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Spiritual Practices

I enjoy teaching the material I teach.  I find it relevant to life and trust the students will discover the same thing for their life.  I am not confident that what I teach will help them get the kind of job they want.  But I am very confident they will not have a very meaningful life if they don’t start reflecting on the things I teach.  As most of us know, life is more than a job---more than even a career.  And even if we feel called to do what we do, simply doing that is not sufficient to the good life.  This is why one of the spiritual practices essential to the good life is to live virtuously.  The classical virtues---like love, courage, justice and the others---have been around a very long time.  They are aids to good relationships.  Without them, we will be heading for quicksand.  And so one of the practices I want students to work on is living a life of virtue.  If effect, this kind of life produces people of character.  And if we can do that, there will be fewer bad characters
Recent posts

Alienation and Hatred

Simply seeing the title of this inspirational piece could be a real turnoff.  Who wants to read about alienation and hate?  I hope to avoid both!  Any sane person should be against both of them.  If I am honest, however, I have at times felt some alienation and no doubt have hated, even though I know I am not supposed to hate anyone.  I also am guessing I am not alone on this confession.   I also don’t sit around thinking about topics like this.  But it came to me in a reading from the late Trappist monk Thomas Merton’s journals.  I am reading through some of Merton’s journals for a paper I am writing.  Merton did not write in his journal every day, but he wrote often.  And many times, the entry is substantial.  His journals have been edited and comprise a seven-volume series.   The entry I read comes from April 11, 1958.  It is not unusual for Merton to ramble in these journal entries.  This entry tells us that he spent some time visiting with the father of a son who was one of the mo

Kingdom Culture

I do a fair amount of work that most folks would consider non-spiritual.  Much of that is done in the business world and some in the world of athletics.  Although I am not sure I can separate my spiritual self from my non-spiritual self.  I figure most of us are who we are.  We are not split between various selves.  But I do think we show different parts of our self, depending on our context.  I consider this to be pretty normal. Part of my focus in my “non-spiritual” work is on culture.  However, culture is a good example of the kind of thing that also has currency in the spiritual world.  For example, churches and mosques have their own culture.  Two Jewish synagogues are both Jewish, but they might feel very different, depending on the folks who attend and who lead the group.  It is well-known that Irish Catholics are not the same gang as Italians.  This is not strange so much as it is normal.   Cultures are how groups of people think, feel and act.  We bring our personalities to ou

Search for Meaning

I am grateful for continuing opportunities that come my way---usually because of some friends of mine.  Perhaps that is one of the ways grace works in our ordinary worlds.  One such opportunity for me was to participate in Grand Rounds at the Cleveland Clinic.  Grand Rounds is part of medical education---often seen as an important part of the residency program for doctors-to-be.   My daughter is a physician, so I know she has participated in this experience.  I must admit, I never thought I would.  However, the Cleveland Clinic was hosting a renowned Yale epidemiologist and was told he would be talking about the pandemic, which we all have suffered since Spring, 2020.  An epidemiologist is someone who studies the event, distribution and potential solution to various diseases.  As a discipline, it is especially concerned with public health issues.  I was intrigued and jumped at the chance. At first, the presenter put our most recent bout with the virus into historical perspective.  Our

But Not

Near the beginning of Brian Doyle’s wonderful book, Eight Whopping Lies, we find a great line that gives us the title of this inspirational piece.  Before getting to that, however, let me establish the context so that you will appreciate it when it comes.  Doyle’s book is a series of short thirty-eight essays.  They are extremely well-written.  It takes a few reads to begin getting used to his style.  The essay I want to use he simply entitles, “100th St.”  It opens innocently.  “ By chance I was in New York City seven months after September 11…” (3)  He adds, “…and I saw a moment that I shall turn over and over in my mind like a puzzle, like a koan, like a prism.”  Doyle continues to develop the essay.  He describes attending a conference, which bored him with its people and presentations.  He says he is “weary of it all, weary of being sermonized by pompous authority, weary of the cocksure and the arrogant and the tin-eared…”  So he went for a walk in Manhattan.  And he wound up in a

A Sense of Belonging

There are few things as important to being human than a sense of belonging.  I am sure psychologists have called it by various names and with various concepts, but I like the idea of belonging.  The opposite is just as clear: not belonging.  Not to belong means you have no part in the group, family or unit.  To belong means you are included.  You are part of the gang.  That truly is good news.  It may not be inherently a spiritual word, but at its core, it really is spiritual.   Belonging happens very early in life.  And its opposite, sadly, can happen just as early.  Erik Erikson, the famous psychoanalyst, said the first step in becoming human was learning to trust or mistrust.  Infants begin negotiating this developmental step long before they have language, etc.  Clearly, the mother is key to this process.  But father and other close family members play a big role, too.  I am just recently off the experience of watching grandkids come into my world.  It has been too long since my ow

Making Good Trouble

Today’s inspirational piece is about the singer, Joan Baez.  I have never met Baez, even though we share the Quaker tradition.  I have long admired her for both her music and her ministry.  When I think about ministry, I do so in the Quaker sense of a wide and expansive ministry.  We do not limit that term to ordained ministers.  Rather everyone who claims to be spiritual---certainly in a Christian sense---has a ministry.  In Latin the term simply means to “serve.”  We are all called to be servants---to God and each other.  Baez has done this. She came back into my consciousness when I read a piece announcing that she will be honored by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  Baez is now eighty years old and still going strong.  Colman McCarthy wrote this piece and acknowledged, “Her voice remains as pure as it was when the nation first heard it at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival.  Equally so, her commitment to nonviolence and human rights has been unwavering."  I was struck f