Yes, You Are A Hypocrite And So Am I

Trust me dear reader, my point is not to offend but to point out the obvious.  Whenever we espouse one thing but do another, we are a hypocrite.  Whenever we hold someone else accountable for their behavior but justify our own, we are a hypocrite.  Whenever we pretend to be someone or capable of something when we are not, we are a hypocrite.  Please allow me to explain:

Living in a duplicitous world creates the expectation that we be duplicitous ourselves. Expected to wear many hats and play many roles calls for the ability to flex as necessary from child to adult to parent to grandparent, from learner to teacher, from amateur to professional, from paid provider to unpaid volunteer, from gender to agender, from racial to nonracial, etc. 

Here are a few concepts worth considering (see sources for each below):

1.The original definition of the word hypocrite is one who considers many possible responses and selects the “right words to use” to fit the situation; or, in other words, an actor, especially one that wears a mask, or debater who considers multiple viewpoints and then selects one to project. Over time, the word took on more negative meanings especially when it was considered in a political context (i.e., politicians lie, are two-faced, and pretend to be or do something they aren’t or won’t). 

2.The Greek word hypokrisis means to act or pretend; typically someone pretending to have virtues or morals they don’t possess or hides their genuine beliefs and displays publicly approved attitudes in hopes of convincing others that they are righteous or equally deceptive, sits on a fence to neither accept the reality of not being righteous nor put in efforts to become righteous. 

Note: hypocrisy in the above definition is a moral choice  and/or a dilemma because individuals aren’t sure what they believe or want to defend.  While this might be an honest attempt to be open and flexible, it can also be the result of insecurity.  Thus, as we move through our lives and encounter unfamiliar situations we will naturally devolve to hypocrisy for a while.

3.Referencing The Happiness Hypothesis, it is easier to see hypocrisy in others since we delude ourselves into thinking we contribute more and understand more about reality than others. Our “conscious, rational mind” sees what it wants to see and thus justifies what we say and do much easier than justifying what others say and do. Our self-delusion can be helpful for us at times when encountering difficult challenges; however, it is very unhelpful when we see ourselves as having more knowledge and wisdom than others which can easily harm our relationships and decrease our overall happiness. Yet, even when the obvious negative aspects are pointed out to us, we “somehow, each of us clings to the belief that we are the sole exception.”

4.Hypocrisy is cited as the lack of conformity between stated beliefs and one’s own behavior; especially in a hypocritical culture.  While hypocrisy is a natural outcome of a bad situation (i.e., a bad system with overpower a good performer every time), “hypocrisy is bad” because it degrades social trust, reduces our ability to work together, communicate and enjoy each other’s company.  Hypocrisy hurts all of us even though you don’t always see the consequences of your duplicitous behavior (e.g., talk behind your back or actions sabotaged in business, romance and communal life in general).  Some classic examples provided are: Christians who support the War on Terror, parents who support the “white lie”, people giving themselves the right to grow and change but not extending that same right to others, and our naturally poor memories which fail to remember details and thus too casually lump behaviors and people types into one.

And so, ultimately we are all hypocrites at some times.  A positive goal is to seek the reduction in our hypocritical behavior.  Five recommended actions to accomplish this goal are:

  1. Write down your beliefs and values and read and recite them regularly;
  2. Examine your life for inconsistent behavior and start anew with more congruent behavior;
  3. Recognize the difference between important and urgent and focus on the important;
  4. Anticipate challenges and identify scenarios for dealing with them; and
  5. Prepare your responses to potential questions or incidents so that you are better prepared to act consistently with your beliefs.

Once again, we will fail, we will be hypocritical; however, by pausing, reflecting and then taking action we can reduce the number of our failures especially on the most important situations in our lives.

5.Most of us are plenty smart to know the right thing to say and do at the right time and yet we tend to be much better at saying than doing.  The “smart talk trap” is a very common trait in modern business and modern technology.  Not following through on our smart talk is also very common.  Using the excuses of urgency, unfair competition, “need to survive” versus thrive, are all lame and lead to major gaps in integrity. The “knowing-doing gap” can be lessened by improving our memory through careful codification, reducing fear through emphasis on quality, using metrics to reward good judgment, and reducing unhealthy competition to improve collaboration and cooperation.  A lot of “motherhood and apple pie” here but real enough if taken seriously.

In summary, we will be hypocritical at times in our life but we can avoid becoming full-time hypocrites by understanding where and when we fail and how best to minimize those failures.  I do believe this is worth doing and intend to act on this belief; which is another reason for going public with this post so that I may be held more accountable. 

Carry on dear friends.

Here are the four articles and one book that are the sources for this opinion.  They are:

  1. Are We All Hypocrites? by Professor Susi Ferrarello, Ph.D, California State University Are We All Hypocrites? | Psychology Today
  2. Are we all Hypocrites? By Zainab Olaitan Adegoke Are we all Hypocrites?. Have we ever found ourselves doing what… | by Zainab Olaitan Adegoke | Medium
  3. We Are All Hypocrites: How We Justify Ourselves, Hannah Aster We Are All Hypocrites: How We Justify Ourselves | Shortform Books
  4. We’re All Hypocrites, It’s Just a Matter of Scale, by Allen Faulton We’re All Hypocrites, It’s Just a Matter of Scale | by Allen Faulton | Medium
  5. The Knowing-Doing Gap, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton, © 2000 President and Fellows of Harvard College, Harvard Business School Press, The Knowing-Doing Gap – Jeffrey Pfeffer

Morning Musings: When One Becomes Ten Thousand

The Tao De Ching has the masterful phrase:  “The Tao begot one. One begot two. Two begot three. And three begot the ten thousand things.  The ten thousand things carry yin and embrace yang. They achieve harmony by combining these forces.”  Chapter 42, Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu Translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English ©1989 Vantage Books.

It doesn’t take that much thought to realize we have been preceded by our ancestors and will be succeeded by our descendants. We are part of at least ten thousand in our species and lineage alone.  Add on to this all the species we eat, drink and breathe in order to continue living and we are quickly surrounded by billions and even trillions (i.e., when you include the bacteria in our own digestive systems). Wow!  We are a miniscule part of a gigantic living system on this planet alone. 

Recognizing our very tiny part in the “great chain of being” it can quickly become apparent of how unimportant we are, or are we?  Does not every link in a chain serve a purpose? If one link is broken does it not affect the immediate links around it, and so forth?

Returning to the Tao Te Ching quote above, one might suppose the “one, two, three” that begin the process might be the Trinity of Christian thinking or some other spiritual triad that precedes Christianity.  The rush to religion appears to be natural for our species, in that we are continuously attempting to understand the “world” of which we are a member.  What does the Tao Te Ching say about this?  How about the very first line: “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.”  Okay, so maybe we cannot adequately describe or even verbalize the whole truth, “so help us God.” So what then can we do?

Some other quotes from the same book come to mind:

  • “The wise, therefore rule by emptying hearts and stuffing bellies, by weakening ambitions and strengthening bones.” Chapter 3.  Does this mean “shut up and eat” and “don’t strive for position just keep doing the work immediately set before you?”  Serve wherever you are?
  • “In dwelling, be close to the land. In meditation, go deep in the heart. In dealing with others, be gentle and kind. In speech, be true. In ruling, be just. In daily life, be competent. In action, be aware of the time and the season. No fight: No blame.” Chapter 8.  This reminds me of the great movie Bull Durham when Crash Davis (Kevin Costner’s role) says to the pitcher, Nuke LaLoosh (Tim Robbins role), “Don’t think meat.  It’ll only hurt the ballclub.”   More doing and less talking?
  • “Accept disgrace willingly. Accept misfortune as the human condition….Accept being unimportant. Do not be concerned with loss or gain….Misfortune comes from having a body….Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to care for all things. Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things.” Chapter 13.  Why does this remind me of the t-shirt “Life sucks and then you die”?
  • “Give up sainthood, renounce wisdom, and it will be a hundred times better for everyone. Give up kindness, renounce morality, and men will discover filial piety and love. Give up ingenuity, renounce profit, and bandits and thieves will disappear.  These three are outward forms alone; they are not sufficient in themselves.  It is more important to see the simplicity, to realize one’s true nature, to cast off selfishness and temper desire.” Chapter 19.  A lot of giving up and surrendering.  I know, it doesn’t sound very American which maybe means it’s a whole lot more true than this American Dream myth unraveling before our eyes.

Hmmm. To the victors go the spoils so then the victors become spoiled?  Or were the Beatles right when they sang “Let it be?”

What are you thinking this morning?

Celebrating the major holidays of May

The month of May offers a wide array of holidays, over a 140 if you’re counting. See May Holidays 2021 – National Today or The Month of May 2021: Holidays, Fun Facts, History, and More | The Old Farmer’s Almanac Talk about an emotional roller coaster; and yet, there are at least four notable days to remember:

  • First comes May Day, the first of the month, observed in many countries to celebrate the arrival of the season of Spring but also the Russian revolution of 1917 or a day honoring labor and the shorter workday and work week fought four in the late 1800s. Whether celebrated by pagans, communists or union members it is generally a day of celebration and can sometimes involve dancing, drinking, fire-setting and other general mayhem.  Speaking of mayhem which starts with the word “may”, there are a couple of “may” words worth noting this month:
    • Mayday, the international general distress call used for water and air transportation; derived from the French phrase “venez m’aider” meaning “come help me”.  It’s intention is to signal for assistance in life threatening situations. 
    • Mayhem, means violent or damaging disorder as well as the crime of maliciously injuring or maiming someone.  Not a pleasant word for most to hear or experience.
    • Maybe, a word often used by parents or other authorities to suggest that perhaps, there’s a possibility or a mere probability that what is sought might actually be found, that what is desired might actually come about, that what is needed might actually be delivered.
  • Then comes Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May, that celebrates the Mexican army’s victory over the French forces in 1862.  Considered a minor holiday in Mexico, it has become a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage in the United States primarily for Mexican-American people.  This day is often filled listening to Latin music, visiting Mexican food booths and learning more about Mexican history.
  • Don’t forget Mother’s Day, celebrated on the second Sunday of the month. Check out the history of Mother’s Day which officially began in 1907 at History of Mother’s Day: How Mother’s Day Came to Be | The Old Farmer’s Almanac and remember this is supposed to be a “day off” for mothers and a day of peace for all.
  • Finally, there is Memorial Day, celebrated on May 31 this year, that often involves flag raising in honor of family members who have died while serving in the military and visiting cemeteries to honor family ancestors who have transitioned beyond this life in general.

Between the celebrations and remembrances, this is a month that covers the full spectrum of emotions and the hope of better things to come like Summer and the transition to whatever the next month or next life might bring. 

But let’s not skip to the end of this month or overlook other valuable things worth remembering this time of year. Many of us have important people in our lives celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, and other days worth commemorating.

Sincerely, may we all be peaceful, joyful and grateful each and every day of May 2021.

Macro and Microcosms: Why Do You Write?

The Milky Way Galaxy is a collection of 400 billion stars of which one is the fireball we call our Sun.  Earth is the third planet from the Sun which is “our” home; our species, homo sapiens, is but one of 8.7 million species on this planet at this time; 6.5 million species on land and 2.2 million living in the ocean.  Our conscious awareness of this living organism called the Milky Way is one of the many gifts we have received as miniscule parts of this vast and yet not unique galaxy within the universe of multiple galaxies that we believe exist.

We are not exactly sure of the total number of galaxies in the universe but it is estimated there are at least 200 billion and possibly as many as 2 trillion. The Milky Way galaxy is only an arm of the Laniakea supercluster, one of the largest objects in the known universe stretching 520 million light-years across. Our specific solar system is located about 27,000 light-years from the Galactic Center on the inner edge of the Orion Arm within the Milky Way. Where does our solar system exist inside the Milky Way? Is it at the edge of the Milky Way galaxy? – Quora

The physical body I call “me” is composed of water, earth, fire and air all provided by the physical elements in which I have been “born.”  Water represents approximately 60% of my body weight and over one hundred trillion forms of bacteria live on our skin, in our gut and up our nostrils, and so forth.  You could say I am composed of more non-human elements than “human.”

I am a product of my biological parents who were products of theirs, and so on. My body is but one of the many bodies existing at this time on this planet.  How unique can I be as one of 7.9 billion humans currently residing at this time on this planet in this galaxy.

A macrocosm is the whole of a complex structure, especially the world or universe, contrasted with a small or representative part of it. A microcosm is a miniature with characteristics that exemplify something much larger (e.g., humankind regarded as the epitome of the universe). Narcissism is excessive interest in oneself with a grandiose view of one’s importance in its environment.  Hmmm, from the sublime to the ordinary; what an amazing universe we live in.

As I sip my coffee in the early morning hours of this side of the planet on this late-April day listening to my dog snore at my feet as I type these words on my laptop recalling the question I received less than 24 hours ago which was “why do I write”. I recall my two answers.  First, because I have to.  Second, because I enjoy it.

Why do you write?

Celebrating Earth Day 2021 and A Brief Profile of a Climate Activist: Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Ph.D.

Author, retreat leader, and Episcopal priest: Dr. Bullitt-Jones serves the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts & Southern New England Conference, United Church of Christ, and the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. A long-time climate activist, she believes that the ecological crisis – from climate change to the extinction of species – calls us to claim our kinship with all creation, to look deeply into our sources of hope, and to work together to build a just and sustainable future. Reviving Creation

The term “deep ecology” comes to mind when introduced to Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas.  The core principle of the term “is the belief that the living environment as a whole should be respected and regarded as having certain basic moral and legal rights to live and flourish, independent of its instrumental benefits for human use.” (Deep ecology – Wikipedia). Dr. Bullitt-Jonas has combined her life experiences and faith tradition to be a strong supporter of protecting all life on the planet.

MBJ 2014, by Tipper Gore
Photo (c) Robert A. Jonas

Dr. Bullitt-Jonas’ latest book is a collection of 21 essays by scientists, scholars, faith leaders, and activists who write about their sources of strength, wisdom, and hope as they grapple with climate crisis. Below is a brief excerpt below from the book called “Love Every Leaf” written by Dr. Bullitt-Jonas:

  In times like these, our prayer may need to be expressive and embodied, visceral and vocal. How else can we pray with our immense anger and grief? How else can we pray about ecocide, about the death that humanity is unleashing upon Mother Earth and upon ourselves? How else can we break through our inertia and despair, so that we don’t shut down and go numb? . . . .

I’ve taken to praying outdoors. I go outside, feel the good earth beneath my feet and the wind on my face, and I sing to the trees—to oak and beech, hemlock and pines. Making up the words and music as I go along, I sing my grief to the trees that are going down, and my grief for so much more—for what we have lost and are losing, and for what we are likely to lose. I sing my outrage about these beautiful old trees being cut to the roots, their bodies chipped to bits and hauled away to sell. I sing my fury about the predicament we’re in as a species. I sing my protest of the political and corporate powers-that-be that drive forward relentlessly with business as usual, razing forests, drilling for more oil and fracked gas, digging for more coal, expanding pipeline construction, and opening up public lands and waters to endless exploitation, as if Earth were their private business and they were conducting a liquidation sale. I sing out my shame to the trees, my repentance and apology for the part I have played in Earth’s destruction and for the part my ancestors played when they stole land and chopped down the original forests of the Native peoples who lived here. I sing my praise for the beauty of trees and my resolve not to let a day go by that I don’t celebrate the precious living world of which we are so blessedly a part. I’m not finished until I sing my determination to renew action for trees and for all of God’s Creation. . . .

So our prayer may be noisy and expressive, or it may be very quiet. It may be the kind of prayer that depends on listening in stillness and silence with complete attention: listening to the crickets as they pulse at night, listening to the rain as it falls, listening to our breath as we breathe God in and breathe God out, listening to the inner voice of love that is always sounding in our heart. A discipline of contemplative prayer or meditation can set us free from the frantic churn of thoughts and feelings and enable our spirit to rest and roam in a vaster, wilder space.  
Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, “Love Every Leaf,” in Rooted & Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis, eds. Leah D. Schade and Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, (Rowman & Littlefield: 2019), 175, 176–177.

In short, Margaret believes that the root of the struggle with Climate Change is spiritual and her focus on environmental ministry is her way of helping others understand and respond to the challenges.  

Margaret lives with her husband Robert A. Jonas (see www.emptybell.org for his Christian-Buddhist dialogue website) in Northampton, MA, and works with him to help preserve farmlands, fields, and woodlands in the Pioneer Valley.

As we celebrate Earth Day this year let us consider the declaration of climate emergency, with suggested resources and actions, that was prepared and distributed by the Massachusetts Episcopal dioceses.  As the declaration suggests, we can be more effective in our concern when we “pray, learn, act, and advocate.”  See this link for the available pdf for download. e277ab1c-b900-49b4-9cee-02e9543522e2.pdf (constantcontact.com)

Cole’s Book Review for: We Walk the Path Together

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I’ve been re-reading and re-enjoying a book written by Brian J. Pierce, OP called We Walk the Path Together (Learning from Thich Nhat Hanh & Meister Eckhart) © 2005, Orbis Books.  In preparation for a discussion with a Washington University Professor Emeritus, I have selected the sentences or phrases from each chapter that most “spoke to me.”  I thought my selections might encourage you to read the book and share your sentence/phrase selection.  I hope you join me on this mindful journey.

Introduction  Author Brian Pierce kicks off his book with a quote from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Going Home, Jesus and Buddha as Brothers © 1999, Riverhead Books:  “If you love French cooking, it does not mean that you are forbidden to love Chinese cooking….you love the apple…but no one prevents you from also loving the mango.”  Pierce adds “The apple and the mango, Jesus and the Buddha.  So different, yet so much common ground between them….Meister Eckhart and Thich Nhat Hanh (their respective disciples) invite us into the dialogue.” p. xv.

Chapter 1 Magnanimity (Learning the Art of Dialogue) “Pope John Paul II wrote the following words, stressing that dialogue is another word for love: ‘We are all brothers and sisters and, as pilgrims on this earth, although on different paths, we are all on our way to the common Homeland which God, through ways known only to him, does not cease to indicate to us. The main road of mission is sincere dialogue’ p.13

Chapter 2 Mindfulness and the Eternal Now (Present Moment, Moment of Peace) “From the point of view of the Christian mystical tradition, eternity is not a future time out there in heaven….’What is today? Asks Eckhart, a question to which he gives his own answer, ‘Eternity’” p.21

Chapter 3 The Breath of the Holy Spirit (Learning to Breathe Again) “There is no doubt that the East is helping the West recover the simple art of breathing – that most basic of human actions, the one that will not let us escape from the present moment.  We cannot breathe yesterday or tomorrow. We can only breathe in the here and now.” p.35 “The breath symbolizes the living, divine Reality present in each of us and in all creation.” p.37 “We breathe in the gift, and we breathe it out again, through loving-kindness and service.” p39

Chapter 4 The Water and the Waves (Water-soaked Ground) “if what Eckhart and (Nhat Hanh) say is true – namely, that the drop of water or the wave ‘become the ocean’ – then what happens next? Do we just disappear? What happens when we merge into God? Eckhart smiles at the earnestness with which we ask the question, and then with the wit of a true master of wisdom, he replies: So, you want to know what happens with the drop of water? ‘It finds God; and the finding of herself and the finding of God is one and the same act.’” p.57  “The author of the Chinese Tao Te Ching has a similar insight:

There was something formless and perfect before the universe was born. It is serene. Empty. Solitary. Unchanging. Infinite. Eternally present. It is the mother of the universe. For lack of a better name, I call it Tao. It flows through all things, inside and out, and returns to the origin of all things.” p.58

Chapter 5 Jesus and God (“Coming Home”) “For Christians, the question inevitably arises: Then how do we get back home to God? For (Nhat Hanh) the answer is quite simple: through the practice of mindfulness. We Christians can find much to imitate in this teaching, for only through mindful spiritual practice does the Trinity move from the theology books to becoming a reality in our lives. p.84 “from T.S. Eliot’s The Four Quartets: ‘What we call the beginning is often the end, and to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from….we shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time.’” p.85

Chapter 6 Christ (The Amazing Grace of God) “the reality of our true nature is that we are historical and eternal beings, human and divine, wave and water, heaven and earth. Or, in the image that St. Paul uses: ‘We hold the treasure of divine life within the earthen vessel of our humanity’ (Cor.4:7)…Says Eckhart, ‘The soul is created as if at the junction of time and eternity” p. 97 “from the well-known song ‘Morning Has Broken’: Mine is the sunlight! Mine is the morning. Born of the one light Eden saw play! Praise with elation, praise every morning, God’s re-creation of the new day.’” p.102 “It is heartening for both Buddhists and Christians to know that, in the absence of our respective teachers, the body of their teachings lives on, guiding us toward truth and life.” p.109

Chapter 7 Suffering “The Buddhist journey out of suffering and into freedom is a the heart of the Christian Gospels as well….The Book of Deuteronomy records this admonition from God: ‘I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life that you and your descendants my live. (Deut. 30:19)” p.114 “Spirituality is not primarily about following rules, but about living a life that generates happiness and well-being for oneself and for others.” p.116 “No one possesses the truth. On the contrary, we are possessed by the truth. Truth is the Ground upon which every this and that stands.” p. 120 “A person must be willing to stop trying to solve life’s aches and pains by placing one’s trust in the gods of money, power, prestige, relationships, spiritual pleasure, and the like and plunge into the naked, silent Ground of God within.” p. 125

Chapter 8 Compassion Born from Suffering (Looking Deeply) “The discipline of meditation slows us down and trains us to look at the world with understanding and compassion.  The result? We begin to see the world around us as it truly is. p.129 “Compassion is love that is willing to run the risk of suffering with and for the beloved….the risky business of loving, of course, requires great patience The two words, compassion and patience both come from the Latin root patior, meaning “to suffer.” p.132 Love is not generic; we do not love in general. Love is always concrete. It always involves real people….the only way we have to love God is by loving this person right here and right now….The ‘perfect’ relationship is not one that is free from suffering, but one that is full of compassion.” p.134 “Suffering is part of loving; it just is. There is nothing romantic or heroic about it.” p.135

Chapter 9 The Tree of the Cross (The Cross: Path to Freedom) “The cross…is more of a path to follow that something we are encouraged to imitate” p.144 “a lived response to the great question of life and death and inner freedom.  Do we answer the question and speak the truth – ready to pay the consequences – or do we remain silent and immobile, paralyzed and enslaved by fear?” p.147 Jesus, like the Zen masters, leads his disciples along the path of dying to the self-sufficient ego….He calls us to die to the illusion that we are separate from God, that death has any ultimate power over us.” p.149 “The cross is the Christian version of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths.” p.159 “All of us who have chosen a spiritual path have, at one time or another, fallen short of the goal. We are all human beings in process, learning day by day to be more human….We learn from the mistakes of the past, so that today we can say yes once again to the journey.” p. 161

Chapter 10 Love in Full Bloom (Equanimity: What Is, Is) “Equanimity is …the calm, peaceful acceptance of the way things are in the present moment…..’if life hands you lemons, then make lemonade’….equanimity teaches us to smile and to laugh at life. We learn to accept each other and every situation just as it is and, to the best of our ability to do so with a sense of humor.” p.168 “Through the practice of equanimity, we lose nothing. What we gain, though, in inner peace and tranquility, is immeasurable.” p.171 “To grow in love, says (Nhat Hanh), requires that we develop the spiritual capacity to rise above the fray of life, to be able to observe any given situation without being attached to either this side or that side.” p.175   

CONCLUSION A Journey and a Begging Bowl “Thomas Merton wrote a prayer ‘My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.  I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end…I know that …you will lead me by the right road.” p. 179 “As spiritual practitioners of the twenty-first century, we, like our ancestors, are on a journey, walking a path that unfolds in each and every step. The practice of mindfulness teaches us to savor each step, to live the present moment in all its fullness, aware that the kingdom is either now or never. p.181 “Master Eckhart once said that if he had to summarize the entire spiritual life into a single word or phrase, it would be ‘Thank you.’….The journey, though different and unique for each practitioner and each tradition, is one, and the great joy is the discovery that we walk the path together.” p. 183

This 202 page book includes a lengthy final Notes section that provides detailed references for all the sources cited throughout. Surely, my brief recap does not do justice to this excellent comparison of the Christian and Zen Buddhist traditions.  Clearly your key passages would be different than mine.

I welcome your thoughts on the book, and more importantly, on your spiritual path.  Have you found inspiration from multiple traditions?

ISBN: 1570756139

Another Mass Shooting Reported – TGIF?

Today’s USA TODAY morning headline is “What we know about the Indianapolis shooting: 8 dead at FedEx facility; suspected gunman dead.”

Yes, it’s another mass shooting, regardless of the various definitions for the “mass shooting” term, this one qualifies.  So far, the police are reporting that just after 11pm, Thursday, April 15, an “active shooter” situation took place at the FedEx Ground facility near Indianapolis International Airport.  Eight people were killed in and around the facility (4 inside and 4 outside) and an unknown number of others (at least 5) went to hospitals with injuries” police spokesperson Genae Cook shared with the media.  It is believed the suspected shooter is also dead (by suicide) bringing the total dead, so far, to nine.

Many questions remain unanswered.  It is unknown whether the shooter was an employee or what the motive was.  The man suspected used a submachine gun, an automatic rifle, and was firing in the open.  The FedEx facility employs more than 4,500 people, and a company spokesperson added that the safety of their workforce is their “top priority and they are cooperating fully with investigating authorities.”

Until all the facts are in, the media has resurrected the recent news of mass shooting in Boulder, CO and Atlanta, GA and the concerns around weaknesses in gun laws, etc. And so the continuous cycle of violence, concern, non-action continues. 

Another bit of news was that this latest mass shooting brought the year-to-date total to 130.  Does that sound like a lot for 3.5 months?  Well a quick review of the statistics for last year, and remember, much of the country was under pandemic “lockdown”, shows that in fact 130 is higher.  Last year, for the same 3.5 month time period, the death count was 108.  A quick lookback at the monthly totals for last year shows this:

See the List of mass shootings in the United States in 2020 – Wikipedia)  Note: this website also shows the day, location and other specifics for each occurrence.

Month# of Mass ShootingsTotal # KilledTotal # Wounded
January2839111
February284094
March2627112
April262392
May5837248
June9162395
July8771383
August7851340
September6544274
October5241210
November4747192
December283990
TOTAL6155212,541

Related to this most recent incident reporting is the now standard reminder as follows:

“If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1800-273-TALK (8255), text “help” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.”

My initial reaction to this is first exasperation and then deep sadness that I, and the people I love, live in a country that not only permits this but refuses to do anything about it.  I’m often reminded of the law of large numbers which says we lost far more people to COVID-19 last year (approximately 1,000x more) and supposedly half the country didn’t care about those deaths so what’s the big deal about mass shootings.

So, while we are thanking God for Friday, perhaps, we can take a moment to thank God for the law of large numbers; assuming of course that none of those smaller numbers include people we know and love.

What do you think? I would sincerely appreciate your thoughts on this issue.  

How Do You Define Success?

I was taught the American Dream from my young parents who were eager to do better than their parents and expected their children to accomplish more than they would. Sound familiar?

My father, especially, was always reminding his sons that each generation has a responsibility to outperform the previous one; he said the USA was a place where success was not only possible but expected; so, it was unacceptable for his sons to waste their opportunity.

So how do you define success?  Does success include achieving or obtaining more than your parents?

My father completed Junior College with a two-year associates degree in carpentry.  Initially, he worked for a highway and bridge construction company working across multiple Midwest states. He later joined a major utility company and rose to the level of Maintenance Supervisor.  He added to his primary income, by flipping houses on the side. The combined income allowed him to retire early at the age of 58.  He died eighteen years later and said his only regret in life was not retiring earlier. 

My father’s vision for his four sons was for them to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree, achieve a position of at least manager, and, most importantly, retire by age 57 or younger.  I heard this definition of success so many times that, like it or not, it became a yardstick for measuring my own life.

Quick side trip:  It may be worth noting that my parents divorced when I was six, my father was quick-tempered and quick to punch his wife and sons when he was angry for any reason or no reason at all that I could discern. He also had a penchant for offering advice, especially when no one was requesting it, and this could become tiresome and irritating. Also, he was so competitive, even euchre card games became “duels of manhood”, and he regularly pitted his sons against one another to make them “tough.”  To sum up, he was not an easy person to be around.

However, to my father’s credit, all four sons did attend college and  three of four completed graduate educations.  Three of four achieved positions of manager or higher in their professions.  But on the third, and most important measurement for him, none of his sons retired at an earlier age than he did.  So, to some extent, the American Dream mostly materialized as my father had defined it. He outperformed his father and successfully passed on the challenge to his sons.

But, I’m wondering, is my father’s definition of success an acceptable definition today?  I’m curious, how do you define success and is that definition different from your parents?

Cherry Picking

Or a couple of challenging questions on Good Friday, 2021:

  1. Is the planet Earth the Cherry Capital of the Universe?
  2. Is it possible to maintain hope when surrounded by hate?
  3. Are we ever sure of anything?

I was born in beautiful Traverse City, Michigan aka the Cherry Capital of the World. Traverse City- Cherry Capital – Michigan History (msu.edu) This magnificent title is true because there are many cherry orchards in this part of our planet.  It’s also true because the local cherry producers gave themselves the title in 1925 when they established an annual festival to draw tourists to the area. You see, truth is what you say it is, for whatever purpose deem justified at the time.

The term “cherry picking” is used to describe the harvesting of fruit off a cherry tree or the practice of selecting facts that best fit your needs and conveniently ignoring any other facts that belie the truth you’re trying to promote.

“Cherry picking, suppressing evidence, or the fallacy of incomplete evidence is the act of pointing to individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position while ignoring a significant portion of related and similar cases or data that may contradict that position.” Cherry picking – Wikipedia

Take the American legal system for example, or more specifically, the Derek Chauvin trial (aka George Floyd murder case) currently underway in Minneapolis, MN.  It is a given that the defense will cherry pick facts to defend the police officer, Derek Chauvin, to hopefully create doubt in the jury’s collective mind that excessive force was used on George Floyd preceding his death.  It is also a given that the prosecution will present their facts to make the case that Derek Chauvin went against department standards and thus was the perpetrator of murder based upon his own actions despite the videotaped observations that multiple officers and onlookers were present during the actions leading to death. 

Certainly, some individuals are more guilty than others, but are there truly any innocent parties when others present take less than full action to stop a crime in progress?  Can we ever be sure of the truth when people are not fully willing to collect and consider all the “facts.”

I’m writing this on Good Friday, the commemorated anniversary of Jesus’ death on a cross some 2,000 years ago. Supposedly the Jewish religious leaders, aka Sanhedrin, voted, not unanimously, to turn Jesus over to the local Roman regional leader, Pontius Pilate, for judgment and crucifixion.  Why, because this radical teacher was irritating them, berating them, upturning money tables on temple grounds used for the purchase of sacrifices for worship. Was Jesus innocent of any wrongdoing? Was he guilty of anything worthy of a death sentence? Were the authorities capable of determining truth from fiction and making judgments of merit without a shadow of doubt?

Are we sure about what took place in Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago? Are we sure about what took place less than a year ago in Minneapolis? Are we sure what is taking place right now within a thirty foot circumference around us as we read this sentence?

So, back to cherry picking.  Climate change is cited for the reason pink cherry blossoms reached full bloom on March 26, 2021 in Kyota, Japan; just 8 days ago.  Records have been kept for the cherry season in this former capital of Japan since the 12th century. “Scientists have often pointed to the earlier flowering times of species such as cherry blossoms as indicators of global warming. The Kyoto record is described in one study as ‘probably the longest annual record’ of biological life cycles from anywhere in the world.” Earliest Cherry Blooms in Japanese City in 1,200 Years Linked to Climate Change, Says Scientist (news18.com)  

Despite all the records of facts mentioned above, we can be sure that:

  • * climate change deniers will not change their minds,
  • * white supremacists have already exonerated Derek Chauvin,
  • * fundamentalist Christians don’t care about either of the two bullets above because the rapture will protect them from the apocalypse, and
  • * Traverse City, Michigan is truly the Cherry Capital of the World

Or can we?

3 Ways To Avoid Being “Too Smart For Your Own Good”

I’m no genius, and there are many, especially family members, who can attest to this. Sure it’s true, I was always an Honor’s Student and fared well on standardized tests. But, as we all know, there’s a huge difference between book smart and street smart; between the three Rs (reading, writing and ‘rithmetic) and a few other three R’s of note.  For example:

  • The three R’s of animal welfare research: Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement. As a former franchisee for The Body Shop, our store was always advocating for no animal research for any of our products (soaps, scents and cosmetics).  Replacing the use of animals in research is definitely something I support. Reducing the number of animals used for such research seems like a poor excuse for continuing something that shouldn’t be done in the first place. And finally, Refinement of research methods to minimize animal pain, suffering or distress is another half-measure that only delays Replacement which should happen immediately.
  • The three R’s of sustainability: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.  I’ve practiced these for sure but it’s not always convenient, possible or simple to do so.  It’s also very interesting to read the research on the use of plastic bags, paper bags and cloth or canvas bags when grocery shopping.  But this is another topic for a future post.

Following the mnemonic alliteration pattern of the three R’s mentioned above, here’s my Three R’s to avoid being “too smart for your own good.”  They are Resist, Reflect and Respect and here’s what they mean to me:

  1. Resist the temptation to immediately correct a misguided or ignorant comment made by another. As we’ve all learned, it doesn’t take long on social media these days to read something that sounds uncaring, unthoughtful or even intentionally offensive.  And as Forrest Gump once said, “Stupid is as stupid does.”  Well, stupid or not, I think it’s important not to jump into the fray when confronted (or baited?) by the remarks of a truant or a troll.  Casting your pearls of wisdom more than once can say more about you than the original ill-spoken one.
  2. Next comes Reflect, the second R, which suggests it’s worth considering the “audience” and determining what they are actually saying, trying to say, or deliberating “pissing on” if that’s the situation.  A question or reference or even a gentle “good luck in your future endeavors” may be the better way to end a poor conversation. Sometimes you just have to say “Goodbye” if your reflection suggests no good can come from further conversation.
  3. And finally, Respect is the third R and this begins with respecting yourself.  If your emotions are triggered there’s no need to “pull the trigger” in response.  The kindest and most effective thing you can do is “put on your own oxygen mask first before you attempt to assist another.” And while taking your personal protective measures, consider how you can best respect the other.  Sometimes it’s allowing time for their cooling, their schooling, or for others to do the over-ruling.  Let your friends, or supporters, do the “responding” which allows you to move on to the next, hopefully more rational, person.  A couple of thoughts come to mind:

a) It was Jesus who said “If some home or town will not welcome you or listen to you, then leave that place and shake the dust off your feet.” (Matthew 10:14 Good News Translation)

b) And it is Thich Nhat Hanh who said “We have to take good care of ourselves. If you listen too much to the suffering, the anger of other people, you will be affected….This will destroy your balance…We need to receive the nourishment we deserve.” Anger, Wisdom for Cooling the Flames © 2001 Riverhead Books. pp 95-96  

In other words, letting go of others’ ignorance, as well as our own “smartness”, often means showing kindness-with-restraint to all parties involved.  Sometimes the most respectful thing you can do is let the other person find their truth elsewhere without letting them pull you down in their learning process.

I’m curious, do you have a set of three R’s? Please leave a comment.