September 2019 (Vol. XXXII, No. 8)

Dear Friends ~ One of my college class assignments decades ago was to read a book called COME LET US PLAY GOD. Citing a myriad of scientific, technological, and medical breakthroughs of the time, it essentially raised the ethical questions and implications posed by our ever-advancing human capabilities. I remember at the time thinking that the human species has made breathtaking strides in intellectual development without the commensurate emotional or moral development. We make decisions and choose actions all the time because we can without thought for asking whether we should. In the midst of this skewed and ethically underdeveloped brew, our culture seems to have set aside values like honesty, integrity, generosity, kindness and civility. We don't hold public institutions and corporations and leaders to a higher moral standard.

We are never as kind as we want to be

...in our culture, it has been aptly observed, "we are never as kind as we want to be, but nothing outrages us more than people being unkind to us." In his stirring Syracuse commencement address, George Saunders confessed with unsentimental ruefulness: "What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness." I doubt any decent person, upon candid reflection, would rank any other species of regret higher. To be human is to leap toward our highest moral potentialities, only to trip over the foibled actualities of our reflexive patterns. To be a good human is to keep leaping anyway.

~ Maria Popova in the brainpickings.org newsletter, "Leo Tolstoy on Kindness and the Measure of Love"

The thing to do is supply light

One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty counsels. The thing to do is supply light, not heat.
~ Woodrow Wilson

The North Star of their native moral compass

"Under conditions of terror," Hannah Arendt wrote in her classic treatise on the normalization of evil, "most people will comply but some people will not...No more is required, and no more can reasonably be asked, for this planet to remain a place fit for human habitation." Under such conditions, counting ourselves among the few who refuse to comply has less to do with whether we believe ourselves to be good than it does with the deliberate protections we must place between unrelenting evil and our own sanity and goodness, for among the most insaning aspects of tyrannical regimes is the Stockholm syndrome of the psyche they inflict upon us — upon ordinary people, not-evil people, people who consider themselves decent and good, but who slowly, through a cascade of countless small concessions, lose sight of the North Star of their native moral compass.

~ Maria Popova in the brainpickings.org newsletter, "Against the Slippery Slope of Evil"
Figuring
By Maria Popova

Conflict resolution as an art form

Rather than relying on a thin, idealized hope that we will all one day just get along, we can approach conflict resolution as an art form that we are privileged to develop and hone.
~ Diane Musho Hamilton

These inner values

The fundamental problem, I believe, is that at every level we are giving too much attention to the external, material aspects of life while neglecting moral ethics and inner values...I call for each of us to come to our own understanding of the importance of inner values. For it is these inner values which are the source of both an ethically harmonious world and the individual peace of mind, confidence, and happiness we all seek. Of course, all the world's major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness, can and do promote inner values. But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I believe the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics that is beyond religion.
~ from BEYOND RELIGION: ETHICS FOR A WHOLE WORLD by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

A point within

People get blocked by living: hurrying and consuming things of no value thinking this is life. Real life is from a point within that radiates out to the world, a point within filled with serenity and assurance that we are loved, that we have a role to play in this world...This is the center of the real self, the best place to be. If you can live from this place, you will be Love's messenger.
~ from INDIGO CHILDREN by Peggy Fay and Susan Gale

The listening at the gates of the heart

Then there is the listening at the gates of the heart which has been closed for so long, and waiting for that mysterious inner voice to speak. When we hear it, we know it is the Truth to which we must now surrender our lives.

~ Beth Ferris

Truthfulness, honor

Truthfulness, honor, is not something which springs ablaze of itself, it has to be created between people.
~ Adrienne Rich
Collected Poems: 1950-2012
By Adrienne Rich

Blessed are the good plain ears

Blessed are those ears
Which hear the secret
Whisperings of Jesus,
And give no heed to the
Deceitful whisperings of this world,
And
Blessed are the good
Plain ears which heed
Not outward speech but
What God speaks and
Teaches inwardly in the soul.

~ Thomas a Kempis, THE IMITATION OF CHRIST
The Imitation of Christ
By Thomas à Kempis

How to serve

I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.

~ Albert Schweitzer

The road of human tenderness

We have a long, long way to go. So let us hasten along the road, the road of human tenderness and generosity. Groping, we may find one another's hands in the dark.

~ Emily Greene Balch

July-August 2019 (Vol. XXXII, No. 7)

Dear Friends ~ This past weekend we led an intergenerational retreat called "Children of the Earth." One activity was a story or guided meditation about an imaginary hike through the woods to a grove of gnarly oaks, tall poplars, and aromatic pines. At the base of each tree was a backpack with someone's name on it. Wild ones gave earthly gifts to add to the backpacks. Chickadee gave a seed to remind the children of their inner resourcefulness, bear gave mud tracks to remind them of strength and courage to defend those they love, owl a feather to remind them to be attentive to the mysterious wonders of the night. We all need a "backpack" of resources to help us on our path. Contemplation and action, pastoral care and prophetic witness, spirituality and service —we all need both so that the inner wisdom that sustains us and keeps us going ensures that the outer work comes from the heart and is done with love.

The stream of life that runs through the world

The same stream of life that runs through the world runs through my veins night and day and dances in rhythmic measure. It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the Earth into the numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves of flowers.

~ Rabindranath Tagore
The Heart of God: Prayers of Rabindranath Tagore
By Herbert F. Vetter, Rabindranath Tagore

The dream of my life

The dream of my life
Is to lie down by a slow river
And stare at the light in the trees —
To learn something by being nothing
A little while but the rich
Lens of attention.

~ Mary Oliver

If we fall in love with creation

If we fall in love with creation deeper and deeper, we will respond to its endangerment with passion.
~ Hildegard of Bingen

An ecological spirituality

An ecological spirituality needs to be built on three premises: the transience of selves, the living interdependency of all things, and the value of the personal in communion. Many spiritual traditions have emphasized the need to "let go of ego" but in ways that diminished the value of the person, undercutting particularly those, like women, who scarcely have been allowed individuated personhood at all. We need to "let go of the ego" in a different sense. We are called to affirm the integrity of our personal center of being, in mutuality with the personal centers of all other beings across species and, at the same time, accept the transience of these personal selves.

~from GAIA AND GOD by Rosemary Radford Ruether

Overdosed on data and underfed on the mysterious

We are overdosed on data and underfed on the mysterious. Our brains inflate while our souls wither. Constant interference by interpreting and explaining can distance us from life itself. God woos us into the wildness of unknowing where we are tempted by deeper senses.

~ from ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE, by Marv and Nancy Hiles

Compassion is not a luxury

We live in a time when science is validating what humans have known throughout the ages: that compassion is not a luxury; it is a necessity for our well-being, resilience, and survival.

~ Roshi Joan Halifax as quoted in EVERYDAY GRATITUDE

I seem a small child playing on a beach

I know not how others see me, but to myself I seem a small child playing on a beach, delighted at the discovery of a shiny stone or shell, while an entire ocean of Truth lay undiscovered before my eyes.

~ Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton
By James Gleick

All the small and lovely truths of life

"First, my child," said Old Turtle, "remember that there are truths all around us, and within us. They twinkle in the night sky and bloom upon the earth. They fall upon us every day, silent as the snow and gentle as the rain. The people, clutching their one truth, forget that it is a part of all the small and lovely truths of life."

~ from OLD TURTLE AND THE BROKEN TRUTH by Douglas Wood

Strong trust in self and life even in the face of evidence to the contrary

Faith is strong trust in self and life even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Like belief, it consists more in love than knowledge, or perhaps it is just that love takes precedence. It is intuitive. It is a power of the soul, not of the mind alone and based on the most subtle of perception. It is born and nurtured in the area of the third eye, the open heart, and the sensitivity of an ear tuned to mystery.

~ from THE SOUL'S RELIGION by Thomas Moore

Be kind, and wild, and disciplined, and absolutely generous

Call out to the whole divine night for what you love. What you stand for. Earn your name. Be kind, and wild, and disciplined, and absolutely generous.

~ Martin Shaw

You cannot be freed without these virtues

Every enlightened person on the earth,
everyone who's been liberated has had these virtues.
You cannot be freed without them.
The first one is compassion.
The second one is humility.
And the third one is service.

~ from SILENCE OF THE HEART by Robert Adams
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