Paying Forward

I had not really thought much about it until my friend mentioned it in his remarks to me and some of my younger student friends. He is a pretty “big person” in our part of the world. He is a name of national prominence. I feel fortunate to have a good relationship with him. Apart from a good friendship, I don’t get any special things from him. The best thing is his willingness to take time to speak to my student friends.

The “it” he mentioned was in the phrase, “paying it forward.” There he was in front of us saying the real reason he was spending time with us was to “pay it forward.” It was appropriate. He did not have to do this. He wasn’t going to get anything personally from doing it. In fact, we could actually be seen as a pain in the neck for him! But he wanted to pay it forward.

Most of us know what this means. Usually it comes out of recognition that somebody or, even, a few others did things for us when we were younger. It could have been opportunities for something we might …

An Attractive Community

Regular followers of my inspirational reflections know I like how David Brooks thinks and writes.  Brooks routinely writes pieces that appear in the New York Times and other venues.  I don’t always agree with Brooks’ politics, but I do value his clarity and his ability to develop analytical thinking that helps me think more clearly.  Like a good teacher, I can say that Brooks helps me get clear what I think!

I don’t comment on every editorial he writes, but I do read every one.  I like his range of reading.  He has put me on to books I never would have known about, much less read.  Recently, he has thought a great deal about ethics, virtues and the like.  This resonates with my own work.  I value his take on contemporary politics and what a mess that world is.  But he does not just complain; he offers alternatives and solutions.  As far as I know, he is not now nor ever does he intend to run for public office.  I hope he doesn’t because that would blunt his effectiveness as a critic---…

Healing in the Clouds

I first saw this editorial in the New York Times though a tweet a friend of mine sent.  Maybe that is the best thing about Twitter.  It gives me a chance to see things I otherwise would miss.  This tweet referenced an editorial that I was delighted to read and caused memories and some pondering.  The article was entitled, “In Costa Rica, Loss in the Clouds.”  It was written by Joseph Heithaus, whom I did not know.  But I now know he is a professor of English at DePauw University in Indiana.

Because my friend who sent the tweet is an active Quaker, I am sure that is why I first took notice.  But I also realized it was about Costa Rica, which I have visited and very much vow to return some day.  As I started to read the editorial, I did not know how engaged I would be.  As I began to read, I noticed the place from which the author was writing was Monteverde.  I have been to Monteverde, along with my daughter, and I was eager to dive into the editorial.

Heithaus began ominously: “At the en…

Spiritual Optimism

I enjoy following what Pope Francis is doing.  Being Pope means he always has an audience and whatever he says is noted and usually made available.  Of course, I can’t imagine living in that kind of spotlight.  Surely, he has down time and time alone, but that is not newsworthy.  He must always be alert to where he is and what he is saying.  Lately he has been giving some speeches on hope.  Since that is one of the classical virtues about which I have written, I take note.  I always want to be in a learning mode.

In that recent speech on hope, Francis is quoted to say, “Christians are never pessimistic, resigned or weak, thinking life is an unstoppable train careening out of control.”  That is a bold statement and one, I’m sure, some folks would claim is not right or not realistic.  It is worth unpacking this and taking a closer look at what he is affirming.

I am sure some people of faith would when the Pope says Christians “never” do something.  Never is an absolute word.  Obviously, i…

To Miss a Life

Sometimes all it takes is one sentence.  Sometimes all it takes is one sentence to be sufficient focus for an entire inspirational reflection.  In fact, some sentences contain so much richness, it takes more than one meditative setting to begin to digest everything in a few words.  Some writers seem to be directly and intuitively connected to the Holy One.  The words that pour forth from their pen are, as if, immediate revelation.  It is almost like the Divine Being Itself has grabbed the pen.

One writer I find like this is Walker Percy.  I have not read as much of him as I wish, but when I do, I am spiritually floored.  For example, in his novel, The Second Coming, we find this single sentence, which is actually a question.  “Is it possible for people to miss their lives in the same way one misses a plane?”  This question arrests me.  It grabs me and won’t let go.  In many ways it is a rather simple question.  On the surface it is even a bit playful.  Immediately, I smile and almost …

Prudence: Archaic Idea?

I swore when I was a kid that if I ever got old, I would never talk about “when I was a kid!”  When I was a kid, I hated that kind of talk from my elders.  I did not care how far they had to walk to school.  It made no difference to me what the price of gas was or what the price of anything was.  I still believe in that commitment not to talk about the days when I was a kid. 

The only ones who might be remotely interested in the days when I was a kid are the other older people!  And many of them don’t want to hear about the days when I was a kid.  They prefer, instead, to talk about the days when they were a kid.  And I still don’t care!  To put it in context, most of the people I spend time with these days have lived more than half of their lives in this 21st century!  That blows my mind, but they don’t care.

It means I have to be careful when I am in the classroom or the Student Union and not use references that make no sense to them.  It does no good to talk about Kennedy or Reaga…

Insight: A Look Within

It was while I was reading a really interesting book that I had an insight.  The insight itself is not what I want to give focus.  Instead I became intrigued by the process of getting an insight.  What happened?  How did the process happen?  Was it a matter of luck or is there really something I could do to enhance my chances of getting insights?  Let’s pursue this idea, especially with respect to spiritual insight.

The word, insight, is fairly simple and straightforward.  It is a compound word, “in” and “sight.”  Literally it means to “see within” something.  It means looking “inside” something (it could even be a person).  In that sense we get an “inside look.”  But it also is a little trickier than this.

If we were standing outside a house and peered into a window, we would not say that we had “insight” into the house.  We merely would affirm that we had looked “inside.”  And if I open a drawer in my house, I would never say that I had “insight” when I looked inside.  I simply look…