31 July 2009

Write It on Your Heart

Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.

This new day is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Source: WorldPrayers.org

29 July 2009

Reclaiming Virtue

Recently I read John Bradshaw's Reclaiming Virtue. Each chapter began with several quotations, and I thought I would pass them on to you just as Bradshaw did to me.
"All virtues are the qualities that make up our humanity, and in the virtuous man, humanity and virtue inevitably converge. It is man's virtue that makes him human." - Aristotle

"To know what is good for man we have to know his nature." - Erich Fromm

"Among people, cooperation is just as pronounced among primitive tribes as it is among civilized citizens....The more people helped each other, the more the community thrived....It is literally in our nature." - Matt Ridley

"Men who love wisdom must be inquirers into very many things indeed." - Heraclitus

"Hatred never ceases by hatred;
But by love alone is healed.
This is an ancient and eternal law." - Buddhist scripture

"Lying to ourselves is more deeply ingrained than lying to others." - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

"Do not believe in what you have heard; do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations....do not believe merely in the authority of your teachers and elders. After observation and analysis, when it agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it." - Siddhartha Gautama

"History, despite its wrenching pain
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again." - Maya Angelou

"If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people...and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?" - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

"Often people say, 'I would like to do some good in the world. But with so many responsibilities at home and in business....there is no chance for my life to mean anything.' This is a common and dangerous error....No matter how busy one is, any human being can assert his personality by seizing every opportunity for spiritual activity." - Albert Schweitzer

"New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not common." - John Locke

"All beings are owner of their karma. Whatever volitional actions they do, good or evil, of those they shall become the heir." - Siddhartha Gautama

"There is no witness so dreadful, no accuser so terrible, as the conscience that dwells in the heart of every human being." - Polybius

"We must give a certain character to our activities...the habits we form in childhood make no small difference, but rather they make all the difference." - Aristotle

"Character is a completely fashioned will." - John Stuart Mill

25 July 2009

Universal Soldier

A few months back I posted a song by Bob Rafkin titled "I Am Humanity". The lyrics contained the phrase "a universal soldier, sword raised in my hand". Recently a favorite band of mine did a cover of a song called "Universal Soldier", which I believe to be the source for Rafkin's quoted phrase.

Lyrics (updated from original source, Buffy Sainte-Marie):
He's five foot two,
And he's six feet four,
He fights with missiles and with spears.
He's all of thirty-one
And he's only seventeen,
He's been a soldier for a thousand years...

He's a Christian, a Hindu
An atheist, a Jain..
A Buddhist and a Muslim and a Jew.
And he knows he shouldn't kill,
And he knows he always will --
Kill you for me, my friend, and me for you...

And he's fighting for Palestine,
He's fighting for Israel..
And he's fighting for the USA.
And he's fighting for the Russians,
And he's fighting for Iraq --
And he thinks we'll put an end to war this way.

He's fighting for democracy,
He's fighting for his soil
He says it's for the peace of all.
He's the one who must decide
Who's to live and who's to die --
And he never sees the writing on the wall.

But without him, how would Hitler
Have condemned him at Dachau,
Without him Caesar would have stood alone.
He's the one who gives his body as a weapon of the war,
And without him all this killing can't go on.
No, no...

He's the universal soldier,
And he really is to blame.
His order comes from far away no more --
They come from here and there and you and me,
And brother -- can't you see?
This is not the way we put an end to war.
No, no...

05 July 2009

Left and Right Together: Reccommendation

I’d like to share what was for me a thought-provoking read, UU minister Doug Muder’s “Left and Right Together”. This is the text of a sermon, available online, and it addresses what the religious right and the religious or spiritual left have in common. Although he uses the word “religious”, the UU take on religion is broad enough that he's also addressing life stances like Humanism. Muder is a humanist himself.

He begins the sermon with readings from someone I would never expect to hear from in a UU fellowship: James Dobson. What we have in common, Muder says, is that we are mutually concerned with the way humanity is shaping up. “Both have loyalties that go beyond self and the convenience of the moment. Both reject the materialism of popular culture. Both seek something more substantial than the momentary satisfaction of desire or the endless striving after status. The committed (liberal) life is a different way to pursue these goals, not a denial of them.”

Muder states that both ways of life are concerned about the unhealthy growth of the same thing, the religion of “Consumer Hedonism”. This is a religion that dominates the culture to the point that it needs no building, names, priests, or anything of the sort: it’s become the very atmosphere we live in. To show this, he lays out what Consumer Hedonism is and elaborates on what values it instills in everyone -- values that are rejected by those who are concerned about bigger things. “Liberals and conservatives alike reject the emptiness of Consumer Hedonism, and nurture values that transcend desire and image: Values like family and friends and community. Compassion for the stranger. A just society. Appreciating the wonder of creation. Building a personal relationship with Beauty and with Knowledge and with Understanding. When those values are part of your experience of every moment, when you have trained yourself to experience them as immediately as you experience your physical desires, you're there. [...] The main difference between religious liberals and religious conservatives is in where they look for those values and how they hope to bring them into the world. Conservatives look to traditional values, a way of life that they believe worked for our ancestors. Typically, a conservative faith has a Golden Age it wants to preserve or restore: Eden, ancient Israel, the Jerusalem of the Apostles, the Medina of Muhammad, or even the small-town America of Norman Rockwell. Conservatives see the deeper values of those communities being replaced by practices that satisfy more superficial desires.

Liberals, on the other hand, attach their vision of deeper values to a future Utopia or to a Platonic ideal. They see themselves not as restoring a Golden Age, but as marching onward and upward towards a world more perfect than has ever existed before. Two centuries ago, a world without slavery was a complete dream. No Golden Age had ever achieved it. But here we are.”

He ends with thoughts on generating a dialogue between the human-concerned left and the religious right. I found the sermon to be very…thought-provoking and more than a little heartening. I’ll own to going weak at the knees for ideas that bring people together, but outside of my own biases I think Muder makes a valid observation. What say you?