Showing posts from May, 2013

Faith and Belief

I sometimes wonder what would have been my journey if I had taken the other fork of the road?I am not being flip.I assume that we all have come to numerous forks in the road.We have to choose and when we do choose, heading down one particular way, we know the other road at the fork that we did not choose is lost to us.We will never know what life would have been like if we had chosen that other road.I don’t lament lost choices.I don’t regret any of my choices---although they certainly have not all been good choices!But I do wonder.
One of the good choices I made was to continue being a reader.Clearly there were choices in my life, where if I had made them, would effectively have meant that I would have quit reading.Oh, that does not mean I never would have read anything.There probably are many jobs that people do that entail no reading.But most people working those jobs are literate.They can read.
They have to read to pass the driver’s test and get a license.They have to read enough …

Religion: What Do You Think?

Out of the blue came a request to write something very short on religion.The request was not much more specific than that.“Sure,” I thought, “I can write a few words on religion!”I know that it sometimes is much more difficult to write a few words than to wax eloquent about a topic such as “religion.”
The other part of the request that was funny was that I see teenagers as one target audience.“Of course,” I thought, “I am an expert on teenagers, their psychological and spiritual development.After all, a few words should do it!”After that, I think I will solve the American budget crisis and eradicate the national debt!
So where does one start when you are going to write a few words on religion?One thing I do not assume is that most people would define religion in the same way.I have a hunch there are many different definitions floating in the air out there.Often that is where trouble begins; you don’t have a “correct” understanding of religion and I make some judgment.Of course, you can …

Defining Spirituality

From time to time, I return to something I have read years before.I guess that is one good argument for a library!In our technological culture I am sure there is less book buying than I did.That is not a bad thing.But I still do like to have a book to hold in my hand, to underline and place back on a shelf in the hope that some day in the future, I will again pull it off the shelf and re-read parts of it.
I did that just yesterday.I am working on some guest lectures for the near future.It is a topic that I have given some thought to, but have never actually lectured or spoken publically about this theme.This is an odd place---a place where I have been many times.The topic given to me to address is one that I am quite happy to do.I have many, many thoughts, ideas, and half-baked suppositions running through my head.On one hand, it feels like I know quite a bit and could stand up right now and speak for an hour on the topic.On the other hand, realistically I know that I have no organiz…

Memorial Day: Re-Membering

Memorial Day---or better, yet, Memorial Day weekend---is a complex holiday.That does not make it anything less than other major holidays; it is just different.It seems that the federal holiday has its origins right after the Civil War.It was an opportunity to remember those Union soldiers who had died in that cause.Gradually, the “remembering” expanded to include all the men and women who had died in the service of their country.
Earlier, it often was called Decoration Day.I heard this term most of the time when I was growing up in rural Indiana.I understood it as the time when the old people went to the cemeteries to “decorate” with flowers the graves of their family and friends.I knew it had some military association, but by my lifetime, the holiday again had expanded to include everyone who had already passed away.But it was more complex than that.
For many people Memorial Day celebrates the beginning of summer.That association with summer helps if it hits 90 degrees!Summer begins…

Improvisation Meets Serendipity

A friend of mine sent me an interesting article on improvisation.I know what improvisation means, but I admit I never thought too much about it.Probably like you, when I do think of improvisation, I think of nightclubs and television.Those are the usual venues where actors of some sort entertain people by “winging it.”That is probably the street definition of improvisation: the ability to wing it.
That is a decent beginning understanding of improvisation, as I begin to think about it more.The article that I read gives this street definition a little more clarity and development.Kip Kelly, the author of the article, begins his definition in this fashion.“In essence, improv, short for improvisation, is performing without a script; it is spontaneous invention…that is often needed to create something entirely new and unique.Improvisation is often thought of as ‘off the cuff’ activity, with little or no preparation or forethought…”That made a great deal of sense to me.So far, so good.

Tools of the Spiritual Craft

The Rule of St. Benedict is a classic spiritual text.It was written by the founder of the Benedictine monastic tradition, Benedict.He was an Italian who lived in the late fifth and early sixth century.The Rule is usually dated somewhere around 529 CE.The era of Benedict was a chaotic time in what is modern day Italy.The glory of the Roman Empire was long over.The identifiable nations of modern Europe were far from being formed and developed.It was the period known as the early Middle Ages.When I was in my early years of education, this period was known as the Dark Ages.
Christianity was now part of the fabric of the land.But Christianity had lost some of its original spirit and fervor when it became so much a part of the social culture.Since it was no longer illegal to be a Christian, it was easy---some would argue, too easy---to be Christian.People like Benedict wanted more.They wanted a life of the Spirit that would approximate how Jesus lived and that characterized those early disc…

Cultural Shift: Spiritual Loss

There are some writers who speak to me in fairly predictable ways.Some of them are contemporary people who write for newspapers, on the internet, and other social media.Others who speak to me are long since dead: spiritual greats from centuries ago, i.e. people like Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila and a host of others.I don’t really pay too much attention to their political or religious categorization---such as conservative or liberal, evangelical or modern.
One such writer I like is David Brooks.He writes for the New York Times.Some of the really great material he brings is nothing he invented.It comes from something he reads or hears and, then, reflects on it.Maybe I am attracted to this because it is much like I work.
Recently, I read something from Brooks.I was lured by the headline of the article: “What Our Words Tell Us.”Granted, I have a love of words.Any of my students will tell you that.So I wondered what our words tell us, according to David Br…

Celebrating Inequality

When I saw the title, which is the same newspaper title I use in this inspirational piece, I was immediately pulled to read it.Authored by George Packer, the article is about inequality and also about heroes.I don’t often put those two themes together, so it was an interesting perspective.
Packer helped me to think about the phenomenon of celebrities.I will admit that I don’t care much at all about celebrities.In many ways the cultural celebrities come from arenas that don’t impress me that much, namely, entertainment and sports.I certainly like sports, but I don’t think the heroes in the sporting world are any different than the average person---except they are really rich!And that is part of the article’s argument.
Packer asks the right question.He queries, “What are celebrities, after all?”Rich, famous?Usually both are true.Packer continues by noting that celebrities “dominate the landscape, like giant monuments to aspiration, fulfillment and overreach.”That is an interesting way …

Host and Guest

Hosting and being a guest are two sides of the same coin.I was first clued in to this fact when I learned Latin.The Latin word, hospes, gives us the English words, hospital, hospice and related words.In its Latin form, it can be translated “host,’ “guest” or “stranger.”That is why I can say that hosting and being a guest are two sides of the same coin.The Latin coin is hospes.Let’s look at each side of the coin.
Probably most of us learn about being a guest before we learn about hosting.I have early childhood memories of going with my dad into the town in early mornings.For a kid growing up on the farm, this was a big deal.Since I was the oldest kid, there could be an entire day when I would see no one except my two parents.That was not bad.But it was more fun to go to town and see some of my dad’s friends.
Often we would stop at the local drugstore, which was really the epicenter of human interaction on an early morning in that small town.There the guys would gather, have coffee and…

Mindfulness for the Moment

I often wonder what goes through folks’ minds when they see the title of my inspirational reflection.When I use the word, mindfulness, I wonder what sort of connotations that has for the people who read this.If they have some awareness of Buddhism, they might figure I am doing a Buddhist thing today.Certainly mindfulness plays a very important role in Buddhist spirituality.But mindfulness is not a Buddhist concept.It is a more general concept which plays a huge role in Buddhist practice.

I suspect there is a role for mindfulness in every major religious tradition.Clearly, the word, mindfulness, may not be used in all the traditions, but the idea is there. In fact, it is difficult for me to imagine anyone who is religious or spiritual who is not mindful in some way.
Let’s take a general look at what people mean when they use the word, mindfulness.I like the definition I found in a recent article.The writer talks about mindfulness as “intentionally paying attention to the present nonj…

Fundamental Human Questions II

If the first fundamental human question is “who am I,” surely the second question is “what should I do?”In most cases these two questions are inextricably tied together. What happens with one question affects the other one.However, we can only talk about them one at a time, so this reflection piece gives focus to the question, what should I do?

The first thing to realize in this question is the focus goes on the verb.In the other question, “who am I,” the focus was on the subject---on “who.”But in this second question the focus clearly shines on the verb---“do.”The implication is everyone should do something.Not doing something is, in effect, doing something, i.e. doing nothing.This tells me that human beings are essentially designed to be somebody and to do something.The only questions are who am I as a somebody and what should I do, since I have to do something.
Humans were designed from the beginning to do something.In the Genesis story of human creation, the original humans were p…