Saturday, August 25, 2018

Hopeful Thinking, Saturday, August 25, 2018 - What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

     This is truly my favorite question to ask people of all ages. I don’t ask it to be cute. I’m curious, of course. I’m always fascinated by learning about what fascinates others. But there’s much more to the point of my asking the question: What do you want to be when you grow up?
I like the new synapse it likely creates in people’s brains when a question that is probably a new thought for them is posed. Especially if they’re already a grown-up. For that’s exactly what a new thought or idea does. It actually creates new structures in our brain. The more a new synapse is reinforced by repetitious thinking, the more strength an idea has for us.
This phenomenon can be used for both good and bad, of course. Society convinces us all the time that our value to the world has a limited shelf life. Western culture does not revere the wisdom of age as it should. But I say, if you’re not dead, you’re not done.
I once knew of a woman in her 70’s who was attending law school. She didn’t seem to mind one her age bit. Didn’t care how long a career she would have. She was determined to do it even if she only ever argued one case. She had always wanted to be a lawyer when she grew up. One might argue she wouldn’t grow up until she did it. That is how to live fulfilling life.
There’s an irony to the idea that we should make our living by what makes us happy, however. Studies have shown it’s not always a good thing. For some of us, it ruins the thing we love entirely. We want no part of it once we have to monetize it. Or, even more likely, it’s difficult to monetize in the first place. It’s better to find work that makes us happy rather than insist upon the thing which makes us happy paying all the bills. Fulfillment doesn’t always come from expected sources. The ‘what do you want to be?’ question isn’t necessarily about employment.
I love to make stained glass, for instance. I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years. Sometimes I’m commissioned, sometimes I’m just making presents. Whether or not I’m paid is not the determining factor in my satisfaction. And if I had to go to the studio 40 hours a week and make it my career, I can tell you now I would lose my love for it within weeks. All of its capacity to fulfill, burnt away. As a hobby it is gratifying. I think I’ll keep it that way.
One thing that gets in the way of wondering if we have more ahead of us than behind us is our views on age. Should our increasing age mean we are of declining value? Our gut reaction would be, of course not. But in our youth we cast a value of the aged, flattering or not, and once we reach that age ourselves we often live up to what we once believed. Or don’t. I am nearly 50 now. Thank God I don’t think of 50 the way I did when I was 20. But if I did, I sure could see myself as a person of limited usefulness now. Is that what launches decline? Are these thoughts the slow beginning of the end?
To the question What do you want to be when you grow up? I would hope the answer might first be: Fulfilled. Because that opens up a wide swath of possibilities. Not all of them are vocational. We each of us deserves, and is fully capable, of achieving fulfillment. Move toward it, money or not.
But first, check your synapses. What thoughts repeat in your head? Especially when pondering the future. Are you hearing cheerleaders in there or naysayers? Likely a combination of both. Pay attention to them and question their motives. Consider the source of each voice. Reinforce those which spur you forward and turn your cheek from those that don’t. Be practical, of course, but don’t let practicality convince you that you don’t deserve fulfillment. If there are enough neural pathways working toward solution, a solution will be found. Give them a chance to grow and mature. Give yourself the same.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Hopeful Thinking- Saturday, August 18, 2018 - The Difference Between a Museum and an Auto Dealership

We should be radically curious about the spiritual beliefs of others. However, our goal shouldn’t be to change someone else’s mind. It should be to merely know them where they are. Plus, it’s a lot easier.
I truly enjoy hearing about other people‘s religious beliefs. I am fascinated by how various people interpret the Ultimate Reality. I don’t instinctively feel any reason to disagree with them. It isn’t whether or not I agree with them that matters. I’m curious about them as people. I listen for all the places where our beliefs overlap and through those I shake their hand. PS. This works for politics as well.
However, it definitely matters how one presents themselves in a religious discussion. Either they share their beliefs with me as a show-and-tell, or they declare them in such a way that they are trying to convince me to believe the same. I find it much easier to be curious about the former when I’m not defensive about the latter. It’s the difference between visiting a museum and an auto dealership. Show me what you find interesting and inspiring. Don’t come for me prepared to do business, to sell me something. Nothing turns me off more than a sales tactic. The implication is that what I already have is somehow wrong.
The truth is, trying to convince or persuade someone that you are correct about something which cannot be objectively proven is not the preferred way of sharing one’s faith. It’s certainly not the most effective. Exactly whom are you trying to convert and to what? Do you feel that you need a win? That’s an internal issue which has nothing at all to do with religion.
I don’t like being baited into arguments about why each thinks the other one is wrong. It doesn’t get us anywhere and isn’t the point of spiritual discourse. None of us have any proof of the spiritual functions of this Universe no matter what we believe. All we have is our own very subjective experience. We would all get along much better if we could just be openly curious instead of desperately persuasive.
I prefer the evangelism of doing. I prefer to illustrate my faith through my actions. If people become curious about what motivates me, they may ask. Or they may find their own personal pathways of being motivated to serve others. Just like all advice, it is better received when asked for.
All religions teach a life practice. Spiritual life practices are pieces of art often framed with a mythology to give them cultural recognition, substance and authority. Like all art, their value is subjective.
Unlike framed art, however, the lines between a religion’s life practice and its mythology can become blurred, sometimes even merging into an only somewhat cohesive whole. In Christianity for example, very few of us separate the mythology from the life practice taught by Jesus. They have become entangled to such a degree with the argument of whether or not Jesus was God that people are either all in or all out. But in the end, what matters is the gift of the life practice. The parts which cannot be proven can add to the story only if we let go of our arrogance. It is clouding our ability to take value from them as they are.
The arguments we have over the frame are constraining us from the art of being in relationship with each other. That is what “sin” truly is: Actions which prevent or destroy relationship. They are counter to the very purpose of the spiritual life practices which the mythologies are framing in the first place. We are meant to be engaged by the mystical so that we may partake of the practical. It is the hallmark of all moral stories. That is not to say I believe God is a myth, but since I can’t prove God to you as I see It, it’s not going to be the basis of our relationship. Let’s find something else.
All religious life practices at their core encourage us to seek validation in other ideas. It’s the religions themselves which tend to become organized against cross-pollination with other thinking, all for the sake of self-preservation. But any geneticist will tell you that’s a fool's errand. Diversity is the best and only survival mechanism in nature. And who made that?
We must approach our encounters with religious others with a beginner's mind and let go of our attachments to things we may have always believed but might no longer serve us. If God exists, It is surely a multifaceted and multidimensional truth as all true things are. But to get to the heart, we must first open the mind a bit more and open the mouth a bit less.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, August 11, 2018 - We Are All One Tribe

The Tribe Mentorship Project of Fitchburg
Did you know that everyone’s skin is actually brown? Just different shades of it. Different hues and tones. We all have a pigment called melanin in our skin which creates the various depths of color. All of them, basically brown.
With every passing generation, as we continue to emigrate from the lands of our ancestors, the planet genetically and culturally shrinks. Our complexions and features and traditions are blending even more quickly today than just a generation or two ago. Some are deeply afraid of this. Pray for them.
Have you ever noticed that bi-racial children tend to receive the most attractive characteristics of each? I think there’s something beautiful and sacred to observe here. Something perhaps unexpected. Surprising. Unless, of course, you recognize that aesthetic beauty is partly what propels virtually any species. To me it’s a genetic validation of our spiritual desire to be with one another despite social and cultural differences. It’s our genes saying, Yes! Seek out one another! Learn from one another! You will be stronger at every level, every dimension.
In the greater racial conversation we have a tendency to be either afraid of other races or afraid of those who are. But there is something we should remember. Civilization is unifying now, with or without their permission. No matter what the fearful do to try and stop it, the blending of humanity is fully underway. The global alliance of all nations is advancing genetically and socially, if not yet politically. And with them, another step toward world peace. We must remain vigilant, of course. There is still generations of work to be done. But the direction of the wind has changed. It is now at our backs.
Perhaps the inevitability of world peace sounds over-fanciful to you. But look closely. As the people of different nations continue to meet and make families with one another, what happens to the notion of race? How much longer will it be before we are so “intertwingled” (as a friend of mine charmingly puts it) that there is no “them” anymore?
My great-grandparents were only one nationality. I am four.
Yet one might look around the world right now and see nothing but widespread human division. Fighting everywhere. Wars, genocides, tribalism. But about what are the conversations? Tyranny. More now than ever, tyranny. And that is a very good sign. Because the desire to rid ourselves of tyranny is a conflict which only arises when people begin to realize their human worth. That is the battle of an educated people, an awakened people. One who know the truth of their own light.
We already basically know we are one, unified family, we just don’t act like it yet. We are so afraid of the implications of globalism because we have been propagandized to feel that way. We have been manipulated to fear it because peace doesn’t make a quick buck for the already-rich like war does. The wealth gap is artificial, however, and destined to fail.
The profit in peaceful times will be more equanimitable. More people will be able to participate in the system of merit-based profitability because we will be free to trade with the full tribe. It’s impossible to fix prices and control the marketplace when everyone is in it. And today’s ultra-wealthy 1% doesn’t like that business model one bit. They’re spending huge sums of money trying to convince you to put the toothpaste back in the tube. But it’s already too late.
Because the truth has always been that we are all one tribe. One great and bickering gaggle with a complicated relationship status. One family, one house and nowhere else to go. Trapped on this little sphere together with nothing but peace as a viable solution to co-existence. Give it time.
Are we there yet? Of course not. Is it inevitable that world peace will come? Yes. Because underneath it all we have this same little light which nudges us in the right direction, one loving hint at a time. It is faithful and constant. We see the effects of it everywhere. It is what informs the long arc of the moral universe as it steadily bends toward justice. Fear not. Our great tribe shall flourish.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, August 4, 2019 - Anchor Joy to the Earth

I see no reason not to believe in ghosts. Some of what we see as “ghosts” are quite possibly intense energetic remnants of events imprinted upon the room or space where they occurred. As if the emotions of the original moment were so extreme they left a splatter pattern. Indelibly branded to the walls, the earth, even the air, replaying over and over like an old cassette tape.
These are the ghosts some are sensitive enough to see. Different from those voices from the hereafter who dialogue with and advise the living through psychic mediums, these remnant ghostly apparitions we speak of are indicators of a phenomenon which also has a sacred application.
What does it mean that humans might have the ability to energetically imprint the earth? To touch a mountain or a tree with such an intensity of emotion that you are literally never forgotten by them? So strong is the residue of your goodness, others passing by at later dates and ages might even see you standing there out of the corner of their eye. A hologram of your affection still lingering. Like a ghost, but of a very different substance.
Now, what if we did that on purpose?
Do you believe in ghosts? Do you believe that they are a hint at what we are capable of projecting? We see that fear and terror can leave an imprint. How powerful is it really? How lasting? Is it impervious to a new energy? When we re-use a cassette tape we erase the old magnetic imprint as we record a new one. The molecules are rearranged to be different than before.
What of the idea that a positive thought is many times stronger than a negative one? Can we deliberately re-imprint a place with loving and positive energy which remains for eons afterward? Can this be our legacy? Is this the power to bless something? Are we stewards of a power belonging to Something Else or are we created to be a power of our own?
Perhaps it’s all fantasy. Spooky stories disrespectfully attached to the sacred as a gimmick. A bad joke.
But what if it isn’t? What do you really believe? If you believe in ghosts, for instance, what is that belief saying to you about the nature of the Ultimate Reality? Does a person have the ability to imprint themselves on the earth or not? I personally believe they do. And I believe our positive imprint makes a lasting impact on that space forever.
I believe that it is an indicator of our partnership with Source and the purpose of why we are here. We have told these types of ghostly stories for all of human history. Not all believe it’s possible, of course. If it’s true, it’s true with or without their belief. If it’s false, may we only grow in love through the discovery of our error.
But either way, let’s pretend. Let’s pretend that we have power beyond measure. If we are made in the image of Spirit, let’s do something grand with that magnificent mojo.
Anchor joy to the earth. Tether it like a balloon. Tie it with a string at first, but then deepen the connection by reinforcing it. Revisit it. Re-love it. We fantasize about abilities we already have. We are superheroes with a power to save the world by touching it. But we must awaken to our gifts in order to use them on purpose.
When you are in a joyful space or moment, at a family gathering or a beautiful sunset, anchor your feelings to the earth. Use your mind to literally connect that exquisite feeling to the fibers of the planet in that spot. Picture the physical area where you attached it glowing like a puddle of light seeping slowly into the soil, the walls, the rock, the air.
You have the right and the power. As you awaken to it, you will learn of the responsibility you have to use it often. Once you see it in action, you will do it every moment of every day. Be purposeful and mindful with your footprint. Where you walk will forever remember you.