(this was posted on an older version of this site several years ago and seems relevant today...)
Have you noticed that when you look at your “To Do” list you sometimes feel suddenly de-energized, maybe even resentful? Even if some of the things on the list are things you normally really enjoy doing, do they suddenly seem like an imposition?
Well, as a friend of mine used to say, that’s because you’ve been “shoulding” on yourself!
It’s fascinating: the moment we make something that we want to do something we “should” do, our small self (often called our “ego”) begins to complain about “having to” do it.. It doesn’t matter how much we wanted to do it before; all that matters now is that it’s on that list and so has become a “should.” The body now responds to it as a stressor rather than a pleasure: our belly tightens, there’s tension in our arms and shoulders, and for some, a small rush of adrenaline “fight or flight” whenever we think about doing it.
This physical response, without an actual opportunity for “fight or flight” builds up toxins in the system that cause other symptoms in the body, ranging from arthritis to diabetes, and can, for some of us, lead to adrenaline depletion.
Now, the word should is not at all the only such word that works that way—it’s just the one currently in style. Other equally devastating words are: ought (as in, I ought to be…), must (as in, you must do this or…), have-to (as in, but I have to!), and got-to (as in, “I gotta get this done before….”)/ Each and every one of these is as toxic to the human body as cigarette smoke or nuclear radiation. They all build up toxins in the system that can only be released by running away or fighting—which may explain why kick-boxing is so popular these days!
Okay, you’re wondering, but how am I going to get anything done if I don’t make up a list—and how am I going to get anyone else to do what they’re supposed to (oh, yes! That’s one of the toxic ones too!) without using these words?
It’s not all that hard, really, it’s about discovering what we really would like to do right now.
What? You’re wondering, how would I possibly get the dishes done, the toilet bowl washed, or my bookkeeping handled if I only did what I really want to do?
Isn’t that interesting…. We’ve convinced ourselves that some of the things that make our life easy and harmonious are onerous tasks that we would never do without coercion! If I didn’t “have-to” clean the bathroom it would be filthy—well, to quote Byron Katie, is that really true?
Really, what’s the likelihood that you wouldn’t wipe out the sink or brush out the toilet bowl when it was uncomfortably dirty and ugly? Would you really just let the dishes pile up in the sink forever? How likely is that? At some point you’d look at them and simply start loading them into the dishwasher, or fill up the sink with soapy water and swish a few through every once in a while as you were cooking—or something! Right?
In fact, at the time you’re inclined to do things like that, it’s no big deal; almost on automatic while you’re remembering or contemplating something wonderful, like a guest coming over or the lovely evening you had last night, or the beauty of the sunrise or sunset. In some Buddhist monasteries, the young novices who clean up the kitchens after a meal are encouraged to think of the pots and pans as “Buddha’s body”—to realize that what they’re doing is a sacred act and part of their contemplation. And Brother Lawrence, the monastery kitchen helper who “practiced the Presence” became a powerful healer that way.
And that is how life is meant to be lived.
We do the small things that make life easier and more comfortable in and around the wonderful things that make life worthwhile.—not because we “should” but, because, in this moment, it feels perfectly right and fitting to be doing that.
So giver yourself—body, mind, and soul—a break. Throw away the lists and set the intention that everything that needs to be done today for the wellbeing of everyone you care about gets done without your “shoiulding” on yourself. Join the movement for freedom from “shoiulds, oughts, musts, gottas and haftas” and be your wonderful, healthy, effective Self!
We're approaching Memorial Day and as I prepare my talk for Sunday, I thought I'd share some musings here.
Years ago my mother shared with me a series of science fiction books in which the main character is an orphan, raised by a group of elderly scholars. One was a philosopher, another an historian, another a retired world-traveling doctor, etc. You get the picture.
Well, as the series unfolds our hero travels all over the galaxy applying his unorthodox, but highly effective techniques to all kinds of problems. He’s gone for years. And finally gets back home, only to find that those elderly gentlemen have passed away. And, though they have willed to him all of their collective belongings — from books to houses to bank accounts — he is bereft. They have betrayed him by not sticking around to be his support system now, when he needs it. He mopes around the old home for a while, feeling totally lost and unsupported.
Then, out of his angst, he starts talking to them — you know how it is, “How could you? What am I going to do without you?” – all the usual stuff that we go through when we’re missing someone who we don't think we'll ever see again.
Well, to his surprise — and the reader’s — his old mentors start answering him! After a while, his room is as full as it ever was, and each of them has something to contribute to his conundrum.
I have to say I wrestled with that a bit.
For about 15 years, in fact.
Then I began applying the principles of New Thought - from Unity and the Science of Mind.
I needed to heal some old hurts if I was going to be able to function as a working mother. And in the writings of Ernest Holmes and Louise Hay and Emmet Fox, a book called Emanuel's Book, some therapy manuals, and others, I found a series of steps that worked (check out the link to "Ruth's Method for Healing the Past").
And I also found a way of looking at our experience that I’d never seen in all the reading and searching I’d done all my life. I learned that, no matter who or what or when it appears to be, every experience we have is actually happening inside us!
Even now, everything you are perceiving as outside of you is in fact a combination of ideas and feelings that are inside of you — and so am I. So when I look at the people around me, I’m actually CREATING them in my mind - my own personal world. And when I remember them... Well, I’m sure you can see how that’s even more the case.
So I was healing some old hurts with my mother and some other folks from my past one day, using a process of visualization and internal conversation, and I realized that I was doing the same thing as the guy in that science fiction book! And, just like the guy in the book, I was getting answers to my questions that seemed to come from outside my own thinking!
What’s even more amazing is, even though I never told any of those people that I was doing this work, they all changed their behaviors toward me! They said and did things differently around me because of the work I did with the images of them that I hold inside me.
So what does all this have to do with ongoing life of those who seem to have died?
Some of you have figured it out…
You see, the people we know and love — and even those we don’t — all live in our own hearts, minds, and souls. And, as far as we’re concerned, that’s the ONLY place they’ve ever lived. Whether they’re in their body in the next room, on the other side of the country, or on the other side of the veil we call death — everything we know, love, and hate about them IS INSIDE US.
So as long as we live, they live. They are alive, now and always, in our hearts and minds and souls. They are just as accessible inside us as if they were in their bodies — because the only place they’ve ever really been is inside us!
And there’s more ...
Because there is only One Mind, and my mind thinks the thoughts of the One Mind, then not only does everyone I’ve ever known and loved (or don’t think I love) exist as a thought in my mind...
They all exist as a thought in the One Mind — and that is eternal!
So here’s the gift of all this — got some unfinished business with someone who’s no longer on the planet? No Problem! Sit down and imagine them sitting in front of you, and tell them everything you have to say — good and not so good — then feast your inner eyes on them while they tell you what they have to say. You’ll be amazed! Then — and here’s the best part — tell them you forgive them, and ask them to forgive you, even if you think they hurt you...
(I know, I know that doesn’t seem to make sense, but think about it, you’re the one who’s been carrying that hurt around and blaming them for it, so you need to be forgiven to release it. You can read about my discovery of - and wrestling with - this in the book that describes my own healing journey: Finding the Path)
As you do so, allow both of you to feel the Light of Forgiveness surround you and lift you into the State of Grace. FEEL the love and light and peace and joy of it!
Same thing for someone you really, really miss. Sit down and see them with you, allow them to let you know how much they care for you, and, again, tell them everything—good and bad—you’ve been thinking. Get to the place where all you know is the love between you. Then FEEL the wonderful state of love and light and peace that is your birthright!
THIS is what it means to be a spiritual being having a human experience!
This love and light and delight that comes of being freed of all burdens of fear, loss, and guilt in our relationships…
This knowing that, in Truth, all is consciousness, and all hurts and breaks are healed in consciousness — we are made whole...
THIS is the salvation we’ve been promised, the fulfillment of our true nature.
We are eternal ideas in the One Mind, and we have the creative power to transform our experiences by tapping into that Mind through the power of imagination.
As we allow ourselves to KNOW that everyone we love is alive in us, and that the way to connect with them is through that “wormhole” into other dimensions that we call our hearts, then we begin to live the life we that is our birthright — the life of love eternal.
Bless you on your journey!
In the Celtic traditions—now handed down as Wicca and Neo-Paganism—life is celebrated in the cycles of the great trinity: Earth, Sun, and Moon. For virtually all indigenous (earth-based) cultures,
So, at the midpoint between winter solstice and spring equinox (Imbolc, which we celebrate as Groundhog’s day), a young woman (often a pregnant, unmarried one) is dressed in white and wears candles on her head and is called Bride (pronounced breed). New lambs are born at that time, as are many babies, and the word imbolc means “in milk.”
And at the first day of spring, when the moon is full and the sun has passed its midpoint in the heavens, this same young woman is honored as Oestre (pronouced ester), and she comes into town wearing a sky blue gown, with fresh flowers and herbs, and with rabbits or hares around her, carrying beautifully colored birds’ eggs for people to feast on...and we continue to honor her holy day as Easter.
The old, closed in life of winter is over, and the sun has warmed the earth and restored the waters so that all might live freely, again.
There is a masculine aspect to this season, as well. This the time to choose which of the young rams that were born in February will be allowed to grow into maturity, and to sacrifice the others for the good of the herd—and the feasts of the people! The Paschal (referring to sheep) feast, which the Jews honor today as Passover, is a continuation of this ancient tradition.
And, among the earth-centered cultures, the mother can nourish only when the father seeds her, as the father Sun/Sky was understood to nourish the Mother Earth. So, in the cycle of the years, a young man is chosen to live the life of the Sun—to replenish and restore the people’s harmony with, Earth.
Throughout human history and pre-history, from Egypt to Scotland and into India, we find accounts of this man.
Then, one day, in High Summer, at the Feast of the High King (our August 1), his time comes. He is anointed and named the King of Kings. And for the next 7 years, he has all power—anything he asks is granted, and all that he declares is truth.
While many references exist to such kings (our most famous is King Arthur), and we can look at the timetables of history to see who many of them are, there is only one whose full story is well known today: the man we call Jesus, who was known to his people as Yshua ben Yusph.
He was one of a long line of men who were born to reunite the people with their true heritage, going back over 3000 years, and he knew it and followed the traditions.
But Yshua ben Yusph was different. He didn’t just use these 12 to do his bidding, but taught them to do what he did. And when he went around his native land, Judea, he not only taught the ritual truths, but more. He taught that all people had the same power, if they learned how to tap it and use it.
Looking over the historical records, we can see that the anointed King of Kings, the all-powerful Sun King, typically reigned 7 to 9 years. And in those records, we can see that, at the end of that period – one full pattern of the planet Venus in the sky – traditionally, his chief lieutenant, his “right-hand man” had the sacred duty of killing him. Always at the full moon—after the spring or fall equinox. Usually, they would go hunting and there would be an “accident.” Then the King’s body would be carried home, dripping his blood across the land, and so nourishing it. “The King is dead! Long live the King” would be shouted along the way. The Lamb of God would be sacrificed so that all might live, and harmony (heaven) might be restored on Earth.
The Master we call Jesus knew this and planned for it. And so, on the night of the full moon following the spring equinox, after the Paschal feast, he waited in the garden for his closest disciple, Judas Iscariot, to return and do his duty.
And here, again, we have a difference. Rather than coming with a sword, his lieutenant, Judas “betrayed him with a kiss.” And the Temple guard took him away for a trial in the Temple.
Perhaps Jesus knew there would be a difference. Perhaps he realized that this was the end, not only of a 7year cycle, but a 2000 year era, and that his sacrifice would be different.
Jesus, after all, stood for a way of life that was contrary to the urban hierarchical structure of the Roman Empire, of Jerusalem, the temple, and the Pharisees’ priesthood.
He stood for everything they were trying to get away from, yet he did so within both Law and tradition. So the priests could do nothing to him. So he was sent to Pilate, who recognized him for what he was, and did what he could...even labeling the cross with his transgression... Iesu Nasorean Rex Iudeae. And, in spite of all, he went through a very public execution.
It was a highly charged time; short as it was for the usually drawn-out process of crucifixion. Thunder clouds gathered as the King of kings was shorn of his dignity and hung; The sky darkened with an approaching eclipse as the guard broke tradition and let Jesus drink of the bitter herb.
And then he did something no others have done—rather than simply forgiving his trusted lieutenant for doing his duty, he forgave all who were involved with his death, for “they know not what they do.” He didn’t want them to carry the “karma” of killing, to have to “reap what they sowed”
Then, in that state of Union with the Divine, he “gave up his spirit” and let the body die – at the full eclipse – and the earth shook so that the curtain hiding the Holy of Holies was torn from the top down…
And in that forgiveness, letting go of his life, he empowered himself to transcend from the material plane. He empowered his resurrection.
We know from many sources that the divine son of the Sun had to experience days in a tomb and rising from it as part of his training.
The pharaohs went through it; they were sealed in a pyramid without air or light for 3 days. And Deepak Chopra tells how he and his fellow medical students buried one of the holy men in India, the Sadhus, in a box in the school yard for 5 days, and then raised him up and he walked away. So rising from entombment is not impossible...
And the Shroud of Turin continues to baffle engineers and archeologists...
Jesus was neither the first nor the last King of Kings. But, thanks to Paul and the gospel writers, we know his story.
Jean Houston’s Godseed is the process of living that story, as a means of personal empowerment, and she says that its strength is that while we’ve heard similar stories before, they were of far-off figures, and this is the story of a person who lived among us.
And that person, whose life and words were recorded as he walked among the people, said that we could do likewise.
Which is the essential understanding of New Thought.
Now we have completed the Eon, or zodiacal Age, which Jesus began. The Piscean age, symbolized by 2 fish, is over. The Aquarian age, the symbol for which is people carrying their water bottles, has begun. The tribulations he experienced were the hallmark of that age. The harmony he taught, the “heaven at hand” that he encouraged people to experience, is the hallmark of the next 2000 years.
So let’s use this knowledge and go forth in power. Let’s use this power that he demonstrated that we have, and restore, once more, harmony among the people, and with the Earth.
And, as we sing in the Peace song, “let it begin with me”, let it begin with each of us, as we accept the truth of our being and live it.
Below is the series of slides I used for a talk exploring what's happening in the world today and what's emerging in the near future.... enjoy!
Many of the people I work with or who would read my website do not understand what's happening to the United States. They can't understand what people are thinking, how the current President got elected, or why the people around him aren't stopping him. CLICK HERE to read a remarkable article written by a woman who's been studying the American working class for years.
And I have my own ideas, written about 20 years ago but very relevant today...
Classes and Value Systems in the United States
Clearly, there are vast differences between the members of the different classes in this country. However, the US being the “land of opportunity” where we can all move wherever we please and learn whatever we choose, class is not a hereditary nor location-based division. Distinctions can't be made simply by income, either, because ministers, for example, generally make about the same income as fast-food workers and far less money than assembly-line workers, but live and vote and consume in very different ways.
A class model of American culture must address the different ways of thinking and working that divide the American people, and starts with the division between abstract thinkers and concrete thinkers. In spite of all the sociological demographic measures, in truth, how people make a living is the next defining characteristic; the values on which their actions are based provides the final filter.
Abstract and Concrete Thinking
Consider: some people think in terms of their experiences and the things they can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell; they ask questions about objects, events, people, and procedures. Others think in terms of possibilities and principles; they ask questions that apply ideas in lots of different ways. Some people think in terms of specific how-to steps; they read the instruction book or do things they way they were told because each task is different. Others think in terms of relationships and patterns; they see how something they’ve done before is similar to what is being done now and use the same methods as far as they can—typically before reading the instructions.
People in the first group are called concrete thinkers. They tend to experience the world as a series of separate, discrete objects and events, and learn by experience working with objects, or by seeing or hearing concrete examples. Once they learn how something is done, that’s the only “right” way to do it.
People in the second group are called abstract thinkers. They’re constantly generalizing from events and experiences and relating or connecting them to others, and experience the world as an unfolding set of more and more complex interactions hoping to find a few basic principles that apply to everything. All humans generalize, but for abstract thinkers, it’s the only way to operate. Once they see how something has been done, they look for ways to do it better, more efficiently, more beautifully, or in a way that's simply more fun.
Given the difference between these two ways of thinking, is it any wonder that the past thousand years1 have seen almost constant conflicts between, as my grandmother used to say, “Town & Gown”? The Townies, the sons of tradesmen and artisans, live by their ability to manipulate concrete objects. The Gownies, the black-robed students and instructors in the college or university (who used to wear their robes all the time but now only wear them at commencement), live by their ability to grasp and manipulate abstract ideas. Neither understands nor places much value on the other, and both feel a little defensive of their limitations. Well into the 19th century, they lived side by side, the tradesmen selling goods to the intelligencia and the intelligencia providing basic moral, religious, and ethical training to their children. This went on for generation after generation, in a usually uncomfortable dynamic tension, often divided by the walls of the university campus so the boys from the different groups wouldn't taunt and fight with each other.
Working With Head or Hands
It's not just how we think that defines (and too often divides) us; it's also what we do. In fact, for most Americans, “what do you do for a living?” is the first question we ask when we're getting to know someone. For the purposes of this model, I've divided “what we do” into 2 main classes: we either work with our hands – building, creating, fixing, moving, cleaning, or in some other way manipulating material stuff – or we work with our heads – calculating, exploring, investigating, analyzing, developing, designing, or projecting future states, of ideas and relationships.
People who rely on Concrete Thinking and working with the hands have been the foundation for Industrial Culture. They are the Laborers, Marx's Proletariat, modern America's "White Working Class", “red neck,” or “Joe the Plumber”. A few are day-laborers, living on the fringes of the culture, often immigrants, consuming little and rarely saying anything in the voting place; those few are called here “T-shirts”. The vast majority, though, are the Blue (men) or Pink (women) Collar workers whose parents and grandparents were the same. They work the factories and construction sites, staff the stores and restaurants, provide the support for hospitals, hotels, schools, and churches, and keep the corporations functioning. Some of them work on farms or in the lumber, fishing, and mining industries, in daily contact with natural processes and resources.
For people in these classes, the world is made up of objects to be used, manipulated, or modified to suit one's immediate life purpose. Trees, for example, are objects that may be good for shade, but not if they block a desired view or drop too many leaves or fruit in the wrong place; then they're simply objects to be eliminated. The T-shirt or Blue Collar worker will go out and, with or without the help of friends, do whatever it takes to get rid of it, perhaps cutting up a load of firewood in the process.
The Shift to Management – Working With the Head
When the Concrete-thinking worker begins to be seen as a leader, or comments on patterns and relationships in the work being done, a promotion to manager usually takes place. Suddenly the Blue Collar worker is a White Collar businessman. They're now the manager or owner of a plumbing, construction, or electrical company, the factory-floor supervisor who's been “moved upstairs”, or the effective sales person who's now sales manager. White Collars are also the professionals – they may be a pharmacist, optometrist, engineer, lawyer, dentist, or physician – who once would have learned their trade as apprentices and worked their way up to owning a business, or might have been trained on top of a liberal-arts education, but most of whom today have earned a technical degree and gone straight into the position - a fact which makes the professional suspect to the working-his-way-up Blue Collar. To White Collars, however the got there, an undesirable tree remains an object to be eliminated, but the White Collar will pay someone to cut it down and haul it away rather than do it himself or with the help of friends or family.
Regardless of whether they rise up through the ranks or step into the position straight out of school, both Blue/Pink and White Collars have the training to do their job well. Problems arise though, because they too often lack the broader knowledge-base that can help them think about the process, its context, and its consequences, rather than simply do the work. No longer able to put in a day's work and go home, managers need to keep up with the finances and staffing, and be responsible for how others do the job, as well as taking the long view. As a result, the shift from Blue Collar to White Collar is difficult for many, and often leads to addictive behaviors as the conflict between ways of thinking takes its toll. The addictions may include alcohol, nicotine, and drugs, or may be more subtle: acquisition of possessions, unhealthy sexual behaviors, abuse of food, or even excessive exercise. And the income for White Collars being the highest in the country, the resources are usually there to support the addiction.
Becoming a Power-Broker
When the White Collar manager or business owner reaches a certain level of income and power, another shift takes place. Now people are asking for advice and funds outside of the business. Now there are events in the community that must be attended to maintain that level of income and power. And those events are not made up of people from either the Blue/Pink Collar class nor even mostly of other members of the White Collar class. No, this level of power and income belongs to a whole new class: people who do business during formal dinners and receptions, who attend inaugurations of mayors, governors, and presidents – and often help pay for the celebrations that follow – wearing formal attire as they do their work at these events: they are the Tuxedo class.
Again, it's a difficult transition. Instead of going to an office each day to manage the production and distribution of goods and services, members of the Tuxedo class build relationships and power structures, manage their resources to maximize long-term income and stability, and support the work of creative, thoughtful people around the world. They merge abstract and concrete thinking, working almost entirely in their heads, as they focus on the long term and the largest possible scope. They are now the most powerful people in town, and often tell the politicians what to do.
Possessions are, to the Tuxedo, a sign of power or a source of delight. Nothing else about an object matters to them. A tree is allowed to grow only where it best serves the landscape, or as an indication that this member of the Tuxedo class has the power to let it grow where it is. If something else is more delightful, the tree goes without a thought. People are paid; the work is done; no evidence is left. If a new tree is desirable, it's paid for and brought in. The tree, in other words, is an abstraction, only valuable as an experience of beauty or symbol of the individual's power and will - as is a forest, a lake, or a town.
For the Blue Collar worker who's risen through the ranks of White Collar, the shift to Tuxedo can be painful and almost too much to handle (an was illustrated in many novels and films through the 1930s and '40s). Then there's the problem of how to raise the kids – which value system do they get trained in? How can one take advantage of the privileges of income and power without destroying their unique creative potential? (This dilemma was illustrated in those early films and novels, and more recent ones, like The Ultimate Gift (2007) with James Garner) These are the problems that plague the nouveau riche member of the Tuxedo class – and they are issues of values, ideas, and relationships, not the manipulation of objects; abstractions, not concrete objects.
Focusing on Abstract Ideas and Relationships
The shift in ways of thinking that's required in the progression from Blue Collar (concrete, working with hands) to White Collar (concrete, working with the head) to Tuxedo (working with the head at a large scale, using abstract concept but measured in concrete terms), is part of why it's so hard for some people to make the transition into the Tuxedo class from the working class in which they made the money that put them there (as exemplified by the shipbuilder in the film Pretty Woman) – and why their children and grandchildren, who have grown up among Tuxedos and are accustomed to that way of thinking and acting, don't really understand them.
And that, in large part, is why most American Workers have no desire to be promoted to management or become the heads of companies - they just want to live their Blue Collar lives with lots of money.
Another class of American workers are purely abstract thinkers. Many would be, and some call themselves, perpetual students. Some are scholars and philosophers; others are researchers and analysts, and still others are designers and artists. They refuse to wear “business attire” or uniforms or to be confined to a specific “career path” and typically wear jeans or corduroys and sweaters, so may be called the Turtleneck class.
They usually begin their work life in colleges or universities, perhaps extending their degree programs to take just a few more classes and explore just a few more ideas. Some are self-taught, learning from the books and websites they study: usually a mixture of science fiction, history, biography, the encyclopedia and dictionary, and how-to manuals. Possessions mean little to Turtlenecks, unless they represent ideas that are meaningful. Production of goods and services are the furthest thing from their mind. Ideas and possibilities are what's important – whether in the past, the present, or the future. They may go on to work as analysts in a business or government, if they need the income to support their family, or as teachers or social workers or ministers if they can get by on those lower levels of pay. Increasingly, they're found in high-technology companies, where they can work in collegial settings creating interesting stuff and do well financially, too. Often they'll go back for more degrees, and work in a college or university at some point in their career.
For the Turtleneck a tree is a fascinating specimen, or a source of food or delight, or a connection with previous times and places, or a link with Nature, or all of the above. If the tree drops leaves, it's seen as a demonstration of a natural process that contributes to the well-being of all. If it blocks a view, it may be modified or simply left to become the view. Only if the tree becomes diseased or too badly broken to remain or is actually impeding something really important (like a sewer or sidewalk) will the Turtleneck choose to cut it down – and then only with considerable effort to ensure that its remains will be properly disposed of.
Turtleneck workers are explorers and generally work in participatory team structures, rather than top-down hierarchies. They refuse to take on the responsibility for others' work, which is the hallmark of White Collar function, and they refuse to “punch the clock” and “follow orders” which they believe to be the defining characteristics of the Blue Collar worker. Insight and creativity are honored among Turtlenecks, and completing assignments to meet a deadline is the closest they come to following a schedule.
The Rise of A New Production Class
In the agricultural world of the first several thousand years of Western culture, there were very clear roles for both kinds of thinking, as I described earlier as the tension between “town and gown.” Then, in the industrializing world of the late 1700s and early 1800s, concrete thinkers came into their own as powerful and important contributors to society. Men whose minds grasped the function and process of mechanics and the interrelationships of mechanical parts, and who were comfortable in a clearly defined organizational structure, became the stars of European and American culture. Those who could translate that understanding into numbers and record-keeping were the new prophets. Those who could combine the two became the new princes – merchant princes. Concrete thinkers creating and producing goods and building structures made the world an exciting place of possibility. And that's how Western culture sustained itself and expanded, well into the 1980s.
Then something happened. We call it the Computer Age, the Information Age, the Age of the Internet. Suddenly, building things was not nearly as important as building the abstractions that manage things. Computer software is an abstraction, and computer software has become the way everything gets done. So, for the first time in Western culture, abstract thinking Turtlenecks began to have a significant role in the production system.
The result was a revolution in how we do business – and along with it, huge resentment on the part of the concrete thinking Blue Collar and White Collar workers who find themselves totally left out of the production process – or worse, are relying on equipment they don't understand to do the work they've done without it in the past.
The Babyboomer generation, the first generation in human history in which the majority of teens expected to go to college, was the turning point. And a shift from concrete thinking to abstract thinking is the intended result of a college education. The “general education” requirements – usually about four terms of coursework – survey the academic disciplines and, in the process, open the mind to see the world in terms of interrelated, overlapping, and sometimes conflicting, understandings, with no clear boundaries between “right and wrong” or “good and bad”. This, to the concrete thinker, is certainly not an acceptable way to view the world - but is essential for the abstract thinker.
So thousands of Blue/Pink Collar and White Collar kids became Turtlenecks. And their parents (and later, many of their children) were not happy about the change. And, in the conservative talk shows, fundamentalist religious movements, and election of George W Bush, and then Donald Trump, they - and the new generations of concrete thinkers that followed them - made their voices heard.
And now we have a situation. The United States - and all democratic nations - are founded in abstract principles that cannot be explained in concrete terms. Yet concrete thinkers - the Blue/Pink and White Collar classes, along with some Tuxedos - currently hold the power and resent all forms of abstract thought. It will take all the ingenuity, creativity, and love that the Turtlenecks and abstract-thinking Tuxedos can muster to break through before those values are lost by the actions of those who believe they hold them most dear.
‘Tis the season to light up the world! For Americans in the Christian tradition, it’s time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Savior, Light of the World. For many Americans, though, the lights of the season have a different spiritual meaning.
At this time of year, with its long nights and short days, the sun, our source of light and warmth appears to be traveling further and further south each day. Then, one day, about December 21, it seems to stop. We call it the Winter Solstice, which comes from the Latin: sol meaning “sun” and stice meaning “standing.” It rises and sets in the same place for 3 days, until December 25, when it rises a little northward on the horizon—the beginning of the return of the light.
Ancient peoples tracked this movement, and those who used a calendar based on the sun often suspended time for those 3 days and held feasts and religious rituals to honor the return of the light. Many people today still follow those ancient traditions.
Somewhere between 1600 and 1200 years before the birth of Jesus, a man named Zarathustra (the Greeks called him Zoroaster a thousand years later), in the area we now call Iran, had a vision that there is only one divinity, all good and all wise. He called it Ahura Mazda, which means “Wise Lord.” To explain the difficulties of life, he described twin offspring of that One, who chose different paths: the Light and the Lie. His ideas became the dominant religion of the Persian empire for over a thousand years, and the “fire temples” of Zoroastrian priests, who were often called Magi, may still be found across Central Asia and in northern India, where believers are called “Parsees.” Today, thousands of Zoroastrians light candles on their holy days, including the winter solstice, to remind them to choose the path of Light. They also honor twelve divine qualities: wisdom, power, life, etc. with stories of saints (meaning “holy ones”) who embody them, one of whom was called Mithras.
About 500 years before Jesus’ birth, Jerusalem was conquered by Babylonians and its people were exiled. They were restored to their homes when Babylon was conquered by the Zoroastrian Persians. An emperor who recognized their one God helped them rebuild the temple, replacing the sacred menorah, in which oil-lamps were kept lit—the flames reminding people of God’s presence in the temple.
Two hundred years later, Alexander took over the Persian empire, including Israel. Later Greek emperors wanted to have their gods and goddesses worshipped in the Jerusalem temple as they were everywhere else. The Jews revolted, and one group, the Maccabees, wrested the temple from the Greek soldiers. There they found the menorah nearly empty—only enough oil for one day! They prayed and held off the Greeks for 8 days, and the whole time the flames remained lit! This miracle is the basis for the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, which moves around a bit, since the Jewish calendar is based on the moon, and starts December 22 this year.
The Romans took over the Greek empire about 100 years before Jesus’ birth. Roman religion combined traditions from all over the Mediterranean, and an important holy day for the Roman soldiers was the birth of the Zoroastrian saint, Mithras, on December 25. The Roman calendar was based on the sun and sometimes, to make the calendar work, a festival called Saturnalia (because the planet Saturn was visible as a bright star) lasted 12 days, starting December 25th.
The Roman Empire lasted around 500 years. The Roman emperor was considered a son of Jupiter, the greatest god, and was head of their religious life. So, when the empire became Christian, much of the emperor’s power was transferred to the Bishop of Rome, il Papa, whom we know as the Pope. It was his job to bring the people of many countries into one ecclesia catholica (meaning “universal church”). So, over the next several hundred years, the Roman church adopted and adapted many local traditions, turning gods and goddesses into saints, and making holy days fit into the Christian story—including the birth of the Light of the World before dawn on the fourth day after the winter solstice.
Martin Luther and his followers broke away from the Roman church in the late 1400s, protesting the many ways the church didn’t honor the Bible (and so were called “Protestants”). They gave up most of those adapted traditions—except the birth of Jesus on December 25. In fact, Luther is often credited with having created the first Christmas tree, lighting candles on an evergreen to remind us that Jesus is everlasting life and the Light of the World.
In the 1960s a group of African Americans, seeking to reclaim some sense of heritage and place as a people, decided to adopt a Zulu harvest festival. They named the six days following December 25th Kwanzaa and created rituals based on lighting candles and feasting. Using Swahili words, they gave each day a focus: Imana: Faith; Umoja, Hope; etc. The idea took hold and now millions of African Americans celebrate both Christmas and Kwanzaa, each year.
By whatever name, we all seek the same thing, the peace and light and love of God. And at this season, especially, we honor the birth of the Light of the World in our hearts. May the blessings of the season be yours, always.
I spoke on Sunday in a Unitarian-Universalist fellowhip, having been asked to create a healing process for a congregation that had been actively involved and somewhat split, since before the primaries. Contrary to my usual practice of speaking from Spirit, I wrote out the service. These are the notes I prepared...
Welcome, friends. Welcome to this sanctuary… of community… of healing….of spirituality… and of transformation – for truly in this place we transform lives.
You are all welcome here, no matter who you are, what you believe, or what you have experienced this past week.
You are all welcome here because as Unitarian Universalists, we honor the worth and dignity of every single person, even when – no, especially when - we don’t fully agree. Because we know that no one person has all the Truth, and so in our search for Truth and Meaning we glean pieces from every one around us.
So from the diversity of our experience we gather. And into the common bond of our humanity we join – hoping to find Home. Hoping to find neighbors. Hoping to find solace. And hoping – even against hope – to find that spark of motivation and support that we need to get up and do the work we are called to do: to bind up the broken, to preach the good news, … and to be present with each other in our pain and in our joys; in our fear and in our hopes.
We in the program committee created today’s program long before this past week’s election, thinking of a need for healing the bitter divisiveness that has been developing between Americans and between our leaders over the past year and more.
During this way-too-long election season, far too many of us have experienced damaged relationships with loved ones, friends, co-workers, or church members, dismay over election results, stress from the bombardment of negative discourse and lies, and fear that the country's divisions will continue or even intensify.
Yes, ours is a time of great uncertainty. Thoughtful people everywhere are uneasy about the system of governance in which we have placed our faith and trust to preserve our welfare. We are concerned about the well-being of people living on the margins of our society. We are wondering about our children's future, given the tensions in our society and a world that threatens to erupt in turmoil or violence – even as climate change disrupts the very foundation of our lives. Yet we know that fear does not serve us, or those we care about. We know that fear of the “Other” is a function of our lowest brain – what I call our “bird brain”, which pecks to death a chick that doesn’t look the same. We know that we have a higher mind, the cerebral cortex, from which we can choose to operate, with which we can see our common humanity instead of our apparent differences.
So we come together. With fellowships and churches all across the country, we come together as Unitarians, recognizing One Power and Presence throughout the universe and as Universalists, realizing that all beings, everywhere, are included in the Love of that Presence.
(even when we don’t agree)
In this understanding I invite you now to share… In a few words, if you can, share your current feelings and thoughts about the past 2 years and their culmination this past week, and about what may be emerging. Sharing here (in writing if you can, aloud as you look at this page is fine) allows us to stand witness to and for each other, to speak the truths of our heart in love with each other, to be held in the heart of our community
Thank you all… we are, each and every one of us, enriched by your heartfelt sharing - the field of mind that humanity shares is enhanced.
I’d like to add some words being spoken this week in other UU congregations, in vigils and special services across the country…
Rev Daniel O’Connell of Houston TX:
Hold on to what is good & honest & true
Find that calm center of yours, hiding behind a door, and
Despite the noise of bickering & profanity,
Hold on to kindness.
Despite the whirlwind of potential tragedy
Despite the possibility of progress pushed back
Hold on to this house of memory & hope– as a haven for religious liberals
now needed more than ever.
Hold on & hold fast, for together we make a beacon of love & hope
Together we make a beacon whose light pushes back the darkness
Elections come and go, …
This too, shall pass.
Danielle M. Feris, describing herself as a White, Queer and Jewish community organizer in Oakland,
We must turn toward each other and open ourselves and share our resources.
We must apologize and repair when we make mistakes, and then we must go on together.
White supremacy has not won. There are still rivers and sacred prayer circles protecting the water. There is still Black liberation movement, resistance and resilience. There is still love and magic.
What will you bring forward now? How can I be supportive of your efforts? What is needed of me and what can I bring more of?”
As if in response to that, Monique Bourgeois adapted these words by Judy Bressler of the Klezmer Conservatory Band for her congregation:
A candle alone is a small thing.
But one candle can light another
–and see how its own light increases
as it gives flame to another.
Light is the power to chase away the darkness, to dissolve it.
Throughout history, darkness has tried to smother the light.
But always in the end it fails.
For always, somewhere in the world, the light remains,
Ready to burn its brightest, even where it is darkest.
And when one heart kindles another,
When one person strengthens another,
When one mind illumines another,
The light increases within us as we pass it on
With that in mind, seeking the spark of light, the candle within, please write down one thing that gives you hope – it might be a glimmer of possibility, a person, a deeper wisdom ... thank you…
[The Meditation]: Now, please close your eyes and feel that hope as reality… seeing, hearing, smelling the experience – bringing all your senses to the imaginary experience of its presence in your life now… allowing it to become a reality to you mind. It is a point of light in the mind-body. Expand that light as loving energy through the mind-body… and into the room… across the town… across the region… up and down the coast… across the continent… the oceans… and spread it around the world. Now in space, look at this beloved earth: one humanity on one planet. Embrace it, feel the light and love and peace pervading it for this instant; and now; and now again. Breathe now, a cleansing breath, and bring awareness back… Breathe again.
And now, to help us remember what we stand on and stand for, let us read our 7 principles, listed in your order of service:
We covenant to affirm and promote…
· The inherent worth and dignity of each person;
· Justice equity and compassion in human relations
· Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
· A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
· The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and society at large;
· The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
· Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
[click here to watch a video of this presentation.]
There was a man who loved dogs. He was constantly finding stray dogs and cleaning them up and feeding them, and now and then he’d find a new home for one, but most of the came to live with him in his ramshackle old house on the hill. Every day he would take 2 or 3 of them and pick up his walking stick that leaned by the gate and head down the long road that led to his house, going to get his mail (on the rare occasions there was any) and any other item he might need for the day’s adventures. His heart was light for, although he lived alone, he was never lonely. For one, he had the constant loving companionship of his canine friends, and for another, he knew that we all constantly abide in the loving Presence of the Source and Sustainer of all. So he would head out with a song in his head and a loving light in his eye every day, rain or shine.
One day the man was returning from his walk and heard a whimpering. He knelt down to check the dogs with him to be sure no one was hurt, then told them to be quiet so he could hear where the sound came from. It seemed to come from his right, on the other side of the bushes, and thorn-berry vines. He looked for a place to cut through the brambles but none was close by, so, picking up his feet very high to avoid as many thorns as possible, he stepped into the greenery, following the whimper. The dogs waited patiently, for they knew he would return – he always did. Slowly, he worked his way toward the sound. Sometimes he had to stop moving, because the sound stopped when he made any noise. Finally, he felt he was almost on top of it, but he couldn’t see anything brown, black, or yellow-dog color through the thick green leaves – what could it be? Then he saw a flicker of movement, a bit of pink. It was a child! A little girl! Her pink sweater was all tangled up in the thorns!. The man gasped in surprise to find this tiny thing, couldn’t be more than 2 years old, here alone beside the path. Then he went right to work, pulling out the pocket knife his father had given him when he was a boy and cutting away the branches that held the child in place. As he was working around her, she was sucking her thumb looking at him intensely – at times fiercely and at times pleadingly for him to make it better.
A merchant had a small shop in the town he grew up in, selling fabrics and other items not made in the town. He was careful with his money, never over-spending and rarely buying more than his customers were ready to buy from him, so he was in a position to expand his investment. He knew money grew in 3 ways: from interest paid, from appreciation over time, and from buying lower & selling higher. He also knew that it’s better to invest in something you understand than a “good deal” someone tries to sell you. So he was cautious as he considered what to do. Should he expand his business? Start another one? Buy some property? Become a lender and charge interest? Help someone else start a business and remain an investor? As he was considering he watched what was happening in his town. Several young couples were building new homes. An older man was teaching children in his home, beginning a new kind of school. Farmers were trying new crops. He could see that times were good and that change was in the air. And he wanted to help his town be prosperous while increasing the value of his money. What to do?
Finally he went to the town meeting and asked the council what they thought the town needed, not letting them know he had money to invest. The answers were all over the place: a new water system, a medical clinic, a school building, better roads and sidewalks – everyone had their idea of what would make the town a better place to live. The merchant left the meeting even more confused than before. But as he went down the stairs outside, he heard a young voice calling him. He looked down, and around, and saw one of the children who would sometimes come into his shop on an errand for her mother. She was very excited as she spoke, saying “I know what this town needs, sir!” “And what is that?” he asked with a smile, hardly knowing what to expect.
“We need a place where everyone can share what they make and eat together and dance and make music and have fun! Inside, so rain or snow won’t get us!” “Really?” “Yes sir! We need a place where kids can go after school if their chores are done and where grown-ups can meet and where everyone feels safe!” “Well, that’s quite an idea! Thank you!” said the merchant. And he patted the child on the head and went home to dinner. But he didn’t eat much that night; nor did he sleep. He kept hearing the child’s voice, and slowly the image of what she was seeing began to become clear. He could buy a piece of property near the center of town and build a large hall, one where people could set up booths around the edges and put tables at one end and a small stage with a dance floor at the other end. He worked out the finances and realized he could charge a small fee for the booths, so farmers could sell the crops and townsfolk could sell their crafts, and he could rent the stage to musicians or for events. He wouldn’t make a big profit, but over the years it would more than pay for itself – and it would give the town exactly what the little girl said – a place for everyone to have fun, even in the rain or snow. A year later, on a rainy afternoon, he and the little girl cut the ribbon on the door of the new community center building and almost everyone in the town went inside and had a party.
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