Gandhi’s Sixth Social Sin: Worship Without Sacrifice

I find it surprising that I am writing about Gandhi and his ideas.  Surprising in that while growing up I was as far from a non-violent philosophy as anyone could be.  Sometimes it seemed like my whole life was violence, anger and fighting.  I joined the military out of high school and hoped to kill as many “commies” as I could.  I continued my violent ways for many years and to be honest I am still no pacifist.  I would not turn the other cheek once if you hit me, never mind 40 times. I am still on the border line about capital punishment.  One day I think Capital Punishment is terribly useless institution made even worse by its ineffectiveness at deterring crime. The next day I read of some horrendous crime that I feel can only be rectified by punishments that go well beyond the heinousness of legal murder.  If Gandhi were my father, he would surely disown me. 

Gandhi is one of those heroic icons who cannot be ignored.  Whether you believe in his ideas or not, you cannot deny that he tried to live according to his beliefs.  More important was that he lived to help others have a better life.  Everything Gandhi did paid evidence to his ideology that humans could be better than they were.  I know many people who think that educators, psychologists, social workers and other “human service” workers are just a waste of taxpayer money.  These same people are continually on the front line for more prisons and more military hardware.  It is evident to such people that humans can not improve and thus the only betterment of humanity lies in more weapons, more police, more military and more guns.  Gandhi would have professed the exact opposite and worked to create a world that was non-violent and where disputes could be resolved by civil discourse.

Years ago, I dropped my belief in God and in religions.  I came to the conclusion that the first did not exist and the second was evil. It seemed to me that much of the misery on the earth came from one or the other of the major religions.  The crusades, the inquisition, the Protestant Catholic wars, the wars against “Pagans” all showed me conclusively that religions did more harm than good. When I joined the military, I would not speak to any clergy and when they came around; I always avoided them.  I was even rude to them at times as I regarded them as hypocrites.  My first wife and I did not practice any religion together but I did bring my daughter around to several different religious venues as I wanted to at least expose her to them.  My second marriage was to a more deeply religious woman who practices her faith regularly by participating in church affairs and helping out at many church functions.  I often kid her about some of these events but I have come to a different point in my life regarding their benefit to the world.  I am somewhat less judgmental about religions and people then I was in my younger days. 

What does this mean for me about religions and how I regard them today?  I can say with sincerity that I still see much evil that comes out of religion, not to mention its ongoing hypocrisy (for instance where were all the churches and ministers when we invaded Iraq both the first and second times?).  However, I also see many good things that they now do, from supporting health care for poor people to championing efforts to feed people both domestically and abroad.  There are many other examples of good things that are done by churches and religious leaders.  So what does Gandhi mean by “Worship without Sacrifice?”  Is Gandhi against organized religion?  Here is the description from the Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence that summarizes Gandhi’s ideas in respect to his Sixth Social Sin: 

“Worship without Sacrifice: One person’s faith is another person’s fantasy because religion has been reduced to meaningless rituals practiced mindlessly. Temples, churches, synagogues, mosques and those entrusted with the duty of interpreting religion to lay people seek to control through fear of hell, damnation, and purgatory. In the name of God they have spawned more hate and violence than any government. True religion is based on spirituality, love, compassion, understanding, and appreciation of each other whatever our beliefs may be — Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, Agnostics or whatever. Gandhi believed whatever labels we put on our faith; ultimately all of us worship Truth because Truth is God. Superficially we may be very devout believers and make a tremendous public show of our worship, but if that belief, understanding, compassion, love and appreciation is not translated into our lives, prayers will have no meaning. True worship demands sacrifice not just in terms of the number of times a day we say our prayers but in how sincere we are in translating those prayers into life styles. In the 1930’s many Christian and Muslim clergy flocked into India to convert the millions who were oppressed as untouchables. The Christian clergy stood on street corners loudly denouncing Hinduism and proclaiming the virtues of Christianity. Months went by without a single convert accepting the offer. Frustrated, one priest asked Grandfather: After all the oppression and discrimination that the ‘untouchables’ suffer under Hinduism, why is it they do not accept our offer of a better life under Christianity? Grandfather replied: When you stop telling them how good Christianity is and start living it, you will find more converts than you can cope with. These words of wisdom apply to all religions of the world. We want to shout from roof-tops the virtues of our beliefs and not translate them into our lives.”

Gandhi’s words remind me of a comment by Sitting Bull. When asked what he thought of Christianity he replied:   “From what I have read it is an admirable religion, however I do not see any white people practicing it.”  From a Native American perspective, the only thing the conquerors religions offered was a destruction of their habitats and lifestyles.  Witness the coming of the Spanish to the “New World” and the systematic destruction of the culture and religions that already existed by the Spanish military and their allied missionaries.  The genocidal destruction of indigenous peoples throughout the world is full of pompous and pretentious efforts to “convert” and save them from their evil ways.  In reality, religion only provided an expedient excuse to separate them from their lands and gold.  We have in much of the history of organized religion a clear example of what Gandhi meant by Worship without Sacrifice.

Perhaps surprising to some though, true Christianity is firm that Worship without Sacrifice is worthless: 

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and be well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

 

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.  

 

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

 

You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?  Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.  And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend.  You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.”

                    James 2:14-26- New International Version

Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son for his religious beliefs. This is Worship with Sacrifice.  Going to church on Sunday or simply reading the Bible is Worship without Sacrifice.  When Jesus said that the two most important Commandments were Love God and Love Everyone, he meant you had to practice your faith by helping others who were less fortunate.  This has made it very difficult for most of humankind to be his followers in deed as well as in professed belief.  It is far easier to say “I am a Christian, then to “Sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  It is much easier to pray, worship, and read the Bible than to actually practice what Jesus was saying.  Think for a minute what it would mean if all would be Christians really practiced the “Love Everyone Commandment?  A short list of the consequences of this would mean:

  • No religious wars
  • No Jihads
  • No terrorism
  • No murders
  • No rapes
  • No assaults
  • NO WARS PERIOD

Can you imagine a world without these problems?  This is the world we would have if everyone practiced their religions by deeds and not just words.  However, this would require sacrifice and too many people are not really willing to sacrifice for their religion, for Jesus or for God.  Sacrifice means giving up something to help others, not giving up something to gain something for you.  Those who blow up their bodies to attain paradise with 40 vestal virgins are not sacrificing for others; they are simply trying to take a shortcut to attain what other greedy people already have.  Any religion that terrorizes others in the name of “whoever” or “whatever” is evil regardless of what it calls itself.  This raises the question that might be phased as “What is the purpose of religion.”  Searching the web it is easy to find that many have condemned organized religion because of the atrocities associated with it. Great thinkers from Plato to Thomas Jefferson to Bertrand Russell have had little good to say about religions.  However, I like the following comment from WaheguruNet regarding what positive role religion could and indeed should play in society:

“Religion has and continues to impact almost every aspect of human civilization in both positive and negative ways. The great spiritual masters from all traditions have taught that we need to adopt and develop higher qualities of love, mercy, generosity, kindness and so on. These higher qualities are a natural byproduct of developing a deeper connection with our spiritual nature and so in this respect religion can be thought of as a vehicle to support our spiritual development and our re-connection with divinity.  In this way, human beings will be better at working together to create a better and more harmonious world.”

You will notice that in this purpose there is nothing mentioned about doom and destruction  or about going to hell and suffering for the rest of your life or about your neighbor who is a hypocrite and unlike you is destined for fire and brimstone.  The purpose of religion is to help us become better people. To help us find our connection to our inner spirit and to help guide us in living a more just and moral life.  This purpose must be followed by actions and deeds as well as pious readings and professed beliefs. There is no room Gandhi’s religion or Jesus’s religion for bigotry, discrimination, prejudice, hatred, intolerance and destruction of others or their belief systems.   

Time for Questions:

What can we do to practice good deeds as well as good thoughts? What sacrifices are you willing to make to help others?  Are we making a true sacrifice by telling others how hard we worked and that they can be what we are if they only try?  Should we simply tell others to pull themselves up by their boot straps?  Are all people really created equal in the sense that everyone has an equal chance at health and happiness?  Can we help make it so by sharing what we have with others?  

Life is just beginning.

 

 

Memorial Day: Just another holiday?

It often seems that special days like:  Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Labor Day and many other “Holy-days” have lost their meaning.  They have become corrupted by our greed for leisure time and pleasure.  They represent “just another day off with pay.”  The true meaning and purpose of the day lies undiscovered in our rush to party or go to the big game.  How many of us celebrate the true meaning anymore of days like Memorial Day?  Do you realize that this is a day set aside to celebrate and commemorate the heroism and sacrifice of the millions of veterans who have given their lives for our freedom and way of life?  Do you ever wonder where these men and women got their courage from or how they could give up so much for you and me?  How many of us would risk our lives for an idea or for someone we did not know or for a principle that many people would hate us for upholding? 

In No time for heroes– an article by Bernie Reeves (May 2001), he writes:

 “Yet, even the most decorated veterans of the World War II era make it clear that they did not set out to become heroes, they just did their job. Heroes, it seems, are not born but created by events.  And the events have to be interpreted in the right light to qualify for hero creation.” 

 We have seen periods in history where heroes were laughed at as romantic fools and other periods where the lack of heroes was bemoaned.  Since 911, it seems that we are on the upswing, with heroism being lauded practically daily in the news or TV media.  We have seen anti-heroes, superheroes, cowards who become heroes and people for whom heroism is a part of their daily job.  At one point, a hero was anyone who risked their life to save others when they were under no obligation to do so.  We did not think of a hero or heroine as someone “just” doing their job. Today though, doctors, soldiers, nurses, fire-people and police are all hailed as heroes. There was a poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson called “Richard Cory” in which everyone admired and envied the dapper and suave Mr. Cory. 

 In fine, we thought that he was everything

To make us wish that we were in his place

 And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,

Went home and put a bullet through his head.

Dr. Ossian Sweet, (1905-1960) an African American man who stood up for what he believed and was a hero by any stretch of the imagination said:  “I have to die a man or live a coward.”  Dr. Sweet tried his hand at politics, running four times and losing each time.  He married his childhood sweetheart but divorced and remarried; his second marriage also ending in divorce.  In 1960, after years of ill health and depression, he was found dead, a bullet through his head and a revolver in his hand.  It is tough work being a hero.

We admire heroes and heroines and the world is a better place because of them. We each wonder in our hearts when we hear some heroic story what we would have done. Would we have just stood there watching or would we have run into the burning house, jumped into the icy pond or charged the raging bull.  Would we give our lives for our country and its values?  I hope that our world will always have a time for heroes and heroines and not make a mockery of their bravery by downgrading days like today as simply another day for a picnic.

People who give their lives for us may not be any different from the rest of us and they may never be able to live up to the expectations that attend their heroism but we should all be forever grateful to them.  Heroes and heroines show us a better world that could be when selfishness and greed are cast aside for love, country and values.   

Time for Questions:

Do you really remember the heroism and suffering paid by millions this Memorial Day for your freedom?  Do you stop to give thanks to Veterans? Are you one of those who have lost your sense of perspective on these special days?  Are your holy-days just another day of vacation?  What will it take for you to put the “holy” back into your holidays and to remember their true meaning?  

Life is just beginning.

 

Gandhi’s Fifth Social Sin: Science without Humanity

According to some theories, humans first interpreted the world in terms of magic and superstition.  It was believed that gods and sorcery determined and predicted whatever happened in the world. The Bible of course, states that a single God created the world but in many other cultures multiple gods were deemed responsible for creating, organizing and virtually running the world.  After many centuries, humans started explaining the world and why things ran based on a new concept called Religion.  Religious beliefs supplanted magic as an explanation for why things happened.  If you were good, good things happened to you and if you were bad, bad things happened to you.  Priests had the power of life and death over their constituents.  Witness the crucifixion of Jesus Christ wherein the Pharisees basically took the matter out of Pilate’s hands and had Jesus condemned to death.   Religion ruled for many centuries until what we call the “Enlightenment” Age when philosophy started to replace religion as a new way to  explain why things happened.  According to Wikipedia:

Originating about 1650 to 1700, the Enlightenment was sparked by philosophers Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677), John Locke (1632–1704), Pierre Bayle (1647–1706), physicist Isaac Newton (1643–1727),[2] and philosopher Voltaire (1694–1778). Ruling princes often endorsed and fostered figures and even attempted to apply their ideas of government in what was known as enlightened absolutism. The Scientific Revolution is closely tied to the Enlightenment, as its discoveries overturned many traditional concepts and introduced new perspectives on nature and man’s place within it.

Philosophers attempted to use reason and logic to explain the world and why things happened. Superstition, magic and religion were now deemed as “unreasonable” since their explanations of the world were not based on sound principles of logic and thought.  Philosophers began to supplant priests as having the explanations for what made the world work as it did.  Many of the theories during the Enlightenment drew upon the ideas of Plato and Aristotle who proceeded this era by nearly 2000 years.  It should not be thought that magic and religion were totally discounted as explanations of the world.  It is more accurate to say that they were “dethroned” as being the best way to explain the world. People today still rely on magic and religious beliefs as explanations for why and how the world works. 

Moving along, it did not take many years for philosophy to be replaced by science as an even better way of explaining the world. As with each new way of explaining the world, there was overlap with the previous method.  Philosophy and religion had much in common as did the scientific method and philosophy.  However, there were some major differences. Whereas philosophy relied on logic and thought, the scientific method uses strict empirical evidence for determining truth and links causality to repeatable demonstrations of events that can be witnessed by even an unbiased observer.  In science there is no room for subjectivity, biases or opinions.  The Scientific Method is defined as:

A method of investigation in which a problem is first identified and observations, experiments, or other relevant data are then used to construct or test hypotheses that purport to solve it.

In the 21st Century, the new King to explain how and why the world works the way it does is science.  The majority of the population has shifted from accepting explanations of reality given by priests, philosophers and witch doctors to explanations given by doctors, scientists and “expert” witnesses.  Each of these latter groups base their expertise (Or so they say) on the Scientific Method.  The Scientific Method gives them credibility and is accepted in our courts today as the most credible method for establishing the validity and reliability of evidence from blood tests, to fingerprints to DNA tests.  Of course, good old opinions and biases still show up in our courts but basically, we deem the Justice method to be a method that relies on science to prove the guilt or innocence of any suspects and not voodoo, religion or magic.  So what does Gandhi mean by Science without Humanity?

“This is science used to discover increasingly more gruesome weapons of destruction that threaten to eventually wipe out humanity. The NRA says guns don’t kill people, people kill people. What they do not say is that if people didn’t have guns they wouldn’t have the capacity to kill as quickly or as easily. If hunting can be considered a sport, it is the most insensitive and dehumanizing sport on earth. How can killing animals bring fun and excitement to anyone? This is pleasure without conscience. When we cease to care for any life, we cease to respect all life. No other species on earth has wrought more destruction than man. Materialism has made us possessive. The more we possess the more we need to protect and so the more ruthless we become. As punishment, we will kill if someone steals to buy bread. We feel violated. But we will not bother our heads to find out why, in times of plenty, people have to live in hunger. In order to protect and secure our homes, our neighborhoods, our countries from attacks, we use science to discover frightening weapons of destruction. The debate over the use of the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a question that falls under this category. War is sometimes inevitable only because we are such ardent nationalists that we quickly label ourselves by our country of origin, by gender, by the color of our skin, by the language we speak, by the religion we practice, by the town or the state we come from and so on. The labels dehumanize us, and we become mere objects. Not too long ago even wars were fought according to rules, regulations, ethics and some semblance of morality. Then Hitler changed the rules because of his monumental hate and the rest of us followed suit. Now we can obliterate cities and inhabitants by pressing a button and not be affected by the destruction because we don’t see it.”

One of my favorite quotes has always been the comment by Max Born that the development of space travel was “A triumph of intellect but a tragic failure of reason.”  This same comment has been applied to many scientific triumphs from the atom bomb to the development of Fracking to remove oil and natural gas.  We have become so enamored or perhaps so ensnared by the power of the scientific method that we often suspend our criticism of its developments or products.  We mindlessly accept that science knows better than we do.  Each new development of ever more lethal weapons is uncritically accepted since they will “save” lives and shorten the length of the “new” war we want to wage. We have harnessed the power of science to create machines and products that are almost unlimited in their capacities to destroy.  We accept these in the name of science which cannot be questioned.

On a more personal basis, we allow science and scientists and anyone claiming a link to the scientific method to explain and control our bodies.  We need a new hip replacement, we need this heart surgery, we need this knee replacement, we need this cancer treatment, we need this pill, we need this procedure, and we need this diet.  We are willing to accept anything the “experts” tell us because we have no desire or ability to challenge the scientific method.  We are so blinded by the obfuscations of the new witch doctors that we don’t see the shell game they are playing on us.  It is a game that relies on our complete credibility of their methods and their expertise.  We suspend all thought processes when in the sphere of these marvelous scientists who seem to be able to explain everything from how long it took to create the universe to how long it will take us to recover from our surgery.  We forget a very important factor in this process.

Science never did and never will have a heart.  It has no humanity.  The scientific method does not use any system of ethics or morality to determine its direction and goals.  The pure scientist is an automaton who will work for a Roosevelt or a Hitler.  The doctor that you so thoroughly rely on for your procedures and prescriptions is as motivated by his/her financial interests as by an interest in your health and well-being.  If this latter fact were not enough to give you pause, consider the infatuation that doctors and scientists often have with their own products.  The new knee implant, the new pacemaker, the new hip socket, the new medication are all designed to last forever and to cure whatever you have.  But then again, maybe not!  Are we forgetting the side effects in our rush to take this pill or allow this operation?  Do we really need a new knee or hip or should we really lose a hundred or so pounds?  Do we really need to be on these pills or should we simply change our diets or exercise more?  What does humanity have to do with this? 

Humanity is the moral compass that we need must guide our efforts and work.  What do we mean by humanity?  Here are a set of definitions for humanity:

Humanity

  1. The quality of being human; the peculiar nature of man, by which he is distinguished from other beings.
  2. Mankind collectively; the human race.
  3. The quality of being humane; the kind feelings, dispositions, and sympathies of man; especially, a disposition to relieve persons or animals in distress, and to treat all creatures with kindness and tenderness.
  4. Mental cultivation; liberal education; instruction in classical and polite literature.
  5. The branches of polite or elegant learning; as language, rhetoric, poetry, and the ancient classics; belles-letters.

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/words/hu/humanity174669.html#4i0OmiXESZB3liZE.99 

We must act and live as human beings and not as animals. To produce something without a moral compass might be legitimate in light of the fact that objects often have multiple and even ambiguous uses. However, to use anything without a moral compass whether it is a gun, bomb or surgical procedure is simply evil.  It is evil because it can result in destruction that has no redeeming value.  When we act without a moral compass, we act out of greed, anger, vengeance, jealousy, or simply mindlessness.  We act as animals and not as human beings.  Actions based on such motives and allied with scientifically designed weapons and procedures can only bring destruction to us and the world. Gandhi had the foresight to see this fact in 1925 long before atom bombs, guided missiles and laser weapons were developed.  Just as commerce without morality is evil, science without humanity is evil.  That is why Gandhi labeled it a social sin. 

Time for Questions:

Do you believe that science is the best method for solving the world’s problems?  How much of the scientific method do you understand?  Do you rely on others to explain science to you?  Do you value the benefits of science?  What would you change about science and how it is often interpreted?  How can we improve our understanding of the world?  Is there any room for magic and religion? 

Life is just beginning.

 

Sin and Evil

I hope you will excuse the apparent redundancy in the title of this blog.  I had started it as Sin and the Serial Killer but then decided it would be Sin and the Mass Killer.  I wanted to include spree, serial and mass murderers in this treatise on sin and evil.  The title, Sin, Serial Killers, Spree Killers and Mass Murderers: Why are they Evil?, just seemed too long.  Actually, if you think Sin and Evil are redundant, I can assure you they are not the same. 

When I was a young boy going to a Catholic School called Mount St. Francis, I learned that there were two types of sin:  Venial and Mortal.  A Mortal sin (if un-confessed at death) would earn you a one way ticket straight to hell.  No stops along the way.  A Venial sin would get you into a place called Purgatory.  If I remember correctly, Purgatory was a lot like hell, you did not get to see God and it was awfully hot. However, a ticket to Purgatory could eventually be exchanged for a ticket to heaven.  You merely had to sit in Purgatory for some length of time and then you would be allowed to change your place of residence.

Way back then, and even today, I had a hard time trying to figure out what were Venial Sins and what were Mortal sins.  Perhaps this is why I rejected the catechism of Catholicism and eventually all of organized religion.   The nuances and intricacies of getting to heaven or hell were beyond my cognitive capacities.  For instance, one of my great pleasures “Masturbation” was good for a ticket to hell.  I cannot tell you how many tickets I earned to hell while deriving great pleasure from this pastime.  I still cannot understand why something that hurts no one, including myself and is actually a great deal of fun would be deemed a Mortal sin.  Neither can I give you an example of a Venial sin since I think I never committed any.  Somehow all of my sins at the time were Mortal:  Disobeying my parents, taking the Lord’s name in vain and having sex without marriage.  I was good for at least 50 Hail Marys’ at every confession I went to. 

So since we cannot define sin, can we say that there is no sin?  Assuredly you would answer NO!  Sin is Evil.  If so, then we must define evil.  If we say that evil is committing a sin, then we really are being redundant.   Perhaps looking at some definitions of evil might help us with this problem.  Here are some various definitions of evil:

  • Profound immorality, wickedness, and depravity, esp. when regarded as a supernatural force.
  • According to the Bible evil becomes a reality in the very beginning with the first couple. Sin produces evil. Gen 2:9, the tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
  • Although the Bible meaning of evil includes the idea of sinfulness or wickedness in many cases, it also has a broader meaning that is commonly used. In this broader meaning, evil refers to those things that are generally thought of as bad or undesirable; or as the dictionary says, “causing pain or trouble.” This would include things such as wars or disease and this is the kind of evil referred to in Isaiah 45:7.

I think you can easily see that the common definitions of sin and evil are not very helpful on a day to day basis.  It could be argued quite easily that one person’s sin is another person’s good.  Or that sin and evil are simply social conventions defined by majority thought.  Wars and disease are part of the normal fabric of life and when were any political leaders ever consigned to hell because they declared war?  It seems like a rather good idea but I don’t see it happening anytime soon. 

I suppose you are expecting me then to make a case (perhaps already started) that there is no such thing as sin or perhaps even evil?  Actually, I want to argue the opposite.  The older and I hope wiser I have become the more I see that Sin and Evil actually do exist.  Sin and Evil are behaviors that create havoc and devastation in the world. 

My path to this conclusion lay in my thinking about mass murderers.   Much of the general public are fascinated by the subject of serial killers.  It would seem that at least ½ of the novels on the best seller list have serial killers as their theme.  We are intrigued and perplexed by trying to understand why anyone would commit the crimes (a legal term as I use it and not to be confused necessarily with sin or evil) that these individuals do.  If anything could be generally agreed on as evil by most people, it would be these types of murders, including; spree, serial and mass type executions done by individuals and not sanctioned by state or governmental authority.  So we do have at least one area that we can agree on as evil.  Perhaps a definition of evil as applied to such killers would be:  “The taking of random innocent lives by unknown assailants for no apparent purpose.”  But then are these killers also sinners?   Again, you would readily answer yes to this question, but why?  Where in the Bible does it condemn mass killings as sinful?  The Old Testament is full of mass killings perpetrated for gain and convenience.  What sets the mass murderer apart from the murders perpetuated by one society against another society?  Is there any difference? 

I think the answer is yes.  If you look at the motivation of the mass murderers, people like Bundy, Gacy, Dahmer and many others you will find some common purposes.  Wikipedia defines the “motives” of serial killers as: 

The motives of serial killers are generally placed into four categories: visionarymission-orientedhedonistic and power or control; however, the motives of any given killer may display considerable overlap among these categories.  Wikipedia

What does not emerge from this typology is the rather obvious fact that in each case, the perpetrator has destroyed something and created nothing.  All mass murderers destroy and leave nothing of any value for the world.  They gain their joy from the act of destruction. Whether they torture their victims or kill them all in mass with a bomb, mass murderers derive their pleasure at the moment of destruction.  Everything else connected with their heinous crimes are prelude and postscript.  Nothing gives the mass killer more pleasure than their ability to destroy and their anticipation of destruction.  The literature is full of examples of impotent murderers who were able to achieve potency only at the point of the actual murder of their victims.  This has been true in mass killings as well as individual killings. 

If Evil is the destruction of life, then Sin is the arrogation of the power to destroy life by an individual.  It has often been claimed that there is a Yin and Yang in the world and that Good is the opposite of Evil.  Or that the Devil represents Sin and Evil and God represents Virtue and Goodness.  I believe this is wrong.  It is a false dichotomy.  The mass killer wants to be like God.  God is the ultimate power.  The Devil cannot stand up to God.  In the madness of the mass killer, they want to experience the power of God.  However, there is a grave difference between the power of God and the power of the Devil.  The Devil only has the power to destroy.  God has the power to both create and destroy.  But the destruction of the Devil and the destruction of God are not the same. The destruction that God creates is a cosmic destruction that is part of the cycle of life.  God’s destruction perpetuates creation by allowing a continuous cycle of birth and rebirth throughout the universe.  The Devil’s destruction creates nothing except evil.  The mass killer destroys but never creates.  On a more limited scale, vandals are evil because they destroy without creating anything. 

To conclude then, I would define Sin as the taking of power to destroy by an individual without the responsibility to create.  Evil is destruction without the creation of value.  Someone who destroys something may be guilty of both being Sinful and Evil.  The mass murderer wants to be like God and to experience the power of God but in the end fails.  Humans can never have the power to create life except where some life did not first exist.  The definition of God is one who can give life and can also take it away.  I know not whether there is a God as defined by organized religion but there is a power in the universe which perpetuates a creative cycle of birth and rebirth or creation and destruction.  There are also those people who have more in common with the Devil since they only destroy.  This is the evil of the mass murderer and any who would be God without the responsibility to create as well as to destroy. 

Time for Questions:

What do you think Evil is?  Do you think the Devil really exists?  What is Goodness?  Can humans be both good and evil?  When does anything become pure evil?  Do we really need a God in the world?  Why or Why not?  What role does God play in your life?  What role does the Devil play? 

Life is just beginning.

 

 

 

Where Can You Find Beauty?

Of course the answer to this question is that beauty is all around us.  However, some things seem more beautiful than others and they are either worth being noted or worth being found.  (And yes, I realize Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but that is a cliché.  Some things are indeed universally beautiful.)  If noted, they are somehow singled out for special attention.  They may become landmarks or tourist attractions like: Niagara Falls, The Grand Canyon or Carlsbad Caverns.  If you have ever visited any of these places, you know that you can stare and stare and stare at them for days.  You want to somehow drink or absorb their beauty.  You can walk around them and from different vantage points they provide a different panorama of beauty.  I am sure you can add many places or items to the list that I call “Noted” beauty.  By the way, “noted” beauty may include people, place, things or even ideas.  Someone noted that Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was beautiful in its simplicity.  Matthew R. Crawford in his blog “Albert Einstein on Beauty, Science and God” believes that:

“what drove Einstein to his scientific conclusions was a conviction that nature displayed a beauty that was discernible, and that a characteristic feature of this beauty was simplicity.”

There are many lists of “beautiful men and women.  Every few years, the list of notable women beauties includes such familiar celebrities as:  Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, Amanda Seyfried and Halle Berry.  These are just a few of the many notable beauties who get nominated each year for the “most beautiful woman in the world list.”  I keep waiting to get nominated for most beautiful man in the world but alas to date, my name has not appeared on any lists.  They keep picking guys that would be low on my list like:  Matthew McConaughey, Brad Kroenig and Josh Harnett.  So there is no accounting for taste which is why some people say “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”   However, I have already stated that this is a lie.  Some beauty is universal.  The beauty of a rose or a humming bird or a newborn baby can be put on a list of things that are universally admired.

Then there are the items that I will put in the “unnoted” beauty list.  Unnoted beauty is beauty that surrounds us or that is often hidden to our eyes either because we take it for granted or because for some reason it has not become popular.  Many “beautiful” items become fashionable and then are assumed to be beautiful.  The “notable” beauty list is full of such items.  These items have the weight of public opinion on their side.  For instance, the Mona Lisa is considered to be one of the most beautiful pictures in the world and no trip to Paris is said to be complete without a visit to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa.  Right?  Well, sorry but I don’t agree.  Not only would I say it was not worth the effort, (Go to the Louvre anyway, you will not be disappointed) but I did not think it was such a great picture and NO, the eyes did not follow me.  I am not sure where that bit about the eyes comes from but I think many viewers must have been sucked up into a form of mass hysteria if they really believe the eyes followed them anywhere. 

“Unnoted” beauty surrounds us as well and unlike notable beauty, unnoted beauty is most often free.  You have only to open your eyes and you can find unnoted in everything that encompasses you. Sometimes unnoted beauty is found in the least likely places.  On our trip back to Wisconsin from Arizona, Karen and I stopped for two days in Bisbee, Arizona to see some sights.  We went to the art shops, clothes shops, and antique stores and spend a day in Tombstone watching reenactments of the “Old West.”  One night we went out for a walk (We stayed at the Bisbee Grand Hotel which I highly recommend).  Prices, food, service, rooms were all incredible.  For $65 dollars a night we had a wonderful room and a great hot full breakfast each morning.  The view from the balcony which we ate out on was spectacular and in the saloon next door on a Tuesday night we were able to hear a great live Klezmer band called the The Underscore Orkestra which played for three hours a variety of jazz, Balkan and swing music.  They were staying in our hotel and traveling around the world performing.  You can find their schedule at their website.  If you enjoy some eclectic music you will really enjoy the Underscore Orkestra.  If you see them say hi to Jorge and Joshua and Willo for me.  They were fun to listen to and talk to as well. 

To return to our walk, we decided to journey up hill, Bisbee seems to have two parts, uphill and downhill.  We had already toured downhill so we decided to visit uphill.  As we walked by a number of shops we came to an area where there was a large town hall and some municipal buildings.  Right behind the buildings was a large church.   We always enjoy looking in churches to see how they are decorated.  Most churches would not be on any list of notable beauty but you can often find some very beautiful artifacts in them that are not on any tourist list or brochure.  Unfortunately, today most churches now are locked except during service hours.  Since it was nearly 7 PM, we did not expect the church to be open. 

Remaining an optimist, I walked up the steps to the church and pulled on the door.  Sadly, it was locked. As I started to walk down the steps, I heard a voice call out “Would you like to go inside.”  I saw a young man in a pickup truck starting to climb out and approach me.  I did not want to importune him but since he offered, I said “sure, thanks,” He opened the doors and turned the lights on for Karen and I.  When he did, we were astonished.  As the Millennium generation like to say, it was awesome.  Before us, were the most beautiful stained glass windows I have ever seen in my life!   I don’t want to brag, but I have been in many churches and cathedrals including the Vatican, Notre Dame and St. Patrick’s in New York.  Never in any place in my entire life, have I seen a more beautiful set of stained glass windows.  There were two large ones at the front and two at the back of the church, a ceiling window and stained glass windows along each side of the church.  Karen and I just looked and looked. We did not have our camera.  Finally, while we did not want to leave, we decided we should probably let Jesus go home.  I had introduced myself to the man that let us in and he told us a little about the church and we exchanged names and thanked him profusely for letting us in.

On this special evening in Bisbee, Arizona “unnoted beauty” was displayed before us in two ways.  The first is obvious. We saw some beautiful art that was not on any tourist list I have yet seen.  I should mention, we went back the next day and the church was open so we went in again and this time we took some pictures.  I was also so impressed that on the morning we left, I rose early and went to a 7:30 AM mass they held at the church.   Jesus was there as were about 7 or 8 other parishioners.  I found out that the name of the church was St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church.  A subsequent web search revealed the following facts about the church.  I should note that none of these facts were evident at the church or in any local tourist literature that I saw while in Bisbee.  Hence, I still proclaim this to be an “unnoted” treasure and beauty.

Perched 200 feet above the floor of Tombstone Canyon in historic Bisbee, Arizona, St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church stands as a monument to the exuberant determination of the town’s early residents to transform a primitive mining camp into one of the largest commercial centers in early Arizona.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Gothic Revival church is a copy of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in the Irish district of Whitehaven, England.

 

St. Patrick’s 41 stained glass windows were designed and produced by Emil Frei, whose work is recognized as an unsurpassed example of Victorian-style stained glass.

 

The Bavarian-born Frei (1869-1942) studied at the Munich Academy of Art before immigrating to the United States in the late 1800s. In 1900 he opened the Emil Frei Art Glass Company in St. Louis, Missouri.

Now for the second example of beauty that day, it is not as obvious as the windows but it is even more beautiful than the wonders of the church.  Think about this for a minute.  It is 7 PM at night, you have been doing construction work all day and it is time to return home to your family and a hot meal.  Just as you are getting ready to start your car and head home, two yahoo tourists walk up to your church and appear to be trying to gain entry.  You are not a tour guide or the pastor and you do not earn one cent by abandoning your original plans to go home and letting them in.  Furthermore, you have no idea how long they will remain or whether or not other tourists will suddenly emerge who want to come in.  What would the average store clerk do? What would the average store owner do? And bear in mind, they are potentially making some money off of visitors.  Jesus had nothing to gain and yet he took the time to let us in, talk to us and tell us some brief facts about the church.  So what was this “unnoted” beauty of which I speak?  I am talking about “beauty of the spirit” and that night in Bisbee, Jesus showed us what a beautiful spirit really was and how it gave to others with no thought of reward or privilege gained.   Jesus was not the parish priest and he had no responsibility at all in the area of perhaps talking to potential parishioners.  What Jesus did was done simply out of the beauty of the man’s heart. 

“The ideals which have always shone before me and filled me with the joy of living are goodness, beauty, and truth. To make a goal of comfort or happiness has never appealed to me; a system of ethics built on this basis would be sufficient only for a herd of cattle.”  – Albert Einstein.

 

“Of life’s two chief prizes, beauty and truth, I found the first in a loving heart and the second in a laborer’s hand.” – Kahil Gibran

Time for Questions:

Do you look for beauty in unexpected places?  Do you find that beauty can lie in ideas and spirit and not just in things and glamor?  Do you raise your children to see the beauty of life and not just accomplishments or rewards?  How do you find beauty?  Do you have enough beauty in your life?  Can you still find beauty despite growing old and more infirm?  Can you help others by sharing your beauty with them? 

Life is just beginning.

 

 

Underscore Orkestra

Underscore Orkestra

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Bisbee Grand Hotel

Bisbee Grand Hotel

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