Friday, October 29, 2010

Elections: WWJD

When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.

A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government.

Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.

Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.

I own that I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.

It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.

My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.

Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.

Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Time Out

Unable to finish my thoughts on Living in Love, as I am presently Living in Pain. After hydroplaning my Jeep and bouncing around the I-75 S ramp onto I-285 E., I have a squashed disc, fractured vertebrae,
and a hematoma the size of a baseball on my left knee. While the drugs I am taking help manage the pain, they also keep my brain in a fog. Hopefully I will be able to sit up and think in the near future.

Thank you so much for your prayers and kind notes.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Living in Love I


Dictionary: A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
St Paul

Perfect love casts out all fear
St John

Responsibility without love makes us inconsiderate
Power without love makes us cruel
Belief without love makes us fanatics
Intelligence without love makes us dishonest.
Lao Tzu

Upon hearing of the deaths of his two greatest disciples, the Buddha said,

It’s as the sun and the moon have left the sky.

I believe that the heart of the Universe is love: not narcissism, not vanity, not egotism, but Love. Why do I believe this? Because I believe that God the Creator is love. While God is One, God is also Three (Triune), or else what we would have at the heart of the Universe would be narcissism!

Communal love emanates from the source of all creation.

Love does make the world go around. Romantic love, familial love, love of creating, love of creation, love of working, love of living, love of others, love for God.

So what is it that causes so many of us to choose to live without love, or at least to live with so little of it, anyway? We play around the edges, we flirt with it, and we think about it. We want to give and receive love … but when love comes around it’s off to the shadows.

Too costly
Too dangerous
Too demanding
Too painful
Too, too, too

My studies and experiences of the human condition is that people typically live out of fear, rather than love. Look at what drives and informs so many of our decisions: fear of rejection, fear of exposure, fear of not fitting in, fear of loneliness, fear of losing, fear of doing without, fear of being wrong, fear of doing wrong, fear of being laughed at, fear, fear, fear. Here we are, created by and for love, choosing to live in fear … or at least choosing to keep our distance from an all-out-love for God, love for others, love of life. What’s up with that?

Yet each man kills the thing he loves

By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!

Some kill their love when they are young,
And some when they are old;
Some strange with the hands of Lust,
Some with the hands of Gold;
The kindest use a knife, because
The dead so soon grow cold.
Oscar Wilde, Ballad of Reading Jail

“Some kill their love when they are young.”

A couple of years ago a man I hadn’t heard from in 30 years sent me an email. I didn’t remember his name when I first saw it, but I remembered the counseling session as he described it. He had the Love of His Life who felt the same toward him. The fly in the ointment was Dad: he didn’t like the girl. At the time the young man was around 25 and dead set on attaining his dad’s approval. Admirable, to a point, but, as I pointed out, he was going past the point of honorable intentions into the land of juvenile fear. It’s a long painful story that ended with the young lady moving on with her life—without him.

The subject of his email? “I am 55 years old and still basing my decisions on fear of a father who has been dead for 10 years.” Sad. But at least he is waking up.

What is love? 'Tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What's to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies not plenty …
Shakespeare, Sonnet 91

Love is now. Love lives in the moment, is experienced in the moment. The “plenty” that love can bring is lost by delay: delaying to decide, to act, to embrace, to move, to experience love’s fullness rather than shying away, unsure and fearful, running back to the familiar, the safe, the known.

This is getting too long for a single post! Let me think some more about this and will finish the thought here later in the week.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Absolutely incredible. The boy's sense of rhythm and musicality is stunning.

Around 2 minutes in the Conductor has a problem with his nose, which is a crack up.

At the end, when he starts laughing and clapping and rolling on the ground, he has the same experience I had when I first heard Beethoven when I was around 9 years old: pure joy.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Elusive Voice

In my work as an executive coach and corporate trainer, one of the most frequent angst that I encounter in others has to do with “calling.”

“Am I doing what I am meant to be doing? It sure doesn’t feel like it.”

“I am good at this job, but it is not fulfilling. There is no sense of fulfilling my destiny.” (Note: I hear this from both spiritual and non-spiritual people.)

“I am a slave to my salary, benefits, and health insurance.”

“I am 50 years old and I still wonder what I am going to do when I grow up.”

Your Calling
The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word “vox”: Voice. This is where we derive the idea of a Calling.

Most of us want to be engaged in a Calling, not a job. We want meaningful labor, not drone-like activity. Gratefully, living in a relatively free country, we are at liberty to seek out such work.

For some reason, however, Callings are elusive. Part of the problem for some people is that they are waiting for a Clear Voice or Sign, such as St Paul experienced on the road to Damascus. However, this is NOT the norm. For most people such clarity comes gradually, over a long period of time.

Sometimes, you start out as a General Practitioner: you do this, that, and the other. You gradually discover that you are good at this, hate that, but only find meaningfulness in the other. A dawning then occurs. The whisper of a voice is heard … a voice that seems to be calling us in a certain direction.

At other times, we may wake up at 65 years old, look back at four different careers, and, Shazam, we hear it! What we experienced as four different paths is now seen as having had a single thread running through them all. “So THAT is my Calling!”

For some people, their job is what pays the bills, but their charity work or community service is their Calling. While some discover how to wed the two, others do not.

There is nothing essentially wrong with working at a job for money. St Paul did this when he became a tentmaker, didn’t he? The money he made from his business was used to support his Calling.

The challenge with a job is that they are rarely all that fulfilling. I understand that, given today’s economy, many people would be glad to have even a frustrating job! My point is that when comparing a job to a Calling there is a world of difference.

Of course, a career is better than a job: at least when it comes to a sense of satisfaction with your labor. With a career, there is a field you have chosen to specialize in and a path moving ever upward that you are following. However, if the path ceases moving upward with more and more challenges and rewards, it can become almost as unfulfilling as a job.

Answering the Question
As I see it, the concept of Calling, is an answer to the question, “Why am I here? What is the purpose of my existence?” For the majority of us, I don’t think the answer to such a critical question can be answered a minute or two after asking it!

What are my highest and most sacred values?

What are my gifts and talents? (What has always come easy to me?)

Who are my heroes? What do most of them have in common?

What makes you angry: not ticks you off or aggravates you, but makes you
angry? Poverty? Injustice? Ignorance? Self-destruction? People who are suffering from curable diseases?

This last question may be new and possibly even troubling for some of you. However, when you think about it, if, for example, one of your highest values is Justice, then injustice is going to make you angry, eh? Now, if many of your heroes are lawyers and judges and crusaders against injustice … hey, isn't this telling you something about yourself that may help you discover your Calling?

Consider this quote by Abraham Kuyper:

When principles that run against your deepest conviction begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become a sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your conviction bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.

Something is terribly wrong: you see it, you hear it, you sense it. When you begin answering the question, “What am I going to do about it?” you just may be hearing a Voice … or at least a whisper of a Voice.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2010

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Following the Tides

There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.

Shakespeare, Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3

This passage has haunted me, ever since High School.

“What if I miss the tide? What if my eyes are not sufficiently trained to see ebb and flow?”

Then, seeing that I had missed an outgoing tide, the debilitating self-doubts and condemnation.

“What would have happened had I taken the tide, rather than choosing to stay in the relative safety of the lagoon? IDIOT!”

“I thought—‘I must stay in the lagoon with him/her/them … I will hate myself if I go out with that tide, leaving them behind.’ Now I see the truth: I sold myself—and them—short.”

“I thought—‘I don’t feel peace about that tide … ‘ Now I realize that, as with all momentous decisions, there is some discomfort.”

“I wanted to take that tide but those I thought wiser than I told me it would lead to pain and suffering. Now? I see they had their own agendas and plans for my life: plans that made them happy, but left me longing for the tide I had missed.”

Plans, Agendas, and Expectations
It is wise to plan for the future: to craft your budget, create a map for your career path with timelines, etc. Creating strategies for getting to where you want to go is critical for success. HOWEVER –

Do you know anyone older than 40 who is exactly where he planned on being, doing what he planned on doing when he was 20? Go read books about the creation and growth of some large corporations. Note how not one of them ever created a long-term strategy that actually worked out as planned. A Tide unexpectedly arrived and … whoosh, off they went!

Markets change. Shift happens. Better ideas emerge. The Tide takes you in a direction you had not foreseen.

The challenge of plans, strategies and the agenda of others, is that they can easily place blinders on our eyes, blinders that keep us from seeing the Tide.

Of course, sometimes we see or sense the Tide we want to take, but the circumstances are such that this Tide must be taken with others—a new relationship, a different orientation for our team, an alternate route for the business. However much you are convinced that this is the right or wise course to take, if he/she/they do not agree, you can’t head out to sea. Painful? You bet. But my focus here is where the choices are yours to make.

Learning the Ways of the Tides
Discerning the Tides is an art, more than it is a science. Here we are moving in the realm of inspiration, serendipity (providence), and intuition.

Watching for the Tide of opportunity is not like following a map. There is no “Take this road for 2 miles, then turn right at that intersection …” In watching for Tides, we are looking out for signs, hints, and symbols.

The Lord whose oracle is in Delphi neither indicates clearly nor conceals but gives s sign. Heracleitus

What may a “sign” of a coming Tide look like … sound like … feel like?

Over the past year, you have felt a deep sense of frustration over your job. One day you are reading a biography and there is an incident that occurs in the story that rings a bell in you soul—there is something here for you: maybe wisdom, maybe inspiration … you aren’t sure exactly what it is, but it sticks with you.

A week later, you are having lunch with a friend who shares with you something about her life that, strangely enough, has the same ring to it as the one you heard while reading the biography. Only in this scenario, you sense that your journey is similar to hers in some way that is important, or should be anyway. She did something that was new and attractive to you … but you can't get your head around exactly what it is.

And then—a month later—you hear about a job opportunity that, up until today, you would never have considered. It isn’t on your map. Or is it? You can almost hear the crashing of the waves, smell the sea: it reminds you of the story you read, of the actions taken by your friend. And – whoosh! Off you go. Or not. It’s your choice.

No, it wasn’t on the map. No, it wasn’t part of your plans. It is the way of life, however-- the Way of the Tides.

Remember the words of St James: Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow.

Go ahead and make your plans. Keep in mind, however, that you do not know what tomorrow will bring. Stay open to the signs. Pay attention to your intuition. Follow the inspiration … all the way to the outgoing Tide and the open sea.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Gordon Gekko Was (Almost) Right!

Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.
Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas, in the movie, WALL STREET

Gotch’ya! Title is a tease. Most everyone reading this would disagree with Gordon. Why? Because we know by experience and history that greed ultimately bankrupts individuals, corporations and nations because it is blinded by the lure of immediate gain, at any and all costs.

Greed is stupid. It is so blinded by the prospect of immediate reward that it fails to take into account what will be lost. And, what, you ask, will be lost?

“Here it comes. This is where Monte is going to hold-forth on the priceless nature of virtue.”

Well … kind of … but probably not in the way you think.

Greed is stupid because it is not in your best self-interest. Not in the long run, anyway.

Think about it. When my greed drives me to cross over the ethical boundary of, say, Do Not Lie (con, commit fraud, inflate figures, etc.), I may experience immediate rewards, but at what cost to my reputation? Who is going to want to do business with me in the future? How much money am I going to lose in the future because of this? And what about my reputation with friends and family, people whose evaluations and opinions deeply matter? And what of my relationship to my self? What damage have I done to my soul?

When I lie about my co-workers so as to place myself higher up on the corporate food chain, I am setting myself up for a future fall. Sooner or later one of those “idiots I so easily climbed over” is going to see to it that I am exposed: probably by sawing off the rung upon which my feet are standing. Worse yet, can I honestly think the Powers That Be will not see me in a less-than favorable light?

All of us act according to our self-interest. Not all of us, however, think about our long-term self-interests. Yes, even those of you who are spiritual act in your self-interest. For example, you “deny self” because of the value you place on the reward (God’s pleasure, favor and blessings) for having done so. In other words, you believe it is in your long-term/eternal best interest to make certain sacrifices. You who place great value on devotion to the welfare of others do so because it makes you feel good about yourself—you are “happy” because it is of value to you to behave in such a manner.

I place “happy” in quotation marks because I am not referring to momentary chuckles.

Sometimes my long-term happiness requires that I endure the pain of sacrificing B, because it was best for me to attain A. You may want B, but you want A more.

B. Eat a healthy scrumptious meal
A. Fast for the sake of spiritual or mental clarity

B. Buy some needed clothes
A. Save money for children’s education

B. Get a good night’s sleep
A. Sit with a friend who is ill

B. Have time for recreation
A. Go to night school three nights a week and Saturdays so as to provide more opportunities for advancement in your career

Getting back to Gekko …
The reason I wrote that Gordon was “almost” right, was because, today, when people use the word “greed,” quite often they are actually referring to “self-interest.”

There is nothing wrong or immoral about wanting to prosper. Wealth is not a sign of or synonym for Greed. As John Wesley (the pious founder of Methodism) said about money, “Gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” You can neither save nor give money, however, until you have gained some of it!

There is nothing intrinsically immoral about seeking to take care of your self-interests. The question is, how do I go about fulfilling those interests so that I remain healthy (physically, psychologically and, if you are so inclined, spiritually), prosperous and happy over the course of my life … and, if you believe in God, throughout eternity,

Of course, today, when people seek to look out for their self-interests those who intend to make others sacrificial lambs call them Greedy. Remember: wherever there is a sacrifice there is someone collecting the benefit of that sacrifice. If you believe that it is in your long-term interest to choose to sacrifice time/energy/money for the sake of another, the sacrifice is a free-will offering. When someone demands the sacrifice, however, we are moving into the territory of slavery.

Consider the recent charges against The Wealthy by some politicians and ask yourself:

Why is it virtuous for Government officials to seek more and more power, but an act of greed when a corporation does the same thing?

Why is it that money found in Government coffers is Good, but in my hands it is a sign of Greed?

Why is it virtuous to demand that people sacrifice more and more of their money to the Government, but greedy for a businessman to make a profit for his labor and want to keep most of that profit? Frankly, I do not believe there is a single corporation in the US as greedy as our Government.

Anyway …

This nation was founded upon what our forefathers believed to be our inalienable rights … rights that come from God, not the Government. These rights include “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”: your life, your liberty, and your happiness.

Don’t accept the premise that guarding your inalienable rights is immoral. The fact is that it is the most moral thing you can do, as doing so is an act of stewarding the life and gifts God gave you. Or so I believe.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2010