Sunday, August 09, 2009

The path to love

It is extremely cliché to say, "Love conquers all" or "Anything is possible with love". It is also cliché to say, "What the world needs is love". Of course, there's the ever popular, "God is love". Are these just slogans? Or is there at least an element of truth behind it? The assumption is that love is unconditional, which means that if you feel and express love in its authentic form, then it doesn't matter what others do or say to you and those close to you, you will always respond with grace and kindness and gentleness, and in the spirit of peace.

That is very hard. But it is not impossible. A Jewish man by the name of Jesus of Nazareth had this capacity. A Hindu man by the name of Mahatma Gandhi had this capacity. A Catholic woman by the name of Agnesë Bojaxhiu (Mother Teresa) had this capacity. The Tibetan Buddhist Dalai Lama has this capacity. The Anglican Desmond Tutu has this capacity. Others have had and have this same capacity, in various degrees.

I'm not sure exactly how they developed the capacity to love with such perfection or near-perfection. But here's a path that seems to make sense to me...

First, you have to allow yourself to quiet your mind, seek silence. This silence is obtained through meditation or contemplative prayer, or simply stillness. I've found that silence has a way of enabling your ability to listen. Listening is probably the hardest thing for us humans because it requires us to withhold judgment, opinions, criticisms, righteousness... getting in the last word.

But listening is an extremely important step because it leads to awareness of your true self and the world around you. It enables you to realize that your true self is not your mind, your physical body, your possessions, your ego, your desires. It enables you to fully understand that you are not the cener of the universe and that you are in fact... impermanent. It enables you to see that you are not alone, but rather are merely a part of a greater whole. Once you observe that you are not a separate entity, you are more likely to start observing with enhanced clarity all that which is outside of you.

This greater awareness has a way of moving you toward engaging more with other people, pushing you out of your safe environments, fortresses, and isolated states. The more aware you become, the more you are inspired to want to establish relationships with people for no other reason than to get to know them, be with them. This is pure engagement with no hidden agendas.

Engagement has a funny way of leading to empathy... a capacity to put yourself in the body and mind of another person and feeling what it is to walk in their shoes.

Empathy is just a short hop, skip and a jump away from feeling compassion.

Compassion stimulates your desire and willingness to act on behalf of another.

The more you act out your sense of compassion, the more you perfect that thing we call love, the more you allow "God" to manifest and be present.

In summary... Silence leads to Listening. Listening leads to Engagement. Engagement leads to Empathy. Empathy leads to Compassion. Compassion leads to Love.

And of course love is the way you change the world.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hell was a local garbage dump

The word that we know as "Hell" was first used in Joshua 15:8 in the Hebrew Scriptures... "Then the border went up the valley of Ben-hinnom to the slope of the Jebusite on the south (that is, Jerusalem); and the border went up to the top of the mountain which is before the valley of Hinnom to the west, which is at the end of the valley of Rephaim toward the north."

The Greek word Gehenna (or Gehenom or Gehinom) refers to a fiery place where the wicked are punished after they die or on Judgment Day. It traces its origin to the Hebrew Gêhinnôm (also Guy ben-Hinnom) meaning the "Valley of Hinnom's son".

According to the Wikipedia, "The valley forms the southern border of ancient Jerusalem and stretches from the foot of Mt. Zion, eastward, to the Kidron Valley. Originally it referred to a garbage dump in a deep narrow valley right outside the walls of Jerusalem where fires were kept burning to consume the refuse and keep down the stench. It is also the location where bodies of executed criminals, or individuals denied a proper burial, would be dumped. In addition, this valley was frequently not controlled by the Jewish authority within the city walls; it is traditionally held that this valley was used as a place of religious child-sacrifice to Moloch by the Canaanites outside the city."

So is the garbage dump in the valley of Hinnom's son what Jesus was talking about when he reffered to, “Hell, the unquenchable fire”. In Mark 9:43, where Jesus is supposed to have said, "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out", was he simply using the commonly known local dump as a metaphor for just one heckuva bad state of being? If so, then why do so many Christians think of hell as an actual physical place people go to after they die?

In one of his sermons at the Washington National Cathedral, Rev. Eugene Sutton, notes, "It never ceases to amaze me that that particular exaggeration of Jesus becomes a literal fact of the afterlife in the consciousness of so many people. I’m afraid it says more about the fear and insecurity of the hearers who are taught to think of God as a vengeful and frightful being, than it does about the Compassionate One who sometimes used 'holy hyperbole' in order to get people to rethink their priorities and get their spiritual houses in order before it’s too late."

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Inspiration from God

The belief that only writers of "scripture" (as selected by a series of Church leaders and councils) who lived 2,000 years ago have exclusive right to inspiration from God and thus to God's truth is amazing. God-inspired writers, theologians and scholars have continued throughout history and fill the world today. If one chooses to accept that the Bible is the inerrant and complete Word of God based on faith and that there is thus no need to read anything else, then be aware that that "faith" is still based on what certain groups of humans claim to be the Word of God. And that you are choosing not to use the one thing you can be certain is a gift from God... Your Mind. Revelations from the Creator of the universe are not limited to a few people during a narrow period of history. They occur every day, and so does scripture.