Category Archives: philosophy

Proud Thoughts

Keep back your servant also from the insolent; do not let them have dominion over me.

Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Psalm 19:13, NRSV

Keep back your servant also from proud thoughts – the alternate translation of that first part of the verse. This isn’t a prayer for God to keep me away from the insolence of others: it’s a prayer to God that I don’t become insolent. But, as like attracts like, if I hang with an insolent crowd I’m probably guilty of the same vice.

Proud thoughts (the ones that make me see myself as comparatively better than others) aren’t the same thing as self-confidence or self-love. Proud thoughts are those internal conversations that demean others so that I can feel inherently superior. They shrink my soul even as I diminish the worth of others. There is no doubt: this is a great transgression. Evil comes easily from such thoughts.

The Buddhists list right thought as one of the chief elements in a holy life. This is having the right perspective more than it is the lack of thinking mean thoughts. Their point is that everything else springs from this basic starting point. Wrong thoughts cannot lead to right judgement, speech, or action – harm will come from the wrong perspective, damaging others or damaging self, and often both.

Perhaps there’s no better way to avoid proud thoughts than asking for God’s help. Knowing I cannot rely on my own strength of character, and knowing I can rely on God’s love, is a good starting point.

 photo by Donna Eby

Like a Bridegroom

In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,

and like a strong man runs its course with joy.

[For the whole psalm, click “Psalm 19” above.]

 

Anthropomorphism: the attribution of human characteristics to a god, animal, or object.

 

It’s frowned upon, this attributing human characteristics to non-human entities. It’s considered naive at best, woefully ignorant and dangerous at worst. This is something children do because they don’t know any better.

But poets do the same, as do holy women and men. Metaphorically, perhaps, but they do it. And our lives our better for it because we find ourselves in relationship with beings and things we would never be otherwise.

The sun rising like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, finding joy in the daily run across the sky. The cosmology might be a bit off, but the gist of it is true: there is nothing in this entire creation that isn’t connected in one way or another.

It’s better to see in the arc of the sun a living spirit than to look upon this creation as nothing but a collection of objects without purpose or soul.

 

Each and Every One of Us

You weren’t put on this earth to be miserable.

It’s something my grandmother used to say, a truth that’s been handed down three generations and beyond. Life isn’t easy, but it isn’t meant to be awful. Difficulties are a given, and times of trouble and sadness are just part of life’s fabric; so is fun, joy, and satisfaction. Work finds its counterpart in play, tears in laughter, boredom in fascination.

This old world holds so much, as does the world within. You aren’t made for unending misery: you are made for joy. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

It is there for each and every one of us.

Deep Inside My Bones

“I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts,

and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

And they shall not teach one another or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’

for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.

Hebrews 8:10b-11, NRSV

Are you enough? Are you loved, and lovable? Do you know, REALLY know, that God delights in you?

YES is the true answer: you are enough, you are loved and lovable, and you are a delight to God. Know this, accept this, inscribe this in your head and on your heart. This is the law of love that guides life and gives us all we need to embody love in our outer actions and inner thoughts. We won’t do it perfectly, and we might not always do it happily, but we can and will do it. And that, my friend, is reason enough to rejoice.

Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.

[The Deer’s Cry]

Just The Way You Are

May you be content with yourself just the way your are.

No one is perfect – it’s one of the larger truths of life. No one gets the right answer every single time, perfectly executes a new skill on the first try, or embodies physical perfection. Some sing off key, others can’t draw a recognizable figure. Some can’t cook, some can’t organize their schedules or living spaces. Some show up too early, some show up late for everything. Imperfection is everywhere – physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. No one is perfect.

But perfection isn’t the point, and seeking perfection is an exercise in frustration if not futility. None of us are expected to be perfect by God, and none of us should expect perfection from ourselves or others.

To remember that perfection isn’t the point, I ask myself a single question: Today, am I someone who tries to love God, myself, and my neighbor? If I my answer is yes, I am content.

There’s only one person in the whole world like you, and people can like you exactly as you are. Mr. Rogers

Pass It On

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

 

Everyone is born with unique gifts and deserving of deep love. Everyone has something to offer their small part of the world that no one else can, bringing new realities into being. But it takes encouragement and courage to offer your gifts to the world. Often, they seem so small, so limited.

That’s where the second part of this benediction comes in…

Pass on the love that has been given to you. If you haven’t been loved as deeply and broadly as you deserve (and you do deserve such love!), let God’s infinite love fill your heart and pass that on. Gifts alone aren’t enough; gifts offered in love are. 

It’s one of the great mysteries of life, and one of the most obvious. It’s amazing how easy it is to overlook.

Where Am I?

May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

Why am I here, at this particular place in this particular time? Why this family, these friends, this fragile and ephemeral life?

 You and I are exactly where we are meant to be, not because these particular circumstances are just rewards or punishments. We are exactly where we are meant to be because we are always and eternally in the embrace of God.

Life could have been different, but it isn’t. We are exactly where we are supposed to be because it’s only from this exact spot that we take up our lives. It’s only in this exact here, this exact now, that you and I can love God, ourselves, and each other.

Jeanne’s Journal

It’s a birthday gift from my friend, Jeanne – a journal for writing things just for fun rather than for work. I’m slowly filling its pages with ideas and scraps of stories. I thought it might be worth taking a look at the sentences on the cover…

 

May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where your are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.

 

 

Zeno’s Paradox of the Arrow: Time and Motion

Zeno’s Arrow Paradox…in so many words…

An archer shoots an arrow at a target. For the arrow to move, it must change its position – otherwise, it can’t get from one place to another. It must change the position it occupies.

In any one instant of time, the arrow is neither moving to where it is (it’s already there) or moving to where it is not (it isn’t there yet).

In other words, in every instant of time, there is no motion happening: the arrow isn’t moving.

If everything is motionless at every instant, and time is composed of every instant, then motion is impossible.

There are solutions to this paradox, of course. The obvious one: The arrow moves in reality, so the conclusion that motion is impossible is clearly wrong. There’s something wrong with how the whole thing is set up because reality contradicts Zeno’s conclusion, but it’s really hard to spot the problem. Mathematical solutions are also available (for some of these, check out The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy). But it’s the time aspect that I’m interested in.

 

Sometimes, it feels like life is Zeno’s arrow – stuck in place in moment after moment. Sometimes, it feels like it’s impossible to move through the instances, seconds, minutes, hours, and decades that mark the passing of our lives. We can easily see arrows flying from an archer’s bow to a target, but we can’t easily see the trajectory or movement of our lives from birth to death. Life’s movement through time isn’t as easy to spot as a flying arrow.

If I just look at this moment, even this day, it may appear that my life isn’t going anywhere. But if I step back, gaze beyond the momentary to take in the past and look toward the future, it’s quite simple to see its motion through time.

Zeno’s paradox is fun to play with, and in a sense, provides me with an answer to its larger life application. Like an arrow, I didn’t launch myself into life. I believe God did that. Like an arrow, I am moving through this life, but I can’t see where the flight ends. But I trust the archer to make of my life’s instances a holy and purposeful arc that lands me safely in eternity’s embrace.