Sunday, August 26, 2007

My angle on Mother Teresa

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Apparently a lot of people are bent out of shape about the recent revelations of Mother Teresa's lack of faith regarding her personal "experiences of God". Personally, after some reflection, I am not surprised and here is why...
From what I can gather about the life of Mother Teresa she lived a life of severe personal deprivation
on numerous levels. She took a vow of poverty and sexual abstinence,
for starters...and...I suspect that during her years as a nun in
Calcutta she probably didn't take too many relaxing vacations or eat
at too many nice restaurants...and...I wonder if she ever received a
soothing massage...or...relax on a beach and feel the cool ocean
air...or...walk through a quiet forest and enjoy the sound of
silence...and...I wonder who took care of Mother Teresa?...Did anyone
cook her a nice meal on a regular basis?...Did anyone ever give her
any money and encourage her to spend the day doing what "she" wanted
and pampering herself?....I doubt it...As far as I can gather she
lived a life where she was deprived of many of the creature comforts
we often take for granted...Personally, upon further reflection I am
not surprised Mother Teresa didn't feel the presence of God
"whatsoever" for apparently much of her adult life. Who would, under
such severe circumstances? Personally, I think it is impossible to
separate our experience of God from the world and our surroundings. We
live in a beautiful world teaming with life and beauty where the birds
sing, the sky is blue, and enchantment abounds for those who know what
to look for...From what I know of Mother Teresa, and it isn't much,
she apparently spent the vast majority of her time helping people who
were themselves deprived of the basic needs of, shelter,
and someone who cared about them and in many ways her own deprivation
was probably as great as those who she served.

So Mother Teresa apparently wore a mask much of the time hiding deep
seated doubts about the presence of God in her personal life.
Personally, I feel sad for Mother Teresa because I can't help
wondering why any institution would allow their people to live a life
of such deprivation for an "ideal" of what it means to be spiritual. I
am not suggesting or implying we should not help the poor or make
personal sacrifices but from where I sit, I don't, for the life of me,
understand, how such personal deprivation, for such a long period,
can result in anything but doubt about the presence of God...
unless... one believes God is not present in nature and every other
aspect of the world we live in...Yes Mother Teresa made her choice to
live the life she did but if I were deprived for much of my life of
being able to hike along a trail where I could see snow capped
peaks...and...I never went to a movie...or had a good meal...or
experienced the healing touch of others on my body...or bought myself
something I wanted and desired from time to time...."I" know I would
be depressed and wonder where is God...For me, in some ways, Mother
Teresa's life may have been a tragedy...No one should live a life of
such deprivation...and...I am not sure if it is Mother Teresa's
apparent lack of faith one should question...or the religious "ideal"
that has been established and apparently wasn't all what it was
cracked up to be for, at least, one person who devoted their life to
the ideal...

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Myth about Myths

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"Myth is an initiative story, an experience of the emotions and the imagination in which we make a significant shift from one level of awareness to another"
Thomas Moore

During the summer of 1987 I read the Lord of the Rings triology and this marked the beginning of my interest in mythology, fantasy, and fairy tales. After reading the LOTR's I went on to read the Chronicles of Narnia, Norse Mthology, and the writings of Scottish Victorian author George MacDonald, the father of Christian fantasy. Along the way I also became interested in the subject of fantasy and myth and gradually began to suspect that myth and fantasy were misunderstood especially among Christians. In fact, many Christians feel threatened by fantasy and go bonkers when someone even, suggests for consideration, that some of the Biblical stories may by mythical rather than literal history. I suspect myth is threatening to many Christians because they associate mythology with "falsehood and irrelevance" rather than understanding or interpreting myth as potentially "life-shaping, sacred, and instrumental in helping individuals and societies establish their identity, values, and find meaning in the cosmos."

I understand that fantasy/myth is not everyone's cup of tea but I do believe it is a powerful potential "source for tracing the patterns life takes at a very deep level", and it is unfortunate, imo, that so many people miss out on what myths have to offer simply because they have fallen under the spell of the modern myth that asserts that relevancy must be quantified in numbers and literal is better than fantasy...This summer while I was layed up with my back injury I watched season two of the television hit show Desperate Housewives. Desperate Housewives is pure fantasy but after watching both seasons one and two I have concluded there is more truth found in this fantasy series about the nature of relationships and the struggle of day to day life than most of the relationship classes and seminars I attended earlier in my life. But how could this be, one might ask?...I think it has to do with understanding one the purposes of mythology.

Thomas Moore says,.... "Mythology is a special tool for enchantment..Mythology keeps our imagination at a level where emotion and meaning have a home but where rational analysis has no entry. One of the purposes of mythology is to transport our imagination to a level beyond the factual, giving full articulation to matters that can't be measured---things like love, hate, death, fear, and evil...mythology leads us deeper into the complexities of our emotions and personalities... Myth gives a person the sense of living in a meaningful story, the feeling that one's life makes sense and has value, and these sensations are the basis for self-confidence and stability, purpose and poise. Without myth, life has to be proven valuable every day and is lived from profound anxiety; but with the awareness that one's life is grounded in eternal stories and motifs, one's own personal story begins to feel enchanted, and this feeling gives rise to a love of one's own life that is the cure for narcissism, insecurity, and self doubt"

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Things I Wonder About

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These are the things I wonder about from time to time?

1. Is our economy going to collapse sometime in the next five years?

2. Are my sons going to find their niche in life?

3. Why is it so hot on the west coast where I live?...I live about a 100 miles from
the ocean?

4. Why do so many people fight over theological "particulars"?

5. Why do so many people want to impose either their religious doctrine or their
secular ideology on everyone else?

6. Why don't people have more sex?...It is free...and it feels good!...

7. How do so many incompetent people end up in leadership positions?

8. Why do I make some of the same mistakes over and over again?

9. Does God really care if we believe in the virgin birth story?

10. Will I ever be able to afford a house again in my lifetime?

11. Why aren't more people really pissed off at what is happening in Iraq, the state
of health care, and what is happening in the real estate market?

12. Why are there so many different kinds of insects?

13. Why did God create grasshoppers?

14. Why do interpersonal relationships require so much effort to get it right?

15. Why are so many people in this country afraid?

16. Why aren't more people concerned about the growing national and personal debt
problem in this country?

17. Why are test scores more important in education than creativity and imagination?

18. Why don't more people take time to relax and chill?

19. Why are their planets and stars?

20. Why did God create Dinosaurs and then allow them to become extinct?

21. Why do so many people feel threatened by non-conformists?

22. Is Bree, from Desperate Housewives going to ever reconcile with her son?

23. Why don't more people live in Washington and Oregon? They are incredibly
beautiful states.

24. Why are so many churches behind the times?

25. Does Bigfoot really exist?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Twelve More Days!

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Twelve more days until the College football season starts and I am stoked...because...USC is the favorite to win it all this year. The AP poll came out earlier today and USC received 62 of the 65 first place votes with LSU receiving the other three. On paper this is a potentially great USC team...but...privately I am going to try to remain cautious and am going to refrain from making any bold predictions about another national championship. College football in the last six or seven years is littered with pre-season powerhouses who bit the dust. Note, Ohio State loss to the Gator's last year, USC's loss to Texas, Oklahoma getting annihilated by USC and Ohio State victory over the mighty Hurricane's of Miami....On the bright side...USC has been a juggernaut over the past five years and they have crushed all comers except Texas... and... they should have won that game...All their losses in the past five years have come at the hands of Pac-10 opponents and all those games went down to the wire...To put it another one...has taken SC to the woodshed for a good ole fashion whopping in over five years...The strength of USC is their defense this year. Nine starters back and their front seven are monsters. Their big, fast, and they will knock your socks off. Their linebackers are some of the best in recent college football history....and...their deep...Offense is the only question mark but they are loaded with high school all Americans, especially at tailback....but they are inexperienced...USC's road schedule is brutal which is why they might not make it to the big dance... but... I don't expect them to lose...unless...they become overconfident...sustain an injury to the quarterback...or have an access of turnovers on the road...anything is possible and it's tough to run the table but if you don't come with your A game when playing the "Men of Troy" this year you're going to get trampled by a juggernaut that has been running at peak speed for the past five years...just ask Michigan twice, Arkansas twice, Nebraska, Cal three times running, Oklahoma, Iowa, Notre Dame four times running, and Auburn...Recently the coach of LSU questioned that the toughness of the Pac-10 conference. LSU just better hope they don't have to face USC in the championship because SC has outscored the last 4 SEC opponents by 119 points. That comes out to almost 30 points a game... So much for the SEC...and...don't forget the macho talk of Oklahoma two years ago when the Sooner players and coaches implied that the Pac-10 was a pretty face finesse conference and USC hadn't played the kind of teams in the rugged Big 12 conference...and...last but not least...Michigan was supposed to out muscle the Trojans last year but SC, which was in a rebuilding year crushed the Wolverines in the second half...So much for size and toughness over finesse and quickness, speed... Remember...Speed kills...and...this version of the Trojans is not only fast but they are plenty big to handle anything from the SEC, Big 12, or the Big of Troy...go out and fullfill your destiny and make us west coast fans proud!!!!!!!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Some thoughts by Sam Keen

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"Sam Keen was, in his words, "overeducated at Harvard and Princeton" and was a professor of philosophy and religion at "various legitimate institutions" and a contributing editor of Psychology Today for 20 years before becoming a free-lance thinker, lecturer, seminar leader and consultant. He is the author of a baker's dozen books, and a co-producer of an award winning PBS documentary, Faces of the Enemy. His work was the subject of a 60 minute PBS special Bill Moyers--Your Mythic Journey with Sam Keen."

During the next couple of weeks I am going to feature and add commentary when time allows to what Sam Keen has written in two of his more popular books, Fire in the Belly and To Love and Be Loved. I'll begin with his book Fire in the Belly. Keen was/is active in the Men's movement, ala Robert Bly and his book Fire in the Belly is directed towards men but the implications of what he has to say is relevant to women, as well, imo...and... These quotes will hopefully be a part of the ongoing series of meditative thoughts that I have pondered and copied in my journal over the years.

Here are some of the thoughts of Sam Keen..."There are two questions a man must ask himself. The first is, where am I going and the second is, who will go with me? If you ever get these questions in the wrong order you are in trouble"

Another quote: "We can't be comfortable in intimacy with women because we have never been comfortable in being distant from them. Most modern men have never learned the joy of solitude."

And finally, "No one ever suggests that men's lives have a claim to the sanctity and protection afforded in theory to women and children. It is wrong to kill women and children but men are legitimate candidates for systematic slaughter-cannon fodder"...

This last quote and it's implications are chilling to hear and think about...and...what does it teach men in regards to their value?...Here is a dirty little well kept secret about the lives of most men, imo....They don't feel good about themselves, unless they are wealthy or in positions of power over the lives of others. Like women, men are often objectified, according to their economic viability and their willingness to sacrifice their lives, at any cost...even if it is for cannon fodder in a war drummed up by politicians, religious wacko's, or the wealthy who are attempting to protect their assets at any cost, even if it is human life....

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Meditative Thought for Today

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Over the years I have read a fair number of interesting books and one can always tell how interesting a particular book was to me by the amount of passages I underlined with my pen or pencil. On occasion I have gone back and reread what I have underlined and I find this helpful to obtaining depth in regards to understanding a particular author or perspective. I don't like to read books to just gather information but prefer to ponder and think about the potential implications to my own life and society at large. About four years ago I took this practice one step further by purchasing a really nice leather journal and coping particular meaningful passages from certain books to my journal. To date I have now copied about six or seven books in my leather journal. Personally I find this exercise very therapeutic and helpful because it gives me more time to ponder what I have read and I can fit the quotations of numerous books into one single volume which I can carry around with me to work or on vacation...and...when I am finished copying what I have underlined I can then pass along the book to others. I mention all this to say that I am going to pass along some of the quotes I have copied in my journal from time to time...and...if I have the time and energy I will try to add some additional commentary on occasion...

I want to begin with a quote from one of the Thomas Moore books, The Care of the Soul...Moore is a prolific writer who has written many popular books which I have found very interesting and helpful over the years....Moore writes: "When soul is neglected, it doesn't just go away: It appears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, violence and loss of meaning. Our temptation is to isolate these symptoms or try to eradicate them one by one but the root problem is that we have lost our wisdom about the soul, interest in, or we do not know how to nurture, heal, or satisfy the needs of our soul".....For years, like most people, I have tried this or that to eradicate my own demons or undesirable behavior with little or no success. But now, I pay much more attention to what my soul "may" need when I feel a particular temptation or compulsion coming on...and...over the years I have learned new and healthier ways to meet the needs and desires of my soul without resorting to overly destructive compulsions. I don't claim perfection but I seldom feel overwhelmed by a particular compulsion these days and I attribute that in large part to learning how to feed my soul as opposed to repeated efforts to simply eradicate or repress certain feelings or desires. Eradication doesn't work, imo, because the feelings or desires, are often, but not always, legitimate, it's the way we go about meeting our deepest desires and needs that is often the problem....

Monday, August 13, 2007

Lyrics to Ponder

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I first came across the name T-Bone Burnett years ago while listening to Bruce Cockburn. He produced some of Cockburn's albums. Burnett is not a household name in the world of pop music but he does have some significant street "cred" with the critics and is probably best known for his awards associated with composing the music for O Brother Where Art Thou? He is also produced some of Elvis Costello's albums and has recorded some albums of his own. Back in the 80's I bought his album The Criminal Under My Own Hat and following are the lyrics to the song by the same title. It's kind of nice to hear someone suggest taking a look at our own lives instead of blaming everyone else.


I've seen a lot of criminals
I've seen a lot of crimes
Doing a lot of evil deeds
Doing a lot of time

We speak of these men as aliens
>From some forbidden race
We speak of these men as animals
We will lock in a cage

But there's one man I must arrest
I must interrogate
One man that I must make confess
Then rehabilitate

There is no other I can blame
No other I can judge
No other I can cast in shame
Then require blood

I see him in the shadows down the hall
I see him in the plaster on the wall

There is no crime he cannot commit
No murder too complex
His heart is filled with larceny
And violence and sex

His heart is filled with envy
And revenge and greed
His heart is filled with nothing
His heart is filled with need

He' s capable of anything
Of any vicious act
This criminal is dangerous
The criminal under my own hat.

Back To Work

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Tomorrow I start back to work after 73 days off. Where did all the time go? After 20 years of going to work at the same place I am not particularly anxious or overly excited about going back to work but once I am in the classroom the adrenalin does start to pump and my body goes into a rock and roll mode. Up to this point I haven't given any thought to what I may or may not do regarding my teaching assignment but I do hope to change a few things and be more flexible and spontaneous this year. After doing this gig for all these years I have concluded that teaching is an art form more than a science and creativity, flexibility, and spontaneity have, by default, become undervalued and passe. Tomorrow is a teacher duty day and I don't start actually start teaching until Wednesday. Our district starts much earlier than other districts because we take a week off at Thanksgiving and three weeks at Christmas.....My summer plans didn't turn out the way I had planned due to my back issues which plagued me all summer but I can't complain because most folks are lucky to get two to three weeks off a year. This was the first summer in a long time that I didn't go on a big camping trip so I kind of feel like I haven't been on vacation yet. Kind of weird how that is. Today is my last day of vacation and I don't have any big plans except to go to see my physical therapist and the dentist and maybe see a movie this afternoon. Thinking about seeing Stardust. I am a sucker for fantasy flics and the reviews on Rottentomatoes were favorable for the most part. Congratulations to Barry Bonds and Tiger Woods, the two greatest athletes of times... Looking forward to football season. I don't expect much from the St. Louis Rams but my USC Trojans are primed and pumped to make a run at the National Championship again. Not making any predictions because they have some tough road games this years but their defense is scary looking and they are loaded with talent. Coach Pete Carroll will have them ready to go but am concerned that since they are the front runner they might get too overconfident at some point in the season and college football is tricky because all it takes is losing one game at the wrong time of the season and your chance to win it all go out the window...Getting philosophical....Life is good...short...strange at times...up and down...cyclical rather than linear...and always unpredictable...It's the nature of the beast...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

New Blogging Strategy

Over the past six months my blog entries have been up and down in terms of consistency and I have gone as long as a month before posting anything and I suspect there are a couple of reasons for my inconsistency. For starters, and as I have mentioned before, I really have to work at writing. It's not second nature for me and I really have work diligently at putting something coherent together...Also, I put too much pressure on myself to put something together for public consumption which is probably due to being too self conscious about what others may think...but...whatever the reason...I am going to try to post more often and not try to put too much pressure on myself to put together something too serious or profound which I am prone to try to do probably too this point I am going to put into practice what I say and end this blog entry before I ramble on too much...and...hopefully be back sooner than later with a new leaner and meaner blogging entry...