“In the Image and Likeness of God – The Human Person in Orthodox Spirituality” a Lecture by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware)

MILWAUKEE–This week I had the privilege to attend a lecture at Marquette University by one of the most preeminent authors, scholars, and theologians of our generation: His Eminence, the Most Reverend Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, MA, D.Phil, titular metropolitan of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Great Britain.

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With his bishop’s hat, flowing robes, scraggly white beard, and distinctive British accent, this esteemed professor emeritus at Oxford could surely be mistaken for a Defense-Against-the-Dark-Arts instructor at Hogwarts. (To see what I mean, check out this interview with Metropolitan Kallistos on the Philokalia.)

A prolific theologian, many would count him a worthy candidate for eventual sainthood, possibly even of the kind called Equal-to-the-Apostles.

Like every Orthodox bishop I have ever met, his warmth, grace, and above all, humility was most noticeable. He’s very down to earth. What brought him to Milwaukee? Word has it His Eminence was drawn to view the collection housed at Marquette of the original manuscripts and writings of his esteemed Oxford predecessor, J.R.R. Tolkien. Thanks to Marquette for that! The Metropolitan gave us much to think about and mediate upon, particularly as we are about to embark upon our inner journey through Lent.

Given the state of the world “out there” today, our collective prayerful journey through the Lenten desert “in here” in 2016 may well be one of the most crucial, or perhaps most meaningful, of our lives. May our prayers bear much fruit.

Lenten Meditation: In the Image and Likeness of God

In Orthodoxy, we learn to hold our hand in a very specific way to make the sign of the Cross. Join together index, middle finger and thumb, to represent the holy Trinity. Fourth finger and pinkie, folded down into the palm, represents the dual nature of Christ as both fully God and fully human.

 

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Meditate upon this: three fingers together represent the Trinity, two fingers represent Christ’s dual nature, fully man and fully God–and our own true nature as well.

This theological symbol we make using our own hand could summarize Metropolitan Kallistos Ware’s lecture.

Paradoxical Duality

Like Christ’s paradox of being both fully human and fully God, Kallistos pointed out how we human beings, too, are full of paradoxical duality. Humankind embodies both hope and disappointment, frailty and strength, beauty and ugliness, “Godlike apprehension and the quintessence of dust,” he said. We are both earthly and heavenly, temporal and immortal, spirit and flesh. In theological terms, we know from Genesis that we are made “in the image and likeness of God,” while formed out of dust. Grounded in the earth, “our personhood reaches out into infinity and into eternity.”  This paradoxical duality causes us human beings to be a mystery–to our very selves.

Even though we may know we are “‘made in the image and likeness of God,’ we understand only a very small part of our personhood,” said Kallistos. “We don’t understand ultimate fulfillment. We don’t yet know what we will be. And so we ask ‘Who am I? What am I?’” Perennially, in every generation.

Human beings are born with a sense of needing something. We are driven to find it. It is like we’re born as a puzzle with a missing piece. There is always a sense of something missing, which drives us to go out and seek for something: a yearning for fulfillment.

Kallistos’ comment parallels a core teaching in  A Course in Miracles, how there is really only one problem in life –separation from God–we often go looking in the wrong places to find the solution. It might be relationships. It might be material wealth. It might be adventure, a good time, a sense of wonder. It might be creating a life of comfort around us, in which we feel physically safe—which we do by accumulating wealth or power. Or it might be investing our lives in something more than ourselves—raising our children, or contributing to a cause.

Yet none of these truly, deeply satisfy. When we chase things and power—we always seem to need more. When we seek fulfillment in others, they all seem to leave us, eventually: if they don’t let us down, they grow up and move way, or they die. When we seek wealth and power, we find it never lasts: the more we have, the less safe and more vulnerable we feel, and we never can take it with us. And though we may devote our lives to a “cause,” often that cause is never truly fixed, but continues on past our time here.

The only way to find that missing piece of the puzzle—to fully know ourselves—is through getting to know God.

“We have within us a God-shaped hole,” Kallistos said. “Only when it is filled can we become fully human.

‘You see, the two questions, ‘what is God?’ and ‘what is man?’ are intimately connected. It is only when we look into the depths of our hearts: it is there that we find God, reflected back to us. Self-knowledge and God-knowledge are utterly co-dependent. If you know yourself, you will know God. And if you know God, you will know yourself.”

In the image of God is the image of the Trinity, and the image of Christ, Kallistos explained. Quoting Charles Williams, he said: “It is not good for God to be alone.” God is three persons in relationship, loving one another, in an interpersonal way:  “not just a unit, but a union,” he said. God is communion. God is a relational being. God is social and dialogic. God is self-giving: sharing, reciprocal, responsive, and in solidarity.

We are formed in this same image and likeness. We, too, are social, relational beings, sharing, reciprocal, responsive, and in solidarity. Dialogic means two persons in communication with one another. “It means ‘I need you in order to be myself.’”

“I need you in order to be myself.”

I understand this idea very well. I was born into a wonderful, loving, kind, generous–yet flawed–family. Like so many families, mine suffered some kind of breakdown in structure long before I was born, leaving it bereft of stable emotional support structures. Emoting was just not safe. Love was conditional: fail to behave properly, and love was withheld.

For many years I suffered the consequences of conditional love: self-loathing, low esteem, self-harm, depression, suicidal thoughts. Thank God, my one attempt at suicide was very lame and I failed.

Psychologist Frank Dance described growth in human communication from birth on to traverse a spiral shape like a helix. At birth we are the center of our universe: there is only us and our needs. We cry, and God in the form of our mother meets our needs. We think we cause everything. As we start to move higher and see farther, we realize we share this world and live in the context of others: family, parents, siblings, cousins, extended family, neighborhood, city, state, planet. We circle back around, reflecting upon our past experiences while moving forward, higher up in an ever-enlarging circle. We learn that are NOT the center, we are not alone, who we are affects others, they affect us, and so forth.

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With each passing experience, our circle of experience grows bigger and we rise higher. Only by interacting with others do we see ourselves: our gifts, our talents, our abilities, within a context of a social structure. As we come around to higher levels we develop the ability to empathize: to imagine ourselves in someone elses’ shoes, feel what they feel. We develop perspective, empathy, and compassion.

But for some of us who grow up with conditional love, movement forward along the growth track can feel like an electric shock. Perhaps because of abuse, neglect, or addiction, we stop moving forward. We recoil. We put on thick gloves and shields. We build a wall. We, in essence, get stuck at a developmental stage of feeling like we are at the center of the universe. The world “out there” is going to harm us, and we have to defend ourselves, put up walls.

That was the kind of family I grew up in, emotionally. Lots of walls.

Then I had the transformative experience Metropolitan Kallistos described:  “I need you in order to become myself.”

I distinctly recall the moment. I was in my mid-20s, newly married, deeply in love with my new husband. We spent a lot of time gazing into each other’s eyes, sharing our stories. And then it happened. I saw myself as he saw me: I saw what he loved in me, in myself.  Unconditional agape love: so strong and pure, no matter what I  did, how I behaved, what mistakes I made, it forgives and endures forever. I will never forget the uplifting sensation of the opening of my heart, when I was first experienced seeing my own value, my own worth, reflected in the eyes of another. To clarify: it was not that I was validated by him. My husband did not validate me. My husband was simply the mirror–not the source. What I saw was who I REALLY am–love itself. I saw the I AM that is love, that is God–reflected in his eyes. I AM, HE IS, WE ALL ARE, that LOVE. There is only One.

God’s love. “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”—John 4:16   There is no love but God’s love, says A Course in Miracles.

That sensation of opening, of seeing that love, felt uplifting, as a revolution completed in the helical journey. I was up at the next level, looking back, and a whole new vista appeared. I experienced level of compassion for my own broken family that I had never been able to perceive or conceive of before. They simply were stuck back there, and did not know about this kind of love! How sad! (I won’t get into the years spent trying to share it with them. That’s a whole ‘nother discussion!)

Our society today is stuck, like I was, in a conditional love. Society needs to move along the path of growth. We have all suffered so much hurt, so much abuse, so much pain, many of us frozen in fear, are afraid to love, afraid to move on, afraid to trust, afraid to fall, afraid to let go.

A wonderful anthem for this generation:  Let It Go!  Good Lord: help us let it go! (Queue up Disney.)

Here is the point: as tightly as we cling to our fears, that does not stop the unconditional love from being there, right here, right now, right before our eyes. Love is eternal. It has and always will exists. Remember: death was overcome! John 8:51. Why hold on to fear? What is needed is to open our eyes, to simply be able to perceive God which is love. In order to perceive it, we must seek mirrors — those who reflect that love back to us. We must become mirrors ourselves: we must look deeply and with love into the eyes of anyone and everyone with whom we interact, and reflect that love to them, and act upon our love.

An inner work

People make mistakes all the time, every day of the week. Whether surrounded by unloving people, terrorists, or conditional love, many in this broken world go through life alone, with conditional love. We withdraw our love for them, put them in prison, and leave them to suffer alone.

That, in a nutshell, is the problem.

“One human being in solitude is no human being,” Kallistos said.

We are not being fully human when we are like abused children, hiding alone in the closet. We all need to come out of the closet.

The answer, of course, is that we are never actually alone in the closet at all. So long as one child hides in a closet, we need to rescue them, get them out, look into their eyes, reassure them of the truth: What is real is Christ God within us, complete man and complete God, a relational being–that’s Who is real. He is right here, inside our hearts, ready for us to find him. He promised and he keeps his promises. A heart that seeks Him, finds Him.

This message is arguably the most profound truth in all of human history. This message represented a re-setting of our reality as human beings: an entirely new paradigm. It was so profound, back in the day, that it reset our consensus calendar to begin retroactively with Christ’s birth. Look at the calendar we all share. We are in the Year of Our Lord, 2016.

“Christ’s birth,” Metropolitan Kallistos said, “was the birthday of the whole human race. Not until then were the full dimensions of human personhood revealed.”

“Theology is actually a branch of Christology,” Kallistos said, not the other way around. Above all else, “we are to be faithful imitators of Jesus Christ.”

Kallistos issued a challenge to all Christians: we must go beyond simply imitating Christ. “We will greatly err unless we take it further.”

“Let us not forget Hamlet, who reminded us: ‘I have bad dreams,’” he said. “Human beings reside midway between majesty and lowliness. While we are flawed icons, always remember: Christ is our constant companion until the end of days.”

Freedom, Self-Knowledge, Creativity, Growth and Cosmic Dominion or Priesthood

Metropolitan Kallistos encouraged us to consider five points: freedom, self-knowledge, creativity, growth, and cosmic dominion or priesthood.

With regards to freedom, he challenged us to recognize that God’s freedom is absolute and unlimited, while human freedom is limited. It is within our limitations that our freedom is to be found. Don’t worry about shackles and injustice and prison bars. They mean nothing.”You must change your mind about the purpose of the world, if you would find escape,”as A Course In Miracles so eloquently states.

Self-knowledge

Knowledge of self arises out of knowledge of God. What is He always telling us? “God says: become your true self,” Kallistos said. That’s it. Everyone can become their true self. Everyone. “Recognize that nobody is dispensable, unnecessary, or useless. It is tragic that anyone ever feel that no one would notice if they died.”

Creativity

It is in our own creativity that we “bless the Lord….for in wisdom hast thou made them all.” (Psalm 103-104)  All of us are made in His wisdom.

Recognize that we humans are sub-creators, as Tolkien said. “God creates out of nothing, we create out of what God has given us.”  It is in offering what we make of the world, and giving it back to God, that we become truly ourselves. We transfigure, revealing in glory, what was hidden.

For example, God gives us wheat which we transform into bread and give back to him. Likewise, He gives us the gift of the vine, we transform it into wine, and give it back to him. He receives our offering, transforms both, and gives them back to us in the Eucharist. He told us to do this to re-call him back to us. Western Christianity translates it “do this in memory of me,” but the correct translation from the Greek is “do this to call me back.” It is in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, prayerfully made by our own hands, in a circle of giving, that He comes back into us: his sacrifice was not just on the Cross. His sacrifice continues every week Divine Liturgy–a Eucharistic mystical supper of his body and blood transformed mystically–to keep us alive, spiritually.

Of course, Kallistos pointed out, human beings are not the only creatures to whom God loves and gives his fruits and seeds.

“Squirrels collect nuts,” Kallistos said, “but they don’t transform them into liqueur!” Only human beings can transform, transfigure, and transmute what God gives us into something else.

Growth

“To be human,” Kallistos said concerning growth, “is to be a pilgrim, a journey from the image to the likeness.” The image is essentially our equipment, whereas the likeness is holiness. The journey is “the act of reaching forward,” or as I describe, moving along that path of growth, in an ever widening spiral, higher up, seeing more.

And through all of eternity, Kallistos assured us, “God will always remain a God of surprises.”

Cosmic Dominion and Priesthood

Regarding cosmic dominion and priesthood, “dominion does not meant domination,” Kallistos said. It is always to good to “remember the gentle service of Christ washing the feet of his disciples.

“Christ said ‘I am the One who serves.’ We in modern times have forgotten this.”

“Reflect on the contemporary ecological disaster. To say ‘environmental crisis’ is not strictly accurate. The crisis is not ‘out there,’ but in the human heart. The ecological disaster is a spiritual problem. We have lost sight of our true relationship to the world God has given us. Our human image is grievously distorted. What we need is an ecological change of mind.”

It is important, he said, to bear in mind the distinction between the king, the steward, and the priest. The concept of a king is not popular and is widely misunderstood today.

Many Christian ecologists, Kallistos said, call upon us to be “stewards,” for the world belongs to God, not us. But there is a disadvantage in that view. By taking on a managerial or utilitarian point of view, our egos inflate and we succumb to the temptation to elevate ourselves above creation. How do we prevent this?

“See nature not as an ‘it’ but as a ‘thou,’” he said. “Act as priests of the Creation. We are ordained, through the laying on of hands, to a natural, intrinsic priesthood, that is both eucharistic and doxological. How we become our true selves is to be who we are: Man the Offerer.”

“We must turn the world itself into a eucharistic offering—requiring, on the one hand, sacrifice, and on the other, love,” said Kallistos. “Love is at the heart of the Trinity.”

A commandment of God not written down, Kallistos said, is:  “Love the trees.”

Many criticize organized religion for how it causes us to have to worship God, and to believe blindly. But God does not need us to worship Him. Nor does He need us to believe in Him. He exists whether we worship or believe in Him or not.

The fact is, it is us human beings who need to worship. That is our nature. Whether we worship money and stuff, logic and science, sports figures or movie stars, political heroes or villains–the truth of the matter is, we are eschatological beings: we have a need to worship. Why? Because we are designed with that missing puzzle piece that is God; we are designed to come into union with Him. That is what worship is. Worship is about opening ourselves to Him.

The truth of the matter is, “the human person is a mystery,” Kallistos said, “an inexhaustible mystery.”

A day without prayer is a wasted day.”—Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

“Today is all that we have. Pray every day,” he said. “A day without prayer is a wasted day. Today, make a fresh start in all these things. Show compassion. Show practical help to the people around you. Then you will be a true person.”

I am so grateful I got to hear him speak, particularly now, at the beginning of Lent.

And particularly this year, this Lent, in the year of our Lord, 2016, let us all meditate upon our hand and who we really are: you and I are both made in the image and likeness of God. Fully man and fully God;  relational, dialogical beings. In our hearts we find God who is love. We find ourselves, we who are love, and we become true selves: mirrors, divine sub-creators.

May your prayer bear much fruit this Lent, and may the Good Lord have mercy on us.

Amen.

Book Review: Lyme Disease: Why It’s Spreading, How It Makes You Sick, and What to Do about It

Lyme Disease: Why It’s Spreading, How It Makes You Sick, and What to Do about It

by Alan G. Barbour

I found this book, owned by the Eastern Shores Library System (Wisconsin), to be an engaging and thorough analysis of one of the most mysterious, debilitating, and fastest growing infectious diseases in the world. In a somewhat dry yet readable fashion, the author provides a comprehensive, up-to-date explanation in layman’s terms of the medical history, etiology, epidemiology, symptoms and treatments of Lyme disease, as well as balanced coverage of the political bifurcation in the medical world regarding its treatment, which the author refers to as “Earth” and “Twin Earth.”

Continue to read on GoodReads

A key relationship which could save the world

Every February we celebrate relationships of love. Relationship: the state of being connected. We have relationships with people. We also have relationships with things. Our cars. Our homes. Even ourselves. When doing dishes, I am in relationship with the water, the soap, the plates.

Ignore them, neglect them, and things fall apart.

I propose that there is one bottom-line key relationship that has been seriously neglected by most people. I propose furth that fixing this one relationship could help restore everything, the entire network of connections to lots of others.

You’re probably thinking I’m going to say the key relationship is with God. Nope. Not this time.

The key relationship I’m talking about? Death.

That’s right. Whether we think about or not, we all have a relationship  with Death.

Think about all the beings you know. What living being–man, woman, child, dog, cat, tree, planet, solar system–is not going to die? Can we at least agree that Death is an inevitable fact that will happen to every person? And to every living thing?

While we may have varying beliefs about life AFTER death, this is only about Death itself. You and I, and everyone you see, everyone you know, will some day, face Death.

Death is real. Death walks with me and with you, every single day of our lives. Death is sitting, right now, there in the room with you, perched on your left shoulder. You were born with your Death. Your Death is always there, at arm’s length.

Yet the vast majority who walk the earth act as if that fact, that truth, is not true. That Death is never going to happen to them, to those they love, or to their children. Sigmund Freud observed that “at bottom, no one believes in his own death…. Every one of us is convinced of his own immortality.”

Because of our neglected relationship with Death, most of us are stuck within the first four stages of grief as identified by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. You may recall the stages, so well stated by Roy Scheider in Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and finally, Acceptance.

What is your relationship with Death?

Are you in Denial? Do you just close your eyes, surround yourself with physical comforts and pleasure, and pretend it’s not there?

Are you in Anger, which is simply fear outwardly expressed: always running away, forever washing your hands, arming yourself to the hilt, erecting walls, building fortresses, protecting yourself?

Are you into Bargaining with Death?  Do you see and live life through the lens of the cold, rational, scientific mind, trying to talk your way out of the relationship?

Or are you Depressed, which is simply fear turned inward:  sad, forlorn, deflated, and with barely enough energy to get out of bed? Does the thought of Death tend to take you down into a pit of despair?

Most of the world is stuck in Denial and Anger. Think about the wars and the misery caused by Denial and Anger’s children: rivalry, nationalism, hoarding and fear. When we create the ideas of national borders, of possessions, of “resources,”  of money, of material wealth, we are doing so out of Denial of Death.  Think about the misery inflicted by cold calculating intellectual minds in the pursuit of knowledge, a form of Bargaining:  If we breed the perfect human, if we build a bigger ship, if we can just crack the code of the human genome, maybe we can live forever. We think we can engineer our way out of the Truth that Death is a fact of Life.

So where are you in your relationship with that little guy sitting on your left shoulder? Do you even have a relationship with Death at all–or are you stuck in Denial, Anger, Bargaining or Depression? Instead of seeing Death as an enemy to be avoided at all costs, could you possibly entertain the idea that Death–mortality–is actually a precious gift for which to be thankful? That Death is actually a serious Ally? Ask anyone who has had a near-death experience:  Death enhances the value of life. Death renews, motivates, and infuses energy into our every endeavor. Death brings us back to the powerful present moment. Death touches our hearts. Think about it.

What would your world be like if you let go of your fear, your denial, your sadness, moved into Acceptance of your own mortality, and then went beyond it — to Gratitude? What would the quality of your Life be like, if you had a positive relationship with Death? A loving relationship, even?

Steve Jobs did it. He embraced Death. Death was his greatest ally. It empowered him. It inspired him to live life to the absolute fullest in every moment. Even on his death bed, he was trying to improve the equipment in his hospital room, to make life better.  Mahatma Gandhi did it. He faced down legions of armed soldiers, with Death as his ally, in order to bring about peace, to save lives, to make life better. And the man, Jesus Christ, whether you believe who he says he was or not–He went willingly to death, without fear, to demonstrate that you can’t kill God. He came not to conquer, but to make life better. As did mass numbers of His followers. (We Orthodox say, He conquered death by death, and set us all free. But that’s another story.)

Life is a gift, a precious gift! And Life is never more precious than when we cultivate our relationships with those we love. Right?  Well, what if we recognized one major key relationship in our lives–our relationship with that little guy who came with the package, who’s sitting perched on our shoulder, who’s been there every day, since conception?

Let’s change our minds, change our paradigm about Death. Let’s take our hands away from our face, wipe away the tears, and look Death right in the eye.  Let us see Death as a gift, an Ally, to empower us, to inspire us, to make Life incredibly richer.

Think about what would happen to our politics, our economy, our environment– if we were ALL to stop chasing the fantasy of immortality?

Truth bestows freedom. Nothing in Life is more true than Death. We can run, we can hide, we can crawl into a hole. But is that really the best way to live?   Freedom from denial, anger, fear, bargaining and depression, here and now, in this world, is true freedom.  Treating our own Death as a friend, may prove the most key relationship of all.

The Kitchen Sink

Do not take for granted the kitchen sink
Bath water it once held to clean baby’s soapy feet
Repository of crumbs and water to wash
the plates off which we eat.

Although stained dirty with soap scum and coffee
and must be scrubbed for the white to shine anew
the kitchen sink is a luxury
our ancestors never knew.

Running water from a spiggot still remains a dream
for millions who trek after rising from their beds
a mile or more with 40 pounds of dirty water
sloshing and perched atop their dusty heads.

Pavement instead of mud we have.
Blankets and soft beds instead of stone we have.
Endless entertainment at button’s touch instead of painful toil we have.

Yet, what do we appreciate?
Our voices, our hands, our papers and ink?
Do we live in gratitude for this and more?
Or do we disdain and take for granted the dirty kitchen sink?

Would our ancestors approve our slothful despair
and ever-yearning lust for more? Our annoyance at not having enough?
Would they, schooled in the rich biography and teachings
and practiced in the worship and in true communion
with Him who gave His life for us,
shake their heads, wag their fingers, and cluck their tongues
at our childish tirades when we judge and cannot share with neighbors
at our sleeping in on Sundays
at our amassing of wealth
at our poisoning of drinking wells and swimming holes
at our irreverence and forgetfulness of THEIR graves
and our OWN souls?

Do they pray for us now?
How long has it been since we prayed for them?
How long has it been since we remembered with gratitude and humilty
the blessed souls on whose shoulders we all stand?

And what of our fear?

My daughter brought home from the fair last week
a tiny creature with sharp seeing eyes in a shell
and put it in a plastic box no bigger than a shoe.
Unable to turn round in its tiny prison
Unable to stretch and climb and dig and seek
It retreats in fear and sits sadly in a corner
depressed.
Instead of crawling happily on our hands
It pinches our fingers with fear when we draw near.
We’ve lost its trust by making it prisoner.

Yet what else can we teach but what we ourselves know?
We who have imprisoned ourselves in fear?

Each day we put on fear when we put on the news.
Each day we put on fear when we lock our doors.
Each day we put on fear when we judge our neighbors as different than us.
Each day we put on fear when we judge ourselves as not having enough.
Each day we put on fear when we arm ourselves with guns.
Each day we put on fear when we rely upon ourselves for our daily bread
instead of thanking Him.

Each day we lather our lawns with poison in fear of a little yellow flower.
Each day we lather our sinks with poison in fear of a few invisible lifeforms.
Each day we entrust corporations to pasteurize and lather with chemicals our food in fear of disease.
Each day our bodies choke with fat inflamed to protect us from the toxic poisonous chemicals we spread in fear and which we now breathe and wallow in.
Each day our bodies choke with fat inflamed to protect us from the dead and sterilized and non-digested fermenting slop in our guts which the corporations call food and with which we stuff ourselves insatiably.
Each day we hate ourselves for being fat.

Each day we trade bravery for comfort
wisdom for entertainment
freedom for security
gratitude for disdain
love for fear.

Our ancestors who trekked alone, thousands of miles over sea and land,
with little more than the clothes on their backs,
they put on faith instead of fear.
Our elders who walked miles in the snow and wind and rain to school each day, and
endured the droughts, and picked the fields, and faced the straw bosses, and accepted the draft and enemy gunfire–
they knew how, each day, to put on faith instead of fear.

It takes courage to shake off this cloak of fear, this false security, and replace it with His shroud.
To put on Christ.

All this I ponder this morning, washing dishes, at the kitchen sink.

Occupy movement will fail without paradigm shift

For years I have wondered how we can achieve the positive future envisioned by Gene Roddenberry. So many elements of that future have come true — from wireless phones to iPads and even some medical procedures — books and college courses on the “science” of Star Trek abound.  But  Roddenberry’s societal vision of the future, in which money and its problems have been eliminated, elude us.  His vision of peace, prosperity, intelligence, and sanity reigning on an Earth that has recovered its environmental health seems much further away. The idea of humankind rising to a place of honor, wisdom and leadership amongst other beings in the galaxy, and an overriding respect of all life as the “Prime Directive,” seems far away.  He painted the picture of that positive future so beautifully, so concretely, you can just taste it. How on earth can we get there?

Could the “Occupy” movement possibly bring us towards a more idyllic, Star-Trek-like future?

I believe it is definitely possible. However, I predict that the Occupy  movement will have little to no effect on the status quo without a major paradigm shift, internally, in a critical number of people, away from the addictive egocentricism that characterizes the modern post-industrial collective American psyche.  Yet, with the rise of social media,  the possibility for such a paradigm shift has never been more real.

For the Occupy movement to truly have an impact, what is needed is a radical redefinition of the concept of “bottom line.”  So long as individuals seek happiness and center their lives outside of themselves, OUT THERE in the world, around material wealth, money, and profit, the movement will have no power to reform. Until mass numbers of individuals wake up to the inherent insanity of identification with THINGS, and particularly with the incessant counting of pieces of paper, round shiny bits of metal, sparkly stones, numbers on a screen, or any other objects, as a way of determining identity and value — all the protests in the world will not make a bit of difference. In fact, I predict that we simply will trade one corrupt group for another. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” We are seeing that already in the Arab world, sadly.

Given the power imbalance that already exists today, the current Occupy movement at best may succeed at changing a few laws. They likely will lead to violence, revolution, and even regime change. But without internal, personal revelation on a mass scale, inward, the movement will fail to address the fundamental flaw that undergirds our entire global economic and psychological system: addictive egoic identification to form.

For genuine and lasting reform, we have to recognize the real bottom-line truth: we are all addicted to the erroneous belief that we are the sum of our bank accounts, our cars, our homes, our possessions, our material lives.  And that we need “stuff” to be happy.  None of that is actually true. We need to admit that so long as we’re driving or flying anywhere, burning fossil fuel, wearing clothing made in sweat shops or sneakers padded with rain forest rubber or synthetic plastic, eating food that’s been shipped from the other side of the world — we are  interconnected to Wall Street, and are fueling the problem. We are as addicted to the false belief as the billionaire execs themselves. The only way for reform to make a difference is to take a long hard look in the mirror, look inside, and admit our addiction.

Genuine and lasting reform is not going to happen on Wall Street, in Washington, in state capitols, or even on Main Street–without this healing from our personal addiction. There is only one place, one direction of change that will make a true difference in the world out there: it is what the Native Americans called the 7th direction — within, internally, at home. It is what the Christian mystics call “metanoia” — changing our minds, turning towards the light of God within. It is the true definition of repentance, the true message of the voice on the wind of the Forerunner, St. John the Baptist.

From executives to shareholders to individuals living and now unemployed on Main Street, regardless of class, color, religious affiliation, or creed–reform can occur only when a critical mass of humanity can genuinely free themselves from the illusory Matrix-like rat-race we’ve all agreed to believe exists. Reform can occur when we stop looking to dollar bills to define ourselves and see instead the spark of the divine within ourselves and our neighbors, and see these pieces of paper as simply tools that work when they flow freely where needed, not to be held and hoarded in fear.  That will be when the possibility of a Star-Trek-like future can occur. By genuinely turning to the Source of All, the Light that is the spark of creation, passed down from our ancestors that lives and shines within each one us — we invite Grace into our lives. It is that amazing Grace that sets us free — free of all fear.  Fear of loss, fear of lack, fear of anything.  Only then can the dream, the vision, that all of us dare hope, can be real. A future of genuine and lasting peace, true prosperity, without war or disease.

Just as Steve Jobs demonstrated with his brilliant Apple products, it is absolutely  possible for one person, with vision and dedication, to transform the world for the better.  I believe that if just 1% of the population can achieve genuine freedom from addictive egoic attachment, can achieve genuine metanoia, union with The Light within, they will affect a cascade paradigm shift in the other 99%.

How to do it??  As with kicking any addiction, the only way to succeed is to admit our addiction to egoic attachment to form, through a 12 Step Program. Call it Egoic Attachments Anonymous, or EAA.

  • Step 1.  We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable
  • Step 2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
  • Step 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God
  • Step 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
  • Step 5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
  • Step 6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
  • Step 7.  Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings
  • Step 8.  Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all
  • Step 9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
  • Step 10.  Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it
  • Step 11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out
  • Step 12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs

Has there ever been a civilization —  a successful civilization — that had no addictive egoic attachment to form?  Yes. I can think of two.  Both the early Christian Byzantine empire which thrived for nearly 1000 years, and the pre-colonial indigenous cultures of North America, which thrived on the continent for tens of thousands of years, possessed belief systems that 1) did not recognize or significantly downplayed the concept of personal property  2) had well-developed systems that bestowed social value and political power based on humility and selflessness 3) valued freedom and free will as a divine gift and right of all of creation, and 4) recognized the spiritual truth of our interconnectedness to each other, and to a benevolent and loving God who provides all we need.

As it says in the Bible, the way to discern good from evil is by its fruits. These civilizations yielded many fruits. In the case of the indigenous North Americans, they thrived on the continent for hundreds of generations without damaging the environment, without overpopulating, without destroying the natural balance which causes dis-ease, and without prolonged and damaging wars. Sporting a functional system of shared political power across 5 nations, some even inspired the work of founding fathers Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and others in designing our Bill of Rights and bicameral triune system of government. The many diverse yet interconnected cultures which communicated and traded effectively from one end of the continent to the other, endured continuously longer than that of any European culture, or even the habitation of the British Isles — with very little war, with preservation and sharing of natural resources, with respect of the rights of women and children, and with very little disease.

As for the Byzantine empire, a tiny piece of it still exists to this day, operating on its own clock and calendar, cut off from the world, on a very very remote penninsula, which has belonged to the Theotokos, the Mother of God, since the day she set foot on it, nearly 2000 years ago.  Called Mt. Athos, it has been called a veritable “saint factory,” producing modern-day wonderworking saints with all the miraculous healing powers of Christ God Himself. Recently profiled on CBS’ 60 Minutes, Mt. Athos remains a haven for the practice of pure indigenous Christianity, and is revitalizing monastacism and Christianity in other parts of the world, including in the United States. (See link below.)

Today, we are living in a dystopian world, an imaginary place where people lead increasingly dehumanized and often fearful lives. Gene Roddenberry painted a fabulous picture of an opposite possible future — a utopian world, in which the love of power has been replaced by the power of love–love of truth, all life, and good for all.  A Course In Miracles says there is only one problem and only one solution in all the world. The problem is the perception of separation from the Divine, from God, within.  The solution is to remove the blocks to the awareness of the spark of Divine within ourselves, of God’s eternal presence within us all and in the world. One can only hope that through the gift of social media, a critical mass of people inspired by the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring,  will turn within to seek the power to free themselves from the mass addiction, the mass delusion,  that they in any way derive their identity from things. It will be in this way, that we can call into our lives healing from this addiction,  that we can last at last find true freedom, and become the sentient, intelligent, wise race we have the potential to become. And which Roddenberry so clearly envisioned.

The paradigm shift is to move from our “bottom-line” mentality from looking at “things out there”  to looking at thing “inside” ourselves.  To succeed at true and lasting transformation to a better world, we need to occupy ourselves.

References/Resources for occupying ourselves:

Mt. Athos Special on CBS 60 Minutes, about the living remnant of the Christian Byzantine empire, unattached to material form
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, which explores the egoic attachment to form
A Course In Miracles including Workbook of 365 short daily lessons on removing the blocks to awareness of God’s presence
From I-Ville to You-Ville  a great childrens chapter book on keeping the ego small

Chronic Wasting Disease is a Spiritual Problem

There is a simple solution to chronic wasting disease: we as human beings need to return to a state of mind and daily practice of spiritual reverence and respect for all life.

In the tens of thousands of years that Native Americans inhabited North America, animals and humans were recognized as planetary family members. In the Native reckoning, all of creation comes from and returns to God, is interconnected through God, and has a spirit, fulfilling a spiritual purpose. All spiritual beings—animal, vegetable and even mineral—are guides, experts each in their own areas, and teachers, in communication with human beings through Hail-o-way-an, the language of the heart. (1) It was through this language that healing herbs were discerned and other gifts given to man in abundance.

In oral traditions that go back to the beginning of the first ice age, it was our spiritual brothers and sisters, the animals, who volunteered their hides and meat to help their hairless sibling, man, survive. Before a tree was cut to build a canoe or a lodge, prayers were offered and the eldest tree in the area was consulted and permission obtained first. Likewise, hunting was not simply a matter of food and certainly not a form of entertainment; that would have been considered blasphemous. Animals that fell to bow or ensnared in traps were thanked, recognised as spiritual equals who freely gave their physical lives so that the people could live. And it was paramount that something always be given back. (2)

It is interesting to observe that despite the fact that tens of millions of aboriginal peoples speaking over 500 different languages peacefully co-existed for thousands of years, cultivated food crops, created extensive trade routes into South America, developed sophisticated democratic political systems on which our own Bill of Rights was modeled, and preserved a natural resource base that supported them healthfully—for thousands of years longer than most of northern Europe was even populated—that there were virtually no communicable diseases present in North America. By contast, Europeans suffered from a myriad of communicable afflications. When infected with these new diseases, it was said by the Native victims that the fevers had “a face” of evil. It was said that the newcomers walked in an unholy way.

What could be more unholy, more disrespectful, more sacriligeous, than to cut up your dead relatives with chain saws—which is how modern meat processors butcher animals? Think about it. We must stop treating God’s creation as a disposable commodity, much as we stopped treating other human beings as disposable commodities when slavery was abolished and women got the vote. Respect for all life is evident in the Bible as well. When God instructed Noah in the building of the Ark, he was directed to collect two of every animal, not just the domesticated species. As the Yaqui Indian medicine man, don Juan Matus, told anthropologist Carlos Castenada, death stalks each one of us just the same as it stalks a cockroach. (3) Face it. We are all going to die, to return to the spirit world some day. We do not actually own anything other than our spirit. And to act as if we do is not only foolish, it is ungodly.

Hunters: start rebuilding your spiritual bank account. Cultivate sensitivity, respect and an attitude of gratitude for your prey. Chronic wasting disease first appeared in captive stock of elk and deer—not in the wild. Let these majestic beautiful animals live freely as God intended them to. Look to see if an animal is sick before you shoot, pray and listen to what your heart tells you. If you take the shot and hit the mark, be grateful. Learn how to butcher it yourself, respectfully, using as much of the animal as you can, wasting as little as possible, or find a spiritually centered, respectful butcher. Do not take more than you need. Recognize that God created a balanced, functional ecosystem and allow balance to return by supporting protection of our wilderness areas and the return of the high-end predators: wolves, bears and lions. They will immediately help maintain a healthy population of prey, for they take only the sick and injured.

Chronic wasting disease is a symptom of a deeper spiritual problem which will be resolved when human beings rewaken to the truth of our connection, through our hearts, to all of life, and simply allow the return of natural balance established by God.

1) For more on Hail-o-way-an and the Seneca creation story see Other Council Fires Were Here Before Ours by Jamie Sams and Twylah Nitsch.

2) For more on Native spiritual traditions see Mother Earth Spirituality by Ed McGaa.

3) See The Teachings of don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Casteneda.

Removing Heads from Sand

Think! Who has anything to gain by admitting the truth to global warming–and who has something to lose? Why would scientists come to a consensus on an issue, independently, if it were not true? Researchers around the globe, all applying the same principles of rigorous scientific inquiry that brought us knowledge that the world is not flat and airflight and penicillan and the Polio vaccine and rockets and cell phones and the million other technological marvels of the 21st century, all agree on this issue. . . but there are those who don’t want the masses to believe it. Open your eyes and ears. Read, listen, evaluate, and think about it.

We are frogs in the kettle and the water is getting hot. Only we can rescue each other and ourselves by jumping out and turning off the heat! Consider this my attempt to rescue YOU and your loved ones and our children, because I love you all!

There are those who put dollars ahead of human life. Dollars ahead of health. Dollars ahead of an end to hunger. Dollars ahead of justice. Dollars ahead of the love of God and mankind.

Global-Warming Deniers: A Well-Funded Machine
by: Sharon Begley 6 August 2007

Sen. Barbara Boxer had been chair of the Senate’s Environment Committee for less than a month when the verdict landed last February. “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal,” concluded a report by 600 scientists from governments, academia, green groups and businesses in 40 countries. Worse, there was now at least a 90 percent likelihood that the release of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels is causing longer droughts, more flood-causing downpours and worse heat waves, way up from earlier studies. Those who doubt the reality of human-caused climate change have spent decades disputing that. But Boxer figured that with “the overwhelming science out there, the deniers’ days were numbered.” As she left a meeting with the head of the international climate panel, however, a staffer had some news for her. A conservative think tank long funded by ExxonMobil, she told Boxer, had offered scientists $10,000 to write articles undercutting the new report and the computer-based climate models it is based on. “I realized,” says Boxer, “there was a movement behind this that just wasn’t giving up.”

If you think those who have long challenged the mainstream scientific findings about global warming recognize that the game is over, think again. Yes, 19 million people watched the “Live Earth” concerts last month, titans of corporate America are calling for laws mandating greenhouse cuts, “green” magazines fill newsstands, and the film based on Al Gore’s best-selling book, “An Inconvenient Truth,” won an Oscar. But outside Hollywood, Manhattan and other habitats of the chattering classes, the denial machine is running at full throttle—and continuing to shape both government policy and public opinion.

Since the late 1980s, this well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change. Through advertisements, op-eds, lobbying and media attention, greenhouse doubters (they hate being called deniers) argued first that the world is not warming; measurements indicating otherwise are flawed, they said. Then they claimed that any warming is natural, not caused by human activities. Now they contend that the looming warming will be minuscule and harmless. “They patterned what they did after the tobacco industry,” says former senator Tim Wirth, who spearheaded environmental issues as an under secretary of State in the Clinton administration. “Both figured, sow enough doubt, call the science uncertain and in dispute. That’s had a huge impact on both the public and Congress.”

Just last year, polls found that 64 percent of Americans thought there was “a lot” of scientific disagreement on climate change; only one third thought planetary warming was “mainly caused by things people do.” In contrast, majorities in Europe and Japan recognize a broad consensus among climate experts that greenhouse gases—mostly from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas to power the world’s economies—are altering climate. A new NEWSWEEK Poll finds that the influence of the denial machine remains strong. Although the figure is less than in earlier polls, 39 percent of those asked say there is “a lot of disagreement among climate scientists” on the basic question of whether the planet is warming; 42 percent say there is a lot of disagreement that human activities are a major cause of global warming. Only 46 percent say the greenhouse effect is being felt today.

As a result of the undermining of the science, all the recent talk about addressing climate change has produced little in the way of actual action. Yes, last September Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a landmark law committing California to reduce statewide emissions of carbon dioxide to 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent more by 2050. And this year both Minnesota and New Jersey passed laws requiring their states to reduce greenhouse emissions 80 percent below recent levels by 2050. In January, nine leading corporations—including Alcoa, Caterpillar, Duke Energy, Du Pont and General Electric—called on Congress to “enact strong national legislation” to reduce greenhouse gases. But although at least eight bills to require reductions in greenhouse gases have been introduced in Congress, their fate is decidedly murky. The Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives decided last week not even to bring to a vote a requirement that automakers improve vehicle mileage, an obvious step toward reducing greenhouse emissions. Nor has there been much public pressure to do so. Instead, every time the scientific case got stronger, “the American public yawned and bought bigger cars,” Rep. Rush Holt, a New Jersey congressman and physicist, recently wrote in the journal Science; politicians “shrugged, said there is too much doubt among scientists, and did nothing.”

continued at http://www.stopglobalwarming.org/sgw_read.asp?id=102958862007