Charlie

I came across a story I wrote in the fall of 2005 about an adventure trip I took with my 3-year-old grandson. This was simply a journal entry, no intention on publishing, just remembering:

Yesterday, on a whim, I picked up Charlie and took him with me on a picture-taking spree. Becky wants some pics of autumn colors and Morrison County peaked two days ago. As we drove around I wanted to stop every 1/2 mile. The trees were glorious. I stopped twice on private property and both times got caught by owners leaving. Felt a little foolish. Charlie loved it but was disappointed that the parks I’d taken him to did not have swings. At one point we both had to go to the bathroom and I was jealous when he could simply take out his little boy pee-pee and pee into a flower patch. I had to whisk him into the car, speed over to Heidi’s and do my female peeing into her toilet. Then we set out again.

This time I decided to take him to a real park. We stopped at a gas station to get a hot-dog lunch and slushes. The attendant showed a picture in a magazine that really made her laugh of a little boy in a crowd holding himself. I said, “That is funny. My grandson and I had a scene just like that 20 minutes ago.” I showed the picture to Charlie to see if he would notice the little boy’s self-holding. He didn’t. He just looked at it blankly like he wondered why two adults would want to look at a picture of a little boy that wasn’t him. Then I said, “Charlie got to go in the woods. I had to hold it and wait to go when I could get to a real bathroom. It just isn’t fair.” There was a man fixing himself some coffee near where we talked. He smiled, proud I am sure, to be among the privileged.

Saints Among Us

I turned on the TV this morning only to catch the last five minutes of Justice Ginsburg’s memorial service. I decided I would catch it later on U-tube, which I finally did just a short time ago. I have watched many funerals and memorial services over the past few years. Only those of leaders or significant people are televised. George Floyd’s service was televised and I watched it as my way of supporting Black Lives Matter and listening to the inspirational speeches.

I want to focus in this blog on three because I am struck by something similar between them that people who loved and respected them made a point to highlight. The three are Senator John McCain, Representative John Lewis, and Justice Ginsburg. One thing that is striking is the numbers of people who showed up to expressed the loss of these great leaders. There are hundreds of people serving our country in Washington, some not even known to their own constituents. But these three were known for more than their jobs.

I could list the individual accomplishments of McCain, Lewis and Ginsburg but I don’t think that is what made people want to come forth in droves to honor them. I think what brought people out was love. At each of their memorial services, I heard about their ability to respect the humanity of each person they represented and those they worked with. Not only was McCain honored by President Bush of his own party, but by Obama and Clinton. He knew how to respect an individual who had opinions different than his own. The brief encounter he had with a supporter who spoke nasty words about his opponent Barrak Obama is classic. He corrected the woman. “Obama is a fine American who loves his country. He just has a different way of solving problems than I do.”*

At Lewis’ funeral I heard people talk about how he showed love and respect for each person he met. He was known as the Conscience of the Congress. It was said that when he would speak to you, you could feel the love.

Today, the same kind of thoughts were expressed about Ruth Bade Ginsburg. I heard over and over about the friendship she had with conservative Judge Scalia. She was known for her respect for all, no matter their differences in political opinion.

I would call these Heroes. They were of a higher kind of mind and soul than those who seek to tear down others who disagree with them. There are so few among us, especially those who are in leadership positions. I believe that power tends to corrupt. I don’t say that it always does, but it takes saints like these three  to gain  power and to use it only for good.

 

Bypassing the Election

Headline today:  Trump Actively Discussing Radical Measures to Bypass Election Results. (Forbes)

I have voted in at least two election in which the results were contested. These involved recounting the votes assuming the loss was due to human error. This article suggested that the process itself would be contested throwing the selection of electors back to the states. In other words, if the members of the electoral college representing a particular state did not vote favorably for the Republican candidate, their votes would be discarded and the state legislature would have to come up with a new list of electors that would, presumably vote in favor of the Republican candidate.

I think this would basically turn us into a non-democracy. I never ever thought this would happen in my lifetime. I hope the headline reflects some kind of fake news, but the same was reported in five different publications.

Why Legislators Don’t Stand Behind Their Own Convictions

I haven’t written a lot about our current political situation. In the past I tried to speak in terms of higher values with the hopes that readers would search their hearts and make good political choices rather than tell them what they are supposed to believe or how to vote. But I feel the world getting increasingly dangerous and refraining from comment doesn’t seem the appropriate thing right now.

In spite of what I just wrote, I am not going to tell you who I plan to vote for or which party most aligns with in my beliefs. Rather, I want to talk about consciousness. I believe that how people view their world depends upon their level of consciousness.

In 2019, I read 6 books by worldwide teacher of the Way to Enlightenment, David Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D. It may seem a bit obsessive for me to indulge this way, but Hawkins answered for me a question that was gnawing at me: Why is it that people have such a hard time with change even when change could mean greater happiness? When I asked the question, I had in mind a couple of friends whose thinking was clogging them. I remember talking to one of them and it would sound to me like she perfectly understood and agreed with what I was saying. Then I would talk to her a couple of days later and I found her thinking hadn’t changed at all. I was baffled.

The cornerstone of Hawkin’s teaching is his Scale of Consciousness. He created a grid and assigned a numerical value to the way people look at the world and thus how they interact with it. People with a higher level of consciousness basically know themselves better and have the capacity to monitor their own thoughts and behaviors. Those at a lower lever lack this self-awareness and tend to buy into their thoughts as though they are true. They have a lesser control over their behaviors because they tend to react to whatever happens around them. A person with lower consciousness may not know why they do what they do. If they do something they or others perceive as wrong, they will get defensive, blame others, and try to justify their actions rather than acknowledge their error and learn from it.

My only hesitancy about Hawkin’s chart is that in the past, whenever I dealt with charts about one’s maturity or level of spirituality, I always put myself at the top. Needless to say, my Higher Power had to do some serious correcting on that. This time, however, I came to the levels with greater self-awareness and with it humility and a higher capacity for honesty.

I don’t want to explain the whole of Hawkin’s teachings, but I do want to focus on one aspect, the number value of the different levels. A creature at the lowest level, (probably a mosquito) would be 0. The highest would be pure enlightenment which he numbers 700-1000. Only Jesus is attributed to have attained the level 1000. I won’t argue with that. Each level is given certain charactersics which he puts under four different categories: God-view, Self-view, Emotion, and Process. I will discuss only the first category here. How people view God which effects how they view everything including themselves and the world.

At the lower levels, people tend to view God as vindictive, condemning, punitive, vengeful or indifferent. When people view God this way, they tend to be full of guilt and shame, apathy, hatred, fear and anger. Those at higher levels of consciousness tend to imagine God in a much more favorable light. They would use words like permitting, inspiring, merciful, wise, and loving. They tend to have a more positive view of themselves and others, and are more willing to make sacrifices for the good of others. They tend to use their reason and wisdom to solve problems while not always thinking they are right, so they tend to show more respect for others points of view.

Those at the lower levels tend to drain to world of energy. Those at the higher levels tend to add energy to the world.

What most interested me is the one I was looking for when I was first drawn to Hawkins, and that is the key or quality that shifts a person from the lower levels to the higher. I found that the quality is Courage. Many of you are familiar with the Serenity Prayer. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the COURAGE to change the things I can.”

Watching the political landscape, I am struck by the lack of courage among people in office. This absolutely baffles me because it seems to me that it would take a lot of courage to run for office in the first place. But over the past several years, I have watched legislators cower under their party’s leadership, voting with them even when it would seem their values are in conflict. I ask myself, “Is being in office such a fabulous thing that you can’t imaging life without it?” That is what an alcoholic says when you suggest he should give up alcohol to save his marriage and his job.

People who operate out of a lower consciousness tend to be hateful, antagonistic, demanding, blaming, and full of fear. They have a desire for more of whatever they think will make them happy and then carry around a false pride because of what they have. They fear what might happen to them if they choose to do something other than what their tribe demands.

Humans are complex beings. As I think about myself on Hawkin’s scale, I know I am inconsistent and sometimes lose my bearings. I still drag around character defects that I’ve had for years. But I do know this: I see life from a higher place than I did in the past. I watch the interactions among my fellow Americans and Hawkin’s levels of consciousness seems to explain an awful lot to me. It doesn’t necessarily tell me what to do, however. I have chosen to just keep growing and share my insights wherever they may be useful. If I can help one person to rise above their own fears and anger, I feel I have shifted the world just a little bit.

The Story of Jesus and the Story of Us

Reading Richard Rohr’s book this morning, I find him addressing the very thing I did in my last blog, “Thoughts About Jesus”, April 13.  I would like to share with  you what he writes:

Insisting on a literal belief in the virgin birth of Jesus is very good theological symbolism, but unless it translates into a spirituality of interior poverty, readiness to conceive, and human vulnerability, it is largely a “mere lesson memorized” as Isaiah puts it (29:13). It “saves” no one. Likewise, an intellectual belief that Jesus rose from the dead is a good start, but until you are struck by the realization that the crucified and the risen Jesus is a parable about the journey of all humans, and even the universe, it is a rather harmless – if not harmful – believe that will leave you and the world largely unchanged.

I don’t like to debate with others about the literalness of the scriptures. I don’t believe that whether a person believes that the words and stories written in the bible are historically true doesn’t matter. On the other hand, how they apply or don’t apply the message behind the words and stories does matter. For example, Jesus taught us to love our enemies. Imagine, if you will, if everyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus actually loved their neighbor. “Though shalt not kill”. Jesus even held back the sword of a disciple who tried to save him from arrest. Look where that led!

Imagine such a world! Unless the words and stories of the scriptures are seen as eternally true, their historical truth doesn’t have much value.

 

Rohr and the Universal Christ

It often happens that my book club will select a book that I have already read and I get to read it again. This time it is The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr. Rohr is a “globally recognized ecumenical teacher whose work is grounded in Christian mysticism.” I have read many of his books and follow his meditation reflection daily.

My understanding of Jesus has changed over the years. Much of this is maturity, I suppose, but also reading the works of mystics like Rohr. A rather startling statement Rohr makes in this book is that “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name. He says that as long as Christian’s have such a narrow view of Jesus, they are missing the most important aspect of Jesus’ message. He came to reveal not who he is but to show us who we are.

For a period of my life, I worshiped with a Quaker community. I could fill this page with reasons I have so much respect for them but the one thing that stands out for me is the belief that there is “that of God” in everyone. Rohr’s explanation of what “Christ” means to Jesus and to us, I believe, is this truth: we all possess or are composed of something of God. The story of Creation in Genesis 1 says that God breathed his OWN SPIRIT into his human creation. I believe that that which animates us is indeed God within.

I was taught as a child that God is everywhere but somehow I also was taught that there were gaps in where God is…namely, in those who were not yet saved. I no longer believe that. God is within all, just as Genesis says and the Quakers believe.

Rohr says that this presence of God within each of us has a name and that name is Christ. Christ dwells within each of us guiding us into loving thought and action. Christ is God acting in us, loving with God’s love.

Years ago I had an experience that I would like to share here. In my thirties, I was very interested in Jewish thought. I studied the Old Testament and read book after book about the history of the Jewish people and about their beautiful traditions. This is the time when our family began celebrating the Passover in our home. One time I was reading a book about the Holocaust, about the incarceration and extermination of the Jews including children. I can still remember where I was, sitting alone in my bed reading. The room was dark but for a lamp and the white pages of the book. Suddenly I could see the children being corralled into the ovens. I was stunned and tears began to flow so profusely that I was gasping. I cried out to God, “How could you let this happen?” Suddenly an awareness came to me, as though God were speaking to me. I realized the tears I was shedding were God’s tears. He was sharing with me his own pain. I believe that this was my first real experience of the Christ within and every time I find myself full of compassion, this continues to be so.

Rohr says that this Christ within always seeks connection and communion, never separation or division. I think of this as I watch the events of the world unfold, as I listen to the rhetoric of religious people and of politicians. The idea that God seeks unity and communion has become a measuring stick for me to discern that which is of God and that which is of the darkness. Sometimes I forget and get caught up in negativity. Just like anyone else, I want to find someone to blame for the pain in the world. This is when remembering becomes so important. Didn’t Jesus share the essence of his own mission, the reason he came to preach to the people of Israel? He said he came that all may be one just as the Father and he were one.

Peace Pilgrim Speaks

The title of my blog is “My Thoughts on Peace”and Peace Pilgrim is one of my peace-making heroes. I want to share these words with you today which if found tucked in my journal in 2002:

On predictions about the futures, she wrote: “Dwell only on the good things you want to see happen…through thought you create your inner conditions and help to create the conditions around you. We are all helping to make a great decision…the darkest hour is just before the dawn…everything out of harmony is on the way out. The darkness we see is disintegration of out-of-harmony things…eventually God will prevail…it is only how soon that is up to us.”

“Leftists are those who want to push social change faster than can it can naturally go. Rightists are those who want to keep things as they are or turn back the hands of the clock. Both believe in the false philosophy that the end justifies the means…the war philosophy. I believe that the means you use will determine the end you receive. This is the peace philosophy.”

“There is a magic formula for resolving conflicts. It is this: Have as your objective the resolving of the conflict – not the gaining of advantage.”

“Be concerned that you do not offend – not that you are not offended.”

“If you fear nothing and expect good, good will come.”