Aljazeera...arguably the best objective news media source in the world today...with a program about the power of the Catholic church, the Vatican, and religion in general. The program is called "Empire" (here is a link to the program which I hope remains long term) and much of the conversation was about the changes and "de-centralization" Pope Francis is extending via his new role as Pope of the Catholic church.
In this interview, we have a Jesuit priest, a media specialist and an secular author on Catholic issues discussing the possible changes to come in the world's largest religion and Christian denomination. I believe this was one of the most objective interviews and discussions I have seen about religion, especially Catholicism, and the issue of power and empire building based on that religion.
Without reviewing the broadcast linked above, I want to comment on the basic issues that it represents. Anyone who has studied history from an objective and secular viewpoint must give credence to the role of religion in cultures and historic events of the past 2000+ years. We only have to go back a few decades in modern history to see and understand events such as "Vatican 2", the new Evangelical movements within Protestantism, and other religious movements to see its affect on modern day governments and civilization as a whole.
The first Vatican council was in 1868. The second ran for three years and closed in 1965. My what a difference those 100 years made in positions and standards of the world's largest religion, Catholicism. Anyone who claims that religion has no affect or role in global events is simply misinformed or ignorant at best. Historically governments have used religious fervor as a preface for actions it wanted to take. Why is that? Because religion is the most fundamental emotion at the core of human behavior and action. Most people in the world have a fundamental faith of some kind...and this "fundamentalism" drives every decision and position taken by this majority of humans. While secularism is growing in the world...we must still take religion very seriously in world affairs. After all, most politics, wars and economic divides are based on religious/cultural divisions that are used and manipulated by powers that be to deliver the subterfuge that those powers exist by.
Without boring you with a long historical rendition of examples, we only have to look back the last century to see how politics and religion have conspired together to affirm each other. Going back to WW2 and Nazi Germany, we see the struggle between Catholic and Protestant churches to survive during this political plague of extreme egotism of the secular Nazi state. It is obvious that many "accommodations" were made between political and religious leaders of the day in order to sustain power and influence on both sides of this equation. Neither side of this divide were honest or out front on their positions regarding the other, because both sides wanted to survive and found ways to manipulate each other to secure their powers and influence. Meanwhile, you had Jews and fundamentalists like German preacher Bonhoeffer who could not or did not change their "spots" to accommodate the powers of that day...and they paid the ultimate sacrifice for their identity or beliefs.
While I could go through many other examples in this current century, lets jump to today's reality of "church and state". At the highest levels, today's international conflicts are being waged based on cultural and religious heritages midst the expanding melting pot of human migration because of globalism. The "western world", dominated by "Christian" traditions and values, is in direct competition and conflict with Eastern religions and/or Asian secularism. Today's conflicts are many...between Catholics and Protestants in many parts of the world, especially Ireland, and between Shia and Sunni Muslims in so many Middle East and Eastern countries. The religious "masses" are all laying claim to their dominance, or "future" dominance, based on the apocalyptic fundamental beliefs they have maintained for thousands of years. Yet, as a growing secularist, one has to ask...where does this all end...and to whom goes the "spoils" of these conflicts?
I have come to the point in life and belief where I think this is all a game of smoke and mirrors played out by modern day "Wizards of Ozs" who make the masses think they have democratic control, or should be "thankful" to be taken care of by the great ruler or government over them, which pays homage to a "God" of their persuasion. All the same, these "leaders" or rulers are playing a game of "Charades", using the media and financial backing to create an image of competency, belief or leadership that does not truly exist. Yet, because of the ease of mass manipulation, these people get away with their roles of power and influence purely based on mass appeal versus true character or identity. There is a caste system of "king makers" within most religions and governments. They are about sustaining the status quo more than what is in the best interests of the masses.
In recent eras of American politics, especially at the the Presidential level, we have seen tremendous distortions and contradictions in statements of our aspiring leaders. Because most people have no true understanding of what real Christianity or Islam is all about...we really aren't clear on whether our current President is Christian, Muslim or totally Secular. I get almost daily emails from various factions making claims on all sides of that equation for President Obama. In the end, I don't know and don't care. I just want him to be a man of his word and a true leader of the best interests of ALL Americans.
I continue to believe that power corrupts, and "absolute power corrupts absolutely". I have seen it personally in religious and political organizations...and I also often see it in corporate or business environments. When humans reach a certain point of "success" or "following", they tend to meta-morph into authorities and ideologues whose positions and statements go largely unquestioned by the masses who follow them. Somehow, we humans just need someone in flesh and blood to follow and believe in to feel safe and whole in our vast universe. We love to suck on the hind tit of popular thought and reason to settle any mystery we have about life.
I believe that the influence of "power" supersedes all religions and governments. It is very difficult to find a truly objective or centrist leader in religion or government. Contradictions exist everywhere. Case in point the previously mentioned new Argentinian Pope Francis. On one hand he purports an agenda of humility and identification with the poor masses of his following. At the same time, he continues to uphold centuries old and outdated dogmas such as prohibition of contraceptives and sexual abstinence of clergy in the Catholic church which continues the cycle of mass poverty and unrealistic expectations of human behavior. When will a church leader ever step up and give human sexuality its due in the course of real human life, desire and connectivity? When will we rid ourselves of the guilt complexes most of us continue to grow up with in this supposedly enlightened age?
At the end of the day, I believe people who want power go in either of three directions...religion, politics or executive management. In the pure sense, I have no problem with the human drive to lead and succeed and "making a difference" in humanity and progress. At the same time, it is hard to find a leader in any of those three "practices" who is completely transparent about who they are and what they REALLY believe. It seems that to grow in power almost demands that we often must cover up our real thoughts or beliefs. We must be "acceptable" to the majority...which is not always the most moral.
I have met many Republicans who are closet Democrats, and vice versa. I have met many Christian clergymen who quietly question the fundamentals of Christianity. I have met many Corporate leaders who are all about their own egos, power and influence in the corporate environment. They will do "whatever it takes" to succeed or be liked and supported. In the end I believe they do this because they want to have power and influence more than even money. They want this more than to be true to themselves. They want this more than "truth" itself. And many discover the truth about their beliefs or positions far too late in life to admit change or failure of those positions.
Power has no religion...and religion is extremely about power and control over humanity. Truth and "power" are quite separate bedfellows. Just study objectively your history...and you will see it too.
Sunday, May 5, 2013
The Bible in various places uses the symbol of a "cup" to illustrate many points the authors were trying to make. Usually a cup represents the portion of life a person is given. Other passages talk about giving a cup of water to those in need while in other places it refers to the soul as in filling our cup of joy, grief, love, etc.. I have always liked the allegory of a cup to illustrate if our lives are full or not...or to measure happiness.
When we carry that symbol to our love lives...I think it takes on a whole other dimension. In this cause and effect world I believe in, I think the measure of our "cups" are directly proportionate to how we have been loved, nurtured or cared for. The nature of love itself calls on us to be sensitive to our own needs and the needs of others for positive reinforcement, encouragement and support of ones ego or identity. Unless you have enough self love to give from, you cannot love someone else effectively. Also, if your cup is so full of yourself that you have no room for others, you will not be able to receive from another person.
This also serves as the basis for "community" in my estimation. All normal humans in my experience respond positively to those who are affirming and uplifting of others while no one tends to be very comfortable around people that are negative, unhappy or bring us down. We tend to like genuinely cheerful people over morose or depressed ones, because they "fill our cup". They make us feel good to be around them and even better about ourselves.
There is a Proverb that says "he will have friends who shows himself friendly". Cause and effect. Another thing my grandfather used to say to me is "you will be known by the company you keep". I extend that to the reality that we "become" like the people around us. Therefore, we will tend to be happier and content if we are around people with positive outlooks and energy. Likewise, if we are always around negative, critical and even evil people...we will tend to become like them or at least brought down by them in our life experience.
In general, I believe that people with "full cups" tend to be those who have come from nurturing families and traditions. Some people are just lucky enough to be brought up in homes and families that filled them with hope and positive energy...while others have had to suffer or find a way to fill their cups from other external sources or by removing themselves from their original communities or families. I don't know about you, but I can always sense when I walk into someone's house whether this space is basically happy or sad, positive or negative. This to me is "spirit" that is hard to quantify, but is nonetheless a result of attitudes and personalities that fill that living space. I don't believe in ghosts...but I do believe in "essence" or "aura". This essence is determined by the character and personality of the people in that house or room. It is a powerful entity. You also sense it when strong, self assured people enter a room or you observe them in the street. There is power in having a full cup and a healthy ego.
I do believe that love and happiness is a choice. I don't think anyone can MAKE anyone else be happy. It has to be a choice of an individual to receive or experience love and happiness. It is about being content and happy with the basic things and not always aspiring to that which we don't have. Is our cup half full or half empty? Do we contribute to other people's cups positively by filling them, or do we take from them without giving anything back in return?
The most balanced relationships I have observed in my lifetime are between couples of similar personalities, backgrounds and outlooks. There seem to be less and less of these couples anymore. In many cases there is a strong person with a weaker one. There is a giving partner and a taking partner. It's called "co-dependency". Sometimes these relationships work for a long time or forever...but you never quite feel comfortable being around these types of "couples". You would rather be with one or the other...because no one wants to see someone else s cup, or your own for that matter, being drained for no good reason.
I think human relationships at whatever type of love we are discussing are a balancing act. There is a time to give and a time to take. There is a time to confront, and there is a time to forgive. Everyone seems to have a different capacity level to give without getting in return...but eventually even the strongest among us needs some positive reinforcement or moral support. I have seen "givers" who after a while lose their essence. They burn out. They may still be givers...but the joy of giving is gone when people just take advantage of their generosity without reciprocating.
There are many people who don't know how to "receive" gracefully. I think many people way down deep feel unworthy of being loved or supported...whether it be emotionally, physically, financially or otherwise. The inability to receive often comes from PRIDE...too proud to need anything or anyone. Or...it can be indicative of FEAR...fearing to receive because they don't want to "owe" anything in return or risk being hurt if the sharing shuts off at some point. Some of us fear getting too close to others because we think we have to always be self sufficient...and we have learned unfortunately not to trust or believe in anyone. These person's cups are continually low or empty...and they have nothing to give even if they may have a cup of abundance they don't even realize they have.
Sometimes it is as simple as a hug or a firm handshake between friends. I come from a culture that was never very warm and affectionate physically. Much of our western civilization as a whole has become frigid and distant physically. We don't think twice about sportsmen hugging each other as strangers on the field of sport, yet many of us feel funny hugging or being hugged by friends or family. I don't believe this is natural...but is learned behavior from those we have "shared cups" with. You can almost always tell when someone is uncomfortable with physical affection or proximity. They stiffen or pull back. BUT...I believe over time, with consistent "cup filling", these false barriers or limits can be breached in positive ways.
My father was internally a very caring man, but physically he was always a bit distant and detached. Most of that side of the family and generation were. In my early 20s I spent a lot more time with him than I had in my childhood through my parents divorce at a young age. He was actually a bit down and out at that time and was living with me while going through another divorce. I decided that I was going to start hugging my Dad instead of our occasional handshake...if only a feeble attempt to make him feel not so alone or detached in the world. At first he always went stiff and could not embrace back...but after months of doing this...slowly but surely...my Dad started hugging back. He hardly ever initiated this his whole life...but he got to where he would reciprocate. This helped fill my cup back...knowing that he was responding to what I was trying to demonstrate or express to him. A couple years later when my grandmother died...I was late getting to the visitation because I lived far away. I hadn't seen much of him lately due to moving away and I wondered how he was handling or responding to loosing Grandma who he was particularly close to. When I arrived, I went directly to my father and he immediately hugged me and broke down crying. One of the only times I saw him do that in his life. My stepmother told me he had not cried until that moment...and I felt honored that he chose to do that with me. I think it was because we had learned to fill each others cups. And that is what this is all about.
Friday, May 3, 2013
For most of us, this started from our first days after birth. We were brought into this world innocent and free to become whatever our individual potentials might have been. Unfortunately, most of our parents were unknowing slaves to institutions and governments who have for generations perpetuated an agenda for limiting individual freedoms in the name of God and country.
While we were yet infants we were taught, or it was demanded of us, to form our identities around a flag of nationhood and/or around symbols of a blind faith in God or his "representatives". Day after day we were prodded and educated to replicate the behaviors and attitudes of our forefathers , pay tribute to our governments and to "put God first in our lives"...unless of course we prefer going to jail...or hell.
Our history books were written and edited with patriotic fervor...extolling only the positive actions and virtues of our national histories. At least in the USA textbooks, all our wars, invasions and conflicts were justified and moral. Plus...God was usually on our side and called upon by all our rulers to bless our wars and prefer our nation and race over all others. Freedom and honor was always the patriotic rallying cry from all institutions in one unified voice...military, political and religious. Amazingly, most other civilized nations had the same prayer towards the same God, but apparently some of them were not heard.
The unintended consequences of nationalist victory was more and more controls and demands from burgeoning governments and new global organizations such as the League of Nations, United Nations, World Bank, etc.. With the end of every major war in the past century, government leaders realigned borders and barriers to divide the world into separate "fiefdoms" of governmental controls. Masses of the world were forced to align under despotic leader after power hungry leader who were often put in position by the big three global powers of the day to control the masses and force styles of government and trade mandated by those few empirical powers.
Taxation without representation became the mode of the day throughout the world...democratic and non democratic systems alike. Distribution of goods and services, money and commodities, were all controlled by a few hundred "leaders" around the world...most of them politicos, lawyers or bankers. Without the general knowledge or consensus of common individuals, we now find our rights and freedoms to live and move about at will to be totally controlled by these mysterious and unnamed forces. "They" are the ones who issue us passports...or not...for leaving our countries of origin or residence or entering those we have interest in. "They" are the ones who control and manipulate our currencies and costs of food, gas, clothing and travel. We have unwittingly become the "slaves" of large unknown powers...who we THINK we can vote in and out of power...but realistically we have no objective knowledge or power to determine our leaders/slaveholders anymore.
For the foreseeable future, gone are the concepts of laissez faire economics, free trade or free association. Technology has become a double edged sword of giving us freedom of information and perspective, yet also that same technology has obliterated your privacy and freedom to come and go as you please or worse yet, move YOUR money from one place or currency to another.
The worst slavery is that form where the slave does not know he is kept. Its like raising rats in a large cage featuring a maze where their whole short lives are spent trying to figure out how to find their way out...but they are never allowed to succeed. That is how many of us are living our lives...trying to convince ourselves that the institutional "mazes" we live in are truly for our own good and the masses around us. Heaven forbid should we ever find ourselves truly free from the masses to operate on our own levels of freedom and self determination. We might never survive without all these controls over our lives. We are forced to live like Sméagol in "Lord of the Rings" who had been deformed and twisted in both body and mind by the corruption of the Ring. His chief desire was to possess the Ring that had enslaved him, and he pursued it for many years. To me he is simply an allegory for how so much of the human race lives on a daily basis...our lives of "quiet desperation".
The saddest fact of how most of us live our lives is that we do not realize we are enslaved. We do not know what it is like to take 100% responsibility and control for our existences. A majority of the world lives totally dependent on one system or another of mass domination and manipulation. We are not allowed to see or know information about the conflicts and economic policies of our governmental rulers. We are not encouraged to know or understand the history of the religious books so many of us base our lives on. We simply accept the social handouts and "guarantees" of basic survival and are so proud of how we play our various systems to get more of a handout than our neighbor next door. We compete in the feeding troughs of the masses while never discovering the riches to be had outside of the system/maze we are in.
So, what are our alternatives? If we suddenly wake up to these realizations, what can we do? In my mind, we basically have two choices.
One, we simply escape the systems, recede to some distant, more basic style/standard of living where money is not an issue or an object. Like the heroes in "Atlas Shrugged", we need to discover the secret and lost community where we can live and express ourselves freely and not depend on the machinations of the mainstream systems. OR...
Two...we must strive and grapple to get more than our share of money and power in the current system. If we become part of the bankers or politicos who control the system...this is the only way we are above the rules and regulations of that system. We need to become part of the "crony" network to succeed with this option.
Sorry...I wish I had more options, ideas and hope for getting out of slavery...but until more of the masses realize just how captured they are...there will be no strong movement towards a truly free and independent way to live. Until we get out of the control of mainstream media, educational systems and religious programming...we will never know our true selves, potentials...or the TRUTH.