Rationalism, Logic, and Reality

Related imageMany people believe that everything can be explained. I reject that idea. I am willing to accept that all mechanical processes can ultimately be explained – but how much of life is mechanical? Is love mechanical? Is childbirth mechanical? Is death mechanical? Is the feeling we experience at a great concert mechanical? The current tendency to want to reduce everything to something that can be explained is little more than self-deception. It is a product of fear of the unknown.

The truth is that we will never be truly happy until we can make peace with the fact that there are many things we do not understand, and some of those things are the best part of life. In trying to explain them away, we reduce life to a two-dimensional misery that sends us in search of something (substances, sex, control, power over another) to give life a false depth that fools us into believing everything is within our control and understanding. Better to actually experience and live life than to miss it out of fear!

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Genitals

Nobody who is remembered for something they did with their genitals is remembered well. We seem to imagine that an orgasm will make us happy, but if that was true it would matter whether the orgasm was achieved when we were alone or in the middle of a Rolling Stones concert. The vast majority of our sexual bafoonery takes place when we try to self-medicate with sex. It doesn’t work.

God: No Test, No Plan!

I know I have written about this before, but since the whole world apparently doesn’t follow my blog so it needs to be covered again. Please share this freely, it is so very important…

If you know someone who is suffering for any reason and they tell you about it, there are some things you should never say. Certain segments of religion, primarily Christianity, have developed some pat answers for such situations. While these little tidbits of advice are often offered by well-meaning people, they are horrifying. These ideas are terribly bad theology, and they are nothing anyone should ever say to someone they care about. They are popular things to say because we are uncomfortable with hearing people express their emotions, especially if those emotions are painful. Here they are:

karlinbed1. “God is testing you.” Equally bad is its corollary, “God has a plan.” Here is what the person hears when you say either of those: God is really just messing with you right now for God’s entertainment. Your pain and your suffering are just entertainment for God, who may or may not relent at some point, depending on how God’s mood swings. You need to just shut up and put up with it, or it is proof you don’t have faith. I am frankly amazed that more people spouting this tripe don’t lose friends over it. A God who would mess with people for his own amusement would be a terrorist and no God at all. Someone who is suffering is in distress, and your cheerful willingness to identify God as the source of their distress is not only profoundly insensitive but it also has the potential of taking away from them any solace their faith may provide in difficult moments! When you cast God as a kind of cosmic Pol Pot rather than a loving God of comfort, you may well take away the only resource they have left.

2. “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” I hate to break it to you, but the person already has more than they can handle or they wouldn’t be suffering! What’s more, the next verse finishes the thought and says that God will provide the suffering person the resources they need to make it through. Here’s a newsflash – that resource is partly you, but if you are shutting down the suffering person with one of these terrible little truisms then you are in no position to be a helpful resource! In fact, you are actually inflicting harm by indirectly telling the person you don’t care to listen to them.

A Better Approach

1. Close mouth, open ears. What a suffering person needs most of all is for people to listen and understand. What’s more, the truth is that we really don’t have the resources to fix the person’s problem anyway – but we can listen.  We can also empathize, we can say we understand what they are saying, we can say things like “that must be hard.” What we shouldn’t do is pretend that we know their experience, unless we have had that same o-comforting-a-friend-facebookexperience ourselves. If our friend says something we don’t understand, we can ask for clarification. In short, we can be supportive while not being dismissive; listen without feeling compelled to offer explanations or to fix anything.

2. Get used to talking about feelings with someone you trust. It’s the best practice for those moments when a friend or loved one comes to us in their suffering. Also, know that if you are listening to someone who is suffering and it gets to be too much, it’s perfectly alright to say you need to take a break for a few minutes.

3. Practice sitting in a room with someone you trust without either of you speaking. This is great practice for being with someone who just needs company but doesn’t feel like talking. When we are suffering, we all have times when we just don’t want to be alone but also don’t want to talk about it. Americans are used to sitting in silence with someone, but it’s a great skill to develop. It might help to imagine you are in a library.

4. Give yourself permission to be imperfect. None of us handle these situations perfectly. We all make mistakes. When you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to say so. Your friend will appreciate your honesty. What’s important is making the effort! Your friend will be glad you did, and so will you!

What Price Awakening?

One of the biggest problems we in the west have is a profound lack of altruism, and our spiritual communities and traditions are no exception. I laughed a few weeks ago when I received an email from a nationally known group that holds initiation rituals for men. Citing the truth that we have lost much needed authentic initiation rituals in our culture, the email then went on to offer a program that was priced out of reach of the vast majority of young people!

While there are notable exceptions to this rule, they are few and far between. I do believe people need to earn a living, but it seems that many of these programs are created to build financial wealth for the leaders rather than to serve people. If my primary motivation is to turn a buck, that fact won’t be lost on the participants – and it will show in my results.

Busy?

Do you find that you never seem to have much, or any, down time? Are you involved in so many activities that it’s hard to keep track of them all? Do you sometimes double-book activities and discover you are supposed to be two places at once?

More importantly, what do you do when you have free time? Do you have any? When you have nothing to do, how does it feel? Do you feel the need to fill that time with an activity? When you walk in you home, do you turn the radio or TV on even if you don’t intend to watch it? How does silence feel to you?

Many people who schedule every moment of their time with an activity are in reality running away from something. They are driven to run and do because on a deep level they are afraid of what might come up if they slowed down. At times like that, a spiritual guide or therapist can help us sort out what’s really going on. The result is that we actually feel better, enjoy the things we choose to do, but no longer feel compelled to keep running. Cilontact me if you would like to chat.

Civil Discourse

As anyone who has been even remotely aware of the current election cycle is only too aware, civil discourse seems to be a thing of the past in America. Gone are the days when we could agree to disagree and still be friends. The old joke about the note in the margin of Image result for angry discoursethe preacher’s sermon text (“point weak, pound pulpit here”) seems to have been adapted by the public at large. Somewhere along the way it became the case that volume is more important than facts or reasoning. This will only change if and when we decide to change it, and we must begin by changing ourselves.

We must be gentle with ourselves and others. That includes being gentle about what we allow ourselves to take in via the media. So-called “Reality TV” is nothing more that drivel that conditions us to believe that poor behavior is acceptable and entertaining. Stop watching it and it will go away. Never speak when angry. Consider what you are going to say before you say it and ask yourself the three big questions:

  1. Is it kind?
  2. Is it true?
  3. Is it necessary?

If you can’t answer all three questions with “yes,” don’t say it.

Save every email you write for at least an hour, then reread it. If you still think it meets the above three criteria, then push “send.” Don’t air your dirty laundry on social media, and don’t believe what you read on the Internet without finding external verification. Limit your television time, read books instead, and go for a walk. These few simple steps can make a very big difference!

Where Do You Find Peace?

We all need a place where we can find peace. It could be a physical location, like a lake shore or a spiritual center. It could also be a set of surroundings we choose for ourselves, perhaps listening to a favorite piece of music. For some of us our peaceful place is engaging in a beloved spiritual practice. If you aren’t sure what or where your peaceful place might be, I encourage you to experiment with different options until you find something that works. If you have questions or need help, I am at your service!