Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Cleansing

(Continued from Alcohol Substitute)
Relationships come and go. Sometimes we move and they fade away into past memories. Others abruptly end due to irreconcilable differences or conflict. Some relationships last a lifetime and are mutually supportive, constructive, fun, and loving. And some linger on - possible due to some elusive and ill founded sense of duty or obligation. These tend to be long-lived. These tend to be insidious because they can become so commonplace that we become blind to their damages and potential toxicity.

These are the ones my wife and I took a long hard look at and abandoned, primarily because of our children and our own sanity. It was this period of time that I have come to call The Cleansing.

It was a long process of learning, being used, and realization - years, possibly even decades - in its formation. But it was within the last 8 years that this cleansing of relationships reaching its full fruition. I cannot give a specific time or date when this occurred. It wasn't a spontaneous  single incident; it wasn't a sudden purge. These relationships didn't just end. We had suspected for years that they were one-way streets. We simply "withdrew" and watched. And since we were the only ones feeding them, they slowly withered, starved, and died. It was actually a very passive act. More inaction than action. No going out with a bang, but a forgettable whimper.

There are times now when I feel fully convinced and content that it is done and over; that we have successfully purged these non-reciprocal or toxic relations and personalities out of our lives. But there are other times when I feel that it is not done, that the task is not yet complete or final.

It is clear to me, through incidental and sporadic chance encounters of information, that some of these people have not found closure or understanding or acceptance of this "cleansing". I wonder if the fault lies within myself for not having a bold enough confrontation on these issues. Other times I wonder if the reason they struggle is indicative of the self-serving causes that ultimately led to these circumstances. That they cannot see or cannot understand because they cannot, or will not, look at themselves. Lost in their delusions and denial.

I am well aware, that behind my back, I am still the bad-guy. This isn't new. In the now distant past they had solidified their relationships among themselves based upon this common 'enemy'- me. Why should it be different now? No, things on their end haven't changed. But when they can no longer make me their bad-guy, their scapegoat, they are left with nothing more than their empty victim-hood.
And that is why they fail to see. They can no longer understand what it means to be a victim, because they aren't one.

Do I have an obligation to help others of their illnesses, especially people I have chosen - with reason - to abandon?

They still live in their lies and deceits and illusions... they continue to poison themselves; instead of growing, they spin in circles, attempting to influence and poison any and all who will listen with the one thing that cannot be challenged; their perpetual state of victim-hood.

I must make it clear that I do not feel anger towards these people. I do not feel hurt, or resentment, or even disappointment anymore. I personally have come to terms with what these past relationships have, and have not, been. I have long since let go of what I might have hoped they might be, or what they should or should not have been. If I feel anything at all, it's pity... but not compassion.

And it is at this point that I become concerned: the lack of Compassion.

I have come to the conclusion (in The Dharma Entanglement) that Compassion is one of 3 elements integral  critical, and necessary for a healthy spiritual life and growth. However, I debate whether Compassion is called for in The Cleansing or not.

There is a difference between Pity and Compassion. I fear a great many people confuse or conveniently exchange the two. I myself, unfortunately, lack that luxury. Pity is sympathizing with someone's pain and suffering (but doing nothing). Compassion is sympathizing with someone's suffer and doing something to help alleviate it.

The question ultimately becomes, who is deserving or worthy of my Compassion?
Although I have spiritually moved beyond Christianity, I have borrowed their concept of Grace:
(Being rewarded or benefiting from something positive when you do not deserve it and have not earned it).
I'd like to believe that's part of my understanding of Compassion.
...or maybe this was the reason why those non-reciprocal and toxic relationships initially lingered of for so long.

Was my tolerance and Compassion their encouragement, their permission?
...or was my Pity the solution?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

"Unique Self" Dialogue with Mike Morrell and Dr. Marc Gafni

I'm not going to be able to thoroughly comment on this entire dialogue. There's a significant amount of information to digest and absorb, so I'll restrict myself to certain points that stood out to me and caught my attention.
But first allow me to comment on how this brief (one hour) conversation affected me personally.
"Emergent Theory necessitates including that within itself which it evolved beyond"
It has been a long time since I have stated (5-1/2 years) that I have moved beyond Christianity, having experienced its - possibly forced - limitations. However, having listened to Mike Morrell an Marc Gafni's conversation has caused me to, at least entertain, rethinking this position. Maybe, as the definition of Emergent Theory states, by moving beyond, by spiritually evolving beyond Christianity, I have not abandoned it, but absorbed it. Maybe it is still within me, but I have forgotten. Maybe it is something I would be wise to reflect upon and remember.


I can remember reading John Hick's God Has Many Names and The Metaphor of God Incarnate, he had identified the challenges faced with find some sort of bridge between many of the non-theistic Eastern Traditions and the Abrahamic Faiths.

The comments about Being (from Easter Traditions) and Becoming (from Western Traditions) are clearly symbiotic. Being and Becoming are one another's strength, and this could very well be that elusive 'bridge' between the non-theistic and theistic traditions.


When Mike Morrell has asked, how do we engage in 'my unique self', the first point Marc Gafni suggests is that we need to read - that the art of reading was lost.

I don't believe Marc could be more correct.

Many years ago, when I was still affiliated with a church, I had did a survey regarding how much people in general read. The question was simple. Not including memos, emails, traffic signs, short texts, anything required for work, newspapers or magazine articles, how many books do you read in a year?
I asked 100 various people I knew in my community (admittedly, not the best size group for a survey, but I was only one person). I suspected the numbers would be low, but I didn't expect what I encountered.

86% said they read between 0 to 1 book a year, and 12% read between 2 to 3 books a year. That's 98% of people read less than 4 books a year.
Clearly, reading is a dying art.

Shortly after, I figured I would do the same survey but this time with church-going Christians only. I figured - due to bible reading - these numbers would be higher, and potentially the art of reading would be alive and well within the church-going Christian community. At least that was my expectations. And once again, reality surprised me.

Slightly over 60% didn't respond at all. To this day I'm still not sure what to think of this. Indifference? Who can say.
The sad truth of the matter is that, like Marc Gafni said, reading is a lost art. One we need to reclaim.
Many people are surprised to hear this. Many people I share this story with initially confuse the ability to read vs. the actual act of reading, believing - I suppose - that being literate is synonymous with reading. They're not the same.


The second point Marc Gafni said was to ask oneself 5 questions (And I'll add my initial thoughts about myself as we carry on forward):

  1. What is my unique pleasure? (Bringing abstract and creative ideas and thoughts to fruition).
  2. What are people most naturally dependent upon me for? (To be the voice of reason in a sea of emotional chaos - maybe that's more of a statement about the people around me than of myself?)
  3. What is the unique need that I can address for people within my circle? (Analysis and order)
  4. What is my unique talent?
  5. What is my unique Shadow?

I believe my 'unique talent' and my 'unique Shadow' are one in the same thing.
(And let's make a note of distinction here; man's innate ability of Imagination is not the same as Make-Believe or pretending. Our innately human faculty of imagination - though can be used to make believe and pretend - is also our tool in dealing with abstracts).

It is both my blessing and my curse. My Imagination opens up wonder vistas  and allows to me see the patterns and order of things within the parent chaos. But on the same note, my Imagination gives birth to and feeds energy to my Fear and Worry. My Fear is great.


Dr. Marc Gafni said, "We need Christianity"
Christianity needs to evolve itself from within its own tradition. These are extremely powerful words. These are words of hope!

He says that Progressive Christians (Emergent?) must reclaim their moral authority. Not give up, not abandon Christianity, but passionately embrace it.
...I couldn't agree more...
...but how? The current Christian 'moral authority' exists within the Institutional Church.
I have always seen these 'Progressive Christians', like Mike Morrell, or Emergent Christianity as a sort of misfit fringe-dweller. But the very structure, business-like model of the modern day Institutionalize Church carries the entire moral authority. It is built (man-made?) that way. It's not just that these fringe-dwellers  are not yet a majority - or at least at that magical 'tipping-point' number - but by their very definition are not centralized; cannot be centralized; I doubt can every become centralized within becoming yet another denomination or splinter group.


This dialogue was extremely engaging and has piqued my attention unlike it has been piqued in quite some time.
I anxiously look forward to getting a copy and reviewing Dr. Marc Gafni's Your Unique Self from Mike Morrell's Speakeasy.

Coming soon,
"Your Unique Self" by Dr. Marc Gafni, Commentary and Review

Friday, April 19, 2013

Ned Flanders

Contrary to some opinions, I think the character Ned Flanders makes an extremely poor Christian on The Simpsons

Ned Flanders is more concerned with his own spiritual "safety", "well-being", and "cleanliness". He has no common ground with the other Simpson characters and thus cannot relate (nor even reach out) to them. I think Ned Flanders would be well to sit in Moe's Tavern and have a beer with Homer and Barney... but he never does! 

Ned Flanders is a spiritual hedonist. He is afraid to get his hands dirty with the "common rabble".

The Ned Flanders is more concerned with a “them-and-us” type of perspective - the clean and the unclean - the worldly and the godly – the secular and the sacred.

I think many churches and Christians need a sobering reality check. 
(If we look at some biblical examples of "heroes of faith" in minute detail, we may be surprised. Rahab (Joshua 2:1-7) was an adulterous prostitute and there is no indication she changed her ways after she saved the Israelite spies).

But there are some who do not make these Ned Flanders’ distinctions. They are not afraid to associate with sinners. They are not afraid of swearing. They are not afraid of getting their hands dirty. These are the ones who will regularly walk into Moe’s Tavern and will have a beer with Homer and Barney.  

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Two Stories: Two Powerful Men

The first job in my trade was in a small Lebanese shop ran by a man named Abdullah.
He had a wife, and young daughter, and a very young son. I remember them because they very often dropped by the shop for one reason or another.

I had worked there for four and a half years and it was only near the end of this time that I heard the story as to why Abdullah left Lebanon.
He has a previous wife and children. They were all killed in Lebanon during its civil war(1975-1990).
I learned little more details than that and I had no intention to push the subject.
The point that struck me the most was something Abdullah said.

Although I cannot remember verbatim, I most definitely remember the gist. He said that he had to leave and to let them go. To stay would mean to embrace the hatred; to retaliate; to exact revenge. That it would have led to path of hatred; a never-ending cycle.

He chose to abandon his hatred.

I fear this may be an aspect of the continuing conflicts within the middle east, but my point isn't one on politics or the Middle East. The bravery and wisdom of this statement has always stayed with me.
It has always influenced me. I have always attempted to look within myself throughout my life, in hopes of being able to see when and if I am influenced and blinded by hatred. And hopefully have the bravery and wisdom to let it go; to know when to simply walk away. I know in my past I have had struggles with anger and rage, and these things are feed by hatred, and simply walking away can be an inconceivable notion in those blind, raging, dark moments.


When my grandfather (on my father's side) was a young man and in the Canadian Army, he met and had a romantic affair or encounter with an English clearing woman before the Second World War.
Details are sketchy. (Both my grandfather and this woman are long since deceased). We don't know whether it was a 'one night stand' or a relationship. I cannot remember whether the woman was a cleaner or nanny.... but these details are of little importance for this story.

Pregnant out of wedlock, especially in the late 1920's, was a taboo, so she was unceremoniously 'shipped' out of Canada and returned to England. My grandfather was clearly aware but seemingly indifferent to the situation. They never seen one another again (nor the child).

In England, the woman gave the child up to a Navy run orphanage, and that was where the child was raised and when he entered and remained in the British Navy. That child would be my long lost uncle Jack.

He grew up in the orphanage and Navy. He made a career in the Navy being a diver (using the diver bell suits). Deactivate mines was what he did.
During the Second World War he would keep track of where various ships were sank, and after the war ended, he would open a salvage company, return to the sites, and salvage the wrecks.

By the time he retired, he sold the company for millions of Pounds, bought a small estate, and lives happily. His wife (my aunt) is a retired model and he has three beautiful daughters, all of which are married with children of their own. It was at this point when we discovered what would amount to my 'long lost uncle'. It was like discovering and having a third side of the family.

The last time we visited him there was a black and white framed photo in his dinning room. It was shocking how much it looked like my son. If I didn't know better I would have sworn it was my son! My wife and I commented on it and Jack told us, “Ah, yes! I can remember the day that picture was taken. It was the day I was dropped off at the orphanage.”

Silence reigned.

My uncle Jack is a wonderful man. He is full of life and one of the most positive people I know.
How we choose to live our lives are really our choices. We all have stories we could tell about how difficult it is to be us. How much injustice or pain or unfairness we have had to endure. I can all tell a story about how hard it is to be me. We all have our dark moments and histories.

Or, I can choose to see the brighter side of things.
Ultimately, we are not victims. We choose how we live our lives. It is not a matter of the hand we are dealt, but how we choose to play that hand. I leaned this lesson from my uncle.

If there is anyone that I know who would have justified reason to be cynical and bitter with the injustices of life, my uncle is that man. Abandoned by his father for reasons of society... abandoned by his mother... raised in an orphanage....I mean no comedy in this, but this could be the beginning of a Charles Dickens' novel. He had every reason to hate the world we live in. Every reason to feel sorry for himself; to be bitter, angry, cynical.

But he chose not to.

I wish I could type these words with more power. He chose not to. He chose not to be the victim, but to grab life, drink of it fully, love life and the world.... it touches me still to write this. It still chokes me up. I honestly don't think I have come across such a display of 'power' as this.

My uncle is a wonderful man. The lesson I take from him was taught passively, simply by his example.
I will not feel sorry for myself.
I will not be the victim.


I don't believe I could endure what these men have endured. (And I am thankful I have not had to).
I do not use them an examples to myself to remind me on days that I am down of how bad things could be. No, they have more value to me than a simple tool. 
They are inspirations!
They are exemplars, teachers of how life is to be lived!
Do not carry that darkness within you.
Play the hand you're dealt. Always see the positive. Learn from the negative and move on.

These are two wonderful and powerful men.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Confucian Cap, a Taoist Robe, and Buddhist Sandals.

In Time's "The World's Greatest Religions", it has this to say about the 'philosophy of China':

"A modern cynic has said that the Chinese were the first people to "outgrow" religion. Yet this is misleading, for prior to the present Communist drive against traditional beliefs, China was, throughout its long existence, notably tolerant of religious systems of every kind and despite some unhappy periods, generally free from religious wars and persecutions. For this reason, perhaps, the Chinese have never engendered a single, close-knit faith like Christianity or Islam. Religion in China represents a coalescence of many elements, native and foreign, rational and naive.
"Within this complex edifice, however, rise three soaring pillars of thought: Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism.
"The essential character of religion in China is that... the Chinese have never considered themselves exclusively "Confucianists", "Buddhists" or "Taoists"... Chinese literature is filled with references to "the harmony of the three religions... three roads to the same destination". The three share several doctrines in common; all teach the original goodness of man, and all hold that man can attain salvation through the realization of his essential nature." The World's Great Religions, Time Incorporated, 1957, pg. 73

The introduction of John C. H. Wu's translation of the Tao Teh Ching comments further stating,
"Both Confucianism and Taoism complement each other, however incompatible they seem at first sight to be. The former places a man in his proper relation to his fellow-men, the latter in proper relation to nature. A third philosophy, Buddhism, thought introduced from India, deals with the problem of human suffering and with man's ultimate destiny. These three inheritances - the first adjusting man to his fellow-man, the second to nature, and the third to the Absolute - have moulded the thinking not only of the Chinese people but of all Eastern Asia. There is truth, then, in the common saying that every Chinese wears a Confucian cap, a Taoist robe, and Buddhist sandals.Introduction, by Arthur W. Hummel (pg. xi) of John C. H. Wu's Translation of the Tao Teh Ching, Shambhala Bonston & London, 2006
This final line had struck me the first time I read it.

I suppose it is what I had hoped to discover within the major three Abrahamic Faiths - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Some sort of peaceful synthesis. But I believe their dreams and hopes of Empire gets in the way.

The Abrahamic Faiths are, or have become, organized institutions; corporate entities within themselves, with their own lives and machinations. (It is important to make this distinction, however, between these three  Religious Entities themselves and their followers - or adherents. They are not necessarily one in the same).

Is it too late for the Abrahamic Faith traditions? Are they doomed to conflict, warfare, and strife? (Or is the world around them doomed to have conflict, warfare, and strife inflicted upon it because of them?)
What steps might be necessary to achieve these ends, and more importantly, is there any will to do so?