EGO – it’s a killer

Have we ever considered what it is about others than disturbs us the most?  Is it their conceit, their crass behavior, their selfishness?  Or is it their love of possessions, their old codgerdisregard for society’s moral conduct, their dishonesty?  Of course, the next question would require us to look into our own selves wondering what it is about them that trips our  trigger.

In my early recovery years, as I was complaining to my sponsor about  a group member who embodied everything which I despised, he responded this way,

All that you hate in others are elements of your own personality that you are afraid to look at.”

“Hell no, that’s not true,”  I replied defensively.  “I am not like that.”

And I truly believed that.  But, the seed had been planted and would not allow me to rest until I took it to my  quiet space within and considered my sponsor’s words.  Jerry could be shallow and selfish – yeah, me too, we are, after all, alcoholics.  Jerry could seem arrogant – yeah, me too, but that was due to my insecurity with others.  Jerry seemed disinterested in his group members – yeah, me too, but again I was shy and felt awkward with people.  Jerry didn’t seem to grasp the humility in recovery, his concept of a Higher Power was weird – really?  What did I profess as a Higher Power?  A vengeful, old, gray bearded, eyes on fire, lightning-spitting man sitting somewhere in the universe on his throne of judgement?  How weird is that?

In due time I learned a lot about myself from Jerry.  He mirrored my own ego which at that time totally controlled who I was.  Eckhart Tolle in his book, A NEW EARTH -AWAKENING TO YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE, writes:

“The particular egoic pattern that you react to most strongly in others and misperceive as their identity tend to be the same patterns that are also in you, but that you are unable or unwilling to detect within yourself.  In that sense, you have much to learn from your enemies.  What is it in them that you find most upsetting, most disturbing?  Their selfishness?  Their greed?  Their need for power and control?  Their insincerity, dishonesty, propensity to violence, or whatever it may be?  Anything that you resent and strongly react to in another is also in you.”

The initial response is probably, “no way, not true.” But, as with any planted seed, this will not disappear until it is either choked with weeds and dies or nourished and brought to fulfillment.  The question becomes whether we will wither in our denial or respond and grow.  That, essentially, is what recovery is about.  It is much more than living without alcohol and drugs or whatever our addictions entertain.  It is a continual recognition of the external forces and internal thoughts that attempt to control our true identity, that state of Being which the Buddha called anata – no self.   Words attributed to Jesus of Nazareth in the 8th chapter of Mark, verse 34, “whoever wants to be my disciple (follow my Truth) must deny self…..” which, in other words, is  to deny ego control of our response to the world in which we live.  Peace or drama?  How will we choose to live?

Our world has become one of us versus them.  Nationalism, tribalism, religious intolerance – they all try to convince us that we are superior to them.  The them are always wrong while us are always right.  Eons ago this mindset meant only that the caveman with the best clubs and biggest stones would win and the others would need to move on to find another cave in which to live.

We are not cave dwellers.  We have missiles and nuclear weapons instead of clubs and stones.  Our separateness cannot be resolved by conflict and violence.  There will be, in a World War 3, no winners.  Our species and probably earth as we know it will be eradicated.

The next time I watch on media screens a national leader or world power whom I despise, the next time I see a religious leader lead his flock astray, the next time I look at my neighbor with disgust, I must remember the lessons which Jerry taught me in early sobriety.  Despite the outward appearances of polarizing differences, we are the same.  What we do, how we think will determine whether this species of ours sees a 22nd or 23rd century.  It’s our responsibility to grow our planted seed into selfless maturity.

GARDEN OF EDEN

 

I hate you

How often have you and I thought or voiced these emotionally-charged words?  Maybe it was yesterday when the neighbor was critical of our yard maintenance.  Or it could have angry emojibeen the boss unfairly expecting us to give up weekend plans in order to come in to work.  Or maybe it was a national leader speaking words which are contrary to our personal moral compass.  Or maybe it was directed inwardly because of our own faults and misdeeds.

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love…”

Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone (1181 – 1226) is attributed with these words, an excerpt from a  familiar prayer commonly called THE PRAYER OF ST. FRANCIS.

Hatred is one of the most difficult words to comprehend because it carries an immensely negative emotion.  Within that negativity we create enemies, despicable visions of others, and ultimately, discontent within our own souls.  Let’s, for the sake of rational dialog, nail hatred to the underlying emotion of fear which is a very real motivator in all of mankind.

Fear prevents unconditional love.  Fear promotes violence.  Fear murders, maims, persecutes.  Fear promotes separateness among men and warfare among nations.  Fear is the darkness in mankind’s soul which enables genocide and ethnic cleansing.

White nationalism embraces fear, our leaders project fear, some men of religion preach fear.  Hatred is taught, but fear is that innate human condition which in today’s society is being used as a weapon against practicing social justice, tolerance and equality.

That is why we recite the words of St. Francis – Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.  We cannot fight hatred with hatred.  We cannot fight violence with violence.  We cannot vie to be top dog in the world at the expense of the huddled masses desiring nothing more than the crumbs under the table.  We cannot destroy our planet by exploiting resources to fill corporate coffers or because we fear that there is not enough for everybody.  Peace is not just a state of inner being – it is a call to action.  It is a determined effort to illumine the darkness.

We in Western culture have been conditioned to think of love as a warm, fuzzy feeling reserved for spouses, family, friends, others who step in line to our own personal march.  We celebrate love with cute greeting cards and expensive gifts.  We write romantic songs and poems about love.  We fall in love with the idea of love.

The ancient wisdom teachers would disagree.  In their writings love is the opposite of fear.  Love unifies the Christian and the Muslim, the white man and the black man, the Republican and the Democrat, the straight and the gay.  There are no enemies in the world of love, there are merely differences to be embraced.  Love is not the opposite of hatred;  it is the cure for fear which is the root of hatred.  It is the understanding that we as co-equal inhabitants of this planet are responsible for living in peaceful co-existence.

“The root of violence is the illusion of separation—from God, from being one with oneself and everything else, and from Being Itself.” CAC.ORG

Mohandas Gandhi said nonviolence was the active, unconditional love toward others, the persistent pursuit of truth, the radical forgiveness toward those who hurt us, the steadfast resistance to every form of evil, and even the loving willingness to accept suffering in the struggle for justice without the desire for retaliation. —John Dear CAC.ORG – FR. RICHARD ROHR

 

STATES & CAPITOLS

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TGIF –  know what that means?  It’s Friday night.  No more TV news, no more politics, no more Democrats or Republicans, no more news from abroad, no more gut-wrenching scenes from our southern border, no more hatred on our screens.  Seize the weekend because it belongs to us.  Baseball, hikes, soccer, boating, picnics, swimming, vacations, family, loved ones and music.   Let’s kick it off with a refresher course on United States geography.  Can you name all the states AND their capitols?  Need help?

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HERE COMES THE SUN – “we are the world”

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photo by ABHIRAM PRAKASH

The sun also rises on those other than Western Caucasians.  Think about that for a moment, will you?  From the tranquility of Pacific islands to the teeming humanity of India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka to the mountains of Tibet and Nepal to the deserts of the Middle East to the common ancestry we have in Europe – they all see the same sun which we see.  So, how can we believe that the sun and all its blessings belong only to us, that only we deserve to be warmed and nurtured, that only we are the rightful recipients of the bounty created by a non-discriminating Source, that only we have the keys to the spiritual mysteries of a universe lit by the sun’s daily light?  Really?  Rather obtuse thinking, isn’t it?

I abhor intolerance and discrimination in any form, but especially that which is fueled by political and religious philosophy.  The sun which we welcome each morning with outstretched arms doesn’t really care about mankind’s learned hypocrisy and prejudice.  It does not withhold its warmth and light based on political leaning or theology.  It has no choice but to rise each morning and make our earth fruitful and sustaining.  To us is left the task of discerning right from wrong, moral from immoral, and justice from injustice regardless of race, creed, nationality, skin color or sexual orientation.  Just as the sun lights the earth, our inner light has to be the moral compass which illumines each step of our daily trek from the moment of awakening in the morning to the stillness before retiring for the night.  The choices we enjoy every day are ours because someone before us cared enough to keep the fire of love, tolerance, justice and compassion burning.

My trek is not that of a preacher or moralizer.  I merely arise each morning giving thanks for the new day and asking for the grace to live up to my inherent potential.  Over 2 1/2 billion humans across the globe live on my earth, bask in the same sun.  I must share with them what has been freely given to me.  Too tall an order, you say.  Not really.  Day by day and one step at a time we can conquer a million  differences in creating a communal eternity capable of sustaining and embracing all of creation.  The source of our energy gives itself freely.  We should, too.

We are the world, we are the children – it’s up to us.

FOR FURTHER READING

FRANCISCAN ACTION NETWORK

“Stand up!  Shout from the mountaintops that you are one of the disciples who is here, not preparing to go to heaven, but to create the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.”

 

HERE COMES THE SUN – psalm 23

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photo by BRUNO SCRAMGMON

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”

The wisdom of the ancients gifted us with beautiful prose which gives  rise to joy, reflection, admonition, encouragement and fearlessness.  We awaken each morning to a plethora of opportunities to chase and beauty to behold.  It’s our choice how we will respond to the new day.

Some mornings we open our eyes and want to simply roll over and return to a comfortable slumber.  Some mornings we awaken to an unexplainable soul darkness which we don’t want to entertain, but cannot shrug off.  Carryover words from a contentious conversation yesterday which were not resolved.  Mind-numbing news reporting which has led us to dwell upon mankind’s inhumanity to man.  Personal challenges which require action in our new day.  All can easily be denied by simply rolling over and snoozing for the rest of the day.  We can deal with all those issues tomorrow.  Or we can enter that dark valley and, trusting in the goodness of a kind Source, carry our inner lamps to light the way.

The valley of darkness is often translated as the ‘valley of the shadow of death’ in scriptures.  In my younger days this was a mainstay of any Christian burial service.  But, Psalm 23 goes on to indicate that, after passing through this dark journey, there is light, hope, goodness and mercy beyond.  My head is anointed and my cup is overflowing.  That journey of darkness shall be behind us as we enter onto the next plateau of brilliance.

Therefore, if your day, or mine, is clouded and dreary, embrace it, walk through it and know that there is a lesson to learn.  Perhaps it is a necessary time of reflection and meditation, a time to recalibrate the inner soul workings, a time to inventory ‘what is’ in relation to what we want it to be.  Don’t be afraid.  Rest in the opening words of Psalm 23 – “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

If you are conflicted today, if you are not seeing the rising sun on the horizon, take a few minutes to listen to Psalm 23 put to music.  The ancients intended these words to be sung.

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I’m a believer

Aha!  You thought this post would be about the Monkees.  What?  You don’t know who the Monkees are?  Good Lord, you must be a young thing.

Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and Davy Jones, an English actor and singer, set American teeny boppers afire from 1966 to 1971.  Their TV series of the same name aired from 1966 to 1968.  It was fun entertainment that by today’s standards would be classified as ‘corny’.  Was I a big fan?  Not really.  ‘Too mature’ for their antics I preferred The Doors, The Animals, and Led Zeppelin.  But, “I’m a Believer” from the Monkees has had staying power with me through all the years which have seen me swing from hard rock to disco to contemporary Christian to classical to my favorite today – anything that doesn’t give me a headache and puts me to sleep.  Yep.  Meditation music rocks.

I’m a believer.  Are you?  What do you believe?  Has anyone challenged your beliefs?  Has anyone told you that what you believe is wrong?  If you follow the pack, then being called a non-believer by a believer is disturbing.  If you are the pack, then it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans….unless you don’t believe in you.  Then it can be unbelievably disturbing.  But I believe in you.

“I don’t believe that heaven waits
for only those who congregate.
I like to think of God as love,
he’s down below, he’s up above.
He’s watching people everywhere,
he knows who does and doesn’t care
and I’m an ordinary man,
sometimes I wonder who I am.”    DON WILLIAMS

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IT’S A GREAT DAY! – poverty

“Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural.  It is man made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”  NELSON MANDELA

“Live simply so that others may simply live.” GANDHI

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Some of you are saying, “Larry, what does poverty have to do with a great day?”

Did you wake up from a peaceful sleep in a warm, comfortable bed?  Do you have a roof over your head?  Have you done your gratitude list for this day?  Did you eat a hearty breakfast? Will you probably live this day without threat of gun violence or persecution for your belief system?

Congratulations!  Your day has the promise of being a GREAT DAY.  A majority of the world’s population does not have that promise.  But, many of those people go out and make it a fantastic day regardless of circumstances.  That’s the miracle of our species – we are survivors who have an innate desire to thrive.

Does your need to thrive ride on the backs of the less fortunate?  Does mine?  When was the last time we chose to contribute to our local homeless shelter in lieu of a new addition to our designer clothes or, perhaps, buy that man standing on the corner with a cardboard sign a lunch at Burger King rather than a steak for our dinner tonight?  When did we last decide to live more simply so that others in our world would have a dish of rice to eat or a cup of clean water to drink?  When?

My friend, it is absolutely a great day because we have so many choices in front of us.  We can choose what we will eat rather than if we can afford to eat.  We can choose which chair or sofa we will rest upon rather than which overpass we will seek for shelter.  We can choose to tidy up our living room rather than rearrange our boxes and tarp.  Do we understand that much of the world does not have adequate food, shelter or water and our Western culture of greed and consumption has contributed to that shortage?

Along with substantial blessing comes substantial responsibility.  You and I ARE our brothers’ keepers.  That is not a suggestion; it is a mandate dictated by all the world’s major religions and belief systems.  Hug our loved ones this morning, appreciate all that has been given to us, and then contemplate how we can live more simply and help eradicate poverty.

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