Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Mind Reading

I remember my first writng assignments in high school. My teacher told me my writing was too cryptic and that I assumed readers would know what I was thinking. I realized that they didn't and that I had to explain myself in order to be understood. I think we do this in conversation too. We may think about something for quite a while and then tell someone our conclusion. The listener hears the bottom line but does not know how we got to that conclusion. Such communication leaves our statements open to misinterpretation. It would help to remember that we are the only ones in our minds and we might have to provide some background for our thoughts to be understood.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Thomas Merton wrote, "A humble man can do great things with an uncommon perfection because he is no longer concerned about incidentals, like his own interests and his own reputation, and therfore he no longer needs to waste his efforts in defending them." If he were writing these days, I am sure he would have included women in his quote. When we are busy with our own needs, it is often easy to overlook that there is a whole world which can use our help. We can't change everything but we can give the world community the tiniest nudge in a better direction.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Why Bother Worrying?

Mahatma Gandhi once wrote in a letter, "There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything wehatsoever." When you think of it, what can you change by worrying about it? What can you accomplish other than making yourself upset and taking away from the time you could be spending thinking about how to handle the situation?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Caring for Our Children

I talked with a friend this morning who had lost his adult son. I think most of us who are parents tend to worry about our children when they are growing up. When they reach adulthood, we think of them as being able to take care of themselves and don't worry about them so much any more. Loss of a child at any age is dreadful and defies explanation. Even with medical explanations or understanding of other circumstances, it is still difficult to accept the reality that he or she is gone and we remain. Hopefully we can continue to celebrate their lives and concentrate less on our loss as time goes by.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

More About Peace With Yourself

I have been thinking more about being at peace with oneself. What is it that is not at peace? For me, it is the conflict between my primal urges, wanting things my way and wanting them immediately with no thought for the future and more reasoned goals in the best interest of me and of all those whom my life affects. Sometimes the two are in harmony, but it is my sense that this is not often the case. Most of the time there is tension between the two. My challenge is to find a way to balance the two so that my urges can be transformed into useful creative energy.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

I have been wondering what happened to wise leadership in the US. It seems in the past that wise leaders would emerge when we needed them and help us forge a course in keeping with our common good. We seem to be going in reverse as far as our standing in the world is concerned. We seem to have lost the ability to provide a moral compass not to mention the ability to interact civilly with our world neighbors. I think of "The Ugly American" and our tendency to move in that direction again. I hope we can find another direction.

Friday, September 15, 2006

First Be at Peace with Yourself

I have been writing about being at peace with others in everyday interactions and as nations. It occurred to me this morning that I overlooked being at peace with ourtselves. Peace begins inside. How can we approach others in peace while turmoil stirs within us? There are often at least two sides of us on every issue affecting us. Our job is to give each a fair hearing just as we would in mediating a dispute between two other people. We might well find that both sides want the same thing but just have different ways of going about it. As with others, we need to begin by listening to ourselves.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Being a Citizen of the World

I am still thinking about nonviolence and am reminded of it every day as I read the newspaper headlines about developments in Iraq and elsewhere. At one extreme is the opinion that "terrorists hate freedom." At the other extreme is the opinion that capitalism is responsible for terrorism. Both opinions are oversimplified as extreme positions often are. Our country is being drawn into the terrorist way of looking at things. We see violence in response to violence as a viable alternative. We are becoming angrier at each other as our society becomes more polarized. In this sense, we are becoming more like terrorists ourselves, although it is not a pleasant prospect. Maybe it is time to look at where we are headed and talk with each other about it in a civilized way.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Enemies into Friends

Gandhi talked about the essence of nonviolence as turning enemies into friends. I must admit this remains a mystery to me. Although I think it is a good idea if we can do it, I wonder how we turn terrorists into friends. It seems to me that we are inaccessible to their minds as they are to ours. I do think that any approach to those foreign to us starts with understanding. When we get to the understanding that an enemy is trying to destroy us, it feels like a brick wall to me. Maybe a new type of understanding is necessary.

Monday, September 11, 2006

An Eye for an Eye

I ran across an account of an interview with Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. He quoted his grandfather as saying, "An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind." I have often thought of the biblical presription of an eye for an eye. It has always seemed barbaric to me, at least taken literally. When I read the quote I had the fantasy of all of us walking around blindly bumping into everything and each other with little understanding. I would like to know what else Gandhi had to say on the subject.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Standing on the Corner Watching All the Cars Go By

A while ago as I drove by a particular intersection, a man stood on the corner, greeting all cars as they passed by with a wave and a friendly "Hello there." As time went by, I noticed he was there at his post most days greeting everyone as they arrived. I started waving and greeting him as I drove by. I don't know what made him decide to do this. Is he just friendly, lonely or trying to have a little impact on human relationships? Whatever the reason, I have enjoyed seeing him every day. I look forward to it and find it brightens my day just a little.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Toward Civil Discourse

Melvin Sperlock of "Supersize Me" fame talked recently on national news about finding a middle ground between agreeing completely on everything and having an open war about our differences. He sees disagreement and constructive debate and the foundation of democracy while the extremes we often go to in public debate (or private denigration) often end in hatred and wishes to obliterate those with a different opinion from ours. Debate means listening as well as talking and finding areas of agreement and compromise. That is what built our country and can still be our salvation.

What Do You Do for a Living?

This is one of the first questions in a conversation with someone we don't know. We tend to equate our jobs with our lives. It's an easy way to categorize people and gives us a chance to decide what to say next and what might be safe topics of conversation. But our jobs are not our lives. There is much more to all of us than what we do at work. Actually, what we do at work is more a part of someone else's life than it is of ours. Most people don't have a choice of what they do each day and follow a schedule set by someone else. Maybe a better question would be "What is your life about?" or "What are your goals while you are on earth?" I think I will try it the next chance I get and see what happens.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

How To Register a Compliment

Stores used to have complaint departments. No more. Now they are called customer service desks. I have often heard the phrase, "I want to register a complaint." Some time ago I found an inexpensive pair of sandals at a large department store which were very comfortable, sturdy and better than others I had previously found for much more money. I went to their customer service department and announced, "I want to register a compliment." The clerk was quite flustered, off balance and without a clue of how to respond. I proceeded to relate my compliment and she still had no idea how to proceed. I recall a note I have seen at some businesses, "If you have a compliment, tell your friends; if you have a complaint, tell us." If more businesses were open to hearing compliments, they would have a better idea how to gear their products and services to customer needs and wishes.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Love, Tension and Hatred

I just finished reading John Cornwell's book, Breaking Faith, about developments in and current status of the Catholic Church. Toward the end of the book he sees the value of tension in an organization (the church, a country, the world.) There is a difference between tension and hatred. Tension, accompanied by respect, and dare I say it-love, is a means toward growth and evolution of culture while hatred leads us to try to destroy each other. No matter who wins, we all lose. The winners become more autocratic and the losers become more disgruntled. How do we stop at tension without progressing to hatred?