Friday, December 31, 2021

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, January 1, 2022 - The Physics of Ritual and Ceremony

The rules have all changed now. We are no longer bound by societal expectations about our religious devotions. Only decades ago, any American who didn’t belong to a church got a side-eye from the rest of society. A hundred years ago, there were actually men who wandered the streets on Sunday mornings to collect your tithe if you weren’t in church. And you’d better have a good reason for not being there. Truancy from worship was even punishable in some places.

It brings to mind the resistance that has built up over these last decades to spiritual and religious rituals and ceremonies. And with good reason (see above). But not only from the obvious challenges people have with organized religion. We are going through a systematic appraisal of every single element within our human society right now. Nothing is off limits from inspection. Every symbolic carton of milk, loaf of bread, and jar of honey is being checked for an expiration date.

Is this a good thing? Of course. Is it painful? Usually very. And often, the baby is temporarily thrown out with the bathwater in the process. It will all be okay in the end, I promise. There is much to be admired in the fact that we, as humans, are always on the lookout for how to improve things. That instinct will ultimately be the source of our greatest achievements as a society of people.

In the meantime, however, we—specifically this current set of generations—are subjecting ourselves to the excruciating task of assessment in a way that future generations will never have to. Thankfully.

The irony is that, in the action of it, we are often discounting an aspect of our humanity that we need very much in order to best cope with this very process we have undertaken. That of ritual and ceremony.

Of course there are many rituals and ceremonies in which we easily participate every day from brushing our teeth to graduating from college. But, while these are essential aspects of our human experience, they are not the entire food pyramid of human thriving.

Spiritual, religious, and metaphysical rituals and ceremonies have come under fire by the more pragmatic skeptical world. And while that is a necessary part of the sorting process, it must be acknowledged that science backs up the need for them, even if it doesn’t confirm the cosmic claims each tradition makes of their purpose or function. Long story short, there’s good stuff here and you probably could use some of it.

Science has repeatedly shown that rituals and ceremonies enhance confidence and emotional stability, soften the effects of grief, and even make food taste better when done mindfully and with intent. 

Some rituals, ancient in origin, have proven themselves to have surprisingly beneficial aspects which science is only now recognizing. Purification ceremonies, for which water is the ubiquitous ingredient across all cultures, have often included with them the burning of various plants, such as sage and sweetgrass here in the Americas. These plants have now been found to have the power to not just spiritually, but physically cleanse an environment of bacteria and other contaminants. And of course, water cleansing rituals also have the added benefit of not just cleaning one’s soul, but their germy hands as well.

Yet these findings are somewhat beside the point. Because science, specifically quantum physics, has also shown that matter is affected by our expectations. It has proven that what we think has an impact on our physical reality. Of course, this is on the quantum level and difficult to observe, but the quantum level is the basis of our physical reality after all. How can the foundation not affect the house?

Yesterday, my husband decided to sweep out our apartment. Not just sweep out the dirt, but more as well. He began to conceptualize the dirt as being an inhibitor to good communication, old heavy feelings, resentments, grief. He went through the rooms and, one by one, he collected it all in his mind, entangled with the debris, and swept it right out the back door. We scooped it into a pile and ritually threw it over the embankment behind our house.

To anyone looking at us, it would have appeared as simply dirt being thrown down an embankment following a house cleaning. But we could have even more easily thrown it into the trash. Vaulting it down an embankment, however, was better symbolism and therefore made for a better ceremony.

Where can you add ceremony to your life? Where can you take everyday events, like house cleaning, and transform them into something more powerful? (It’s called mindfulness, by the way.) Also, where can you create new opportunities for authoring ceremonies and rituals of your own? For there are no rules to it anymore. You can look up the symbolisms of various traditions and use them in spiritual experiences that resonate with you. That’s what will give them the most beneficial impact after all: your belief.

Consider adding deliberate metaphysical ritual to your experience, regardless of your belief in the claims of any religion or spiritual tradition. Atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive to metaphysics. There’s enough science to support its existence in your life. 

As any worthwhile spiritual practice should.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, December 25, 2021 - The Gilded Frame

The sun moves one degree north today following three days of “death” near the Southern Cross constellation where it sat virtually immobile, waiting to begin the slow movement toward summer again. This cycle is thought of as the death and resurrection of the sun. 

Interestingly, around midnight last night on December 24, the North Star sat in direct alignment with the three stars of Orion’s Belt, also known as “the three kings.” These three stars point directly to where the sun rose this morning on the 25th. 

There are other parallels as well with the gospel stories including the constellation of Virgo the virgin also known as the “house of bread,” which happens to be the exact translation of the name Bethlehem. 

What might there be to consider in all this? Does it beckon as proof that the story as it’s told in the Bible of Jesus’s birth, death, and resurrection didn’t happen? Perhaps. But not necessarily.

Whether or not the story happened literally is somewhat beside the point. I know that’s not true for everyone, and I respect the religious views of those who take the story in its literal form. But it creates an interesting thought around the way we traditionally frame our hero tales. 

Jesus was not the first individual in history to be reportedly born of a virgin, perform miracles of healing, to die and be resurrected three days later. He was one in a long line of ancient hero stories that includes individuals such as the Zoroastrian/Roman god Mithras and the Egyptian god Horus. As well, Osiris, Heracles, Dionysus, Tammuz, Adonis, and others as well are given December 25 as the date on which their births were honored. Several of them were reportedly born of virgins and had other coinciding points with the story of Jesus as we know it. 

One thing that’s also interesting to note, many of these heroes were born to women, virgins or otherwise, whose names are derived from the root “ma” meaning mother. Maia in Greek mythology, Maya in the Hindu tradition, Myrrha in the Syrian myth, and Maryam (Mary) in Hebrew.

Recognitions of this sort are usually used to refute the biblical tales, and perhaps they do in their way. But what if they simply point to a different kind of truth told in a way that we no longer recognize?

I know that traditional Christianity believes in the exceptionalism of its central figure, and Jesus was an exceptional person, of course. But what’s interesting to me is that during the fourth century, when these decisions about the placement of Jesus’s birth festival were being made, Mithraism, for example, was in direct competition with Christianity in Rome. In fact there were nearly 700 temples dedicated to Mithra in the city at that exact time.

It makes me consider where the truth lies, and in what form it exists.

It is likely true that a human figure named Jesus was born around the third or fourth year of the Common Era, probably in the spring. Whether he was actually born of a virgin, I could not say. Whether a star in the sky heralded his birth and lead people to the place of it, I don't know. I was not there. 

But that this person existed, possibly performed miracles (miracles do happen, after all), and taught an insightful life practice through which we might slowly change the trajectory of the violence in the world toward peace, seems true enough to me. It is even plausible to me that this individual had an advanced connection with the divine, enhancing his insight toward ways in which humans could learn to better live with one another and bring about peace on earth in its time. 

Since these similar stories about special birth and death exist throughout the human timeline, I am forced to consider whether or not these are ancient and traditional literary tools used to present a real individual as being more than merely human, but semi-divine or even divinity itself. 

Are the stories of virgin birth and resurrection, etc. a reusable framework around which a real person sits? When we perceive specialness in historic figures, have we packaged them in a literary gilded frame so that future generations would understand their specialness?

Again, these considerations are not an attempt to diminish the personhood or divinity of Jesus. They are merely important points to consider when wondering about how our ancestors chose to propel a story of an exceptional person into the future for the benefit of all. I believe a truth is being revealed here, even though I would not consider myself qualified enough to assert it with scholarly authority. 

I can reasonably believe that our religious forebears wanted to ensure that we did not take the story lightly, nor relegate its tales to a footnote of ancient spiritual anecdotes. They wanted us to know something here. They wanted us to take a close look and see where, if anywhere, there is sacredness to be found. 

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, December 18, 2021 - A Personal View of Christmas


We are entering one of the more sacred times of the year. Across so many cultures these next two weeks are adorned with dozens of occasions, festivals, and religious observances representing a myriad of belief systems.

There’s a pattern to be seen in this. And it points to things which are intrinsically human among us. But also, exploration of these various traditions can lead to valuable insights about where we each fit within the pantheon of world spiritual belief. 

Christmas, to me, is the recognition of the birth of a spiritual master whose teachings I happen to follow most closely. There are several others I look to for inspiration as well, but his I tend to perceive as a particularly clearly defined example of the active practice of raising the vibration of this planet through our actions.

I am less focused on the birth of a savior in the traditionally observed sense, so much as I am focused upon someone who taught us a practice through which we might save ourselves. That he might be the savior of humanity for reasons celestial in nature, I can’t argue with, for, or against. 

There’s obviously more to the story and theology of Jesus Christ than a simple life practice. Narrowing a focus to the teacher and his teachings does leave out considerations of the miraculous as well as the mundane, admittedly. Which it is not my intention to negate. But upon the teachings themselves, nearly everyone can agree they are wise and useful. These ancient lessons on forgiveness, compassion, hospitality, non-resistance, empowerment, and gratitude are meant to build bridges and strengthen communities rather than act as excuses to tear them apart by over-focusing on theological differences. 

Since the teachings themselves prescribe a way of life intended to help us be in good relationship with one another, out of mutual respect and religious diplomacy, it’s preferable to focus on the teachings. Everything else can be respected as articles of personal faith which need not be proven to one another in order for the teachings to function. I personally believe in many of them, or at least hold open the possibility, but it’s not my place to insist that anyone else does. If it challenges you, stick a pin in it and save it for later, as a close pastor friend of mine advises. 

Since I am glad Jesus was born and lived, I honor Christmas. Since the vast majority of the Christmas culture around me celebrates it in a particular fashion, I take pleasure in those traditions just like many people. I love holiday decorations and the traditional music and, of course, the intention toward charity and hospitality during the season. I just choose also to be sure not to forget that there is an honoring of wisdom to be observed as well. 

And though I center myself in this faith tradition, I love learning about other traditions from other faiths whose ideas overlap in ways that help me better understand my own and better remember that my neighbor truly is me.

Have you ever looked into how other faiths celebrate at this time of the year? Have you ever wondered how much we all have in common? Have you ever looked at these span of dates throughout human history and taken note of the hundreds of different occasions and festivals that have occurred at this time?

It’s the exact reason why the birth of Jesus is celebrated this week. It’s not because he was born at this time. (For the record, the Buddha wasn’t born on his birthday celebration either.) But Jesus’ birth was deemed appropriate to be celebrated at the time of the returning light. Well, that, and to compete in the religious marketplace. #Reality.

I accept Christmas for what it has become, but still honor it for the purpose of its presence on the liturgical calendar. And because at this time of the year I do need to be reminded of the birth of light in the world. It’s kind of dark around here right now.

By honoring the teacher, I am remembering the teachings. I am remembering that Jesus did not invent Christianity, he left a legacy of spiritual wisdom and a pathway toward inner peace and outer service that in the generational practice of it leaves its own steady legacy behind. 

I’m also remembering that Jesus did not convert people from their original faiths, but added a layer to them. It revealed a newness within them. He did not tell people not to be Jewish, nor did he expect the Gentiles to be anything but Gentiles. He taught them how to find new life within who they already were. That’s pretty welcoming. And this week that thought is meaningful as I ponder what the return of the light means, culture to culture.

So, Merry Christmas from me, and Happy Holidays to you all. 

Monday, November 29, 2021

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, November 27, 2021 - Submission and Relenting

We have a complicated relationship with the idea of submission. We sometimes take great pride in our lack of willingness to submit to the ideas, advice, or demands of others. Our independent streak is a wonderful tool, if used judiciously, however.

To be honest, I had a tendency to feel the same way about the concept of submission. That is, until I spent a little bit of time in a Sufi monastery. There I learned the word Islam means submission. Specifically, submission to God. The concept isn’t as clear cut as you’d imagine.

Submission can just as easily be viewed as a demand to do as you’re told. But that’s too simple. The closer I looked, the more I realized that “submitting oneself to God” is a poetic way of saying that we should use what we learn from spiritual texts to live our lives in the spirit of good relationships with our neighbors. 

Though many will disagree with that interpretation of what I have gleaned of God’s purpose for us through my exposure to various spiritual texts, time and time again, spiritual literature, including the Bible, is focused almost entirely on how we behave toward one another. The Bible isn’t about God so much as it is about us. 

It’s probably fair to say that “submission to God” is another way of saying “submission to God’s intent for us.” Whether one believes in God or not, it’s pretty clear that the objective purpose of world scripture is aimed at how to end cycles of violence, resentment, fear and envy of our neighbor. It encourages us to look deeper at the world and take note of what our inner divine spark tells us. 

What might it mean to submit under these circumstances? 

To me, it means relenting to good advice. It means taking time to deeply consider the implications of my actions in the world. To be humble about the harms I may have caused, just in the process of being human. But also to take stock and expand upon the good I do as well.

Submitting means to say, “I am through trying things my way. My way has not gotten me very far. And so I commit to looking at the ways of God as described by various men and women through the pages of world scripture.” 

In a sense, it’s giving up. And the ego is triggered by that. It resists, because we then must admit we don’t know everything. 

What’s interesting to me is that there’s a freedom in this. Submitting ourselves to something else instinctively feels as though we are confining ourselves, even imprisoning ourselves to the rules and mastery of someone else. However, I’m certain that’s a false premise. Especially if we consider ourselves to be extensions of the Divine Source, we are in actuality submitting to our own deeper selves; the part within us through which our connection to Source is made.

Perhaps this all sounds a bit metaphysical, but these things are not concrete. They are general ideas meant to get our heads out of the way of the work of our hearts. Tricks of understanding, perhaps divine in origin, that sublimate the parts of our brain which are constantly analyzing, rationalizing, and limiting its understanding to only that to which it has been directly exposed. 

Crucial to consider are your dreams and aspirations. Who are you deep down? In your dreams, what are you doing? What are you accomplishing? To what are you driven yet resist? Is there a dream job out there for you which you are afraid of pursuing? A particular lifestyle that you feel is natural to you but hasn’t yet occurred for one reason or another? Is the version of you that you present to the world an honest one?

What makes you think that these concerns aren’t part of submission? Because it isn’t just about following guidelines of behavior. It’s about listening to the voice inside you with honesty. What is it honestly saying? You were designed for a purpose. Are you heeding it?

Now that the world has changed so drastically, and that those changes are not finished quite yet, what will you make of this time? You can look all around you and see people who have decided to change their life because of this moment. They’ve started new businesses, they’ve gone back to school, they’ve retired early because they realize they just didn’t need it anymore. They stopped working extra jobs that only pay for childcare and instead spend time with their children.

In the social justice world everything is on its head now as well. LGBT rights, women’s rights, minority rights, indigenous rights, every aspect of our society has been flipped over to check the expiration date. We’ve been doing a deep dive on our behavior and have found it lacking. Enormous systemic change is at hand. 

What does this all mean? I think it means that this moment now is perfect to consider if the person who you really are is the same as the one you’ve been telling yourself you are.

Submission to God is the same thing as submission to your inner self. Because that’s where your divine spark is guiding you. Listen to it. Heed it. Relent To it. Submit to the truth of you. If there is a God, that’s what It most wants for us. For us to live in the space of joy that only self discovery can bring. To listen deeply to our heart for the answers about how to engage with the world, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and leave this world a better place than we found it. 

I can submit to that. 

Friday, November 19, 2021

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, November 20, 2021 - Remember We Are on Indigenous Land

Throughout human history, groups of people have conquered others in order to take their land. In the process, humans have done all sorts of unthinkable and unspeakable acts. There is virtually no conquering society in history who isn’t guilty of these crimes. 

And what do we do about these regrettable histories? What do we do now as we learn more about the atrocities our ancestors committed? How do we apply the things we learn through our exploration of spirituality and religion to not only cope with the present moment but rise above the shame of our ancestors, now that we know things might have been done differently?

As we proceed through Native American Heritage Month, we are invited to notice that there is beauty in Native American traditions. And there is also horror and atrocity in their own history perpetrated against one another. Native Americans are not without their own blood on their hands.

We have a romanticized idea about Native American culture on this land. But the truth is more interesting. More complex. Less innocent, more valuable.

It is not the job of the present age to erase history any more than it is to whitewash over it. It is the job of the present age to face it with resignation, submission, and respect.

First and foremost, I have a respect for the Native American relationship with the earth. I have a respect for the notion that we are caretakers of the earth, rather than its owners. That we don’t have things, we have obligations. We have an obligation to the earth. And to one another.

At this time on the wheel of the year, we honor the harvest. Thanksgiving is upon us. And with it, our old romanticized notions of the relationships between the pilgrims and those who first inhabited this land, the famous meal they shared, and the friendships they created.

Of course, this history is only partially true. We know that now. And we tell ourselves little fibs to get around our lack of ease with shame. But we have to remember that this shame is not ours. Not specifically. And not in the way we fear. 

We hear tales of cancel culture and of the rewriting of history and political correctness and we throw our hands up because we don’t know how to engage these topics. And because we often find distasteful the ways that their advocates proclaim them. 

There is a purpose here, though. There’s an opportunity here. Especially in this time of Thanksgiving and gratitude we have an opportunity to be grateful for those who seek to know the truth about our ancestors and those whom they conquered. And why. 

We are not revealed to be villains in this process. Only perpetuating mistruths of our history is villainous now, not the uncovering of it. Not the facing of it. There is honor there.

The Navajo have a peacemaking ceremony and legal process called hozhooji naat’aanii. It begins with an opening prayer to summon the aid of the supernatural in the process of reconciliation. The prayer also prepares the parties for the process. It acknowledges the existence of a disharmony that shall be mended. It uses Navajo values and tribal law as the basis to talk things out. 

Retired Chief Justice of the Navajo Nation Supreme Court, Robert Yazzie, explains that “The western law way is to punish you so that you don’t repeat the behavior. But the Navajo way is to focus on the individual. You separate the action from the person.”

What can we take from this about how to move forward in our world? How might we recognize the spiritual and philosophical other in ways that foster genuine reconciliation and friendship based on mutual respect?

Our way of doing things, sadly, has shown disrespect for the proper balance of the world. But we need not continue it. We need only to look at our own stated traditions and values and principles to see that there are more loving ways of moving forward.

It begins with a recognition of actual history, and the validation of the harms caused. It does not mean taking responsibility for the causing of historic harm so much as it is about taking responsibility for what we do next about it. 

The Navajo peacemaking process asks the question and states: ‘Why did this act happen in the first place? There is a reason why it happened. Let’s focus on the root of it.’ The purpose of the process is to restore dignity and worthiness. What might be learned from that when scratching our heads in dismay about what to do next?

We have reached a point in our civilization where questions like this are in the forefront of our minds. We’ve begun to share our stories with one another. And in the process, we have discovered things we might have rather not known.

But there can be grace in how we proceed. There is an opportunity to display courage and fortitude while maintaining our dignity. It is through the process of listening to other people. Not only listening, but truly hearing.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday. November 13, 2021 - Be Nice To the People That People Aren’t Nice To

Like many of us, there have been times when I found it difficult to engage with other people. Even now, and even being the generally gregarious type of person that I am, I have moments of profound shyness. So much so, that I would consider myself to be uncomfortable in public settings far more often than I am comfortable. I would consider myself more willing than wanting of attention. 

Which makes it all the more noticeable when someone spots that in me and moves to put me at ease. It’s not only kindness, but awareness. Awareness of their environment and of the comfort of those present.

One might consider that to be a Cancerian quality. As a Cancer myself, I’m aware of that categorical trait. And I do my best to exhibit it. I’m sure there are other astrological signs that are known for this. But what if we were to adopt it on purpose regardless of our sign or tendency?

I have a neighbor across the street who is easy to spot as one who feels more comfortable being by themselves. Or is that just my assumption? Do I look at people who appear to be shy and let myself off the hook by assuming they prefer it that way?

I’ve also known people who talk a good game about wanting to be alone, but I deeply suspect otherwise. They give off clues and hints that they are justifying their loneliness as a preference, when really it’s just an inner belief that loneliness is their lot in life. And that they might as well get used to it. 

I choose to ignore it. When I see my neighbor across the street sitting by herself in front of her house, I wave to her and smile. That’s the only time I have ever seen her smile. 

There’s another woman whom I don’t know at all but lives in a house which I pass by frequently. She always looks so sad sitting out there by herself. At some point she and I caught eyes and so I smiled at her. Her face absolutely lit up. She had the largest, most beautiful smile. And now we smile at each other at least 2 to 3 times a week when there’s nice weather. I love it. 

This takes next to no effort, but I feel like it makes a difference. I can say in all honesty that it makes a difference in my life. I look forward to seeing these women and smiling at them for no reason other than friendliness. 

Too often we make assumptions about other people. With so little information to go on, we fill in the gaps with whatever helps us justify our lack of involvement or care. But what harm could it do to be friendly for no reason?

An interesting scientific sidebar is the fact that the act of smiling literally tricks your brain into believing its happy. It releases dopamine and serotonin just from the muscular act of forming a smile. 

To me, this means that when I make someone else smile, I am literally increasing dopamine and serotonin in their own brains, not just from smiling at them, but in triggering their own smile. To say nothing of the extra brain juices I get also for my own smiling activity as well as the satisfaction of making someone else feel the same. 

This present time in our human history is rife with reasons to frown. The extra stressors we have in our daily lives right now make it difficult to remember these simple ideas and put them to work in our lives. 

But if we take the time to attempt to be friendly to those for whom friendliness from others might very well be a rare occurrence, how much might that impact the other parts of our lives which we may think have no connection? Is there something to be said for just being nice as an antidote to so much else that’s wrong with the world?

Any bumper sticker’s worth of advice would say yes. And yet how often do we actually do it?

You may forget these words tomorrow. So be it. But today, make an effort. Even if it’s only one day’s worth. We have to do a little something every day in order to get through this. Let this be what you do today. 

Friday, November 5, 2021

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, November 6, 2021 - From a Distance


The subject of forgiveness has always been a fascinating one to me. Not surprisingly, my opinions about it have sometimes been at odds with established ways of thinking about it. 

For instance, I absolutely deny the usefulness of ideas like “forgive and forget.“ What good is forgetting if there’s something to be learned? And we often learn quite a bit in the moments of experiencing something for which our forgiveness might later be requested. Drama is often in need of forgiveness. But never forgetting. 

Mainstream religious thought contends that we will not receive forgiveness until we ask for it. However, I believe it’s more about perceiving than receiving. We don’t perceive forgiveness until we hear ourselves ask for it. In my belief, since according to tradition God knows our hearts and actions long before we ever commit them, we are pre-forgiven for our actions. But even the term pre-forgiven isn’t quite right because if we are so deeply understood by God, then how could we ever truly be held in a place of unforgiveness in the first place? 

I think forgiveness is a human action. From God's perspective it’s just pure understanding. If we had pure understanding of ourselves and others, I think we would approach those who trespass against us much differently. I think in encouraging the tradition of asking for forgiveness, however, God is in actuality encouraging us to forgive ourselves, and then make better choices thereafter. The reason we are encourage not to judge others, is because once we get out of the habit of it, we start to see the humanity we have in common. 

It brings to mind the recent trend of books and movies over the past two decades that fill in the backstories of some of our more famous literary and cinematic villains. I think of Gregory Maguire’s book series Wicked and its sequels, which fill in the blanks of just how Frank L. Baum’s infamous Wicked Witch of the West character gained her wickedness. We can see ourselves in her shoes and wonder whether or not we might have made the same choices if we were in her place. 

Likewise, the recent Maleficent films, starring Angelina Jolie, take a very empathetic stance on the villainous character from Disney's Sleeping Beauty. It’s hard not to love her. 

Are these stories coming to the forefront in our society because we are starting to become sophisticated enough to realize that human behavior isn’t quite so black and white? The marketplace does not dictate our desires so much as they’re responding to the statistics of what we’re consuming. If we are seeing more film and television and books that give the human angle to what makes a criminal, it’s because they know that’s what we’re looking for. What overall effect on our judicial system, or educational system, or even our healthcare systems might be the end result of it? 

Does understanding what makes someone behave in a negative way make it easier for us to forgive them? Does it make it easier for us to figure out what the right and loving solution is rather than simply arresting them and locking them up because we think the problem is too big to solve? 

But on the practical, every day level, we need forgiveness in our lives. Even if we can’t be in a direct relationship with someone any longer because we are still vulnerable to their harm, we can still forgive people from a distance. Even if they haven’t asked for it. We can remind ourselves that only hurt people hurt people. And the size of their own hurt is usually proportional to the size of the harm they cause. Feel for them. In all likelihood, it is far worse to be in their shoes than yours. 

Can one truly have empathy for someone who has harmed us? That is what the masters teach us, after all. Why might they teach it? It can’t be that it’s impossible, or unadvisable. Christianity, as well as other faiths, teach us to love our enemy. Why might they do that? Is there value in this?

I have enough faith to believe that there must be some value to the action of forgiving others. I have enough faith to believe that loving my enemy is very likely good advice. Which means that it must be that forgiveness and safety can occur simultaneously. Forgiveness cannot mean continuing to subject ourselves to harm on purpose. That’s the forgetting part of ‘forgive and forget.’ Don’t forget. Stay safe. Forgive from a distance.

You don’t even have to tell them that you’ve forgiven them. In fact, it even comes across a little arrogant if offered without having been asked for. But it’s just as well. Because forgiveness given without having been asked for is purely for yourself. It is to end the cycle of inner anger and resentment that poisons our hearts and brains. It corrupts the delicate balance of our body and our brain chemistry. Even the microbiome of our gut is deeply impacted by our stress levels. And that can impact all manner of systems including in your immunity. Go easy on yourself. 

Forgiveness does not mean relieving someone of their accountability or responsibility for their actions. Our job is to make sure that our judicial system is fair and works to rehabilitate people rather than just lock them up and throw away the key. Retribution is an easy road out but a rough trail to walk back on. We will always pay a price for the miscarriage of justice.

As soon as our culture really learns to incorporate a model of empathy and forgiveness into its approach of those who have caused harm, we will continue to cause it. We will continue to perpetuate old cycles of violence and retribution. It doesn’t need to be this way. 

Let there be peace on earth. And let it begin with you. 

Friday, October 29, 2021

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, October 30, 2021 - Ho! What Ghosts!

So, I have a theory about ghosts. But it will take a minute to get there.

In its many and varied ways, the earth is receiving information from us. We humanity. It receives the sound waves of every footstep we make, it tastes the pollution we release upon it. Mingled with the smelling of its own flowers, it smells its own people. 

And just because the earth receives information, doesn’t prove it can process and act upon it like a human brain and body. Yet many cultures have nonetheless attributed the earth with consciousness. They hold that the earth is aware of our presence, and has opinions about it. 

Whether or not it’s true, thinking of it as such helps connect us with it and to resonate with it. It helps us remain accountable to it. And maybe there’s a reason many cultures throughout history have perceived the earth as having consciousness. Whether or not it is literal in the way we think of consciousness is beside the point. To endlessly debate its literalism is a distraction. 

One might wonder if some of these traditional ways of thinking resonate with a truth of some kind. Is the earth listening to us? If it is, might it also be retaining what it feels? Is the earth recording history?

I do not present this as a point of scientific debate. I have science-based notions which happen to resonate with my overall faith-based perspective. Which, by the way, is true for 100% of us. We have nothing to go by but our own religious and scientific opinions. 

I think about crystals. Quartz, specifically. The new age, wellness, and neopagan communities are festooned with them. But while there are those who scoff, or even ridicule, never dismiss something out of hand which millions believe in. That is true regardless of the correctness of their view. It means something is there. And it might not be quite what you think. Or even quite what they think either. But there’s always something worth noting when many are drawn. Look for it. 

Personally, I like crystals. They’re pretty, culturally meaningful, and in my personal experience, physically uplifting. Many years ago, around the age of 21, my first management job was running a natural crystal kiosk in the thoroughfare of the local mall. Just during the holidays.

I worked long hours, almost entirely on my feet. 10, 12, 14 hours straight with no other coverage. But unlike almost every other job I’d ever had before or since, I felt tireless. I never regretted a minute of it and always looked forward to going back the next day.

Of course this is entirely anecdotal. A skeptic could pierce a dozen holes in my story should I claim it as evidence of crystal power. I make no claim, I just state it because it was my personal experience. 

But quartz crystals in particular do have scientifically recognized properties. For one, they have the ability to store information. As well, they regulate energy. They keep it flowing evenly. That’s why we use crystals in wrist watches and throughout the tech industry. It has practical, measurable, provable value. And it’s radically abundant.

Quartz is one of the most abundant minerals on earth. And found nearly everywhere. It does not corrode, and so it is impervious to erosion. When embedded among other types of rock, the other rock eventually erodes away leaving behind amounts of quartz ranging from the microscopic to the size of school buses. 

Quartz dust floats through our ocean currents and is picked up by windstorms. Though we do not physically process or digest it, quartz is often present in our bodies just by the air we breathe, the dirt on our hands, and the food we eat. 

What can our imagination do with looking at the fact that quartz has all of these fascinating properties and is at the same time virtually coating the earth?

Are quartz crystals, and perhaps other minerals, “recording” us in a literal sense? If they can indeed store information, are they? Is it acted upon, or is it just stored there? 

We haven’t the ability to know one way or the other. At least not yet. Nor should anyone have the hubris to definitively claim otherwise. 

But for argument’s sake, let’s say the earth, in its way, does record us. It records our actions and words, it stores an energetic imprint of who we are, or were. Especially, perhaps, when emotions are particularly high. I could imagine the imprint is stronger when we experience profound joy or grave fear.

And so, in honor of Halloween tomorrow, I’ll use this opportunity to give one final theory. Is this what explains ghosts? Are we triggering the stored memories of departed souls that have long moved on, but whose resonance lingers? Is it live or is it memorex?

I’m not claiming this is the answer to all or necessarily any of the recorded supernatural experiences had by humanity throughout the ages. But it does give me pause.

I think ghosts are real. Even though I’ve never seen one. To my mind they’re logical.

And so, let’s remain open minded about these things. They may be the answer to questions we’re not even sophisticated enough yet to ask. 

Superstitions and myths and fairytales surround us. What if every single one of them had a grain of truth within?

Happy Halloween.