Saturday, April 7, 2018

Thoughts About Prayer

I want to say something about prayer.  Do we understand what prayer is? I can’t believe that God of the Universe wants or needs certain formula prayers in endless repetition—prayer is for our benefit, to keep us focused on what is right and good, reminding us that God is there for us.  When formula prayer seems to not work for us we may think we’ve lost the ability to pray—but prayer is so much more, it is entering the spirit of God: to offer to help someone in need is prayer, to wish others well even if they are unkind to you is prayer, to put effort into doing something well is prayer, to marvel at a sunset is prayer.   Prayer should be a sign of gratitude.  I believe it was Meister Eckhart who said, “If the only prayer you ever say is ‘Thank you’, it is enough.”

I’ve chosen a brief passage from my book The Stations * that addresses prayer. 

The artist says to his dear friend, “It worries me that I can’t pray”
Mother Abara gestures toward the studio, “Oh but you are mistaken, you are a master at prayer.”
“Yes, I carve stone into Stations of the Cross, . . . but me personally, in my quiet moments alone with myself I can’t pray.”
“What is missing is an experience of consolation, not your ability to pray. What do you think prayer is?”
He thought for several moments, “I guess I don’t actually know.  I think of the Psalms—those are magnificent prayers.”
“Yes, they are beautiful—but they represent one kind of prayer.  As children we are taught to ‘say our prayers’, so we come to think prayer is ‘saying words that please God’—and we think there are certain formulas that do the job better than others.  When our formulas stop working, or when we cease to make a connection between the formulas and our inner world, we think we’ve lost the ability to pray.  Our mistake isn’t in our praying, it is in interpreting—we have ‘failed to put an end to childish ways’.”
“ I hear what you are saying, Mother Abara, but I miss your meaning.”
“ Prayer is giving praise and worship to God, not in invoking magic formulas.  For many people, saying formulas helps them reach praise and worship, but others do it differently . . . To bask in the wonder of creation, to sing for the joy of the song, to reflect deeply and bring forth new understanding . . . those are ways of praising God. You’ve said yourself, as have the Psalmists, God is beyond our understanding so to appreciate the wonder without demanding that it fit our preconceived notions is to pray.”
. . .
“The form of prayer that is most your own is when you give form to the stone.  That helps others connect to the awe and wonder of life’s meaning.  Every moment of that work—including the struggle to know what to put into the work before a single line is drawn—is your prayer.  Stop thinking that saying words or experiencing the wonder is the only way.  That is the childish thinking you must bring to an end.  Recognize that the prayer you pray is in a different form.”
                                                                                                                              * Available at Amazon

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Modern Era

A few days ago I wrote here about the 1st Axial Age, the name given to the time in history when humanity made a major leap ahead, a change in consciousness that brought scattered humanity—each in unique ways—to lay the foundations for civilization that still serve us today.

The modern era necessitates another axial change wherein humanity comes to embrace a new consciousness of what and who we are.  We’ve seen ourselves from outer space—earth as one small interconnected interacting unit.   We must come to realize that what happens to one part effects the whole.  We can no longer choose war; we are One world threatened with self-destruction. 

We were given a planet in which to create a world according to our choice.  Little by little, with glory and strife, we came together to become a global world; we have yet to realize our oneness.  May we in our lifetime experience humanity's rise in consciousness.
                                                                          - - -
        
 I repeat an earlier poem from my blog of 10/15/13


POTENTIAL


I believe in human potential--
     Man can be more than he is
     if armed with the will to become.

I see the inherent dangers--
     Power can either create or destroy
     so knowledge of it awakens fear.

I know of quantitative quality--
     That which can be expressed positively
     can likewise be expressed negatively.


     I look to civilization’s development
          - the taming of fire
          - the mastery of communication
          - the understanding of order
          - the creation of beauty
          - the invention of systems
          - the development of industry
          - the perfection of technology
     Laced with wars, tyranny, slavery, holocaust, bigotry, treason, genocide...

     This is my heritage, my lineage, my ancestry;
     It all came before me and is mine because I am!

     This awareness engenders painful ambivalence;
     Majesty and pride joust with horror and shame.

     All this is because of human potential;
     Our being has changed the face of the earth.

     Man has traveled to the moon
     And he has created Auschwitz and Dachau.

               Are we gods or demons?

     The more we refine our being
     the more aware we become of its flaws.

     Ignorance once hid from us our vast potential;
     Yet once glimpsed, that image holds the mind in bondage.

     Reality forces us to live with the less that is
     while desperately longing for the more beyond reach.


Now, together, we are called to create a better world--      
     The negatives are painfully real
     but somewhere, somehow, progress happens.

Truth demands we acknowledge our potential's full range
     without abnegating the responsibility;
     --each person's choices help shape the future.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

A New Axial Age?

Has the modern era brought us to a new Axial Age?  Some say so, but what does it mean?  The German-Swiss psychiatrist and philosopher Karl Jaspers coined the term ‘Axial Age’ in 1949 when he noted that during the period between 800-200 BC there was a shift in how humanity viewed itself.  A turn as if on an axis—a change in consciousness that allowed civilization to develop.  Prior to the shift, tribalism was the dominant form of social organization.  The general characteristics were: small populations closely related, closed to outer influences, lacking individualized thinking, total submission to the group (ultra-conformity), with non-members of the tribe usually seen as ‘enemy’.

During the first Axial Age there was a revolution in human thought.  Independently in most clusters of humanity (China, India, Persia, Judaea, Greece and Rome) there was a change in consciousness that produced great advances in intellectual, philosophical and religious thinking.  Great men arose to define a ‘way of life’ (Confucius and La-Tzu, Gautama Buddha, Zoroaster, Moses and the Prophets, Socrates and Plato).  In each cluster there was some version of The Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others what you would have them do unto you’.  Humanity had moved from the isolation of tribalism to recognizing the necessity of cooperation for mutual benefit.  It was a huge leap, laying the groundwork for civilization to emerge.

How is this relevant to today?  The modern era has brought tremendous technological change.  From 1900 to 2018 we’ve leapt from horse and buggy transportation to rockets to the moon and back; in communications, then the telephone was new and cumbersome and today we carry it around in our pocket not only for conversations but also to navigate highways and instantly obtain limitless information . . . it isn’t the same world!   In the early 1900s we were just awakening to the terrifying destructive power we held, erupting in a World War with heretofore-unimagined armament—which escalated to nuclear arsenals capable of destroying all life on planet earth.

This new world requires a shift or change in how we see the world; another revolution in human thought is needed.  War has been the way to settle disputes since man first walked the earth.  It is no longer a viable option—viable means: capable of working successfully.  There is no ‘success’ with nuclear weapons.  Until we ventured into outer space and looked back on this tiny planet in the vast universe, we still believed (although science told us otherwise) we lived in a limitless static world where earth was the center of it all with sun and moon and stars revolving around us, as God sat on a cloud watching our every move. 

That isn’t the reality.  We are a dynamic evolving interacting singular unit, dependent upon each other for survival.  Early in the Bible (Deut. 30:19) God says:  “I have set before you life and death . . . choose life.”  God left it up to us. Whether or not you believe in the Bible or God, that clearly is a statement to us today.

The choosing of death is to continue to war, enlarge the nuclear arsenal, and deny reality.  The way to ‘choose life‘ is to embrace our interconnectedness, change our consciousness to find the way for humanity to work together in peace and build the world. . . thus bringing on a second Axial Age.

I once again quote Teilhard de Chardin:
 
                       “The Age of Nations is past,
     The task before us now, if we would not perish
                              Is to build the earth”



Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Gun Control

I want to address gun control; this issue concerns the soul of America.  I may not have anything new to add to what has been said, but I want to add my voice to the call for reform.  To begin, consider the definition of control: ‘the power to influence or direct behavior’.  The issue here is not to eliminate American’s right to own guns; at issue is specifically action to control mass killing by weapons of war.

I begin with some statistics on gun ownership in America:
            --on average people killed by guns, 96 per day; 1300/year
            --America is #1 per capita for gun ownership
            --US gun homicide rate: 25X the average of high income countries
            --America has more mass shootings than any other country

There are various ways to define ‘mass shootings’ but whatever definition is used America leads.  Studies indicate mass shootings since 2011 in US have tripled, the deadliest have occurred in the 21st Century with assault weapons.
            1)  2017   Los Vegas                 #59 killed    semi-automatic weapon
            2)  2016   Orlando Night Club    50  "          semi-automatic weapon
            3)  2007   Virginia Tech              33            semi-automatic weapon
            4)  2012   Sandy Hook                28            semi-automatic weapon
            5)  2017   Southerland Springs   27            semi-automatic weapon
                                                    Church
The most recent, February 15, 2018, at Parkland Florida High School, was one of the deadliest in  high schools, 17 students were killed with semi-automatic weapon.

Assault weapons have no business in private hands, they are intended as weapons of war; their only purpose is to kill humans—as many as possible in the shortest time.  Their very existence is a moral issue.

Gun ownership is defended by quoting the 2nd Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”  That can be interpreted more than one way—I’m not qualified to formally argue the point but I can use common sense.  ‘Militia’ . . . seems to suggest self-defense in lawless areas—there are no longer ‘lawless areas’ in the US.  But more importantly I believe we should consider the times in which the amendment became law, it was in 1791; at the time ‘bearing arms’ meant pistols and rifles/muskets; they were the objects of guaranteed protection.  The writers of the Constructional Amendments could not foresee the lethal nature of the 21st Century weapons and therefore were not included in the intent.  It is morally abhorrent to see the NRA and congress continuing to protect uncontrolled private ownership of assault weapons.


I recommend going to YouTube and request ‘gun violence spoken word poem’.
or:      https://t.co/LxdSAI2kvf      (may need to unmute in lower right corner)


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

God is Consciousness

I’ve said: ‘because I am, and the world is, I believe in God’.  I now want to expand on that thought. 

It’s truly amazing to think about the chain of coincidences that must occur for any individual to be the person they are.  Suppose your grandparents lived in different cities and never met—you wouldn’t be, because your parents would not have been born. (Trace that back through multi-generations).  OK, lets accept that both sets of grandparents were in the right place at the right time, met and married so your parents came to be.  Next, think of all the circumstances that got them to be in the right place at the right time for you to be conceived and born.  I checked my sources to learn that a man produces 180 million to 250 million sperm per each ejaculation and only one sperm succeeds in carrying what is to be half of your DNA.  A woman normally ovulates one egg every 28 days—so for 28 days the egg that became half of you was pre-determined, but the sperm half is pitted against 250 million sperm in competition . . . and if it was a different night they got together, there’d be perhaps a whole different sperm crop. 

So I say, ‘because I am who I am’ I want to believe there’s a bit more to it than one chance in 250 million to be me.  I don’t know how God works the numbers, but I do believe God intended for each of us to be who we are . . . but then God leaves what we do with that self up to us.  

That analysis seems a bit flippant, but just think about the facts of it.  I for one believe that in life there is meaning, purpose and direction; I can’t know what it is, but faith enables me to believe it. 

Now the world part (‘because the world is, I believe in God’) seems a bit easier to make a case for.  Unlike other planets we know about, this planet appears to be made to support life, which it can and does do.  There are uncountable elements that must be in proper proportion for that to be so; the absence of one, or a different proportion would make life impossible.  There must be balance in the atmosphere, the surface gravity, the distance from the sun, the ozone layer, the hydrosphere, the thickness of the earth’s crust, the solar radiation and earth’s energy . . . and that is only a few of the millions of intricate interrelated balances that are necessary for the support of life.  *

There are those who say it all came about by chance.  I find that a ridiculous assumption.  In support of that position I’ve heard it said, ‘sit a million monkeys in front of a million typewriters for a million years and they’ll type the front page of the NY Times’, suggesting impossible things can happen by chance.  That cute folksy quip has a fatal flaw.  I will concede that that many monkeys over that much time could possibly produce enough real words to comprise the front page of the N.Y. Times, but it wouldn’t happen by itself—some conscious source would be needed to gather all the random words and assemble them in coherent order.

We have no evidence of spontaneous generation of order happening by chance.  There is pattern and order to our world’s structure.  Why would anyone believe that something as marvelously intricate as earth with all its complex balances could simply come together on its own?
- Order is the product of consciousness -
I don’t know who or what God is, but I believe God is Love, Mercy, Truth, Justice and God is consciousness . . .
- Order is the product of consciousness -



                                                                                           * see Google for balance of earth’s systems




Monday, January 22, 2018

We Need Hope

I write a lot about God and/or the ‘god concept’ that holds within it the search for all that is good.  The human spirit needs hope.  It is hope that enables us to keep going in the face of adversity.

We seem to be faced with so many disasters in our world today: a government shut-down that highlights the polarization that now grips our nation; the senseless mass killings that seem to have become epidemic; the cascade of natural disasters from out-of-control fires to floods and mud slides to snow and ice storms that take lives and yield massive damage.  So many people are losing faith in the prospect of a better world.

Life has always progressed in a pattern of two steps forward then one step back.  We’re in a backward phase now . . . and that will change.  We need to step back from the immediate and take in the broader picture of the flow of life.  Each era experiences both tragedy and growth while it adds to the wonders to enhance the lives of the next generation.  When the short-term view shows us disaster, we need to call upon the long view to reignite hope.

What primitive man, carving the first image on the cave wall, could foresee the world of communications we know today?  What scribe in the dark ages laboriously hand copying a manuscript could foresee a world of educated people reading and writing as a matter of course?  What physician of the Middle Ages, bleeding his patient to release the ‘bad humors’, could foresee the wonders of modern medicine?  What soldier bombing and killing the enemy in WWII could foresee Germany, Japan and the U.S. as allies working together for peace?

In every century we can see progress in the human psyche.  Our basic human nature, attracted to both good and evil, doesn’t change but little by little there is an increase in consciousness, expanding our understanding of what it means to be human, showing concern for our fellow man, growing in our
capacity to love, employing empathy and compassion; we saw it happening in people rushing to help others (complete strangers) in the recent disasters.  But at the same time malice grows in some segment of society: the Nazis in the last century, the jihadists in this one, and malhuman acts get worse in their ferocity.  The majority of people see the wrongness of it but others are confused and even attracted to it.  We’ve eliminated God from the equation and with nowhere to look to highlight ‘the good’—many feel lost.

God awaits humanity to discover that the only way to sustain this planet is to see it as one interdependent interacting world.  We will survive or perish together.  We have yet to fully awaken the human spirit—to learn to love one another and forgive our enemies.

Can we invest hope in humanity creating a better world?  It seems like an impossible dream, but consider those seemingly impossible advances from ages past.