Saturday, October 27, 2018

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, October 27, 2018 - Dipping sauce is the secret to longevity

Dipping sauce is the secret to longevity. It’s true! Condiments of all kinds are really where it’s at. They’re like the holy spirit of all food. The sacred catalyst which binds them. Makes it tasty. Brings out the richness. The fullness of the experience. The variety. I prefer a selection with my burger and fries.
Of course one can overdo it. My mother used to say to me, “Would you like some ketchup with your ketchup?” And it was a rare shirt in my closet that went without a mustard stain until I was in my twenties.
My father was stationed in Okinawa, Japan for a while when he was in the Air Force. Most of his father-to-son stories about the past were set there. I feel sometimes as if I’d been there once myself. I sense a connection to it in a way that makes me confident I’ll one day go. They really know how to live life there. In fact, they have the oldest life expectancy in the world. A record in slight decline only recently due to Westernization.
The Okinawan diet does not contain much in the way of dipping sauces. But their life is full of the same diverse richness as the best blue cheese chipotle mayo. And while the healthiness of the food (lack of condiments notwithstanding) is definitely a contributing factor in the long lifespan of the average Okinawan, it’s what happens with the food that really makes the difference. It’s other people.
Okinawa, and all of Japan for that matter, has a food-centered culture. They have a particular and reverent way of expressing life’s joy through fellowship and food which may sound much like many other cultures on the surface, but is somehow distinct. Perhaps it’s the relationship with ancestral traditions and a deep connection to the past, a time long before processed food started unprocessing our health. Their geographic separation has likely served them as well, until now.
But also their attitude about food is different. They see it as medicine passed down through the generations from time before memory. An anchor to the past protecting them from present harm. They don’t disrespect food by pumping it with pseudo-sugars and chemicals synthesized to trick your brain into thinking it’s real. How dare we wonder why we are all so sick?
So, what to do with this? What changes can you make that improve the quality of your food as well as the emotional bond created and sustained while eating it? What does your mealtime look like? Are you stuffing your face while on the go? Not only are you likely eating a poorer quality of food while grabbing things marketed to the busy, you are also not eating mindfully. You are eating irreverently. You are missing an opportunity to declare food as not only medicine but a platform for the dipping sauce of life: togetherness.
Regarding the quality of our food, we are not immune to marketing psychology; first forgive yourself for being addicted to what’s out there. Then, notice your thinking. If you’re thinking about the next meal, what does it look like? Does it look like something you’ve been told you should, must, need, be afraid if you don’t, buy? It’s probably bad for you.
It’s our brains, the old parts in the back specifically, which need to be invited to retrain themselves. Spiritual thought offers the advice of praying for not only awareness of but desire for the foods which will be the best for you. We are each of us so different regarding the needs of our bodies that no one plan, diet, or method will work the same for everyone. Lacking the perfect individualized approach, we cling to anything that is branded shiny enough to get our attention. Who can blame us?
But what if you silently, or even verbally, asked the Universe to show you foods which you will love as well as be healed by? What if you asked for fellowship as well? What if you held these questions in your mind every day? Even those who eschew spirituality in favor of concrete reason should be persuaded that a purposeful attention to something desired helps make us more aware of what is already around us. Upon what do you place your attention?
As for me, I’ll hope that dipping sauce is the answer.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Sunday Message - October 21, 2018 - Allow Yourself to Sing

Gathering Words
I’d like you to find your heartbeat. Find it through your pulse on your neck or your wrist, find it by placing your hand on your chest. Recognize that your heart is a gong which rings throughout the universe. Think of this as we proceed through our time together.

Food for Thought: The Purpose of Hymns
I’d like to ask you a question: What is the purpose of singing in church? It appears to be pretty important since we do it three times in an hour. Why? Have you ever wondered? It’s okay if you haven’t. Wonder now. Why do we sing together? What purpose does it serve? And why do we sing mostly old hymns instead of mostly new ones?
In 2013, a university in Sweden did a study that helps answer a few of these questions. They found, without exception, that when a group of people sing in unison two things happen. One, their heart rates immediately slow down. This is due to the physical act of singing itself. It requires a rhythmic deep breathing with slow exhalations. Just the act of that alone we already know to have a positive effect on our hearts, and therefore, our stress rate.
But the second thing that happens is even more interesting. Almost immediately after beginning to sing, all the singers’ heart rates align. They measured it. Attached a whole choir to a heart rate monitor. After the group begins to sing, the lines first squiggle around randomly and then, boom. They slot into place. Guided by the tempo of the music, they create their own new unified heart rate. A heart rate that is in even greater synchrony with each other than the music itself, suggesting that everyone’s hearts are using the tempo to nudge themselves toward each other. If the tempo of the music was the only reason for the change in heart rate, the hearts would have aligned more closely with the music, but instead they align with each other. That means our hearts actually hear each other. Can find each other. Can alter their rhythm to act in sympathy with each other. (Source: NPR. Health Shots, July 2013)
The invitation in this ritual is not to waste it. Don’t waste a second of it. Even if the music is not your cup of tea, sing it.
The reason we sing mostly old tunes is because our unity is struck more quickly and easily when the song is familiar. So it’s good to mix the old with the new, but mostly old. Like my sister learned in Girl Scouts: Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.
Allow yourself to sing. Allow yourself to let go. Allow yourself to make a mistake. It won’t hurt anyone if you sing a wrong note. As we sing our first hymn, notice how your breathing is directed by the phrases, notice the words. Use them like a prayer that has become even more powerful because we are praying it in this unique way, together.

    What you would say to the heart next to you? Think about it. In your mind’s eye locate the heart of the person nearest you and in your imagination talk to it. Encourage it. Find something important to say to it that you might not have the courage or impulse to say with words, and with your heart alone, say them...

Sunday Message: Allow Yourself to Sing
Saturday is National Make a Difference Day. It’s a day meant for community service. For serving your neighbor. But making a difference is accomplished by more than just community service. That is the way that the day’s founders have chosen to frame it. And it has been the largest national day of community service for over twenty years. Their efforts have definitely made a difference in people’s lives, in people’s homes, the nonprofits which serve them, the communities in which they live. A difference has most definitely been made.
But there are other ways to make a difference we don’t think about. And they are much smaller than creating a national holiday and an annual nationwide service event organizing thousands of volunteers and projects. They are in the daily interactions we have with other people. Don’t scoff at it just because it feels too simple or because you imagine it would be ineffective. Never underestimate something as simple as a smile directed toward a stranger. It’s the same as leaving thousands of pennies on the sidewalk because you’re waiting for a twenty.
When we look back on the people who have changed our lives, or helped us define our sense of self, the origins of those changes are usually just moments, and usually very brief. Sometimes they’re given by people we’ve known for years or someone we happened to be in line behind at the grocery store. A single compliment or just the right word of encouragement given at just the right time.
I could name five, probably more, incredibly brief moments of my life that continue impact me in positive ways to this day. Thoughts that sit with me still that I turn to for comfort when I doubt myself. For the most part those people who gave me those brief moments of encouragement likely have no idea the decades of positive impact they have made on my life.
It’s good news here because planting seeds is a work-smarter-not-harder concept. Just ask Johnny Appleseed. We don’t have to arm wrestle change into anybody, or the world. Our job is not to cultivate an entire field to the point of harvest. It’s only to plant one seed. Assume that if you’ve planted it on fertile ground, and with lots of manure to assist it, all shall be well. And, let’s face it, there’s plenty of manure here to go around. Give it permission through your action to become an excellent garden.
I think part of the reason we’re hesitant to get involved as a changemaker is because we see the task as being too big, too daunting. We are only one person. What difference can one person make? And even when we believe that yes, one person can make a difference, for we see examples of it nearly every day, we don’t think we’d be that person.
I invite you to take the pressure off of yourself a bit. There are already visionaries out there doing the big work. Of course they could use more, but not everyone has to operate on that level in order to help nudge our world toward a more loving future. We can best support the visionaries by remembering that our own small actions can and do have huge effects.
For this I’ll let you in on a little secret: No matter how badly someone feels about themselves, their inner light is listening. Beneath the heavy cloak of this human vessel, who we really are is paying very close attention for anything which resonates with it. Light always knows light when it sees it. Trust that process. Believe it to be at play.
But we get confused. We over-think things. We doubt our power to affect change. We definitely doubt that it can be done easily, so we tend not to bother at all. We get self-conscious, uncomfortable. We stand at the soil waiting for the seed to sprout. We get impatient. We conclude ourselves to be a failure, foolish for staring at the dirt for so long. We retreat.
We don’t know where to begin. What action to take first. But to remind you of a thought given earlier in this service, we know there is power in song. We know that there is a force in music. And music is easier. So when in doubt, when you think you have nothing at your immediate disposal to do, sing. Hum. Whistle. Ring a bell. You know the secret now. It’s like vibrational air freshener. We now know that when we sing together our heart beats align. We can conclude there is a gift in this. A gift we give other people around us. And even when we don’t sing, we know our hearts can hear each other. In the literal sense.
If your heart is chatting with the heart of a person walking down the sidewalk passing you in the opposite direction, what does it say? Probably whatever you happen to be thinking and feeling at the moment. What do you find yourself thinking and feeling as you pass people on the street? Are you judging them on their clothes? Their bodies? Their smell? Their hair? Their strange reaction when you say hello to them? Whatever it is, that is what you’re sending them. And a part of them, if not multiple parts, are hearing you.
So, if your heart is a transmitter which is always in communication with its surroundings, what are you doing with that fact?
Science has proven our hearts are listening to each other. What would you have them say? Making a difference can be as easy as thinking or wishing well for someone whom you may never even speak to. You heart will literally be projecting that idea to another heart, which is also listening for it.
Amid global fears of water and food shortages, increased visibility of bigotry, racism and hatred, enhanced awareness of sexual assault, and of course, a hostile political landscape, there is good news which falls to the sidebars because bad news travels better than good. But the truth is, extreme poverty has fallen from 35% in 1987 to only 11% in 2013. Hunger is falling, child labor is on the decline. In fact, child labor has fallen 40% just since 2000. The cost of food has fallen. Life expectancy has risen, child mortality is down. Teen births in the US are down by half in only the past ten years alone. In 1955, 45% of Americans smoked. This year it’s only 16%. Homicide rates have fallen dramatically, violent crime in the US is going down, the global supply of nuclear weapons has rapidly reduced, more people in the world live in a democracy than ever before, more people are going to school for longer, literacy is up, access to the internet has increased, solar energy is getting cheaper. People are even getting taller. (Source: Vox, October 18, 2018)
A difference has been made in this world because people are finding their song and singing it. They are recognizing their light and sharing it. They are seeing the light in other people and helping them to reveal it.
Sing your song. Find your voice. Make a joyful noise. You are not alone in your desire to improve, even save, this world for a new age. The wind is at our backs, never doubt it. Don’t believe all the news you hear. They have an agenda, no matter what side of the aisle they’re on. But I have one too. I want you to feel better. I want you to recognize that the good in this world is definitely expanding. Wake up. “Get woke,” as they say. You’ll see that the heart in us all beats to the rhythm of this earth and all those who walk upon it.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, October 20, 2018 - Don’t Engage the Beast

    While I am decidedly not a fan of horror films, I do have a few exceptions. Wes Craven’s 1984 film A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of them. Added to that are a few ghost stories here and there when they have particularly good story lines. But most prominently on the list sits William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist.  I remember one line from the film in particular. “Especially important is the warning to avoid conversations with the demon.” The experienced exorcist, Father Merrin, played by Max von Sydow, warns the film’s protagonist not to engage the beast. No good will ever come of it. The devil lies and will ensnare you with it.
    It wasn’t a personal belief in the existence of a devil which made me notice this line in particular, for I do not. Instinctively I felt that there was more to this thought than just a caution for religious exorcists. It’s particularly good advice in the broader sense..
To my way of thinking, a demon is something which seeks only to preserve its existence. It has no moral compass nor ethical standard. It does not concern itself with outcomes for it only thinks ahead when it happens to serve the author’s story development. Believing itself to be an island, it does not collaborate, it does not associate. It feels utterly alone in its experience and is  ignorant of the ramifications of its actions because rage eclipses all rational thought.
    While I have never exorcised a demon, nor have I informally chatted with one, I have dealt with people who periodically exhibit some of these characteristics. They are not demons, per se, but their occasional rage provokes much of the same outcomes. Often it is trauma of one kind or another which makes a person sometimes behave in ways that I find reminiscent of the mythological descriptions I’ve read of underworld characters. And we have all heard it said that a person “has demons” when it is known they are deeply emotionally troubled. Demons don’t have to be literal to be devastating.
     And so here we shall talk for a moment about pride. Because pride is what makes us engage the beast in the first place. Pride—at least the form inspired by ego—prevents us from stepping away from conflict. It cannot withstand the torrent of rage aimed at them by those who suffer their demons to continue unchecked. And thus, we are lured into the fight.
Hand in hand with ego is our so-called “honor.” Both are linked to pride in ways that often make us behave like a beast ourselves. When someone disrespects us, or more dramatically, defiles our honor, we react. Our pride goeth before that fall constantly. We usually can’t help ourselves. When attacked, we retaliate. We engage the beast because we can’t stop ourselves.
To be fair, not all pride is bad. To be proud of who you are, or of an accomplishment you achieve is not only perfectly natural, but good. It is the type of pride that prevents relationship which resembles a sin most. It’s the pride which insists our honor be restored when insulted, or avenged when wounded that gets us into trouble every time.
The scriptural advice here is to look past the demon and attempt to love our enemies. Besides it’s more fun anyway. Ever try to hug a demon? It drives them bananas.
When we are being attacked, especially by something which feels disproportionate or unreasonable, the hardest thing to do is remember our dignity. Because we then must naturally remember the inherent dignity and worth of the demon in front of us. Or rather, of the very much human being who sits caged behind the mask of trauma which has made them behave this way in the first place.
That is not to suggest we allow ourselves to be abused or trampled. Sometimes we have to love and forgive from afar. Our safety, both physical as well as emotional, is paramount. But there is grace in stepping away from drama. Conversing with the demon only enables it and makes it stronger. There is dignity in turning the other cheek, not for more punishment, but toward something better.
Engaging the beast means we are sinking to the same level of unbridled hostility as our foe. We are trying to reason with someone who is, at least temporarily, outside the sphere of calm, rational thought. They need a time out. And so do you. What would Jesus do? That.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, October 13, 2018 - We Won’t Wish It Hadn’t Happened

   It may be hard to imagine what the future holds for us. The world seems more frightening than ever. Even I, who always looks for the shiny side, have flinched from my perch of optimism a few times. I think about what may become of a divided people. I wonder just how divided we have to get before we wake up.
     But whenever I panic a little about the state of the world today, a thought pops into my head. It’s not deliberate. But nearly every time I find myself wincing at the thought of the sheer indecency of this age I suddenly think: We won’t wish it hadn’t happened.
     The feeling which accompanies the thought is a strange one. It’s lightness. For a split-second, I feel lighter. It’s not a feeling about peace, or love, or even good or bad. Just lightness. Like the earth’s gravity forgot I was there for a moment and then grabbed me again almost before I missed it.
     What does it take to get from Point A to Point B? It depends on how far apart they are. Is there a grand plan, or not? Only your own faith knows. I choose to believe that there is a purpose to life. If I find out later that I’m wrong, I’ll be glad I didn’t know it sooner. In the meantime, my faith tells me that there is most definitely a plan. And the method of that plan is to both gently and not so gently nudge humanity until it sees its own light. I believe world peace would be the natural result of our forgetting we once thought we were separate. Might that be what the term ‘heaven on earth’ is supposed to imply?
     In my very first column, I wrote that the word ‘apocalypse’ means unveiling in Greek. It refers to the predicted time in human history when we’d increasingly see behind the green curtain. It anticipates that humanity would arrive at a particular saturation point when the poop would hit the fan on a global scale. What happens next depends entirely upon where we are standing when it happens. You either get a little in the face or not. So where are you standing?
     In taking a step back to look on all of known human history we can’t help but notice that the overall trend is upward. Humanity only ever progresses. Of course there are setbacks, sometimes enormous ones. Ones that threaten to tear us apart. Ideologically, we resent one another for thinking differently and threatening the way of life to which we have become accustomed. Even if it no longer serves us. We fear the implications of progress because on the cellular level of our society there is deep memory. Progress is always painful. The scales which fall from our eyes do not jump willingly.
     There is grace in recognizing that our real job is to remain the non-anxious presence amid the drama. Our role is to calm the waters and let the boats safely figure out where to go next. We can do this in our daily lives, in our own environments. Soothe, don’t stir. Because while this time shall eventually pass, it will do so more smoothly with as much assistance as possible. Or rather, with the least resistance manageable.
    As our new century unfolds we will see that there were cheaters and thieves who needed to be exposed, liars who needed to be faced with truth, deep systemic problems like thick roots which could only see the light of day by the earth being almost too deeply tilled. Most importantly, our rights as human beings are not gladly surrendered by those who would keep them all to themselves. These things need to happen, but nothing goes quietly into the night.
    Do not be afraid. Remain calm. Picture the future day, which may even occur in your own lifetime, when we will see this confusing moment for what it is. We are a society presently walking across hot coals. It will end. To protect one’s feet from the burning embers the teaching is to remain calm, walk smoothly and quickly. But no so fast your feet push too deeply, nor so slow that they sink. Remain both focused and faithful. Eye on the prize.
The end of this walk shall come. And we will someday understand why it needed to be this way. Have faith. Assume that history is not a circle, but a spiral. It may feel dangerously familiar, but every time we get here again, we have changed a little bit. We know a bit more deeply, love a bit more profoundly, and solve our problems as a tribe more insistently. It will be okay. Keep speaking truth. Keep healing the wounded. All shall be well.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Sunday Message - Sunday, October 7, 2018 - Uncovering History

We have a dubious relationship with the past. To be frank, we never actually know if history as we understand it is true or not. Because it’s always the victor, not the defeated, who writes the history. Statistically, it would appear that  no recorded history is ever completely accurate. Even our memories are fully unreliable.
Science has now shown that we don’t actually remember anything about an event itself. What we remember―what our brains actually record―is our remembering. I can clap my hands twice right now and that is a fact. The first time I recall it, it is a recollection of that actual event. The sound of clapping my hands twice. But once I recall that memory a second time, according to the wiring in our brains, I’m no longer recalling the actual event itself. I’m technically recalling my last remembering of the memory of the event. My brain does not retain the original. It retains the picture I continually re-paint for myself about the event each time I recall it. And the pictures evolve over time. Pictures which still feel completely true. But can slowly alter over time.
When we retell a story with the intention of being completely truthful we feel as if we are being honest. And certainly we are not lying, because we are not purposefully speaking misleading information. It is our brains which are lying to us. We are merely telling others what our brains tell us.
I was looking at Facebook last week and saw a post about a local man named Jim Conry. Jim used to have a Volkswagen Beetle back in the 1970’s that had a big face painted on the front of it with big eyeballs and 3-D eyelids with long eyelashes. I remember the car very distinctly myself because I got to ride in it in 1976. I was 7 years old, learning how to ice skate at the Civic Center. But I was afraid to go out on the ice. Instead I clutched at the railing, afraid to let go and attempt to skate out into the middle. Mr. Conry told me that if I skated out into the middle, he would take me for a ride in his bug.
I grabbed a folding chair and, using it like a walker, I skated out onto the ice. I got my ride in the Volkswagen. But what I would have told you about the eyes on the front of the car would have been untrue. Because I can very distinctly remember that the headlights were the eyeballs. It was the headlights which had the eyelashes attached to them. I can remember for years telling that story and firmly remembering that it was the headlights which served as the car’s eyes.
But in looking at the Facebook post about that car last week, I could plainly see in the photo of it that the eyes were up the hood almost all the way to the windshield. The 3-D eyelids and lashes were there, but they were nowhere near the headlights.
But I was so sure. Until I wasn’t.
There has been a lot of news lately about our ability to successfully recall memories from the past. What is factually true in one sense may also have details either missing or misremembered. We must do our best with what we have to work with. We must give weight to things confidently remembered—especially events which have sometimes been tragically imprinted in graphic detail—while also giving latitude for elements we cannot recall. Truth is not always complete or linear.
When looking at sacred texts like the Bible, for instance, we can be assured of the document’s fallibility. There is no way that every detail happened exactly as written. We know this at least, because even the four gospels themselves tell the exact same stories in completely different ways. Different facts, different locations, sometimes even different points. So which ones, if any, are so-called “truth?” It’s interesting because ‘gospel’ is a word that is used interchangeably with ‘truth.’ We’ve all heard the term “it’s gospel truth.” But the gospels do not agree with each other except in the most basic ways. So perhaps the term gospel truth should mean something recorded with the intention of truthfulness, but also with the fallibility of human memory. In this we are perhaps being encouraged to avoid attachments with the recorded truth and be more open to what our intuition tells us.
Tomorrow is Columbus Day here in America. Regarding the so-called truth of Columbus’ “discovery” of America, we now know for certain that he was not the first to discover this continent. Besides those who were already indigenous to this land, their own ancestors having themselves discovered it thousands of years before during the last ice age, there is plenty of evidence that the Norse were here centuries before Columbus. Even the Chinese were here before him. Very likely others as well. Columbus merely made Europe aware of something already known to other parts of the world.
The kicker here though, is that Columbus’ discovery was in the name of material conquest rather than exploration; rather than trade and friendship. And so, the land was systematically taken from those already here. Further insult to injury was added in the naming of the indigenous people here as “Indians.“ In Columbus’ arrogance and ignorance, he declared that he had arrived in India. Ergo, the indigenous people here became known as Indians. To this day, there are many indigenous North Americans who still refer to themselves using this term that should be regarded as the equivalent of a racial slur.
Europeans were not the first undocumented immigrants to set foot on these shores. But the true historical memory of that moment is lost. Misremembered as discovery when in truth it was conquest. Misremembered as heroism when other, less complimentary words would be more accurate.
Since 1934, Columbus Day has been recognized as a federal holiday, but there are many states and individual communities which have chosen not to recognize it or have come up with their own way of protesting the error in our history by renaming it Indigenous People’s Day or other variations on that theme.
But have we corrected truth by doing that? Or have we laid on yet another layer of mis-remembrance? Should we celebrate indigenous people on the very anniversary of the day when they became the victims of so-called progress? What are we celebrating here exactly?
And what about us? What exists in your own history that might have been misremembered? Either favorably or not so favorably. Most things would be inconsequential, but some are bound to be things which might shift the tide of our self-worth if only we remembered it accurately. For we so often remember ourselves in a harsher light than necessary. Or worse, we avoid taking responsibility for our actions and alleviate our guilt by remembering things far too favorably.
The only real truth seems to be that we do not know the complete truth about virtually anything. As unsettling as it may seem, there is no truth out there to be told, written or expressed. The mere action of remembering is too flawed to be reliable.
But what can we do with that? Seek peace over it. Acknowledge that we and everyone are biased, flawed, revisionist historians who, even when presented with video and audio reproductions of an event, we look at them with the same biases, and then promptly misremember the details. Be okay with this. Not because mistruth is good, but because when we are not allowing or forgiving of the impossibility of truth it will accomplish nothing but resentment, stress, anxiety and emotional fatigue. Be nonresistant to the flaws and avoid attachment to truth as you expect it to be. Let it come to you. Let it rise to the surface as if it were once locked away and buried in a trunk, but now discovered and known.
I have a thought about addiction here, too. Because addiction is really a symptom of deeper issues which may or may not be remembered. Accurately or otherwise. And the terminology does not serve us well. For when someone is trying to rise above their addiction, it is called “recovery.” But re-covery literally means to just cover again. Is that what we want? Or do we wish to uncover the truth behind our addictions and compulsions?
It is the hope that if we learn as much of our truth as possible, and face it, learn from it, learn why it made us do the things we have done, we stand a better chance of balancing our history with our growth. We stand a better chance of growing and expanding upon the interconnectivity we all share. The truth beneath the illusion.
The truth is out there somewhere. We may not know it in this lifetime, but perfection does not sit waiting for us at the destination. It is in the journey toward it. Be at peace with your flaws, with your memory of history, and you will be one step closer to resisting the influence of bias and judgement. When one is at peace, they better know the difference between truth and lies. When one can look at others without judgement, we see the divine spark within and know that if nothing else we all deserve to be loved right where we are. Namasté.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Hopeful Thinking - October 6, 2018 - God Might Be a Humanist

It was recently pointed out to me that I think like a humanist. It’s an opinion to be considered, but not quite true in the way it was meant. Humanism is a belief system which places its focus on humanity and reason rather than the divine. Humanists also tend to emphasize the goodness in humanity and its potential. Of maintaining faith in the latter I am most definitely guilty. To a degree, I am guilty of the former as well. But not of the implications in the word, nor why it was used to describe me.
Humanism is presented by its critics as being in opposition to a belief in God, when in actuality it more often simply chooses not to comment on It. The criticism is that too much time is spent looking down here rather than up there. To traditional Christians specifically, it also implies a denial of Christ’s divinity. But I see no reason to deny such a thing. I also do not have the ability to affirm it. Yet I take it at Christ’s implication that we are all made of the same stuff as he, and could (if not should) perform the same feats. In this I believe he was suggesting we are all, himself included, an aspect of divinity. Is there room in the school of humanism for that?
When I take a deep dive into the life practice taught by Jesus, it appears to be entirely about the human experience. About where we came from, why we’re here and what we are supposed to do in order to bring about the best of all possible futures for humanity. It’s about how to relate with our own bodies. It’s about how to relate with the earth. It is especially about how to relate with each other, and by extension, God Itself. That seems to me a very humanist way of looking at faith, by definition. So perhaps I am a humanist. I believe we have been taught to find God in the face of one another.
If I were to make inferences about the mind of God as viewed through the keyhole of the master’s teachings, I might make an assumption that the best way to love God is to practice loving ourselves. By neither Jesus nor God are we taught very much at all about anything other than humanity, actually. We are virtually It’s only subject. To me this is an indication that we should be focused even more on humanity, not less. This is the age when we must practice loving our enemies most.
It’s unfortunate that we have all been indoctrinated to believe we are somehow less-than or unworthy of considering ourselves at least somewhere on par with the divine. To be clear, this is not to suggest humans are all-knowing or loving; quite the opposite. I do subscribe to the belief, however, that we are still all made of divine stuff. And that we all have the capacity to engage with the divine because we operate on the exact same frequency. Only varying levels of static separate us.
Is this an undue elevation of we messy, smelly, error-laden humans? Or is it a call to action to recognize more fully the divine spark within? It’s a charge to cast off old ideas about unworthiness and claim the gift of self-awareness. To me, this is what the masters have been trying to teach us all along.
It is understandable to want to place a line in the sand to define where we end and God begins. Or, where our neighbor ends and we begin. But the security of that line is an illusion. Even a gentle breeze would erase it forever, and gladly. It only serves to maintain the exaggeration of our distinctness from Source—and each other. The fear being that if we were to disband our collective notions of human inferiority to God we would then naturally claim superiority as the result. But I don’t think abandoning our second-class state is the same as setting ourselves above God. It is taking our place beside It. Recognizing ourselves for the co-creators that we are; that we were created to be.
So, yes. I think God‘s plan is a very humanist one. I won’t claim to know the details, the how’s or the why’s. But perhaps it’s safe to infer that the engine of human progress is not as much about learning who we really are as it is remembering it.
Our inherent perfection—our divinity—is never exposed by our fears. It is hidden by them. Let them go. Let your perfection shine through the false shroud of your unworthiness. It’s holding you back from the most likely and logical purpose of your existence here on earth: to thrive in the miracle of your humanity. 

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Be well!