a better way

Fr. Richard Rohr, in the mission statement for the CENTER FOR ACTION AND richard rohrCONTEMPLATION, shares the following:

“The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. Oppositional energy only creates more of the same.”

It’s all about energy, isn’t it?  Physical exertion, emotional expenditure, spiritual contemplation – it all revolves about the issues that are present in our lives.  Where we spend our time and energy determines who we are, what we advocate and ultimately the state of mind we enjoy in peace or endure in turmoil.  Therefore, next time I am tempted to jump into the mud with the other mud wrestlers (or whatever else hangs out in the slime), perhaps I should remember the exhortation of Fr. Rohr.

…and they all chimed in, “Yeah, Larry, and we’re going to nominate you for sainthood.”

Y’all ought to know by now that I live by the principle of progress rather than perfection, that lofty ideals are meant to be pursued, not attained.  It’s the journey, not the destination that constitutes a successful life.  Striving for a world dedicated to non-violence begins in me with every action, thought and prayer offered to the cause of personal earthly peace – “oppositional energy only creates more of the same.” 

That’s difficult to digest.  Does it mean that I should not be concerned about the injustice and hypocrisy which permeates the world?  Should I just throw my arms up in frustrated surrender over the racism and intolerance infecting American society? Should I sit in my quiet place with my beads and prayer shawl praying away the hatred and bigotry?

No, certainly not.  I should continue to see with dismay the horrors of social injustice, I should continue to speak out against the racism in my neighborhood, I should continue to protest by whatever resources I have the denigration of brothers and sisters of another race or creed or nationality.  But, I should not jump into the mud and lather up in my own  hypocrisy, intolerance and bigotry.  Justifying my disagreement and winning a victory over another’s viewpoints is not the goal of non-violence.  Proving the insanity of national politics will not make ours a better country.

I refer often to the wisdom of the ancients.  The thoughts, the words, and the sayings which have survived the test of time have done so because they are – wisdom.  In my opinion (and yes, I have many) the one nugget of wisdom erringly ignored by religious leaders and politicians alike is lead by example.

What examples are we choosing to lead us and guide us through an extremely violent period of world history?  Whom do we choose to inform us and thereby sway our opinions?  To what and to whom do we listen?  What do we read and view on media screens?  Where are we expending physical, emotional and spiritual energy?  Is it oppositional or is it conducive to understanding and peaceful solution?

Hillary (yeah, don’t allow the name to betray your religion) famously said in her campaign, “When he takes the low road, we take the high road.”

Doesn’t really matter whether she meant it or actually lived it.  The advice is great wisdom.  Let’s not get mired in the mud (or sewage) which poses as moral guidance or political leadership.  Observe it, digest it, and then continue to follow the compass which points true north.  Let our criticism of the bad be tempered by practice of the better.

Center for Action and Contemplation

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OCTOBER 2

 

 

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Are you an advocate for non-violence?  Do I commit on a daily basis to non-violence in my life?  It is fitting that the International Day of Non-Violence be celebrated on the birthday of Mohandas Gandhi who was born October 2, 1869.  Bestowed the title of Mahatma (a person who is revered and respected) he led to the independence of India from British rule by mass non-violent civil disobedience.

Concurrently reported on the same news page which tells of Gandhi and today’s celebration of non-violent actions to confront the world’s affinity for violence, is an account of a national leader suggesting in a private meeting with aides that the immigration “problem” could be resolved by “shooting them in the legs” or “topping a 2000 mile electrified border wall with flesh piercing spikes.” MSN NEWS

We can only hope that this account of the President’s words were a summary of foolish and facetious statements by one who attempts to lead by division and fear.  Other actions and speech, however,  confirm that our nation is not governed by policies of non-violence.  Peace through enforced powers of violence is not what Gandhi had in mind when crusading for independence from Britain.  It is an unsustainable truce in which the oppressed must submit to an oppressor.

Who is my personal oppressor?  Yours?  What inner powers keep us from knowing peace?  What violence do we inflict upon our souls?  Perhaps the most significant factor in world-wide violence is absence of self-love.  No, not talking about ego and its deceptive need for attention, rather, the realization that compassion and tolerance of others begins with an attitude of compassion and tolerance for me.  I MUST LOVE ME BEFORE I CAN LOVE OTHERS.

Are you a movie fan or prime time TV viewer?  Ever question the need for all the blood and violence being shoved into your head?  Yes, it gets terrific ratings above and beyond any ratings SOUND OF MUSIC or I LOVE LUCY would garner.  But, it shows a complete absence of reverence for life.  Self-love and non-violence begin in a place of reverence for all life, all creation, all races, all tribes, all creeds, all religions, all lifestyles.  Doesn’t mean I need to understand or agree with your choices, but I must respect your right to live your choices.  Namaste, my fellow earthlings.  Have a blessed INTERNATIONAL DAY OF NON-VIOLENCE.

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ostensibly

The word has a ring to it that piques my attention.  I have been writing blogs for several years and never had opportunity to use the word ostensible.  Now is my chance to realize another of life’s dreams.

“I ostensibly bought the two bags of candy for my partner because he loves candy.”

And since that candy was on sale at the grocery store, BOGO, (buy one, get one free) of course I had to take two bags.  One does not refuse a BOGO offer.  Who in their right mind would not take the second box of cereal, or the second package of chicken, or the second can of tuna?  Lord forbid!

Friends, I had a major slip last night.  For 3 months I have been adhering to the keto lifestyle which excludes, along with grains and refined seed oils, SUGAR.  Yes, sugar is a major faux pas with keto-genic.  AND, this old man loves his sugar snacks.  Force me to choose between the life of my best friend and a Snickers bar and I would need a minute or two to make that decision –  the Snickers bar of course.

I should know better.  I am a recovering alcoholic.  An alcoholic does not tempt his sobriety with a bottle of his favorite whiskey.  He does not buy it at the liquor store just because it is on sale and his best friend (the one he just betrayed for a Snickers bar) loves that brand of whiskey.  He does not honestly believe he can take that whiskey home and not think about sneaking a swig.

I sat in front of my TV for 3 hours trying to convince myself that I was deep into the football game – it was a good game.  The occasional thought of the recently bought candy in the candy dish certainly would not break my resolve to avoid sugar in my newly found dietary keto-genic miracle which had enabled me to drop 25 excess pounds of belly fat, eliminate my diagnosis of pre-diabetes, and astound my Medicare doctor with my healthy lipid profile.  No, hell no!  I was stronger than those wonderful chocolate morsels just waiting to touch my tongue with their delicious mouth-watering delight.

This morning I am a defeated man asking myself, “How did it happen, how could I have been so clueless?”

If you are one who prays, please pray for my recovery.  If you cross fingers (or any other body parts) please cross now.  Above all, please don’t hate me.  I’m just another human trying to negotiate the powers of addiction.  Oh Lord, why can’t I be addicted to foods like sardines or avocadoes or celery sticks…..or kale?

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let’s dance, shall we?

“…..you then realize that you don’t live your life, but life lives you.  Life is the dancer, you are the dance.”  A NEW EARTH – Eckhart Tolle

How many of us believe that we are the dancers, that we put the action into life? Do-si-do your partner – EEEEEHAW!

Think about this for just a moment.  Realizing that little old me never was the one in charge of this life which I claim as mine can be somewhat diminishing if not outright devastating.  It relegates the ego to a minor role in life’s theatrical production.  In the book which many alcoholics refer to as the BIG BOOK, Bill W. tells us:

“Most people try to live by self-propulsion.  Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way.  If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great.” Bill W. ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, pg. 60

Lights, camera, action!  Let the dance begin.  I am that which is being danced, life provides the script, the scenery, the other actors.  Maybe asking God to do the do-si-do will result in a spectacular production?

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burning mid-night oil

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I’m sure there has been a song written for this sleepless night of worry and insecurity that is keeping me from my comfortable bed drinking coffee when I should be cutting ZZZZZZs.  Fortunately, I don’t have a job which will set my alarm clock to jingling at 5 o’clock AM – or perhaps not having a job is unfortunate.  Is that why I worry?  If  I had an income other than my monthly social security, I would probably not worry and feel insecure.

Naw, I would worry anyway about other things.  Where is the USA heading?  Tonight I believe I’ve been blowing smoke up my butt about this country which I have learned to love, the one which I served in uniform many years ago, the one which I boasted to be the best in the world on so many occasions.  Could I have been so blatantly bamboozled about its people all these years?  Is it possible we are nothing more than a racist tribe of self-serving bigots who are just now creeping from our underground sewers?

I would worry about the plight of our earth.  Assault after assault on its delicate balances and natural beauty will not be tolerated by our Mother much longer.  We devastate in the name of profit and threaten mass destruction in the pursuit of power.  She will prevail in the end, but I fear we, the human species, will not be here to witness her victory.

I would worry about my blogging friend, Jill.  She steadfastly burns the late night oil informing her readers of the corruption and deceit being foisted upon us by a government which obviously does not serve WE THE PEOPLE.  Like me, Jill is also tired.  I wonder if she worries.

Ahhh, I think maybe now I will go to bed.  The sun is about to rise as it has for billions of years, the birds will greet its rising, the oceans’ tides will flow, the stars will retire for the day, and mankind will continue to confound the creating powers with his violence, greed, pride and lust for power.  Nope, not much has changed since we appeared on the scene and me worrying about it won’t change a damned thing.

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And yes, there has been a song written about tonight…..thanks to Freddy Fender

HAMLET – neither good nor bad

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” 
HAMLET – William Shakespeare39

My grandmother was a wise yet simple farm woman.  She knew how to gather any vegetable from the garden or berry from the woods and cook it into a delicious casserole or jam.  The storage shelves in the cellar were filled each year with mason jars of wonderfully colorful canned vegetables and preserves.  And in her spare time she crafted from scraps of dresses and coats gorgeous quilts or blankets.

I learned from her that a man “is what he eats.”  The foods which a person consumes will ultimately determine the health status of his/her body.  Unfortunately, I strayed from Grandma’s wisdom regarding foods and nutrition as a young adult resulting in various difficulties with the Western culture health epidemics plaguing us today.

I also strayed from the spiritual/life lessons learned from my farming community as a young boy leading to addiction and behavioral patterns which controlled the years when I should have been maturing into a responsible adult.  Living life soberly has been a prolonged process of ‘catching up’ to others who learned their lessons well and pursued G.O.D. – Good Orderly Direction – rather than waste precious years cavorting as a prodigal son in the far country. (see LUKE 15)

Those of us who share these experiences of addictive exile have a choice to make in our recovery years.  The times were neither good nor bad – they simply were.  What we did, the hell we created for others and ourselves cannot be reversed.  The heartaches and pain inflicted on loved ones including ourselves must be accepted as part of the process leading to sobriety.  Today I know with certainty that I was a royal A-hole back then.  However, today I also know that I don’t have to sit in this chair ten years from now looking back and saying, “Damn, what an asshole I was back on September 18, 2019.”

They say that humility is all about acceptance – accepting and reconciling my past, who I was and what I did, but then recognizing who and what I am destined to be as a sober-minded man living a life that doesn’t really belong to me.  It’s a journey with G.O.D.

So, now you ask, “Larry, what does this have to do with Shakespeare and Hamlet?”

Everything, absolutely everything in life is neutral, neither good nor bad.  It is the thinking which you and I attach to ‘everything’ that makes it good or bad.  We have the choice to create the life we want.  My physical pain suffered today from poor habits of eating and addiction years ago is a good thing because I choose to marvel in the complexity of a body which uses pain to remind me that, yes, I am still alive.  The morning leg and knee pain awaken me to a new day saying a prayer of gratitude,

“Thank you Lord for giving me breath and heartbeat.  My leg hurts, my knee hurts, but they still function and, oh, just look at the glorious sunshine awakening me.”

Am I always successful deferring thinking about everything that crosses my radar screen?  Of course not, I continue to be a member of the human race and therefore frequently offer an opinion, good or bad.  But, another tool learned in my recovery journey is the Serenity Prayer,

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, courage to change the things I should, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

For me, the wisdom is in knowing when my opinion matters and when it does not.  When should I apply thinking to the never-ending parade of drama in today’s life?  As I process this choice I realize more often than not that my opinion truly does not matter.

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the 7 deadlies

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”  C.G. Jung, MEMORIES, DREAMS, REFLECTIONS (1989)

Let’s allow those words to soak into our collective thick skulls.  Consider the person in your world whom you detest, whom you would never entertain in your home, whom you would vehemently argue will go to hell.  Yeah, think about that person for a moment and then let’s do a sincere soul search.  What is it within me, within you, that reflects with such intensity our dislike for that person?

“Well, Larry, I have a sense of values, compassion for fellow humans, a moral compass to guide me.  I am in no way like …….” (insert name here).

Okay, I get it.  You and I are stellar human beings with no quirks, no faults, no skeletons in our closets.  We have been nominated numerous times for sainthood and are just waiting for that moment when we will sit with the old man in the heavens pronouncing judgment upon the lesser of us – those whom we have previously decided will burn in hell.

Really?  Is that who we are?  Nothing more than pawns of runaway egos determined to remind others of the splinters in their eyes while ignoring the logs in our own eyes?  Is that what we are destined to be?  Granted, that is the human way, but aren’t we destined to be more than ego-driven bags of human flesh?  I am remembering a verse from the book of Luke, chapter 6, verse 41 which reminds me that the plank I carry in my own eye is needing my attention more than the speck of sawdust in my brother’s eye.  Matthew 7:3 has the same message.  Are these ancient writers trying to instill a bit of introspection in me to replace my self-serving ego-stroking?

Yeah, guilty as charged.  That neighbor who always rubs me the wrong way, the city councilman who seems more concerned about his image than job performance, the preacher who doesn’t appear to walk the talk, the politician who is obviously lacking a moral compass – they are all a composite of me and my own character defects.  The national leader who seems to always be screaming, “Look at me, look at me, dammit look at me,” is the same small voice within me screaming, “Here I am, pay attention to me.”

The denial wells up within, but maturity, which can be so evasive, tells me that those seven deadlies – the 7 vices which challenge our spiritual journey – are inherent in each of us.  GREED, ANGER, SLOTH, ENVY, GLUTTONY, LUST, PRIDE are at the center of any and all distractions from the universal truth that we are all one humanity, one organism, one Spirit simply trying to navigate the impermanence of this life on earth.

Doing life perfectly is not the goal.  It is impossible.  The ending of this trek is not foreseeable, but we have within us the capacity to alter the journey.  What will it be?  Ego driven or Spirit centered?

LOVE

 

ALL WE NEED IS LOVE

“While scientists look desperately for medicines and mechanism to avoid catastrophe, many others are beginning to realize that what is needed is not only externally administered remedies, preventive or curative, but an internal change in the way we behave, a hard second look at the values which have brought us to this dangerous brink.”

-Anuradha Vittachi, Earth Conference Pace e Bene

I will not!

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.  But those that will not break it kills.  It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially.  If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.” ERNEST HEMINGWAY

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The very good and the very gentle and the very brave – let’s focus on those words.  The world system seems to despise those who have a moral compass, those who are peacemakers, those who have the courage to march to a different drummer.  Governments, religions, and financial systems do not honor a man/woman who answers their demands with “no, I will not live that way.”

We are labeled ‘unpatriotic’ if we do not toe the current disgrace posing as a legitimate government.  When we kneel in obeisance to compassion and tolerance rather than stand pledging  allegiance to the cloth symbol of a nation, we are castigated as revolutionary and disrespectful.  Well, maybe we are.  All great accomplishments in governing have been manifested by protest.  No, I cannot be silent when brothers and sisters of a different color or creed do not equally enjoy the fruits of the nation they have served in battle and embraced as home.

I will not profess the creeds of religions which deny even the most basic human understanding that all creatures are made in the image of the One whom they profess as God and Savior while simultaneously endorsing locked cages of children on our border and a war in the Gulf which threatens the citizens of Yemen with epic, catastrophic starvation.  No, I will not.

I will not participate in the corporate destruction of our sacred ecosystem for the sake of increased profits of corporations which have abdicated ecological responsibility in lieu of financial extravagance.  While much of the world’s population  lives without the basic comforts of adequate food and clean water, placating the luxuriant appetites of the privileged at the expense of the marginalized poor cannot possibly advance the survival of our species materially or spiritually.

Enough is enough.  Enough corruption, enough hatred, enough greed, enough racism, enough killing.  Where will we choose to stand as our country approaches the threshold of despotic, authoritarian leadership?  As the earth’s ecosystem is screaming “enough” where will our allegiance be placed?  The answer for each of us is within.  When that quiet voice of protest within becomes a scream reverberating throughout the universe, then, perhaps, we can be assured that we have done enough.

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let go – let God

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In the King James Version of the American Standard Bible there are 400 verses that mention the word “peace”.  The BARNES’ NOTES commentary on a passage from Philippians 4:7,

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding…..”

writes that “this peace is that which is felt when we have no anxious care about the supply of our needs, and when we go confidently and commit everything into the hands of God.”

“….shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

The commentary goes on to say that ‘shall keep’  was translated from a military term meaning guarded and preserved lending further definition of peace as freedom guarded from the intrusion of anxious fears and alarms.

LET GO – LET GOD

In my first recovery meeting room, those framed words were hanging on the wall in front of me.  “What in the world does that mean?  Let go of what?  How does a man do that?”  Not an easy undertaking for an alcoholic dedicated to self-will run riot for his entire life.  “Absolutely not, I will not surrender anything to something I can’t see, touch or talk to.”

I was urged by the others, sitting at the tables sharing their stories, to embrace steps 1, 2, and 3, the surrender steps of the 12 step program which had graced their lives with sustained sobriety.

1) Admitted we were powerless over  alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable. 2) Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 3) Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God, as we understood God.

Surrender – once and done?  Not really.  It became a daily practice which for most of us continues even after years of sobriety.  It directly affects the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding.  Without surrender I will not enjoy peace. Without peace, life once again becomes unmanageable and insane.

This way of living, sober-living, is not about religion and Bible passages.  Neither is it about performing the 12 step programs perfectly until completion.  It is the way we approach all of life’s challenges and surprises.  It is an ongoing surrender to the energy which we call Higher Power.

One of my most trusted prayers is the prayer of St. Francis.  It begins:

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace…..”

When I reflect on those words, it is not a request to send me out into the world as a peacemaker among friends, peoples or nations.  No, it is directed inwardly to create a space within which is free of worry and anxiety.  The world’s insanity will probably not embrace peace in this day, but I can.  Join me?

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