Samson and Delilah:  A Modern Fable

samson

This is the story of Samson and Delilah.  It is a story of passion, romance, jealousy, intrigue, narcissism and maybe even murder.  Our story takes place in Brooklyn, New York.  The date is 2017.

body builder with long hairSamson was the strongest most well-built man on the block.  He had muscles chiseled in stone.  His muscles had muscles.  He stood 6 feet 4 inches tall and did not have an ounce of fat on him.   Samson worked out seven days a week, twice each day at the Philistine Gym on Gibeon Street.  He worked out before he went to work each morning and after work for two hours each evening.

Samson was easily the most powerful man in the gym.  Everybody admired Samson, but not quite as much as Samson admired himself.  It was said that he could not pass a mirror without flexing his muscles and taking a few moments to pose in various bodybuilding stances.

Delilah lived in the same neighborhood as Samson.  All of her neighbors agreed that she was the most beautiful woman they had ever seen.  She was tall with long blond hair and a perfectly proportioned figure.  Men could not help stopping in their tracks to stare when she walked by.  She looked like an angel.  She was so beautiful that many local artists would try to paint her from memory.

delilah side view

Delilah also went to the same gym as Samson.  All the guys in the gym would flex their biceps or triceps an extra amount each time that Delilah came near them.  All except Samson.  He seldom even noticed Delilah.  Delilah knew the effect that she had on men but she could care less. The only man that she was interested in was Samson.  Perhaps it was the old story about white body builder with long hairwanting something more because you can’t have it.  Delilah had only one other person she admired, herself.  Much like Sampson, she could not pass by a mirror without staring at her reflection and thinking “how beautiful I am.”

Samson wanted to show the world that he was the strongest man who ever lived.  To achieve this goal, he decided to attend the World Weightlifting Championship taking place in Brooklyn the year of our story.  He could already dead lift 1000 pounds and he was determined he would lift 1200 pounds to shatter the then current world record of 1102.3 pounds.

dead lifting

Now Samson was a tad superstitious.  Because he was lifting more each year and had never cut his hair, he believed that his strength grew proportionately along with the length of his hair.  He had let his hair grow for over ten years and his braid was now down almost to his waist.  He was certain that his strength was a result of his long hair.

delilah weight lifting 2Delilah grew more and more desperate in her attempts to get Samson to notice her.   Finally, she hit on the idea to simply approach Samson and remark on his wonderful hair.  So, one day while he was practicing his dead lifts, she sauntered by and casually remarked on how beautiful his hair was.  She proceeded to compliment him on his marvelous muscle definition.  She followed up these compliments with the suggestion that they go back to her place after working out and she would cook him a nice microwave dinner and brush his hair.  This idea delighted Samson and after working out, they both went to Delilah’s house.

delilah weightlifting

As you would guess, human nature being what it was, dinner turned into desert, desert turned into a night cap and a night cap woke up with breakfast.  After that evening, Delilah and Samson were a twosome.  Both loved each other with a passion only matched by their mutual admiration for themselves.  It was a question of whom or which they loved more.

cheating-man

Well, as you may know, narcissists have a short attention span for anything but themselves.  Samson was the first to break the implicit arrangement that seemed to characterize their relationship.  Thus, one evening, Delilah knocked on Samson’s door and much to her surprise another woman in a skimpy negligee answered.  Delilah was shocked but more than shocked she was furious.  She swore revenge on Samson.

Weeks went by, Samson ignored Delilah at the gym and Delilah ignored Sampson.  However, all this time Delilah was plotting her revenge.  She well knew that the big weightlifting event was coming up and she also knew that Samson was superstitious about his hair and strength.  This latter fact was the pillar of her idea for revenge.

samson-delilah-cutting hairDelilah waited until the night before the World Weightlifting championship.  At around midnight, she used the key that Samson hid near his door to let herself into Samson’s apartment.  Moving as stealthily as a cat, she entered Samson’s bedroom.  Samson was a sound sleeper and he had no inclination of what awaited him.  Delilah took the surgical scalpel that she had borrowed from a medical admirer and in one quick slash, she lopped off Samson’s braid.  Samson was totally unaware and did not move a muscle.  Delilah slipped back out the way she had come and placed Samson’s key back where he hid it.

The next morning Samson woke and went to the bathroom to get ready for the big event.  Imagine his surprise and chagrin when we looked in the mirror and found that most of his hair was gone.  Samson was devastated.  He immediately knew that Delilah had taken her revenge.  But it was now too late.  There was no way that he could dead lift without his hair.  His thoughts ran to the best way to get even with Delilah and whether or not her murder would constitute justifiable homicide.

Samson decided to go to the championship event anyway.  Perhaps, even without his long hair, he would still have a chance.  Sadly, he could not even dead lift 800 pounds.  This was the minimum weight needed to qualify for the competitive championship rounds.  The mighty Samson was only a shell of his old self.  Everyone who knew him wondered what had happened to the once proud and haughty Samson.  Was this God’s way of punishing the narcissistic among us?

samson not lifting

History shows that Samson never broke another record and his name was gradually erased from the rolls of major body builders and weight lifters at the Philistine gym.

But, what of Delilah?  Would you like to know how she got her just rewards?  You see every moral or fable must have a denouement.   The good guy triumphs over the bad guy.  The two lovers marry and live happily ever after.  The struggling athlete scores the final points to win the big game.  The starving painter is eventually recognized for her creative genius.  The hero slays the dragon and wins the fair maid.

Unfortunately, neither Delilah’s neighbors or the historians at the Philistine gym have any further records for Delilah.  It is like she vanished into thin air immediately after the big weight lifting event.  There are those who suspect that foul play may have played a role in her mysterious departure.  Many others say she got fat, lost her looks, married a computer geek and is living in Poughkeepsie.

Time for Questions:

What was the source of Samson’s power?  Was it really his hair?  What makes anyone powerful?  What role does belief have in our powers?  Can you really accomplish anything without believing in yourself?  What happens when you stop believing in yourself?

Life is just beginning.

“…it occurred to me that maybe Samson’s hair wasn’t the source of his strength; maybe it was the symbol of his strength. And maybe when Delilah cut off his hair, he didn’t lose his power because he lost his hair; he just woke up the next morning and looked in the mirror, and suddenly for the life of him couldn’t remember who he was.”  — Sarah Thebarge

 

The Little Boy Who Believed in God

The following story was inspired by a Charles Dickens story called “A Child’s Dream of a Star.”

videoblocks-praying-child-little-boy-saying-prayer-before-going-to-bed-christian-kid-with-closed-eyes-sitting-on-knees-and-calling-to-god-strong-belief-in-heart-boy-holding-hands-togethe

Once upon a time there was a little boy who believed in God.  Every morning when he woke up, he would look out the window and thank God for his blessings.  He thanked God for the sun, the beautiful day, the flowers, the trees, the water, the birds and most of all for his mother, father, sister, brother and grandparents.  Every night when the little boy would go to bed, he would look out the window and again thank God for his blessings.  He thanked God for the moon, the stars, the planets and most of all for his mother, father, sister, brother and grandparents.

Now the circumstance of a little boy believing in God might not seem strange but in this case, it was very strange.  You see, the little boy’s mother and father and older sister and older brother and even his grandparents were all confirmed Atheists.  Not a one of them went to church or professed a belief in any type of a higher entity.  In fact, his father and mother were very worried about the little boy.

Father:  “Honey, I am very worried about our little boy.  We have told him that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and God are all myths.  He accepted the reality for these fictions except for the greatest fiction of all, a higher power called God who supposedly created the universe.  Where do you think he got this idea of God from?

Mother:  “I don’t know. It is very strange.  The schools do not teach God.  His brother and sister do not believe in God.  His grandparents do not believe in God.  None of our friends believe in God.  Most religions do not really practice what they preach.  Most people who say they believe in God are really hypocrites or liars.  I am as mystified as you are.

Believing in God might not have been a problem for the little boy as he had very accepting parents.  However, the little boy found out that whenever he tried to talk to any of his friends or schoolmates or even teachers about God, they did not want to discuss the issue.  The little boy would ask questions like “Do you think God is having a good day today?”  “Do you think God worries about the evil deeds in the world?”  “How can we help God to bring more joy and happiness in the world?”  His teachers and friends would puzzle at such questions and try to ignore him.  They would shake their heads and hope that he would stop asking about God.  His wanting to discuss God made most people very uncomfortable.  God was not a subject for polite conversation.

God-is-good-Article-TemplateAs the little boy grew up, he became an even more devout believer in God.  Everywhere he went, he saw the hand of God.  In the clouds, in nature, in the weather, in the oceans, in good times and in bad times he believed that God was present.  The little boy thought how hard God must have to work to try to keep life sustained.  Each night he would pray to God that when he grew up, he would be able to help ease God’s work somewhat and do his share to help make the world a better place.

The little boy became a social worker and devoted his life to helping other people.  He met many other social workers who became cynical and skeptical.  One told him what a fool he was for believing that a God existed who cared about the human race.  Another told him that if a God really existed he would not have allowed people to be so greedy and corrupt.  Most of the social workers he knew eventually quit to become investment bankers or insurance salespeople.

god is my salvation

Time passed.  Aging became more salient in the little boy’s life.  His grandparents died.  His mother and father died.  His sister and brother died.  All his friends passed away.  Every time one of them died, the little boy would thank God for the time he had been able to spend with his loved ones.  He would ask God to take good care of them until he could see them again.

Many years went by and eventually the little boy stood at death’s door.  It was his last hour on earth.  He had few breaths left.  A nurse and a doctor waited at his bedside.  They heard him say before he passed “Thank you God for the life you gave me.  Thank you for the trees and the sun and the moon and the stars and the oceans and the forests and the sky.  But most of all, thank you for all the wonderful people that you put in my life and who I will now meet again.”

Time for Questions:

What do you believe in?  Why?  What role does faith have in your beliefs?  Do you think that there is a God?  Does he/she watch over and take care of humanity?  Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

“To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable.  Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” — Gilbert K. Chesterton
 

 

 

Unbecoming a Victim: Or how to stop complaining and make a difference

Life’s not fair!  I never get any breaks! Other people have all the luck!  The world is crap and there is nothing anyone can do about it!  It’s not my fault. Why did he/she get the job and not me? (Listen to the Power of Responsibility as you read my blog today)  Do-You-Have-a-Victim-Mentality-at-Work

If you have ever made any of the above comments, rest assured, you are probably normal. It is called feeling like a victim or wallowing in self-pity. From time to time, we all engage in victim-hood. However, if your entire life is dominated by feelings of regret, remorse and envy, you are not just engaging in a bout of self-pity, you are embracing full-on victim-hood. We all feel like victims from time to time. That is normal. But if you are thoroughly convinced that you are a victim, you need help. The world has too many too many real victims, it does not need pseudo victim. This blog is about how to avoid embracing a victim mentality and the key factors necessary to overcome such a mentality.

First, let’s look at two key questions:

  1. What is a victim?

As I am describing it here, I am not talking about victims of torture, oppression, starvation, crime, disease, pestilence or any phenomenon that is beyond the ability of an individual to evade. I am talking about a mindset that occurs when we fail to take responsibility for our actions and the consequences of our actions and behaviors on others. You probably know some people who you would describe as having this mentality. My wife Karen says she defines a victim as “someone whose problems are always someone else’s fault. They also seem to need problems and will create them if they don’t have them.”  hero versus victim

“Your complaints, your drama, your victim mentality, your whining, your blaming, and all of your excuses have NEVER gotten you even a single step closer to your goals or dreams. Let go of your nonsense. Let go of the delusion that you DESERVE better and go EARN it! Today is a new day!”  ― Steve Maraboli

We see many people who cannot find any good in the world since they are so busy feeling sorry for themselves that they cannot see the blessings that they have. I find many right-wing Christians to be prime exemplars of this victim mentality. They are so convinced that the world is evil and will end any day. The “anti-Christ” is coming and then the world will be destroyed and all the evil in it. Such people seem to revel in the idea of an apocalypse which will wipe the entire world out and only spare the “good” people. Of course, these right-wing fundamentalist Christians are the “good” people who will be spared.

  1. Why do people choose a victim mentality?

I believe the answer to this question is that it absolves the “victim” of responsibility. They can blame God, the world, other people, nature, the weather or DNA for their failures. Never having to take responsibility is a panacea for those with a victim mentality. It is easier to do nothing when any effort is predestined to fail.

“Life is not compassionate towards victims. The trick is not to see yourself as one. It’s never too late! I know I’ve felt like the victim in various situations in my life, but, it’s never too late for me to realize that it’s my responsibility to stand on victorious ground and know that whatever it is I’m experiencing or going through, those are just the clouds rolling by while I stand here on the top of this mountain! This mountain called Victory!” ― C. JoyBell C.

Overcoming the Victim Mentality:

The antidote to a victim mentality consists of four vaccines. They are as follows:

  • Moral Courage
  • Moral Reasoning
  • Moral Universalism
  • Moral Responsibility

Anyone of these four vaccines can keep you from becoming a whining victim. Taking all four together, will help you to become independent and strong. You will be a winner instead of a victim. We need to give our children these vaccines at an early age, but it is seldom done. It seems as though we must find them on our own later in life or else we flounder through life succumbing to the victim mentality until we find one or more of them.

Moral Courage:

moral courageTo dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe, to go where no one has gone before is courage. To stand up for what you believe, to right the unrightable wrong, to boldly speak out against injustice. This is courage. There is physical courage as is manifested in a war or sports or extreme athletic challenges. Moral courage is of the heart and soul. Bothe moral courage and physical courage result in action. One of my favorite quotes is as follows:

“The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.”Ralph W. Sockman

Moral courage does not exist by just talking about it or complaining about things. Moral courage is an attempt to make a difference by taking some decisive action. You speak out against prejudice, bigotry, hatred, racism, injustice and stupidity. You do more than read the newspaper and bemoan the sad state of the world. The life of the prophet Mohammed provides many examples of moral courage:

“Before claiming Prophethood, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, was well off and had a respected place among his community. However, he had to confront all kinds of hardships and persecutions after Prophethood and spent for his cause whatever he had. His enemies slandered him, mocked him, beat him, expelled him from his homeland and waged war on him. He bore all such cruel treatments and hostilities without complaint and asked God Almighty for the forgiveness of even his enemies.”The Way to Truth 

Moral Reasoning:

devil_angelMoral reasoning occurs when you question right and wrong. Moral reasoning is a cognitive action that takes place when you question standards, conventions, group reasoning, and crowd think. Moral reasoning is the questioning of social and cultural standards. Jesus of Nazereth gave many examples of moral reasoning during his life.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel (Matthew 23:23-24).” 

Jesus is making an important distinction here between convention and morality. We often confuse justice with legality. The inability to understand the difference and its moral relevance is a failure of moral reasoning. Throughout his ministry Jesus gave many examples of moral reasoning.

Moral Universalism:

Hans Kung was a Roman Catholic priest who was stripped of his license to teach theology by the Catholic Church for criticizing the concept of papal infallibility.

“In the early 1990s, Küng initiated a project called Weltethos (Global Ethic), which is an attempt at describing what the world’s religions have in common (rather than what separates them) and at drawing up a minimal code of rules of behavior everyone can accept. His vision of a global ethic was embodied in the document for which he wrote the initial draft:, Towards a Global Ethic: An Initial Declaration.”Wikipedia

responsibilityKung’s life demonstrates a strong moral believe in the universal principles that underlie all religions. My religion is not better than your religion and all of the worlds’ great religions have a core of morality and ethics which are admirable and worth following. When we find one religion fighting with another religion or one advocate maintaining the superiority of their religion over another, we have a counter example of moral universality.

Moral universalism is an important element in overcoming victimhood. One cannot believe that their religion is superior to another religion without eventually succumbing to the rampant persecution complex that seems typical of so many religious people. I was taught when I grew up that I would go to hell if I ever stepped in a Synagogue or Temple.   Karen was taught that as a good Lutheran she should never date a Catholic. Baptists denigrate other Protestants while Muslims and Christians act as though they were worshipping different Gods. Jesus and Mohammed had a deep respect for all religions because they were wise enough to perceive the universality of religion.

Moral Responsibility:

moral responsibilityThe famous poet John Donne is perhaps best known for one of his lines that goes: “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”   Donne well understood the idea that we are all interconnected and we all have an incomprehensible interdependency such that anyone’s death affects us all. The same is true with morality. A key tenet of Buddhism is the moral responsibility that everyone on the earth faces for social and political actions.

 “Today we have become so interdependent and so closely connected with each other that without a sense of universal responsibility, irrespective of different ideologies and faiths, our very existence or survival would be difficult” – (Dalai Lama, 1976)

Of the four vaccines that are critical for overcoming a victim mentality, it is my opinion that a sense of moral responsibility is the most important. If I could only receive one vaccine, I would choose to be vaccinated with moral responsibility. A sense of moral responsibility allows us to help others who are in need. Charity, love, compassion and kindness are all nurtured by a sense of moral responsibility. As they say: “what goes around comes around.” When we do “good” for others, we do good for ourselves. By identifying with the pain and injustices that others suffer, we forget our own problems and we understand that we can make a difference in the world. No one who believes in their ability to make a difference in the world can suffer from a victim mentality.

Time for Questions:

Are you a victim or a hero? How often do you feel hopeless? What do you do about your feelings of hopelessness? How do you overcome feeling like a victim? Do you think people have a choice of how they feel? Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

“Most things, even the greatest moments on earth, have their beginnings in something small. An earthquake that shatters a city might begin with a tremor, a tremble, a breath. Music begins with a vibration.”  -― Lauren Oliver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Requiem for America:  Our Battle with Fate

fortune

Many of you have no doubt heard the tone poem by Carl Orff titled Carmina Burana.  One of the famous parts of this musical piece is taken from a poem called “O Fortuna.”  It is a Medieval Latin poem written early in the 13th century.  I started thinking about it today as Trump became the 45th President of the United States of America.  I have never much believed in fate, preferring to think that we are masters of our own destiny and fate be dammed.  But as the inexorable reality of the inauguration kept intruding on my existence, I was forced back to the conclusion that perhaps fortune does rule the world.  (To listen click here O Fortuna)

Like the moon you are changeable,
ever waxing and waning;
hateful life first oppresses and then soothes as fancy takes it;
poverty and power it melts them like ice.

I loathe this Son of a Bitch.  I loathe his values.  I loathe his words.  He represents everything I hate in myself and in humanity.  We keep trying to destroy the racism and fear and prejudice that we are brought up with but fate impels us to confront a world that seems to thrive on such iniquities.  My relatives, my friends, my co-workers —- they voted for this reprobate and now exult in his coronation.  I stand impotently on the sidelines questioning (as many Jews in the Holocaust questioned) why God has deserted us.  Have we committed some grave sin worthy of the future that fate now seems to have assigned us?

Trying against
Fate – monstrous and empty,
you whirling wheel,
you are malevolent,
well-being is vain and always fades to nothing,
shadowed and veiled you plague me too;
now through the game I bring my bare back to your villainy.

My good intentions.  My desire to be tolerant and virtuous.  My goal to treat others with compassion and kindness all seem to melt in the face of a Fate that decries a monster who will now rule over us.  I hear the voices that say “give him a chance.”  I wonder what chance they want.  A chance to create more greed.  A chance to create more racism.  A chance to create more sexism.  Have we not enough bigotry in this country?  Have we not enough inhumanity towards others?  We created the Atom bomb.  We created the Hydrogen Bomb.  We created weapons of biological and chemical warfare that can destroy millions.  We take no heed whether they kill children or innocents.  We are now all guilty in our incessant warfare.  The only thing that counts is creating more efficient means of murdering people.

Fate is against me in health and virtue,
driven on and weighted down,
always enslaved.
So at this hour without delay pluck the vibrating strings;
since Fate strikes down the strong man,
everyone weep with me!

I wake up disbelieving that I live in this reality.  I joke that I am in Wonderland and whatever one believes is the reality that exists.  But I did not believe in this reality.  I have done everything that I thought I could to help make the world a better place.  I thought my friends and family and neighbors wanted the same world that I wanted.  It seems clear now that we did not share the same reality.

I curse the fate that has brought our nation to this point.  I curse the people that voted for this Frankenstein.  I curse the party that nominated this abomination.  Deep inside, I wonder what I did to contribute to this horror.  Does my own hate somehow create the fate that I seek to escape from?

Abraham, John, Robert and Martin all dead — killed by that coward called fate.  But let us not forget Jimmie Lee Jackson and Clyde Kennard and Juliette Hampton Morgan and James Reeb and Jonathan Myrick Daniels and Viola Gregg Liuzzo and Vernon Dahmer and Oneal Moore and George Lee and Harriet and Harry Moore.  They also were martyrs.  They also died fighting fate.

Do not believe that the good die young.  The good die pregnant with a dream for a better world.

Time for Questions:

So what is left?  Nihilism?  Apathy?  Hate?  Bitterness?  Resistance?  Fight?  Hope?  Will a dream for a better America arise from the ashes of despair?

Life is just beginning.

“I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.”  —   Booker T. Washington

fortune

Faith:  The Fifth Most Important Virtue for a Good Life

Faith-of-a-childFaith is number five of my seven essential virtues for leading a happy and successful life.  Every Friday I start my day with the following prayer:

  • “Help me to be as well as to do and to have Faith in the future by living today the best that I can.”

 Please listen to Pete Seeger’s rendition of:  “You Gotta Walk That Lonesome Valley” for a musical version of what Faith is really about.  Read the comments about Pete Seeger.  He was a prime example of a man that had Faith. 

Faith is the first of the three major theological virtues.  As I thought about preparing this blog, I asked myself the question, “What is the difference between Faith and Trust?”  Or perhaps there is no difference?  I wondered if one has to be religious or have a religious affiliation to have Faith.  Most people think of Faith in terms of a belief in God or some other deity.

faithI decided that I must first understand what Faith really means.  To do this, it is helpful to deconstruct how we think about Faith and how we use the word.   I thought about how we use both Trust and Faith in common language.  For instance we use trust in English as follows:

  • Trust me!
  • Do you trust yourself?
  • Have a little trust in me.

Now if you try substituting the word Faith for Trust, it is obvious that in the first two instances, it just does not fit:

  • Faith me!
  • Do you Faith yourself?
  • Have a little Faith in me.

You will notice that in the third instance, you can substitute the word Faith for the word trust.  A grammarian would quickly note that the word Trust can be used either as a noun or a verb whereas the word Faith is primarily a noun and cannot usually be used as a verb.

It might be interesting to compare dictionary definitions of Faith and trust.

Faith: http://www.merriam-webster.com

  • Strong belief or trust in someone or something
  • Belief in the existence of God : strong religious feelings or beliefs
  • A system of religious beliefs

Trust:  http://www.merriam-webster.com

  • Assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something
  • Dependence on something future or contingent :  hope
  • Reliance on future payment for property (as merchandise) delivered : credit <bought furniture on trust

mountain climbingI think you can readily see that there is a certain degree of overlap between the two concepts. However, Faith generally seems to convey a more sectarian or theological concept of belief whereas Trust is generally used in more secular terms.  Thus, we don’t “trust” God but we have Faith in her.  Faith seems to be a term that is not contingent upon any kind of physical or logical proof.  We might not trust a person with our money without proof that they are “bonded” or trustworthy, but we would not expect such displays of material evidence when it comes to having Faith in God.  So what is the relevance to this in our lives?  What good is Faith if we can substitute trust for faith and have more security in the long run?

He replied, “Because you have so little Faith. Truly I tell you, if you have Faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” — Matthew 17:20

childThe answer seems to be (IMHO) that sometimes we can trust without evidence but generally we are better off trusting with some element of surety that can mitigate the risk of our trust being unfounded or mistaken.  Whereas, there is little or no evidence that can prove your need or desire to have Faith.  You must have Faith like a parent has love for a child.  It is unconditional.  You have Faith simply because you want to believe.  You have Faith because you accept something without conditions.  You need no proof or evidence to support your Faith.  Is this a good thing or a bad thing?   Should you have Faith without proof?  What would a life without Faith be like?  Would we be safer or happier with less Faith?

“On a long journey of human life, Faith is the best of companions; it is the best refreshment on the journey; and it is the greatest property.”  — Buddha

Buddha thought that Faith is a companion that we cannot ignore on our journey through life.   There is a story about Mother Teresa that when she was visiting Iowa many years ago and was being interviewed by a somewhat cynical journalist; she was asked if she really thought she was making a difference to the poor in India.  Her reported reply was “I am not called upon to make a difference.  I am called upon to have Faith.”  If that sounds somewhat evasive, consider the following professionals who toil diligently and with great dedication:

  • Teachersblack couple
  • Doctors
  • Psychologists
  • Writers
  • Philanthropists
  • Artists

There are no doubt dozens of other professionals who toil in areas that are not readily amenable to evidence that they are “making a difference.”  As an educator and consultant, I can readily attest to the fact that seldom if ever is there “evidence” or concrete proof that my actions and thoughts have made a difference on my students or clients.  Most of us work on day after day, motivated by one force and one force only.  That force is the power of Faith.

You must not lose Faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Each time I write a blog, I write with the hope that something I say will help someone have a better day or lead a better life.  I have now written over 800 blogs and I have received about two dozen or so letters or emails telling me how much they appreciate my writing or how much it has helped them.  The percentage of letters received is about 3.4 percent of the blogs I have written and whose readers have been moved to write to me or drop me a comment.  And that is fine.  People are busy and many times the thought of writing to a writer is something that readers never think of.

big-challengesFortunately, the 3.4 percent of respondents have been more than enough to help me keep my Faith.  (Should I really need such sustenance if I have Faith?) Yes, I have Faith that my writing is making a difference to the world but alas, I have no proof for the empiricists, the materialists or the skeptics.  I have to ask you as well as myself to believe that I am.  It is Faith that keeps me motivated.  Without Faith, life would appear to be a futile waste of time.  Faith helps us to carry on when everything and everyone is saying to quit.  The woman in the life raft, the athlete with a severe injury, the parents with a disabled child, the poor fighting hunger, the righteous fighting injustice are all sustained by the power of Faith.

19176-Have-FaithFaith can believe everything
That we say.
Belief can increase the strength
Of Faith.
Belief is pure,
Faith is sure.
Belief looks around
To see the truth.
Faith looks within
Not only to feel the truth
But also to become the truth
.  —- Sri Chinmoy

Time for Questions:

What do you have Faith in?  What helps you to maintain your Faith?  Where would you like to have more Faith?  Do you think we have too much or too little Faith in the world?

Life is just beginning.

“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” —- Saint Augustine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

O Ye of Little Faith – What is the Role of Faith in our Lives?

Please listen to Pete Seeger’s rendition of: “You Gotta Walk That Lonesome Valley” for a musical version of what Faith is really about. Read the comments about Pete Seeger. He was a prime example of a man that had Faith.

faith_hope_loveWe now come to the first of the three major theological virtues.  For some reason, I decided to start with the second and end with Love.  As I thought about preparing this blog on Faith, I asked myself the question, “what is the difference between Faith and trust?” Perhaps there is not a difference.  I thought about how we use the words in common language. For instance we might use trust in English as follows:

  • Trust me!
  • Do you trust yourself?
  • Have a little trust in me.

Now if you try substituting the word “Faith” for trust, it is obvious that in the first two instances, it just does not fit:

  • Faith me!
  • Do you Faith yourself?
  • Have a little Faith in me.

You will notice that in the third instance, you can substitute the word Faith for the word trust. A grammarian would quickly note that the word Trust can be used either as a noun or a verb whereas the word Faith is primarily a noun and cannot usually be used as a verb.

It might be interesting to compare dictionary definitions of Faith and trust.

Faith: http://www.merriam-webster.com

  • Strong belief or trust in someone or something
  • Belief in the existence of God : strong religious feelings or beliefs
  • A system of religious beliefs

Trust: http://www.merriam-webster.com

  • Assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something
  • Dependence on something future or contingent :  hope
  • Reliance on future payment for property (as merchandise) delivered : credit <bought furniture on trust

childs trustI think you can readily see that there is a certain degree of overlap between the two concepts. However, Faith generally seems to convey a more sectarian or theological concept of belief whereas Trust is generally used in more secular terms. Thus, we don’t “trust” God but we have Faith in her. Faith seems to be a term that is not contingent upon any kind of physical or logical proof. We might not trust a person with our money without proof that they are “bonded” or trustworthy, but we would not expect such displays of material evidence when it comes to having Faith in God. So what is the relevance to this in our lives? What good is Faith if we can substitute trust for Faith and have more security in the long run?

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” — Matthew 17:20

faith mlk quoteThe answer seems to be (IMHO) that sometimes we can trust without evidence but generally we are better off trusting with some element of surety that can mitigate the risk of our Trust being unfounded or mistaken. Whereas, there is little or no evidence that can prove your need or desire to have Faith. You must have Faith like a parent has love for a child. It is unconditional. You have Faith simply because you want to believe. You have Faith because you accept something without conditions. You need no proof or evidence to support your Faith. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?   Should you have Faith without proof? What would a life without Faith be like? Would we be safer or happier with less Faith?

“On a long journey of human life, faith is the best of companions; it is the best refreshment on the journey; and it is the greatest property.” — Buddha

faith and flyingBuddha thought that Faith is a companion that we cannot ignore on our journey through life.   There is a story about Mother Teresa that when she was visiting Iowa many years ago and was being interviewed by a somewhat cynical journalist; she was asked if she really thought she was making a difference to the poor in India. Her reported reply was “I am not called upon to make a difference. I am called upon to have Faith.” If that sounds somewhat evasive, consider the following professionals who toil diligently and with great dedication:

  • Teachers
  • Doctors
  • Psychologists
  • Writers
  • Philanthropists
  • Artists

There are no doubt dozens of other professionals who toil in areas that are not readily amenable to evidence that they are “making a difference.” As an educator and consultant, I can readily attest to the fact that seldom if ever is there “evidence” or concrete proof that my actions and thoughts have made a difference on my students or clients. Most of us work on day after day, motivated by one force and one force only. That force is the power of Faith.

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” — Mahatma Gandhi

awesomepoweroffaith2_tEach time I write a blog, I write with the hope that something I say will help someone have a better day or lead a better life. I have now written over 700 blogs and I have received about two dozen or so letters or emails telling me how much they appreciate my writing or how much it has helped them. The percentage of letters received is about 3.4 percent of the blogs I have written and whose readers have been moved to write to me or drop me a comment. And that is fine. People are busy and many times the thought of writing to a writer is something that readers never think of.

Fortunately, the 3.4 percent of respondents have been more than enough to help me keep my Faith. (Should I really need such sustenance if I have Faith?) Yes, I have Faith that my writing is making a difference to the world but alas, I have no proof for the empiricists, the materialists or the skeptics. I have to ask you as well as myself to believe that I am. It is Faith that keeps me motivated. Without Faith, life would appear to be a futile waste of time. Faith helps us to carry on when everything and everyone is saying to quit. The woman in the life raft, the athlete with a severe injury, the parents with a disabled child, the poor fighting hunger, the righteous fighting injustice are all sustained by the power of Faith.

“Faith can believe everything that we say.  Belief can increase the strength Of Faith.  Belief is pure, Faith is sure.  Belief looks around To see the truth.  Faith looks within not only to feel the truth But also to become the truth.” —- Sri Chinmoy

Time for Questions:

What do you have Faith in? What helps you to maintain your Faith? Where would you like to have more Faith? Do you think we have too much or too little Faith in the world?

Life is just beginning.

“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” —- Saint Augustine

 

 

 

“And Now Abides Faith, Hope and Love”  — Does Anyone Really Give a Damn!

Faith-Hope-LoveI like to think my major theme as a blogger is “Social and Political Commentary and Satire.”  However, I often talk about justice, equality, respect, diversity, values and a whole range of subjects that can come across as religious, theological or at least speaking of morals from a high bully pulpit.  Many times, my writing of these subjects has helped to clarify in my own mind what they mean to me and what relevance they have or could have in my life.  (Listen to the Song “Lullaby” by SIA as you read my blog this week. The lyrics are wonderful as is her voice).

If you attend some church or temple or synagogue or mosque, you have probably been told more times than you can count how important virtues, morals, grace, ethics, and values really are.  If so, my blogs may seem repetitious and like preaching to the choir.  You know everything I have to say.  Why is he telling me these things? Who does he think he is?  My answer is simply this:

“I am a former atheist, now agnostic, taking a look at some presumptions given by others on how best to live our lives.”  Any value or insights I can offer on these subjects comes from looking at them through (I Hope) a different lens.  I reject most orthodoxy and usually identify with the radical elements of theory and reality.  My goal is to bring more mindfulness to the world and I think we can only do that by discussing subjects that we think we understand or in many cases that we are certain we understand.  My subjects for my next three blogs fit this description very well.

For the next three weeks starting today, I would like to look at the three most often described theological virtues in the world.  I suddenly realized that I don’t know what they mean.  It seems they should be more prominent in my life but often I only pay lip service to them.  Probably like many people, I hear the words but do not know the meanings.  Or I read the meanings but do not assimilate the importance in my actions and daily activities.

The three theological virtues I am referring to include:

What do these three virtues mean to an agnostic?  What do they mean to a world that grows less and less religious every day?  What do they mean if you are not religious but view yourself as spiritual?  Are they simply a remnant of Christian thinking or are they important for everyone?  Come along with me as I take a journey to investigate each of these virtues and see what if any relevance they might have for the world today.  By the way, if you think that these are common virtues and that everyone has Faith, Hope and Love, simply look at the newspaper today and see how many of these virtues are implicit or explicit in the actions of our leaders and “role models.”

I want to start with Hope:

Why you may ask start with Hope?  Answer:  I have often thought that Hope was a futile wasted effort.  A fiction placed on us by spiritual leaders and politicians to help keep us docile and obedient.

  • Hope you will win the lottery. Buy lottery tickets!
  • Hope you will get a better job. Vote for me!
  • Hope you will make it big. Go to the casino!
  • Hope your cancer will be cured. Pray to the lord and put your donations in the box!
  • Hope the world will be a safe place for you and your children. Pay your taxes!

Hope, in my mind has been a pacifier.  It keeps you running in the rat race and paying homage to those who want your Hope.  God wants your Hope. Your religion wants your Hope. Your country wants your Hope. Everyone wants a piece of your Hope.

  • “Let’s keep hoping things will be better.”
  • “Let’s vote for Hope.”
  • “Let’s run Hope for office.”
  • “Let’s have the audacity to Hope.”

“Once again Hitler reduced his demand to a formal profession of faith that would be binding upon me: ‘If you could at least Hope that we have not lost!  You must certainly be able to Hope … that would be enough to satisfy me.’   I did not answer.” 

Speer, Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs by Albert Speer, R. Winston & C. Winston (trans.) (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1971), 452–3.

It has been said that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”  Perhaps Hope is the tranquilizer that our leaders (both political and spiritual) regularly inject us with to insure our compliance and submissiveness.

What good does Hope do if all around us things are going to hell? 

Do I sound skeptical?  Were you expecting a plethora of exhortations to Hope, Hope, and Hope some more?  We are hemorrhaging and they ask us to have Hope. Keep hoping until you bleed to death.  “Hope for the best” they keep saying.  Did you expect me to give you “Ten GOOD Reasons to Have Hope?”  “Never give us Hope.”

To rephrase Shakespeare:  I have taken here some liberty with his words.

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to praise Hope, not to bury her.”

statue of hopeDid you know that the three virtues are usually depicted as women?  Why do you think that is?

  • Faith – cross, pointing upward, staff and chalice, lamp, candle, hands together with fingers extended together
  • Hope – anchor, harp, flaming brand, palm, hands with fingers closed interdigitated
  • Love – flaming heart, with children, gathering fruit, hands crossed over heart

Actually, I tell you the truth.  I have come to praise the role of Hope and not to bury yours.  My caveat however will be evident in this dialogue.  It is simply this:

“Hope without action is futile.  Action without Hope is pointless.”  —- J. Persico

Yes, I quote myself.  Nevertheless, let us examine my quote in more detail.

“Hope without action is futile.”

A comment that I have used a great deal is “pray to the Lord but row for the shore.”  Intent without action is meaningless and hopeless.  The purpose of Hope is to give us something to strive for.  Hoping for success, happiness, wealth, good health or better politicians without being willing to work for these things is the ultimate in laziness, naiveté and stupidity.  Have you noticed that good things come to those who are willing to work for them?  Thomas Jefferson said: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” 

laziness_a834e2_1332585The concept of entitlement (much used to describe today’s workers) suggests that somehow our birthright or DNA entitles us to such things as money, good health, happiness and success.  However, the Founding Fathers did not say we were entitled to any of these things nor does Jesus in the New Testament suggest that we are.  The Declaration of Independence says we are “entitled” to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  It does not say anything about an education, health care, money or success.  It also uses the word “Pursuit” and not something stronger.  If you want happiness, you must pursue it.  This means you can Hope for happiness, but you must work for it.

The apostle James says:  “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?”  James 2:14

James might just as well have substituted the word Hope for faith.  Hoping for salvation, nirvana, satori, enlightenment or any other spiritual awakening is useless if you do not take action on your Hopes and dreams.

“Action without Hope is pointless.”

energizer-bunnyHave you ever seen the energizer Bunny?  He or she is an example of action without Hope.  Hope kindles in us a possibility for better things.  It is a dream of something that transcends our daily existence and offers us the possibility of a better tomorrow.  Hopes and dreams are complimentary ideas. Few of us Hope for a worse reality than the one we may currently face.  We Hope for things that we do not have. We Hope for happiness. We Hope for good health for our loved ones.  We Hope for a world where people will be safe and secure.

Many people are busy everyday but they do not know why.  We multitask.  We shop till we drop.  We watch TV nonstop on the weekends.  We fight hours of daily traffic to get to our jobs.  We keep moving at work to insure we will seem busy and productive.  We tell everyone we know how busy we are.  We retire and we become busier than ever.  Once retired we are so busy we cannot figure out how we once had time for work.  We have NO TIME.  We even have had a song that immortalized this problem by the Guess Who:  No Time . One song I particularly like that also describes this problem is by Alabama called:  “I’m in a Hurry.”   The following are the lyrics for the song:

I’m in a hurry to get things done
Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die
But I’m in a hurry and I don’t know why.

no timeDon’t know why
I have to drive so fast
My car has nothing to prove
It’s not new
But it’ll do 0 to 60 in 5.2

Can’t be late
I leave plenty of time
Shaking hands with the clock
I can’t stop
I’m on a roll and I’m ready to rock

I hear a voice
That say’s I’m running behind
I better pick up my pace
It’s a race
And there ain’t no room
For someone in second place.

As we rush pointlessly about our lives, the pointlessness of our endeavors suggests that we have really nothing to do of any potential importance but we rush anyway.  What some might say is that we rush to prevent our inevitable appointment with death.

“In Osho’s library, there is a book open at a page where Osho has written, in big letters, ‘The journey itself is the goal’. I used to pass that book every day, always busy with some object to be achieved. Certainly too busy to take the words in. Then one day, the meaning just hit me. Like a sledge hammer. I realized that I had spent my whole life obsessively active, always aiming for a goal, whether completion of some project, or finding a solution to some problem.”Anando

Hope is like the temper to the steel. The blade is no good unless it is tempered. We need Hope in our lives to point us to something more than just rushing around doing things.  Spending energy without focus or purpose is just what the Energizer Bunny is doing until he finally winds down.

My Conclusions:

quote-what-i-would-say-to-the-young-men-and-women-who-are-beset-by-hopelessness-and-doubt-is-that-they-abbe-pierre-145752It should be clear “I Hope” that I am not against Hope. I am for dreams and a better world. I am for looking to things as we would dream they could be and not as they are.  However, I am against idle dreaming without action to help bring about the fruition of our Hopes.  It has been said that you can measure a human by the breath of their dreams.  I think we can also measure someone by the breadth and depth of their Hopes.  Who among us simply wants to accept the reality that is and not have Hope for another world with more peace, justice, equality and happiness for everyone.

Time for Questions:

What are your biggest Hopes and dreams?  What Hopes have you had come true for you or your loved ones?  What do you do about your Hope to help make them a reality?  Do agree that Hopes and action must go together? Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

“Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you Hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”   ― Laini TaylorDaughter of Smoke & Bone

 

 

 

 

 

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