She who was called, “America’s Grandmother” died this week at the young age of 92. Seeing all the articles about Barbara Bush on TV I grew more interested in her life. As First Lady, she seemed to have had very definite opinions about things, but was also wise enough to say that she “just could not make that choice for someone else.” About some of the issues that divide this nation today, she also said that,"... personal things should be left out of, in my opinion, platforms and conventions."
She is known to have fought for literacy in America. As I listened to the many reports about her life and accomplishments, one particular saying of hers attracted my attention. During George W Bush presidency she saw the downward spiraling of the political conversation and said,“I hate the fact that people think 'compromise' is a dirty word.”
Is “compromise” a dirty word? What is a compromise anyways? It is a word coming from the Latin and means, “A Mutual promise”. According to the dictionary, a compromise is: “an agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.”; "an ability to listen to two sides in a dispute, and devise a compromise acceptable to both."
This year I have been teaching my class of teenagers about the American Constitution. As I studied it myself, I stumbled into a study of the Constitutional Convention. I read many of the debates, disputations, and argumentation of the people that were present at that history changing convention. At the end, I realised that the American constitution was signed by people who each had to give a little in order to come to an agreement. Like Barbara Bush, they did not believe that “compromise”, or the “ability to listen to two sides in a dispute, and devise a compromise acceptable to both”, was a dirty word.
And neither should we!
Everyday in the news we hear about another leader or social role model falling from grace. Their fall is always due to certain indiscretions, either of a sexual, financial, or ethical nature.
It is true that in any type of group, society, political, or religious movement, leaders are under a greater scrutiny than the rest of the people. It may seem unfair, but it is nevertheless the Damocles’ sword that comes with leadership. Maybe this is what James of the Bible meant as he warned, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”(James 3:1)
Human nature is such that we tend to copy and emulate those leaders we admire. We also tend to scrutinise and oppose those leaders which we despise. In any case, for good or bad, whether we like it or not, they influence us.
Like children, we also tend to follow the actions of a our leaders rather than their good words of advice. We are like the children of whom the parents complained, “No matter how much we try to teach them good manners, they consistently follow our bad sample.”
This should stand as a warning to any of us who operate in leadership. The people who love us, will not only emulate us, but often take our words and sample much further than we would have ever anticipated. I often compare leadership to a whip. Only a tiny movement of the wrist is needed to have it go its full length at the other end. In the same manner, a little off-color remark, a little bending of the rules, a little disrespect can trickle down the ranks and bring down the high standards we have worked so hard to establish. Even the appearance of impropriety is dangerous. The leader’s motto should be, “Others may, but I can’t!”
It isn’t necessary to have a title to be a leader. ? A leader is someone who does everything with “leadership” meaning like everything depends on it, because it does! He shows dedication, integrity, and altruism. He does not count the hour nor the money. In everything he does his motto is, “I may just be a little daisy, but l’ll be the best daisy there ever was!”
No one is an island. We all have influence be it on our spouses, friends, co-workers, children, colleagues, etc … and that makes us all leaders.
THE LAST JEDI, EASTERN PHILOSOPHY, AND TODAY.
In The Last Jedi Kylo Ren tells Luke Skywalker: I'll destroy her. And you. And all of it. Luke Skywalker answers: No. Strike me down in anger and I'll always be with you. Just like your father.
This reminded me of episode V when Luke Skywalker’s saw himself becoming like his father, Darth Vader, as he tried to kill him. While this idea is part of Eastern philosophical concepts such as Hinduism, oh , what basic truth it contains!
Case in point. This week, someone from England sent a letter around calling for “Punish a Muslim Week” on the 3rd of April. The letter was sent to many people in many countries and even made its way to America. Part of the letter was a reward point system for hurtful things done to Muslims or to the Muslim community at large on that day.
When I saw that I thought, “How odd; fundamentalist Muslims themselves teach the idea of heavenly rewards for the killing of certain people, mainly Jews or Americans. It also reminded me about Haman the Persian who decided that on a certain day of the year, all Persians should go and kill their Jewish neighbors.
Like in the Last jedi, hatred and murder, in the spirit of anger and vengeance make us become those we hate and kill. We often see it. In trying to obtain justice and vengeance, someone wronged will often resort to the same actions, thought patterns and philosophy as the one who wronged him. The God who created us knew that, and this is why He teaches us to resist anger, hatred, and hateful murder while leaving Him with the job of avenging us, if not in this age, in the Age to come.
A mass was held this week in a Catholic church in the southern French city of Trèbe to honor a national hero.
A terrorist hijacked a car, and shot at a group of police officers that were fitness training, jogging along the side of the road., Then the lone terrorist came to a small supermarket where, among others, he took a young female hostage. The kidnapper demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving member of the 2015 Paris jihadist attacks that killed 130 people. Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame, former officer in the French army, was the first on the scene. He disarmed himself, discretely set his live cell phone on the counter while beginning negotiations with the terrorist. The officer then offered to exchange places with the young woman. The terrorist accepted and the grateful woman fled.
Through the police officer’s phone, the special police forces outside could hear everything that was happening in the store. They heard the negotiations and the terrorist stabbing the policeman several times. When the terrorist started shooting police reinforcements stormed the scene and killed the aggressor. Arnaud died later of his wounds in a local hospital.
I find this story truly heroic. I keep imagining the officer’s wife meeting the woman he changed place with. What would she say of this great sacrifice? Would they develop a relationship? Would there be bitterness, friendship, a sort of bound between them?
We are approaching the season of Passover. In the days of the Jewish Temple, people believed that they owed their salvation, their escape from spiritual death, to the killing of a lamb. Thousands of lambs were killed in one day. On that day, the Temple looked more like a slaughterhouse than a place of worship. How were these lambs killed? By the slicing of the carotid and tracche, the same way that incidentally, doctors concluded that this heroic officer who took the place of another was killed. Another kind of first-responder!
This is something that happened one day in the old City of Jerusalem. A rabbi was walking home from the store when he saw a child falling from his bike. The face of the child must have hit a rock as blood profusely flowed from a big gash on his face. The rabbi ran to pick up the child and quickly brought him to the nearby hospital to get stitched. An elderly woman saw the rabbi running and said, ”Don't worry rabbi, God is in control and won't let anything bad happen to that child!” Then she gave a closer look at the face of the child and realized that it was her own grandson. Suddenly it was she who was frantically running and calling for help.
It is so easy to comfort others from a external position. That is why as a chaplain, though I have seen a thing or two in my life, I do not like to say, “I understand” or, “I feel your pain.” We have to stay in the “exterior” in order to bring comfort but as such we cannot truly know what someone really feels.
And that is why also I think that first-responders are amazing. Though in the “exterior”, they respond day after day to tragic life-threatening situations with an “insider” sense of urgency. For them, it is personal.
I attended the drill on PTSD this month. The instructor told us how first- responders carry with them all the things that they see and hear. These sights and sounds always remain with them and unless they have a way of pouring it out of themselves, it can negatively affect them.
These people are often volunteers. They don't have to do it. Many of the calls they respond to are accidents, but many of them are also situations where people's carelessness and unhealthy habits are at fault. In any case, the first-responders respond just the same. As such, also in any case, they voluntarily take upon themselves the consequences of our health issues or unhealthy living in order to rescue us; a burden that will negatively affect their lives if they don’t learn how to put it down.
I thought this to be good “food for thought” as we enter the season when we remember the sacrificed Passover Lamb reminiscent of the Jewish Exodus from Egypt. How fitting is the connection with the events that happened in Jerusalem 2000 ago at this time of the year. Indeed, a time when someone, as the true, First-Responder, also voluntarily took upon himself the burdens of our health issues and foolish living.
Kudos to our first-responders!
When I was in school in France we were made to memorize Aesop's fables. These Greek fables had been adapted to the French language by a poet called Jean de La Fontaine. La Fontaine lived during the reign of Louis the XIV who brought France to it’s post-medieval zenith.
La Fontaine used much material from ancient Greece and Asia for his writings. He transformed these prose and poetry into gentle political satires that held a mirror to the hierarchical society of his days. One such fable is one of a strong and mighty tall-standing oak having a discussion with the weak bending-to-every-wind reed in the river below it. The oak would jeer at the reed. “ Look at you!” he would say, “You bend at the slightest breeze. Now to the right, now to the left. How can you live this way?! Look at me strong and tall. Nothing moves me!”
In life I have noticed that Someone always hears our proud boastings, especially when they done against the weak.
As the wind heard the proud oak, it blew, and blew, and blew while the self-assured tree stood strong and firm. All the while, the reed bent lower and lower to the ground, to the point where he would even embrace the shape of the ground under it. The oak laughed and laughed at the reed’s weakness, mocking it for its apparent lack of strength till a sudden increase in the wind uprooted it. All the while, the bending reed was left unharmed.
As the oak looked around with surprise, he remarked to the reed, “I am tall and strong, but you are small and slender, how did the wind knock me over but leave you untouched?”
The reed responded, “The wind will blow and it can’t be stopped, but those who are proud and stubborn are unable to withstand its assault, however those who are humble and adaptable are able to continue to stand after the turmoil has passed.”
Here is a great reminder. Life brings many challenges and we live in turbulent times; but those who seem to cope best aren’t the rigid, proud and dogmatic, but the malleable, humble and pragmatic.
During an interview on CBS This Morning, TV show host and comic Stephen Colbert explained that fear prevents us from thinking straight. He quoted his mother who often said to him, “When you can laugh, you can think!” The idea here is that you cannot laugh and be afraid at the same time, so laughing implies that you have conquered the fear that paralyses you and keeps you from thinking.
Fear is a very interesting subject. I read an article a long time ago that used a dog attack as an example. The article proposed the notion that the dog barks because he can sense the fear in the human. It is vicious cycle. The more the dog barks, the more the human is afraid, and the more the human is afraid, the more the dog barks, all because the dog believe that a human who is afraid will hurt him to protect himself. The article then proposes that it is better to ignore the loud scary barks, the growls, and the show of teeth, and go toward the dog as if we didn’t fear him.
I have since put this notion to the test. I used to do fundraisers door-to-door. I encountered my share of dogs, some less friendly than others. I knew the worst thing I could do was run. They have four legs and I have only two! So when a dog would come racing towards me, I would immediately face it and even at times walk towards it. Surprised, it would then stop and bark all the louder, in no uncertain terms showing me what he intended to do to me. At those times, one thing I made sure of, is to never, ever, ever, let him get behind me. It required me to constantly dance around on my feet as he would try to get me from behind (which confirms that he was afraid to attack me face to face). It got a bit hairy when one time I had two dobermans after me. The tactic never failed. Eventually the dog would calm down and go away, unless of course the animal was trained to attack face to face.
Here is what is important to understand about fear. As in the case of the dog, fear holds its power within us, in how much we give in to it, in how much we respond to it. But like the Wizard of Oz, much of it might just be scary sights and sound to intimidate us. It pops like a balloon, vanishes away like a bad dream as soon as we face it showing that we don’t buy the show.
US President FDR must have understood and believed that as he is known to have said, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself”
I saw in interesting documentary the other day. It was about a violin maker and how he chose the wood to make his instruments.
He says that wood has a voice; that he can hear the wood’s resonance and its music. It reminded me of another article I read a long time ago about another luthier. He had searched all his life for wood that would serve for making violins with a certain beautiful and haunting resonance. At last he succeeded when he came into possession of wood gathered from the timberline, the last stand of the trees of the Rockies, 12,000 feet above sea level. Up there where the winds blow so fiercely and steadily that the bark to windward has no chance to grow, where the branches all point one way, and where a tree to live must stay on its knees all through its life, that is where the world's most resonant wood for violins is born and lives and dies.
What beautiful imagery we have here: beautiful music conceived from a life of tribulations. Wordsworth said, “Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.” The problem though is that when going through trials some of us don’t sing, we just make selfish indignant complaining noises.
The trials, the tribulations and the tragedies life endows upon us are made to teach our hearts a new song, a song of care, of love, of humility, and of generosity. The crushing of our hopes and dreams is the process which creates the fragrance of empathy, a very expensive fragrance which can only be conceived in the vessel of our broken hearts allowing it to seep onto others.
Life is not always kind to us, but like trees in the Rockies, may we let the wind that would uproot us; the wind that keeps us barkless and vulnerable; the wind that pushes us down on our knees; create in us beautiful music to soothe the heart of others.
Here is the documentary I saw:
I live outside of Estacada, OR. Near my kitchen there is a door that overlooks in a wild area that is only populated with young trees, blackberry bushes, and all kinds of other greeneries.
On Tuesday night, before going to bed around midnight, I looked outside the window of that door to check if it was snowing when from within the bush I saw a light like those from a cell phone. “Someone is out there!” I thought. The light kept going on, then off; and off, and on again. I do watch TV crime shows and heard of several break-ins in the area. It was getting scary. I do have a BB gun on that porch and a conceal-carry license.
I kept watching till I saw a big shadowy 4-legged thing moving in the bushes alongside a 2-legged one. I really was wondering…! It is then that as the two shadows came out of the bushes I saw that it was our neighbor taking her anatolian shepherd dog to relieve itself from the discomfort of an over-full bladder.
The next morning I was texting her about the last night’s adventures, and this is how the conversation went:
--You scared the heeby-jeebies out of me last night.
--Haha, Shomer (that is the name of the anatolian shepherd) had to pee!
--Especially when I saw a four-legged creature accompanied with a person in a ski-mask, I thought it might be a robber or that the FBI had finally caught up with me
--I braced myself expecting to see assault weapons (you know with the news these days …)
–-Then I saw that it was only you and Shomer guarding the place.
She then said,
--- I should be thankful you didn’t shoot me first!
To which I replied,
–- I learned to stop, look, and listen, before shooting!
--Did you learn the hard way?
--Yes but not with guns, thankfully, but with my mouth and actions.
--Ah yes. Deep!
It is a deep, but yes, a simple lesson. I was talking to a friend this week who was wondering if the devil was responsible for the bad things that happened to him. I told him that the devil doesn't have to hardly do anything to mess up our lives. We are entirely capable to do that by our own selves as we act irrationally, omitting to take the time to stop, look, and listen before we do and say things.
I personally learned, (and am still learning sometimes) that it takes less long to take the time to stop, look, and listen before doing or saying something than to clean up the mess when we don’t!
Grigory Rodchenkov who was once the mind behind the elaborate doping program that helped Russia cheat in the Olympics was recently interviewed. He revealed that the competing Olympians of some twenty plus countries regularly use chemical stimulants to improve their performance. The more questions the journalist asked, the wider the problem seemed, until hefinally asked, “Will the Olympic Games ever be clean?”
In his slightly broken English, the Russian official answered, “You could believe, but in fact, it’s human nature; it’s our sins; it’s got nothing to do with sports. There are 10% or 15% who are incorrigible. You can do nothing. They are cheaters by their very nature!.”
I do not know the religious background of this man but he identified a few words of the reason for the problems of the planet.
Not only in sports, but from banks who profited on housing loans causing the recent recession to the politicians who played the system to finance luxurious vacations at our expense; from businessman who pay themselves 300 times more than their employee while refusing to hire help for their overworked workers because of the “cost”, to false advertisement, scams, hackers and ID thieves, it is all the same. We are dealing with sinful human nature with a percentage of people who are incorrigible.
It is easy to blame people’s behaviors on race, religion, or culture. We even sometimes blame it on the circumstances of their youth but the truth really is that we are all created equal. If one is bad, all are bad and if one is good all are good. The whole idea is that whether we believe in God or not, we all have within ourselves the potential to do good, and the equal potential to do evil. What we do with the responsibility of that awesome choice is ours and our Russian official acknowledged that a certain percentage of people in the world seemed to have made the decision to misbehave by acting selfishly and dishonestly. I think that sticks the blame right where it belongs: with us: the universal person.
Of all the creatures on the earth, we seem to be the one with the greatest ability to lead our lives through choice instead of by instinct. I saw a little illustration once. It represented the bust of a person with a small devil on one side of his shoulder and and a little angel on the other. Both were having a tug-of-war through the person’s ears thus illustrating that they both had influence on him. The tie would only be broken by the person’s choice. The flame of conscience within us can prevent us from doing the bad thing and even push us toward more unselfish choices. Ultimately, can we really blame our environment for the evil that we do? The choices really belong to us.
I was listening to one of these talk shows on radio where people ask advice on marriage and everyday life. It was in 2001 and this man was asking advice on how to tell his wife that he wanted to enlist for a tour of duty in Iraq. The talk show host is herself very military minded and has children who are enlisted, but she asked the man, –“Is it something that your wife and you talked about before you decided to get married?”And then she continued –“I want a man who is home at night for dinner so I made sure not to marry a surgeon. Has your wife agreed to marry a soldier who might or might not come back from the front lines?”
When people get married they enter a contract with each other. This is actually the whole idea of marriage. It is good to once in a while review this contract and what it says. It might even be a good Valentine’s Day project to take account of how we faithfully (or unfaithfully) execute the promises of our marriage vows. Please, note that I said, to review our part of the contract not assessing our spouse’s, but how WE personally are doing. Did we say, “For richer or poorer”? Or, “”In sickness and in health?”, or even “I promise to be there for you to cherish and care for you all the days of my life till death do us part?”
In the ancient world, contracts were written on a soft piece of clay later hardened in an oven. If one of the parties disobeyed the terms of the contract, the other had the option to take that piece of clay and break it as a sign that since the contract was broken, it was annulled. That’s why Moses broke the Tables of the Commandments. He didn’t go into a fit of rage; he just broke the contract God had made with Israel because Israel broke it through the making of the Golden Calf. Of course, the other party also has the option to forgive, which is what God eventually did in the case of Israel.
Once a contract is made, it cannot be altered without a nullification of the former one. This is true of all legal contracts from marriage to business associations. If conditions change, we need to sit-down and re-write a new contract. Our word is only as good as we are faithful to execute the terms of what we promise. It seems a small thing today to not abide by our word but in business, marriage, or a court of law, it has wide ramifications. It was part of the 10 Commandments to not break vows (Exodus 20: 7), and Jesus said that it is better not to make vows than to make on and break it! (Mat 5:33--37).
A good resource that I use for marriage counseling whenever I officiate a wedding:
This week I read about Ji Seong-ho, a North Korean who fled his country. He was raised in an orphanage where he saw many children die of hunger. One day, he tried to steal a few pieces of coal from a train’s cargo in hope of selling them or exchanging them for something to eat. Starving, he fell asleep on the rails exhausted from the weight of his sack He woke up as the train hit. “Surgeons amputated his left leg above the knee, and his left hand at the wrist. There was no anaesthetic. No blood transfusion. No painkillers.The doctor slapped him to keep him conscious every time he started to pass out. He still remembers the sound of the saw, cutting through his leg bone.” The article says.
He continued his miserable life without limbs but not without hope. In 2006, hobbling almost 10,000 kilometres on crutches that his father made for him he escaped North Korea, through China and South-East Asia to freedom. “The dogs of China ate better than my family in N.Korea!” he noticed. He did escape and now lives in South Korea as an activist to help rescue other defectors, especially crippled ones. This week he was invited at the State of the Union presidential speech.
As the President addressed him, Ji Seong-ho brandished the old crutches that dragged him through 10.000 kilometers to freedom. Though he now has prosthetic legs, he kept these crutches. “To me it symbolises that you can achieve anything if you do not give up,” he said. (Click HERE for full story).
Those crutches have become a symbol for this man, a remembrance of where he came from in case he should get complacent and whine about his lot in life. Not only should this story put our daily life complaints in perspective, but it should also challenge the many excuses we indulge in for not doing what we know we should be doing with our families, our community, with our lives. If any one had excuses to just roll over and die, he did. What’s ours?
In the physical realm, the location of our eyes on our faces allows us to see what is ahead of us but not behind us. That is in fact contrary to life’s daily reality which declares that, since we have no control or certain knowledge over the future, though we may claim to see what is ahead of us, we do not know for certain anything about it.
On the other hand, though we may not give much importance to what is behind us, we have more certainty about what has happened in the past than to what will happen in the future. We know where we come from, but we can’t truly say where we're going. Even in this technological age, we do not even know if the earth and all the political, biological, economic and digital elements that held us yesterday will hold us tomorrow. How should we then chart our way into the unknown darkness of our uncertain future?
A wise King named Solomon one time shared a remarkable observation. He said,, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, "See, this is new"? It has been already in the ages before us.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10) This could be considered “intelligence” to help us navigate the dark seas ahead.
Since we can see what is behind us and there is nothing new that hasn't happened before, the best way to navigate this world is by walking forward in a backward motion. It would be physically insane and even dangerous to do so physically, but rather sane and safe to do so philosophically. As the famous quote says, “Those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it!”
In actuality, most of us can testify that the charting of our daily lives is a reflection of the lessons we learned in our less educated days. As such, we do use the past, what is behind us, as a compass for the future. The lessons of the past have helped us to set boundaries to our lives which is good, but as a person or a society, problems arise when we get frustrated at the wise boundaries of the smarter people who walked this earth before us and revert to the ignorance of our past ways.
The charting of our future by our past not only keeps us safe on our way but also helps us know where we're going, as well as realise when we get there so that we’re not like the man who was aimlessly travelling. When he stopped at a restaurant on the side of the road, the lady at the cash register asked him,
“Where are you going? “
“Nowhere in particular!” he answered. She then asked,
“How will you know when you get there?”
A conversation is said to have taken place between a hen and a hog. Aa they passed the town hall, they saw the subject on which the mayor was speaking that night, "How Can We Help the Poor in Our City?" After a moment's reflection, the hen said, "I know what we can do. We can give them a ham-and-egg breakfast!" The hog protested, saying, "The breakfast would be only a contribution for you, but for me it would mean total commitment!"
As hoggish as he may be, the hog saw right through the hypocrisy of the hen who would so voluntarily give of her abundance, while suggesting her friend gives of his very livlihood..
We all benefit from what is given to us. We all owe our peace and quiet to the civil servants, soldiers, firefighters, policemen, EMTs and doctors, around us. We owe it even to our neighbors who, out of a simple sense of community, would warn us if something fishy was happening in our house while we were gone. That’s why we live in communities for support, strength, and security. We are in a sense indebted to the society around us so that when we give, we only repay what has been laid at our feet for free.
When we give, we are really just give back of what has been extended to us. Real giving goes beyond that. I heard it said one time, “It doesn’t count till it hurts!” Indeed, it is when it hurts that we start really giving and investing in others. That’s when we go beyond and give more than has been given to us.
I love JFK’s words, “Seek not what your country can do for you, but rather seek what you can do for your country!” and we do so through our giving to the community. The thing is, do we give like the hen or like the hog? The measure of our giving is not in the gift, but in what we’ve got left after we’re done giving!
Hachi was a Japanese dog who used to accompany his master to the railroad station each morning and then wait at the station to greet him in the evening as he returned . One night in 1925, the man did not return, having died in another city. Although the little dog had met its master only a few months previously, for over 10 years from the day of his master’s death, the dog went to the station every night--sadly trotting home again after waiting an hour.
The faithfulness of Hachi impressed the nation so much that the government erected a statue of the dog on the spot where he had perseveringly waited--and then sent statuettes to all schools in the then Japanese empire. This is a true story.
This story is a testament to the faithfulness and loyalty of a dog. This dog had one master to whom he was devoted. The story goes on to say that after his master died, the dog even stayed and slept in a corner of the station. The workers were so touched that they regularly gave him food and water. Hachi had one duty which he did no matter what. He served an audience of one: his master.
Surely we can learn something from Hachi. Modern ideas teach us to give of ourselves conditionally. We play our part or fulfill our role only of things are pleasant and going our way. We learn to be not only fairweather friends but also fairweather workers, volunteers, and even fairweather parents and spouses as this sort of lack of commitment has infiltrated the realm of marriage and parenthood. When we do so, like Hachi we also serve an audience of one, but the “one” is ourselves.
The noble idea of the “pursuit of happiness” has become a personal selfish end rather than something that we live to ensure for others. Modern society feels the deadly results of such self-centered philosophy. I for one believe that the greatness of a person lies in the power of his surrender, of his surrender to a cause greater than he is, to a cause that requires him to stretch even beyond the narrow confines of his personal comfort. Those kinds of people give themselves to the task at hand being concerned of neither audience or reward. Those are the greats of history that we honor. Like Hachi, they serve just “cause.”
We make financial decisions, plan political campaigns, organise programs, advertise products, and calibrate tools using assessments by averages. From mechanics, to finances, and psychological evaluations we use statistical averages in everything. It is not 100% exact and it even sometimes fails us, but we make very important, sometime life and death decisions by it.
It is all true and helps us come to workable solutions of problems when it comes to mechanics, economics, and crowd behavior, but what about the common person, the individual?
These days I have been thinking of people that I know, or rather knew because I haven’t seen them in a very long time. I am here now with them for a short period of time and I feel I can assess things about them but do I really know them enough to allow myself opinions?
One may say that time and distance may cloud our judgment in knowing a person, but so does proximity. Looking at a person from afar we may see only a blur not only of their faults but also of their potential. Looking at them too closely concentrates our attention on details void of the perspective that gives them truth and purpose.
We are therefore left with the old adage that truth is found in the medium of two extremes. Not too far, not too close; not too long, not too short; that is the perspective that can give us not the perfect but the best our imperfect dimension affords. Like with anything else, our best judgment comes from an average between two extremes.
As I am writing this, I am reminded that I wrote something similar in the chaplain newsletter called: THE BALANCE OF THINGS, a good reminder before many of us gather together with family for the Holidays.
I watched a documentary about hermit crabs recently. The hermit crab has a very sensitive skin. So sensitive that it cannot stay for very long without protection from sun rays. As a result, he squats in the empty shells discarded by other crustaceans.
As a small hermit crab, he seeks a shell that will fit snug, but as he grows, he needs larger quarters. The documentary showed how hermits crabs instinctively gather together to exchange shells, everyone according to their need, in a very civil and scientific fashion. Apart from solving our homeless situation, we humans could learn a thing or two from hermit crabs.
I don't know if he felt any discomfort, but this tiny animal knew when he needed to change quarters. As people, it would be catastrophic if we donned a full adult body when we only have the maturity of a child. Our bodies grow in proportion with our capability to control it, or so it should be.
Throughout my life, I have been involved in many organizations, associations, groups, fellowships, etc….One could think that I really didn't stick anywhere but in fact, I feel like the hermit crab who changed “shell” everytime I grew into a different place. It could be the same for an organization or association that changes umbrella policies as it grows.
Of course we like the peace, quiet, and stability that sameness affords, but growth is an inevitable part of life and with growth, we must change shell.
Kudos to the hermit crab!
An read article I read one day.
A country doctor answered an emergency call late one evening. It was about a child who was choking. . The night doctor was making good time on the empty country roads when suddenly he came to a point where there was no more road. The recent floods had caused sink hole right in the middle of the way. He now would have to take a long detour. The night doctor frantically stepped out of his car trying to evaluate the situation when a burly road worker came out of a big Bulldozer offering to help. The doctor explained the desperate situation when the road worker said, “You need a road? I’ll make you a road!”, upon which he proceeded to move dirt and create a road where before there was no road. The doctor rushed to the house where he found a mother in tears frantically holding in her arms a child turning blue from lack of oxygen. The doctor quickly remedied the situation and, to the great relief of all, the child started breathing normally. The doctor returned home taking a different route. And what of the worker who created a road where before there was no road? After finishing his shift late that evening, he went back home and learned how his baby boy had almost suffocated to death until a kind concerned doctor arrived and treated him.
Everybody responded to the need. It is the doctor’s duty and mandate to do so, but the road worker voluntarily drafted himself in the issue. Without question, he unselfishly responded to the need. He did not have to, but he did. He did not know the child was his, but this is what happens when we unselfishly answer the need around us: as we save others, we often save ourselves. I heard it said one time, “He who saves one life, saves a whole universe!”
I read an interesting story last week. It was about a wicked monarch who would not conceded his position to the rightful heir of a throne. Eventually the rightful king gathered his family and fled to exile.
A while later, a band of men gathered around him to support him. These were courageous soldiers and men who sought for purpose in their lives. They were ready for anything. The story gives an account of these courageous fighters. It tells us of valiant exploits they accomplished in the pursuit of their righteous cause and in the defense of their king. As I read about them, I discovered a hallmark, a trend in the attitude of some of these men which I think is what made them special. Every time it related to one of their exploits, the story says something like, “When everyone else fled, they alone continued and won the battle!” They were called great, mighty and courageous not because they knew how to fight well. Anyone with training can do that. Their valor was not in the perfection of their skills, but in their character and the strength of their devotion to the cause.
To continue in the rightness of a cause when everyone leaves shows a special strength of character. It is easy to go with the flow of things, to respond to feelings, to general trends, and to the prevailing attitudes around us. But to get in there when everybody stays home; to run forward holding the banner when everyone goes backward; indeed, to go against the despondent flow of the people, against the general attitude of indifference and selfishness that prevails in the innate nature of man, might represent the true true nature of what is coined as courage; the definition of a hero.
By the way, do you want to know who that King was who earned the devotion of these brave men? King David of the Bible (1 Samuel 22:2; 2 Samuel 23: 8-39)
Looking at the world around us, it is easy to become cynical. It is easy to let rational logic declare that man is a hopeless creature given to lust, greed, and lawlessness. I read an article this week that made me rethink some things. It is an article that pictures God counselling with the angels on the creation of man. After all, the Text does tell us that when it came the time to create man God did say, “Let US make man …” The story goes something like this.
When God decided to create man, Truth appeared, falling before God's throne, and in all humility begged God to refrain from calling into being a creature who is beset with the vice of lying and who will tread truth under his feet. Peace came forth to support this petition describing man as a “creature so full of strife and contention so as to disturb the peace and harmony of creation itself.” Then the soft voice of Charity exclaimed “Sovereign of the universe, create a being in Your likeness, for it will be a noble creature striving to imitate Your attributes by its actions…. I see him now in spirit seeking out those who are distressed and wretched to comfort them, drying the tears of the afflicted and despondent, raising up them that are bowed down in spirit, reaching his helping hand to those who are in need of help, speaking peace to the heart of the widow, and giving shelter to the fatherless. Such a creature cannot fail to be a glory to His Maker.' The Creator approved of the pleadings of Charity, called man into being, and cast Truth down to the earth to flourish there.
This story teaches us that in the balance of things, the acts of unselfish courage, the selfless deeds, the automatic humane impulse to rescue, and the noble acts of goodness that man is capable of, tip the balance in his favor in spite of all the evil he is also guilty of. This gave God, He who knows the end from the beginning, the go-ahead concerning the creation of man.
As we get together in families over the holiday season, may we look at our kin, especially those who rub us the wrong way, with the eyes of God who felt that the potential of goodness imbedded in that person makes him a worthy candidate to existence. After all, even a broken clock right twice a day!
It is said that our brain is not fully formed until we reach the age of 21. As such, the reasoning of someone under that age might be somewhat skewed since he does not have all the parts necessary to make fully rational assessments. I am aware of that when I teach teenagers in school. The main subjects I teach are current events, politics, religion, civic and social studies. I personally feel a sense of mission teaching these subjects to these young souls. I suppose that I will still be alive when they vote in less than 4 years, so I want them to vote intelligently.
I want my teaching to be relevant to them so my classes involve a lot of discussions about what is going on in the world today. Hearing what they have to say teaches me a lot. And mostly, it teaches me to recognise an unseasoned immature mind.
Teenagers often (notice I didn’t say always) find peace and stability in black and white extremes. Extremes are clear. Black and white reasoning keeps us safe from these complicated shades of grey. It is easy; it is simple; … but it is incomplete.
It is easy to simplify issues by polarising them we are faced with a situation that is too big for us or that we don’t understand. But human relationships are not always like Algebra. They don’t become simpler just because we simplified the equation. They just become unrealistic or untrue. They sometimes require all their elements to be properly assessed.
The easiest thing is to create 2 imaginary positions, “for’ and “against”, and polarise them out of any possible compromise. Isn’t compromise a sign of weakness? It is within the cocoon of these sad immature human-created imaginary situations that enmity, divorce, suicide, and even later on war between nations, emerge.
There is little saying I often repeat to my students. It has become a joke and they even finish the sentence for me when i start it. It is, “When 2 people vehemently argue opposite positions, it is usually because they are both … right!” I explain to them that since there is rectitude in both argument, they hold on to it, and that peace and understanding can only come when both sides try to find the rectitude in the other’s point of view. May we, who have grown to be adults teach our children the most important path they may travel in their lives: the one that meets someone halfway!
Sometime we look up to people that have much knowledge; that are knowledgeable. But is possessing knowledge always a sign of virtue? Some knowledge is good, while some is bad. How do we make the difference? It has been said that a tree is known by its fruits. It is a great statement but one that assesses a situation after the fact, like “Oooops, maybe I shouldn't have learned that!” I can right now think of a girl my wife and I helped to go to college. We housed her and gave her free childcare so she could get an education. Looking back now, we realise that whereas she learned some good things, a particular class that appealed to her wrecked her life and she is now in prison. How do we get ahead of the curve then? How do make sure to chose good knowledge?
It's like fishing. We do not prepare a fishing line with a bait if we desire to catch a whale, neither do use a harpoon to catch sardines. We first think of our targeted catch, then we prepare the equipment necessary to catch it. The same goes with safari hunting. We wouldn’t catch an elephant with lasso, nor a rhinoceros with a net.
It is important therefore, before launching into a study, that we first define what it is that we want to learn and why. What are the desired results?Do we want to learn economics so we can be sure to be one step ahead of everybody, or so we can create economic systems that promote parity? Do we learn science and chemistry in order to build bombs or create médecine?
As the type of food we want for dinner will define the tool we will use for fishing or hunting, the role we seek to fulfil in society should define the direction of our training and learning.
God has put in front of us the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. While giving us the freedom to chose, He forbade us to eat from that tree; I guess He could see the results ahead of time. Today, as science and knowledge increases, this choice is still set before us as we wake up every morning. May we keep positive goals before us so our hearts will be drawn to the knowledge that makes us into individuals that positively benefit society.
Happy fishing, hunting, and learning!
Both my wife and I were born in temperate regions close to the 45th parallel. Christina was born in Portland,OR, I was born in Paris, France. As such we have been used to notice the changes of the seasons. When we were in Asia, we very much appreciated the charm of the tropics but somehow missed the metamorphosing of the landscapes that comes with the passing of time. In SE. Asia, there seems to be only two seasons: hot and humid, and rainy and humid.
Since coming back to the Western part of the northern hemisphere, we take great joy at observing the changing coat of the earth. In the Spring, it wears a vibrant, almost fluorescent vivid green dress, only to leave in a flashy scarlet fiery coat in the Fall. Whereas the green of Spring reinvigorates us into a sense of rebirth after a long winter, the profound fiery colors of Fall tell us of the beauty of old age.
In the Northwestern hemisphere of the world, a place where humankind are evaluated by the efficiency of their productivity, old people are often set aside, seen as inefficient and backward. This results in discouragement, depression, and a fear of old age. They say that in SE Asia, the effects of menopause are lessened because in these regions of the world old folks are appreciated, almost venerated for the wisdom that comes from having lived so many years. People there sometimes even follow the biblical injunction of rising from their sitting position at the arrival of an older person in the room. Nature teaches us this beautiful concept of how God sees the ending of our days. A fiery flame giving the beauty, the heat, and the warmth of its wisdom to all that come near it.
Though some may say, “Oh, come on, I know many old people, and they are not like that. They are cranky, obnoxious, mean …!” But who knows if they are just responding to the way they are treated; trying with everything they’ve got left to keep a dignified head above the condescending waters of human prideful mockery that would otherwise swallow them.
Patrick Lumbroso is a teacher, writer, musician and part time Chaplain for the Estacada Fired Department. This site has been created to share different lessons and thoughts from his experiences as a Chaplain for Estacada Fire #69