Think for yourself

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” – Buddha

It occurred to me while meditating on this wise counsel that we as a race have failed terribly on these points. This happens as much in secular living as it does in the psittacine rituals of the various world religions.

One of the more dramatic examples of this can be seen in the frequent repetition of the “Lord’s Prayer” by Christians around the world. While I certainly don’t fault and indeed respect their diligent reverence, I do have to wonder how many of them have read the context in which this prayer was set in the Biblical record. Both Matthew and Luke wrote about this prayer, though it is perhaps important to note that Luke was a disciple of Paul, not Jesus.

The context in which Jesus’ example of a properly framed prayer was recorded in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew as being:

[7] But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
[8] Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
[9] After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name…

“Use not vain repetitions,” He said, yet how many billions of times has that prayer been uttered automatically in just about every language spoken on earth over the last two thousand years? Not to pick on religions, the same could be said about science, culture, government and every other field of human activity. Original thought has given way to mechanical repetition. Fidelity to the spirit of the laws of being has given way to a bullheaded devotion to the letter of man’s interpretation of those laws.

It’s easy to talk about mankind in a general sense or in relation to the hindsight time affords, but what about you, here and now? On what basis do you believe in what you believe in? Do you constantly apply analysis to your observations? Do you consistently move beyond recognition into actualization and thereby live up to the highest and finest standard of which you are aware? Or do you content yourself with accepting uncritically the beliefs of others so that you will fit in or so that you don’t have to face feelings of inadequacy that keep you from stepping up and out?

The greater part of my life has been devoted to encouraging others to think for themselves that they might be free of the lemming state that keeps mankind bound in repetitive mediocrity. There is a risk in this, of course, for whenever someone is inspired but then fails to move all the way through into his own, he tends to blame and accuse the original source of his inspiration for the misery and darkness he now feels. Nevertheless, it is a risk I am willing to take. The benefit to mankind of even one person thus inspirited makes all the contempt and obloquy you will inevitably endure unquestionably worthwhile.

The biggest obstacle I’ve found is not in inspiring others, or in being inspired myself. Neither is the chief impediment for most in observing or analyzing. The stumbling block I’ve found to be most prevalent comes in relation to accepting and living up to those beliefs that you discover, recognize and have acknowledged as being consistent with the good and benefit of all.

There is a false and fleeting comfort which comes from blindly accepting the beliefs of others without thinking them through yourself. The mindless approach to living is a narcotic that can be hard to get away from as virtually everyone around you is likely addicted to it as well. That said, remember this: you may fit in, but a certain part of you – the deepest, most important and meaningful part of you – will constantly remind you that you have settled and sold yourself short. And that, dear soul, is no way to spend the precious days of your life.

The Policy of Inspiration

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The carrot and stick approach is a policy that refers to the use of rewards and punishment to effect a change in the behavior of another. I’ve seen parents, teachers, coaches, managers and even preachers use it. It’s a convenient way to get people moving, but the problem with this approach is that its effect is only temporary.

I’ve found that such alternate of choice scenarios obfuscate a more desirable, yet less obvious solution. In this case, neither carrot nor stick are sufficient to galvanize the heart and mind of a man into action. Only the fire of inspiration can do this.

Inspiration results whenever a blessing is received. That blessing might come from within or it may be delivered by the hand of another. In either case, inspiration results.

If you have to resort to motivating those in your world with a carrot or a stick, you’ve probably missed a few opportunities to inspire along the way. If those around you are unwilling to be inspired, you’ve probably not been consistently inspiring. If you had been, those who refused to accept your inspiration would likely have been repelled long ago and you’d be surrounded by those who are eager to move from being inspired to being inspiring.

It’s a magical policy, really, but one that takes diligence, patience and wise service to enact properly. The primary requirement for anyone desirous of following this policy is fidelity to the spirit of love. Nothing less will do.

Dulcet Vesper

In time of dulcet vesper
I rambled down the lane.
And listened to the whisper
Of songbirds in the rain.

I watched the raindrops falling
Through the sagging crown,
And spied the chaste fawn sprawling
Beneath the hemlock’s gown.

The moon’s soft rays did glisten
Around the dancing mist,
Thus nightfall did rechristen
My peaceful sylvan tryst.

The Celestial Spark

Darkness, utter darkness enfolded me;
Not the erie, desolate sort, but the darkness
Which only can be described as being
Darkness upon the face of the deep.

I could not see my hands before my face,
Neither could I sense movement of any kind.
The darkness was at once impenetrable and empty
Yet somehow it comforted me like a swaddled infant.

With velvety robes of nothingness draped around me
I sat quietly in the absence of anything and tarried,
Waiting expectantly in undisturbed tranquility
Like a hawk perching in silence on a moonless night.

The more intently I peered into the darkness
The less I could discern, for void is void
Empty is empty, nothing is nothing
And mind doesn’t matter absent matter.

I longed for the unmistakable impulse
Which comes only from within, the celestial spark
Thrown off the steel of an adamantine soul
When struck by heavenly flint of the seraphim.

Yet I knew I could neither demand nor insist,
For the timing was not mine to determine.
I would not insult my Creator with vain orisons
As if somehow He were my factotum, my personal Savior.

Instead I knelt as a woodsman preparing to light a fire
Ready to chase the spark with my char cloth and oakum
That no spark would be lost or missed,
For no man knows how many sparks he is to be given.

Once glowing, I breathed softly yet confidently into the cloth
Preparing all the while the tinder nest that is to give rise
To the creative fires, the blaze of originality
That makes all things new.

Cherished compeer, you are not here to smolder in mediocrity, nay,
You are here to be afire, to impassion and intensify
All that is attracted to you
When the darkness gives way to the light.

You are a marvel

Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again. And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must work, we must all work, to make the world worthy of its children.” – Pablo Casals

The world is filled with children in adult bodies who were never told by someone who cared sufficiently to say: you are a marvel. It’s a tragic state, really, one that is due for correction.

Never one to sit idly by when I perceive a need, it gives me great pleasure to say to you today: you are a marvel. You may not feel like one but I can say with absolute assurance that you are one. It may be buried under layer upon layer of bad habits, failure and missed opportunity, but it is still there. There is a needle in the haystack, a light under the bushel and I am confident that you, working smartly, can reveal the marvel that you are to the world that you center.

The best way to get started is to pass along this message. Say to a few people in your world “You are a marvel” and I promise you’ll be amazed at what begins to blossom around you.




Your True Purpose

Still more apparent does the working of this principle become when for the word ‘idea’ I substitute the word ‘purpose.’ Purpose at once suggests the notion that the person whom it actuates is in motion toward an end; and a person moving toward an end, like a rifle-ball toward a target, is less easily managed and directed than when he is standing still. Indeed, the more rapid its motion the more difficult it is to change its direction, and the less effect influences that happen to lie along its route will have upon it. Now, what momentum is in the rifle-ball purpose is in a man: it tends to hold him steadily to the track he is on; and the more vigorous the rush of intention with which he is following that track, the more it will take to retard him or derail him. Hence the more intense and engrossing a man’s purpose— if it is a purpose of good —the safer he is, and if he has no purpose of the kind he is not safe at all. Without it he is spoil for any and every diverting influence that may happen to light upon him, and of such diverting influences the air is all the time full.” – Charles H. Parkhurst

When most people articulate their purpose, they see it as relating to some pattern of outer achievement. To my mind, such purposes are valuable and contribute positively to the betterment of humanity, but true purpose relates to something deeper.

Your true purpose is less a matter of construction and more a matter of revelation. You do not necessarily reveal your true purpose by building a form to accommodate your vision, in fact, the forms you end up using in the revelation of your vision are largely incidental. The revelation of true purpose requires a fidelity to a central pattern of spirit, such as blessing, healing, forgiving, inspiring, amusing and so on.

Which spirit would you say is your central responsibility to uphold and represent, come what may? Discover that and you will never be swayed, fooled or confused again by that which seeks to distract you and keep you from being meaningful.

Inspiring Greatness

Your profession is not what brings home your weekly paycheck, your profession is what you’re put here on earth to do, with such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling.” – Vincent van Gogh

To my mind, the growth and development of people is the highest calling of a small business owner or a business manager. Every manager has lower level responsibilities, of course, which must be discharged with the least amount of effort possible to get the job done perfectly, but the highest calling of a leader is inspire those within his sphere of influence to  think more, be more and achieve more.

How such leaders go about catalyzing the greatness in others is a deeply personal, if not spiritual matter. Greatness cannot be forced, for force only results in temporary compliance. Neither does greatness typically appear unassisted, for its revelation requires the skillful overcoming of a whole host of impediments to its expression. When it comes to greatness, like treats like, that is, greatness is inspired by greatness.