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Cleaning out the Books

Bernie asked me when is the last time I cleaned out my books. The numbers on the shelves in our basement are reaching absurdity. What I didn’t say is that I write in my books and I don’t really want to give them away in that condition. I woke this morning thinking, “You used a pencil for a reason…now start erasing.” One book a day…in a month I could rid myself of 30 books.

Today, I pulled off the shelf Mysticism of Now: The Art of Being Alive by Rafael Catala’. I read it in 2019, according to one notation. Judging from the underline texts, I really got a lot out of it. Judging from my life today, much of what I read slipped away before I could grab hold. Here are some of its treasures:

When a student begins to teach what the teacher has taught him, this is called Creative Continuity. (I am thinking this is exactly what the New Testament is.)

As we age, life is no longer measured by years, but by intensity.

We take care of (family, our business, and everything else) because it is the activity of God…then life becomes very simple…”to be about my Father’s business” emerges in us.

God appears as your experience. (I really have to work on this one).

When we come to the end of the road with reasoning, we stop, and then the spiritual fulfillment begins to manifest.

Sit down and meditate…then get on with your day.

SILENCE is an act of service…is the absence of controlling. 

Each one of us is God’s project to be expressed as service. 

The above is only a scant measure of the  wisdom in  this book. I put a note in the book: “This book needs to be given to a seeker…Keep until one comes along.”

I am not sure this is activity booof erasing is going to achieve its purpose.

 

 

Reading Presidents

As I continue to read about writing presidents in Author in Chief, I am struck by the fact that these writers were massive readers. I have to remember that, so far, these men lived at a time when there was no TV nor any of the forms of information that we get through our computers and phones. Not only did books satisfy curiosity but they were the main source for education and entertainment.

I thought this morning, I wonder how many readers we have in this world today? I am not talking about literacy as most people understand it as the ability to read. I mean, how many people actually read. For me, reading is what informs my opinion of things. It seems to me that, in today’s world, lack of information doesn’t do much to keep people from having opinions.

Since Covid started, we have  been let into the homes of those being interviewed on TV news. I can’t help but notice that almost without exception, the backdrop for these folks consists most often of book cases. Guess what? I will often approach my screen to see the titles of the books. I guess I am trying to judge whether this person’s opinion is well founded.

I don’t have much more to add. To the presidents I have mentioned thus far, I will add that Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were known to be avid readers. As the stories move into the more modern times, it will be interesting to see how many of our leaders qualify.

Grant

Today in Author in Chief: The Untold Story of Our Presidents and The Books They Wrote, I read about Ulysses Grant who served as Lincoln’s leading general during the Civil War. I was already familiar with his story. He wrote his memoir during his last days as he was dying of throat cancer, the last page being completed as he let life go. I loved this little bit I read this morning:

“I never thought of acquiring rank in the profession I was educated for,” he wrote to (his physician) – and yet he became a decorated general. Grant continued: “I certainly never had the ambition or taste for political life; yet I was twice President of the United States. If any one had suggested the idea of my becoming an author, as they frequently did, I was not sure whether they were making sport of me or not. I have now written a book.”

Grant just became my favorite president.

 

Readin’ and Writin’ Presidents

I am reading: Author in Chief: The Untold Story of Our Presidents and The Books They Wrote, by Craig Fehman. While it is not in the title, I would add that past presidents are enthusiastic readers. I already knew about Thomas Jefferson, but he was not alone. These leaders had the space and wealth to acquire massive personal libraries. It appears that some were addicted to reading.

Here are a couple of interesting facts:

  1. They wrote in their books…A LOT! I loved learning this because I, too, write in my books. I underline and make notes all along the page edges. It makes it difficult to pass these books on to others and impossible to sell. A few friends told me they like my notes. It tells a little about me, for one thing. One friend said, “You don’t read books; you study them.”

2. Biographies written by the presidents were of two types: campaign books and legacy books. I have read some of each.

The campaign books were written before a person ran for the presidency. In the early years, humility was considered so important a virtue for presidents that they didn’t even campaign for themselves. Their friends and supporters did all the work. Some newly elected didn’t even attend their own victory parties. While tooting their own  horns was frowned upon, a person could write a biography that told of his life and philosophy. If done well, the general public wouldn’t even know of a man’s ambitions. JFK wrote Profiles in Courage and Obama wrote two, The Audacity of Hope and Dreams of Our Fathers. One could argue whether they weren’t really writing with the idea of campaigning for the presidency, but I would suggest that the books indicated that both of them were pretty ambitious when it came to politics. Some earlier presidents wrote under a ghost writer…to maintain their humble image.

Legacy books are written after one has left office. As you might expect, such a book gives a former president an opportunity to defend themselves against their critics and to justify decisions they made while in office. Obama wrote one of these, A Promised Land. I read both of his books. I happen to have been a supporter of President Obama, but I could clearly see that he wanted an opportunity to defend actions for which he was criticized.

This morning I read about Lincoln who didn’t have access to books until his fathers’ second marriage. His father thought reading was a waste of time, better to put your time into physical labor. Add to this the dire poverty and lack of access to books. One time Abe’s neighbor loaned him a book to read and it was spoiled when rain leaked through the Lincoln shack. It took him a long time to pay for the damage. Lincoln also liked to write and was known to write on paper anywhere he could find it and on wood slices from the wood pile. One of the reasons he settled in Springfield IL is that there was a library there, rare for areas in the boonies…those areas west of the elite East.

I feel I have more in common with these folks than with my peers today. I am eager to learn about more recent presidents and their reading and writing practices.

 

 

Thinking About 2

I don’t believe in numerology. I don’t pooh-pooh it either. Along with astrology, I pay very light attention to it. “All things work together…” says the scriptures that I claim to follow. The Old Testament writers believed in both. Among those who came to visit the Bethlehem family were astrologers. So, I am open but you won’t find me consulting any charts.

But today perked my interest. It is the second of February in the year 2022. In addition to being Ground Hog Day, one of my favorite holidays (right up there with Pi Day), the numbers look like this: 2-2-2022. I thought that perhaps this could bring good tidings as the wise men believed when they followed the star. I found an article by Shereen Campbell on Yahoo News. Here is what it said:

Today’s date is the first of the last three 222 days 2the century. The three are today,  February 20, 2022 (2-20-2022), and February 22, 2022 (2-22-2022). After that the trio of threes doesn’t occur again until February 2, 2222. The 222 sequence is called angel numbers. The number 2 in numerology references the energy of duality, partnership, relationship and balance. The key lessons in dealing with the number 2, Campbell says, center around compromise, acceptance, compassion, cooperation and harmony.

Golly gee…the world could sure use a heavy dose of all of that right now. Imagine when 2/2/2222 comes around!

More Walking With Rumi

I am taking another look at the poem, The Guest House, by Rumi that I posted yesterday. I see it challenging me at a deeper, more personal level today. (That is how poetry is, how all art is). I would like to suggest that the unexpected guest is one’s self.  I think I will do a rewrite of the poem as I ponder this idea. You can refer to yesterday’s blog to see the original.

This being human is like a guest house.
Each day, a new part of my self arrives.

Sometimes joy, sometimes depression as I witness
a meanness in me.
These awarenesses are unexpected…
I don’t know where they come from.

I try to welcome them all, even if they bring me sorrow.
Some have been violent, a horror to admit
that these aspects of myself exist.
But they seem to come for a reason at a particular time,
perhaps because I am more open and less fearful.
They seem to come with a goal…
“Look me in the eye” they say.
“Stare me down”.

Early on, when I would let such visitors come in,
I would fall into darkness and shame.
But now (who could guess it would come to this?)
There is laughter and gratitude.

Another character defect swept out the door!
Another apology to make…but I know I can handle  that!

Oh, I am so full of gratitude!
Where did I get the courage?
From others who have gone before me.

And lest I forget:
Joy.
For not all my guests are villains.
Some bring sweet truths.

Rumi and The News

Wayne Dyer in his book There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem shared a poem by Rumi that spoke to me this morning:

THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house:
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house.
Empty of its furniture,
Still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
For some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Meet them at the door laughing,
And invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond.
(The Essential Rumi; translated by Coleman Barks; HarperCollins, 1995;p. 104)

Every morning as I pray, I close with thoughts about the day ahead. What will I hope to accomplish and who might cross my path as I walk? I ask my Higher Power to grace me with love to show each person.

This poem, though, causes me to extend my idea of who I might meet. When I eat my breakfast I usually turn on the TV to catch up on the news. I listen to liberal stations but that doesn’t mean that I approve hook, line, and sinker with what or how they are reporting the news. I don’t know about you, but I think first…then look to learn more, to broaden my beliefs. I also am open to changing my beliefs. I hold on to the world like a loose garment, as my friend Jesus taught me to do.

The poem makes me wonder if I should include these faces on the screen with the same gratefulness that I hope for as I ponder the check-out person in the store or a nurse at the clinic. Those faces are not stickers on a plane of glass, after all. They are people who come to the microphone with knowledge, ignorance, love, fear. I can tell by their voices how strongly they feel about what they are saying. Sometimes I note their feeling more than their words.

I know that not everything said on TV news is true. Even-well meaning commentators  speak too quickly before all the info is in. “Breaking News” is the name of the game. I have to be careful as I listen just as I do every time I encounter anyone. Rumi might suggest I look more deeply at those who come into my view each day. It is difficult when I fear a person might be leading others astray, but that shouldn’t cause me to discard them. God put them in front of me for a reason, perhaps to pray for them, perhaps to appreciate them, perhaps to worry about them as persons.

There was no TV when Rumi walked the earth. A town-crier, I suppose, got the news out. He at least could ponder “the other” as a flesh and blood person standing on a haybale in the town square. His spirituality didn’t have to extend very far.

We’ll see how I do applying Rumi’s thoughts to the “criers” of the 20th century.