I love sci-fi. My wife loves sci-fi too. She watches it with her eyes closed. It is more effective for her than a sleeping pill. Sometimes after a long busy day teaching she has a hard time going to sleep so she asks me, “Honey, don't you want to watch a Star Trek?” To which I 'reluctantly answer “Ohhhh-kay”.
Three nights ago was such a night. Solely motivated by a spirit of altruism I watched S1E08 of Star Trek Voyager. In this episode, as Voyager approached the asteroids forming the rings of a planet, the crew detected a strange neural energy which seemed vital to the planet itself. Three crew members transported down to investigate and found dead bodies in some sort of cocoons in the caves of the asteroids as the source of this strange energy. Due to a sudden anomaly, they decided to return to their ship. In the transport, Kim, one of the crew members, is exchanged for one of the cocooned bodies. Kim wakes up on the planet while the cocooned body arrives on the ship.
In an attempt to get answers as to Kim’s whereabouts, the ship doctor is able to revive the woman in the cocoon who is, to say the least, very surprised. This is where it gets interesting. The people of that planet believed that after they died, they would be transported to a place where they physically resurrected in the company of their previously departed loved-ones. The woman in question was sick and in order not to be a burden to her family decided to go to that other dimension. You can imagine her, surprise when not only did she not resurrect in the company of her loved ones, but she learns than the dead people from her planet only get transferred to a nearby asteroid as a cocoon forever.
Later in the episode everybody returns where they belong but Kim remains puzzled. He realises that these people made life and death decisions based on what seemed to be false hope. This caused him to reconsider his own beliefs on the matter.
I have traveled around the world and met people from many different cultures and religions. Each has his own version of what happens after life. Even in our own Judeo-Christian culture, there are plenty of versions to chose from. Each group determines that their form of religious practice gives them a free ticket to ‘paradise’ where they and those like them are the only ones there, or at least the leaders,.while everyone else is either damned or subservient. Such polarized opinions on the matter, invite the notion that some conclusions may be wrong, which then begs the question, “Could we also be making serious life and death decisions based on false premises?” Don’t get me wrong, I do believe in such a realm as it is that belief that orders my every step, … but back to Star Trek.
As Kim looked puzzled about what really happens after death, Captain Janeway came to him and said, “What we don't know about death, is far far greater than what we do know!” Religious books such as the Bible introduce us to such things, but without much details. It actually refers to it as the marvel that human eyes have not seen nor the human brain been able to conceive nor find, and that whatever we know about it, we know only partially, like seeing through an opaque glass (Is 64:4; Ecc 3:11; 1 Cor 13:9,12). Being left therefore in the ‘dark’ about this wonderful Kingdom of Light, curious human nature gets the best of us. We must try to define, quantify, and explain it in our own poor, weak, and limited human terms. But doing so, don’t we rob ourselves of something even more wonderful that we could ever imagine? Maybe this is why Moses gave the wise counsel which agrees with captain Janeway’s comment, ‘The secret things belong to the LORD our God’ Deut 29:29. Why not then leave them there and like the children that we are, wait for the surprise!? In the meanwhile, let us live lives of merit knowing that there is recompense for our deeds.
We just went through an election where our country made choices concerning its government, its relationship with other countries, and its reactions to the domestic and international menaces that threaten it. It seems these days that most Western democratic governments are divided in or around the middle of their main ideologies so they gently totter-teeter back and forth on both sides from election to election. In a way this denotes of a healthy democracy that strives to remain well balanced. The problems happen when we start leaning towards extremes. Some may accuse the government they don’t like of being already extreme, but one’s judgment on what is ‘extreme’ is mainly defined by his own position in the spectrum. In other words, one who is already extreme in his ideology sees a balanced centrist ideology as extreme.
Sometimes we are not happy with the results and choices made by a majority. At that time, the ugly head of extremism raises itself as we start looking at the situation through the lens of ‘them’ and ‘us’, and with ideologies of ‘right and wrong’ or ‘good and bad’. In these latest elections we have heard stories of groups, societies, churches, and families at war with each other. A young man from California reached out to me this week, discouraged because his church and family had told him that anyone who had voted for the candidate he had chosen could not be a Christian. He was receiving warnings about his upcoming presence at their family Thanksgiving dinner. As he asked me what to do, one of the things I told him was that it is generally wiser to stay off the topics or religion and politics during family gatherings.
A friend one day told me that the test of an unbiased attitude is the ability to convincingly argue an opposing opinion. It may not be what we prefer or either believe in, but at least we can see the merits in it. Indeed, even a broken clock is right twice a day. What causes the problem in the inability to agree together is not necessarily that one is right and the other wrong, but that both being so strong in their views are actually right. They are right according to their own perspective, their needs, and their convictions. In extremism, we believe something and make ourselves blind to anything else. Peace in any of the institutions of our society comes when we open our eyes and accept to work with each other in spite of our personal preferences. After all, at the end of the day, we are not the ones who decide on the result of the elections as for good or for bad, God puts in the tie-breaking vote. (Daniel 2:21).
HAPPY THANKSGIVING DINNER. STAY AWAY FROM POLITICS AND RELIGION AND HAVE A GOOD TIME WITH YOUR FAMILIES.
Here is a little poem I learned when I was in India.
Six Blind Men and the Elephant
It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation Might satisfy his mind.
The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"
The Second, feeling of the tusk
Cried, "Ho! what have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"
The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up he spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"
The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee:
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he;
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"
The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope.
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!
by American poet, John Godfrey Saxe (1816-97)
Somehow, after I have clicked my seat-belt, I find that the belt is so tight that I can scarcely move . When that happens, two things may have occurred. Either my seat-belt is caught halfway in the car door, or it is not properly set. I usually then open the door to free it, and if it doesn’t result in an automatic release from the confinement, I lean back to let the belt loosed and reset itself which then results in the proper adjustment.,It is no longer restrictive, but still safely within the permission of the seat belt. My wife actually suggests a third reason for my problem with seat-belts. She says that I just don’t know how to use them!
There is a piece of wisdom we can glean from the concept of the seat belt. The whole idea is not one of confining its user but to restrain him in the car seat in case of an accident. It is conceived to resist and even lock up when met with strong force, but to allow movement when gently led. As such, our wise seat belt is able to measure its response to a given event.
Physics tell us that the stronger we hit something, the more force it uses to respond and resist us. That is why it hurts when we hit something with force. We often react with anger when we accidentally hurt ourselves against something. Repeating, with intent this time, the involuntary hurting action, we kick and cuss, blaming it for hurting us when really, the object just stayed there minding its own business. The object does not have a will of its own, so if we do not want to be hurt by it, all we need to do therefore is control our own actions towards it.
This also applies to our interactions with people. Each day, leaders, parents, teachers, coaches, judges and even presidents meet many difficult situations. The whole wisdom in leadership is to learn to appropriately measure our response in order to get the desired result which as a leader, is to bring people along with us in our project or to our way of thinking. Unlike inanimate objects, we have a will of our own and it is part of our inner nature to resist and push away harsh, brutal, and strong commandeering leadership. It is not necessarily that we don’t agree with the issues, but it is that our human nature automatically kicks against any form of harsh brutal control.
As with the seat-belt, we learn therefore that a gentle but all the while firm and determined approach to leadership helps us get a more appropriate response from the people we lead. The famous ruthless warrior of Israel that conquered Jerusalem in around 1,000 B.C. used the following words to express his thanks for the wise and gentle leadership of God in his life, ‘ … Your gentleness made me great.’ What was the name of this great leader? King David.
We all know the story of the creation of Eve. Adam, The first man, had noticed that all the other animals he named had a companion that resembled them; one 'cut from the same cloth’ so to speak. He, on the other hand, was set apart in that regard so he felt lonely. Adam must have gotten into some trouble as God concluded that it was not good for him to be by himself, without someone to be a check and balance for him. Right early on, it seemed that man needed to something outside of him, but from within him, and near his heart, in order to help him reflect on himself. God then proceeded to put Adam to sleep, took a rib from him and created a woman.
A heard someone teach about that one day. As he was advising a young man who took issues at what he considered his wife’s annoying little 'imperfections’, the teacher said something like, “Just like Adam, we should act like if we were ‘asleep’ to our wives’ annoying little imperfections.” While some women might find that statement patronizing, I would suggest that it should apply both ways. Instead of getting frustrated, impatient, or even embarrassed at each other's annoying little ‘imperfections’, especially when they occur in public, we should let it be part of each other, ‘part of the family’ so to speak.’ When we have learned to accept and assimilate imperfections in each other, the surprise effect of the negative reactions should be left to strangers, those not in the ‘family’. What helps us do that is the honest realization of our own imperfections which we usually feel totally comfortable to live with.
I heard similar advice given by a midwife to a man who couldn’t bear to see his very badly deformed new baby girl. Among other things the wise midwife told him, ‘... the surprise effect is for strangers; for foreigners. In time your daughter will not look like a foreign sight anymore, but she will look as beautiful as all your other children.’
Time is our friend. It can do wonderful things for a marriage, a family, a company, a team, a group, a society, especially when we allow it to do ‘it’s thing’ of blending us together as we daily rub shoulders together.
If you appreciate these articles, support their upcoming publication in a book called, "REFLECTIONS OF A FIRE CHAPLAIN"