All That Glitters is not Gold

OrangesDorothy, a stay at home mother, does most of her food shopping at Costco on Fridays. On one particular Friday, she saw two dozen oranges packaged in a beautifully designed box. The box had stunning artistic shapes on all four sides and came with a Bowie-class knife of pattern-welded steel.

The exquisite exterior of the box so caught her attention that she forgot to inspect the oranges inside the box. Upon arriving home and arranging the groceries, she realized that half of the oranges were rotten. Disappointed, she grabbed the box and drove back to Costco to return the rotten oranges.

…..

Just as one does not purchase oranges based principally on the beauty of the box that protects it, one should not get carried away by the physical body which protects the real man, the spirit.   A lot of hardship can be avoided in relationships if more attention were paid to the state of the spirit as opposed to the vessel that shields it.

On first meeting a potential spouse or business partner, the man
who relies only on his earthly senses in his assessment exposes himself to grave disappointment because the earthly senses can only observe the transient form. The true person is eternal and therefore cannot be fully understood by earthly senses which are familiar only with the change of forms. The intuition on the other hand is never deceived because, being spiritual, it sees the true nature of the other person.

How does one know when the intuition speaks? It is unique to each person but know that it never considers earthly distinction (wit, academic merits, wealth, eloquence, physical “beauty” etc.). It speaks to the nature of the other’s spirit.

 

Imitation brings Limitation

In 1963 at the Rotary Track meet in Oregon, a high school student began something that would change the sport of High Jump forever. Since the formation of the sport, high jumpers generally leaped over the bar feet-first but on this day in 1963 Dick Fosbury did something different.

He was an average high jumper on his high school track team and knew he had no chance of clearing the 5 feet 6 inch bar at this track meet by imitating the then standard scissor-style technique where one foot clears the bar after the other in a scissor like motion. In order to lift his hips above the bar, he ignored the prevailing standard and did what was natural to him. He moved his shoulders back as he approached the bar and jumped over it backwards. He cleared the bar that day and from then on began working on perfecting his new technique.

Fast-forward five years… Dick Fosbury introduced his unorthodox technique to the track and field world at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico where he won the gold medal. His technique of jumping backwards, known as the Fosbury Flop, is now the standard technique used by high jumpers.

 

On a Sunday evening on July 15, 1838 before the senior class of Divinity College, Ralph Waldo Emerson said the following:

Let me admonish you, first of all, to go alone; to refuse the good models, even those which are sacred in the imagination of men, and dare to love God without mediator or veil. Friends enough you shall find who will hold up to your emulation Wesleys and Oberlins, Saints and Prophets. Thank God for these good men, but say, `I also am a man.’ Imitation cannot go above its model. The imitator dooms himself to hopeless mediocrity. The inventor did it, because it was natural to him, and so in him it has a charm. In the imitator, something else is natural, and he bereaves himself of his own beauty, to come short of another man’s.”

We all benefit when each person gives expression and life to his individuality, whether it be in his work, speech, dress, or demeanor. Imitation of others is a debasement of the inimitable beauty which lies within every human being. As with Dick Fosbury, it might take years to refine and perfect one’s personal/natural style but this is time well spent because bringing forth the beauty unique to oneself is the only original contribution a man can make to his environment.

Sharpening the Intuition

Business man writingSarah walked into her manager’s office seeking permission to take the next two days off and Mr. Noble happily acceded to her request. He said to himself, after Sarah left his office, “How was it that I knew her request before she voiced it?”

Mr. Noble is no stranger to sensing events before they happen. Just yesterday, he rightly predicted the caller before picking up his ringing phone. He had previously dismissed such events as flukes but the multiple occurrences within the last year proved otherwise and spurred him on to further investigation.

He decided to write down everything he could remember about his condition during these occasions. He realized that his intuition was sharpest when his spirit was filled completely with helping thoughts of others and when he spoke only out of necessity. The concentration of his thoughts on service to others freed him of himself while his practice of silence strengthened his connection with his inner voice.

Armed with this knowledge, the importance of guarding against the dissipation of energy through non-value added activities and idle talk became clearly evident to him.

Consequence is no Coincidence

TrainHeading home on the train after a long day at work, Emeka relaxes to the tunes on his music playlist. His eyes were slightly closed as his head swayed gently back and forth to the sounds from his headphones. As the train slowly came to a stop at the next station Anthony, who stood between Emeka and the exit doors, swiftly grabbed Emeka’s headphones and ran as fast as he could into the night.

Emeka quickly overcame his shock and pursued the thief. He had just purchased the expensive Beats by Dre Studio Wireless headphones last month after three months of saving towards it. He ran after Anthony with all his strength but could not catch up to him.

Two months later, Emeka spotted a young man on the street wearing what looked like his stolen headphones. Upon closer inspection, the young man had the same blue sneakers as the man who stole his headphones.  Emeka and his friend ran up to the unsuspecting stranger and took the headphones back but not before knocking him to the ground.

An elderly woman cleaning her windows witnessed the event and quickly called the police. She told them everything she saw describing Anthony as the unfortunate victim of two thugs who beat him up and stole his headphones.

…..

“We regard it as just when good is rewarded with good and evil is punished but expect the relationship between cause and effect to be discernible to us. Where the connection is lacking, an occurrence appears to be unjust.”* Only the man who is privy to the threads of karma linked to Emeka and Anthony can judge rightly. Keep in mind that these threads often date back decades, scores, perhaps even incarnations.

As stated by Dr. Richard Steinpach in his book How Can God Allow Such Things? “In all events, our inability to see the connection between cause and effect merely proves the inadequacy of our ability to judge and not the absence of justice.” This does not support abandoning a struggling neighbor to his earned fate but that help be offered without presumption for we are ignorant of the preceding events which brought forth the effects.

*Dr. Richard Steinpach

The Supreme Law of Reciprocity

Once upon a time there was a large kingdom governed by the greatest of kings. The king so loved his people that he made the realization of their deepest aspirations possible through his laws. The law of reciprocity was the supreme law of the land in which men received in abundance whatever emanated from him. To enforce this law, the king had a plethora of servants who went around the vast realm collecting the thoughts, words and deeds of every dweller. They tended them carefully until maturity and then distributed them accordingly at harvest. In this land, just as a plant springs from the seed so also did man’s circumstance spring from the seed of thought, word and deed.

Two strangers from a far-away land heard about the great king and journeyed to this land of love and prosperity. The first stranger was in awe of the wonder that surrounded him. It seemed to him as though everyone lived for the joy of the other, the greed and jealously so prevalent in his homeland was absent here. Gratitude so filled him that he subconsciously went down on his knees whispering words of thanks to the distant king. The king lived very far away in the capital and most people had never seen him, they only experienced his nature through his laws.

For the second stranger, however, the beauty and abundance of the land awakened greed within him. In a few months, he began running into difficulties; his house collapsed during a storm and his crops struggled to yield fruit. “What kind of horrible land is this…? I don’t have enough food. Where is the love of this king everyone talks about? Does he even exist?” He could not connect his thoughts of scarcity and greed to his unfavorable condition.

He thought of his fellow countryman who was always cheerful and decided to speak with him. “How come everything works in your favor in this country, what is your secret?” He laughed in reply, “Secret? There is no secret, I have simply come to realize that the greatest joy lies in the service of others because the more I help others, the greater is my joy.” The radiance in his face as he spoke these words did not escape the notice of the second stranger. He understood his friend completely and began a new life of service.

Slowly he too began experiencing help on every turn.  He realized that he was the cause of his suffering for he reaped what he sowed. The king did not change and his law remains inviolable; the change in his circumstance was attributable solely to the change in his volition. He was glad for this recognition and gave thanks for it.

Lonnie and Jack

Father.SonLonnie, a truck driver who usually works through the night, came home unexpectedly one night at 11 pm. He went into his fourteen year old son’s room and to his surprise Jack was nowhere to be found. Lonnie has been a good father to Jack since his mother left them after his birth; he loved his son and was very protective of him. He had told Jack on several occasions never to leave the house after 7 pm without first seeking his permission.

Lonnie waited for his son in the living room all night. The longer he waited, the more anger stirred within him. “How long has this child been sneaking out?” He thought to himself.

Jack suddenly walked in just before dawn…

“Where have you been?  You foolish child, I work my tail off to put food on the table and this is what you’ve been doing behind my back? You defy my authority…. If I ever catch you…!”

From then on, Lonnie began coming home sporadically to check on his son and always found him in bed as the experience of his last outing was still fresh in Jack’s mind. A few months later, however, Jack again went out to a party with his friends without his father’s permission. It just so happens that Lonnie left work early that day because he had back pain. “This boy left the house again without my permission? What should I do with him?”

As he pondered over the situation, he thought of all the pranks he played on his parents as a teenager. He remembered that his father’s yelling never had a positive impact on him, all it did was make him plan the next adventure more meticulously so as not to get caught. He laughed as he thought of this. His mother was able to reach him because he felt her love for him in the words which always followed the spanking. With his father, he never felt this love. It was only anger and irritation that his son disobeyed him and defied his authority.

With this recognition, Lonnie met Jack calmly as he walked into the house around 3 am. He explained to him why he did not want him out late at night. The teenager, who was at first shocked by his father’s measured response, listened attentively and for the first time felt ashamed for betraying his father’s trust. He no longer saw his father as his adversary but as a confidant because he now understood that his father’s actions were driven by the love he had for him.

 

 

In Perspective

Worry

Respecting Death by Seeking The Meaning of Life

The atmosphere was tense in most offices during the 2008 financial crisis but this was especially true at  City Financial Bank. In a strategy to increase the yields on its assets in the 1990s the bank acquired a large subprime mortgage lender, and by 2007 their residential mortgage loans had exceeded their amount of commercial loans.

Needless to say, City Financial suffered great losses as the subprime mortgage market collapsed and had to send home hundreds of its employees. The seemingly endless weekly layoffs had most of the employees on edge because they sensed it was just a matter of time before the bank goes bankrupt.

With  a mortgage, student loan and car payments, Gary could not afford to lose his job. He became so anxious and consumed with worry that he had no appetite. He was fed up with his condition and decided to talk with his colleague, Cheung. Cheung’s greatest quality was his inner equanimity which inspired confidence in those around him.

After sharing his fears with Cheung about being laid off with no money to pay his bills, Cheung  gently placed his right hand on Gary’s left shoulder and shared with him an ancient Chinese saying which his father often repeated to him in his teenage years…

If you do not take death seriously, life will plunge you into seriousness. But if you live with death in mind, life will not be able to harm you. With death in mind and that which follows it, you will stride through life as one who lives it, and feels not its severity.

…..

Taking death seriously means respecting death by seeking the meaning of life. The hardships of life which we all experience at some point is more bearable to the individual who respects life, death and the afterlife. It is strange that so little attention is paid to this very thing which would enlighten us on all else. With respect for life, death and the afterlife, the impact of life’s difficulties become less severe because they are now seen in the context of a broader picture.

 

Coming in from the Cold

“The biggest man you ever did see was once a baby.”  The overworked man who sees his wicked  boss in this light develops a certain level of compassion for him. Compassion, not anger, wells up in him because he sees the distortion of the noble qualities which could have made his boss a great leader.

Regardless of how big, mean, ugly, conniving (you name it) a man is, he was once a smiling baby with the ability to bring joy to all around him. This quality is either nurtured over time or suppressed in the pursuit of contrary endeavors.

A Functional Living Space

hoarder1

Adriana’s friends know her as Miss Sentimentality because every little thing has a sentimental value to her. She gives nothing away so her house is filled with old magazines, every single greeting card she ever received, her projects and test scores from grade school,  even old clothes she had not worn in twenty years.

Her hoarding was now at a point where she lacked a functional living space. Labeled boxes of past memories surrounded the house. “You never know, what if I need them one day” was her usual response to her friend’s urge to get rid of the clutter. She often enjoyed indulging in reveries, re-reading letters and going over photographs from her teenage and young adult years. She so held on to these memories that there was no room for new ones. She was even blinded to the unlivable condition that her home had become for these items had become more important than all else.

One day in January rain fell, as was the norm this time of the year in São Paulo, but this time it lasted for seven straight days. Flooding became an issue causing a lot of residents to evacuate, including Adriana. Her strong emotional connection to her cherished possessions made the parting extremely difficult causing her serious anxiety and ultimately leading to her fainting. She was rushed to the hospital where she regained consciousness but it will be a long road to recovery for Adriana because she has no anchor from where to draw strength. She never made room for the things that matter most.

…….

How much of what we carry about (past disappointments, grudges, resentment, blame etc) is of any value ?  Every difficulty, could we but see, means progress. At the very least, it is an opportunity to develop an increased level of inner calmness and patience. Seeking faults in others, no matter how justified one thinks he is in doing so, is of no spiritual benefit and is therefore an inefficient use of one’s energy.  As with Adriana, carrying around all this baggage shrinks our functional living space thus preventing new light and power from penetrating and invigorating the spirit.