Friday, April 30, 2010
Congressman Ron Paul once again this week confronts congress as one of the lone voices of reason, speaking out against the new "sanction bill" (HR 2194) against Iran. As usual, I have to concur with his line of reasoning and historical perspective he confronts his fellow legislators with.
"There you go again" as Ronald Reagan used to say in various debates with the press and in Presidential debates. It seems our government is bent on repeating the mistakes of the past, drumming up war and conflict during times of tremendous economic pressures and hard-times. A child has better rationality than our spineless, lying leaders in Congress. When you are sick and weak is not a time to go picking fights with more of your enemies.
Of course, the American government is counting on continued support for their fear mongering campaign against "terrorists and evil doers". The one good thing I THOUGHT Obama was going to be good for was to bring more reasoning and "detente" to solving our foreign conflicts. Besides a few initial speeches in the international arena by Obama, it appears to me the Pentagon has a lot more influence on international strategy than the business and economic wings of government. Then again, maybe defense contracts are the main source of economic activity in the USA these days and without them our economy would REALLY be devastated.
The main thing America should remember is that our sanctions have NEVER WORKED. Starting with Cuba...the only people that have suffered from our policies have been the poor and disenfranchised Cubans world wide. In Iraq, our decade of sanctions that still culminated in invasion and war didn't keep that government from arming and storing away billions of riches for the ruling dictator. Again...those policies only brought pain and suffering to the general population and lost America potentially millions of supporters within Iraq. One of the core points to all these conflicts is that until you win the minds and hearts of the people in these conflictual countries, you will never maintain control over those lands. And in the midst of this truth, the USA government continues to bomb and/or occupy Iraq, Afghanistan and now looking seriously at Iran. Oh...and lets not forget the thousands of troops we still have in Korea for 60 years, in Germany and elsewhere.
Someday the USA is going to have to wake up to the reality that we will not always have economic or even military superiority at the rate we are losing our wealth, our unity and our reputation. Instead of "peace makers" and best example of capitalistic inspired economic growth...we are quickly turning into an ugly two headed beast of "international bully" and "international debtor" in the eyes of the rest of the globe. While we rely on external sourcing for oil and other sources of energy and export our manufacturing base to foreign competitors...we continue simultaneously to build bigger dependence on government as a welfare state. Tie into that the growing "police state" mentality to support all the crazy laws we have passed related to fixing immigration problems, the patriot act, and trying to stem the outflow of huge capital from the highly taxed and regulated systems of the USA...we have a recipe for quick continued disaster for the USA as a whole. It is hard to fathom how the combined institutions of the USA can drive our country into the stone age at such a high rate of speed. All of the great historical empires couldn't build weapons or train soldiers fast enough to maintain their empirical pursuits...and I fear America will fare no better.
Warmongering and stirring up more conflicts in the Middle east and elsewhere is not the answer to our economic troubles or even our foreign security threats. Building more bombs and missiles while forbidding our enemies to do so is not the best first step towards "detente" and peace. I hope Ron Paul and the few other moderates there seem to be in Congress these days can get their voice heard and over ride some of our insane bureaucratic thinking on these issues. If we don't start focusing on the realities of global economic trade and reform, we won't have any money to build bombs with anyhow. Maybe that is the quickest path to peace...temporary poverty and financial devastation.
I'm grasping at straws here...but somehow there has to be a better way.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I have been thinking a bit lately about how divided our world is over just about any topic you can think of. Via email and facebook I daily receive messages purporting one agenda or another. I get the whole gamut apparently because I have such a broad base of friends and contacts...and of course I am active out there sending out my opinions and thoughts such as with this blog.
These daily messages come from varying ideologies...Republicans versus Democrats; Christians vs Muslims; East vs West; socialists vs capitalists; Latins vs Gringos; blacks vs whites; whites vs Indians; liberals vs conservatives; pro-lifers vs abortionists; rich vs poor; dog vs cat...you get the picture. The world is divided in various categories and then divided again by race, poverty, geographic and man-made borders, language and sex. As the world becomes more and more a cultural melting pot, the lines between many of these divisions are blurring...and many people in the world aren't too happy about that. They fight for the "status quo" of their historic presuppositions though many of those may be hyper hypocritical and unfounded.
It is my experience that most of the world population spends their whole lifetime in their own backyards with their own kind...hardly ever straying more than 25 miles from where they were born. Of course, some of us are the extreme opposite where for whatever reasons we see fit to travel further and further from our roots in pursuit of understanding all there is to understand out there...and primarily to understand "difference". I personally have found it very fulfilling to have traveled and lived in various regions of my own country (USA) as well as traveling and living in other continents...primarily Latin America. Through this lifetime of meeting and living with a wide variety of people...I have come to the conclusion that beyond all our perceptions of "difference", we humans really are more ALIKE than different.
Have you ever stopped to wonder why when we first meet people we tend to notice what's "different" about them than how we are alike? I'm sure there are many psychological and pathological reasons for this tendency...but while I'm not sure we aren't born with this curiosity for "difference", I think it is possible to transcend this reality with some rationality. While each person is in my mind a "unique" and different creation of God's mind ...we all have some level of these commonalities:
Everyone wants to be loved and accepted...
Everyone needs attention
Everyone needs to eat
Everyone needs encouragement
Everyone needs hope
Everyone prefers pleasure to pain
Everyone prefers peace to conflict
Everyone wants to be respected
Everyone responds positively to a smile and helpful hand
Everyone needs some form of mutual physical contact/warmth
Everyone responds to sincere praise
Everyone has an opinion and a story to tell if you have time to listen
When you really analyze it, we humans are more alike than different. Sure, we look and "act" different in many ways...but I'm not sure "act" is a meaningless word. I think we learn to "act" at a very early point in life in order to get attention or compete for affection. Many of us continue to "act" a role or part that may not come natural to us at all. I might suggest that a majority of us are tainted and untrue to our natural selves because of false pretenses we have been brought up acting out. Many of us have experienced painful rejection or criticism early and consistently in our lives to where we "act out" in response. Many of us become bitter, addicted to substances that temporarily relieve us, retreat into our painful solitude, our cocoon of "safety" from risking further humiliation...and continue our lives in quiet denial of our humanity and true desires. While much of the world may live in that reality, I don't believe it was our natural bent from the beginning.
The challenge in life is understanding our need and challenge for re-educating ourselves on how to communicate, love and accept humanity without conditions and expectations that they think look or act just like us. We grow up thinking that we are stronger if we join a certain popular group...if we are accepted by attractive, wealthier people...well, we must be one, right? Some of us have grown up in such difficult hardships that we think no one else can understand or share our pain and insecurity. And if we were honest about that pain and insecurity, we might not be accepted by the group of peers we think we must be accepted by. For many of us, our reasons for our actions or behaviors are so buried in our subconscious, we are not consciously able to define why we live the way we do. We just do...and we don't want to deal with the "why".
Many of our tendencies for screwed up thinking have their root in our childhood and/or adolescence. Most of us had family or friends as we were growing up who were dominant in telling us what to think or feel about many things, including ourselves. If someone told you enough times "you are stupid", it is a human tendency to start believing them if it was someone in authority over us like a parent or teacher. It is my perception that our world is warped psychologically through generations of negative and hateful messaging...most of which was not true. Our perceptions of "others"...whether they be of another race, religion or sex...are usually tainted by 2nd or 3rd hand information versus any direct experience with those others. When you extrapolate this reality to those occasions where you can remember interacting for the first time with someone from another race or religion...both parties in that first interaction were probably living up to their stereotypes and mis-perception in harmony to the other. In most cases, those differences were never given the chance to be filed where they belong...in the "junk" file. We just accepted the data "as reported".
Those of us who are/were racist, anti Semitic, sexist, homophobic, etc etc are pretty much just running the pattern of humanity for millenniums without stopping to wonder how this can all be reversed or changed for the better. Here are a few things I try to always keep in mind when challenged by "otherness" in life...
-There is never a good reason to have "pride" in my race, religion, education or appearance. I had no choice in the early stages of those pursuits...and but for "fate" I could be in the same shoes and background as the person standing next to me.
-I should not compare myself with anyone else when it comes to appearance, money, or success. I should only compare myself with my known self potential...and if I am not anywhere near my own potential, I only have myself to blame. If I want to change that...I can, but I shouldn't blame or be bitter at other people in my life for my circumstances. "As a man thinketh...so is he".
-I cannot control how others perceive or receive me...but I can try and influence that outcome to the best possible connection by being kind and reasonably open about and with myself ("with" containing emotion or sentiment instead of just words and information).
-By listening and observing others, I can always find something positive I have in common with them. This can be with saints or sinners, men or women, old or young, rich or poor. When I have tried, I have always been able to identify at one level or another with anybody I have met. They may not have felt likewise...but that's their problem:).
-I can also choose to impress upon people how "different" I am from them. I can try and impress them with talents I have that they don't...possessions I have that they don't, etc. Yet, I have not found that an effective way to share and care at a human level nor does it promote lasting relationships. When I focus on the things we have in common...that is when the magic of relationship happens.
-FEAR is our biggest handicap towards connecting with others. We fear rejection because we have allowed our egos to be so fragile. We fear intimacy because we don't want commitment...we are selfish. We fear being alone, yet we fear intimacy more. Most of that is caused by unrealistic expectations of others to meet OUR needs.
While I don't count myself a "religious" man, I still have great respect for "Judeo Christian" ethics. I find many biblical teachings still at the core of my relationship values...and I share a few of them here in closing related to commonalities among humans...
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.(Matthew 7:12)
And summing up the human condition, I think anyone sane in the world would respond positively to this powerful passage if they took it to heart:
The Love Chapter, Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
May we all find our commonality in the pursuit, expression, giving and taking of love and acceptance...even amidst our differences and "otherness".
Sunday, April 18, 2010
OK...I know I have been on a string of blogs about religion and philosophy that some of you have no interest in, but since so much of my history has been about pursuing reason about the mysteries of life...I have to sound off on a long festering subject for me...Sex and religion.
My disconnect with organized, manmade religion is that it seems quite focused on telling people what they CAN'T do versus instructing followers on what they CAN do to make things better for humanity. I made a fundamental choice decades ago to reject any theology that was based on "sacrifice and castigate yourself in this world to qualify for the next one". I can surely understand the desire for a perfect "afterlife" and living eternally with our creator. I also HOPE that is our destiny...but I don't think it reasonable to live in such a way that everything is sacrificed today for some mystical future world that we deem promised by a God we have made to fit our own image, desires and needs. Life here stinks enough for most people to where it is understandable we are ripe for wanting this future, better life. Yet, in my mind most religions manipulate the masses with the focus on spurring you to do or NOT do things in this life in order to qualify for the next. This is what the Islamic fundamentalists believe who strap bombs around themselves and seek to kill as many "infidels" as possible. This is fundamentalism on steroids. And before those of us from Christian persuasions get too much on our high horse, we need to study early Christian history and times like "The Crusades" in order to understand that Christianity has its own dark past with this mentality.
Ok...now to the good part...SEX (I say that facetiously...well, maybe not). Today I was reviewing this BIG news today online about Christian music star Jennifer Knapp coming out as a lesbian. I have to admit that I have never heard of her, but I have been out of the "Christian" music circles for decades now. (For some of you who don't know me well or long...I was in the CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) industry for almost a decade back in the mid 70s and went to one of their first conventions in Estes Park, Colorado around 1980. I produced and performed in Christian Rock bands and other contemporary music forms for many years). As I read the short version of Jennifer's "coming out", I actually found myself in support and respect of her decision to do so. Here's why...
For millenniums now, churches and various religions have primarily been about repression and controlling behaviors of the world. It seems as if reason alone is not sufficient for population control or honoring relational commitments, so somehow you must include threats from God and the church to honor your vows to another person. It is purported that without these religions somehow we can't know right from wrong or what is reasonable and rational. Yet even the Christian Bible itself simply defines "sin" as "knowing to do right and not doing it". It also says in Romans 2:15 when discussing those with no religious training that "since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing". To me this passage always leaped out to me as saying that the Creators mindset on right and wrong, the LAW if you will, is written within our own DNA. We don't need holy books, priests or preachers to tell us what is right or wrong. It is somehow inherent in our nature…and we know the difference without being told that murder, stealing and lying are not the best approach to getting on in this life. I also believe our sexual natures are pretty obvious whether we want to admit or give in to them or not.
In today's world, it is pretty hard to be sexually "naive". Our media is inundated with sexual explicitness that in my own teens was not tolerated in public media. I'm not discussing that point right now, but let’s just say most humans are now confronted with more explicit sensuality on a mass scale than any civilization of the past 1000 years. I see it somewhat as a reaction to the Victorian and religious intolerance of recent centuries. The world being based on "cause and effect", it seems quite understandable that after centuries of sexual repression built on false pretenses, people are somewhat overboard in reacting when they discover some of their most basic desires. The power and allure of sex is one of our most primal human traits. To deny that is not healthy in the long run. Yet, sex and sensuality has been continually demonized by most of the world religions and we have been made to feel “dirty” or guilty about our sexual natures from earliest childhood programming. I think the reasons are more obscure than meets the eye of reason.
Religions have used extreme limits and castigation of our sexuality to control behavior. These controls have been often based on trying to control population growth and protect the institution of family and community. While these controls and parameters can be understood through reason, to relegate and stipulate that the only way we can control our sexual natures is with strict rules and guilt manipulations over our “weak flesh” and make sex the great battle ground between spirit and flesh is not necessarily healthy in my experience. Kids get confused and guilt ridden when they hit puberty and their hormones start kicking in towards sex…and all the institutions and “authority” figures start telling them how evil and sinful those thoughts and actions are. Up until recent history, there has been little objective approach to teaching children and youth about sex. Most instruction in the last couple centuries were only about rules of abstention and the vulgarity of sexual impulses or acts. We were made to feel guilty about sex, and it is still considered rude and “off color” to talk about it…unless in the form of jokes and humor. Historically, the girls have talked to the girls about what they supposedly need to know on the subject, and the boys/men the same. Yet, it seems from my experience that the best lessons and expressions about sex have come from talking to or understanding a member of the opposite sex intimately.
I also have always had a disconnection with “the rules” from a historical perspective. In most of the historic civilizations, most have been Patriarchic (see interesting wikepedia piece on Patriarchy). In fact, most religions have been based on patriarchy…God is always deemed as “Him”. The Greeks and Egyptians were some of the first cultures to elevate women to any deity status in their imagery or likenesses. The Patriarchs of the Bible and Torah…Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had “primary” wives and then multiple other wives and “concubines”…who were basically non-marriage sexual partners for the Patriarch. In many cases these were slave/master relationships from conquered kingdoms, etc. Without going into in depth analysis of this history, suffice it to say it was a rich man’s world where he could have as many partners as he could afford and support. To a degree this probably goes back to “caveman” days of survival and propagation of “the fittest”. God didn’t seem to have to big of a problem with this back then. Natural order might explain it as is often seen in the animal kingdom where the males are the hunters/providers while the females were the caregivers for their offspring. Men were focused on procreating and providing for their offspring…and they made the rules. I know some of my feminist friends probably don’t want to think about this fact of history. For all our mental superiority and evolution of our species, I’m not sure we humans have really advanced that much beyond these animalistic stages. We just like to THINK we have.
There ARE modern day versions of this same basic approach. The Mormon religion…which has been one of the fastest growing religions in this century…was founded on strong Patriarchal beliefs. A man could have many wives and had children with all of them as much as possible in the beginning. This was all justified to propagate the lineage and mindset of their society. Many religions have justified this tradition over the millenniums to populate themselves faster than their enemies. It is probably a foundation for many Islamic fundamental movements now who strive to conquer the world through breeding and bringing up their own to overcome other religions and mindsets they see as the enemy. Sexual rules and mores have been established or changed sporadically by the perceived need of a society at that time. In more modern times, over populated countries like China have started making it illegal to produce offspring, or at least more than one per couple. So whether from political or religious expedience, we see sex and relational rules established to serve the needs of the perceived order of things. Yet…at the end of the day…human sexuality and desire for intimacy has not changed since the beginning of time.
Now we throw in the aspect of homosexuality and other sexual orientations. Very little was discussed in many ancient writings about this subject…but we know in increasing detail now how much non heterosexuality is being pursued and practiced in our world. While most of us probably don’t question that males and females were created or evolved in order to mate and propagate the species, one has to acknowledge a growing awareness of a significant portion of our world who find themselves attracted to or sexually involved with members of their own sex. Many people find themselves bi-sexual…and while I have sometimes thought how easy it must be for someone seeking companionship to walk into a pickup bar where everyone is a candidate…I have never felt an interest in anything but hetero sex. Yet, I have had people close to me who apparently have these leanings…and I have not found it necessary to judge them or limit friendships because of one’s sexual orientation. While I may not relate to that, there are many other great things that some of these people have taught me in life and I am better for having known them.
What has bothered me most about the church in this regard is the coverup and hypocrisy regarding homosexuality. I have met a number of “closet” gays during my years involved in churches. I have known significant figures of leadership who either had gay leanings or were quietly active sexually. I have always felt that while it was none of my business, how could you stay in a church or religion that condemns your sexual proclivity? And yes, there are some modern, liberal religious organizations where gays can safely join together and worship as they see fit…yet I find this a paradox within Christianity. Are we soon to have separate churches for “asexual” single people? Will we soon be seeing churches catering to those of us who have issues with “gluttony”? If you believe in a loving God and believe the words of Jesus, how can you judge and cast out people based on their sexual preferences? Why should gays have to pretend they are something different in religion and society? Why should they have to cloister themselves in gay only groups…or submit to some convent or “treatment center” for reprogramming? Will this truly change their nature? I have a feeling NOT. I will resist going into the number of true stories I know about along these lines, but I am tired of seeing gay bashing in religion and ostracizing from organizations that include plenty of hypocritical closet gays and pedophiles (I am not equating gays with pedophiles…pedophilia should be heavily outlawed and punished). I think it is much more humane and loving to be honest and open about this whole agenda.
One of the biggest sexual problems I see in modern day religion is pedophilia. I think the epidemic of pedophilia is based on this repressed sexuality that some people grow up severely affected by. I have studied it for reasons very close to me…and there is no cure. The Catholic church is obviously going through a lot of scrutiny now since the media and other institutions have now started confronting the long historic trail of child molestation going on in the church. Within such religious orders where they forbid the priests and nuns to have sexual partners, is it any wonder you have this kind of problem? I don’t think the total reason for this is about being denied traditional marriage and relations. I think such instincts come out in different, hidden ways if you forbid the obvious natural order of things. For me, mans religions have taken one of God’s greatest gifts and drives in our human experience and by trying to marginalize and control it…we have turned it into a hideous and twisted response drive in some people. It’s like religion has locked these people into a dark cage where the denial of their nature turns them towards other aggressive and hidden acts. When they are directed at helpless children….it is time to really examine the craziness of religion on the taboos of sex.
So…if you want my latest apologetic on all of this coming from an existential Christian framework…here is my current take…and probably subject to change over the rest of my lifetime…
How do we then measure "right and wrong" whether sexually or otherwise? On what basis are we to judge any other human, let alone a "fellow Christian" if we count our self as one? If you count the Bible as your source for direction, I might suggest Romans 13:8-10...
...he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
There are many more passages that sum up New Testament treatment of gray areas concerning human behaviors. There were many laws in the Old Testament that are no longer upheld or deemed relevant for today. If love guides our life, I think we will live pretty happy, abundant lives. If we treat others as we would be treated…the world would be a pretty sweet place to be. I think any sexual act shared between two consenting adults is none of my business and there should be no law against it. At the point where someone is forcing themselves on someone that is not interested…especially towards children or raping of women…this is obviously a serious crime against another and the offended person should be protected by our society and its institutions.
If America is a “Christian” nation as many people close to me portend, then we should be establishing legal rights and freedom for consenting adults to enter any kind of relationship they choose as THEIR faith would lead them. To this end, I hope Jennifer Knapp finds love and acceptance somewhere within her community of believers (hang in there Jennifer...I know how hurtful believers can be when they are saving the "lost"...). I’m sure that her essence and quality of her art are the same or even better than when she was living under the shadow and hiding her relationship. Love and the lack of judging others is the essence of New Testament faith. The religious world has seen enough of hypocrisy and repression when it comes to sexuality to last another millennium.
So I end with two questions...
What is it about homosexuality...and even sexuality in general...that so threatens fundamentalist religions?
Why are sexual "sins" treated so preferentially by society on one hand as "hush hush", and yet we love reading the tabloids about famous people's sex lives?
Thursday, April 15, 2010
During what I call my younger "seminarian days" when as a teen and young adult I was studying as much theology and philosophy as possible in order to substantiate my person and belief system...one of the most impressive contemporary figures of Christian religious thought I read was Dietrich Bonheoffer.
Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian whose writings and beliefs significantly influenced modern ecumenical movements and thinking of Christianity and religion from a universal versus denominational standpoint. I read his book "The Cost of Discipleship" and a couple other smaller works...and came away sensing that traditional Christianity and religion is meaningless compared to the intensity, integrity and ultimate sacrifice this man made based on his beliefs. While many of his presuppositions are not mine, I do see his brand of religion and social justice as one of the strongest replications of Jesus own life and message to contemporary society. This man strove to unite and promote Christiandom...not by watering down its principles or demands...but by integrating and uniting through the core values of right living...basically "practicing what you preach".
The biggest challenge to true religion today is this call to actionable, socially responsible actions not based on hate, new revelations or piety...but based on core teachings of the historic Jesus , most of which Judaism or Islam have no qualms with.
While the outside view of comparative religions is that they are mutually exclusive, Bonhoeffer was able to mingle, debate, listen and learn about other religions, sects and viewpoints against which he would continually challenge and even shape his own views and positions. The sense of reading him is that while very mentally disciplined and stubborn (perhaps a German trait similar to those of us from Norwegian genes?), he was able to be objective without shifting with every wind of popular religious sentiment. And when it came down to challenging the standard religions and churches in his day...not that long ago...his convictions and integrity ended up costing him his life against the Nazi regime.
The actions and beliefs of Bonhoeffer that I relate or aspire to most are:
His respect for and ultimate life sacrifice for the sake of the Jewish race and religion in the middle of Nazi Germany. This took real guts.
While in Harlem and the USA he opened up to and found respect for Black Christian churches and the "experiential", emotional side of their faith which must have been a big leap for such an intellect and emotionally reserved German Lutheran.
While most of the German Christian churches...whether Catholic, Protestant, Lutheran or otherwise...flexed and did not resist the Nazis and Fascism, Bonhoeffer was strong and consistent from beginning to end in denouncing the evil of that era in his country. And while he could have rode it out in the safety of America based on his connections, he chose to go back and fight for his principles with his people knowing what he was risking.
He revived the idea of "imitation of Christ" as the principle to guide "Christian" conduct. It wasn't about just being a good person, going to church on Sundays and playing a pious role in church and society. His was no "prosperity doctrine" of love Jesus and get rich. He believed in relating to and helping the poor and less fortunate and "sharing the sufferings of God at the hands of a godless world".
He allowed his theology and thinking to change as he was confronted with new experiences or evidence that challenged him to do so. He was then able to articulate his positions and reasonings very effectively.
I would probably be inclined to go to church again on a regular basis if I were able to sit under a sharp mind and strong character of someone like Bonhoeffer. I think his charisma and ideals are strongly missing in a day when popular Christian media can do no better than Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggert and other Fundamental Christian extremists who continue to shape God in the image of their own imaginations and irrationality that to me is not "God-like" or in the spirit of what it truly means to be "Christian".
If you want to be challenged to live according to your beliefs and principles...you could do worse than read his abridged biography here on wikipedia...or better yet read some of his books. You don't have to agree with all Dietrich Bonhoeffer's beliefs to gain insight into the principles of what it takes in my opinion to be a TRUE believer...whatever that may mean to YOU.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
A forwarded email from a friend this week discussed and reminded me of one of the most powerful books I read as a young man, James Allens "As a Man Thinkieth". The premise of the book was based on one of the most powerful Biblical passages from my upbringing..."As a man thinks in his heart, so is he"...and also one of my top three lifetime quotes from James Allen's book, "All that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thoughts." I have found a free digital download of this book online at THIS LINK, and have also reordered the book in print from the same source for only the $3.99 shipping charge. I recommend anyone who can use a little inspiration and additional motivation in life to read this book...even if you have read it before.
I probably don't need to expound much on the meaning of these sayings or quotes, but I can comment on some contemporary applications that I find meaningful. I strongly believe we are living in crucial times of challenge and change within the human race. For all our modernization, industrialization, education and technological advancements...our existence is in many ways threatened by conflicts among ourselves, our continued decimation of the environment we live in and our blind trust in institutions and leaders who continue to lie and cover-up the realities of our conditions. There are fewer absolutes outside of ourselves to help us determine our way and most people consider themselves helpless to turn the tide in their favor. This is not an era advantageous to blind followers.
Not too many generations ago, life was a lot simpler when it came to ideals. Sure, life was tougher in many ways without the technologies and modern conveniences that offer those who can afford them an easier, softer lifestyle. Long hours of heavy labor are not the reality for the "haves" in this day and age. The haves have a lot more leisure time than previous generations. The internet brings instant gratification in gaining information or insight on most any subject in the world. Those who "have" should have no excuse for NOT thinking through issues and being self determined...or "self actualized"... the scientific term I learned at University. :) Yet, somehow with all these benefits of modern conveniences, most of us humans have lost our direction, our confidence, yes, even our souls. The masses are easy adopters of the latest "pop" movement of thought or attitude. They read or listen to the media with mindless acceptance of what they hear or see. While some may question something that is being shoved down our throats by the proverbial media and powers behind them...very little action is taken to enter into the fray and try to reveal the wizards of spin or their ultimate ulterior motives. Most people now live in fear: fear of others (races, religions and creeds), fear of rejection (for speaking up and being heard) and ultimately the fear of being truly free and the cost associated as discussed previously in THIS BLOG.
At the root of all this disconnection is our loss of solid reasoning...thinking. Most of our world problems simply extend from wrong thinking. We THINK we have a corner on the pursuit of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". We THINK that guns are more secure than dialogue. We THINK in unreasonable deadlines and only about ourselves with little concern about future generations. We THINK negatively and fatalistically. We THINK small instead of big. We THINK only within or about ourselves...with little consideration of objectivity. At the end of the day, most of us use less than 25% of our mental or physical capacities...and we don't THINK much about expanding them.
The power of this subject is that the secret to our survival and success relies primarily within our own minds. Our thoughts determine our actions...and our actions determine whether we have a chance at our goals or not. While we continue to blame everyone else for our failures or lack of success, however we define that, we truly only have ourselves to blame for our circumstances. While "luck" can be a factor, such as being born with good looks or lots of money, many people born with luck lose their way and lose everything. On the other side of that, life is full of great examples of people who overcame poverty, handicaps both physical and mental, and created from nothing a life full of meaning and success. This is the thinking we all must emulate if we are to see change and improvement in our lives. Those who are born with advantage have no excuse at all.
Here are the top 10 excuses people THINK that keeps them from their potential:
I am too old
I am too young
I am too tired
I don't have the time
I'm not qualified
I don't have the money
I don't have the connections
I don't know how
I'm not lovable
I don't CARE
My responses to the above are:
Many of the world's most famous success stories were failures or mediocre until in their 50s or 60s.
You are never too young (or old) to dream and start PURSUING your dreams. Everyone sets their own timetables in their heads. The younger you are, the more "time value of money" can play a role in your success.
Tiredness often comes from too much stress or continually doing the same meaningless jobs or actions that make us too tired to spend any energy towards what we really want in life.
The one thing we are all born equally with is having the same amount of time to "spend". YOU determine how you spend your time...unless you are somebody's slave.
Being "qualified" is often an acceptance of false criteria. If the definition of "qualified" is externally driven by false or unreasonable expectations, don't wait for the approval of others. If you don't have enough information or experience, pursue it with focused resolve. Sometime you have to "fake it" until you know it.
There are many ways to make or "find" money. If you need more of it, think within yourself how you can realistically obtain it. One of the keys is usually not SPENDING as much of what you take in. Saving and sacrificing for an objective is a dying art. Most people seem bent on flaunting what they have...while wisdom would suggest HIDING what you have as much as possible.
Connections can be critical in life, but by developing interpersonal skills and being willing to risk rejection...the connections we need can be made.
The HOW of most pursuits are easily discovered by a simple internet search. Research the HOW and execute a plan.
Self esteem and respect is often the biggest hurdle for us. Most of us have been programmed from childhood with negative self thinking with others always setting our boundaries/limitations for us. It is time to throw off those shackles of mind and emotion...and renew our THINKING based on our own ideals and pleasure.
Until we CARE enough, we will not change...ourselves or anyone else.
Sure, I understand that many of these phrases are easier said than done. I know that erasing bad programming and starting new approaches to life can be time consuming and excruciatingly painful. Yet the longer we wait, the longer our list of excuses grows. When our regrets of the past overcome our vision for tomorrow, we are done growing and excelling as a human being.
I hope no one reading this is living that life of regrets...but if you are, no matter how old, ill, hurt or scarred you are...your mind is still more powerful than YOU think. To start making it work better, it will probably require some changes. You might have to consume less alcohol or other substances that slow down or make foggy your cognitive potential. You might have to withdraw from negative friends or even family who are always downing you or telling you what you CAN'T do. You might have to spend less time sitting in front of the TV or other wasteful media, and more specifically pursue reading or listening to sources that will be more productive towards the changes you want to make in your life.
Our success starts within our own reasoning minds. You can have all the money in the world and still be a shriveling failure. It's what we do with what we have at our disposal that makes all the difference in the world. Once we get our own thinking in order, we can then have a chance to change the world by affecting the minds of others through education and sharing what we have learned and accomplished. Its the power of ONE. It starts within us. Lets think about changing the world. It needs some reform.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
After reviewing this article by "Sting" on his views about the cultural "drug wars" and a few facebook exchanges on the subject, I thought I should try and organize better my thoughts in this space.
I have previously blogged somewhat on this subject and continue to maintain my "libertarian" views on legislated morality. I know this goads against many of my more conservative friends and family's views on the subject, but I still must state my case.
I still don't understand how people equate "legalizing" drugs to ADVOCATING drugs. When governments and societies start down the path of controlling personal behaviors and taking away people's choices of lifestyle, it becomes a slippery slope of institutional behavior modification. It specifically goes against the grain of personal sovereignty and responsibility for ones own actions. If you start legislating and making criminals out of addicts and people whose preferences you don't share, you might soon find yourself in the cross-hairs of your own criteria. And let's face it, governments world wide are some of the most hypocritical propagators of these "control" agendas. Laws passed on the common citizen are often totally disregarded by the originators of those laws. Just look at the public felony and misdemeanor records of the 500+ USA legislators who primarily make all the laws there. I won't bother to go into that litany here, but it is available easily for any of you who want to find out.
DRUGS is not the problem. We are attacking the symptom, not the cause of the disease. Until we start treating the attitude and moral fiber that is the root of the pursuit of drugs and all other forms of addiction, this problem will never be resolved. Drugs are as readily available to our kids as they ever were...even with all the TRILLIONS that have been spent on enforcement. Even if we simply took all the money being spent to incarcerate drug addicts and put it into treatment programs instead, we would have a better chance of winning the war. Its not about drugs. It is about the empty existence that is the reality of the poor, the poor in spirit and the disenfranchised. We need more jobs, food and education to win this war...not more guns and prisons.
Until we fix our educational systems and family structures in our society, people are going to continue looking for escape in every form of substance. Even obesity to me is a major symptom of our discontent. Some of us may not be "sex addicts" like we think of Tiger Woods and others...or alcoholics like the thousands that are arrested each day for "drunk driving". At the same time, some of us are finding it harder and harder to fit behind the steering wheel of our car or get the seat belt fastened on a plane. You are now starting to see localities putting consumption taxes on "fast" or fattening foods. This is the next step before making illegal certain foods that "have been known to cause obesity". Is this really where the majority want to go with "big government" controls? Whatever happened to SELF control and discipline? What happened to the "just say no" campaign?
When and where is it appropriate for government and society to step in and dictate behavior? I have no problem with the ancient legal mindset of "an eye for an eye" and making restitution for damages my or anyone else behavior causes a third party. People need to "pay" for their mistakes...and many do when it comes to their physical and mental/emotional conditions. It is cause and effect, whether there is legislation behind it or not. It used to be just the "power of relationship" amongst family and friends was enough to establish boundaries and provide the necessary guidelines for children growing up to abide by. "Acceptable behaviors" were acquired not by legislation, but by the relational respect merited by the examples of our parents and mature leaders above us. We wanted to emulate respectable values and behaviors of our elders. It gave us meaning and purpose to be in relationship with those examples and connectivity to our communities or tribes. In the modern world, that security and connectivity is lost. There are few examples in our world to follow and our trust and respect for our former leaders is lost on the new ones.
To that end, the only solution I see in combating drugs and other harmful addictions is to provide a supportive community and network to encourage the weak among us. Where people have been disenfranchised from role models or equal access to opportunity, those of us more lucky and productive need to step in and lend a helping hand. This is not a government program, but about starting from the local and even familial level up. If everyone just took responsibility for themselves and their own flesh and blood...principles that most great civilizations were built on...there would be no need for big expensive government programs fighting "drug wars".
I have seen a lot of people in my life, both family and friends, affected by the ravages of substance abuse. Some have died, and others are amazing stories of recovery and victory. Those who have recovered have had to start with their own decision and recognizance that they had to change. In many cases they also had great support both emotionally and monetarily from friends and family to do so. "Intervention" starts at "home"...not with government programs. The people I have known and/or read about who have overcome substances have usually been challenged by those closest to them. Challenge, love and support of the individual struggling is hugely important in bringing about this societal change.
I also must mention the irony of how our society has "legalized" certain substances like alcohol, tobacco and many addictive food substances...many commonly known to cause cancer in both rats and humans. Yet, we focus on incarcerating people who smoke or take more "natural" or herbal substances such as marijuana and various forms of "poppy" seeds. I truly believe SOME human conditions can be improved by controlled use of some of these "illegal" substances. Yet, legislators meet over multiple cocktails and big fat cigars to come up with new budgets to control and feed the "anti drug" campaigns. Anyone else see the irony in this?
The only long term solution I see for winning this fight is to first live by example. Don't think that your kids will respect your position on drugs if you are yelling and screaming on the subject with a slight martini slur. Second, you can't take something away from people without giving them something better to replace it. This is against human nature. If you give a baby a rattle to play with and then want to take it away, you'd better have some tasty food or a better enhancement to replace its interest in the rattle. Adults are just grown up children. We all want our pleasures and enjoyment in life...if we are human. Yet, we sometimes need to be told or coaxed in a loving way to focus on something else every once in a while. We need to train parents to be good ones. We need to elect political leaders who will lead by example. We need financially successful role models in our lives to give us hope that we too can be productive and successful. It still starts with the "power of ONE"...not big institutional programs.
You have to push MEANING...not just coercion...to the masses. This is best done by education versus police, judges and jailers.