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Posts Tagged ‘peace’

Pilgrimage Statistics

Cumulative Days Riding:  172                       Cumulative Days Blogging: 157

Today’s Mileage: 5                                                    Total Trip Mileage: 1144

As I climb on the bike today my thoughts are with my family, friends, students and fellow pilgrims who have shared words of encouragement with me as I experienced the mixed emotions associated with sending my eldest son off to his active duty station and most likely war.

Yin-Yang: Symbol for the Chinese concepts of harmony and complementary opposites. Acceptance of apparent contradictions as each phenomena is seen as containing some element of it’s opposite.  The universe is seen as moving in cycles that contain underlying harmony, this understanding is essential to understanding life and change.

I realize that any discussion about the military and armed conflict always draws mixed and sometime strongly held reactions from people.  This is even more the case when I consider that I am part of a very liberal and pluralistic faith and have reached out to a wide circle of open caring people who value compassionate relationships.  I realize that questions of the use and existence of the military raise deep concerns for many people.   

I find within myself an ongoing struggle between my positive memories of the military and my knowledge of the destructiveness that military service can visit on soldiers (I have worked with many PTSD survivors from WW2, Korea and Vietnam), and the innocent civilians who get caught up in the conflict (I heard horror stories of collateral damage from Vets).  I have received several strongly negative comments about my recent Facebook and Blog postings.  Many of them expressed the belief that the world would all be better off without a military and conflict/war. 

I whole heartedly agree that humankind and our planet would be better off if we could extinguish this incessant drum beat that has appeared throughout human history, leading our young men (and now young women) off to war.  Ideally I dream of a world where there is no anger, no bullying, no hatred, no racism, no killing, no conflict.  However, I am a realist and while I sometimes let myself dream of idyllic times, where we all coexist in peace, I realize that there are reasons why we need a social institution called the military. 

I believe we sometimes need to grab our shield and spears and man the ramparts in defense of our ideals and of higher good.  I recognize the danger that arm conflict can get wrapped up in ideology, the whole argument about a “just war” troubles me when it is tied to religious principles.  Far too many people have died in the name of God, as each side hurls the label of “heretic” at the other. 

As a Psychologist I ask myself what motivates this apparent “need” for a military.  I believe the military can serve two different but valid functions, one within the individual members (intrapersonal needs) and the other within a culture or society (interpersonal needs).  There  is a great deal of variations in how these needs manifest themselves, also they may differ across time (as evidenced by the fact that the US attack on Iraq represented the first time our nation attacked someone who had not first provoked us… now what was that all about?)

Some of the Intrapersonal needs comes about because of inner conflict, between parts of ourselves, or because we find our “world” under apparent attack (our idea of right and wrong challenged by gay marriage, abortion, growing numbers of minorities).  These frustrations can lead to a “lashing out” at others who are different from ourselves.  I tell my students that there is a great deal of misunderstanding about what a “jihad” represents.  It is my understanding that we are to undertake a jihad against those forces within ourselves that block us from achieving a connection with the divine.  As often happens in religious and political undertakings (crusades, liberation movements, cults) the enlightened purpose behind a movement is lost when egotistical and self-serving motives take over. 

We all struggle with conflicting inner forces, we all have a dark side! I believe the critical thing is to find a balance between our inner forces.  Until we can find this balance inside ourselves we will not find it in our exterior world and our relationship with others.  My son struggles, as I have struggled, in a constant yin and yang balance between desires and ideals.  The military with its multitude if new experiences and new views helped me find my balance, I hope that it might do the same for my son.

Another dynamic that comes into play are Interpersonal needs.  I have repeatedly lamented the dichotomous thinking that we see so prevalent in our society.  This form of thinking manifests itself in the “win – lose” and “us versus them” arguments spewed forth by “hot heads” on both sides of the political and religious spectrum.  What is particularly problematic about this form of thinking is that when one group (political party, race, culture or church) chooses to take this perspective, seeing everything as warfare or a win or lose game, it puts great pressure on other groups to assume the same stance.

 Peace and harmony between people only works if both sides decide that this is the overriding goal.  True peace and harmony is not imposed on vanquished by a victor it is a choice made by both sides to compromise and find common ground.  When one side amasses an arsenal the other side has to respond in like.  I do not believe that the response must always be in the direction of a stronger force, if you have leaders with foresight and a greater understanding, the response can be one of compassion and a measured strike at those directly responsible (the actual terrorist or the individual despot leader) you do not have to destroy a whole country.  If you mean to counter a radical ideology you do not need to demonize a whole religion or ethnic group.

Examples of the “Yin and Yang” of life abound all about us.  You see it in nature, in the lives of animals, in our inner self, in our community and our nations. Let us never cease striving for balance for a healthy perspective, for a lessening of conflict and an acceptance of differences.  Let us never cease the struggle to be loving caring compassionate beings!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  155                            Consecutive Days Blogging: 139

 Today’s Mileage: 4                                              Total Trip Mileage: 1061

As I ride the bike today I want to note that we will be visiting the first of several pilgrimage sites in the St. Augustine Florida area tomorrow.  These include some of the earliest European fortifications in the New World, the Greek “Plymouth Rock” and a Catholic shrine. 

Peace and Prosperity for all on Planet Earth

I always start my morning by checking for blog comment s and facebook messages.   I often find a series of requests and offers to join different groups and causes.  I think one of the most significant aspects of this new social media is that it allows us to connect with a diverse group of people who we otherwise would have no possibility of meeting.  I find it intriguing and exciting as I get messages from fellow spiritual pilgrims from around the world.  One recent morning I had messages from an artist in Australia, a young man from Tunisian, a “healer” from Estonia, and was conducting an IM conversation with a college student from India. 

At times like this I wish I were bilingual, as I have received messages in Chinese, Hebrew, Arabic, Danish and Russian.  I could not understand their statements, but enjoyed the beautiful photos attached to the messages.  Artwork, like nature, speaks a universal language.  In our world community it is this growing connectedness of like minded, or at least open minded individuals which offers the most promise to finding solutions to the big problems that we all face as inhabitants of a shrinking world.  Besides reaching out to individuals, I have joined a number of groups. I find this to be an invaluable way to connect with others who share common interests.  I conducted a quick review this morning of the groups I have joined.  They represent a somewhat diverse range of interests, although most are of a pluralist, spiritual nature committed to a growing worldwide interconnectedness.  Many of them would fall under the heading of New Thought, Naturalistic or Eastern Thought.  Several focus on healing and health and often combine artistic images that promote and convey the messages of balance and creativity.  Of course there are several associated with Unitarian Universalism, my current religious affiliation.

No Seaparation

This collection of groups would not be a surprise to my family, friends and students who have heard me readily express my spiritual and political views.  There is one thing you won’t find in this collection of groups.  You will not find organizations that take a narrow perspective, such as condemning Israel or Palestine while not acknowledging the joint responsibilities, or singling out a particular religion for criticism, such as Islam.  You won’t find groups that argue for a continuation of the status quo, or that proclaim  “Americanism” as God’s gift to the world. 

Of course I would not seek out such groups and anyone who knows me would not invite me to join such a group.  It is for this reason that I was surprised and a little shocked when I found an invitation to join a group entitled “Let’s Build a Church in Pakistan.”  The group boasts over 50,000 members.  As best I can tell the group is based in England and has postings that are sprinkled with obscenities.  It is an “in your face, poke in the eye” attempt to throw fuel on the anti-Islamic sentiments.  It attempts to stoke the dichotomous “we are right and you are wrong” flames of anger and hatred. 

People Who Want Peace

As a pluralist I believe that all people should have a right to build churches, temples, mosques and stone circles to practice their faith.  I know this flies in the face of the rules in several countries (e.g., Saudi Arabia) where exclusionary regimes place severe restriction on such rights.  I do not believe these regimes are correct. 

I am proud of the US where people are free to build their houses of worship and practice their faith as they choose.  But even in the USA these choices are at times confronted by narrow minded exclusionary forces.  On my pilgrimage journey I have come across Hindu and Jain temples that were blocked by local governments from building in their communities, forcing them to relocate.  This is not right! 

Unitarian Universalism

I will join any group that embraces a goal of a world where every citizen has a right to worship.  But before anyone points fingers at other countries they should first look in their own back yard.  I am choosy about the groups I join.  I review them to make sure they fit with my values and standards.  I do not know who sent me this request, they obviously do not know me.  They do not share my desire for world peace, my desire for a connected world community. I embrace everyone on my friends list with love, compassion, concern and respect.  Please join me in this effort!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 59                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 60

Today’s Mileage: 10                                           Total Trip Mileage: 522

Red line marks our progress.

Holidays and Holy Days on December 8:

Bodhi Day – Buddhist celebration of the time when Prince Gautama took his place under the Bodhi tree, vowing to remain there until he attained supreme enlightenment. Once this state was attained he became the Buddha (the enlightened one).  

Immaculate ConceptionCatholic Christian day of celebrating the belief that Mary, mother of Jesus, was preserved from original sin all of her life.

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As I ride this morning I want to wish a Happy Bodhi Day to all my family, friends, and fellow pilgrims. All of the world wisdom traditions (religions) have their major holidays.  Today represent one of the two most sacred days for followers of the Buddhist faith. 

Bodhi day is celebrated by the majority of Buddhists around the world to commemorate the day that Prince Gautama became The Buddha, “the enlightened one.”

Buddha at the moment of enlightenment surrounded by temptations, desires and demons

the "earth witness" hand jester

The sacred story states that Siddartha Gautama was a prince from a small kingdom in northern India.  After fleeing his palace in search of the true meaning of life, he spent seven years seeking answers with various Hindu holy men (Yogis). Having tried some of the most austere and demanding techniques of the Hindu faith, he is reported to have seated himself under a Bodi tree and committed to stay there until he found his answers.  It was here that he was confronted with all of the desires and temptations the world had to offer.  At one point while being tempted by the demon Mara, he reached his hand down to touch the earth as a means of grounding himself. At that moment he attained enlightenment.

He recognized the true nature of reality as summarized in the Four Noble Truths: Life is suffering; Desire leads to suffering; Cease desire and you cease suffering; the way to do this is through the Eight Fold Path.  He then spent the remainder of his life, close to fifty years, wandering India preaching his wisdom and teaching his followers. Some would go on to attain enlightenment (Buddha hood) themselves.

Buddha displaying the "transmission of teachings" hand jester

His was a radical message within the Hindu world, enlightenment (salvation) within a single lifetime, for everyone regardless of your caste, gender, race or place of origin.  Buddha did not speak of God or the afterlife, he did not see himself as divine, he focused his teaching on the present condition (suffering) and it’s causes (desire and ignorance). His followers turned his teachings into sacred scriptures (the Sutras) and spread his words to the far reaches of the ancient world, becoming the first of the great missionary wisdom traditions.  

How should we in the west approach such teachings which seem so inherently different, using symbolism and faces that appear so foreign? Huston Smith, the well known Comparative Religion scholar, in his book The World’s Religions, argues that it is critically important that we listen to the faith of others.  In our crowded modern world, which technology continues to shrink on a daily basis, he argues that “understanding is the only place where peace can find a home!”

Smith notes that understanding can lead to love, but the reverse is also true. Love brings understanding; the two are reciprocal. It is impossible to love and be compassionate toward another human being, something all of the wisdom traditions espouse, without listening to them! Furthermore: “We must have the graciousness to receive as well as to give, for there is no greater way to de-personalize another than to speak without listening.”  Many people would say that such “de-personalizing of others” is a core pathology of our current culture (e.g. angry talk show hosts, screaming mobs at town hall meetings).

“Where do we find the divine?” asked Thomas Merton, Trappist monk, interfaith pilgrim and author.  God speaks to us in three places he noted: in scriptures, in our deepest selves, and in the voice of the stranger.

When I listen to “the truths” of other faiths and peoples I remind myself that they hear the voice of the divine in their sacred scriptures, that they feel the presence of the divine in their deepest selves, and that they are a mirror for me to see and hear the divine in myself!

Buddha Sunset over Southern California

 The information on holy days and sacred holidays comes from http://www.interfaithcalendar.org.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 23                                Consecutive Days Blogging: 24

Today’s Mileage: 10                                               Total Trip Mileage: 228

stage5

Holidays and Holy Days on November 1st:

All Saints Day – Christian day for honoring saints, known and unknown. In general, saints are persons with reputation for unusual lives of holiness and devotion to God or who were martyred for their faith. A Holy Day of Obligation in the Roman Catholic Church where saints have special formal status.

Samhain – Wicca celebration of endings and beginnings and of remembering the dead.. Revering of elders is also observed.

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     As I climb on the stationary bike this morning I realize that we have only two days left in the Everglades National Park before we head up the coast to the Miami area. Tomorrow we will celebrate the Sacredness of this site as well as “all of God’s creatures” which inhabit it!

nine mile pond by donald see

Nine Mile Pond in the Everglades

    Part of me is sad that we will be leave behind the panoramic scenes of nature, often undisturbed by little more than a road. However, I know many unknown scenes of beauty lie ahead of us, both natural as well as manmade! There are several different religious sites we will visit in the Miami area, representing a very wide range of spiritual traditions. The next several weeks should be interesting, luckily on my virtual ride I don’t have to worry about the traffic or “making the lights!”

white mangroves by maryknapp

Stand of white mangroves

     You no doubt noticed the holiday and holy days heading at the top of this posting. I have decided to start noting all religious celebrations falling on the day of the posting. Since pilgrimages can be associated with certain holy days it is meant to give the readers a wider perspective on the world wisdom traditions. I remember talking with a student once about comparative religious studies. He noted that he knew about other faiths, as he had taken a class that compared Christianity to Judaism!

everglades by jorg behmann

Everglades grasslands

     When I teach the Psychology of Religion, I review all of the major world wisdom traditions, their beliefs and rituals. Spiritual beliefs are like clothing. We often become very comfortable with “our favorite outfit or style,” but that doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t become familiar with the outfits and costumes of others. I believe we share a large, but shrinking world, where we have to interact with people who are different from ourselves. It helps if we have an understanding of their world view and values. If we open ourselves up to their views, we may in fact come to not only appreciate them, but to actually celebrate them!

pinelands by nationalparklover

Everglade pinelands

    I am a pluralist. I do not struggle to discover which of the many wisdom traditions holds The Truth. I see them all, as long as they are “life affirming”: Loving, Compassionate, Foster Connections with others, as holding truth. They are by no means similar. They represent very different paths, with respect to beliefs and rituals. However, they can and do all lead to the mountain peak, a relationship with the divine. I believe the critical question is NOT which path holds truth, but which path holds the truth that fits for me , for my personality, my experiences, and my struggles.

     My partner Susan reminds me that I don’t need to preach to people about my beliefs. That is not my intention, I am certain in what I believe and have experienced, but I am humble because I know that these beliefs and experiences do not fit for anyone else. I raise these points out of a concern for tolerance, civility, and acceptance as all people of the planet face a multitude of shared problems. Unless you believe that all of the problems will miraculously disappear, the solutions will require a coming together of all cultures, religions, and races!

sunset by danhester

Lone sentinal at sunset!

A special thanks to the photographers associated with Panramio for the beautiful scenes from along the roadside. The information on holy days and sacred holidays comes from http://www.interfaithcalendar.org.

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