Friday, April 18, 2014

On Having Less





Recently four premier football players on a major league team had problems with the police for various bad behaviors…serious traffic violations, assault, having trouble with women in hotel rooms, etc. This all made the news, of course, to the embarrassment of the team manager who touted his players as a “gold star” team…good behaviors on the field and off as well. Well, not anymore. Stories like these are not real news anymore. In the world of high-stakes sports we have seen any number of multi-million-dollar young players engaging, at the very least, in careless, if not illegal, behaviors simply because they could…no ethics involved here.

What becomes real dismay is that these stories are not found only in world of sports. They are found wherever a few have huge sums of money and are able to do pretty much whatever they want…from buying up smaller companies to influencing elections. Once Middle America did not begrudge the well-to-do their money. After all, that was the American Way, as long as we could work well, work fairly and care for our families and share some of the wealth.

There were always the have-mores and have-nots, and we tried to help the have-nots. Now there is a new kind of living level that I call the have-less. These people are not falling into poverty; they are not usually able to increase income much, and they find that they have less and less to work with and must work more and longer to the point where some will now never be able to fully retire. Instead they are paying attention now to the huge flows of money that go to a very few, and the word, inequality, begins to be heard in terms other than racial and ethnic.

As spiritual thinkers, themes like jealousy and envy do not serve our good health, and they do not help in seeking new and greater possibilities. Still we could ask: Is ethical behavior fleeing the land of the free and the home of the brave? We may not completely be our brothers’ keepers, but we may be in danger of becoming immoral orphans. Our legacy as spiritual beings should bind us together, but our behaviors are casting us into shadows.

Jesus said that we cannot serve God and mammon. I always thought we could…but spirituality needs a better shake than it’s getting!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

On Beauty





How many of us think to stand naked before a mirror and say, “Good morning, Beautiful! (or Handsome, as the case may be)  You’re looking great today!” Crazy, right? Especially if the body looking back at us is not exactly young and lithe. But, then, who decided that only youth could possess beauty? Or that beauty was the purview of the single-chinned? It may be true that the very young are beautiful in their innocence, but then experience sets in, along with betrayal, lack of trust and sometimes much, much worse, and those innocent eyes, full of light, begin to take on a wary cast. And who also said that the body was the only indicator of the beautiful?

We grow into ourselves...

I believe that we grow into ourselves. We develop the stance that stands proudly before the world saying, “Watch me!” We take from within ourselves all the raw material from which we build that so interesting person we are constantly becoming, and anyone who thinks we ever stop growing up is way off the mark. We will be in a state of “becoming” until we take that last breath…and who knows what may come after that!

We have earned those wrinkles...

Yes, the surgeon can eliminate a few folds and make smooth again an aging face, but we have earned those wrinkles, and to hate them is to belittle the history that comes with them. If we are willing, every year can bring us greater awareness and increasing wisdom. We become more than just skin deep. We become real people, and every smile hints at the world of ourselves that we have been discovering.


What a lovely ride it is...

Iconic screen actress, Bette Davis, standing before an audience, puffing indignantly on a cigarette, once snarled, “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride!’ Yes…maybe…sometimes…but what a lovely ride it is!

Friday, April 11, 2014

On Being Hacked




Very recently our bank accounts were hacked, so skillfully that after I spent days doing all the rudimentary work of changing user names and passwords and bank numbers and informing the necessary direct depositors, it was hacked again, within a week’s time, all of which left me and my bank colleagues bewildered. How could this happen again and so quickly? In the midst of all this, a decades-old memory floated up, a memory long buried because I had had no need to think of it from that time to this. But now it spilled over me in full remembrance.

Several years ago when I was a new minister engaged in my pulpit, the church enjoyed a veteran soloist who graced our Sunday Services with his lyric, tenor voice. I knew that he drove an early-model Pontiac that he cared for diligently. It was classic, well secured, and garaged (which in San Francisco was no small accomplishment). He loved it and drove it with pride, parking it carefully in a spot in the parking lot that was clear of other cars. One Sunday morning he came into my office before church, pale and stricken. It seems that someone had stolen his gem, and when the police found it and showed it to him, it was completely stripped beyond recognition. I could hear the pain and shock in his voice, and I listened carefully but wondered how an old car could matter that much. It was, after all, a thing that could be replaced with something newer.

I now know how he felt. I know of the sense of attack on private things, the helplessness of not being able to change what happened or how to keep it from happening again. I’ve done all the business moves to secure everything, but I have yet to deal with the blow to my personal security. Invasive technology is moving much faster than my coping skills. Are the things we used to count on as out of control as they seem to be?

The money that was taken is important, but I think it is the theft of respect and dignity for my own person that was staggered. I will take the protective measures needed to secure my personal data, but it will take longer, though, to heal the anger and sadness over the fact that someone would be so bold as to commit such a personal violation against me.

I hope my old friend is smiling on me from the invisible realms. There is no comfort in being in the same boat.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

On Resistance and Non-Resistance





There are great capabilities in the human animal for resisting what lies in front of him and and also in simply letting situations have their way. The wisdom, of course, lies in knowing when to do which. Some believe that non-resistance is always the key, but I think that many bad behaviors are allowed to continue because someone did not say no when no was required. Small children have their periods of resistance to everything because they need to flex their budding individualities. They also miss a great deal by not falling in line when falling in line has good lessons to teach. “My-way-or-the-highway” tribalism produces very little in in the unwilling participants and often grows the seedlings of underground resistance.

No one resists a true leader...

An old friend of mine once said that if we, as leaders, are at the back of the crowd pushing, we are on the wrong end. No one resists a true leader, and the leader who is open to being led…by guidance…by insights…by greater knowledge…is one who forces nothing. People will be at the side of one who invites rather than demands.

...You give way a bit in order to go forward...

Then there are those of us who have a little tweak in our brains that says, ”Because you want me to do this, it is the last thing I’ll do.” Kids, maybe, but persisting with this into adulthood?? Makes no sense. Sometimes we just have to know that you give way a bit in order to go forward. There really is a wisdom in knowing when a strong no saves a situation and when a quiet yes allows freedom and creativity.

Wish I always knew which word to use!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

On Wash and Wear People






        I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we tend to treat the people in our lives. There is no question that some people and circumstances mean a lot, and so they get the best of us. Not always forever, though, sometimes only as long as they hold particular meaning. Part of my concern is that we are becoming wash-and-wear people, very casual, only doing what is necessary, so busy sometimes that quiet things, important things can fall right out of our brains without our noticing. I like casual; I like easy going. In fact there are certain four-letter words I carefully avoid using, one of which is I-R-O-N. The only trouble with this is that I am forgetting what it means to be snazzily dressed, every crease sharp and clear. Worse…I am wondering now if I am taking a synthetic attitude to the people in my life. Are some becoming expendable? Since some cannot do for me what they once did, am I letting them slide away?

What's important, and what's not....
   
       With some regularity we probably should stop and think…what’s important and what’s not? I finally called an old friend I had been thinking about for weeks. What took me so long? Am I letting some old treasures, people who have fashioned loving structures with me, fall off the cliff?

Today needs us.....

      Today needs us, yes, but where we are today rests on the shoulders of our yesterdays, when we were not quite as casual as we are now, when building, loving and creating took us up and wonderful things happened because we were all in it together. Things don’t stay the same, but vital raw materials do, and living fabric can take new forms all over again.

Pick up the phone....

       Pick up the phone; touch the iron to a wrinkled relationship or two. Some things are more important than being hung out on the line to dry.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

On Success





     During my early years as a new minister, I remember going to a ministerial conference with my colleagues for inspiration and companionship. The first speaker to engage us was an M.D. who loved doing uplifting talks and so he began with this wonderful, whimsical story: Imagine that the male part of you, the sperm, is all set to connect with your soul mate, the female ovum, but to do so, you must travel a distance which is the equivalent of going from San Francisco to Cleveland…swimming all the way! As the speaker warmed to his story, he said: Here you are, passing through imaginary deserts, navigating the Rockies, but finally you arrive. Imagine your surprise to discover that your sweetling is several thousand times bigger than you are! (Imagine her surprise too.) Nevertheless the connection is made. With this the storyteller smiled and waggled his finger at us: And remember, in making the connection, you beat out 499,999,999 other sperm, and if that’s not success, I don’t know what is!

We are primed for success...

     Clever tale, and also true. We are primed for success. I have no idea why the Infinite made that first journey so challenging but maybe it was to insure that we began with the best of ourselves. It doesn’t take long either for that new person self to get up and running. Do any of us know of a baby who refused to learn to walk just because he fell down a lot to start with?? What is it that begins to take away some of that little kid verve? Why is it that who we are and what we do ceases to have the luster it once did? Did we get mixed messages along the way? Were we hurt…did we suffer losses…miss the mark sometimes?

  Success lies within us...

     Still I believe the storyteller was right. We had and still have all the success genes in us by nature. Things won and lost along the way are indicators of how we are doing, but success itself lies within us. Maybe we could rethink a few things we may have been mistaken about and find it once more …swimming all the way!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

On Being Out in the Sun





Whenever I see a TV ad featuring half-naked people lazing in the sand on a sunny beach, I remember my own sunbathing experiences. After a couple of humongous sunburns, my exploits out in the sun involved big, floppy hats, dark glasses, cover-all tents and a jug of lead-lined sunscreen. I loved the sun (and why not? Astrologically I’m a Leo.), but the sun did not return the favor. It kissed other peoples’ brown bodies; it torched mine. But decades later the last laugh is mine. I was not gifted with a bronze body, but I also didn’t have to chase skin cancers either, and I did not end up with skin like leather.

Plenty of Exposure...

Over time I grew not to mind being unable to stretch out on a warm beach, sipping cool ones. I have had plenty of exposure, maybe not to the sun, but to all sorts of ideas, and if we’re smart, we find the radiant places that are right for us. There are any numbers of vistas that can shine on us and bring out the best, and there are even better means to find them these days, what with more technologies to help in discovery.


The rascally, curious mind...


It’s good to grapple with a few limitations, some we can actually push through and some we just can't. Who, by wishing, can be six feet tall when your genetics give you a bare five feet? Or who can have cafĂ©-au-lait skin when your forebears are Nordic? But the rascally, curious mind…this is a sun we can all stretch out in!