Archives For About Life

Things I have learned through my sixty odd years of life..

Coexist Foundation

October 19, 2014 — Leave a comment

2014-10-02_14-25-24Coexist was founded in 2006 in the United Kingdom. The organization formed as a direct response to heightening tensions between religious and cultural groups across the world, as evidenced by a 2002 Gallup Poll of the Islamic world. As a result of the poll, Elgawhary says, “people got to see what opinions the Muslim world had of the outside world and the West, and also what people in Western countries thought of the Muslim world. There was a glaring disconnect of understanding and perceptions between the two.”

SOURCE:  Coexist Foundation – National Geographic Education.

The one thing that saddens me more than anything else is all the killing around the world that is done in the name of God. Not only do people get stuck in their current view of God but they are ready to kill those who have a different view. I have become totally convinced that absolutely none of us have a lock on God. We all cling to our own religious documents as proof that we worship the only true god. When others disagree with us it far too often leads to conflict and death.

I have become very aligned with the ideas of the Coexist foundation. If only all of us could agree to disagree about spiritual things we would make the world much closer to what God probably wants.  But that won’t happen within the hierarchies of our existing religious institutions. They are simply too engrained in their own rhetoric to be open to the possibility that they might not have it totally right about everything.  The idea of coexisting with other religious beliefs must happen at the grass roots level. It must be a ground swell that simply overwhelms our ever present religious establishment biases.

Religions to me are more about their self convinced truths than they are about God.  Surely deep in our hearts none of us really believe that God will utterly reject for eternity the vast majority of his human creation in favor of our very narrowly focused beliefs of him? Because of all this inter-religious strife I am currently very spiritual but not very religious and I think there are many others out there with the same mentality as me. As a matter of fact I believe that this is the primary reason that so many are currently leaving many church organization today or not even joining them in the first place.

When we die we just might come to learn that God loves all of us. Let’s all pledge to simply coexist with each other and wait for God to tell us his truths if he ever cares to do that….

Leaves of Grass…

October 17, 2014 — Leave a comment

2014-10-05_16-51-43

I recently got another copy of the book “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman. This one had a thorough description of the history around the book.  It is interesting to see that Whitman continued to edit the poems contained in the book throughout his lifetime.

Here is a little about that from my friends at Wikipedia:

2014-10-05_16-55-03Leaves of Grass is a poetry collection by the American poet Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Though the first edition was published in 1855, Whitman spent his entire life writing and re-writing Leaves of Grass, revising it in several editions until his death. This resulted in vastly different editions over four decades—the first a small book of twelve poems and the last a compilation of over 400 poems.

The poems of Leaves of Grass are loosely connected and each represents Whitman’s celebration of his philosophy of life and humanity. This book is notable for its discussion of delight in sensual pleasures during a time when such candid displays were considered immoral.

I must admit that I struggle with poetry, especially those that don’t rhyme. :)

The point of this post is not so much to discuss the poetry but the process. I, like Whitman, am a tinkerer of my words and thoughts. Sometimes when reviewing past posts I come across something that I believe “must” be changed. Maybe a particular word I chose when the post was published just doesn’t seem right now. Maybe an additional sentence is added.

I do the initial write of most of my posts at least a week before they are published. Changes are usually made right up to the date of release. I guess maybe I am a compulsive when it comes to my words. But I imagine all of us are compulsive in one matter or another. Some need to disagree with everything that didn’t come from them. The “Not invented here” syndrome is along those lines.  Some are compulsive about their beliefs of God.  Many are convinced that they are the only ones to truly know the heart of God so therefore all religions but theirs are just plain wrong. Some others have to have the order of things a very particular way. If it is not they HAVE to change it. I guess when it comes to compulsive things needing just the right words is not a bad one to have.  At least it doesn’t hurt other people.

In the coming weeks I will be working my way through the book “The Leaves of Grass”. I don’t know which addition I have but that doesn’t really matter to me.  I have a highly commentated version to help me interpret the meaning of Whitman’s words. I hope to gain some insight into this very popular author from more than a century ago.

 

Now that I have had two posts here about mandating morality it’s probably time to address this general issue. I’m sure that after reading these posts some people question whether I believe there is any moral foundation. They are calling me a moral relativist. A recent article in The Week news site very much characterizes where I stand on this issue. Lets read some quotes from that post.  Click on the source to see the whole thing.

Haidt lays out six distinct moral foundations.

1. Care the desire to help those in need and avoid inflicting harm

2. Liberty the drive to seek liberation from constraints and to fight oppression

3. Fairness the impulse to impose rules that apply equally to all and avoid cheating

4. Loyalty the instinct to affirm the good of the group and punish those who betray it

5. Authority the urge to uphold hierarchical relationships and avoid subverting them

6. Sanctity the admiration of purity and disgust at degradation

According to Haidt’s experimental research,

social conservatives affirm the validity of all six foundations.

Libertarians focus very heavily on liberty and a modest amount on fairness, while showing something close to indifference on the rest.

Liberals, for their part, emphasize in descending order of intensity care, liberty, and fairness, and express little concern about the others.

Viewed through the lens of these differing moral foundations, we can see that positions frequently described as expressions of moral relativism actually flow from deeply moral assumptions and commitments.

Liberals, for example, tend to be highly skeptical about American exceptionalism not because they deny moral truth, but because they are suspicious of group loyalty and highly concerned about making fair impartial judgments….

Liberals and libertarians on the other hand, can point to the comparative indifference to these same acts of harm among conservatives as evidence that they’re relativists.

Conservatives are merely somewhat less fixated on harm and much more concerned with group loyalty.

The conservative moral matrix might rub liberals and libertarians the wrong way, but it’s not an outgrowth of relativism. Rather, it’s a sign of a distinctive and different form of moralism….

All of which goes to show that pretty much no one in our politics and culture is a moral relativist. Our conflicts involve clashes among distinct moral outlooks…

SOURCE: Who are you calling a moral relativist? – The Week.

The six areas above I believe pretty much cover the foundations for just what morality is. As mentioned various groups tend to almost primarily focus to one or two of these issue and pretty much ignore the rest. Yeah I am part of that group. The words above pretty clearly distinguish between the three political ideologies that are currently around.

I am not one to believe that any of these groups are without their moral compasses. Being a social liberal I pretty much align with that thinking. I can certainly see that some of my conservative friends are mostly concerned with loyalty, authority, and sanctity whereas i put most emphasis on the first three in the list.

The next time one of my conservative friends tells me I don’t seem to have a moral compass I will remember this article and understand that neither one of us is lacking morality we just cling to a different area of it.

Don’t Label Me …

October 13, 2014 — Leave a comment

2014-10-07_08-16-26In fact, Raven tells Oprah that she rejects the notion of labels completely in all areas of her life. “I’m tired of being labeled,” she says. “I’m an American. I’m not an African-American; I’m an American.

“The remark seems to catch Oprah off guard. “Oh, girl,” Oprah says, shifting in her chair. “Don’t set up the Twitter on fire… Oh, my lord. What did you just say?”

“I mean, I don’t know where my roots go to,” Raven explains. “I don’t know how far back they go… I don’t know what country in Africa I’m from, but I do know that my roots are in Louisiana. I’m an American. And that’s a colorless person.”

“You’re going to get a lot of flak for saying you’re not African-American. You know that, right?” Oprah asks.

Raven puts her hands up. “I don’t label myself,” she reiterates. “I have darker skin. I have a nice, interesting grade of hair. I connect with Caucasian, I connect with Asian, I connect with Black, I connect with Indian, I connect with each culture.”

“You are a melting pot in one body,” Oprah says.”Aren’t we all?” Raven asks. “Isn’t that what America’s supposed to be?”

SOURCE:  Raven-Symoné: Don’t Label Me ‘Gay’ Or ‘African-American’ VIDEO.

I was totally fascinated by Raven Symone as a little girl on the Cosby Show. Even at that young age she was a person well beyond her years and proves to be that way even today. She might be naive in some aspects of life and an idealist but those are assets the way I look at it.

I too don’t like to be labeled and I never have. I very seldom talk about my deafness and I definitely don’t label myself with that affliction.  Yes, I am deaf and that means I cope daily with different obstacles than many but that is not who I am.

I think, but am not sure that my distant relatives came for Scotland but that fact does not mean that I am a Scottish-American. One blood line is in the native-American category I am kind of proud of that fact but I don’t go around calling myself a native-American.

Yes Raven America has been labeled as a melting pot but in some sense it is far from that.  A melting pot means everyone is the same and treated the same and we all know that is simply not the case, at least yet.

I need to find out what Raven has been doing in the entertainment field since the Cosby show. She still seems to be quite a unique young lady…

If the old guard on the partisan Christian right envisions itself to be crumbling, there’s nothing more apt than a forceful restatement of terms, preferably with a fresh face. But if it’s crumbling, it’s because the foundations are weak, and illustrating that inadvertently isn’t going to make its last gasps any more graceful. Far from being the death knell for the American Christian left, Vicari’s book might be little more than a signal that this is the Christian left’s moment to rise.

SOURCE: Christian conservatives have a terrifying new bogeyman: The Christian leftist – The Week.

Another interesting article from my new friends over at The Week.  I think I have made it pretty clear here that I am a “Christian left” as described in this article and yes I do very much tire of seeing the Christian right bemoaning the condition of the world today, particularly the Christian version.  The church which I was once a member had its members that had strong opinions in this area. The major problem in those cases is when the pastor/leader of the church is also in that mode.

I continue trying to learn a lesson from my blogger friend Stephen Mattson that Christ is perfect but his church on earth is far from that state.  It distresses me when I hear my fellow Christians put down the Christian left for seemingly caring too much for others, particularly when those others are not of the same religious beliefs. I now thoroughly believe that God loves all his children equally; there is no one outside his favor. More on that topic next Sunday.

It troubles me when the Christian right adamantly oppose our government having programs to help the poor and disadvantaged. They say that is not the government’s job but since the church on earth as a whole  gets a D- in this area someone has to take over that responsibility?

I kind of think that the quote above is the reason for all this moaning among the Christian right.  The foundations of their narrowly focused beliefs are weak and that is the problem. At least I hope that is the case….

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and one of the country’s leading health care experts, says by age 75 he would opt out of medical treatments in order to not prolong his life in favor of letting nature take its course. Emmanuel joins Judy Woodruff to discuss his provocative essay published in The Atlantic, “Why I Hope to Die at 75.”….

So, as we age, as we get older, we are actually going to become healthier, that the falling apart, the disabilities, the dementia, they’re going to become ever smaller parts of life. And that was a very, very compelling theory, and a lot of people grabbed on to it.

Turns out that’s not true. The data are that, as we age, we have actually added more years of disability, so there’s not a compression of morbidity. There’s actually been an expansion, and that I think is — it’s somewhat distracting for people to realize, yes, we will live longer, but we will also live with more functional limitations, less able to move around, more mental limitations, more psychological depression, and other mental problems.

SOURCE:  A doctor’s argument against living longer.

This quote came from a recent PBS Newshour report. Being a contrarian I look for alternative thought wherever I can find it and this is certainly one of those cases. In a country where hundreds of billions of dollars are spent annually trying to cancel the normal aging effects, accepting our morbidity is not widely followed. We also know that almost half of our annual healthcare expenses are from the last month of life.

As pointed out in the interview, whenever someone talks about the normal again process there is someone who always points to a few people who have defied the odds and made valuable contributions well beyond the normal age of death at 75. Like most everything  the effects of aging and death is a bell-shaped curve. There will be some who are very active and productive in their old age but they are the ones on the tiny upper edge of the curve. You might call them the 1%ers.  Even as we show disdain for the financial 1%ers we all, at least in the back of our minds, dream of being in that group.

Getting personal now, I will turn 68 in the coming weeks and like almost everyone else that age I have seen my muscle mass decrease. I have moments where I get confused about what I was just thinking about and what I was intending to do. They calls these times “senior moments” for a reason.  I joke that I think my warranty expired at age 60 and now everything is starting to fall apart.  I accept that I will not be one of those 1%ers in this area. I will likely die in my mid to late 70s as did my father and grandfather.

Not prolonging my life beyond that age kind of appeals to me now but who knows what I will decide when that time comes.  Everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die to get there…..

2014-08-26_17-21-49This is going to be one of those posts that jerks at my soul.

I remember hearing the title phrase pretty frequently when I was growing up. It usually meant that the speaker was surprised at what I had done and usually disapproved of it.

Today it seems so many people are doing things, abominable things, in the name of God. Almost every war in my lifetime has been in the name of God. So much hatred is spewed in his name. If God is really paying attention to all of us puny human beings I wonder if he is also say the same thing. “What are you doing in my name???”

They say that Mother Teresa often had doubts about the existence of God. Here is a quote from her about that from Wikipedia

“Where is my faith? Even deep down there is nothing but emptiness and darkness. If there be God—please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul. How painful is this unknown pain—I have no Faith. Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal, What do I labor for? If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true.”

I am certainly no Mother Teresa but I too have doubts on occasion whether God is really there and involved in our personal lives as they say he is. At times he seems very remote to me. With all this evil going on in the name of God why doesn’t he set us straight and tell us to quit killing each other in his name?  Why does he allow so many radically different beliefs about him to even exist? If there is a God it seems he would put a stop to all this idiotic garbage!

To try to resolve my conflict I spent thousands of hours over a ten-year period studying theological things. I approached the study with a somewhat open mind given the religious baggage I carried into it.  One thing I gleaned from this journey is just how close-minded most are when it come to beliefs. Once we latch onto their favorite religious system we tend to shut down any openness to anything else. Most will never study or give any credence to another possibility. We, for the most part, are convinced that we have it right and everyone else is just plain wrong. This fact is true of every religious brand out there.  Christianity alone has over 40,000 different versions of faith!  Who can figure it out?

There have been millions savagely killed in the name of God. Realizing this fact has caused me periods of depression. I found that the only way I could effectively deal with that was to simply walk away from the conflicting views.  I know that I am no one but I have concluded  that we are all seeking the same God and that eventually all of us will be reconciled with the true image of God. Due to our stubbornness, it won’t likely happen in this life for many, perhaps most, of us but I believe it will happen. If God truly loves us all, and I believe he does, he will eventually bring everyone back to him. This belief changes my view of many things including fortifying the belief that we are ALL God’s children and are meant to love each other as He taught us. It is sad that we can’t seem to do just that….

 

Buying a Thousand Pillows…

September 30, 2014

Two colorful pillows over whiteYeah. So it is true that rich people can spend more money than middle class people, but there’s this upper limit on what we can spend. I drive a very nice car, but it’s only one car. I don’t own a thousand, even though I earn a thousand times the median wage. I have a few jackets, not a few thousand. My family can afford to go out to eat more than most American families, but not more than three times a day. We can’t go out 3,000 times a day.

So if you concentrate wealth in the hands of a very few people, you break down this feedback loop between customers and businesses. My family, among other businesses, owns a pillow company, and the pillow business is tough because fewer and fewer people can afford to buy pillows. Again, I may earn a thousand times the median wage, but I don’t sleep on a thousand pillows.

You need everyone to be able to afford a pillow every year in order to have a successful pillow business, and concentrating wealth at the top essentially creates a death spiral of falling demand.

 

SOURCE: Why capitalism has nothing to do with supply and demand | Making Sen$e | PBS NewsHour.

To me it just seems common sense that if you want an economy to thrive you put money in the hands of people who will spend it. Putting it in the hands of those who will simply stash it away with an already absurd bank account does nothing for the good of the country or its citizens.

Trickle down is still the mantra of many in the GOP, especially Mr. Ryan. If they get their way all social services would cease to exist and everyone would be left to themselves. Ayn Rand, who is Mr. Ryan’s hero, believed that altruism, that is caring for humanity, is a weakness and not a strength and it needs to be driven out of any truly successful society. That mentality seems to permeate those who are at the very conservative margins of our country now days.

It seems there are basically two distinctively different types of people in the U.S. There are those who love and care about everyone at least on some level and this  includes people they don’t know. Then sadly there are those who care seemingly only care about themselves and maybe their immediate families. Everyone else is to be feared on some level or simply of no or little consequence to them.

Trickle down does not nor has it ever worked. Raising the minimum wage and giving workers their fair share of the rewards benefits everyone, even those who believe in trickle down.

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.

–Thomas Jefferson’s Letter, 10 Aug. 1787

I am going to combine my usual Sunday post on things inspiring/spiritual with my usual Thursday quotes. Thomas Jefferson, like most of the founding fathers was a Deist. That is he believed in a God who was in control of the universe but not so much into our daily lives. His quote above is very contrary to many religious communities today.

Questioning the existence of God is a no-no to many.  They say you must believe everything in their religious documents and question nothing. If you do dare to question you may quickly be deemed a heretic. I know because I have some personal experience in this matter.

But I very much believe in the quote above. If there is a God, and I certainly do believe that there is, then he must approve of the homage of reason. He does not fear our questions or certainly doesn’t condemn us to utter agony if we dare to ask them. I simply don’t believe that God wants us to be in a blind-folded fear of him. He told us to love him and that is just not possible if we think that he holds a hammer over our head just waiting for us to say the wrong words, believe the wrong things, or ask the wrong questions…

I thoroughly denounce the idea that God expects us to check our “God-given” intelligence at the door on Sunday mornings and to believe things that go against any level of reason….

Falling By The Wayside…

September 26, 2014

2014-08-31_10-13-04It seems that many of my blog friends are falling by the wayside lately. They are slowly disappearing from cyberspace. I used to read a dozen or so blog posts every day, now I read less than a handful. Some who seem to have maybe a thousand followers or more are calling it quits. I wonder what is happening? Many of these past blogging friends say it is just time to move on to other things. Some I imagine expected to make spending money from their writing and that just didn’t happen to any degree. Some maybe had grandiose thoughts of being recognized as the great writer all us blogger hold in the back of our minds and that didn’t happen either.

Here I am approaching 2,000 posts and five years blogging here at RJsCorner and while I admit I have thought on several occasions of just giving it up I always back away from idea.  I have discontinued several other blogs that I have had because their time had come so to speak. The one that meant the most to me was RedLetterLiving. It was about living the commands of Jesus Christ instead of just believing  a set of man-made beliefs. I do keep it up but seldom post there anymore. I started that blog as I have for most others with a question seeking an answer. After five years I finally at least to a degree found the answers I was looking for. It then seems redundant to continue posting on that topic.

So, what makes RJsCorner different from the others?  One answer to that is in its diversity. It is not about one particular topic but instead is more like a “public” journal of my life and thoughts.  That concept allows me to cover a wide variety of topics. But,  In order to maintain variety I do have a general topic category for each day of the week.

The writings of Will Rogers, which inspires me on several different levels, continues to be a significant part of what I post here and will probably continue to be so.  Will was such a prolific writer that he left thousands of sources of inspiration for me to glean. RJsCorner continues to use the technique of his invention. That is to use something that I have read as a beginning point. One of Will’s most famous quotes is “All I know is what I read in the newspapers”. Another quote is “I never met a man I didn’t like”. In that regard I try not to be mean-spirited to anyone or any topic that I write about. For the most part, except maybe for the idiotic politics of today, I usually manage to keep Will’s quote in mind.

Finally, I never seem to run out of blog material.  My draft queue, which are snippets clipped from various sources is constantly more than one hundred deep. Some of these ideas mature, some might say fester, for several weeks before the right words come together for a post. I don’t think I will ever run out of material. The world is just too interesting….