Archive for the ‘Wisdom’ Category

Finding A Rhythm In Life Lived

January 27, 2023

Dad decided for whatever reason I don’t know to send me to a percussion teacher when I was about eight years old. I learned the variety of rhythms–marching, Bossa Nova, rhumba, waltz, and so on by the time I moved on to guitar at 20.

I thought of rhythms thanks to a new book I’ve begun reading this week, Attention Span: A Groundbreaking Way to Restore Balance, Happiness and Productivity, by Gloria Mark, PhD. She is a psychologist who has researched things such as focus.

I’ve only gotten through the first four chapters so far. She has gone through some research on flow, a topic popularized mostly in athletics but also in creative work. This observation is derived from that feeling you have when you are deeply immersed in something–a book, painting a picture, playing soccer–and time passes unnoticed.

She points out that much of our work, and indeed our lives, are not in flow. Rather there is a rhythm. Perhaps the daily circadian rhythm. There are points of a day where we are more alert and times when we need a break.

Reading through the Proverbs (my annual January refresher course) I sense rhythms. The wise person rises early, attends to the work to be done, helps other people, avoids fools. The fool’s rhythm depends on the whims of the moment, the vagaries of the moment, the suggestions of “friends.”

Our trick is to find our daily/weekly/monthly rhythms and live them out. Hopefully the rhythm of the wise and not that of the fool.

Who Is A Fool?

January 26, 2023

Today’s chapter in Proverbs hit the fools, the lazy, and the “whisperer.” So, I thought, who is a fool? Is there a picture of a fool? How would I know one, really?

Wow, did that ever send me down into a rabbit’s warren of Ecosia searches. That was 12 hours ago. A busy day and several zoom meetings later, here I am after dinner still thinking.

Perhaps I am the fool?

Speaking of fools, I thought about our politicians in the US. A big group of them keep trying to run every detail of our lives. Many of these were youth and adolescents of the 70s.

This 70s song by Jonathan Edwards (Sunshine Go Away Today) appeared on our Sonos speakers

Sunshine, go away today
I don’t feel much like dancing
Some man’s gone, he’s tried to run my life
He don’t know what he’s asking
When he tells me I better get in line
I can’t hear what he’s saying
When I grow up, I’m gonna make it mine
These ain’t dues I been paying

Well, how much does it cost?
I’ll buy it
The time is all we’ve lost
I’ll try it
And he can’t even run his own life
I’ll be damned if he’ll run mine, sunshine

The song is packed with teenage rebellion. On the other hand, I was impacted by the line–he can’t even run his own life I’ll be damed if he’ll run mine.

How often do we, yes we, you and me, try to tell other people how to live yet our own lives leave so much to be desired?

Once again a use for the discipline of pause, breathe, consider, be quiet.

Reading Proverbs Understand the Meaning of the Picture

January 24, 2023

Sometimes the writers of the Proverbs include a saying that is blunt. Do not do this…for this will happen. Sometimes the sayings are little pictures. Sometimes, like Jesus, the stories require work on our part to understand.

Once I quoted from the German writer Thomas Mann, “If everyone swept in front of their house, the whole world would be clean.” An engineer wrote to me and explained how that was impossible. He was thinking of a literal broom. Mann was most likely thinking of what would happen if each of us got ourselves in order first, rather than trying to fix everyone else.

Sometimes, like this one, the story is pretty clear.

“I passed by the field of one who was lazy,
by the vineyard of a stupid person;
and see, it was all overgrown with thorns;
the ground was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall was broken down.
Then I saw and considered it;
I looked and received instruction.
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,

and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want, like an armed warrior.”

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Proverbs 24

Avoiding laziness pops up often in the Proverbs. This is a nice little story to illustrate.

Get your 7-8 hours of sleep. Then get up and work on your field–whatever that field may be. I wrote a few days ago about the Japanese theory of ickigai–having a purpose to get out of bed in the morning. Find your purpose and work at it.

Wisdom To Do Righteousness and Justice

January 22, 2023

Still reading through the Proverbs a chapter a day.

“All deeds are right in the sight of the doer,
but the LORD weighs the heart.
To do righteousness and justice
is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.”

Proverbs 21

You think you’re OK, but God looks into your motivations. In our words of today, God would rather we did right and worked for justice even more than religious ritual. Of course, both is good. But…what is in our heart?

“and the borrower is the slave of the lender.”

Proverbs 22

I had a boss who was President of the company back in the 80s. He complained of the stupidity of our bankers. I told him, “Dave, the bank is the actual owner of the company. You six stockholders only put in $250,000. The bank has $3 million in here. They own the business and fixed assets.”

Sure enough, the bank called the loan and we were forced into selling for whatever we could get. Most of us lost our jobs. The president wound up working at a gas station. Proverbs also speak to pride and arrogance leading to a fall.

Who Can Say I Am Pure From My Sin

January 20, 2023

It is honorable to refrain from strife; but every fool is quick to quarrel.–from Proverbs 20

Sometimes uncomfortable memories appear from nowhere reminding me of the time of life when I was quick to quarrel. Mostly I was quiet, but sometimes there would be a trigger.

I still must watch for that even though many years of meditation have rewired my brain.

Who can say, “I have made my heart clean; I am pure from my sin?”–from Proverbs 20

A few men worked in our department in the manufacturing plant who attended the same small country church. They told us that having been “saved by Jesus” they were “made pure from sin and therefore could sin no more.”

There was a 10-minute break time in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon and a 30-minute lunch period. We were all paid by the hour to perform certain assigned work. They had a habit of meeting during those three break periods for prayer. Their prayers might, and usually did, run for much longer than their break time.

Did they not think that getting paid to work and then not working was a sin?

Last night I was reading in Matthew where Jesus upbraided the Pharisees for making up rules that allowed them to circumvent the Laws of Moses.

The human mind is able to justify anything, I guess.

Where am I, where are you, sinning by commission or omission yet calling it not sin?

Offering An Opinion Lacking Understanding

January 18, 2023

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing personal opinion.”

Proverbs 18

Sometimes I wonder if Solomon had the power to look 3,000 years into the future and view today’s society. We often hear “I’m entitled to my opinion” but never “I’m in need of understanding.”

But, no, obviously this condition of mindlessly spouting off unfounded opinion is as old as human civilization. Maybe older.

What do we admire about some people?

Is it not that they have deep understanding and yet they do not metaphorically bludgeon us with it.

Wise people share their insights derived from their understanding at a time and place where we can effectively apply it to our situation.

We admire them, perhaps even while also disliking them for the uncomfortable feeling of our own need to change. For, we hate to change–our minds, our lifestyle, our habits.

I think of people who met Jesus and understood the wisdom of his words and yet walked away sadly knowing that they had not the courage or energy to change.

And I wonder, where do we need to change beginning today? And what? And how?

The rest of Chapter 18 talks of problems we cause through our talking. Similar to cautions found in the letter of James in the New Testament. Perhaps that would be a useful change for us beginning today–how and what we communicate?

I’ve made progress and yet much work remains. How about you?

That Point Between Urge and Action

January 17, 2023

There are wonderful pictures in the Proverbs:

Better to meet a she-bear robbed of its cubs than to confront a fool immersed in folly. (Chapter 17)

You are scanning your social media feed. As unlikely as this sounds, you see a post from someone that is completely wrong. Using emotion-laden language, they describe an event totally made up. You feel a surge of righteous emotion, even anger. “I’ll set this right” you say to yourself as you begin to type.

Maybe you’ve forgotten about the she-bear. Maybe you remember what the writer of the Proverbs says shortly thereafter:

The beginning of strife is like letting out water; so stop before the quarrel breaks out.

TS Eliot wrote about the point, the still point, where the dance is. He didn’t mean this, exactly, but it fits. There is a moment between typing the response or speaking to the friend and clicking send or giving voice to the thought.

It is that moment that we must become sensitive to. That still point. There, we must become observers of ourselves. Recognizing that we are about to meet folly with folly, we stop.

We cannot control the genesis of our emotions. We must control the response. That is where awareness and tranquility of mind becomes the most important thing. At that moment, we breathe, we see, we become tranquil and quiet. Let it pass.

Repentance, or Making Decisions

January 13, 2023

It’s January 13. How are your New Year’s Resolutions going?

There is no January rush at the community’s fitness center. I have no direct data, only observation–attendance in exercise classes is stable over the past year, again no January rush.

Has no one new decided for a healthy lifestyle this year?

There is a stream within the broader Christian church that emphasizes THE decision. You make one public statement that you wish to follow Jesus (the proper formula is “accept Jesus as Lord and Savior) and that’s it. Complete. Done.

I spent my entire adult life suggesting to people that that is not the end. It is the beginning.

The stories of Jesus tell us he taught repentance–that is a decision to change the direction of your life. His cousin John taught similarly.

A sub-theme of the Proverbs tells us that many decisions we make determine the type of life we will experience.

Every day we face decision points that determine our life.

  • take an ethical shortcut
  • tell a small falsehood
  • help someone with a bulky package while shopping
  • give some money to a charity
  • donate some time to someone who needs support

And finally, a proverb for politicians the world over:

“The righteous hate falsehood,
but the wicked act shamefully and disgracefully.”

Proverbs 13

Why Behave?

January 12, 2023

In the United States we allow people to make up sayings or put their names on automobile license plates. They are called “vanity plates” for a reason.

I followed a car yesterday with the license plate “Y Behave”.

I thought, how many of us think it is funny or cute to flaunt good behavior and promote prolonged adolescent behavior.

Many of us still act as if we are adolescent pushing against authority, living a dissipated lifestyle, having no real purpose in life (see my post on ickigai).

The writers of the Proverbs stress constantly the benefits of leading a righteous life. It is a life free from entanglement and anxiety. A life well lived. 

I wonder how long we can sustain such a narcissistic society. I think maybe thinkers 3,000 years ago wondered the same thing.

Bringing Wisdom To Life

January 10, 2023

Today’s reading going through the Hebrew book of the Proverbs during January is Chapter 10—beginning the proverbs of Solomon. He was a son of King David. He was not the first born. Because of rebellion, pride, dysfunctional families, death, Solomon became king upon David’s death.

God visited Solomon and said he would grant a desire. Solomon asked for wisdom. And, indeed, he became known throughout the Middle East for his wisdom.

One would never know it by the way he lived. As befitting a king, he had many wives and many women in the palace not his wives but with whom he could sleep with. He had many offspring. Despite his wisdom, he was unable to raise an upright son and heir.

This is the most ironic book in the Bible. And sad in the sense that at the end of his life Solomon realized that he had not lived according to the wisdom granted him.

His son was full of pride and  in a very short time caused the division of the vast kingdom acquired by his father. It was all chasing the wind, as Solomon said later.

Take a lesson, not only from the words but also from the story behind the words. 

We can read and memorize and even understand the wisdom that comes from God. But as Jesus explained time and again, unless we live out those words, we are lost.