Posts Tagged ‘ suffering ’

Bible In Five Statements Meme

I was tagged by Laura

Summarize the Bible in five statements (fifteen words).  The first statement – one word long, the second two, the third three, the fourth four and the last five words long. Or possibly you could do this in descending order. Tag five people.

Well, to be honest I feel a bit pretentious doing this.  Oh well.  Here goes:

Paradox.
Look inward.
Pour yourself out.
Embrace suffering, remain open.
There’s no reason to fear.

I thought about putting something in there about how the Bible is not an historical document.  But then I figured if I stuck to the message, that would be implicit. 🙂

I don’t really know anyone here on WordPress, so I guess I just tag John, since his answer will probably be funny. 🙂

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The Price of Hatred

From Paulo Coelho’s blog:

A conversation between him and his spiritual master.

“It’s very difficult. But there is no choice: if you don’t pardon,
then you’ll think about the pain they caused you and that pain will
never go away. I’m not saying that you have to like those who do you
wrong. I’m not telling you to go back to that person’s company. I’m not
suggesting that you start seeing that person as an angel or as someone
who acted without any hurtful intentions. All I am saying is that the
energy of hate will take you nowhere, but the energy of pardon which
manifests itself through love will manage to change your life in a
positive sense.”

“I have been hurt many times.”

“That’s the reason that you still bear within yourself the little
boy who cried hiding from his parents, the boy who was the weakest in
his class. You still bear the marks of that frail little boy who could
never find a girlfriend and was never good at sports. You haven’t
managed to chase off the scars of some injustices they committed
against you during your life. But what good does that do you? None at
all. Absolutely nothing. Just a constant desire to feel sorry for
yourself for being the victim of those who were stronger. Or else dress
up like an avenger ready to inflict more wounds on those who hurt you.
Don’t you think you’re wasting your time with all that?”

“I think it’s human.”

“It’s certainly human. But it’s neither intelligent nor reasonable.
Respect your time on this Earth, understand that God has always
pardoned you, and learn to pardon too.”

After this conversation with J, which took place just before I
traveled to spend 40 days in the Mojave desert in the United States, I
began to understand better the boy, the adolescent, the hurt adult I
once was. One morning, going from the Valley of Death in California to
Tucson in Arizona, I made a mental list of everyone I thought I hated
because they had hurt me. I went along pardoning them one by one and
six hours later, in Tucson, my soul felt so light and my life had
changed much for the better.

Discussion

So, I’m having an interesting discussion with a friend on a message board.  He belongs to the Orthodox Church, believes that no one goes to Hell when they die, and thinks that Jesus’ message was primarily about *this* life and not the next.  So far I agree.

Our discussion is centered around the events in Christ’s life, and whether them actually taking place in the time line has any affect on the meaning derived from them.  I’m quite enjoying this discussion, so I’m going to paste some parts of it here for remembrance sake…and for anyone who wishes to continue it. 🙂

*****

So, it’s important to you
because it gives you a warm feeling that you’re on the right path? lol,
I don’t mean it that harsh of course, but if it was important to the
apostles, *why* was it important? Surely this seems to be a question
worth exploring, right?

I guess I find so much meaning in the story that I’m not sure what affect its historicity would have on its impact?

I
mean, say we had the bible, but the names were all changed…would it
still have the same power? If it doesn’t, is it a meaningful
difference, or does it just have less power because it’s not what we
are used to? Or, say someone came up with undeniable proof that Jesus
never existed at all, would that shake your faith?

I think it was important to them for a number of reasons, including
validation of Jesus’ claims, encouragement in their sorrow, hope that
they share the same fate, and confidence that they could now risk their
lives and do anything they dreamt of.

I see your point here. And I know for a great many people throughout
history it has been somewhat of a security blanket that gives them
courage and strengthens their faith. But, I guess, that’s exactly my
point. It’s a huge comfort, and since when did Jesus tell us to seek
comfort? Again, I’m not arguing that the story *wasn’t* historically
true, I just think that we tend to be way too attached to that aspect,
and it can limit our understanding so that we miss some of the most
profound and meaningful things in the story itself.

I guess I am just wary of attachment to particulars. smile.gif

For
me, even thinking that the story may be entirely myth, I still find
incredible power in it. My life experience validates Jesus’ claims. The
concepts in the story give me encouragement in my sorrows and hope for
my own resurrection (mainly in my life here, but sure after death too).
It doesn’t always give me the courage to risk everything and follow my
dreams, because often my vision is clouded by fear. But when I am calm
and centered, I see clearly and that courage comes to me in waves. I
worry that a courage based on a particular historical event is a way to
deny that fear. It’s a subtle underlying aspect of human life, and it
cannot be denied.

The only way to be rid of it is, as through
Jesus’ example, letting it in and not avoiding it. It’s a subtle thing
I’m talking about, how someone might push down a feeling of fear
because of their unshattering faith in a particular event…versus
understanding what that event tries to show us (regardless of whether
it happened that way or not) and listening to that advice and being
open and receptive…even to fear and suffering.

Let’s not forget though that it was important to Jesus too. For some reason, it had to happen, he predicted that it would, and told his followers to look forward to it.

It did have to happen, in the story, because of what it means. Because
of how it teaches us. It would make sense that Jesus would acknowledge
that it has to happen, because part of his point is that even seeing
something like this looming up ahead in our future, we must not be
afraid, for there is nothing to fear. If you imagine Jesus’ prediction
as a literary device in the story of the resurrection, it makes a lot
of sense. Not that it can’t be real as well, but it seems that the
meaning is there regardless.

But as to why it should be important historically, I guess I don’t
really have an answer right now, but it seems inseparable from the
story, to me anyway. Perhaps they are pat Christian answers, but if
it’s just a story, and never happened, and the Son of God didn’t exist,
and the Incarnation didn’t really happen, I’m forced ask what the point
would even be then? Besides just trying to be a better person by
modeling your life after a character in a story. And the Gospels, as
well as the other NT writings, and the writings of those shortly
thereafter, place great importance upon these events really happening.

Do you really think the Bible becomes empty and meaningless if these
events didn’t happen? Acknowledging that the events may not have taken
place in real life does not take away from the profundity and the
*truth* found in the story. This story puts into beautiful and precise
terms what so many other stories try to get at…some with better
success than others. It speaks directly to our hearts the way only
stories can. And there are echoes of these truths in almost every story
we write, in almost every life we live. But here we have it unclouded
by the fear in our normal stories. Jesus is a character without fear
(or rather, who does not act of fear), without sin, and the huge
tragedy in his life puts God’s lessons to us practically in neon
lights. smile.gif

It’s
so much more than just trying to be a better person. It’s discovering
the path to truth, to life. It’s trusting in the process, even if it
looks like it is leading you toward death…because the path to death
is a path to rebirth. It teaches us that there is no need to fear,
ever. And that love is a never ending spring; the more you pour out of
yourself the more you have. It is about letting go.

Stories are
meant to teach eternal truths in such a way that we can resonate with
them on the deepest level. Christ’s story is one of, if not the, most
profound of all. I don’t know about you, but when I talk about these
things my heart fills with excitement and joy at the sheer *truth* of
it all. It’s incredible.

Question for you, what was Paul meaning when he said if Jesus didn’t
really die and rise again, our faith is in vain? If it’s not important
as an event that really happened, why do they all place so much
importance upon it?

Well, I’m not a bible scholar,
so I can’t tell you what his original meaning was. I can only tell you
what I gather from it. Why must Paul be talking about a concrete event?
In the same passage he talks about the reflection between Christ and
Adam. But you don’t believe Adam existed. You have no attachment to the
particulars in that story. Yet somehow what Paul says is true, isn’t
it? That what was introduced with Adam is now overcome by Christ. Is it
an event that somehow canceled out a prior event? No, because the
prior event never happened in real life. It was a myth. But the meaning
of it is still strong…and the eternal aspect of the myth, the truth
of it…is now reflected and expanded on in the story of Christ.

I
don’t think he’s really talking about Christ being risen on a concrete
level (though again, it may be concrete as well), but on a personal and
existential level that goes much deeper. If Christ is not risen, if
there is no rebirth after death, then your faith and your preaching are
worthless. You do not fully believe in the meaning you preach. You do
not truly have faith. You are still in sin because you are still in
fear of death and suffering. And in your mind, those who are asleep
(notice he doesn’t say dead, interesting) have no hope of awakening, so
why preach? I think he’s showing how their point of view is reflective
of an inner state of despair and fear, when it should be one of hope
and life.

Anyway, just my perspective. wink.gif

*****

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The Center

How do you find that place of detached and centered love when you’re scared to death?  Fear makes you act stupid, controlling, suspicious, and makes you feel worthless.  It makes it all worse.  But the only thing you can do is work on your self, and your own reactions.  Regardless of what others may do, you still control your reactions to them.

It seems so easy, to stop and turn your outlook around.  Just quell the fear and act from your center.  It will keep you from feeling that intense fear that leaves you grasping and unable to let go.  It may be simple, but it’s not easy.  The fear sneaks up on you.  It’s not until afterward that you realize it has taken hold of you.  You acted petty, and you even tried to hide your motives from yourself.  You were completely innocent, not suspicious at all. Lies.

Admit the truth.  You’re scared.  And you’re letting the fear turn you into something that isn’t you, that you never wanted to be but always felt the potential for somewhere within yourself.  Your heart feels twisted, and escape feels impossible.  For where is there to go but into more fear and hurt?

But just…stop.  Tell all the voices of worry and fear and pain to shut up for one second.  Feel yourself fixed, still, present to the moment.  Expand your awareness to encompass more than the situation that turns you ugly.  Remember.  Remember everything else. The sky, the trees, your comfy couch, the people you love, the person you love.  Even in this moment there are a million things around you worthy of your attention.  Look at them, notice them.

The fear subsides.  Now imagine yourself pouring out into everything you see.  There.  There it is. Your center.  You’ve found it.  Now, remembering that big world, look back on the small one.  It looks different now.  Closer, but more distant at the same time.  The pain of it does not go away, but somehow it doesn’t penetrate you, because you can let your love expand and fill it.

What happens is no longer of consequence.  Let it be.  Love it.

Just love it.

The Day the Earth Stood Still


Warning: CONTAINS SPOILERS

Last night Ben and I went and saw the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still.  I have never seen the original, so I didn't know what to expect, but it had Keanu Reeves in it (as an alien, which requires no emotion, so we figured he might actually do well) and it was about aliens, so we had to see it.

I ended up liking it a *lot* more than I expected to.  I just read a brief synopsis of the 1951 version of the movie, and from what I can tell, this is a similar creation, but in a modern and perhaps more profound language.

Plot Summary
The US government becomes aware that there is a large space object heading directly for earth and so gathers together the best scientists to try to help avert the situation.  Helen (Jennifer Connely) is an astrobiologist.  She studies microbiology, theorizing about other planets. Anyway, as they all brace for impact they notice that nothing happens.  No great tragedy.  Instead, a bright light slowly decends over New York City, and eventually a globe of swirling light lands in Central Park.

Helen is at the scene, and when the alien walks out of the "ship" she walks towards him.  Just as they are about to reach out and shake hands, one of the many military soldiers there shoots the alien.  His alarm system, a giant robot that shuts down all electricity in the area, comes to his defense, ready to destroy the military, until the alien whispers something that makes him shut down.

The government is first and foremost concerned with finding out if there is going to be an attack on planet earth, and the fear guides them.  It's clear that almost everyone in this film is guided by fear and the need for security.  It turns out that the alien, Klaatu, has come representing a leauge of alien civilizations coming to assess the threat of humans to the planet earth, and if necessary, to exterminate them.

One of my favorite scenes is when Klaatu comes to a McDonalds, where he meets with an old Asian man who happens to be an alien who has lived on the planet for 70 years.  He says that without question humans are a destructive race, and should be dealth with.  But then he refuses to leave the planet.  As destructive as we are, there is something about us.  Life for a human is hard, he says, but there is another side.  He can't explain it, but somehow, he loves them, and cannot leave.

Another part that I really love is when Helen takes Klaatu to a nobel prize winning mathematician's house (played by John Cleese), and Cleese's character asks Klaatu what the turning point for his race was.  Klaatu responds that their star was dying, and they had to evolve.  Cleese used this to make a point.  Yes, we are a destructive race, but it is always at the precipice, the moment of devastation when all seems to be lost…that is when we change.  Please, don't take this moment away from us, it is our moment, the moment of truth for our race.

And yet while seeing and hearing these things, those in power continue their actions out of fear, hunting the alien down, trying to destroy the robot that came with him.  And every time they do this, things get worse.

My Thoughts
And afterwards I was thinking about how incredible life is, because if you take these things together, every action we make out of fear and the need to protect ourselves makes things worse, but at the same time, when do we change? When things reach the brink of despair.

And so it's almost like salvation is built into the system, even in the darkest of times.  If you can relax and trust and love, that's great.  But even if you threaten or don't take time to understand and you act out of your reactionary mind…eventually you yourself, by your own actions, will make things so bad that it finally gets through to you.

At the end of the movie, Klaatu gives his life to save the human race, convinced that the good in us is worth saving.  And so he stops the device that had already wiped out much of our infrastructure and many of our people, but it comes at a price.  The destruction stops, but we are left with no electricity, no power.

And the reaction is brilliant.  The people stop.  Stop moving, stop struggling.  A moment of pure calm decends on everyone.  They open their eyes and just look at everything.  People in offices open the blinds and let the sun in.  To me it looked like they had opened their eyes for the first time.  It's a profoundly beautiful moment.

Of course, I suspect that the moment will be short lived and that people will fall back into fear shortly enough, but while it lasts, it's so beautiful. 

I think that's what gives me hope beyond anything else.  Not that the bad times make you stronger, it's not about that.  It's that even *through* the bad times, it's like there's some sort of aim of existence to bring us to the light, by whatever means possible.  Every single moment is an opportunity to stop fighting and be still, to open our eyes for the first time.  And each moment that we don't take it, we build up towards a tragic moment where we finally can see it.

It doesn't erase the tragedy, but I definitely feel that it gives the tragedy a kind of purpose and that perhaps there may even be, at the heart of existence, something motivated simply by love.

“Hope consists in asserting that there is at the heart of being, beyond
all data, beyond all inventories and all calculations, a mysterious
principle which is in connivance with me, that cannot but will that
which I will, if what I will deserves to be willed and is, in fact,
willed by the whole of my being."

– Gabriel Marcel

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Suffering and Compassion

Seen at Sujatin's blog.

Seeing the suffering in the world around us and in our own bodies and
minds, we begin to understand suffering not only as an individual
problem, but as a universal experience. It is one of the aspects of
being alive. The question that then comes to mind is: If compassion
arises from the awareness of suffering, why isnt the world a more
compassionate place? The problem is that often our hearts are not open
to feel the pain. We move away from it, close off, and become defended.
By closing ourselves off from suffering, however, we also close
ourselves to our own wellspring of compassion. We dont need to be
particularly saintly in order to be compassionate. Compassion is the
natural response of an open heart, but that wellspring of compassion
remains capped as long as we turn away from or deny or resist the truth
of what is there. When we deny our experience of suffering, we move
away from what is genuine to what is fabricated, deceptive, and
confusing.

~ Joseph Goldstein, Seeking the Heart of Wisdom

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Falling Apart

"Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of
healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the
problem, but the truth is that things don't really get solved. They
come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and
fall apart again. It's just like that. The healing comes from letting
there be room for all this to happen; room for grief, for relief, for
misery, for joy. When we think that something is going to bring us
pleasure, we don't know what's really going to happen. When we think
something is going to give us misery, we don't know. Letting there be
room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. We try to do
what we think is going to help. But we don't know. We never know if
we're going to fall flat or sit up tall. When there's a big
disappointment, we don't know if that's the end of the story. It may be
just the beginning of a great adventure."

Pema Chodron

Seen elsewhere on Vox…had to borrow it.  I've been flirting with buying one of Chodron's books for some time now.

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