Please & Thank You, I Love You.

Why say these words? Please? Thank you? One writer says they came from a time when there was a sharp distinction between Commoners and their “betters.” “If you please,” and, “I thank you,” came in as a way to assume an equal standing in the markets when there really was none. Each gave the other equal respect, and business went on more smoothly.

In much the same way marrieds might say, “I love you,” at the oddest times. They might be  tired, frustrated, or even angry. Loving feelings of any kind might be the farthest thing from their minds. By affirming what they don’t feel (but doesn’t love go far beyond mere emotion?) they assure the other of a needed respect, and that assurance allows the relationship to go on more smoothly.

Confucius pointed out, though that such expressions go far beyond putting a calm surface on the waters. In fact, they are acts of creation. When I tell my wife, “I love you,” it is not so much about how I feel as it is creating in her the sense of being loved – of being someone worthy of love. We can say, “please pass the potatoes,” that is, “in respect for you as a person, I am asking that you reach me the potato bowl.” We can also just say, “pass me the potatoes.” One is likely to create an inner response, “I’ll be glad to,” while the other, “and who are you?” Respectful words create respect; rude words, resentment.

Another word, not as common in the West, is, “Namasté.” It affirms equality, but on a much higher level. Rather than limiting to the common humanity, as with “please” and “thank you,” it recognises a shared, higher, and deeper, humanity. It says, in effect, “the divine in me honors the divine in you.” Not merely, “I love you,” but, “the love in me recognises the love in you.” The Tao of Prayer is about discovering and nurturing that love, and that divinity.

Is the Machine in the Ghost?

We too easy accept the idea of the soul as being the “ghost in the machine.” We see different Science-Fiction images of a cyborg – a robot of some kind with a person, or just a brain, controlling it – and think our souls are like that – just a tiny speck of “something spiritual” hidden deep inside. Another idea is that the body is within a greater soul – something larger, which fills and reaches beyond it.

We don’t know, of course, which it is. We do know that we have yet to locate the mind. We have brains which keep our organs and muscles coordinated, and do the needed calculations. We also have “muscle memory” so we can do different tasks without having to calculate anything. In fact, it could be that most of what we do doesn’t involve the brain so much at all. We often “talk without thinking.” A hand might reach for something when the brain doesn’t remember where it is. We laugh, walk, dance, or make love without the first degree of cogitation. We often ask, “where was my mind,” but never seem to come up with an answer. We always think of the mind as being linked to the soul, as part of it, or our link with it. We may not really know just how or what in this world, and isn’t that just part of the Mystery?

Could it be that the ghost is not in the machine, but the machine lives within the ghost? This could explain a lot, couldn’t it? Why do we have different responses from being close to people? Why does this vary with who they are, or even their intentions? Why do soul issues effect our bodies in so many ways? Why is Psychology the most confusing science?

The first book of Moses speaks of God, in the plural, “Elohim,” creating mankind in His/Their image, and of people, from the beginning, not just raising families but creating communities. So long after, we now flock to cities, but simply to make money – to survive, and get ahead (of others). We lift up the Loner, the Maverick, the Strong Woman, and the Rugged Individual as ideals, and tell ourselves that the disease of loneliness is really the cure.

If the soul is the best picture of who we really are then perhaps in recognising its outward-ness we can learn to grow by reaching out when our culture has taught us to merely cringe.

Risking All, Gaining More

We all change. That part is certain. Do we grow, or do we decay? Lao Tse says that most people live either in fear of death, fear of life, or fear of change. Only the one who is released from all these fears is really alive. When we embrace our own death we begin to live. When we begin to live, we encounter change. When we accept change we can become who we really are.

Do we just consider an idea, and say, “yep?” If we’re not doing the change, we’re not making the change, are we? In some places a novice monk will spend a few weeks in the crypt, with only the bones of monks long dead for company. This helps him take it to heart that his own bones will one day join them. Having passed his time there he can join the living, with the liberating reminder, “brother, we are going to die.”

Not all of us have this option. We can, though, take slow walks through graveyards and consider the brief “biographies” on the stones. “Beloved wife, 1887 – 1924.” Only thirty-seven years. Where there no children? How did she die? How did she live? Another one lived a long life, and has a tall, marble monument where the others are limestone. Yet now, who, even, was he?

We can visit people in nursing homes. Many have had rich lives, now live as prisoners. Some have raised children who now show up on the odd Thanksgiving, or maybe a birthday. Where – and how – will our own lives end?

This kind of exercise hurts. If it doesn’t, then we’re not doing it right, are we? When we embrace death we find that is not only cold, but prickly. We all tend to be too full of ourselves until we’ve been properly wounded. But then, the choice is ours, to grow, or not. Either way, we change.

Unexpected Beauty

What do you do when your gardening neighbor keeps sharing his zucchinis with you? I don’t know many recipes for those watery gourds that offer much, do you? There is a story about a ragged farmer who kept giving melons to his king, and the king hated melons. He would graciously accept the gifts, thank the peasant for his generosity, and have the offending fruits thrown on the scullery heap. This went on until one morning a bird startled the farmer as he was offering his tribute. It fell and smashed to the ground. From its broken rind poured forth a hidden treasure of glittering jewels. Continue reading “Unexpected Beauty”

Being Everything by Being Nothing

In a story I read recently a woman was overwhelmed by the realities of just being a mom. Her child was having one of his “moments” in a public park. Her other children were waiting in line, so to speak, for the attention they needed. The same issues rolled in on her. How long would this last? How could she calm her child? How was she being seen by the other mamas in the park, whose own days out were being disturbed by all this? Another lady offered to help. What was she really offering, she wondered, pat answers, shaming remarks, or more of the “if only” advice she’d grown to dread?

She was amazed to find none of this – only someone willing to be of service to her in whatever form was needed. Continue reading “Being Everything by Being Nothing”

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