Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category
While I would prefer to avoid the news of the day, co-hosting “Above The Fray” podcast twice a week and writing to this blog requires that I keep up on what’s happening, which includes not only reading news sites and other blog posts but also the comments that accompany them. The comments give insight into what the readers are thinking but also into what the manipulators are orchestrating.
Lately both the news, and the comments that accompany it, have become disturbing for two reasons: extreme intolerance and escalating hate. Both should be an alarm of sorts…warning us that something, or someone, is fueling the flames of conflict and division. We had better be alert to where it will lead and what precipitous actions we may be deliberately manipulated into taking out of fear.
Itâ€™s probably safe to say there are very few people who do not sense impending trouble. While no one is certain whether it will be by way of the economy, terror, war or natural disaster… something is definitely brewing. As with the onset of a storm, itâ€™s as visceral as rapidly dropping barometric pressure. We feel it… without knowing what the it is.
“It” has many disguises but only one name: Evil.
In Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, it is taught that Satan is nothing more than doubt. Doubt that God exists. Doubt that God is good. Doubt in the healing, uniting and miraculous power of the Divine. For once you doubt God, your world becomes a breeding ground for evil. In a world of duality, in the absence of “good (read “God”) a space is created in which its opposite “evil” (read Satan”) can occupy.
I’m not saying that simply believing in God is the way to oppose a market crash, ISIL, war or an earthquake. What I am saying is that when you believe in a powerful, loving and engaged force, God, you tend to live more in joy than in fear. So that when a crisis arises, you are in a better mental and emotional state to be pro-active rather than being fearfully re-active.
Now, while I’m not sure how Gandhi did it with the British Empire, I have seen it work.
I once knew an Orthodox Rabbi from New York who was perpetually happy. He had the spirit of a playful child. He commuted two weekends a month by bus from New York to Southern New Jersey to officiate Sabbath ceremonies for a small Jewish community. He usually took a return bus to New York late Saturday night after the Sabbath ended which got him into the City after dark. He would then walk to his apartment several blocks away from the bus station.
One evening, as he began to walk home from the station, a gang of black youths began to follow him. The further he walked the more they gained speed until they caught up and surrounded him. They began to taunt him, making fun of his attire and his beard. True to his spirit, he remained joyful and smiling no matter what they said to him. Finally, one of the gang members pulled out a knife. It was pretty clear what their intentions were. But at that moment, when almost anyone else might have been terrified, the Rabbi began to sing and dance, trying to engage one of the gang members to dance with him! The youths were so incredulous that when one of them said, “This guy is crazy! Let’s get out of here” they all ran.
The Rabbi wasn’t crazy. Nor was he acting. He was living his life as he always did, joyful in his faith in God. The youths, who lived lives absent God, knew only how to have a fearful reaction. Perhaps the story is the microcosm of what Gandhi was able to do in the macrocosm. I’m not certain.
But if trouble is on the horizon, in whatever form, we would be wise to hold fast to belief and trust in the invincibility of faith over doubt, good over evil, and God over the forces that inhabit our world when we fail to remember where we came from, who we are, why we are here and who, precisely, has your back.
Someone once asked what caused me to dedicate myself to encouraging and inspiring others to be the best they can be. I had to think about that question for a day or so before I was able to land on a reply that felt grounded in truth. The answer takes a little biblical analysis and some personal history to understand.
In describing the birth of Isaacâ€™s twin sons, Esau and Jacob, Genesis 25:25 states: “Now the first came forth, red all over like a hairy garment; andÂ Â Â Â they named him Esau.â€ In Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, it teaches that Esau was â€œred all overâ€ because he was filled with the desire for blood and all things material. In fact, Esau grew up to sell his birthright as the firstborn (he was the firstborn of the twins) to his brother in exchange for a bowl of soup following an act of murder.
We always have choice. This is the blessing of Free Will. Esau, too, had a choice. Kabbalah goes on to teach that with his lust for blood, Esau could have grown up to become, for example, a butcher thereby satisfying his lust. Instead, he grew to become a murderer.
My personal story is this. Growing up, my sister always told me I was a selfish person. Perhaps I was whether I had reason to be or not. But if that was my nature, I too had choice as to how I was going to live out that nature.Â At some point in my life, I realized that what gave me the most satisfaction was not acquiring material possessions or making money but rather when I helped someone believe in their highest potential, supported them in moving one step closer to their heartâ€™s desire or came to the aid of an injured animal.
So, my choice was simple once I had the realization. I could either spend my life satisfying only myself in pursuit of outward goals that society said brought happiness, or I could spend it helping people and animals to have their best life. Both ways would have been consistent with my nature. The only difference was the level or frequency of how I would actualize my self-satisfaction.
As we approach mid-term elections and the 2016 Presidential election that follows, Republicans will tell you to vote Republican to save the Nation from Democratic policies and control. Democrats will implore you to vote Democrat to save us from disaster should Republicans take the Senate. Libertarians will implore you to vote Libertarian to rescue us from governmental encroachment upon our civil liberties.Â Green Party advocates will implore you to vote Green to save the planet. In 2016, as in 2008, we will be inundated with new versions of hope and change.
But as with Esau and me, there is only our nature and understanding how to use it to the highest good that real change ever occurs. There are no political solutions to what ails us. There is no â€œchange of the guardâ€ that will alter our future. Only a change in the heart of each of us will bring about the world of peace we all so desperately desire.
Butcher or Murderer?
Self-gratifier or Giver?
Warrior or Peacemaker?
Free Will. You get to decide.
I tried to commit suicide at age 24 and came frighteningly close to succeeding…if success is ever the right word to use in such situations. As such, I have a lot to say about Robin Williams, not because I knew him but because I know exactly how he was thinking and feeling when he made the decision to try.
I would first say to those who would second guess his motives, his financial situation or his degree of â€œselfishnessâ€ as I have heard it referred to: DONâ€™Tâ€¦ unless, of course, youâ€™ve been to the point of consciously, albeit irrationally, trying to die by your own hand.
Itâ€™s not about the money, itâ€™s not about the fame, itâ€™s not about the lack or excess of anything other than feeling. Itâ€™s about feeling too much in a world that does not have enough love or compassion. Itâ€™s about living a lie and becoming the comic, the drama queen, the rebel, the alcoholic, or the workaholic in order to harden you sufficiently to withstand all the insensitivity, separation and denial.
Iâ€™m not a big proponent of medicating depression. In fact, I was coming off of anti-depressants when I used those same pills to try to kill myself. And, while one of the first thoughts I recall having upon surviving the attempt was what hell I had put my family through, it never entered my mind at the moment I made the decision. You see, when the pain gets bad enough and the fog gets thick enough, the realization that you have finally figured out a way to stop the suffering seems like a relief and that single realization takes precedent over anything resembling rational thought.
When a person tries to commit suicide, they donâ€™t really want to die. Theyâ€™ve just misplaced hope. Hope that things can and will change. Hope that the pain will ease. Hope that the fog will lift. Hope that they will ever feel joy again. Hope that on balance, life is actually worth living through all its trials and tribulations. Hope that tomorrow, or even an hour from now, it will be possible to give and receive love again. Which is why everyone, not just people who are depressed, should sit up and pay attention to what Robin Williams was driven to do.
We are living in a world overwhelming us with so much negativity that we are losing hope. You see it in the growing apathy. Apathy unchecked leads to hopelessness. Where is the outrage and help for innocents beheaded or buried alive? Where is the outrage, and help, for the Iraqiâ€™s stranded on a mountain top? Where is the outrage and help for children being used as sex slaves and pawns in a political game? Where is the outrage for female genital mutilation as a â€œreligious” practice? Where is the outrage for corrupt, lying, greedy politicians who prosper at our expense and our decline? Where is the outrage at whatâ€™s happening on our border? Where is the outrage at what we do to animals every minute of every day in the name of science? Where is the outrage at the manipulation of our economy for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many?
I know. I know. You are tired. You are overwhelmed. You feel powerless. You are dancing as fast as you can dance. So was Robin Williams. Thatâ€™s the cautionary tale he bequeaths us.
His most important message and he brought us many through his seemingly endless creativity, is that having to feel less, or dying, is not the answer. The message of immediate importance is for each one of us to finally embark upon creating a world where kindness, cooperation, compassion and love are the norm not the aberration.
A world where feeling too much will only get you more joy.
Neither gun control, knife control nor any legislation can or will make us better people or more able to resist what is the very human inclination to misuse energy in all its forms. Tragedies, such as what occurred in Santa Barbara this week, have been part of human history for as long as that history has been passed down orally or memorialized in writing. Cain killed Abel without a gun.
Whether you believe the Torah/Old Testament as the literal word of God or only a warning of what has been human nature from time immemorialâ€¦it matters not. There is evidence as far back as humankind that we have refused to accept that life can be disappointing and others may have what we desire. Then, failing to obtain either satisfaction or those things we covet, we compound our mistaken perspective by concluding that we have the right to use violence to get what we deem to have been denied.
Whether itâ€™s a sick, tortured and delusional young man in California, neighbor against neighbor, or nation against nation the use of violence is born of the illusion of separation. The illusion that I can hurt the other without hurting me. That what I think and feel and do are limited to me and the small world in which I believe myself to be the epicenter.
Five Thousand plus years of this illusion have proven to be not only wrong but consistently and repeatedly destructive. Now, for the first time in humankindâ€™s history the capability to be thoroughly self-annihilating as a species is before us as is the means to actualize that destruction with unprecedented speed.
Free Will is what can save us from making an irreversible mistake. But exercising that will in an era of technological addiction and deliberate manipulation of human consciousness requires great courage and focus. It requires that each of us unplug from the sources and forces that would keep us enslaved to a separation mentality. It requires enough awareness to know that no political solution is uncorrupted. It requires joining the masculine, scientific mind with the feminine, compassionate heart so that balance can be restored to a species that has chosen to live under the illusion that we as individuals are helpless and need rely upon political power to accomplish miraculous deeds.
Nothing could be further from Truth.
Do not believe what you read. Do not believe what you hear. Do not believe what you see. Believe only in the knowing that you are Infinite Divine Being in action. You are a co-creator and absolutely everything you think, say and do matters.
Thereby comes the correction.
Time magazine has named Pope Francis â€œPerson of the Yearâ€ for 2013. The Popeâ€™s face graces the December edition of Time. So it begs the question, â€œWhat criteria determine their pick?â€ As far as I can ascertain, its â€œthe person who most influences or impacts the worldâ€ in the prior year.
Itâ€™s not about position or popularity, or political agenda. In fact, I recall when Time named the Ayatollah Khomeini â€œPerson of the Year.” I remember because it angered me. Yet, under Timeâ€™s stated criteria, it made sense. It was 1979 and the plight of American hostages imprisoned in a takeover of the American Embassy there by Islamic extremists relentlessly gripped the worldâ€™s attention until they were released.
This yearâ€™s pick of Pope Francis angers me also, albeit for different reasons. I am angered now as I was when Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize. Angered because these men did nothing to warrant their awards prior to receiving them. In the case of Pope Francis, he hasnâ€™t been Pope long enough, or done enough in the office, to have influenced much of anything.
Yes, he embraced a few disfigured people and he initially shunned fancy digs for more modest ones. But he also dished, just days ago, Capitalism. You know, the economic system that provides 60% of all contributions to the Catholic Church thereby allowing it to be the largest landholder in Manhattan, and the United States generally.
Really, what else has he done?
So, the award couldnâ€™t have been given based upon the stated criteria, just as the Nobel Peace Prize couldnâ€™t have been given Barack Obama for creating peace. In both instances, the choice of those men was, and remains, an affront to every thinking person. Whatever the rationale behind Timeâ€™s choice, it wasnâ€™t about the person who most influenced or impacted the world in 2013 because that simply does not apply to Pope Francis.
The selection committee of Time Magazine has an agenda. I donâ€™t profess to know what it is. What I do know for certain is that each day that passes by trust in the media withers away.Â Instead of maintaining the honorable position of â€œThe Fourth Estateâ€ they have been corrupted becoming deceitful and manipulative.
This reality is just the latest reason why, in a world of rapid change and power struggles, thinking for yourself is the surest guarantee that you will remain your own Person of The Year rather than become enslaved to someone elseâ€™s agenda.
They want us divided. No, this isnâ€™t a conspiracy post. Itâ€™s an epiphany.
You know the old saying, â€œUnited we stand, divided we fall?â€ Well, itâ€™s old. Very old. It goes back to Aesop, the Ancient Greek story teller who lived between 620 and 654 B.C. Maybe itâ€™s older than that. I suspect it is because it holds a fundamental secret that is the difference between destruction and survivalâ€¦between lack and prosperity.
Iâ€™d been thinking about the seeming deterioration of race relations in this country over the past few years and wondering what was the impetus? The more I thought about it the more I decided that there really is no racial deteriorationâ€¦just the promotion of a false sense of one by the media and others who have more to gain, and more to retain, by our division than by our unification.
After 9/11 we saw what we were made of. We experienced our connection and our love for one another. We each know that we are all One in humanity. We know it and we exhibit it whenever we are called upon to do soâ€¦and sometimes even when we are not. But we each feel insecure and alone in some ways as well. Maybe itâ€™s just the impermanence of life as we know it that gives us a feeling of unease that is so easy to exploit.
And exploit our insecurity they do.
Those of us on a spiritual or God-focused path know that we are at a tipping point of understanding from deep within our hearts such as the world has never seen. And those who would rather that awakening not occur will do everything and anything in their power to make certain we do not get there. The tool most within their power is division by way of fear.Â Therefore, in order to to strengthen their grip on humanity and retain the positions of power they have cheated, lied and stolen to achieve, they are pulling out the â€œbig gunsâ€â€¦figuratively and literally. War is on the horizon. Whether its nation against nation in the Middle East or black against white in the West. Divide and conquer.
Gandhi had it right. So did Martin Luther King. We, the People, can overcome. But our only hope is the acknowledgement of our Oneness and the expression of that knowing through Love. Without it we remain divided. And divided we fall.
Let each of us be the change we wish to see in the world, as Ghandi admonished. Let us be loving and truthful in our daily dealings with those we encounter. Let us not perpetuate the worst of humankind by being part of it.
I have a Catholic friend who just returned from Amstedam where she visited The Anne Frank House. She asked me, “How could people do that to one another?” “They forgot there is only One of Us and that we’re born for the sole purpose of remembering that single, life altering fact” was my reply.
Remember now. Unite now. Love now.
I am a Jew. As such, I have heard the refrain â€œNever Forgetâ€ my entire life in relation to the Holocaust. Like other Jews, I always took it as a caution to be aware that under the right conditions, it could happen again. To the Jews. But as I hear and see what is happening to Christians in the Middle East and particularly in Egypt, I fully understand that the admonition goes far beyond we Jews. It is a mantra that every compassionate human being must recite because we, as a species, remain capable of horrific persecution and devastating destruction.
In the moment that perverse banner is being carried by the Muslim Brotherhood as they seek to exploit the political unrest in Egypt by scapegoating Christians, burning their churches, looting their places of business, raping their women and executing them simply because they are seen carrying a bible.
There is not a Jew alive whose stomach should not turn and whose body should not feel a chill at the familiarity of these events. Been there. Done that.
So what is the issue? The issue is, â€œDo we as Jews have the courage to stand in solidarity with Christians of the Middle East?â€ â€œDo we as Americans retain yet enough of what has made us a beacon of light throughout our history to now shine that light on the atrocities being inflicted upon Christians?â€ â€œAre we as humans still able feel the pain of others who, though outwardly different from us, are inwardly the essence of who we truly are?â€
There is only One of Us. Today, we are all Coptic Christians.
I have never understood how so much of the world sat silently by and turned a blind eye while Hitler and the disease called National Socialism embarked upon its campaign of annihilation. I am sad to say that I have begun to understand it.Â Today, the silence of our media and paralysis of our Administration are eerie portents of what may follow.
We are each responsible not for the carnage being inflicted upon Christians in Egypt, but for our silence in the face of it. God help the Muslim Brotherhood extremists who are looting, burning raping and murdering.
But who will help the silent?
Few words in the English language make me as uncomfortable as the word â€œappeasement.â€ Thatâ€™s because it conjures images of Neville Chamberlain, train tracks and ovens. So, when tonight I heard talk radio host Glenn Beck use the word appeasement in the context of the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, I sat up and took notice. I reacted as I did because that one word instantly brought into focus all that is occurring around us.
Energy, finances and Wahhabism are the 21st century trinity. You probably know about the U.S.- Saudi oil dependent relationship. You may even know that Saudi investment and ownership in U.S. companies and enterprises includes such holdings as 60% of Citibank and $20 million gifts each to Georgetown and Harvard Universities to buy Departmental Chairs and influence curriculum. The list is endless and the sums of money (read â€œinfluenceâ€) are staggering.
But did you know that Saudi Arabia is the largest source of funding for terrorism in the world? Or that Wahhabism is the dominant form of Islam in Saudi Arabia? Or that it’s “a religious movement among fundamentalist Islamic believers that seeks to return to the earliest fundamental sources of the Quran”? It teaches the worst kind of hatred and spawns terror against all non-Muslim people and beliefs. It has schools in the United States teaching, for example, that Muslims should not only “always oppose” infidels “in every way”, but “hate them for their religion â€¦ for Allah’s sake”, that “democracy” is responsible for all the horrible wars of the 20th century”, and that Shia and certain Sunni Muslims were infidels.â€
We have turned a blind eye towards the destructive relationship that has evolved with Saudi Arabia. While this Administration is not the first to be complicit in this, it is the one history will charge with being most like the despised Neville Chamberlain who appeased the enemy.
Today we are not witness to the final destination of train tracks but rather to beheading and suicide bombers. And as with the most recent attack in Boston, we again hear voices from those in power who deny the truth (â€œthereâ€™s no such thing as Islamic terrorismâ€) and conspire with the enemy to conceal it (Janet Napolitano lying to Congress about the immanent â€œvoluntaryâ€ deportation of Boston terror attack likely co-conspirator Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi).
Whether the Nazis or the Saudis, selling your soul to Evil in exchange for anything is but an illusion. Evil make no deals from which it does not emerge the victor having consumed the vanquished.
Our only hope is to courageously stand for what is right and true albeit it difficult.Â My prayer is that there are enough of us willing to do just that before we find ourselves out of options.
I understand why Jesus smashed the tables in the Temple courtyard. I could smash a few myself. There simply comes a time when enough is enough. When every rational and civil attempt to right the wrongs has failed.
– Members of Congress have gone home for Christmas. Really?
– The President and his family are vacationing in Hawaii. Really?
– Weâ€™re told weâ€™re in an economic recovery and should believe the numbers… not our personal experience. Really?
– Congress has a better healthcare plan that the rest of us. Really?
– Sasha and Malia have guards with guns to protect them at school. Really?
– The children of many Congressman and Senators go to private schools with enhanced security. Really?
– In 2000, then President Bill Clinton requested $60 million in federal funding for a program called “COPS in Schools” that does exactly what the NRA has now proposed and which the media is currently mocking. Really?
There is such a thing as righteous anger. Righteousness, as I define it, is the “rightful use of energy.” When energy is properly utilized and directed so that both the intent and the outcome are in alignment with eliminating that which is diseased and corrupted, then such use is necessary.Â As our “leaders” vacation and provide themselves with exceptions, exemptions, protections and perks unavailable to the rest of society, I am reminded of Nero fiddling while Rome burned.
At the moment I have but one prayer:Â “Please, God, show me the way to the tables.”
A Palestinian terrorist breaks into the home of an Isreali woman asleep with her two children. He is wielding a knife and a pipe. His intentions are clear. Absent a miracle, the horrific scene from Itamar where the Fogel family was slaughtered in their sleep will be repeated. I am uncertain whether this qualifies as a miracle or just good defensive planningâ€¦but the mother, Yael Matzpun, trained in Krav Maga (an Israeli defense technique) battles her attacker, secures him in a bathroom, and calls for help. Upon trying to escape the bathroom window while refusing to put down his weapons, the terrorist is killed by the arriving IDF forces.
I have a few politically incorrect questions.
2. What is wrong with a culture/religion that breeds such men, labels them martyrs and celebrates their atrocities?
3. How amoral or blind has the worldwide media become that it sees no distinction, or lacks the courage to articulate, the difference between the basic humanity of these two societies?
If you approach it like a quiz, the answers are 1) there are none; 2) it is perverse; and 3) very amoral and cowardly.
There comes a time when those with eyes to see and ears to ear are called upon to use their voices to speak truth to power. We are living in such times. The world should cease deluding itself while labeling terrorists as freedom fighters. Both use violence to achieve their ends but that is where the commonality stops.
Freedom fighters seek autonomy and a free society. Terrorists seek death and total destruction using fear as their means of achieving it. The people living in Gaza have an autonomous society (Hamas is their â€œdemocraticallyâ€ elected government) that is free of Jews. It is not enough because neither freedom nor autonomy are their goals. Their goal is murdering every Jew until none remain then obliterating the Jewish homeland.
The terrorist who broke into the Matzpun home to carry out Hamasâ€™ mission is where he belongs; Yael Matzpun is a hero whose children are alive as I write this because she knows who she is dealing with; and I have called it as I see it.
To hell with political correctness.