Idols and Illusions –
I would add to the quote attached to this post anything that’s fleeting, temporal, transitory, this that tell us lies about ourselves or others. Things like politics, money, jobs, reputations. Idols are all of these and more which fix our focus on the illusion that we are in control, we are powerful and by our wills, the world can be recreated in our image. It is this illusion that destroys our world and ourselves.
This morning part of my contemplation and meditation time included a portion of the Second Book of Kings, chapter seventeen, verse 15; “They worshipped false idols and became false.” I have read that several times today, talked about it with a friend and wrote it down in a journal. It says we become what we worship. Where our heart is, our mind, emotions, spirits, where our energies are applied is what we are and what we become.
Idols and illusions are hard to see sometimes. Breaking free from them isn’t easy. #AlbertEinstien said; “All of reality is an illusion, a persistent one, but still an illusion.”
How we see ourselves is one of the most important roles of self-awareness.
I am amazed at two things; one is how un-self-aware some people are at times and how un-self-aware I am most of the time.
Last week an event happened which caused me to look at myself and see how petty I had been about a situation. I wish this awareness had happened during meditation, scripture reading, prayer or a time of reflection but it didn’t. I am thankful for not making a fool out of myself in front of anyone.
I wish it wasn’t so, that many times in life we didn’t have to gain a measure of self-awareness, wisdom, in such jarring and shameful ways but at least we learn and hopefully never repeat the mistakes, stubbornness, perhaps sinful behavior again.
Truly seeing ourselves for who we are can be painful and regretful. It can also be a relief and bring freedom to our spirits, chained by obliviousness, to who and what we are after seeing ourselves in the mirror of self-awareness.
Tonight, after grabbing a bite to eat at Cracker Barrel, my wife and I stopped to fill the car up with gas. When we pulled in we could hear loud music emanating from somewhere. At first I thought it was the gas station’s sound system but it was actually from an S.U.V. parked at the pump in front of me. The door to the vehicle was open, the woman was texting on her cellphone, while the pump was on automatic.
As I stood there I mused; “does she really think everyone needs to hear this?” Then, I remembered a time when I was in high school and pulled into a gas station, started pumping gas with my radio blaring and an “old geezer” asked me; “do we really need to hear that noise?” and it hit me, I had become the “old geezer!”
My wife and I had a good laugh about this on the way to visit a friend in the hospital. My friend is almost 90 years old, in frail health, and coming to grips with the inevitability of death.
I have been reflecting on both the gas station experience, the hospital visit and how life comes full circle. We are born to die. Our first breath of life is one breath closer to death. We are indeed but a vapor, a flower quickly fading, lush green grass that quickly withers. We are…and then we are not.blessings, bdl
Last weekend I opened a bag of Iams dog food for the pooches. Chances are it was the last bag of dog food I will buy at our local PetSmart store.
Scooping some out for the dog’s dinner Monday night it hit me that the next time I buy a bag of dog food I will be living in a new place, doing a new thing. Each evening, every serving gets me closer to the unknown and a new normal. Like sand slipping from the top of an hourglass so the bite size bits are disappearing and when the bottom is reached I will need to find a new place to shop for sustenance and nutrients for my furry ones.
As I begin my sabbatical next week I also wonder where my sustenance, nutrients will come from, who/what will feed, inspire, heal and help me.
Reflecting on this yesterday I observed that the dogs aren’t worried about the food running out. They have a lifetime of being taken care of, provided for and have never gone hungry.
Maybe a lesson can be learned as I scoop away the past, embrace an uncertain present and unknown future. Wisdom teaches me to live with open-handed mindfulness, approaching every moment, each experience, ready to receive and release.
So I will trust, and remember that even though I will soon reach the bottom of the bag, I too have never gone hungry.blessings, bdl
Everything is so expensive!
Last week, while eating breakfast with friends, I told them my wife and I were hoping the oil for the furnace would last for a few more weeks until we moved. Alas, that very day, it ran out. We called the oil company, explained our predicament and were informed the minimum amount they would deliver is 150 gallons. This is much more than we need. Instead, we bought a couple of Kerosene containers and have been pouring fuel into the tank ourselves every few days. It’s not convenient but it does save us several hundred dollars.
Yesterday, at our campus, my wife told a group of people about our great oil adventure. Following the service a lovely couple invited us out to lunch and when we got home one of the men from the campus was sitting in his work truck parked in our driveway. In the back of his vehicle was a 55 gallon tank filled with oil. He asked us where the fill pipe was located, pumped the oil into the tank, told us we were loved and left.
As he pulled out of the driveway I was reminded that no person, regardless of their finances, is poor who has true friends.blessings, bdl
Terrified is a strong word. There are many things I might be anxious about in a given period of time but terrified?
When I was younger I was terrified of swimming. I didn’t want to learn how to swim, see the need to swim, want anything to do with swimming. My parents, however, understood learning to swim, especially for a boy living in a coastal state, was important. So, they made me take swimming lessons.
Getting in the pool wasn’t a problem, getting wet not an issue, pushing my head under the surface didn’t seem to bother me. The terror came when I couldn’t touch the bottom of the pool without my head also being submerged.
As we progressed through the class I did okay until it was time to jump in the deep end. No matter how much the swimming instructor assured me she would not let me drown I didn’t trust her. I stood on the edge of the pool trying to decide whether to jump in or run back to the locker room. Finally, after much coaxing, pleading and possibly some bribing I jumped in the water…to be more accurate I jumped on the swimming instructor! If I was going down she was going down with me. She didn’t let me drown and I learned how to swim.
When we, or someone we care for, are terrified it’s hard to move past the fear. No matter the assurance we give or receive from others sooner or later the decision has to be made to jump in or run away. What we need, what we must be willing to be, is someone who will sink or swim when the decision is made to take the plunge!blessings, bdl
Patience is a hard discipline. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not a waiting passivity until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later, and somewhere else. Lets’ be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.
—Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
There are days when Henri Nouwen speaks directly to me, this is one of those days and I hope his words touch some of you as well.blessings, bdl
I have a scar on my left knee that reminds me of the difficult task of learning to ride a bicycle. The scar is from a large rock I discovered when I fell on my grandmother’s semicircular, dirt & gravel driveway.
Once you learn how to ride a bike they say you don’t forget and so far, so good, but occasionally I still take a tumble. The bigger, faster, mountain bike I now ride is more fun but can also be more dangerous depending on what’s around the next curve of the trail.
Life is like riding a bicycle. Learning balance, staying upright, keeping your bearings, is hard and sometimes no matter how much experience you have you’re going to take a tumble.
Each of us bear the scars of this wild ride called life. It seems about the time we think we’ve figured it out is about the time we take the next spill. When, not if, we fall what do we do? We get up. We might be dirty, bleeding, hurt and tempted to quit but we refuse to surrender.
from The Lion in Winter:
Prince Geoffrey and Prince Richard are confined in a dungeon, the end seems near as their father, the enemy, approaches:
Richard: He’s here. He’ll get no satisfaction out of me. He isn’t going to see me beg.
Geoffrey: You fool… as if the way one falls matters.
Richard: When the fall is all that’s left, it matters a great deal.
This is either going to be a huge success or an unmitigated disaster!
Ever put two things together and bad things happen? Two good friends, you know will hit it off, end up not liking each other? A blind date which goes horribly wrong? Hired for your dream job and it ends up a nightmare? Vacation with family…
Not everything goes together, not everyone gets along.
Last night, on my way to the campus, I was thinking about a new situation I will soon find myself in. It will combine people and places I love but there is an uneasiness in regards to putting it all together. This uncertainty of mixing several ingredients and what will result had me feeling apprehensive.
However, after more reflection, I realized my anxiety was in not being able to predict the future. I do not have the ability to foresee if the upcoming situation will be a success or failure, good or bad, mistake or sound decision.
What I can do is allow the path to unfold in front of me, walk it, and carry as little baggage of expectation and worry as possible. Wisdom tells me this is how we are to live life, always.blessings, bdl
It’s almost always the little things that give us away, tell on us, blab our secrets to the world and often at the most inconvenient times.
I wish we could capture the way we see ourselves in a photograph and the way others see us in another and then compare the two. Actually, it would probably be hundreds or thousands because different people see us differently.
Holding our picture and the other snapshots, looking at them, realizing we weren’t fooling anyone as much as we’d think or like, would we have the courage to ask; “what gave me away? what were my tells? what about me dispelled the illusion I was trying to cast?” We might be shocked by the answers.
We spend so much time trying to appear as something other than ourselves. Often we listen to inner and outer voices as they suggest, “maybe don’t do this, hide that side, avoid this behavior, hold back, be more assertive, insert suggestion/criticism here: _____.”
What’s interesting is the way others see us is an illusion that’s based on their own upbringing, biases, desires, and ideas of what would make a “better you.”
No matter whose illusion we try to grasp, wisdom tells us it’s only a vapor. To know our true selves, the strengths, weaknesses, dreams and fears, to be content with not being perfect, nor striving to be, is to let go of that which we will never attain.
Look at the pictures again then throw them to the wind, you weren’t fooling anyone anyway.blessings, bdl
To find beauty in ugliness, desperate times, trashed relationships, polluted words and corrupt actions takes a certain kind of vision.
Most times, when our lives are inundated with the messes created by our and other’s choices, we tend to focus on what’s wrong with the picture. Our eyes get fixed on what’s spoiling our environment and believe only when it is removed will there be beauty again.
Mindfulness and wisdom teach us to accept the truth that life will never be perfect, pristine or picturesque.
Whether it is a situation or a someone, when an eyesore becomes all we can see we are unable to capture the truth of a beautiful life in an ugly world.
This morning I had breakfast with one of my favorite people. We talked about important things, laughed about silly things, ate good food, drank too much coffee, and had a good time.
My friend, as he almost always does, picked up the check. I texted him later and told him “thank you” for the food and the conversation, they were good the body and soul.
There is something about sharing a meal together. Most families, cultures and religions incorporate special times which revolve around the “breaking of bread.”
Just as food and drink are necessary for survival of the physical, also a sense of community, the sharing of lives, is needed for emotional and spiritual well-being.
We were not made to travel the path of life alone. Together we add flavor, sustenance and texture to this banquet we call existence.
Okay, I must admit it, I have stood behind someone in a grocery store or in a line at Walmart and counted their items. I’m not proud of myself but they say recovery starts with confession.
Something in this gentleman snapped! Being 73 years old I would imagine there have been many times in his life where he stood behind a young whippersnapper who didn’t care they had too many items to be in the express lane.
As trivial a reason as 22 items instead of the suggested 20 for going to jail is, I believe the extra 2 we’re symbolic of much more. It’s the little things, after all, that get to us.
When the big problems come we dig deeper, find the strength and courage to do what needs to be done. Bearing up under great difficulty and hardship is sometimes easier than dealing with life’s everyday, ordinary, never ceasing nuisances.
If we aren’t mindful, at peace, possessing an inner stillness, sooner or later all of the aggravating, little annoyances, take a big toll.
Interesting quote from John. If you were to watch certain television channels, listen to popular radio shows, or visit a myriad of websites, there is the sense that a huge portion of our population is intent on getting for free what others work so hard for.
Why are we so quick to believe what others tell us about certain segments of people, cultures and those of a certain social status?
Is it our own personal biases? A fear someone is taking what we think is rightfully ours? A need to blame others for our lives not measuring up to preset standards?
As long as we allow others to stoke the flame of judgement and suspicion in regards to our fellow man, we will not be able to let each person be their true selves.
Isn’t this what we all want? A chance to do good? An opportunity, a moment, to not erase our past but to triumph over it?
We can be prisoners of past mistakes, choices, habits and addictions, defined by what we have done and not what we’re capable of doing.
It is only through being willing, like Henry in the story above, to jump into the muck of life, get dirty, make tough decisions and keep at it no matter what, that redemption comes.
In the end some may still see us as what we used to be but others will perceive the truth that all of us, no matter the bad we’ve done, are capable of even greater good.
I had the privilege of sitting next to a gentleman yesterday who was married to his wife for more than 60 years. I also had the privilege of officiating the funeral of his beloved in 2010.
As we ate lunch at one of his favorite diners I noticed even after all this time he still wears his wedding ring. Even after death my friend still keeps the promise he made almost 70 years ago.
Contrast this with the nypost.com story above.
In a world where broken hearts, broken engagements, and broken promises are the norm it’s good to know that there are those to whom the words; “I do” cannot be nullified even by the greatest of obstacles.
I can’t help but wonder how many times this lady, or others from her building, complained about the trash piling up outside.
Did people bemoan to the building superintendent about the smell, the eyesore, demanding this pile of refuse be carted off as soon as possible? Yet in the end this mountain of junk saved someone’s life.
There are times when we have to deal with a lot of messiness. We wish our lives, the lives of family and friends, we’re more orderly, less smelly and didn’t seem to pile up right outside our door.
However, we never know if what we think of as junk might just be the valuable lesson which will save our or someone else’s life.
Someone once told me that our minds are full of dogs and whichever dog barks the loudest is the last one to be fed.
Too often we feed our worries, bitterness, and ego. They do, after all, bark the loudest. But it seems the more time, emotion, energy we feed them the louder they howl.
Like a dog chasing its tail are uncontrolled, barking thoughts. They threaten our sanity and mark other parts of our lives with their rancid scent.
Only when we break out the leash, discipline our thoughts, will our minds and lives be at rest.
Seeing and complaining about injustice is one thing, confronting and alleviating injustice at our own personal expense, is altogether different.
There are many things wrong with the world and to right them we must be willing to face persecution and give of ourselves so others can receive.
The path to a better tomorrow for everyone is forged through self-sacrifice today.
Over at HuffPo there is an interesting article with 20 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Your Eyes
The best that a human eye has been recorded to see is around 20/10.
There’s a word for fear of eyes.
Eyes heal quickly.
It’s possible for your eyes to get sunburned.
It’s possible for your eyesight to get “better” with age.
Your eyeball is slightly smaller than a gumball.
The lens in your eye is about as big as an M&M candy.
Developing a cataract in your eye is kind of like developing a peanut in that “M&M.”
Having 20/20 vision isn’t the same thing as having “perfect” vision.
The length of your eye helps determine what kind of eyesight you have.
Your eyeballs get bigger as you grow up.
Reading this article I began to reflect upon other “truths” about eyes: they can be “windows to the soul,” “bigger than one’s stomach,” “pop out of one’s head,” “twinkle,” “located in the back of one’s head,” “cried out,” “roving” and “gleam.”
Our eyes can also be fixed… on money, reputation, power, fame, revenge, love, grace, kindness or (fill in the blank )__________.
“Let not your heart be prideful, your eyes fixed on raising yourself high. Do not occupy your mind with things always out of reach. Calm and quiet your soul, like a child lying on its mother’s breast. Be still and look to the One who is faithful.”
Where we fix our eyes, place our focus, determines our destination. Let’s make sure it’s where we need to go.