow Jesus but not be a Christian.  There are similar misconceptions about Christians being ‘nice’ people, or ‘church people’ being ‘good people;’  I daresay, a large percentage of them are but I have also been told that, “Church people can be some of the meanest people in the world.”  Notice, that observer included the words “can be” rather than ‘always are.’

It is not nice to make untrue generalizations about people; remember, God don’t like ugly. In fact, it is downright dangerous in an eternal sense, because number 9 of the Ten Commandments, says:

9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

I don’t think I need to enlighten you that “your neighbor” means ‘everybody else but you;’  That includes people of your own race, as well as all people of all other races.  Now, before you hit the reply button I want to include what Ask.com says about races:

“Although all races share over 99% of the same genetic material, the classification and division of races is largely subjective, and all races belong to the same species – Homo sapiens. Scientifically, races are defined as a group of people that are separated and grouped together due to the fact that they have common inherited traits that distinguishes them from other groups.

“The notion of race is also divided based on geographic separation, social and cultural differences and distinguished physical differences. Human typologies are commonly differentiated based on the following physical axes:

    • skin color
    • hair texture
    • jaw size
    • facial angle
    • cranial capacity
    • frontal lobe mass
    • brain mass
    • brain surface fissures
    • body lice

“These physical attributes do not necessarily have a strong correlation with genetic variations. As a result, the United Nations has opted to drop the term “race” and replace it with “ethnic groups” instead. According to a 1998 study published in the Scientific American, there are more than 5,000 ethnic groups in the world.”

(body lice?)

That’s a lot of people who are different from each other.  However, they are ALL “your neighbor.”  If you don’t believe me, ask God.

Like I said before, people with agendas like to make generalizations about people who are different from them…politicians, especially, because they are short on time…or short on something.  For example, when he said that,

“When Mexico (meaning the Mexican Government) sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you (pointing to the audience). They’re not sending you (pointing again). They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.  And some, I assume, are good people!”

…at least Donald qualified that SOME are good people.  That’s what I am suggesting; we should avoid making generalizations by including qualifiers, like “some.”

(I would like to add, Donald, that if those are SOME of your “best words,” dear, I suggest you consider taking a vow of silence.)

Unfortunately, I grew up hearing a lot of non-qualified generalizations…particularly about black people, but also about Jewish people, as well as Asians and Native Americans.  I recall hearing the explanation that”all black people are bad; that’s why God made them black.”  (What?!?)  First of all, I never understood what was meant by “bad.” Were they bad drivers?  bad spellers?  I don’t think that’s what was meant.  I think it meant that they were inherently dishonest, corrupt, and dangerous.    And, he was wrong, incorrect, inaccurate, and, to be fair, probably spoke out of fear.

Before I go any farther, I have never known, personally, a black person who was ‘bad.’  The black people I have known personally, from the time I was a child to the present, and I mean people I have known well…people I worked with for 22 years on a daily basis, for example…have been kind, generous, polite, friendly, helpful, honest, trustworthy, decent, not dangerous…all those descriptions I use when referring to people who are ‘good.’  I met one young black man in the hospital last year whom I would not trust, but I did not know him well, and based on his words and actions, I don’t think anyone would trust him.  Black people I meet on a daily basis down here in Anderson, South Carolina, have been … without exception … gracious, polite, courteous, and when I pass on information about my writing, they usually say, “Thank you, ma’am.,” which to me shows good manners and up-bringing.  Furthermore, when I open a conversation about faith, Christ, or spirituality, there is immediate affirmation; Black people ‘get it.’ They KNOW God which tells me a great deal about the purpose of hard times on this earth.

Thanks be to God and to God be the Glory.

Trump and the Martial Art of Highway Resurfacing

I have done a lot of interstate driving over the past 45 years and applaud the advances made in the process of resurfacing the highways.  This morning, I watched the process of busting up the old surface with the laying down of new surface material immediately afterwards.  I was aware that there exists only a small window of opportunity through which repairs to subsurface structures can take place.

Imagine the delight of those agencies responsible for the maintenance of subsurface structures when the highway department schedules a resurfacing.  For a water department to bust up the surface of a highway is costly and they don’t have the right equipment; to be able to make improvements when someone else is doing the busting up is almost an opportunity too good to pass up.

What has this got to do with Trump?  A lot.

Trump is intent on busting up bureaucracy and regulation.  That bust up would allow a window of opportunity through which changes to old systems can be made before the situation crusts over again.

Regardless of our feelings about Trump’s goals and intentions…his reasons for busting up existing systems… all of us would agree that there are improvements that can be made to those systems. I would suggest that we not waste valuable time and energy focusing on his motives. Our goals should shift away from attacking Trump to being prepared to implement improvements  when the opportunity opens up.  This is where the martial art comes in.

“Aikido techniques consist of entering and turning movements that redirect the momentum of an opponent’s attack.”  (Wikipedia)  Don’t attack Trump; Use his efforts and energy to make improvements.  What is meant for harm can be used for good.

 

 

Can it be that Sanity will enter the White House through the Garden Gate?

Many of us have been praying and struggling to pray for our president…courageous, heart-grinding prayers.  See Susan Irene Fox’s wisdom on the matter.  I think our prayers have been answered.

This morning through NPR: First Lady Melania Trump has decided to keep the garden Michelle Obama started as part of a campaign to encourage kids to eat vegetables.

 

Look, dams can break from a crack in the wall.  Windows can be opened by placing a seed under a screw and adding a bit of water.  The behavior and demeanor of a wife will influence the husband.  And there is nothing more grounded in reality than a woman with garden soil on her hands and knees.

Let’s all pray for Melania.

 

photo and further info from the Washington Post

Celestial Navigation

On my former blog, The View from 5022, I wrote about making necessary adjustments to one’s life and efforts by using the analogy of sailing.  The post is titled “Coming About.”  A few nights ago, I performed the equivalent of pumping out the bilge, trimming the sails, and charting a new course.

To continue with that analogy, since the end of last year, I have experienced stalls, squalls, and I’ve run aground a few times.  But more recently, there have been breaks in the clouds and a freshening breeze.  When I crawled into bed Monday night, I knew there was much to be thankful for but, because of all of it, I felt a bit battered.  I grabbed a pen and the closest thing to write on, a prayer and praise journal (which was fitting), and made an assessment of the gains and the losses.

I had been struggling for months with a particular Canadian-born bank which had mismanaged my account and reversed a payment to the IRS, costing me hundreds of dollars in penalties, fees, and increases in interest.  The government consumer protection agency and the senator’s office helping me with the issue informed me Monday that the issue is being dropped.  To stay upset would only hurt me.  I tossed the issue over-board.

Inspired by the marches on Saturday, I enthusiastically volunteered my services to the senator’s office and was told someone might be in touch…at some point…maybe.  Issue tossed.

Since just after Christmas, I have written (actual letters on actual note cards in actual cursive handwriting) to 9 friends and family members.  None of them have responded.  Looking for addresses of others to write to, I came across an old phone list.  On it was the name of a former doctor who, earlier last year, had been enduring cancer treatments and surgery, a long time friend who, earlier last year, had been reeling from the emotional blow of retirement, and a former coworker, from 2001 time-frame, who was likely concerned about the future of her career with a governmental climate science agency.  I made the calls and was met with instant re-connection, filling my emotional sails with billowed hopes.

These issues and more were lined up down both sides of the pages like small fishing skiffs bobbing in the waves…but there was something else still disturbing me…

Last Summer, when preoccupied with my sister’s arrival from Alaska, I stopped attending the small Episcopal church on the other side of town.  Driving by there late last month, I saw on their marquee a notice about an oyster roast.  On Saturday, I noticed the date had been changed to this weekend.  I called.  I volunteered to help.  However, I was informed that the priest I had known there had died, suddenly, in December.  (I wrote about several of his homilies last year.  See “To the Extent that One is Forgiven, One is Capable of Loving” and “What I Didn’t Know.”)  He was one of the few people who has believed my inner experience of God.  (Father B: “You help me because you are able to hear what it is I am trying to say.”)  Recalling that he was now gone from earth, my enthusiasm was suddenly becalmed; I felt more alone on earth than I had before.

My faith and beliefs have come under attack, recently, by bloggers from opposite ends of the religious spectrum.  On the one hand, there are the bloggers who hold that all people should believe xyz, strictly and immediately.  (I respond that each person should be allowed and encouraged to be where they are on their spiritual path to God; at least they are on the path and God is not done with them yet.)  On the other, there are those who hold a larger view but accuse me of insisting that mine is the only way.  (I am out of words with that one; My way is MY WAY and I offer it as an example…nothing more.)

At the same time, ironically, I have discovered that there is a spiritual path…a Christian path…with followers who hold the same beliefs I do.  Although I have come to my beliefs, faith, and inner life the hard way, having found them, I sought to join them.  It seems, however, that although they acknowledge my interest, I have been excluded apparently because I lack the expected background and education.  So, I will continue on my own, navigating by the heavens and sailing ‘solo.’

The course I am left with is a simpler one, lacking an itinerary with specified destinations. It is more a way of sailing:  trusting in the guiding stars (Jesus and the communion of saints) and the breeze on my face.   Watching the tell tail, testing the wind, keeping an eye on the horizon (and the channel markers),…this is the stuff of life.

 

(I borrowed the image above from the web)

Protect what is True

(repeated and expanded here from my comment to an article in Sojourners)

Those of us who hold fast to truth and Wisdom must also hold fast and protect what we know of God, love, and justice. With Shadrach, Meschah, and Abednego, we know that God can deliver us, but if He does not, we will not bow down nor worship anything else…including fear, hate, or discouragement.

It is my opinion that the best position (in addition to protecting and preserving what we know) is to rise up to take a God-perspective of our situation. ‘Bad’ things are sometimes necessary to bring about world-sized changes. There is much ‘good’ coming from this looming dark time: many people who would ordinarily be going about their business are putting more attention to their relationship with God. There is more praying, contemplating, and discussing.

This is a time to keep vigil. This is a time to bury the silver. This is a time to clarify and strengthen one’s own connection to God…and to do that with others.  These are dark times but also times of opportunity to focus on what truly matters.

I agree with Pope Francis; this is a change of era.  This is an era when seekers of God in truth can pray in silent unison while darkness builds around them.  Travelers on the paths of Wisdom, mindfulness, consciousness,… will find themselves walking alongside one another, humming the same tune, speaking the same language.  We see the same light.  We hold the same light.

Keep watch. Pray. Hold hands. Hunch up close to Jesus. Do not let the light die.

thoughts…at this new year

when things happen:  locate God and adhere

struggling?  fearful?  perplexed?  look from a different height and angle…like God’s

try Ditzler’s 10 questions.  start with:  what did I accomplish last year?  what were my disappointments?  what did I learn?

Life takes time…it takes a whole lifetime.

The past?  learn from it…quickly…then let it go.

Whether it is ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ Gods has it.

simple.  clear.  listen.

show up and serve…everything else is distraction.

let her talk

transparency:  the less you hide, the less you have to carry

prep work.  homework.  it saves a lot of embarrassment.

allow