Archive for the ‘Disciplines’ Category

Politically Correct

December 11, 2018

Many people (white men?) complain about the “politically correct” speech movement. They seem to feel it is a restraint on their freedom.

Why?

Do we need to be free to speak about people in demeaning terms?

Do we need to be free to preach hatred?

The founders of the American Republic were rightly concerned that people would grab onto the “rights” without considering the balancing “responsibilities”.

Especially as Christians, do we need social pressure to speak respectfully of others? To speak wisdom? To think before we speak (read the letter of James for a longer essay on this)?

I am almost never on Facebook anymore. I don’t see some of the memes going around. But I guess there is a kerfluffel about the “Christmas” song “Baby It’s Cold Out There.”

First, hate to burst your bubble, but this isn’t a Christmas song. It’s a winter song.

Next, the song is about a man convincing a reluctant woman to have sex with him. It is done playfully. That makes it even more dangerous.

Have we learned nothing from the last several years? Finding ways to convince or force others into having sex is simply not correct behavior. Forget “politically correct.” It is not morally correct.

In the terms of the Proverbs, many people seem to want the right to be a fool when we should be growing into Wisdom.

Learn To Wait

December 10, 2018

Samuel Beckett wrote a play wherein two men engage in seemingly random conversations while Waiting for Godot–who never arrives. When one starts to leave, the other reminds him, “Remember, we are waiting for Godot.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer advised us, “Learning about advent means learning about waiting.”

Is waiting something we need to learn?

I remember being about 9 and waiting outside a house after a drum lesson for dad to arrive to take me home. I thought he’d never make it. Sometimes waiting is forced upon us. Is that how we learn?

You cannot learn waiting by reading about its meaning. You can learn the etymology of the word. You may learn some contexts for the word.

Like Vladimir and Estragon waiting for Godot, you learn waiting by intentionally pausing your day anticipating the arrival of someone or something.

Maybe it is waiting in expectation like Mary waiting out the nine months for the birth of a miracle child. What does it mean? What will he be like? How will I raise him?

Waiting.

Rather than waiting with excitement for December 25 in order to inspect the stuff left behind by St. Nicholas or Santa Claus, advent requires a different sort of waiting.

We talk about things while we wait. But in this play Godot actually comes. In the form of Jesus, of course.

Read Luke and Matthew. Read about all the people they describe who had waited throughout a long life for this birth. For the advent of this spiritual renewal.

Wait.

What’s Your Type

December 7, 2018

Man walks into a bar. Sees a woman he’d like to know better. Goes to her, “What’s your sign?”

In the “old” days, everyone knew their sun sign. “I’m a Virgo.” “I’m a Capricorn.” And so on. It was supposed to tell you something about your personality based on when you were born.

I’m a Scorpio. My wife is Aquarius. It is the worst possible match in the Zodiac, so I read once. We’ve been married 48 years. Hard to tell how good it would have been if we had compatible signs.

I’ve been part of two teams where we were studied on our interactions based on the Myers-Briggs Types Indicator. You know, the one with four letters. I’m ENTP. But I really like being alone (I, not E). But I can get energy from being with people (E, not I). <sigh>

Oh, I never found out if the researchers came to a conclusion. A dysfunctional team is a dysfunctional team.

Now all the cool kids (and I always wanted to be one of the cool kids but never made it) ask, “What’s your number?” It’s the Enneagram. I’ve taken the tests. I’m a 9; except I’m a 5; but wait, I’m really a 4.

What good is it to know a description of your personality?

None.

As Robert Pirsig noted introducing Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, “the real motorcycle you’re working on is yourself.”

Many people stop at knowing a little bit. The point is really to use that information to understand your strengths and weaknesses. Then you can go to work to shore up your weaknesses and assure that your strengths don’t go too far.

Ancient wisdom up to the present is about knowing yourself so that you can improve yourself.

And God knows, we all could use some improvement.

We Are Mostly Still The Same

December 5, 2018

We look at the kids today and wonder what the world will come to.

People said that about my generation, the one before, the ones after.

I read ancient documents. The young people 4,000 years ago? The same.

The same hopes, fears, adolescent stupidity.

I saw this cartoon the other day:

xkdc

Still, things are much better today than 100 years ago. Or farther back. We live more comfortably throughout most of the world. We have better health. Less violence (despite headlines meant to stir up emotions and readership). Peace and justice keep winning a little at a time.

It’s Advent time for Christians. A season of anticipation of the coming of the Prince of Peace. We’re the same, yet better.

Memento Mori Remembering Our Mortality

December 4, 2018

The ancient Stoics taught memento mori or remembering our mortality.

Young people often have no thought of their mortality and place themselves in reckless situations. But those who are wise know that any day can be the last for us or those close to us.

In the last two weeks, three people ranging from family to acquaintance to community member died suddenly and young.

These events should awaken us to the fact that all of us are mortal and we could die any day.

That just means that we should be living a day at a time. Don’t let this day go by thoughtlessly.

Christians are now in the season of Advent. A time of waiting with anticipation and expectation. We live each day with hope and yet at the same time remember our mortality. It is in this dynamic tension that we forge our way forward.

I guess we could use the Latin to say we live in the tension of memento mori and carpe diem.

What Are You Doing With Your Life

December 3, 2018

A young man lives his teenage fantasy for ten years. Sex, drugs, rock’n’roll. Beautiful models in his bedroom. A contact list of thousands of the “beautiful people.” New York City night club life. Six-figure income.

Then one day (actually a period of time) he changes. Following a couple of years of searching, he finds focus.

Next ten years? He brought clean water to tens of millions of people who had none before. The biggest cause of hospitalization in many parts of the world? Water-borne disease. These people saved from terrible illness.

The next book you should read. And the next charity you should support–charity: water.

Go and Do and Avoid Being Merely a Critic

November 30, 2018

This is a long quote. But we need to hear it often. I just heard a long interview with LeBron James on the Tim Ferriss podcast. He has this quote in his locker. (He’s a basketball player in the NBA, if you don’t know.)

The quote is from Teddy Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 

The world is full of the critic. With social media, their voices are amplified. Thanks LeBron for reminding me.

Be the other person.

First Serve Others

November 29, 2018

If you serve others, you serve yourself in the end.

We are told to be like a light on a hill during a dark, desert night. That light will shine for miles. Like a lighthouse guiding people.

If you are trying to build a business, first serve others. If you have structured your finances correctly, focus on serving others results in a profitable business.

The same with a non-profit organization. And with churches. How many churches or non-profits are focused on themselves and lose their way?

How about you? Are you a light on a hill serving others? Or are you adrift in life looking for the lighthouse for guidance? Or maybe even unaware of the existence of a lighthouse and drifting dangerously close to breaking up on the rocks.

Individually or corporately, first serve others. The rest follows.

Why Did I Do That

November 28, 2018

Sometimes I do things or say things and a little later wonder exactly why.

Understanding our motivations before we act leads to a giant step in maturity.

Maybe we react from our fears or our greed or our pride or our appetites.

The moment between thought and action is the most important moment of life.

In that moment we have the opportunity to be mature or not.

In that moment breath is the most important thing. The exhale changes our body, emotions, attitude.

In the breath we return to the spirit.

We Are All Interconnected

November 27, 2018

Once in meditation, I was brought to a room. Then suddenly appeared all different peoples. People of different races, cultures, genders. And I was given the realization that we are all connected. And we are all in this thing called life together.

The Roman emperor/philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote a reminder to himself, “Meditate often on the interconnectedness and mutual interdependence of all things in the universe.” 

Travel brings wonderful things into consciousness if we but open our eyes. We get out of our tribe. We see that other people have the same joys and struggles. Within our tribes it is easy to impugn the motives of others. When we realize how interconnected and alike we all are, we are convicted of our own motives.

[Note: If you notice posts this week are a little early, it is because I am in Germany.]

We are placed here to help others and do good. I must remind the technologists to whom I write professionally that the purpose of developing and implementing technology is to help people. To be more like Scott Harrison who founded Charity Water using technology to bring safe drinking water to millions. (Link is to his new book.) Not to be like Mark Zuckerberg who uses and manipulates us in order to become a billionaire.

Jesus told us God is Love and that we should channel that love to all of our neighbors. Meditate often on how all of God’s creation is interconnected and interdependent.