Saturday, November 12, 2016

Using the Whole Self to Speak a New Language

There are always dark nights and cold winters in our lives, but these dark nights and cold winters don't last forever. Like it has this morning, the sun eventually rises, and light disperses the darkness. And while in a few months, winter will come and it will bring snow and storms as it usually does, eventually, winter will give way to spring, and with it will come new warmth and new life. Then the trees that are now losing their leaves will begin to grow new ones.

Recent events may bring with them new challenges, but it's not the end of the world! Let's learn what we can from our experiences by getting to work!

Maybe we can start by spending a bit more time getting to know some of the people in our very own neighborhoods. What about the people next door? Who are they? Who in our very own communities needs a helping hand, a warm smile, or a listening ear? We can start by going out and showing people that we care--especially those who feel like they have been pushed to the sidelines. As we come to know the people who live in our own neighborhoods and communities, we will discover that there is not a shortage of people who need our help, and that there is much that each of us can do to show that an individual is appreciated and that, as a human being, theirs is a dignity that cannot be taken away.

To show that respect and not just to say it is itself a language that must be learned, and speaking that language involves more than just the lips (or the fingers)--it is spoken especially from the heart, but it involves the entire self, for it is a language that is really spoken as it is enacted. And it can be enacted by freely giving of one's time, talents, and energies.

Life is so much more than sitting in a room by one's self and reading endlessly!

So let's get to work! :)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Interviewed by Stephanie Glaros from Humans of Minneapolis

A few weeks ago I was sitting on a bench in Holmes Park writing in my journal when a woman approached me and asked me if she could interview me and take my picture. She said her name was Stephanie Glaros and that she was from Humans of Minneapolis.

One of the things I appreciate about Stephanie's work is how she is telling so many stories about so many people. Her work shows that all of us have something interesting to talk about, and that we all have a story to tell. Not only that, but by listening to the stories of others, we enable ourselves to empathize with them.

Here is the link to the Humans of Minneapolis blog:

Photograph by Stephanie Glaros

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Hungry Man is Approached by Another Man Who Has Cookies

There was once a man who was sitting in a public place. Soon, he was joined by a friend, and finally, a third man approached. The third man didn't say anything, but stood there for a minute until he pulled out a package of cookies.

The first man couldn't help but think to himself, "Great--I was just getting a bit hungry!" He began to subtly smile as the third man opened the plastic package. The third man then pulled out a cookie and gave it to the second man. So the first man began to salivate as he soon expected that a cookie would soon be handed to him, too. He waited.

The third man did indeed pull another cookie out of his bag, but he did not hand it to the first man. Instead, he simply took a bite out of it. Then he closed the bag, returned it to his backpack, and walked away.

Naturally, the first man was confused. And he was now only hungrier than before.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

An Unprepared Student Takes a Final Exam

There once was a student who was enrolled in a class which had a comprehensive final exam. The student, however, did not study for the exam.

Eventually, the day of the test came. The student was nervous, and when he looked at the test, he stared at it, not knowing what answers to write. After hesitating for some time, the student resolved on a plan. He got up from the desk, test in hand, and walked up to the teacher, who was sitting in front of the classroom. "Excuse me," he said, "may I have a different test?"

Monday, July 11, 2016

Two Poems about Freedom

Thomas Moore once wrote that it was

"Better to dwell in Freedom's hall,
With a cold damp floor and mouldering wall,
Than bow the head and bend the knee
In the proudest palace of slaverie."

In other words, it's better to be free and living in a simple place than it is to be a slave in an extravagant palace.

What is the place in which I live? I have heat that I can turn on when it gets cold, air conditioning to turn on when it gets hot, running water (hot and cold), a carpeted floor, electricity, plumbing, etc. I have so much. My floor isn't "cold" or "damp," and my wall isn't "mouldering." Not only that, but I have wireless internet. I have a laptop computer that I can connect via the internet to just about anywhere in the world.

Here's another one by T. Buchanan Read:

"Oh, joy to the world! the hour is come,
When the nations to freedom awake,
When the royalists stand agape and dumb,
And monarchs with terror shake!
Over the walls of majesty
'UPHARSIN' is writ in words of fire,
And the eyes of the bondsman, wherever they be
Are lit with wild desire.
Soon shall the thrones that blot the world,
Like the Orleans, into the dust be hurl'd,
And the word roll on like a hurricane's breath,
Till the farthest slave hears what it saith--
Arise, arise, be free!"

When I read this, I am persuaded to believe that freedoms of all kinds are something important, something to defend.

What do you think about these poems? Any thoughts?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Pupil Desirous to Learn is Already a Master

There was once a great swordsman and teacher named Yagyu Tajima no kami Munenori. Tajima no kami was so renowned that he even taught the Shogun himself. 

One day, one of the Shogun's personal guards came to Tajima no kami and asked him if he would teach him the art of the sword.

The master looked at the guard and then said slowly, "As I observe, you seem to already be a master of the art yourself; pray, tell me to what school you belong before we enter into the relationship of teacher and pupil."

The guardsman said, "I am ashamed to confess that I have never learned the art."

"Are you going to fool me?" the master said, "I am teacher to the honorable Shogun himself, and I know my judging eye never fails."

"I am sorry to defy your honor," he said, "but I really know nothing."

The master thought for a while and finally said, "If you say so, that must be so; but still I am sure of your being master of something, though I know not just what."

The guardsman then said, "If you insist, I will tell you this. There is one thing of which I can say I am a complete master. When I was still a boy, the thought came upon me that as a samurai I ought in no circumstances to be afraid of death, and I grappled with the problem of death for many years. Finally however, the problem has entirely ceased to worry me. May this be what you hint at?"

"Exactly!" exclaimed Tajima no kami. "That is what I mean. I am glad I made no mistake in my judgment; for the ultimate secrets of swordsmanship lie in being released from the fear of death. I have trained ever so many hundreds of my pupils along this line, but so far none of them really deserve the final certificate for swordsmanship because they cannot master this one lesson. You, however, need no technical training--you are already a master." 

Adapted from Daisetz T. Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture, Princeton University Press,  70-71.

Book Review: The Rhetoric of American Civil Religion

I've recently received word from Taylor & Frances Online that a book review I wrote was published in the Journal of Religious and Th...