Pondering on mothers day about faith

Bird Droppings May 8, 2011
Pondering on mothers day about faith

For so many a Sunday morning brings dressing up and heading to a place of worship. Worship for most is a community event a gathering of like believers who sit and go through ritualistic undertakings in a prescribed manner and at the prescribed time head home or to a restaurant for lunch and then right back to their lives. My question is always does this entail faith or simply tradition and ritual. A routine followed from childhood and continued into adulthood and passed on to offspring similar to tool making and other basic functions. Perhaps this is where I draw a differentiation between faith and religion. For me religion is the traditions and rituals and then faith is something else.

“Faith has to do with things that are not seen, and hope with things that are not in hand.” Saint Thomas Aquinas

“In faith and hope the world will disagree, but all mankind’s concern is charity.” Alexander the Great

Within man there is a driving force, a desire to understand, a need to know and perhaps be known. Often we hope, we believe, so that we can share. Early writers chose a word to define this idea of sharing. In Greek several words were used to define what mankind considered love, Eros, Philos and Agape. Eros is that sexual passionate love, Philos that love that can be deemed brotherly love, and Agape. Agape in 1613 was defined as the word charity by translators for King James. As I was researching earlier I found Alexander the Great used charity, perhaps in a similar fashion.

“Faith is a continuation of reason.” William Adams

“Faith is a higher faculty than reason.” Henry Christopher Bailey

“I believe though I do not comprehend, and I hold by faith what I cannot grasp with the mind.” St. Bernard

I have introduce the word love into my discussion of faith as well as so often it intertwines between the operations and delineations of what is defined by many as faith. A simple word faith, much of the world’s history has evolved around our understanding of this word and our acceptance or rejection of various aspects of that word.

“I feel no need for any other faith than my faith in the kindness of human beings. I am so absorbed in the wonder of earth and the life upon it that I cannot think of heaven and angels.” Pearl S. Buck

“To us also, through every star, through every blade of grass, is not God made visible if we will open our minds and our eyes.” Thomas Carlyle

Several years ago I researched the word faith in an education class, and found that Dr. James Fowler of Emory University wrote a book on the development of faith. In his book he was comparing faith in stages much as Erickson and Piaget looked at children’s development.

“Do you know how to digest your food? Do you know how to fill your lungs with air? Do you know how to establish, regulate and direct the metabolism of your body — the assimilation of foodstuff so that it builds muscles, bones and flesh? No, you don’t know how consciously, but there is a wisdom within you that does know.” Donald Curtis

“To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty… this knowledge; this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.” Albert Einstein

As I researched the word and its applications to people and especially to children I found an interesting correlation and parallel. The word trust and faith are synonymous.

“Our faith comes in moments… yet there is a depth in those brief moments which constrains us to ascribe more reality to them than to all other experiences.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A faith to live by, a self to live with, and a purpose to live for.” Bob Harrington

“All things are inconstant except the faith in the soul, which changes all things and fills their inconstancy with light, but though I seem to be driven out of my country as a misbeliever I have found no man yet with a faith like mine.” James Joyce

Could it be that faith is an evolutionary thing, it grows, alters, changes and develops much as visual acuity changes and mental cognitive aspects of our nature change. As I looked deeper and saw correlations to the word trust, I could see trust in children evolve and grow and simultaneously faith.

“Faith is the highest passion in a human being. Many in every generation may not come that far, but none comes further.” Soren Kierkegaard

“That’s the thing about faith. If you don’t have it you can’t understand it. And if you do, no explanation is necessary” Major Kira Nerys

There is a dark side as I watch children who have little trust in their lives for what ever reason. It is here we see that vacuum, a hollow void a space where faith is vacant. If faith and trust is void then as so many great thinkers have said hope is lost and charity is non existent. I watch students who have little trust in anything and for them only self matters. Over the years I have seen philosophy and theology often interconnect at times one trying to explain the other.

“Life is a battle between faith and reason in which each feeds upon the other, drawing sustenance from it and destroying it.” Reinhold Niebuhr

“There are many things that are essential to arriving at true peace of mind, and one of the most important is faith, which cannot be acquired without prayer.” John Wooden

Two great men in their respective fields Niebuhr a theologian and Wooden one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time with a similar idea. Going at life and in my own case in teaching it is finding a way to build trust in children who have none. Many times more often than not when trust can be developed then so can faith. Hope soon follows, and charity sort of finds it way along. Many years ago I watched a film one of my favorites, Billy Jack. In one scene a young Native American offers a slip of paper to a young lady in the film containing a passage he attributes to St. Francis of Assisi.

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr

Niebuhr used this statement in a much longer prayer often referred to as the serenity prayer during a sermon in the late 1950’s. As I worked through literature and my own thoughts piecing together bits and shards, I found there was a need within people for faith, and for trust. In reality it is not much different than so many other areas of human development. The capacity and direction of that faith and trust may vary greatly in traditions and in perceptions but it is there. Walking out into the mornings often reminds me, as I look upon a clear sky a moon tilted slightly smiling, stars and a few clouds creating an image of calm. We each piece together our own life’s puzzle one piece at a time often never seeing the completed version only having faith that it is there, somewhere. Please as the week draws to an end, keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts and a most happiest of mothers days.

Looking deeper than the surface

Bird Droppings April 29, 2011
Looking deeper than the surface

It has been a long week. I am working hard on pulling nearly eight years of graduate school notes together, writing and reading at home as I develop my ideas for my dissertation. I will be driving down to Statesboro more than likely several times this summer usually it is a two or three day trip now. It always amazes me how in days gone by I could drive to Philadelphia and back on a weekend and go to work on Monday morning. Today I need to spend the night when I drive the 230 miles to Statesboro. I guess that means I am getting old. I need to work on our blueberry patch soon after we moved in to this house almost six years ago we planted a few bushes out in our back yard. I am somewhat pondering changing the format as I write, perhaps too much time working in APA style for graduate school hopefully I will not include references and a bibliography.

“Give me a fruitful error anytime, full of seeds, bursting with its own corrections.” Vilfredo Pareto

I found it interesting that over the past few days several thoughts of error and or problems brought forth answers in and of themselves. It seemed as if the problem was bearing fruit from within the problem. Vilfredo Pareto was a unique thinker and philosopher from the tail end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. In the detailing of his economic theory with mathematics and linking his great writings to sociology as well, he spawned numerous socio-economic political entities in that time. Fascism and Communism both use Pareto as a resource. What is amazing is that he wrote against communism and the other socialisms of Europe.

“The principles that a writer chooses to follow may be put forward in two different ways. He may, in the first place, ask that his principles be accepted as demonstrated truths. If they are so accepted, all their logical implications must also be regarded as proved. On the other hand, he may state his principles as mere indications of one course that may be followed among the many possible. In that case any logical implication which they may contain is in no sense demonstrated in the concrete, but is merely hypothetical – hypothetical in the same manner and to the same degree as the premises from which it has been derived. It will therefore often be necessary to abstain from drawing such inferences: the deductive aspects of the subject will be ignored, and relationships be inferred from the facts directly.” Vilfredo Pareto

So often we accept a writer’s premise and all that follows, as if each word is true, based on the value of the last word. We never seem to question beyond that first point. So often politics is this way we follow blindly the thoughts based solely on that first good effort. Watching our Congress and Senate work we read of a bill that appears to be so noble, and then we find tacked on numerous other bills that literally that seem to take apart rational thought. On one bill a few years back there was “15.6 billion for buying out tobacco farmer’s quotas” tacked on legislation to give tax breaks to corporations. Even the initial bill in this case is wary, but we seldom look past face value. Republicans and Democrats argue over who voted when and for what, based on face value and not details of the bills.

“Faith by its very nature is exclusive. If one believes oneself possessed of the absolute truth, one cannot admit that there are any other truths in the world. So the enthusiastic Christian and the pugnacious free-thinker are, and have to be, equally intolerant. For the believer there is but one good course; all others are bad.” Vilfredo Pareto

Other than the election of John Kennedy I do not recall faith and or religion being a factor in any other another election until George W. Bush and Barrack Hussein Obama. As we went into our presidential election and even now politics is being preached from pulpits around the country. All of a sudden ethical values and morality is a reason for electing someone and or not electing someone else. Often those standards are mixed and contorted and many times lies and or distortions much like the birth certificate arguments that even still have not subsided.

“….for the image of social activity is stamped on the majority of such propositions and theories, and often it is through them alone that we manage to gain some knowledge of the forces which are at work in society – that is, of the tendencies and inclinations of human beings.” Vilfredo Pareto

A bit deep this morning perhaps, as I slip into sociological theory of the early 20th century. We do and are compelled by human nature to move and act in particular ways. It is societal perhaps cultural as we follow patterns that are predictable. Advertisers prey on this as do politicians.

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” Albert Einstein

“Nature is trying very hard to make us succeed, but nature does not depend on us. We are not the only experiment.” R. Buckminster Fuller

We are our worst enemy as we go through life. Focusing so often only on only the now. We become so self centered and egotistical, seeking only that which provides sustenance for the moment and little if any effort for tomorrow. We do this in politics and society. We do this in how we treat others daily. We do this in education and teaching. It is in that rare moment and rare individual; others are seen and dealt with. These special people are few and far between and have been all through history.

“I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.” John F. Kennedy

It has been some time since I was standing for a moment in the dark of the morning with the eerie orange of clouds masking out societies’ lights. At that moment the crickets were droning, the only sound available to me. It is interesting to perceive we have been here many years, many days situated perhaps in different towns and cities, in different cultures, yet we continually seem to forget there is someone else across the road. There are other people across the country and across the world.

“…for the image of social activity is stamped on the majority” Vilfredo Pareto

We do not see the starving child infected with river fever in Sudan. Even closer to home, the children in poverty in Louisiana or on reservations of the south west or even closer, in the city next door to you, Atlanta or Philadelphia. I remember taking my wife to Philly for the first time, as we came to the steps up from the subway, a homeless man lay in a puddle of urine at the foot of the stairs by a heat grate. We stepped over him and went on; maybe for us it was human nature. I have used this statement many, many times as I write, recalling my own days of seeing and believing.

“What is in life? Is it the flash of the firefly in the night? Is it the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime? Is it the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset?” Crowfoot, Blackfoot orator and warrior

We all too often get caught in the now in the advertising and forget that there is so much more. What is seen as majority may truly not be. What is seen as justified in that moment may not stand up to history. Hopefully we will be remembered as John Kennedy stated “for our contribution to the human spirit”. So I look into this morning, a new day, a day filled with anticipation and hope and one in which perhaps rays of sunlight will permeate the darkness and there will be light ahead. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

We are where we need to be NOW

Bird Droppings February 5, 2011
We are where we need to be NOW

“St. Therese’s Prayer:
May today there be peace within. May you trust your highest power that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let his presence settle into our bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of you.” St. Therese of Lisieux

I woke up this morning and went outside to sit and think and my thoughts were so jumbled from a severe sinus headache but the stillness of the morning and clean feeling of the cool air seemed to help as I meditated for a few moments while I took our dog out. I should have wrapped in my blanket and put my shoes on as I was sitting looking at the little dipper I was having a hard time thinking of what to write about and came inside and fell asleep sitting in a recliner trying to clear my head. I knew I would have a thought after I could think again.
Yesterday I rode with my oldest son as moral support on his way to his interview session at Piedmont College. I sat waiting in the lobby while he discussed with various professors his views on education and teaching. As I sat there I got into a discussion with a fellow who by virtue of his name tag worked at Piedmont. Turns out he is a maintenance manager and as we talked found out he too was a Pennsylvania native and West Chester State former student back in the day. Actually we were both there at the same time. Synchronistic as Carl G. Jung would say. We talked about organic gardening, our old stomping grounds over lapped as he too was a fan of Ocean City on the Jersey Shore. The time went quickly and on the way home my son mentioned he had been asked why he had chosen the teaching field. I told him many will say they are called to teaching. Myself it just seems to be where I need to be at the time.
I came to school as I do many Sundays and had an email one of those sort of chain letters forwarded by an acquaintance and then you are to send to nine people. As I looked at the email so often I delete casual forwards immediately many times without even opening I get quite a few random ones from students. I always like the ones that start you will die tonight if you break this chain sort of thing. Once in a blue moon I respond and add a line “if you break this chain many people will thank you”. This passage from St. Theresa happened to be in the forwarded message.

“May today there be peace within.”

A simple line yet so often I just left the hall where a student was “so pissed” to borrow from the teen vernacular that the feeling will carry for a few moments maybe all day. What if we could find peace within and carry that all day this is a powerful thought.

“May you trust your highest power that you are exactly where you are meant to be.”
I have often said I am where I am meant to be right at this moment. We can all come up with the whys and how’s but for whatever reason I am here doing something that brings fulfillment and joy to me and hopefully to those whose lives I touch.

“May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.”

So often faith is construed as religion and in this context I really think a synonym is appropriate “trust” do not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of trust. I work daily with students I can not trust but I have to do something with them. In order to move in any direction it requires trust at some point and trust in one self as well. A powerful word is trust.

“May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.”

So often or I should say far too often people sit and seek help never utilizing what they could do for them selves. We live in a world where it is far too easy to ask for help and get it never really trying to survive on our own. Maybe this is why I really do not like the reality shows and survivor shows on TV. Give them a match and a Swiss army knife and drop on a deserted island and come back in a month that is real survival. But the second part is crucial, pass on the love that has been given too you. In today’s day and age so often we hoard love. We expect it but do not pass it on. It struck me as I read these simple yet powerful words. As I do so often I researched St. Therese and this wonderful person was a nun in France in the late 1800’s. She had devoted her life to prayer and understanding prayer. After she was gone books were written about her devotion to the power of prayer.

“Grace walks in simplicity” Thomas a Kempis

I recalled several books I have read in the past few years written by a new age sort of guru of prayer Dr. Larry Dossey. He has authored numerous books on prayer from a medical standpoint as a physician. Healing Words was one of his first books as he has sought alternatives in his medicine for many years and lectures now through the world on alternative medicine. I have a small book I have used several times in my morning writings written by an Native American physician who uses bits and pieces of his past to heal those in need. Yesterday I received an email from a former student and I will end today with a few words from her note. She went into my idea of life being a puzzle and mentioned how it is finally making sense to her as her life falls into place. She mentioned her new friend Kous, a two and a half year old red-tailed hawk that that her new boyfriend who happens to be a falconer is training. But as I read her note for the first time in many years a peace was with her and now the puzzle pieces are falling into place. Simplicity may we all try and attain peace within ourselves and then spread it around and as always please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.