PRIDE – men & monkeys

 

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As a younger man, about 28 years old, a friend and I had a house-painting/paperhanging business. (Yes, for those of you under 50 years old, wall paper was a popular decorative choice and could be very lucrative.)  We landed a contract with a successful building contractor.  He had several dozen employees, he was a respected community leader and  he was a member of good standing in the local church.   This job offered the promise of significant future work.

We arrived on the job site at his house just before he himself left for work.  Very affable and likeable, Tom always took a minute to talk with us before leaving the house.  One morning he offered the usual morning pleasantries before sharing a bit of information garnered from his church family:

“Boys, did you know that a study was done on a group of monkeys exposed to daily hard rock music?  Yep, the monkeys turned queer.”

My partner, a happily married heterosexual man guffawed and snickered.  I just smiled because at that moment I knew I would have to give up the hard rock which I loved or live my life as a gay man.

Here are two of my all-time favorites.  I promise, listening to it will not make you queer.

 

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be still and know

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Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup is overflowing.

Be persistent in asking.  When in that quiet inner space, don’t be timid with requests.  The answer will always be ‘yes, no, or not now’.  But, whatever the answer may be, be assured that our internal GPS has got us covered and will bring us safely to the next plateau of life – if we heed our inner voice.  Very simple, degree in rocket science not required to know what our conscience tells us in those quiet moments.  The secret, if there is any secret, is to slow down, be silent, still the wandering mind, and listen.  Ask for guidance and it will be given.  Be still and know.

Seek joy and happiness relentlessly.  Life around us changes with every passing moment.  We must also adjust.  Our central core of understanding has an amazing capacity to adjust.  What was yesterday’s ‘golden oldie’ is today’s old fogey flashback.  When we hang on to the ‘way things used to be’ we are stifling what needs to happen now in our continuing growth.  Doesn’t mean we should give up values, the moral compass which has been a lifetime beacon; rather, it means evolving those values to make sense in today’s crazy world.

Centuries ago when one element of society disagreed with the beliefs and actions of another, it could find a new, uncharted continent to settle and follow its philosophy.  Vacant, unexplored land has disappeared and it has become a matter of species survival to learn co-existence with a variety of races, creeds, and religions.

Namaste🙏

it can be heaven or hell

you can choose where you abide

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“….there’s a place to go where the eagles fly high, the rivers run deep, the grass is lush.  In that place there is peace and kindness, no violence nor intolerance.  Whenever solace and rest are needed, this internal heaven can be right here and right now or we can allow it to carry us a million miles away.  Joyfully, in that space the good vibrations of the soul embrace a higher calling.” (1)

“Most of the world religions have some concept of heaven and hell. Why? Because human freedom matters. We have to be given the freedom to say no to love and life, and one word for that is hell.” Fr. Richard Rohr (2)

LIFE…yes life can be heaven or hell.  It’s a choice each human must make regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof because it has nothing to do with religion or faith or concepts of God.  This choice is life’s golden ticket.  Have you ever been amazed by the man standing on the corner with a cardboard sign asking for food or work and upon talking to him realizing that this man is happier than you are in your comfort and material security?  Or, conversely, speaking to your wealthy neighbor at the grocery store who is buying steaks and lobsters for a Sunday dinner hosting twenty relatives and she is absolutely distraught because her investments earned only $125,000 last year?  Heaven or hell – we choose where we spend life.

Why spend precious ‘now’ moments reliving past transgressions, reviewing years-old grudges against others, fearing the current political scene, comparing yourself to the Joneses next door who just bought a new Mercedes, feeling angry because your co-worker, Mary, got the promotion you wanted?  STOP! just stop and look at the roses in your garden, the great kids or the terrific spouse you have, the reliable pickup truck parked in your driveway.  When the last breath is drawn, that stuff and those resentments will not matter.  What will matter is how the miraculous gift of life was used to serve and to enjoy.  We choose how we use life, whether we opted to spend it in heaven or hell.

Living in a state of awe and amazement over the multitude of blessings bestowed is not only for monks and mystics.  We, too, can participate.  It’s our choice.  How we communicate, how we conduct our interactions, what mindset we entertain will be our heaven or hell.  We must be very conscious of where we allow the mind to traverse.  Much of the world seemingly opts for a life lived in hell.  Why?

“As we observe our politics, antagonism appears to be the primary style of communication today—how to fight and win, how to be suspicious, how to be hateful, how to tell lies. Who can we exclude now? Which race, religion, or group is unworthy? (All in the name of God, remember!) That’s simply hell right now.”  Fr. Richard Rohr (2)

(1) GOOD VIBRATIONS

(2) https://cac.org/category/daily-meditations/

 

good vibrations

My friends, this is happy music.  “Good Vibrations” was a hit in 1966 composed and produced by Brian Wilson.  It’s the stuff which entertained us at sock hops, cruising down Market Street on Saturday nights, picnicking at the beach.  THE BEACH BOYS popularized a genre of music which did not focus on the Vietnam War, protests, and street violence.  Their toe-tapping sounds gave way to the soul’s underside with the advance of THE ANIMALS, ROLLING STONES, BOB DYLAN, JANIS JOPLIN, JIMI HENDRIX, DOORS carrying us to darker spaces.

A blogger, unless blogging for profit, tends to trek through hills and valleys of creativity.  Some days simply do not inspire anything worth writing.  It could be laziness, but the truth of the matter is that quite often the weight of the world is overwhelming.  Wearied to the core by social, political, and religious upheavals continually bombarding all the media screens and soul’s conscience, there are times when retreat is necessary.

For many Vietnam War era men and women, the protest days are over. Instead, there’s a place to go where the eagles fly high, the rivers run deep, the grass is lush.  In that place it is peaceful and kind, no violence nor intolerance.  Whenever solace and rest are needed, this internal heaven can be right here and right now or it can be a million miles away.  Joyfully, in that space the good vibrations of the soul embrace a higher calling.

Namaste. 🙏

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what if ?

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Do you ever play the ‘what if ‘game?  It’s akin to the ‘should have’, ‘would have’ and ‘ought to’ conversations we have with ourselves occasionally.  I don’t know about you, but I never seem to win that game.  It’s primary facilitator is monkey mind.  What?  you don’t know what monkey mind is.  Oh Lord, we need to have a talk.

Monkey mind is the incessant internal chatter happening within the space between the ears.  Can’t turn it off, can’t shut it out, can’t override it.  On and on and on go the thoughts passing through the gray matter occupying the skull.  It is fertile ground for the game of what if.  

What if I had married my high school sweetheart?  What if I had planned my future as a young man rather than float through the 60s and 70s as a wannabe hippie?  What if my parents had tried harder to work out their religious differences instead of divorcing?  Yeah, what if?

I’ve become rather good at ignoring monkey mind allowing it to scream its mindless chatter into the ozone.  But, sometimes, even 70 years after the fact, I scream back, “what the hell was so damned important about their religious beliefs to let me grow up without a daddy?  Tell me, what?”

Funny thing about monkey mind – it’s not very conversational, just wants to rattle on with politics, worries, money problems, relationships, what old lady Jones fussed about yesterday, nursing homes, arthritis, dementia, the sorry state of the union, the price of lettuce, Susie’s boy friend, the cat’s dirty ears, floors need to be mopped – on and on and on.  But, after having its way for a while, the noise stops and serenity settles in for a visit.

And all is cool until the JWs knock on the front door, “Do you know where you are going when you die?”

“Hell yes,” I respond in my Donald Duck underwear and fluffies, “I’m going down to undertaker Bob’s place to have a nip and tuck and a transfusion of embalming fluid.  Now get off my porch and take your tracts with you.”

Have you guessed by now that I have a hair up my butt about organized religion?  When other neighborhood boys were playing pitch with their daddies, I was cooking supper for me and mom because she had to work.  When other boys took their daddies fishing, I had to go grocery shopping with mom.  When other boys sat beside their daddies in church, I sat beside my mom praying for a daddy like theirs. C’mon, take your best shot.  Tell me again what is so damned important about religion that mom and dad had to divorce because they couldn’t agree about Jesus.

You don’t have an answer either, do you?  Maybe they both got wrapped up in a lot of fahooey about ‘proper’ Christian behavior.  Maybe they listened to parents and pastors instead of their loving hearts.  Maybe they listened to theatrics and drama from the pulpit rather than humility and compassion.  My time on this earth has shown me that there are innumerable examples of what organized religion gone astray can inflict on the devoted masses.

Extortion, persecution, subjugation, enslavement, murder, genocide – all in the name of God.  Not just Christian, but Judaic, and Muslim, too.  Maybe I’ve got this God-Jesus thing all wrong.  What if God is judgmental, wrathful and vengeful condoning murder and intolerance of the infidels?  What if Christianity is the only truth amidst all the world’s faith creeds?  What if?  What if?  What if?  Aw hell, there goes monkey mind again running the conversation.

I don’t know if Shakespeare was a man of faith or not.  But I do believe he nailed it with his line from Hamlet:  “This above all:  to thine own self be true.  And it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Do I know my own self?  Do you?  We came equipped from the factory with reason and logic.  We have a conscience that guides and speaks to us in those questioning moments.  We profess an indwelling spirit.  Maybe that is all we need to navigate this life in search of enlightenment.  Evolving to the higher self intended for us does not need to be rocket science nor religious indoctrination.  Shalom.

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oh, for Pete’s sake

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Pete Buttigieg

A heckler yelling Sodom and Gomorrah at a Buttigieg rally in Des Moines, Iowa, was drowned out by supporters chanting, “Pete, Pete, Pete.”  Then from the podium came a response from the candidate.  Looking toward the heckler he said simply,

The good news is the condition of my soul is in the hands of God, ” 

and then back across the crowd to his supporters, “but the Iowa caucuses are up to you.”

The amazing rise of the latest of Democrats to declare his candidacy for President in 2020, Pete Buttigieg has stunned pollsters by coming in 4th behind Bernie, Biden, and Beto.  Commentators have marveled that this scenario could never have happened just 10 years ago.  An openly gay man in a committed marriage standing in front of millions of viewers nationwide with the audacity to believe he has a chance to win the Presidency.  Unheard of!  Oh, how the literalists, infallibles, and inerrants must be flapping jaws .  Sodom and Gomorrah indeed.

“Did you see it, ” the thumpers must be muttering, “his husband had the nerve to give Pete a peck on the cheek in front of the cameras with the world watching?  What will people think?”

Just my personal and biased opinion, but I think the world might exclaim in gasps of relief, “Thank God those folks across the water have finally come to their senses.  The Yanks could possibly elect in 2019 an intelligent class act, a monogamous married man, a Rhodes scholar who served his country as a Naval officer in Afghanistan and then returned home to dedicate to public service.”

Yeah, I’m sure that’s what our European friends are saying because Pete Buttigieg, the gay mayor who publicly introduced his husband on national TV with a kiss does not rock their sensibilities nor ours nearly as much as the current political regime in the USA which protects a draft-dodger, a racist, a womanizer, and a liar.

The good news is that the condition of my soul (and yours) is in the hands Of God.  No man, no religion, no theology, no President, no world leader, no spouse, no friend, no pastor has a claim on what we know to be our truth.  Just let that resonate for a moment.  Do you feel the freedom, the assurance, the joy?  The chains are broken not because a priest or minister says so, but because the master of your life, and the God of my life have stepped into the picture and overruled all those who tell us that we are immoral, evil, misguided, unworthy and headed for hell’s fires.  That human assessment simply is not true.  If the book which you read for inspiration and instruction condemns you and if the people you choose as spiritual leaders condemn you, then you need to give up that funny book and its associated church, mosque or temple to find a  fellowship that speaks love and compassion.

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namaste rainbow

apology

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My post yesterday, THE ARROGANT CHRISTIAN, did not go where I intended it to go.  Instead of speaking my truth kindly, I became excessively judgmental and vindictive.  I apologize to any offended readers, but just as importantly I need to take a look at my own spiritual bearings.

I believe the common denominator for the vast majority of the world’s population is that we want to live peaceably, support our families, have a comfortable standard of living, practice our chosen faith walk (or absence of faith walk), and leave the world which we inhabit a better place then when we arrived.  Namaste. 🙏

I have my path to follow and you have yours.  They may cross at times or even run parallel, but never can I walk yours or you mine.

 

the arrogant Christian

ARROGANCE – conceit, haughtiness, egotism, superiority, pride, overconfidence, superciliousness, self-importance, condescension

HUMILITY – the cure for arrogance

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Which will it be?  Which am I?  Arrogant or humble in my faith walk?  How about you?

Here’s the quiz:

  1. Do I pridefully share my unsolicited testimony with strangers?
  2. Do I believe my concept of God is the only valid belief and that only those like me are ‘saved’?
  3. Do I deride other religions?
  4. Do I believe only those who profess the New Testament ‘road to salvation’ will know an eternity?
  5. Do I believe Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindi, even Christian sects other than mine are ‘lost’ and will burn in hell?
  6. Do I believe it is my duty to defend the God which I understand even to the point of warfare and murder?
  7. Do I believe it is righteous to murder those providing abortion or those receiving abortion knowing by heart the 10 Commandments and “thou shalt not kill”?
  8. Do I believe my government ought to be governed by Christian principles?
  9. Do I believe the Judeo-Christian scriptures are infallible and inerrant?
  10. Do I interpret every verse and passage of those scriptures literally?
  11. Do I believe non-believers deserve my scorn and derision?
  12. Would I help a destitute refugee of another creed, faith, or race?

LASTLY

Would I recognize Jesus, the Christ, if He were standing in front of me in the guise of  a starving child from Yemen, a 14 year-old Honduran girl pregnant by rape, a young family fleeing persecution in Syria, a ghetto black man from Chicago addicted to drugs, a homeless woman living in the nearby woods?

Would I?  Would you?  The Christian world celebrates the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth this week.  What’s hanging on my personal cross, on yours?  Arrogance, maybe?  Will we resurrect into the man or woman whom the universal God of all mankind designed us to be?

(There is only one correct answer to the questions in the above quiz – humility)

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a mother’s child

 

I was a mother’s child – we all were.  I was fortunate to live in a nurturing, caring home.  Often I jokingly refer to our family as the Pennsylvania Dutch version of  THE WALTONS, that wildly popular television series from decades ago.  Indeed those Waltons had nothing over my family living in a multi-generational household consisting of 2 great-grandparents, 2 aunts, 2 grandparents, my mother and me.  The menfolk in the house did not have a chance when challenged by the 5 female members.😎

I learned not to be too strident when considering religious or political issues.  Every man and woman was entitled to his/her opinion or as Grandpa always said, “opinions are like a certain body part, and everybody has one.”  Grandpa was a wise man who knew that Grandma was always right even when she was dead wrong.

We learned the Bible as youngsters and we knew many of the Jesus stories from the Gospels.  The passage on my mind today was written in the book of Mark.   Check it out in order to get the gist of Jesus’ story.  It is Mark 7:26-29. (1)

A Gentile woman approached Jesus and begged him to cast out a demon indwelling her daughter.  Jesus replied, “Let the children (the Hebrews) be fed first because it’s not right to feed the children’s food to the dogs (non-Jews).”  The woman responded by saying that even the dogs under the table eat the children’s food.  Jesus honored her faith and removed the demon.

Perhaps Jesus realized how dehumanizing the word “dogs” was when referring to Gentile children and that this was not what He nor the Father whom he professed were in this world to teach.  Coming to love, heal, and resurrect only certain mothers’ children is not what the love of Jesus and his God embodied. (2)

I was never referred to as dog, animal, illegal, alien, vermin, invader or pest when I was a child.  Children of the universal God, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, black, brown, white, or multi-colored, are never denied  citizenship in God’s universe nor should ever they be denigrated by crass, dehumanizing labels inflicted upon them by political leaders or religious leaders.  Leaders who endorse this type of dialog are not worthy to hold positions of responsibility and should be viewed with skepticism.

When we awakened this morning, did we acknowledge the universal power which has declared that all of us, each and every one, is a child of God?  Do we accept that although we do not always understand the man or woman who stridently disagrees with our faith, our political affiliation, our lifestyle, do we accept that they also are loved by this same God?  We are all children, sometimes bratty, sometimes impish, sometimes hateful, but never dogs, animals, illegals, aliens, vermin, invaders or pests.  You and I would never label our children this way, why do it to another mother’s child?

(1)MARK 7:26-29

(2)RED LETTER CHRISTIANS

 

ecological refugees

“We are at war with ourselves. We have put our faith in the mythical god of progress and are seeing the consequences. Millions of ecological refugees wander the earth, seeking an environment capable of sustaining their lives. . . . Did God have this kind of progress in mind?”

-Louis Vitale, OFM, Love is what Matters

My dedication to a simple lifestyle was not a choice I made altruistically.  No, it was forced medicine for a chronic financial malady.  But, it opened my eyes to an alternative world where the Joneses do not matter, accumulation of stuff is not a priority, big boy toys are unimportant and money is a resource to be respected and used wisely.

Yes, by Western standards, I am the poorest man I know, but I am extraordinarily blessed with every one of my needs filled.  It took severe financial reversals at age 60 to teach me life’s true priorities.  It is not about the stuff we gather unto ourselves, nor the clothes we wear, nor the degree behind our names, nor the shiny new BMW we drive, nor the universities our kids attend, nor the upscale church we attend, nor the country club memberships.

Real blessings have no price tag nor can they be bought.  You and I awakened this morning breathing air and pumping blood.  Of all the people on earth we probably have the most reasonable chance of surviving for the next 24 hours without fear of being murdered or maimed.  If we are hungry, someone nearby will feed us.  If we are cold, someone will provide us a blanket and a breakfast.  When we are lonely, a friendly ear is just minutes away.  With raised arms to the heavens let us be grateful!  Most of the world’s population does not have what you and I have at this very moment.

For meditation today, consider those who have lost all possessions and their homes to natural disasters.  Floods, fires, hurricanes and tornadoes devastate without discrimination.  Droughts are causing famines, changing weather patterns are creating wastelands out of productive lands.  The vagaries of nature combined with the unbridled greed of Western society have set the stage for a deluge of ecological refugees.

Man, in his quest for material wealth, social status, and personal comfort, seems to have forgotten that all of us need this earth to survive, all of us need to share the resources.  There are no shortages if we learn to compromise and share.  We do not live in a world of scarcity; rather, we live in a world of plenty designed by nature to accommodate its people if they learn to share the bounty.  No one blessed with material wealth and financial success is more privileged or more deserving than another of the world’s brothers/sisters struggling to survive as refugees, either ecological or political.  We ARE our brothers’ keepers; we cannot allow political or social influence to refute ancient wisdom.

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