Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Seven Heavenly Behaviors

 We've all heard of the seven deadly sins and Pope Gregory's counter balancing virtues.

  • pride / humility
  • greed / generosity
  • lust / chastity
  • anger / patience
  • gluttony / temperance
  • envy / charity
  • laziness / diligence

I've thought often on this list.  While it balances each other, it misses to lessons of Jesus.  Moreover, it can be a bit confusing.  Should I show temperance in all things?  Temperance in my charity and generosity?  Should I display chastity with my spouse?  What should I be diligent doing/not doing?

Behold!  I have visited this list and find it lacking.  Perhaps, we need a better list of behaviors and attitudes to help us live more closely to the parables and lessons Jesus taught.  Here is my list of the seven heavenly behaviors:

  • Be Humble
  • Be Grateful
  • Be Kind
  • Be Patient
  • Be Forgiving
  • Be Understanding
  • Be of service to all others.

Go out into this world in accordance with these seven heavenly behaviors.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Confirmation Bias: Achieved!

Lately, I have been wondering how to refine my beliefs into a pithy phrase.  The one line I often go back to is "Love Unconditionally."  Without conditions: who, what, where, when, why . . . whatever.  "Love your enemy" is too conditional.  Love everyone.  "Love someone more than another?"  Again, that's conditional.

Love unconditionally means going beyond the normal "Love your neighbor as you love yourself." or "Do unto others as you would have done to yourself."  It means without any conditions whatsoever.

Now for the tangent...

I've been listening to Bart D. Ehrman's presentation on "How Jesus Became God".  At the end of his three day presentation, he summed up his presentation with the following:

Christianity was a religion of development.  What we think of christianity did not emerge right away.  Christianity, in many respects, is not so much the religion of Jesus - the religion Jesus had.  It’s really more the religion about Jesus.  That’s an irony.  That it's not so much the religion of Jesus.  It’s the religion about Jesus.  And that religion about Jesus changed, modified, transformed over the years … it was even invented over the years, because it isn’t what Jesus was preaching.  Jesus was a Jew from rural Galilee who understood himself to be Jewish and probably had no idea of starting a religion.  He was preaching Judaism.  The correct understanding of Judaism, but christianity became something else.  It became a religion of gentiles, and Christ ended up being not an apocalyptic prophet but God himself. This is a remarkable change.

It triggered something inside me.  I have often wondered why christians spend less time "loving unconditionally" and more time  "being christian".  Bart's words hit me.  The christians I meet are celebrating their christianity by celebrating the events of the life of Jesus, not living a life he described.

This reminded me of a Buddhist saying:  "Do not seek to follow in the steps of buddha, seek what he sought."  Don't pay attention to buddha.  Pay attention to what buddha was doing.  It's a stretch, but do not seek to focus on Jesus.  Focus on what Jesus focused upon.

Why celebrate christmas, easter, and such?  Celebrate loving one another.  Why gather in groups so large we don't have the opportunity to get to know one another beyond assuming they share a common belief?  Why not focus on helping one-on-one others?

I am also reminded of the early christian book, the didache, and descriptions of how early christians met.  Some of my education in group dynamics also started kicking in.  What we need is encouragement to press beyond - to strive beyond the limits we think we have, and to support one another as each of us love unconditionally.

To that end, we need small, intimate, groups coming together to share our successes, admit our shortcomings, and strive to do better.  There are no leaders if we are all striving to accomplish the same goal.  Groups smaller than seven people often break down into leader/follower configurations.  Groups larger than 30 also begin to become stratified.  While twelve is a good balance of people, it is not the only number that works.

The ideal gathering, in my current view - subject to change, would be 10-25 people coming together on a weekly basis to celebrate what the week provided.  If the group membership dropped below eight, they should merge with another group.  If the group grows beyond 30 people, it should split in two or three groups.  Breaking up the group should done with the concept of Love Unconditionally in the forefront.

Why gather?  Being able to openly profess one's accomplishments and shortcomings without judgement provides a support network to help one another stay focused on the goal:  loving unconditionally.  It is a difficult aspiration, easily limited by a person's awareness.  Recall, nothing is obvious to the uninformed.

What do christians need to celebrate?  One another in our efforts to seek what Jesus sought.  Bart's words are the confirmation of what I already knew.  But then again, I'm biased.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The life of a servant

The role in this life that I aspire to is that of a servant.  Not a slave or step-and-fetch, but someone who is of service to others.  This is my ideal state of being.  I try to attain this state and am met with some success.

I work for a living.  My boss needs help accomplishing goals.  My role in this relationship is to help my boss be successful.  I manage people.  My role as a manager is to help my staff be successful.

It doesn't matter which direction I look.  My role is to help others be successful.  My success is in making others successful.  My focus is on others and not myself.

My wife and I have a loving relationship.  My goal is to fulfill my wife's needs and desires.  I put her before my own desires and needs.  She does the same to me.  The relationship is one where we don't have the common relationship fight of "why are you not paying attention to me?" or "why do you always go out and do X?  Don't you want to do Y with me?"  Instead, what we fight about is who's turn is it to give the other person what they want.  In my house, the fight is more of a "Please stop doing all these wonderful things for me.  Let me have a chance to do something nice for you."  Neither of us feel abandoned, ignored, unsupported or not thought of.  Instead, we shower each other with thoughtful consideration and kindness.

Serving others builds positive bonds.  It connects people and makes life more enjoyable.  Helping someone in need when they didn't want to bother anyone reunites them to the community and brings them to a more joyful state.

The greatest benefit of being a servant is the tight bonds of fellowship and joy felt by all.  Okay...  The two greatest benefits of being a servant is the tight bonds of fellowship, joy felt by all, and the side effect of others wanting to pay it forward.  Okay...  AMONGST the greatest benefits are . . .

Sunday, June 1, 2014

What's it worth to you?

It's a question I often ask when someone asks something of me.  What's it worth to you?  It's a simple question asking the original requester for the value the person places on their request.  I first started asking the question to figure out how important the request is so I could help prioritize the request.  Over time, I began asking, simply to find where the person's mind is at.

Let me explain.  I can categorize the replies into three groups.  Qualitative, Exchange, and Refusals.

On rare occasions, someone will reply to my question with qualitative responses, like: "a lot", or "not much, but I thought I'd ask", or "oh, I really need it."  While not a perfect scale, it does provide the ranking I originally sought when I first began asking.

"Exchange", on the other hand, is the most common response.  These responses range from "I'll make you lunch." to "I'll give you this picture." and from "a hug" to "a blowjob".  I'm always intrigued by the exchange response as it shows me the currency a person is willing to barter.  The respondent's choice of "currency", while doesn't give me a means of evaluating the value of the exchange, it does show me where the person's mind is at.

The "exchange" response often holds a question of its own.  "Are you interested in taking my exchange so I can have more?"  For example, "let me buy you dinner?" becomes the respondent's way to see if they can get me spend quality private time with them.  These responses spark my curiosity the most.

The final type of response, the "refusal" has always baffled me.  It shows up in the disgust the person displays that I would even ask.  Sometimes, they would respond with something like "No I won't do that with you."  I wonder what it is that they won't do.  They never define the word "that" when they refuse to accept my alleged counter offer.  So, what did they think I was asking for?

In the end, I am entertained more by the type of response I receive than the value associated to the response.  Someday I might take someone up on their exchange offer.  For now, I will continue to be satisfied with learning how the people around me evaluate the world around them.

Want more of these writings?  What's it worth to you?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Buddha Nature

I have been thinking of souls today.

At what point in the overall life of a being is the soul merged with the physical being we think of when we talk of a living person?  Is it at the moment of conception?  At the first breath of life? Sometime in between?  When the person is baptized?

Mothers have often told me that they could recognize personalities of their unborn babies by the way they are able to interact with the fetus.  Is a person's personality their soul?  Could it be that the two are separate and distinct?  Is it possible that a fetus is simply a potential life which develops characteristics like arms, legs, and personalities and that their soul is added at the moment God "breaths the breath of life into the being"?  That might be more compatible with the bible's wording, but is seems to slap me in the face of reasonable.

Assuming humans are not special and all living creatures are God's creation, then who is to say a dog does not have a soul?

Compassion . . . continued

Where did I leave off?  Oh, yes . . . "Take the time to understand the needs, fears, and desires of one another.  Then make the effort to help them achieve their goals."

Yes, looking back, my summation of the message of God's will is still off the target.  Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God.  The second is to love your fellow man.

The first remains simple to understand.  God created the universe, our world, and ourselves.  The grateful respect due from the created to the creator is a simple thing to grasp.  I stand in awe of all the marvelous creations around and within me.  I am humbled by the magnitude of the creator's skill.  What am I but a small speck on the vastness, both in size and time.  The fact that God gave me self-awareness makes me eternally grateful.  It gives me the foundation and perspective needed to perceive the splendors of the whole creation.

So, the first part is easy.  The second still causes consternation. Love for others.  I left off with: "Take the time to understand the needs, fears, and desires of one another.  Then make the effort to help them achieve their goals."

I fear others will dissect my words as I do and see gaping holes in it.  Do I only need to understand "needs, fears, and desires"?  What does it mean to help them?  How much help is sufficient?  An American Indian prayer comes to mind:  "Great Spirit, grant that I do not criticize my neighbor until I have walked one mile in his moccasins."  Perhaps this is what is meant by having compassion for one another.  If we take the time to intimately know one another from their perspective, then perhaps we can make decisions about our reactions/behaviors that are more in line with God's intent.

By intimately understanding another's life from their perspective, we can respond by finding ways we can help that person in a positive way.  The task is not a simple one.  It is a constant balancing act between doing too little and doing too much.  There is also the constant tug between who to help and if there is conflicting interests, finding a happy medium.

So, instead of simply knowing the  needs, fears and desires, perhaps we are better served with the concept of intimately understanding one another from the other person's perspective.  That is the preamble of the second golden commandment.

Next time, how to act on what we understand.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter

Last Sunday was Easter and a friend of mine posted the following: "Jesus, a very merry unbirthday to you."

My brain went through several hoops.  Easter is not about Jesus' birth.  Well, there are some who argue that Jesus was born in the spring and not December. (Shepherds and lambs, etc) If so, then it should be "birthday" as opposed to "unbirthday".  But, we're talking his death!  Well, that's an unbirthday.  Of course, death is the inevitable step in the process of birth.  (Life is a sexually transmitted terminal condition.) Oh wait, Easter is the celebration of Jesus' resurrection, not his death.  That would be a birth of a new stage of life.  So unbirthday is inaccurate. Or is it simply the return of the soul to heaven?  But wait, that didn't happen for another 40 days.

I believe souls exist before the body is born into this world and continues to exist beyond this world's death.  I have never made any statement as to whether the soul has ever visited this world in a prior "life".  I don't know and don't see any reason to care.  Where a soul is before this world's birth is something for my soul to deal with when it is done concentrating on living in this world.

So, Easter is a non-event to the extent that Jesus would ultimately ascend.  His soul is like yours and mine: not subject to the finality of this world.  To the extend that Easter is about the return of Jesus to the state of this world's living after his crucifixion. Is that so much an "unbirthday" as it is an "undead"?

This, naturally, brought be back to rewatching "The lost tomb of Jesus" and looking at the evidence around the talpiot tomb.  In the end, I believe the talpiot tomb is that of the family which includes Jesus.  Does that mean the "Jesus, son of Joseph" is the Christian Jesus?  Could it be a cousin Jesus or a grand nephew?  This is a possibility (however unlikely).

So, can Christianity survive/exist if Jesus' body remained on this world after the crucifixion? Throughout the early years of Christianity, numerous groups considered themselves devout Christians while supporting views which would permit the bodily remains to stay on this world: Audianism, Adoptionism, Apollinaism, Docetism, Nestorianism, Psilanthropism, and others.  If these groups could live according to the teachings of Jesus, and call themselves Christians, can it be possible that Jesus' earthly body remains on this earth?

Is it the location of the physical body of Jesus that matters or the message of God that Jesus gave us?  The message of Easter is about the permanence of the soul.  That is the real message of Easter.  Easter, therefore, is not the birth of anything, but simply the annual reminder of the eternal permanence of the soul.  I say, we should render unto Cesar that which is his, and to God which is God's.  The body to the earth, and the soul to God.

Have a very merry unbirthday to you, Jesus.