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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

spiritual beings…

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience;

we are spiritual beings having a human experience.   

~ Pierre Tielhard de Chardin

Sometimes I wonder if all of the religious differences in the world are not summed up in this quote. Certainly most of the schisms in Western religion are. And perhaps the reason I don’t include Eastern religions is that they already seem to believe this. In the West, however, many (if not most) religions believe the first part of the quote, not the 2nd.

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Most Christians & Muslims believe that life as we know it stops at death, to be continued — if you merit — in an afterlife, complete with Divine & attendants. Angels, houris, etc. That human beings are deeply flawed beings in need of this spiritual experience to redeem them from evil.

Transcendental religions, on the other hand, believe that the human is a spiritual being within a human life. A far different proposition. The ‘human being’ position recognises only externally applied redemption: salvation must come from an external source (Jesus, Mohammed, etc.). Believers in transcendence would argue that human beings are always spiritual beings, as is all of life. All we have to do is recognise it.

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It’s one reason I’m a universalist: no one goes to hell, much as I may wish it on folks who argue for partisan politics over relief for Hurricane Sandy victims. (I know: I shouldn’t even think that, but sometimes I do! :() Hell is what we create here, now, from our own flawed perceptions and desires. The kleshas, as Buddhists call them: those  overwhelmingly negative emotions that derive from strong attachments.

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Today is Election Day. And that’s freed me of a heavy klesha burden: I needn’t write any more about what’s happening elsewhere. I can concentrate on the amazing life available to us. Here in Oklahoma, the late roses are blooming outside the back door, and the sky is that impossible autumn blue that makes you glad to be alive.

Today, I am well aware that I am a human being. Breakfast was amazing — waffles!  — and coffee gratefully appreciated. Creature delights I excel at. But the spiritual? Sometimes, anger (usually for others, in my defense…) overwhelms and I forget that the web connects us all. That each of us is within the messy, sticky spiritual web of interbeing, as many Buddhists call it. It’s always seemed to me so scientific, the Buddhist concept of interconnectedness. If we don’t know when atoms jump around, then who knows where you leave off & I begin? And if no energy is ever lost, only transformed — all the water in the world has always been here… — then each of us is part of everything. And everything is part of us…

I find that comforting. Especially on Election Day…

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conspiracies (and what we don’t agree with) ~

I saw a post on Facebook that said we all will have computer chips inserted under our skin if Obama isre-elected. Riiiiight….Right up there with the allegedly secret Muslim wedding ring he wears, and the death panels, and the liberal belief that Goldman Sachs intentionally created the bank debacle. Not to mention Obama gives cell phones away, and Tagg Romney is going to steal the election via his voting machine…

Where do these conspiracy theories come from? Who starts them? More importantly, why do we believe them? What is it that appeals to us in these impossible scenarios?

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I have no answers… All I have is a dumb-founded, raised-eyebrow-look in response…:) But I know that  right & left alike, we believe far too often in what we fear, and not what the facts show. And yes, you CAN find out (for the most part) ‘what really happened.’ In this day of the Internet, you can find ‘truth.’ It just takes time, and wanting to.

My sister’s friend refuses to believe anything not verified on Fox News. I have other friends who swear by Huffington Post. An interesting exercise: read each website’s headlines for stories covering the same event. Both will show bias. These days, w/ American corporate media (six businesses own 900%  of American media), you have to WORK to get ‘fair’ news coverage: Reuters, the foreign press, a few ‘old-fashioned’ papers that still believe the reader needs only the facts…. This is one way.

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What irks me most, I guess, is that when a news media does lack bias, or publishes legitimate (but unflattering) news, it’s seen as ‘unfair coverage.’ As if simply being of your  same political, or religious, or corporate ‘club’ should somehow render your candidate/ religious head/ corporate leader immune to critique.

This is still a free country. With a wonderful history of free press. AND democracy. Both of which used to ensure that news coverage was rational and balanced.

Today? Not so much… And the very men & women who should be reining us in egg us on.

I suppose this is by way of a small rant. Because really: it’s not bias if the news covers your personal favourite whomever screwing up. It’s news. And if your news channel doesn’t cover it, but you hear of it from others, LOOK IT UP. As I told many semesters of research students: VECTOR it – look at different sources on the topic/ event, and their agendas.

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I believe in research. I believe in science. And I believe in the resourcefulness of intelligent debate. Yes, I know each of them can be compromised. But I also know that in today’s world of Google & the Internet & 24-hour news, you have to WANT to believe falsehoods. For instance: I don’t know lots about statistics. But if you criticise a poll you don’t like for its forecast, I want you to show me how the stats from that poll are wrong. I want you to know enough about math and statistics and demographic polling to help me understand why it’s incorrect. I do NOT want you to just tell me it’s a conspiracy.

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Because here’s the deal: the MINUTE you utter that word, whisper it under your breath with its breathy sibilance (conspiracy), you’ve lost me. You’ve also lost any credibility in the discussion, whether you know it or not. Which means we won’t talk any further — even if you continue to think we are. Because I will have stopped listening…

 

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naked hearts & sticks & stones ~

I am as tired of this election as anything in a long time. My heart is battered, bruised, held  together some days with tape and string. Even my ears hurt…

What happened to truth? And to the civil discourse that accompanies its pursuit? My training is in research as well as writing, so when I read things that don’t sound right, I look them up. It’s pretty easy to do these days — doesn’t require days in the dusty library stacks, as it used to. :)

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But when I’ve found (& vectored) credible sources refuting the latest conspiracy theory (and liberals have them too, my leftist friends…), that’s when things can get ugly. I don’t mind that people have dropped me from their FaceBook feeds (well, sometimes I do, but I understand). It’s hard to see criticism of someone you admire as objective. We far too often conflate political rhetoric’s fallout with real bias.

So if I criticise Romney, I can understand if you might think I’m anti-Mormon. And that a complaint about Obama might be taken as racist. When neither of those (or both) might be true of critics of both candidates.

When did that happen? When did we lose the capacity to sit down at a table, over sweet tea & fixings, and really talk? I have friends with whom I disagree politically. I don’t see them as racist, or narrow-minded. I feel their religious views differ from mine, and I respect that. They respect me, in return. We don’t spend a lot of time discussing politics; it’s pointless, really. But when we do, we agree: sticks & stones HURT.

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I don’t have answers. Once again, I only have questions. I’m not unfriending anyone, although I confess to muting a couple of folks who are given to vicious racism &  (verifiable) lies. Still, even those people have redeeming qualities. And I hope that, eventually, political elephants & donkeys (like lambs & lions) can get along. I’m not holding my breath, but I’ve also not given up hope… :)

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listening to incense ~

Sometimes when you’re stressed, what you need to do is two simple (and at least partly practical) things: light a stick of good incense, and clean out a drawer.

Seriously, it’s that simple. I don’t remember where I heard the term ‘listening to incense,’ but it’s stayed with me. Because that’s what I do: my brain goes still, and I canhear the smoke soothing my fractious nerves. It doesn’t matter what started it. The incense’s calming tone sets it to right.

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Couple that with the satisfaction of creating order from chaos, and it’s a powerful combination. Puts me squarely in the moment, and lets me (literally!) pitch clutter.

Just try it ~ you’ll be amazed. :)

 

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