Archive for the ‘Wisdom’ Category

Giving to Others

January 21, 2021

True words are not necessarily beautiful.
Beautiful words are not necessarily truthful.
One who is achieved does not argue,
and one who argues is not achieved.
One who knows the deepest truth
does not need segmented information.
One who knows vast amounts of information
may not know the truth.

One of whole virtue
is not occupied with amassing material goods
Yet, the more he lives for others,
the richer his life becomes.
The more he gives, the more his life abounds.
The subtle truth of the universe is beneficial, not harmful.

There may be no better time in America to read Wisdom literature. One of my disciplines for more than 20 years has been to immerse my mind in it every January. What a way to kick off a year.

But as I sit and contemplate the world, not one place on the globe can I see where such thoughts would not be worthwhile.

Those words were written perhaps 2,500 years ago and ascribed to “the ancients.” How long we humans have known what is the true path–and how little we have followed it.

As Jesus told the religious leader who correctly identified the “neighbor” in the story of the Good Samaritan, “Go and do likewise.”

Wisdom Traditions

January 14, 2021

I just listened again to a podcast interview on the Tim Ferriss show with Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the recently deceased Jewish leader from the UK.

Many of you, my readers, might be offended if you listened to Tim Ferriss often. But he interviews people of high achievement of whom almost all have a solid core set of personal integrity. Ferriss is known as the author of The Four-Hour Work Week, The Four-Hour Body, The Four-Hour Chef, Tools of the Titans, and Tribe of Mentors.

Sacks described offering prayers at the site of the 9/11 attack in New York City along with many other religious leaders including Christians of different traditions and Muslims. He was moved by the experience such that in a subsequent book he wrote (and I paraphrase a bit) all religions are a source of truth—subsequently changed to all religions are a source of wisdom.

Those words resonated with me, since I have since my mid-teens read the wisdom literature of many traditions. Heck, in my family reading the works of Roman Catholics was heretical. St. John of the Cross was one of my favorites. <sigh>

Sacks unfortunately passed away last year only a few months after the interview was released. The interview was a great introduction to me, and I have purchased his last book, Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times. I can’t think of better reading and reflections than that book right now.

I don’t think I’ll convert to Judaism by reading his works any more than converting to Taoism by reading the Tao Te Ching (another great and ancient wisdom book).

The book is currently on a UPS truck somewhere. I’ll let you know more when I read it.

My thought of the day despite all this rambling is that we can find sources of wisdom that can be applied to our lives immediately upon learning them simply by opening our eyes and minds and searching. Don’t shut off sources because of ethnicity, gender, geography, era. Start by listening to that podcast and let your heart listen to humbleness, sensitivity, and strength.

Rights and Responsibilities

January 12, 2021

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

First Amendment to the US Constitution

People seem to get confused about what the First Amendment actually says. It is a restriction upon the government.

It doesn’t address how we use this “freedom of speech”.

I keep having flashbacks to my university years when talk of responsibilities over rights sounded like the mutterings of old, crabby, conservative people trying to shut up young people with ideas. Well, those young Baby Boomers grew up to screw up a lot of stuff. But I learned the value of responsibility. Although I am now “old”, I am decidedly not conservative and hopefully not crabby. Well, in most regards. Maybe I just grew up.

Try these bits of Wisdom literature mostly 3,000 years old and just as relevant today.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 19

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but the prudent are restrained in speech.

Proverbs 10

Fine speech is not becoming to a fool; still less is false speech to a ruler.

Proverbs 17

Better the poor walking in integrity than one perverse of speech who is a fool.

Proverbs 19

Do you see someone hasty in speech? There is more hope for a fool than someone like that.

Proverbs 29

I can take a hint. I have no more to say today. Peace.

Seeking Wise Counsel

January 8, 2021

“Where there is no guidance, a nationa falls,
but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” — Proverbs 11

“Without counsel, plans go wrong,
but with many advisers they succeed.” — Proverbs 15

Sometimes I think of the Hebrew story of Solomon’s son Rehoboam, who became King of the united Israel upon his father’s death. And then he had to make a decision. He consulted with his father’s advisors who were schooled in wisdom. And then he consulted with his buddies, other younger men.

He chose poorly. Instead of being king of a united country, he was reduced to king only of one tribe and one small territory.

We can look at world events. We can look into our own hearts.

Are we seeking and heeding wise counsel?

What will be the story told about each of us in future years?

Prepping for 2021

January 4, 2021

Welcome to 2021.

What we call things does not affect the thing. It surely affects us, though. Just having a new name for the year benefits our state of mind.

Some thoughts of preparing ourselves for the new year. This will certainly be a year of change from 2020. I don’t predict or prognosticate, but I do think that we’ll see a change in the pandemic for the better. Probably the change will happen before we realize it. Hopefully the vaccine helps.

Maybe we need to change the type of person we are. Or, maybe just reinforce the person we are becoming.

Eating

Did you pick up the dreaded “Covid 15”? That is 15 excess pounds–or more?

Start being the kind of person who naturally and normally eats a little less for each meal. Energy-boosting snacks become almonds, peanuts, apple slices, and the like. I buy little packets of green olives from Thrive Market and keep some around for a snack. Save sweets, salty processed snacks, and colas for “cheat day” if at all. Drop sodas, both sweetened and “diet”, from your shopping list and clean out the refrigerator.

Follow Michael Pollan’s advice from Food Rules: An Eater’s Guide:

  • Eat food;
  • Not too much;
  • Mostly plants.

Exercise

If you haven’t already, start moving. Be the sort of person who walks more or takes up jogging or running. Of course, exercise within the bounds set by your physician. But most of us can walk briskly. Make 30-60 minutes a day part of the daily routine. If your body is up to it, throw in a few sprints a few times per week for a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout. That helped me lose a few pounds.

Buy some dumbbells and check out some YouTube instructors. I use 10 pound weights for a couple of shoulder exercises and curls and extensions for the biceps/triceps. I’m using 20 pound for standing rows and squats. Throw in some bench pushups and 30 minutes of Yoga stretches and ab work. 45-minutes to an hour three times a week in your bedroom (assuming the gym is still on limited availability) will work wonders.

Mental

Pick up a good book and read it. Be the type of person who expands and strengthens their mind. Take notes so that you think about it.

Spiritual

Feed your spirit with appropriate reading. I usually suggest January as a time to read the Proverbs from the Hebrew Bible. (Old Testament to most Christians) There are 31 chapters. Do a chapter a day for a month. Or perhaps the Christian book of James (another Wisdom writer). This year, I am reading an ancient Wisdom teacher from a different tradition. It’s good to see how alike we all are in our pursuit of spiritual growth and peace. I mean all cultures and all epochs. From 5,000 years ago to current Wisdom literature, there is a steady current.

Stop, pause your busyness. Meditate and pray at least once per day. Maybe twice–morning and evening. Do this and after several months people will probably comment about how calm you have become. Trust me. That has been true for me.

Blessings to you all for 2021.

You Are To Blame

November 11, 2020

Andy Stanley likes to bring up this thought nugget, “Do you know who was present at every bad decision you ever made? You. You were present at every one.”

We learned something from Jeremiah yesterday that our heart is deceitful above all things.

Advertisers and marketers are geniuses at using this knowledge. They know how easy it is to present something in such a way that we believe it. And then we act.

And then later we wonder why.

Why did we buy that? Why did we call her back? Why did we go there? Why did we get suckered into believing her or him?

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a pause button? Before we decide to trust her; before we decide to go there; before we decide to send that note on social media that will make us look like a fool; before we buy that–we pause, breathe deeply, tell our deceitful heart to back off.

We are also present at our good decisions.

Andy never says that. But it’s true.

Wisdom comes from gradually recognizing situations and hitting the pause button and then making the good decision.

The Heart Is Deceitful

November 10, 2020

Yesterday I looked at advice for you to set your heart in the right direction.

But we must beware and be aware–as the ancient Hebrew prophet Jeremiah noted, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.”

Prophecy in the scriptures does not equal telling the future. It does equal bringing a message from God that speaks to the times–and sometimes to all times. Perhaps here we first meet God the Cardiologist. Jeremiah quotes The Lord, “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”

Sometimes we may look at ourselves and think how beautiful we look when indeed it is vanity talking.

Sometimes we consider ourselves and judge ourself as a “good Christian” when indeed God (and other people) look at our conduct and deeds and judge us as wanting.

We can overcome that deceitful heart. But only by working on the machine that is us and becoming brutally self-aware.

We realize at some point in our lives, hopefully sooner than later, that no matter what that inner voice tells us that when we mentally and spiritually take a step back and look at ourselves as God and others truly see us that we are lacking. We fall short of how smart we think we are, or how wise we think we are, or how much a servant we think we are.

It’s not pure theory or pure knowledge that God is searching us for. How did we treat the server at the restaurant or barista at the coffee shop? How did we treat the least of the people we met?

Will God search us and find us not worthy?

When We’ve Been Deceived

April 23, 2019

I also study nutrition. Don’t practice as well as I should, but I try.

Listened to a podcast where a nutritionist was discussing some recent research. Turns out that both sourdough bread (because it’s fermented) and Pumpernickel bread (rye flour) have many benefits to the biome and brain.

I told my wife about the podcast. She bought a loaf of Pumpernickel at the grocery.

The ingredients–wheat flour, bunch of chemicals, “less than 2% rye flour”. The dark color? Comes from molasses. Real Westphalian Pumpernickel hails from that region of Germany. It is made from rye flour in a special process with a starter similar to sourdough.

You wonder how Pepperidge Farms gets away with calling its creation Pumpernickel. Is it just the American manufactured food way of diluting real food giving you more of the calories and less of the nutrition?

Just like shopping for nutritious food, selecting teachers and leaders is the same.

Discerning who is made from the real stuff and who offers twice the hype with less of substance is crucial to a good life and deep spiritual practice.

We are so easily deceived. And social media make it so easy to spread fake facts and deceit. But before that were the TV evangelists. Before that the “Traveling Medicine Shows”.

Better to practice discernment–a key spiritual discipline. Read the fine print. Take in real food.

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.

Our Mind Is an Imperfect Instrument

June 7, 2018

Why is it that we can be so intelligent and have gained so much knowledge with diplomas and degrees, and yet, we can believe the lies of politicians, preachers, and other people? We can believe with certainty things proven beyond a doubt to be wrong.

John Climacus writes concerning the dreams of novices beginning the spiritual journey, “Our mind is the instrument of knowledge, but it is very imperfect and filled with all sorts of ignorance.”

John was writing about dreams. But another John (Milton) said, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven.”

Researchers using the scientific method have probed this idea and discovered that our minds will believe anything that we tell it to believe.

That is why on the spiritual journey, or even in everyday life, we must guard against the things that enter our minds. We must have a filter, the filter of discernment. We must be grounded in proven spiritual writing with a mentor to help us understand.