Friday, April 16, 2021

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, April 17, 2021 - You’re Praying for What You’re Saying

Whether you believe in it or not, whether you’d use the word ‘prayer’ or some other more secular descriptor, you are praying for what you’re saying. Your words matter. Every single sound that comes out of your mouth, ever, contributes to your reality. Your ears hear all of it. And most of the time other ears are listening to it too. 

The brain is really fast on its feet. It can tell the difference between regular ambient sound and human language in a tenth of a second. The brain isn’t necessarily asking questions as far as who’s doing the talking. But it’s definitely paying very close and reflexive attention. 

It’s listening for survival, really. And for opportunities to thrive. It acts like a bright yellow highlighter filtering out the background white noise, and making prominent all that truly matters. Spoken words are like lightning to the brain. 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about that old aphorism, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.” That’s just plain old fake news. Words are the most insidious of all weapons. They’re like nano bombs which penetrate the skin and course through our bloodstream up into our brains where they burst into literal synapses of memories, one upon another, reinforcing the negativity—or positivity—they represent. 

I try not to dwell on my experiences with bullies in the past, though I remember them profoundly. I recall the words they used. I still know the names they called me. I remember their hostility. A knife’s wound of concentrated unfairness that remains not fully healed. 

It’s surprising to me just how indelibly some of the things people have said to me are imprinted upon my understanding of self. Little residual feelings and ideas that percolate through the adult veneer to reveal a child’s still-tender wounds beneath.

I remember both the good as well as the bad, thankfully. I remember simple compliments given in passing that might not have seemed much at the time to those who gave them, but which permanently changed the view of myself for the positive. Small encouraging statements that reinforced my bravery to go out in the world and see what I might discover. These are what handily countered the negative script composed by old schoolmates and the neighborhood kids. Those few positive comments buoyed me through difficult times.

There are those who’ve been abused out of hearing the good at all, however, for the bad is so much more reliable. Good-sounding words had been used against them and were not sincere. Good words can feel untrustworthy after that. These are the scars of verbal abuse. The scar tissue is thick and muffles the sounds of more loving words.

There are studies suggesting that there’s a difference between silent reading of self-help materials and the speaking of positive affirmations out loud. Silently reading positive statements while in a negative mindset, only managed to reinforce the negative mindset of the study participants. They felt worse afterward. The written words fought against the mind’s negative self-perceptions. And typically lost. 

But the acts of listening and reading each use different parts of the brain. They found that spoken affirmations had a different effect than ones which had been only read. Not only did spoken affirmations improve mood, but also immune response, stress hormone production, and even brain functioning. Listening to ideas combined with sound, rather than merely cognizing the ideas from print, changed outcomes for the better.

Vibration is key. Sound affects matter. 

That idea is quite old. Creation itself is said to have begun from a single sound. Some of our most ancient languages carry along this idea as well. Sanskrit, Arabic, Aramaic, and many other ancient languages have an entire sound-related aspect to them that our more modern, western languages do not. Certain tones and vowel shapes have resonance believed to include additional layers of meaning, healing, and connection with the divine. 

The most popular example of this is the “mystical syllable,” the sound Ohm. A sound believed to signify the essence of the Ultimate Reality. Some traditions believe it is the very sound which launched existence into being.

What might we make of such a long and diverse tradition of belief in the implications of sound? Especially as science manages to uphold some of these beliefs rather than debunk them? Does it make it more important than ever to mind our words? Not just mind them, but be mindful of them? Should we be more proactive in our choice of words? Shouldn’t we be thinking of words as medicine, even?

What parts of the Cosmic hear your words as well? What is being accomplished through the act of making constructed sounds like words or phrases? What happens when they leave our lips? We know sound has a physical ripple effect. Are those ripples multi-dimensional as well? 

All of these various thoughts congeal our minds around a central idea that we may very well have powers we don’t realize when it comes to the sounds we utter. 

We’ve been taught that prayer has a value. Is this why? Is it because we hear what we’re praying for as much as Something Else might also be? Is it because our cells respond to what we tell them? Does every part of us have the ability to listen? Might our cells listen to us if we tell them to be well?

Assume yes. Make a leap of faith that what you say has relevance, impact, and can be wielded for good or not, toward yourself or others. Speak your reality into existence. There is far more listening than your ears.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, April 10, 2021 - The Theft of Lies

Lately, I have found myself embroiled in online discussions about politics and racism. This is not typically my way. In fact I usually go to great lengths to avoid that rabbit hole.

I suppose I should get back on the wagon and stop participating in conversations that ultimately get nowhere. But it’s so tempting.

My usual method is to comment on unloving posts for only two reasons. Either I feel that the person is in a position to be persuaded toward a more loving thought, or for the purpose of demonstrating kind responses to unkind words for the sake of others. Both sound fairly arrogant as I see them written here. But I do think it’s important to model loving behavior. So, arrogant or not, my hope is that the principle of inherent worth and dignity of all people is at the center of my actions. 

One thing that struck me though, as I have been dipping my toes into such debates, is that I seem to be battling a tide of misinformation. I feel like I’m constantly counteracting misrepresentations of truth. I’m watching others do the same. It’s taking a lot of time looking at someone’s ridiculous online claim, and then commenting with factual responses and references for why their claim is untrue, only to be battled against, often with hostility or rudeness. And, of course, our ego wishes us to keep on sparring.

How much time does this steal from us? How much of this time will we never get back? Exactly none of it. 

This is how lying represents a theft. Those who begin lies are stealing time from those who must later attempt to reset someone toward truth. 

The sad part is, once convinced, once painted into a corner where all truth has been precast as a lie, it’s almost impossible to dislodge. It’s like escaping from a cult. A cult of lies is very alluring. Until it isn’t. 

What are we to do? We often unthinkingly participate in the theft by giving our time to it. What fuels us? What gives us the energy to continue the fight? Are we served by it? Or are we sacrificing part of ourselves?

It should be that we need not sacrifice ourselves in order to bring more love into the world. Love barely needs help at all. Love is more in need of gatekeepers who are simply willing to open them and allow love to do its own work. We try too hard. 

Working smarter not harder, we find that love requires nowhere near the same amount of energy as we had to exert to support our fear. Fear takes a lot of work. Love requires only letting go of the rope. It’s not a tug-of-war that needs to be won. 

The point is to be mindful about how much we participate in the cycle of lies. That’s not to say we shouldn’t battle against untruth. But we should be very careful where we draw the line. We should only give it so much of our time and space. And it should be time given knowingly and purposefully.

Our time should not be taken from us, it should be given by us. Someone else’s lies have no right to steal anything from you.

Sadly, the lies which still carefully hide beneath the surface of our awareness, lies behind the scenes occurring within power structures beyond our vision, closed in boardrooms and consultants’ offices, plotting for profit, will not be stopped from stealing from us. 

They will, however, suffer a slow attrition as one generation of leadership fades away and another takes its place. Another generation who has grown up in an awareness of such things and from the earliest ages intends to be in a position to change it.

Stop the steal. Waste as little time as possible on doing battle with lies. Save your energy for the ones which truly cause harm and not just battling the opinions of people online whose minds will never change. 

Be a wind at the back of progress by turning your cheek from fear and toward the healing of others wherever possible. If they will not accept your love, love them from afar and wish them well. Put your attention on the generation which will supplant them. Put your love on all that which makes the old ways a dinosaur; doomed to extinction for lack of an environment that will support them.

Use your time on this earth for supporting unity and uniqueness. It’s so much more fun. And it is a gift of our time as well as a gift to it. It is the opposite of theft or sorrow.

Pray for those who cannot see truth. They are victims of the machinations of others. It is like any addiction. It’s a choice until it isn’t. Addictions always perpetuate lies as a method for their survival, not yours. Lies are the only language they speak. And they are extremely convincing.

But we are more in control of our experience than we realize. We don’t realize how much time lies steal from us. Some of it we will never realize, so far behind the green curtain it is. But even chipping away at the theft of our time we know about will improve the quality of our lives.

All we have to do is remember that love is infinitely more powerful than fear and takes far less effort to see it realized in this world. Concentrate on togetherness and unity and uniqueness. It will lighten the burden on your heart and put a little extra time back on your clock. You deserve it.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, April 3, 2021 - The Pop-Up Prophet

 Most of us have heard of the term “hermetically sealed.” It’s a reference to a scientific procedure which seals a vessel’s contents from the outside environment. Beyond that, most of us non-academics rarely hear any reference to the person with whom that scientific procedure is associated. Mainly because we’re not one hundred percent certain that that person is actually a person.

And yet, an individual most commonly referred to as Hermes Trismagistus is credited by some to be the single most important influencer in human history. Even though there was no one single person named Hermes Trismagistus, he is identified throughout human civilization by many different names ranging from the Prophet Idris in Islam to the Egyptian god Thoth. 

I’m not sure what conclusions it is safe to draw from this. There are theories ranging from ancient aliens to archangels as to what this through-line of a personage might be. I am the farthest thing from an academic on the subject. But it’s worth spending a little time digging through the weeds if you’re curious to look into it for yourself. It’s quite fascinating how far reaching this “individual’s” influence has been on human civilization. 

Of course there are many conclusions we can draw as to why so many different civilizations have identified a specific individual with cross references to how he is named by other cultures built into their own scriptures about him. It’s almost like the different cultures together draw a map of this “person’s” travels through history. Dispensing wisdom and knowledge to each culture as he goes like an epochal Johnny Appleseed.

Is it necessary to believe it or not? I don’t think whether it’s true really matters. We could argue ad infinitum about whether or not a person, or being, now referred to as Hermes Trismagistus could actually exist, or we could look at what’s attributed to him. That’s actually where the value is anyway. And if he existed, he wouldn’t want you to be arguing about who he was as much as he’d want you to just learn from what has been shared.

This approach is useful elsewhere as well. We don’t always have to argue about the origin stories in order to take value from something. Good advice is good advice, regardless of its source. There’s no point in debating origins. Turn your attention to the advice itself. 

One of the more prominent documents attributed to Hermes Trismagistus is called the Corpus Heremeticum. It was written over a 1,500 year period of time. Definitely not the work of a single human being, obviously, but rather a compendium of aggregate knowledge which found itself collected into a manila folder tabbed “Hermes.” Again, however, the true source of that knowledge is pointless to debate, a curiosity though it may be. Even tabbing the folder “Hermes” is a misrepresentation of the many names given for him.

In my lane as a minister of a multi-faith tradition, I have perused the Corpus Heremeticum. It’s a heavy lift. 

I am not a scholar of this work. I advise that my mostly-uneducated viewpoint should be taken with a grain of salt. I present it nonetheless as food for thought. But the second line of the Corpus Hermeticum struck me most prominently. Everything else I did manage to read afterward seemed to reside on the shoulders of that short preamble. 

“For there can be no religion more true or just, than to know the things that are; and to acknowledge thanks for all things, to him that made them, which thing I shall not cease continually to do.”

The rest can get a little mucky to understand. But it’s still worth reading as it has become an informant to mainstream culture in so many ways. That’s an exploration for another time.

Returning to the quote, the most fascinating part to me is the phrase, “to know the things that are.” The word “are” is particularly definitive here because it is stating a belief that there is indeed an objective reality out there worth pursuing, a universal truth which exists with or without our belief. For example, black holes and other anomalies in space are whatever they truly are whether we are accurately seeing, perceiving or reporting them. A black hole’s nature is a thing which is. 

Hermes' second sentence of the Corpus Hermeticum affirms the existence of truth, aka “the things that are.” It places importance on seeking the truth and living in pursuit of it. It is humble in the sense that it’s not claiming it knows exactly what the Ultimate Reality is, but that It exists as an objective truth whether we’ve figured It out or not. Whatever is real is real, whether we believe in it or not, or whether we even have the capacity to perceive it or not. If there is a God then It likely does not need our belief in It to exist.

It’s the pursuit of knowing which Hermes is saying we should never cease. He believed it should be like a religion to us, this relentless pursuit of understanding. And when we look at the world’s religions, that’s exactly what we see. Thousands of different attempts to cognize and understand the things that are.

That thought encompasses an entire life practice, really. Its foundation is a belief in the pursuit of truth, and to be constantly grateful for the beauty of this earth. If we do nothing more than those, only good shall come of it.

Eons of wisdom from multiple cultures in fields ranging from astrology to philosophy, alchemy, and the divine sciences, emanating from a single two-pronged practice: the pursuit of truth and gratitude. 

In our fast food, short-attention span culture, these are very useful bits of advice, well packaged, cleanly branded, and with a marketing plan so ingenious it has wormed its way into the very fibers of our civilization. 

Now we just have to follow the advice to benefit from it.

Look for truth in your life. It’s very difficult to find lies, despite their prevalence. Lies are very good at hiding themselves with smoke screens, distractions, and deflections. Truth never hides itself or tries to dissemble its rationale for existing. It waits for you to notice it. Or to notice its absence and then look for it. 

When we make it our mission to look for truth, it’s easier to find that than it is to protect ourselves from lies. Looking for truth expands upon our ability to perceive it over time. It takes some of the burden off of our worry over the misinformation which exists everywhere, be it intentional or accidental. Worry less about lies, and celebrate truth wherever you find it. That will become your predominant experience over time.

Find reliable fact checkers. Question the factual authenticity of various news outlets and gravitate toward those that go farther than you yourself might do to verify information. Subscribe to media outlets that perform rigorous fact checking. They are not unicorns. They do exist, and we should place more of our trust (and subscription dollars) in them.

In a very real sense, that activity becomes a prayer for truth. It acts as a signal to the universe that truth shall be your experience, and a promise to maintain humility in the face of unknowing. 

It’s interesting that a quote about objective truth would be attributed to an individual whose existence we might question. But where have we heard that before?