The Noon-Day Demon

February 24, 2023

Have you charted your energy levels at various times of the day?

I have good energy early in the morning. I typically meditate, read, think, and write this early–before 6:30. Then some kind of physical workout. Then more reading and writing until about 11 or 11:30. Then I need some sort of break and lunch. Then I have little energy for a time. Somewhere around 4:00 pm I pick up again and can last until bed time.

Ancient Greeks wrote about akedeia which became Latin acedia — the “noon-day demon.”

This is a state of listlessness, torpor, feeling perhaps a little lost. Perhaps this is the time you post or re-post those cynical, negative thoughts on social media? Perhaps this is the time your thoughts are most prone to dwell upon sinful image and urges?

When the ancient Christian writers were teaching monks acedia outranked some of the demons (as they called them) such as gluttony or sloth. It was a time when monks might wonder why they were even there. Isn’t there somewhere better to be?

I find a short (hopefully) nap to be quite useful. Perhaps a walk for a bit out in nature. That might be a good time for some weight lifting.

The first thing is to recognize the condition. And to realize that the condition was recognized millennia ago. Realize it. Deal with it. Schedule your work day around it–do phone calls not deep work if you’re in an office. Don’t let it overpower you into making bad decisions.

What Can You Believe?

February 23, 2023

I did a search on the Web (easier than grabbing my Bibles and searching through) for teaching on false teachers. There was more than I was looking for. I did find where Jesus and the Apostles Peter and John warned us about people (teachers) who tell us false and made up things.

Perhaps these teachers did it to sow seeds of discontent (sound familiar?) amongst the people. Or they did it to make themselves more important at the expense of a rival. Whatever, in the first century when they were teaching, it was evidently difficult to tell who was spreading lies and “untruths” or partially truths (the worst kind–they take part of what someone says and then twist it around).

I also discovered that often a Website would have other comments. I could tell that “false teacher” meant anyone who disagreed with the writer of that Website. Hmm, what to believe?

Then I read Seth Godin this morning. He warns of the new technologies that now exist such that any video and/or audio on the internet can be altered. You may see your president talking, but the image may be superimposed on something else and the words may be made up by ChatGPT. (This blog by virtue of being on the Web has readers from around the world. But this applies to you no matter where you live.)

We already know (or should know) that much of what got pushed to us by the algorithms designed to keep us on site by Twitter and Facebook and others that that “information” may often be lies or exaggerations. Now it will become even more difficult.

It is more important than ever to choose your sources of information wisely. Go to the source. Instead of Facebook, start a group chat with your friends.

Learning and practicing discernment becomes even more important.

Solomon, the king, asked God for wisdom. He got it, but it didn’t help him in the end. I’d suggest in place of wisdom, ask God for discernment–preventing as much as possible being fooled by those who seek to sow discontent and dissension and fear.

Decisions Define Us

February 22, 2023

It began early.

The first decision—should I get up or stay in bed?

To decide whether or not to have coffee.

To decide to sit in that particular chair where I read something spiritual and helpful and then meditate or pray.

Shall I have porridge to start the day healthy by eating something that lowers cholesterol or perhaps an egg (an almost perfect food) or perhaps that jelly-filled doughnut because I feel weak and want a treat?

Shall I go out for a workout and exercise?

Our day is filled with decisions. Each decision defines us. What sort of person do we wish to be? Our decisions, whether made with intention or by emotion, determine the story.

I love the line from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where the old Crusader says in a dry, flat voice as Indiana Jones chooses which of the chalices was the one that held Christ’s blood according to myth—Choose wisely.

You Can’t Do It On Your Own

February 21, 2023

Jesus began his ministry with this message–change the direction of your life (repent). Why? Because the kingdom of heaven is here (actually here, there, everywhere).

We just have one response–part of it is awareness that we are not on the right path, the one pleasing to God. The other part is to choose to follow the right path.

Later, Jesus added a bit to this. Or he clarified. He said our response it to love God completely and to love our neighbor. When asked about who the neighbor was, he told a story where the neighbor was the most despised person his audience would think of.

Think of the person you would most despise–someone of a different race, someone of a different gender identity, someone from another country speaking a different language. That person you must love.

Later, again, Jesus told a story about a camel going through an eye of the needle. I’m not going to delve into different explanations of what that physical image was. What he was trying to explain is that it is almost impossible to be part of the kingdom of heaven through your own effort.

Loving doesn’t come easy.

But, God’s grace helps us. By living each moment with-God, we will be helped into that state of being in the kingdom where we can love those that we think are beyond love. We change our attitude (which means direction) and start walking along God’s path alongside God.

Part of that repentance thing is to realize we can make a choice but we can’t earn entry through our own efforts. But when we let God be God then we get that extra boost into the kingdom.

Then we truly find that capacity to love even our enemies and those we despise.

Seek Justice and The Kingdom of God

February 20, 2023

I like to return to ancient sources for inspiration. Of course, I can also turn to more recent sources such as Dallas Willard, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, NT Wright, and so forth. It is refreshing to see the lineage from the earliest followers of Jesus.

In his Chapters on Prayer, Evagrius Ponticus, advises, “In your prayer seek only after justice and the kingdom of God, that is to say, after virtue and true spiritual knowledge. Then all else will be given to you besides.”

Then he adds, “It is a part of justice that you should pray not only for your own purification but also for that of every man. In doing this you will imitate the practice of the angels.”

Recognizing that his audience was monks of the 4th Century, we can see where his concerns were placed.

Think first of others.

Think then of drawing closer to God.

Then other things will come to you, as well.

Today we have many people thinking of others only in the sense of telling us, indeed ordering us, what to do and how to do it. The new Pharisees, I call them.

Then we have many teachers who quietly work with people to help and guide through life. Caring only about justice and service to others.

I suddenly thought of Jimmy Carter who is now in hospice care at 98. Called the best former President we’ve had, he sought not riches and glory after he left office. He worked for justice and service.

We (I) would do well to emulate that. It’s not about “likes” on social media that so many desire (probably hoping for the riches that came to the Kardashians). It’s about helping one person at a time outside the lights of publicity.

What They Think I Want To Read

February 17, 2023

Facebook leaders were concerned people were only looking at posts from friends and not spending enough time on the app looking at ads. They told engineers to develop rules that would search the entire database and present people with posts that Facebook thought you want to see.

Twitter executives faced a similar problem. They wrote similar rules, called algorithms, to keep you on the app longer. 

So, I wondered about our spiritual reading—the Bible and other writers. Do we allow someone to determine what parts we read and spoon-feed us just their point of view?

I have spent little time on social media for several years. What they thought I wanted to see was not congruent with what I really wanted to see. (Interestingly, the number of referrals to this website from Twitter has dropped by 90% over the past few months. Go figure.)

Fortunately, there is no app filtering what I should see in the Bible or in my other spiritual reading. I read out of curiosity and out of desire to refresh my poor memory.

Things like the thought I just heard, “He’s God. I’m not.”

Things like, “The first is to love the Lord your God… and the second likewise is to love your neighbor…”

I need those reminders to keep me on the right path and likewise to guide my reading.

We Betray Ourselves

February 16, 2023

A friend talked about his preacher from when he was a kid. The preacher managed to work the subject of the evils of sex into every sermon. Then one day the preacher left town with the wife of the chairman of the Board of Deacons.

A man was known to have abusive attitudes toward women. He touted a book his daughter suggested he read written by two women who discussed abusive relationships. He seemed unaware that the book was meant for his own understanding.

I once listened to a pastor every week on a podcast. One day I realized that he was really self-centered and unaware of several shortcomings. His deeper vices did remain hidden…until they were brought to light. And I realized he had been telling us without realizing himself many of his faults.

Makes me think of the Scot poet Robert Burns, (not in Scot dialect) “Oh what a gift he gives us, to see ourselves as others see us.”

Makes me wonder what I’m saying that I don’t realize. How about you? What are we blind to about ourselves. Maybe time to stop and consider.

He Is God, I Am Not

February 15, 2023

I’m going to steal this phrase from Rich Dixon who writes on Jon Swanson’s blog every Wednesday. He tells the story of his paralysis and eventual working through it and eventually raising thousands of dollars for his children’s charity riding a hand-cranked bicycle on distance tours.

He’s God. I’m not.

Perhaps we all need to sear that into our mind. Into our soul.

All faiths. All genders. All ages.

He’s God. I’m not.

I choose to limit my news intake. Most of the time it’s meaningless to me. It just stirs up emotions with no way to release them. But I have an idea of what’s going on in the world. And politicians everywhere need to make this phrase part of their soul as they pass or try to pass laws as if they are god, he’s not.

How often have I acted or spoken as if I’m God, he’s not? I believe it’s the Baptists who use the term convicted as in when I finally realize I’ve done wrong. I stand convicted. How about you?

It actually should be a relief that I don’t have to be God any longer. I don’t have to make a career of telling people what to do with their lives. I let God take care of me, and I just serve others.

Thank you Rich for your story. And your ministry. And for giving me this phrase to meditate on and turn into personality–He’s God. I’m not.

Don’t Be Fooled By Randomness

February 14, 2023

Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote a series of books on preparing to survive random events. The book is part philosophy of life and part investing in the markets. I’m rereading Fooled by Randomness: The hidden role of chance in Life and in the Markets.

Reflecting on the book, I thought of all the random events in my life.

  • I entered graduate school thinking about getting a PhD in political philosophy. The faculty voted half-way through my first semester to close the graduate program.
  • I wandered into a job in the recreation vehicle industry. Then came the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 and then hyper inflation.
  • I landed a good engineering position, then a random article in Consumer Reports (I’ve never read a thing in that publication since) tanked our market.
  • I answered a random ad in a trade magazine and wound up in a new career, which led to a second position and then a good life working for myself. But the random events along the way prepared me to make the best of new random events.

Perhaps you can think of random events from near and far that changed everything. But your preparations could make all the difference.

We purchased a coffee mug when we visited the Will Rogers estate a couple of years ago. It says, “Live your life so that whenever you los, you are ahead.”

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Learn something from each event
  • Limit financial risk to what you can afford to lose
  • Develop spiritual practices that give solid inner strength

Awareness Is Such a Beautiful Thing

February 13, 2023

I don’t know all of my weaknesses. But I know some important ones.

I can easily be addicted to computer games. I had a little handheld football game in the late 1970s. I was on that a lot. Gloria Mark in her recently released book Attention Span says that can be a good way to relieve cognitive stress. But, games have become so immersive that I’ve avoided them for many years. They can lead me beyond relieving stress into addiction.

My emotions are easily aroused. I’ve learned (mostly) not to reply to lies spreading around social media. But awareness tells me to severely limit my exposure. My mental health and stability have been greatly improved.

I am aware of the state of mind of people around me. I learned that at a very early age thanks to an emotionally unstable home life. That’s often a good thing. I can respond appropriately. On the other hand, sometimes I can misinterpret (see above about emotions).

Developing awareness has improved my life a bit at a time. I’m aware when I’m with God and when we’re apart. I’m aware when I’ve become too withdrawn and need to interact with others.

Awareness is a beautiful thing. It helps me live a better life and probably makes things better for those around me.