Category: Daily Wonder
Plato wrote “The Republic” about 400 years before Jesus was born.
Plato’s story is about the way intellect and learning help us make wise decisions, order and it was intended as a parable that would create smart leaders who would always work for the good of the entire republic. Plato had government in mind, cialis but his analogy also works as a parable about spiritual awakening and how we each become more Christlike as our minds are opened to a new reality, ailment as our eyes see a deeper truth.
This is my four-part adaptation of Plato’s story, “The Cave”, for Advent.
The Cave, Part 1
Imagine that we live in a cave, and that we’ve lived in this cave since childhood, being held prisoner therein. We’ve never known anything other than this cave, so we don’t even realize we’re captives. Our legs and necks are chained so that we cannot move. We can only see in front of us, being prevented by the chains from turning our heads.
The cave has a mouth open towards the light, which reaches all along the cave. Above and behind us a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and we, the prisoners, there is a raised way.
On that raised way, people pass along carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various other materials. Some of these people are talking, others are silent.
Even though all this activity is taking place, we, the prisoners, see only our own shadows, or the shadows of one another, or the shadows of the objects the people are carrying, projected on the wall of the cave in front of us like a movie.
If we could talk to each other, we would name these shadows as though they were the actual objects projecting them. How could we know any better? We know nothing but the shadows. For us, the projection of objects on the wall is the reality.
Now, suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other side. Would we not be sure to presume when one of the passers-by spoke that the voice which we heard came from the passing shadow?
For us, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.
To be continued…
As we revel
in the merriment of the season
and the sparkle of decorations, recipe
remind us there are also many
for whom the holiday season
is not one of joy and good cheer.
We pray for those
who cannot see Your light in the darkness.
Show them that hope lays, Holy One,
not in the commercialism of Christmas,
but in the concept of the Christ child.
We pray for those
who grieve this Advent season,
facing the first Christmas after losing a loved one.
Shroud them in Your comfort.
Through the story of the Christ child,
let them touch the eternal.
We pray for those
who struggle to feel joy
because they’re mired in mounting bills,
and in despair for lack of employment.
We pray for the greedy,
that they will loosen their iron-fisted grip
on the world’s resources.
Let both the oppressed and the oppressor
see the light, Lord.
Let us all see the light.
We pray for those
whose family dynamics make holidays
not a time of festive joy,
but instead a time of stress and anger.
We pray that through your grace,
hearts might be softened,
old hurts might be released,
and a door to reconciliation might be opened.
We lift our joys and give our concerns
to your tender care
for those in our congregation,
in our cities,
in nations around the world,
and for people enslaved everywhere.
Burst forth into the now, God,
as you do in the story of Jesus’ birth.
Let your consciousness bloom into our world,
changing our reality forever.
Help us all see beyond the physical.
Help us believe in the metaphysical.
For it’s in the seams
between reality and imagination
that a new consciousness blossoms,
that a new world vision takes root,
that the Light of the World
finally shines brightly on,
in and through
each of us.
We must accept finite disappointment, doctor but never lose infinite hope.
—Martin Luther King, Jr.
Thought for the Day: Humans can be extremely disappointing. We’re very often petty, greedy little creatures intent on maintaining our little piece of the pie, rather than daring to give the pie away and bake a new one. For thousands of years, we have lived under the false impression that our resources should be controlled by the powerful few. From the clan leader to the Pharaoh, from the King to the Parliament, we have allowed the Earth’s abundance to be controlled by the wealthy elite. Well, maybe we haven’t allowed it as much as we have had that model forced on us.
Things will only change—and change permanently if we the people take back control of our lives. The peaceful protests happening around the United States are a good start, but if we want to change our world, we have to elect leaders without deep pockets and connections to corporations. The ISIS model of revolution is doomed to fail. The system can only be changed from the inside, and to get people on the inside means finding and supporting candidates who aren’t beholden to the corrupt political system that is endemic to the entire Western World.
The possibilities are infinite. We are taught to believe that our world is finite, but the truth is that our observable universe and the natural resources of this planet are just a single pixel in a multi-dimensional reality. We are infinite beings in an infinite universe. And that means there are infinite possibilities, as long as we never lose hope.
Scripture: Hebrews 4:13
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of God, to whom we must give account.
Thought for the Day: Growing up Jewish in the Deep South was no walk in the park. I was often called names, including “Christ killer,” and condemned to an eternity in Hell on a daily basis. Still, I’m a white male, and I’ve largely been able to enjoy the privileges that come from being accidentally born into the planet’s most ruthless and powerful ethnicity and gender. And today, I am more ashamed and angry about that accident of fate than I have ever been in my life.
I have never once had to worry about being shot by the police when I’m walking around late at night with a candy bar in my hands. I’ve never once had to worry that if I sold a cigarette to someone, a cop would strangle me to death. I’ve never had to worry that my son, playing in the park with his Nerf guns would be murdered in cold blood by a police officer. I don’t have to look over my shoulder to see if I’m being followed, pay much attention to the speed limit because I’m worried about being pulled over, or be careful if I get lost and find myself in the wealthiest neighborhood of my city. I’ve never had to worry about justice being served if a loved one is brutally and unfairly slain by those who have sworn to uphold the very justice their actions mock. On camera.
I understand that I can never, ever understand what my brothers and sisters of color—African American, Hispanic American, Asian, Native and Haitian American, go through on a daily basis. But as someone trying to be a merely decent human being, my heart is broken, my spirit is broken, and I wail in agony with everyone whose lives have been destroyed by a racist America with no sense of justice or duty. #blacklivesmatter, #hispaniclivesmatter, #alllivesmatter
Prayer: Lead us out of this dark night of the soul, God who is our only hope. Amen.
Scripture: 1 John 3:1-3
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, healing that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, advice now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
Thought for the Day: This passage is not about Jesus’ return at the end of the world. Like everything written in John’s name (likely by an Elder of one of the early churches), this is a deeply mystical, Jewish text. The author correctly understands the hope that lies at the center of Jesus’ message to his people. We are all God’s children—not in some ethereal, unsubstantial way, but literally, at the core of our being, we are created from the stuff of God.
For the early Christians the author was writing to, the world was a very harsh place. People thought followers of Jesus were cultish. A mixture of Jews and Gentiles, they had a difficult time explaining themselves to the Roman Pagans and the orthodox Jews. Early followers of Jesus were expelled from their Synagogues and tortured by Romans—much like Jesus.
They understood, perhaps more than most modern Christians, that Jesus taught and lived a relationship with God nobody before ever imagined possible. Where both Romans and Jews imagined their gods as powerful, external beings, Jesus taught that God is within. He shows us that God is intrinsic to our nature, and that being one with God is, in fact, our true nature. This lesson remains difficult to understand today as can be seen by going into almost any Christian church in the United States. Few pastors preach unity with God; many preach worship of Jesus as an idol.
Jesus preached a message of hope—a message about God who is with us all the time, through the best and worst events of our lives. God for Jesus was not some old man in heaven. Rather, heaven was coming to the realization that God is within us. His is a message of awakening to a higher state of consciousness. The hope in Jesus’ message is not that God acts from somewhere beyond the sky, but that God awakens us to a higher state of being in God’s presence—from within.
Prayer: Wake me from this long, dark night of my soul, God of light, God of hope, God of freedom! Amen.
Scripture: Job 5:19
From six calamities he will rescue you;
in seven no harm will touch you.
Thought for the Day: I recently wrote about the importance of the number seven in the ancient world. It symbolized perfection or completion. The Hebrew word for seven, view shevah, is from the root savah, which means “full” or “satisfied.” Six is associated with humans—created on the sixth day. Six is also the number of labor, and when considered as 4 + 2 or 5+1, six is symbolic of the human world either versus God’s world, or the corruption of God’s world by humans.
When six and seven are paired together though, as they are in this passage from Job, the author intends to contrast what is human from what is spiritual. Eliphaz’s lesson seems to be that when we attempt to do things from a purely human perspective, we’ll mess them up—no matter how altruistic our intentions. The only way to truly be an effective change agent in the world is to let God do the work through us. Six plus one is symbolic of human nature plus the work of God within us, which brings us to perfection.
Throughout Scripture, and indeed in every great spiritual revelation throughout history, we are reminded that we are more than we currently perceive. We are on a journey to Oneness with God. It is a spiritual evolution, a constant pull toward love. And no matter how terrible the world looks, we must always find hope in the fact that God is constantly pulling us closer to God’s own being, turning our imperfect six into a perfect seven.
Prayer: God of all being, make me realize You make me everything I am, and that everything I am is part of everything that is. Amen.
Monday Meditation for World Aids Day 2014
Loving energy that flows throughout the universe, patient
fill my soul with hope.
I fall more deeply into despair
as the hours of every day pass.
I look around our world and see hatred,
greed and envy,
selfishness and hate.
I see a world of people unwilling,
perhaps even unable,
to accept each other as brothers and sisters
of the same parent:
You, our eternally loving God.
Our world is full of dis-ease,
and while our great minds
have discovered many ways
to provide relief,
too many of us still suffer
from the deadly sting of poverty,
which unfairly withholds treatment
from those most desperately in need.
This world is unacceptable.
This situation must change.
We who believe in You
must be the agents of change.
On this day,
designed to bring about awareness
of the dis-ease of the world,
our prayer is for hearts and pocketbooks to be opened,
so that no person,
anywhere in the world,
of any ethnicity, age or gender,
need suffer in dis-ease.
trapped somewhere in a soul
we long ago sold to the purveyors of lies,
there remains a spark of love.
our hearts reveal a memory that
we are all One:
One race of humans,
related through the stuff of stars
that pervades every bit of matter in the universe
our DNA remembers
that we all matter—
deeply, powerfully, compassionately.
Remind us of our connection through You,
the creative elemental of all elements,
so that we will remember our connection to each other.
remind us that without each other,
we will surely all perish from the face of this Earth.
Soften our hearts and motivate us
to share our wealth
not with the captains of industry,
who never have enough,
but rather with our sick and our dying,
who never have enough.
Better than a thousand hollow words, viagra is one word that brings peace.
—Gautama the Buddha
Peace be with you.
—Jesus the Christ
Thought for the Day: Before peace on earth can be realized, thumb we must find peace within ourselves. Finding inner peace has always been an exceptionally difficult task. The world pulls at us in a thousand different directions all designed to keep us nervous and distracted. We worry about the welfare of our families, stuff where our next meal is coming from, terrorism, health care costs, and leaders who refuse to work with each other. Life is intense and intensely nerve-wracking.
Buddha and Jesus have similar ideas about finding inner peace. For Buddha, who was trying to rescue his culture from a multitude of demanding gods, the answer was transcendence. Buddha taught that through meditation, one could reach a higher level of consciousness that allowed them to see reality differently. Transcendence is a peaceful, non-anxious state of being.
Jesus was attempting to lead his people out of the legalistic hierarchy created by priests who considered themselves the right hand of God. He taught that the only way to peace is through understanding our deep, personal relationship with God. He illustrated this relationship the way Buddha exemplified transcendence. In many ways, they were teaching the same thing: Oneness.
These two enlightened spiritual teachers taught that we are all on a journey to a higher state of being and that prayer and meditation are among the most important tools in our arsenal. Both of these masters looked around their world and like many of us, were called to create a better way. They knew that for us to find peace on earth, we must first find peace within ourselves. Then, they taught us how to find that one word that brings us, and our world, serenity—whether that word is Aum or Amen.
Prayer: Glorious God, Eternal Universe, Supreme Consciousness—speak to me the Word that leads to a lasting peace, so that I might speak the words that lead to lasting peace. Amen.
Holy God of endless creativity, sovaldi
thank you for the gift of curiosity.
What would we be if we didn’t ask questions?
Where would we be if we didn’t wonder?
Who would we be if we didn’t ponder
how we came to be, illness
where we might be headed, medicine
and the very meaning of existence?
Thank You for the gift of curiosity,
for it transforms our souls
and changes our world,
and You are a God of constant transformation!
We love You for imbuing us
with a thirst for knowledge, wisdom and understanding
that ultimately always helps us
know You more intimately.
Praise be to You for this incredible intellect,
a gift we too often neglect,
especially in matters of faithfulness.
We give thanks for every opportunity to learn,
knowing that education provides us
with the foundation we need
to create the books and songs and art
that throughout history, have revealed
a little more of Your love song
to a world desperately in need of more love songs.
How would we have left our caves
and discovered fire,
learned to cook,
created art, math and literature,
had You not bestowed us with
an almost annoying need
to always learn more?
How could we have begun to consider Your
Your astounding grace,
had you not first given us the desire
to seek answers,
and ultimately provided us
so many ways to find them?
We know, Wisdom who flows timelessly throughout the universe,
that our limited time on Earth
will be full of intellectual and spiritual challenges.
Yet, we also understand that there is no change,
unless there is first challenge.
We need only to look at the life of Jesus Christ
to know this is true.
Jesus challenged the religious and political authorities of his time.
He taught the ancient scripture of his people in new,
and newly meaningful, ways.
He was not afraid to reinterpret everything
through the lens of an undying and unwavering faith to You.
His complete and utter faithfulness to You,
the father/mother of us all,
is our example and our hope
for our own transformation
during this time of trialed learning.
Mold us, shape us, love us into more faithful beings!
We beg You, Lord, touch our souls!
Let us feel Your presence within us,
because it is only through You
that there is any hope for humanity
to continue our movement
from the cave
to the universal,
almost unbearable lightness of being,
yet not being,
of always being loved,
yet so often unable to love.
We will always love You,
but we confess, we are also afraid of losing you!
Scholars, pastors, historians, scientists, religious experts—
it seems everyone has new ideas about You.
Can we handle ideas that change
what we’ve thought about You our entire lives?
Can we still grow in faith,
even as we begin to understand the Bible stories
are not Your literal, infallible word,
written by a magical hand,
but are, perhaps even more importantly,
the myths of a people
desperately seeking love in a war-torn
world, oblivious to any higher sense of self?
Our world hasn’t changed that much from theirs.
We still need your love,
perhaps now more than ever,
Help us see You with new eyes,
the way Jesus saw You with new eyes.
Help us lose ourselves by knowing You more deeply.
What can we possibly lose
by gaining a deeper understanding
of the people and traditions
that have sought You as deeply and faithfully as we now seek You?
Still, we have known You in a certain way for a lifetime,
and we fear shattered illusions.
We fear hearts broken
into millions of mirrored shards
that reveal the inadequacy of our minds
and the shallowness of our convictions.
But as You have made a promise to Your people,
we promise You this: We will not quit!
Our faith in You is endless,
no matter what our concept of You is now,
or may be tomorrow.
We know You are with us,
all the days of our lives.
We trust You, without exception,
as You love us all without exception.
The only way we know to repay Your merciful love
is to use the intellect You gave us,
to study, and trust that our studies
will always lead us into deeper relationship with You.
This is, after all,
the way of our ancestors,
who, thanks again to Your blessing of curiosity,
first looked out of their caves
at the infinite expanse of glistening stars
in the inky blackness of space,
and simply wondered in amazement
where they came from and where they were going.
Just as their questioning
transformed their lives and their world,
we know our questioning
will transform us and our world.
Just as they created music,
and theory after theory
about life, the universe, and everything,
we know our studies here will help us
create new melodies,
and new art,
and new ideas about You,
and our relationship to You,
and our place in the infinite universal consciousness
that is You, and everything.
Open our eyes, our hearts, and our minds,
God who is our universe,
so we constantly seek and learn more about You
in every ebb tide,
in every birdsong,
in every masterful stroke of
a sunset ablaze with scarlet fires,
in every word of Scripture
and the philosophies of both ancient
and modern intellects.
From Wisdom to wisdom,
we commit ourselves to You,
our creator, our sustainer,
our non-being being,
giver of Wisdom and intellect,
revealer of truth to all of us,
Your loyal seekers of truth
Scripture: Matthew 9:37-38
[Jesus] said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Thought for the Day: Jesus started a movement. He urged (and urges) people to join him in the fight against global injustice and human slavery. This was and continues to be a fight that does not involve violence—ever. The fight against the powers in the world bent on destroying it is one of peaceful non-participation. It involves turning people to God, knowing that God changes everything. When Jesus makes calls for workers, he’s not asking for people to invade other lands and convert them to Christianity or slaughter them (*ahem* crusades, inquisitions, etc.).
When Jesus asks for workers in the field, he’s not asking for us to convert other people to Christianity (which didn’t exist in his day anyway). He’s asking us to go forth and help people discover the intimate relationship with God that Jesus shows is our birthright. The intimate connection exemplified in him is something Jesus felt God desires with us all. Connection and communion with God, in Jesus’ view, is why we were created.
Working in the field means we serve the people we go to visit the way Jesus always served the people he visited in the Bible stories. We don’t tell them what they need or what to believe. We go, as Jesus would, with open arms and hearts filled with the desire to serve. We ask, “What can we do for you?” then do our best to help. By so doing, hopefully we bring a little more of God’s love into the world.
Prayer: I don’t want to convert anyone to any religion, God, I just want them to be converted by You into a being of love and peace. Your love is real, life changing, and waiting to come alive within every one of us. Make yourself known in our hearts, minds, and souls, today and everyday, and for the rest of our lives. Amen.