Monthly Archives: September 2008

The Benefit of Religious Faith/Spirituality

A while back I said that I was interested in reading Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, as I was fascinated to find out how this man was able to find meaning in the midst of one of the most degrading, dehumanizing and cruel situations a person could endure in a Nazi concentration camp. I did go and pick up the book and am now just some 40 pages in. Last night as I was reading I was struck by his vivid, inside description of what it was like to live inside those camps day to day, week to week, year to year. It makes anything that I endure pale in comparison!

I was particularly struck by what he said about those who had some religious faith or sense of spirituality. They ultimately were able to endure much better, for they were able to go to a place inside themselves which nothing or no one could take from them. This is what he says about such people:

“In spite of the all enforced physical and mental primitiveness of life in the concentration camp, it was possible for spiritual life to deepen. Sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life may have suffered much pain (they were often of a delicate constitution), but the damage to their inner selves was much less. They were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom. Only in this way can one explain the apparent paradox that some prisoners of less hardy make-up often seemed to survive camp life better than did those of a robust nature.” (Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, Beacon Press, Boston, 1959, 1962, 1984, 2006 p.36).

As I read this last night I was so grateful, despite its many faults, for my religious upbringing. It gave me a sense of hope, a place “of inner riches and spiritual freedom” to retreat to in the midst of difficult times. As a boy growing up in an alcoholic war zone of a home, because of the stories of faith that were instilled in me, that boy had someplace to go in the midst of his hell – and that place saved his life! And it continues to bless me in ways that I am unaware.

Perhaps today we could be grateful for a sense of Spirit that we have which gives us this place of “inner riches and spiritual freedom,” despite painful circumstances in our lives. It provides for us a way of dealing with these circumstances and rising above them and not collapsing under their weight. The seeking of a spiritual path, whatever it may be, indeed does make a concrete difference in our lives and, through us, the lives of those around us! It’s worth the time and effort we put into it.

 


Less Is More

What would you think if your boss or your partner sent you on a long trip to do something, but then told you to take nothing with you and just to rely on the help of strangers? I remember years ago, when I was in the seminary, hearing stories of one of the formation directors who used to send college students out on the road in the summer time, having them travel hundreds of miles and only giving them $10.00 to take with them and nothing else. They were to make their way across these hundreds of miles relying on the help of strangers. This, he said, helped them get a real sense of what the poor feel in their lives. Certainly it was a different day and age back then; but a challenging way to learn that maybe we don’t need as much as we think we do.

I wonder if having much holds us from experiencing life’s richness in other ways. I wonder if it holds us from interaction with others and opportunities to be of mutual support, that otherwise we simply don’t see, as each of us is mired within the secure confines of our own homes.

This past week, after a violent windstorm, the residual effects of Hurricane Ike, I was left without electricity for a week. Certainly much less worse than those devastated by the brunt of that storm. Yet even this little “inconvenience” made me not only think of , but feel with those in other parts of the world who never have electricity. It made me get out of my house and interact with neighbors and others in coffee shops and the like. I met more people in this past week than I have in a quite a while. It created within people a mutual inter-dependence that otherwise we rarely experience. Although a little edgy at times due to sinus problems and a lack of sleep, this past week opened a deeper connection with people, many of whom I didn’t even know. It made me realize in a real way that maybe I don’t need all those things I have and, not only that, they keep me from experiencing life at deeper, interconnected levels.

“Take nothing for the journey; neither walking staff nor traveling bag; no bread, no money.” (See Luke 9: 1-6) Perhaps today we could ask ourselves this: how are my possessions holding me from experiencing a richer, fuller life? What can I do live a more inter-dependent life?


I’m Horny!. . .Erotic Energy and the Divine

I don’t know if it’s because I had a week without electicity, or that I find myself overwhelmed with work to catch up on, or because I haven’t slept well in a week and a half due to hay fever, . . . but I’ve been very horny lately!  I mean VERY!  I haven’t felt this horny in a long time!  I feel like I did years ago when I could practically get off just by looking at the object of my desire or being near him!

What a wonderful feeling!

Perhaps I’m just looking for an escape, a way to blow off some energy because I’m tired and overworked?  I don’t know.  Whatever the case, it provides a palatable moment when erotic energy and spiritual energy meet.  The other day I sat praying with my mind and body whirling off on some sexual fantasy.  When I would wake up out of the fantasy I would try to bring myself back to my prayer.  It didn’t work.  So instead of fighting it, I welcomed this wonderful flood of eroticism into my prayer experience.  It became one of those graced moments of integration where sexuality and spirituality kissed and made love to each other.  I breathed prayer energy right into the sexual fantasy and the  erotic energy right into my prayer.  I have found since that morning, as I continue in a very horny trend, I celebrate the flood of erotic energy that I’m feeling as something sacred and tribal.  I find myself welcoming this animal instinct and the desire within to merge with my “tribe” of men, as it were.  Almost as if to explore them is to explore the Divine.  I’ve not quite felt something like this before to be honest and I’m not even sure where I’m going with this, but something within me is saying “go with it.” 

I welcome this teaching of integration, this awakening that I am feeling.  It’s an awesome feeling of wholeness and oneness where Divine energy is discovered in the erotic – this spark of the Divine within us.  I feel myself being called to explore this integration further as I welcome this flood or eroticism, instead of repressing it.  It’s a wonderful feeling to welcome such energy in my spirit life.

Thank you God for this gift!


Am I A Son of Good Energy?

I must admit that I am not one of those who worry about “getting to heaven.”  What does concern me is being a good person merely for the sake of being a good person.  It’s the like the slogan that appears around the head of the roaring lion in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer films:  “Ars Gratia Artis” – “Art for the sake of Art.”  That’s how I look at trying to be a good person.  Being a good person for its own sake.  And frankly, when I do so, my life is blessed by the knowledge that I am somehow making a positive difference in someone’s life.  Conversely, when I fail at this, my energy is drained, knowing that I have depleted someone’s life force by what I have done or said that is negative.

“To do what is right and just is more acceptable than sacrifice. (See Proverbs 21: 1-6)  I can go to all the spiritual retreats, conferences, 12 Step meetings, worship services, or read all the self help material I can, but if it is not reflected in how I go out of my way to treat others well, all of that means nothing.  If I am to be a son of the Universe and be a force of good energy, lining up with my Source which is all good and giving, then my supposed “spirituality” will be reflected in my actions.  “My mother and brothers are those who hear the Divine word and act upon it.” (Luke 8: 21)


It Is In Giving . . .

Matthew 20: 1-16a

When I read this passage I think to myself, “you’ve got to be kidding!”  Here we have God described as a landowner who gives the same wage to those who have been working all day in the hot sun and those who have only been working one hour.  No fair I would say if I was one of those workers who had been working all day!  But such a response would emanate from the ego mind, which is about comparing, hoarding and wanting.

When it comes to enlightenment, peace and inner joy what one of us would be jealous of one who experienced these things?  Even if we’ve been at this quest for years, why would we be jealous if someone experienced what we have?  The enlightened mind does not work this way, only ego.  The youngest novice at this can teach us something.

Divine generosity is here exposed as lavish and certainly not fair to our standards.  However, when I have been the one who has made a major mistake, when I have hurt someone or screwed up my life in some way, believe me, I would stand very grateful if such generosity was given to me.  So it all depends on our perspective.

If God is said to be so generous in forgiveness, am I the same toward others?  How abundant is my sense of giving and forgiving?  I am to reflect the same abundance that my Source exhibits, lavishly giving – like Francis of Assisi who prayed that he be more concerned with consoling, understanding and loving than being consoled, understood or loved. . . .  I have a ways to go to be honest.  Perhaps I would do well to daily return to this prayer attributed to this great Saint, as a reminder of the attitude that I need not be concerned with ego wants, but Divine generosity.


To The Media – Give Us Some Good News!

I have often thought that if we had a National News program that gave us 30 minutes of nothing but good news, it would gradually have a transforming affect on the nation.

With the advent of 24/7 news channels we can be constantly inundated with news, much of it bad news – the unbelievably wrong things that are happening in the world and in people’s lives.  Precious little time is given to anything good that is happening. These 24/7 New stations compete for viewers and, knowing this, must sensationalize as much as possible, doing the most possible to wave their hands and say:  Watch me!  Watch me!    Such attention getting leads to a mentality where the more out of the ordinary the news can be, the better.  And increasingly, not only are the so called “facts” presented, but we have unending “commentary” on the News of the day just to fill time.  And, of course, in order to get attention, some of this commentary is often skewed and adversarial.

When it comes to the News, the political landscape or the like, give me the facts.  Just give me the facts and allow me the consideration of drawing my own conclusions!

Also, give me some good news!  Our blood pressure and anxiety levels are high enough.  Whether we know it or not, the incessant stream of bad news creates and adds to this.  Again, I cannot help but think that if we had more good news, it would gradually have a transforming effect on the Nation and the world.  Perhaps we could begin to realize that, contrary to what we might think watching the News, most people are basically good and this world isn’t as frightening as we think it might be.  What we think will create more of what we’re thinking about.  Perhaps if we had more good news, we would begin to think good thoughts and, in so doing, create more of that in our world.


Values Voter Summit

The other day I was flipping through the channels and landed on CSpan. They were televising the Values Voter Summit, held last week in Washington DC. The portion I caught was a speech by movie star Stephen Baldwin in which he was waxing eloquently about all the evil in the world and particularly Hollywood, all the trash that they’re coming out with and that our kids are seeing. I was taken back by his rhetoric and his evangelical tone, which I admit gives me hives. Despite this I stayed with it. He made a particular statement which disturbed me. He said that he often fights with his “liberal” buddies in Hollywood about shows and movies that are being created and aired. I felt saddened that the support of violent, sexually explicit, shallow, trashy programming was identified with being “liberal.” I don’t think it is a liberal or conservative thing. Liberals are indeed much more prone to freedom of speech and expression; but do they not also care about quality, the cultivation of culture and good, solid formation and education for our children?

I certainly would not agree with much of what this conference was touting. Unlike them I would support family values to such an extent that I would support ALL families, straight, gay, lesbian and the like. I would support marriage to a greater extent than they do in supporting all who wanted to make a life time commitment, no matter their sexual orientation. My stance on supporting life would also include being against capitol punishment and supporting war in only the most rare circumstances. And I would interpret Scripture taking into account its historic and cultural context – and not literally as they do.

AND, although I highly support freedom of speech and expression, I, like them, would greatly discourage a lot of what is aired on television and in the movies. What we put into our minds affects the way we live and act. We certainly are aware of this when it comes to children, but are we aware of it as adults? I know that there are certain things I do or watch that I would do much better not to.

What good food am I giving my mind and spirit each day? What good soil am I providing for the seed that is my life? Is what I do, how I spend my time and what I watch adding something to my life and character? Is it life giving?