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Archive for November, 2011

Death Frames Life

Death has a way of insistently intruding into our complacent, almost cozy sense of ourselves.  News of someone’s death or premonitions of our own slices through whatever mood we’re in, whether we’re happy or depressed.  Death throws life into bright relief.  Only from inside the frame of its shadows can we engage the moving picture that is life. 

 

Without benefit of death’s frame, we are simply lost in life’s kaleidoscopic images, scenes and dramas.  Many people actually need thoughts of death to stimulate them to really come alive.  It has now become a cliché that if your doctor “gives” you six months to live, you will immediately pursue your “bucket list,” rising instantly from your accountant’s desk to take off for a  long sky-diving trip in the Himalayas.  In fact, psychologists have identified an entire group of people who crave the heightened sense of life that rushes through their blood and brains only when they are exposed to an adventure-provoked danger.  What is truly harder, though, is to enliven one’s sense of the world minute by minute, and day by day, even while remaining seated at that accountant’s desk.  Learning to enliven the moment – to perceive the extraordinary in the  ordinary minute –  is to be mindful in the present, as the Buddhists characterize it.  That is the truest purpose of life.

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Belief and Faith – November 8, 2011

 

What is important in life is simply to believe.  To believe in something, obviously, but the object of one’s belief is of less consequence than the act of belief.  Whether you believe in Jesus Christ, Allah, the Buddha, or even in the non-existence of God, as long as you don’t direct your belief toward something that is harmful to others, the conviction and the emotion of your belief is what counts the most.  Obviously, it is not possible to believe without being convinced to a greater or lesser degree of the rightness or the righteousness of one’s belief.  Nonetheless, in spiritual terms and in human terms, to believe – to have a heart and soul full of belief – is what is most important for true faith to take root.

 

We must always question our beliefs, for they can at times be terribly deluded or harmful.  In the end, though, this questioning amounts to a consideration of the appropriateness or reasonableness of the object of our belief.  Belief itself is a pure emotion and it can be a positive, powerfully transformative act of the soul:  a powerful energy field.  The trick is always to stand back and try to evaluate whether or not  the object of one’s belief is good and helpful to mankind, as opposed to being destructive.

 

What is the difference, if any, between belief and faith?  Faith is the act of remaining steady or steadfast, even when one questions one’s belief.  Faith is a power, along with reason, that allows us to change our beliefs when earlier ones are revealed to be shallow or misguided.  Faith is a guide that can remain with us even when our beliefs fail us.  Belief is like a warm wind that ruffles the sail of our spirit.  Faith is the rudder that steers us through a squall, and it is the paddle that lets us navigate rough waters even when the wind of belief fails us.

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