Fostering Meaningful Faith

June 16, 2010 by  
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Doubt is a pain toFlowers Carolina 2o lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.  ~Kahlil Gibran

Faith, indeed, has up to the present not been able to move real mountains…. But it can put mountains where there are none.  ~Friedrich Nietzche, Human, All Too Human, 1879

I don’t want to write about religious faith.   But I do want to shine a light in the voice within that believes in our abilities to recreate ourselves, achieve our goals, and find contentment when there is no evidence of any of it.

I woke up this morning with much on my mind.  I’m busy with work and have been going through a lot of personal changes that have brought a certain anxiety to the foreground.

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Sam Harris

May 21, 2010 by  
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Questions of good and evil, right and wrong are commonly thought unanswerable by science. But Sam Harris argues that science can — and should — be an authority on moral issues, shaping human values and setting out what constitutes a good life.

Sam Harris has been identified as one of the “Four Horsemen of Atheism” — company he shares with Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett and Christopher Hitchens. An outspoken proponent of skepticism and science, his two books — The End of Faith and its follow-up Letter to a Christian Nation — have become best-sellers.

In The End of Faith, Harris showed “a harrowing glimpse of mankind’s willingness to suspend reason in favor of religious beliefs, even when these beliefs inspire the worst of human atrocities.” After receiving thousands of angry letters in response, he wrote Letter to a Christian Nation, which centered on religious controversies in the United States: stem cell research, “intelligent design,” and links between religion and violence.

Harris received a degree in philosophy from Stanford and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA. He is the co-founder and CEO of Project Reason, a nonprofit devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society.


Living Life In Our Own Terms

May 14, 2010 by  
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heart on the beach

heart on the beach

It is so hard to live by the beat of our own drums.  The world around keeps telling us we need to produce and to succeed.  We need to run faster and achieve more than our neighbors.  We have all fallen prey to what we have created ourselves; equating well being with money, power and fame.

So it is hard to maintain equilibrium even when we know to achieve any level of happiness – and that is what we are all looking for right?  – we need to satisfy and energize our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs.

Running as fast as we can thinking more is better creates high levels of dissatisfaction.  I’m not a religious person but I appreciate all religions realizing the need for solitude and meditation for well balanced living.

Multi-tasking while feeling the incredible pressure to succeed turns our lives into stress tanks where we live in full immersion.

We have no time to actually mull over problems, obstacles, and issues.  We have to plow forward.  No time to waste. So our minds don’t get the work out they need.  They are being fed the equivalent of fast food.

We also spend most of our days sitting in front of a computer eating out of brown paper bags and cutting our sleep down in order to produce more.

So to swim away from the current of “more, more, more” it takes self love and being diligent.  It requires believing in ourselves and our inner voices.  It takes saying to ourselves: “I will not run with the bulls.  I will take my time and follow my own intuition.  My path is my own.”

Change has always come from people that belief life should be different.

We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.  ~Jane Austen

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In Norman Lear’s Words

February 5, 2010 by  
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Norman Lear is the creator of such shows as “All In the Family”,  “The Jeffersons”, “Sanford And Son” “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” among others.

Norman Lear has long regarded the life of the spirit as one of the great human imperatives of our time.  In a series of speeches and articles over the years, he has urged a frank exploration of spiritual questions as a way to discover what human beings, despite their many differences, may truly hold in common.  As he once put it, “If we think of our many and varied religions as uniquely different trees along a thousand-mile river – and appreciate that they are all nurtured by the same stream – can we not agree to discuss that stream openly, freely, and anywhere and everywhere – as a common river of values?  It nurtures all of our spiritual traditions while uniting us as a species.”

Below is a letter from Norman Lear.

Dear Mr. Kohl:
Thank you for your invitation to join the Woodland Historical Document Collection.

At 65, I’m not sure that my ‘spiritual journey’ has yet begun. It seems to me that I have spent most of my life packing for the trip. At 650 years old, I might still think myself in the process of packing.

The big question, I suppose, is ‘What am I packing?’ Well, the life and words of Jesus, of course. Not Jesus as he has been interpreted, but the Jesus we know from his own words and by example.

I wrap carefully and take with me, too, the memories, taste, touch, and feelings for and from that handful of individuals over the years who managed to live and love in a small C christian way, so purely and uncomplicatedly, whatever their religion.

Finally, I take with me every great piece of religious writing I have the strength to carry, but especially the words of George Bernard Shaw and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Accompanying me, too, on the eternal journey to spiritual understanding, would be my own half-baked gleanings from what I have experienced, seen and read. Summing them up, I believe, first and foremost, that nothing in our world has or will occur as an accident of nature. Everything has meaning. At least, something has willed all that was, all that is, all that will come. If there was nothing before that will, then that will is God. And everything that exists is, at the time it exists, a silver of that same will, that God. Shaw believed that man provides the hands and mind to implement that will. To Shaw, the hands and mind of man now work in collaboration with God (that will) to complete the task of perfection ‘ perfection in the natural world and perfection of man.

I like that. It appeals to my sense of reason. Science tells us everything started with the big bang. If science is correct, we know that all those billion of years ago, the natural universe (or worlds of universes) was naught but chaos, all vapors, gases and planetary collisions. Today, science reports of an incredible, breathtaking order in the universe and among the universes. Quite an improvement.

Similarly, man began as some kind of amoeba and followed the evolutionary pattern from sea creature to reptile; to land creature on four legs to land creature on two legs; from the paleolithic age to the neanderthal age (in whatever order came first, I do not know) through all the other ages my limited background in science will not allow me to detail, until we arrive at man the way he is today. Man, with the mind and the hands to assist the original and divine will in the achievement of universe perfection. Quite an improvement also.

Ah, but if one accepts the above, the best is yet to come. Because granting how far man and his natural world have come along the evolutionary path and granting that he is only what ‘ 30%, 50%, 62% along the way? ‘ how dare he not believe that it gets better all the time and that man and his world will not ultimately reach perfection?

It is all there for us. Someone once suggested that there are spiritual currents on which man’s heart may soar just as birds fly on currents of air. The thoughts I have tried to express above cause my heart to lift whenever I care to think of them, and if I hold those thoughts long enough, I can feel my arms stretching out symbolically and my spirit begin to soar on those spiritual currents. Emerson said that we lie in the lap of an immense intelligence; that all truth, beauty and justice is in a sense part of the natural world. Man does not own it; his soul merely allows passage to its beams. I believe all of that, too. More spiritual currents on which to soar.

One more thought: Victor Hugo said that ‘to love another person is to see the face of God.’ That may be the straightest line of all to ultimate spiritual growth. But when you think of how Jesus loved, it may also be the most daunting route of all.

Lucky there wasn’t a window open in my study when I began to set down these thoughts or I might have flown out of the room before telling you have much I’ve enjoyed answering your query.

Yours sincerely,

Norman Lear


In Honor Of A Firefighter

November 17, 2009 by  
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By Charlie

I am a firefighter. In September of 2009 I was one of the thousands of firefighters sent to the “Station Fire” that ravaged most of the Angeles National Forest and, sadly, took the lives of 2 fellow firefighters. This is a story of another retired firefighter lost that day and the final hours of his life.

On September 1st my engine company was part of a strike team assigned to structure protection for some homes in the foothills in the community of Juniper Hills. These homes were rather spread out and each fire truck was assigned to a home along the road. As we approached the home we were assigned to protect we saw that it was owned by a firefighter. We assumed that the house would have good weed compliance and adequate defensible space around it because if anyone would be aware of its importance, it would be a firefighter.

As we approached the home, we were met by a woman (and her daughters) who was the wife of the firefighter who lived there. She informed us that her husband, a retired firefighter, was in the house under hospice care in the final stages of cancer and other medical problems. She asked us if she had to evacuate. We knew that was inevitable and we told her we would do whatever we could for her and her family.

We helped them load their belongings and got the house prepared for the possible arrival of the fire. Finally the time came for them to leave. Her husband Mike needed to be taken to the car as he was basically unconscious. My partner and I volunteered to take him to the car. We were offered his wheelchair but we felt that, as a firefighter, it would be our honor to carry him to the vehicle. As we carried him we assured him that his wife and daughters were safe and that we would be there to protect his home of over 40 years. We placed him in the car and reassured him once again and made sure he was as comfortable as possible, and put on his seatbelt.

One of his daughters stayed behind with us as her mother drove her dad to their other daughters’ house.

A few hours later the daughter got a phone call from her mother that her dad, Mike, had just died.

Shortly after the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center Mike had erected a flagpole in his yard and had a flag flying from it since. That morning we were there, his daughter removed the old tattered flag and replaced it with a nice, crisp new one. Upon hearing of Mike’s passing, my partner asked if he could lower the flag to half-staff. Not only for Mike, but for the other two firefighters who were lost. They have yet to raise it to full staff.

I’m not very religious in the true sense of the word but I do feel a certain spirituality that events happen for a reason. It could have been any of hundreds of fire trucks at the fire that could have been assigned to Mike’s house. That responsibility fell to my crew. It was our honor to escort Mike from his home for what would prove to be the last time. How ironic that, after a 30+ year career as a firefighter, he would be leaving his home for the last time in the face of what would become the largest fire in the history of Los Angeles County.

Mike stayed alive long enough to know that we would be there for his family when he was unable to be. As we carried him to the car we gave him permission to go and that his family would be taken care of.

I was deeply moved by the graciousness of Mike’s family in the face of some very difficult moments. They were just as concerned about our needs and safety as we were about theirs.

It’s times like these that reinforce the good that still exists in this world that all too often gets overlooked.