Category Archives: philosophy

Motives of Goodness

 

charity workers

Take a moment and think about your last choice to do the right thing. It have been an internal motivation, but dig a bit deeper. What is behind that? What worldview?

Oswald Chambers describes how our view of authority, obedience, and the human spirit work together.

 

There is nothing miraculous or mysterious about the things we can explain. We control what we are able to explain, consequently it is only natural to seek an explanation for everything. It is not natural to obey, yet it is not necessarily sinful to disobey. There can be no real disobedience, nor any moral virtue in obedience, unless a person recognizes the higher authority of the one giving the orders. If this recognition does not exist, even the one giving the orders may view the other person’s disobedience as freedom. If one rules another by saying, “You must do this,” and, “You will do that,” he breaks the human spirit, making it unfit for God. A person is simply a slave for obeying, unless behind his obedience is the recognition of a holy God.

Oswald Chambers (click here for his full article)

Perhaps you can take just a moment to think of God’s holiness. And think of why you obey. What supports that? And what can improve your practical ethics.

I’d love to hear your ideas.

Original Sin

How do you understand the notion of “Original Sin”?

If we suppose for just a few seconds, for argument’s sake, that the Garden of Eden story was left out of the Bible, what changes with some of our notions of Original Sin?

Thanks for your responses.

MLK: Love Your Enemies

 

Pastor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

 

The following is an excerpt of the last portion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech entitled,

Loving Your Enemies
November 17 1957

…And our civilization must discover that. Individuals must discover that as they deal with other individuals. There is a little tree planted on a little hill and on that tree hangs the most influential character that ever came in this world. But never feel that that tree is a meaningless drama that took place on the stages of history. Oh no, it is a telescope through which we look out into the long vista of eternity, and see the love of God breaking forth into time. It is an eternal reminder to a power-drunk generation that love is the only way. It is an eternal reminder to a generation depending on nuclear and atomic energy, a generation depending on physical violence, that love is the only creative, redemptive, transforming power in the universe.

So this morning, as I look into your eyes, and into the eyes of all of my brothers in Alabama and all over America and over the world, I say to you, “I love you. I would rather die than hate you.” And I’m foolish enough to believe that through the power of this love somewhere, men of the most recalcitrant bent will be transformed. And then we will be in God’s kingdom. We will be able to matriculate into the university
of eternal life because we had the power to love our enemies, to bless those persons that cursed us, to even decide to be good to those persons who hated us, and we even prayed for those persons who despitefully used us.

Oh God, help us in our lives and in all of our attitudes, to work out this controlling force of love, this controlling power that can solve every problem that we confront in all areas. Oh, we talk about politics; we talk about the problems facing our atomic civilization. Grant that all men will come together and discover that as we solve the crisis and solve these problems—the international problems, the problems of atomic energy, the problems of nuclear energy, and yes, even the race problem—let us join together in a great fellowship of love and bow down at the feet of Jesus. Give us this strong determination. In the name and spirit of this Christ, we pray. Amen.

[full speech here.]

Please leave your comments. Thank you.

The WHY questions…

It’s quite possible that my parents inadvertently trained my brain to be more philosophical then it might have been ordinarily.

I remember countless times after doing something naughty or foolish, my parents would ask me a daunting question “Why, did you do that?”

I’m not sure what kind of answers they were expecting. I would wonder why they would ask that.

Those answers were far beyond what my child brain could tackle.

Inwardly I would think, “HUH? Well, that’s a good question, I guess. I probably should have asked why to myself before I did it. It seemed like a good idea at the time. How should I know why I did it? Do they know why? If so, why don’t they just tell me? Will there be some kind of quiz later, or something? If they do know why, why did they looked so puzzled? And basically pissed off. Am I supposed to figure it out for them? …..ugh. But, now that I’m thinking of it, I do wonder why.”

I would usually answer, “I don’t know.” Deep inside I would wish and hope the scrutiny would not last too long. (It probably would lead to a “spanking” a.k.a. whoop the daylights out of me.) But, I also thought, if I did know, wouldn’t truthful answers incriminate me? What could I really come up with in all honesty, “because I wanted to,”?

Mainly through the sheer number of inquiries, I developed the feeling that the answer to “why” had importance. I started on a path toward “hack philosopher”…

“Why would people wish to put meat into ball shapes?”

“Why would chewing gum before supper truly ruin supper itself?”

“Why was, ‘because I said so’ considered an acceptable reason for adults to give me, but never good at all for me to reply to them?”

When troubles or suffering would come, I would instinctively ask “why”?

Maybe learning a lot of things would give me these sought for questions. I tried that a bit. (I still love roving around libraries on a quest of discovery.) After a good deal of learning, one day it came to me:

“Almost all the really crucial questions that ask ‘why’ have quite unsatisfactory answers.”

Or, the answers get debated widely, and are rarely agreed on. Or, the “answers” have the kind of complexities that don’t make one feel better about things. At all.

All this preparatory ‘why’ work…for what? Zip. More or less.

Instead of those sorts of questions, I moved on. “What does asking why tell us about us, and why we should want to know in the first place?” That seems like a much bigger question, with the kind of answer that will make a difference.

We want things to make sense. We want purpose and something to believe in that won’t let us down. We want to count on something. Will a concrete answer provide this? It seems most concrete answers only produce more questions. Of course, I was only satiated with pat answers for a short time.  (I do believe I was also trained to understand that challenging  answers was either a lack of faith, or a flaw in character.)

It’s been a new path for me to have a certain serenity that understanding may begin when the intricacies that the why questions remain in creative tension with discovery and mystery.

And so “why mystery?”

For me, it’s about knowing things in terms of relationship, not facts. The facts can be manipulated, massaged, or up for grabs. But, true trust, based on an ongoing and lavish love, surmounts what facts never satisfy.

God is why.

Leave a comment…

otium sanctum means…

(photo: Thomas Merton)

A friend’s comment spoke volumes to me, so I wanted to devote a post on the idea.

“The key to spiritual growth is otium sanctum, so hard to trust in our world that values efficiency and quick results.” -Doug Jackson (Excerpt of his comment on the previous post.)

On page 85 in his book, Spiritual Direction and Meditation, Thomas Merton explains otium sanctum:

Now the Fathers of the Church well understood the importance of a certain “holy leisure”  [or] “otium sanctum.” We cannot give ourselves to spiritual things if we are always swept off our feet by a multitude of external activities. Business is not the supreme virtue, and sanctity is not measured by the amount of work we accomplish. Perfection is found in the purity of our love for God, and there is plenty of  time for it to mature.

Otium Sanctum is part of the not doing– It’s the “hard work” of that. The notion is paradoxical certainly, but bluntly revelatory.

How do you “not do” in your life, or for God which brings you to greater maturity?

Do you think God does or does not function with otium sanctum?

If so, how?

Thanks for your participation on this one.


Learning to Swim

photo by stephen jones (steve p2008 -Flickr)

I couldn’t swim until I was 11 years old, and even then, it was a pretty panicky endeavor.

Today I taught both of my kids (ages 7.5 and 10) how to swim in about 3 hours.

Both were super afraid of being in the deep section when we started. Because they trusted me; it worked. I gave them pushes to the side, and skill tips, and once the fear was nearly gone, they could do it.

Much has to do with trusting that one is fairly buoyant in the water. Thrashing is not helpful, tense muscles tend to sink. For my son, who was quite scared, I told swim, “swim gently.” Something clicked. He saw/experienced that when taking his time, he could maneuver and stay afloat. The terror of sinking like a rock eased away. He probably jumped in the deep end to swim about 150 times after that.

For my daughter, distracting her with techniques, like a flutter kick and slicing arms through the water, distracted her from her over-thinking. The paralyzing fright of trying something new and “dangerous” settled out, and made way for real progress. I would hold her under her belly, to qualm her fears, and then I’d take her into deeper water so she wouldn’t stunt her learning by cutting it short: standing up each time she wasn’t sure of things, or when she felt scared–which, at the start, was about every 4 seconds. Once she saw how far she could go, by obeying my instructions, she realized she was ALREADY swimming. Then the fear (well, more the 50% of it) subsided. She got far more comfortable in the water.

It’s like that in life too, isn’t it. Much of what we think is beyond us, or too scary is part of how we’ve let our fears and false notions get in the way. We all must learn to float and not fight as God teaches us how to manage deeper water. Otherwise we are trapped in the kiddie pool.

How old were you when you learned to swim? Or do you have Aquaphobia a.k.a fear of water?

In what ways, to you, is the art and skill of swimming related to growth, or your own personal journey?

Any other thoughts?

P.S.

I’m looking for a pop up camper… keep your eyes peeled.

Do spirituality/theology and Humor go well together?

Tangled is good: Twister®! (photo: LisaDeLay ©2010)

Spirituality/theology AND humor ≠ peanut butter and jelly?

Peas and carrots?

or More like jelly and mayo?

Or hair and cheesesteak?

Are people who study God (theologians) humorous as much as they are serious?

In my case, yes.

But does that gel? I’m talking like jell-o giggler, gel? Really nicely, with fun and good flavor, and joint protection.

Okay, I’m not paid to teach theology, not yet anyway, so I’m not a pro. Several hundred hours of study should count for something though.

But, I’ve noticed something: If someone tends to take their studies seriously, and their profession seriously, sometimes they lose their sense of humor. It’s not that they can’t be witty on occasion. But I’ve noticed the “humor” can be more sarcastic than uproarious. Theology can be rather dry… but not as in dry humor.

It’s beginning to bother me some, because of the sense that one “has to” pick one way or the other.

• Either you get your respect and admiration seriously honing your forte and thoughts of God, or you pick some sort of madcap way and get sort of dismissed as a lightweight.

Well, rubbish to that.

It shouldn’t be so.

It is a genius blend to be genuinely comical and also thoroughly studied on the important matters of living in this world with a firm consideration of the Divine as the center of it.

It might look like I’m putting it in my mouth, but I have to put my foot in both camps.

So, I’m putting my readers on notice. (Don’t think: Wittenberg Door “notice”. Think: dry erase board.) As anyone knows, straddling can lead to a good hard thwack in the center. I realize this is RISKY. Those of you that know me personally realize this co-mingled vantage point is from where I operate. Some of you may just…not “get it”.

Stay with me here.

I’m not sure where we got the idea that spirituality must be flaky or humorless. Sobriety is one thing, but cheerless? Parish the thought.

If you are new here, welcome. I invite you to what is an engaging game of Twister®, if you will. Here I will not kowtow to stern conventions of how we must study and know God, and our selves, as spiritual creatures. And no, I’m not a witch. Don’t be so stocked, or “freaked” in any way. (Plus, I weigh more than a duck…)

Isn’t God young? It is us who have gotten old and crotchety. Severe or joyless. Being truly alive doesn’t look much like that.

What do you think…?

Have you lost your sense of humor?

Do you find it doesn’t mesh with diligently following God or knowing him well?

Are worship/awe and fun mutually exclusive within spirituality?

Any thing you’d like to say on the matter?

Let’s hear it –

😛

It’s the Jumpsuit: A Daredevil’s Life-Evel Knievel

photo by Bill Wolf, 1970s Evel Knievel

Yes, I pretended to be Evel on my bike minus the crashes. A sense of adventure is an enviable quality, although sometimes a compromised frontal brain lobe can complicate the situations with very bad lapses in judgment.

I found this “15 things you didn’t know about Evel Knievel poster design.” Despite the thrills, his life was tragic and sad. That being said, there’s something I love about him. Maybe, in the end, it’s more about the cape and jumpsuit.

Share your thoughts about the man.

15 Things You Never Knew About Evel Knievel
Via: Motorcycle Insurance

(Change the channel or take a walk?) “The Show About Me” (part 2)


One of the most common responses people have when they get fed up with the re-runs of living their own small show is that they try to flip to a different channel. That is, they somehow realize a kind of radical change in life is necessary, so they try to re-make themselves.

Perhaps they start a new relationship, change careers, adopt a baby, buy a vehicle or expensive toy, go back to school, get plastic surgery, switch churches, move away, or in some way try to live out a better story. You’ve probably tried it, I know I have.

Maybe a person gets into religion, or he gets away from it. Maybe they start to need anti-depressants or anti-anxeity medication. Some abuse substances or live more dangerously. Something just seems wrong–and one tries to fix it.

Plenty of the time, these efforts do bring some distraction and change, and therefore a certain kind of freedom or renewal is felt (at least for a bit); but down deep, nothing important has changed at all. After a little while, the person still feels frustrated or undone. (Or something else unpleasant.) The channel may have changed, but what is lived out is just a Spin-off of “The Show About Me”. Sadly, very few fully realize that their perceptive, and how they live out reality, is fairly the same even after a massive change. The same troubles will assail them, in some way. However, the baggage gets heavier.

Our Creator is the true center of the Show (not us). The Supreme Being is irresistibly calling out, wooing us, and our thirst deepens.

It’s a fact that when a person is too dehydrated they may actually stop craving what they truly need-water/hydration and replenishment of nutrients. They may feel tired, ill, hungry, or numb, instead of thirsty. In an ironic twist, the person doesn’t desire what will make them healthy again. It’s a perilous situation. Without help, people die this way.

This kind of confusion happens spiritually too. Often, in fact. A common (household) term often used for what turns out to be a spiritual problem like this is most often called a “midlife crisis” or sometimes an “identity crisis.” It’s common for people to get a point where they need to “find themselves,” or re-define themselves, sometimes multiple times throughout one’s life. This “want to” to change is healthy, though many times misread. An identity shift like this may happen once or several times in one’s life where a person tries hard to better one’s circumstances, and find relief.

If you haven’t enter a stage like this yourself, I’m sure you can think of someone who has. For instance, in the last 18 months seven marriages at our church have spun out of control or failed. I believe a misunderstanding of this spiritual opportunity is a big reason why.

What must happen to be truly free, and on a full path to growth? Something more like a walk has to happen rather than a small show we create. A walk with God and changing one’s perspective to surrender to God and “his” Big Show (the authentic one “Reality”) is a path few take, or attempt for all that long. It just isn’t a simple or smooth road. It is a mysterious, sometimes troubling one, where the answers are rarely simple or pat. This is the path of faith (believing in what you can’t see, but still know is quite real). Sometimes changing the channel, multiple times, seems like the only sensible thing to do. The negative part is that we only get more of the same when we do that. It’s still our story we want to control, and our story stays small and frustrating.

As many who have done the enormous personal work to recover from drugs or alcohol can attest, one usually has to hit “rock bottom,” (or be fully ready), before surrender to a new, and bigger Show occurs (a life centered in God’s Reality). It all starts by doing something very rare and counter-intuitive. It’s something we all fear: Losing control and Humbly yielding to the Higher Power, and admitting that without grace, and true dependence on God and others, a better way cannot be possible. Perhaps the scripture comes to mind, …”if you try to save your life, you’ll lose it. But if you lose your life (yourself) for my sake, you will find it…”

In contrast, we wish to be self-made.… yet, only a small show about “me” is self-made. Transformation, growth, and sturdy happiness (joy) comes instead through the bravery of surrender to the greater Reality, and taking the more treacherous but rewarding path that comes with this decision.

In part III installment on this topic, I’ll mention some things that happen once this pivotal choice is made. A person’s attitude and outlook change; and how one orders one’s life undergoes critical and unavoidable development with radical shifts in thinking, acting, and relating to others–for the better! We’re talking here about spiritual formation.

I’ll describe that a bit more, soon, in part III. Check back in the next few days and see.

This is a lot to chew on, especially if this is a new concept, and you’ve never encountered these ideas before. Some people call it “being born again”…. and in a real sense, a new life starts for the person who is ready: A whole new life begins.

…to be continued…

Reflections questions:

Have I been living my own small story?

Have I longed for a richer life, but have really only being encountering re-runs or spin offs of a short-changed Show?

What is stopping me from walking a new life?

What are your responses, insights, or thoughts on this topic?

ANGER: Venting vs. ?

WOW! 25,000 times readers came by to check out this blog! What an honor. Thank you for being a part of something that is much bigger than me and you. May God’s love and grace be with you. May the posts and comments here be a benefit to your growth and your relationships.

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Steam pipe, for machines or Cyborgs

Edited from ethoughts weekly 5/13/04

Lisa Colón DeLay ©2004

Letting off steam regularly is fine-- if you're a train

Anger: Venting vs. ?

Indulge with me in a short scenario to see if you can relate:

Suppose one beautiful spring evening you sit in your living room enjoying a good book, or something on tv. Outside you hear the sound of adolescent laughing. Mildly amused, you peek through your curtains and see some familiar neighborhood youth tossing several ping-pong balls to each other as they go up your street. You smile and settle back in your chair reminded of the simple but fun antics of your younger days. The following morning you go outside to find your car crusted in egg yolks and smashed shells.

You fume with anger. “How dare they! Rotten kids,” you think. “Those weren’t ping-pong balls! If I had known they were going to egg my car I would have stopped them.” Your blood boils. You fantasize of chucking an egg at those ankle bitters who made your car a target of vandalism. You feel the need for a good vent for your fury. Right?

However, as you approach your car you notice a mother bird in a tree branch high above your vehicle fussing about her nest nervously. Suddenly an egg falls from the nest and lands amongst the other destroyed eggs. You realize the young people had nothing to do with your car’s condition. Does your attitude change? You feel a certain sense of relief, right? If so, what happened to the anger? Where did it go?

I contend that the notion of purging or venting our anger for good mental health is actually a myth, and a destructive one. It seems it rarely is necessary for feeling better at all. We don’t go around like human forms of unopened soda pop that have bounced down the stairs. One crack in the container, and–POW!

The only thing that cools, or adjusts the anger, in the scenario I mentioned, and many others like it, is the change of the mind. It’s a choice, rather than a reaction. It’s a way to see a happening without being emotionally hijacked. In reality, all that is required to alleviate anger is a change in mentality, or a new perception. As one modifies anger, the feeling is consequently neutralized.

I think the idea of the venting our anger as a tactic for good mental health may have been birthed when those burying anger found it coming forth in baffling and unconstructive ways. (The technical term is repression.) The discovery of psychoanalysis was pioneered by delving into the sub-conscious mind; including the newly named matters of “repressed feelings”. If matters are dealt with– pop psychology  tells us– in a proper visible “exorcizing,” we won’t have unexplained, reoccurring anger problems, frustrations, and related psychological disorders. This kind of “repressed anger management strategy” of our era is so intertwined with our culture and norms, we scarcely see it as a recent invention.

Notwithstanding, repressed anger is real and dangerous, like submerged toxic waste. I will dare allege anger buried becomes guilt; and this anger pointed inward (guilt) ferments, and turns into depression. It is also quite avoidable–without ever discharging the anger like steam from a blazing locomotive. These negative emotional features and many others surface because anger isn’t transformed or neutralized. Buried, anger of the past however; in contrast to present-day, situational anger, is not the same matter.

Surely we should attend to anger and not stow it. A constructive, respectable dialogue regarding upsetting issues is quite wise. Unfortunately, what often happens in using venting as anger resolution is we may feel entitled to vent, or ill at ease if this venting doesn’t transpire. This is simply not accurate. In reality, expelling our anger is so often counter-productive or damaging. It can be like throwing a grenade on a comfy campfire. Additionally, we are bound to be angrier people if we rehearse being angry and letting the vehemence rocket rather than changing our perspective.

Next time something deplorable happens we can think to ourselves, “How can I consider this differently ? Do I have all the fact to warrant blowing up, probably not.” This will transform the mind and transport us from anger. We don’t have to rely on the ventilation of anger. Understanding this is truly a victory. We need not be captive, or slaves, to anger. We need not give vent to it, like detoxifying a poison from our system, if we truly resolve it, and more importantly transform it.

If something offensive occurs soon think of it as a chance to practice this principle. I believe it will also develop our strength of character to think this way more often.

Please leave your thoughts about venting, anger, or anything related to this topic.