Tag Archives: religion

Joseph Campbell

One of my favorite minds is that of the late Joseph Campbell.  I’ve been reading him a bit lately in an attempt to quiet my mind, as I find his writings have a hypnotic quality.  While I think he got it wrong quite a lot, his ideas were fascinating.  His catch phrase was, “Follow your bliss.”  Campbell explored the nature and history of mythology and the role it plays in the human psyche.  Myth, or religion if you prefer, is often regarded as a primitive thing, unnecessary in today’s world, almost laughable under the microscope of science, and maybe even damaging to the all-consuming notion of progress.  As a romantic, Campbell went so far as to declare myth as necessary and science as mythic.  I dearly love science, but it is difficult to find meaning and fulfillment exclusively in science.  Any sort of attempt to derive meaning from it automatically puts an almost mythical spin on it, or at least a plainly subjective one.  Which gets me to thinking….

It’s a fascinating thought that in the not too distant future, much of what we regard as concrete science today will be rebutted.  History has a funny way of getting science wrong.  Ah, but we think we are immune because now have technology and we apply the scientific method…but even a cursory glance over the history of anatomy, medicine, biology, astronomy, etc. demonstrates that science is continually rewritten, and a backward glimpse into history shows how saturated these fields were with their then-contemporary social ideologies.  Today, a look at the news shows that scientific studies are in a constant cycle of being confirmed and refuted.  Much of the knowledge we can timidly count on being ceaselessly accurate is actually mathematically rooted, and mathematics is very different from science in that it doesn’t really change.  Sure, we still make new mathematical discoveries, but old formulas always stick around.  It’s a far purer field than science.  I love the idea that science reveals our shortcomings as much as our advances.  It shows how really human we are, that we’re constantly evolving, even though it’s rarely in linear fashion.

 Campbell wrote, “With our old mythologically founded taboos  unsettled by our own modern sciences, there is everywhere in the civilized world a rapidly rising incidence of vice and crime, mental disorders, suicides and dope addictions, shattered homes, impudent children, violence, murder, and despair”…his point being that the role of myth is indespensable to humankind because it gives meaning and quality to life, and we’ve lost sight of it a little.  Myth is broad enough that it can embrace art, ceremony, literature, wisdom, dreams, fantasy, poetry, philosophy, and the other things that are the real meat to life.  It lets us know that we are all part of the same human race occupying the same planet, and maybe our differences aren’t so great.  At least, that’s what I get from it.  We’re all in this together.

“Each knight entered the forest at a point he had chosen, where it was darkest and there was no way or path.”  Campbell said this in reference to the legend of King Arthur.  The knights found their way through the forest by questing, which he said is how we all ought to live, making the most of our unique gifts rather than following a path already carved out by others before us.  Follow your bliss…interesting conception.

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Men in Uniform…In Church

I love seeing men in uniform come to church.  Sometimes they come to morning mass on their way to work, or sometimes they stop by on Saturday night on their way home.  Whether they are military, police, firefighters, or paramedics, it always moves me to see these people who serve the public take a moment out of their day to observe their faith.  Observing them in the communion line amid the people they serve evokes strong emotion, and reminds me how appreciative I am for the work they do.  Sometimes I get a little uneasy if it is an officer with a firearm, but I never know if maybe they’re on duty and must keep it on, and I don’t really know the protocol for guns in church anyway.  So…a sincere thank you to all the public service providers who contribute so much of themselves so that the rest of us are safeguarded.

(Quick disclaimer on the sex…I haven’t seen a female in uniform in church before, but the same standard would, of course, apply.) 

police-3.jpg  police.jpg

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Tao: Take Care in Who You Are, Part 3

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Patience: Who can be still until the mud settles and the water is clear?  Can you remain unmoving until right action occurs by itself?

The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment.  For only those who  are not full are able to be used, which brings the feeling of completeness.  Not seeking, not expecting, she is present, and can welcome all things.

Replenishing: The space between Heaven and Earth is like a bellows; it is empty, yet has not lost its power.  The more it is used, the more it produces; the more you talk of it, the less you comprehend.

Return to the Source: All creatures in the universe return to the point where they began.  Returning to the source is tranquility, because we submit to Heaven’s mandate….Not submitting to Heaven’s mandate is the source of evil deeds because we have no roots.  When you realize where you come from, you naturally become tolerant, disinterested, amused, kindhearted as a grandmother, dignified as a king.  Immersed in the wonder of the Tao, you can deal with whatever life brings you, and when death comes, you are ready.

Self-Mastery: Knowing others is intelligence; knowing oneself is true wisdom.  Mastering others is strength; mastering oneself is true power.  Those who know they have enough are truly wealthy.  Those who persist will reach their goal.  Those who keep their course have a strong will.  Those who embrace death will not perish, but will have life everlasting.

Simplicity: Embrace simplicity; put others first.  Desire little.

Stillness: Nature uses few words: when the gale blows, it will not last long; when it rains hard, it lasts but a little while.  Who causes these to happen?  Heaven and Earth.

Knowing when you have enough avoids dishonor, and knowing when to stop will keep you from danger and bring you a long, happy life.

Surrender : It is easier to carry an empty cup than one that is filled to the brim.  The sharper the knife, the easier it is to dull.  The more wealth you possess, the harder it is to protect.  Pride brings its own trouble.  When you accomplish your goal, simply walk away.  This is the pathway to Heaven.

Temperance: For governing a country well, there is nothing better than moderation.  The mark of a moderate man is freedom from his own ideas.  Tolerant like the sky, all-pervading like sunlight, firm like a mountain, supple like a tree in the wind, he has no destination in view and makes use of anything life happens to bring his way.  Nothing is impossible for him.  Because he has let go, he can care for the people’s welfare as a mother cares for her child.

Tolerance: The master doesn’t take sides; she welcomes both saints and sinners.

Trust: If you don’t trust the people, they will become untrustworthy.

Wisdom: I see my reflection in every particle of dust.  Even the mountain has my face.  The bird ruffles my feathers and the spider spins my web.  Who can sense the loneliness of a parrot in a cage?  Who can feel the slow passion of a snail?  Only the true sage in total harmony with the Tao.

Wu Wei: The gentlest thing in the world overcomes the hardest thing in the world.  That which has no substance enters where there is no space.  This shows the value of non-action.

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Tao: Take Care in Who You Are, Part 2

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Forbearance: When people see some things as beautiful, ugliness is created.  When people see some things as good, evil is created.

Freedom from Desire: Colors blind the eye.  Sounds deafen the ear.  Flavors make the palate go stale.  Too much activity weakens the mind.  Too much wealth causes crime.Where there is no desire, all things are at peace.Desire is the fuel of the ego.  You will never find your true self as long as this fire burns in you.  Even the desire to be virtuous will corrupt you in the end.  True goodness comes from emptiness, where thinking has stopped and the fire has been extinguished.

Harmony (Yin and Yang): All things carry Yin yet embrace Yang.  They blend their life breaths in order to produce harmony.

Humility: Because she isn’t self-centered, people can see the light in her.  Because she does not boast of herself, she becomes a shining example.  Because she does not glorify herself, she becomes a person of merit.  Because she wants nothing from the world, the world cannot overcome her.The great view the small as their source, and the high takes the low as their foundation.  Their greatest asset becomes their humility.

Independence: Chase after money and security, and your heart will never unclench.  Care about people’s approval, and you will be their prisoner.

Inner Vision: The master observes the world but  trusts his inner vision.  He allows things to come and go.  His heart is open as the sky.

Kindness: The highest good is not to seek to do good, but to allow yourself to become it.  The ordinary person seeks to do good things, and finds that he cannot do them continually.  The kind person acts from the heart, and accomplishes a multitude of things.

Love: Love the whole world as if it were yourself; then you will truly care for all things.

Malleability: A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving.  A good artist lets his intuition lead him wherever it wants.  A good scientist has freed herself of concepts and keeps her mind open to what is.  

Modesty: The Master views the parts with compassion, because he understands the whole.  His constant practice is humility.  He doesn’t glitter like a jewel but lets himself be shaped by the Tao, as rugged and common as stone.

Non-possessiveness: Things come her way and she does not stop them; things leave and she lets them go.  She has without possessing, and acts without any expectations.  When her work is done, she forgets it.  That is why it will last forever.

Passivity: Those who rely on the Tao in governing men don’t try to force issues by force of arms.  For every force there is a counterforce; using force always leads to unseen troubles.  Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself.  War can result when no other alternative is given, so the one who overcomes an enemy should not dominate them.  The Master does his job and then stops.  Because he believes in himself, he doesn’t try to dominate others.  Because he is content with himself, he doesn’t need others’ approval.  Because he accepts himself, the world accepts him.

If peace is her true objective, how can she rejoice in the victory of war?  The death of many should be greeted with sorrow, and the victory celebration should honor those who have died.

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Tao: Take Care in Who You Are, Part 1

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 A few reflections from the Tao Te Ching….

*Simplicity, Patience, and Compassion:*

I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion.  These three are your greatest treasures.  Simple in actions and in thoughts, you return to the source of being.  Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are.  Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.

Acceptance: Do you want to rule the world and control it?  I don’t think it can be done.  The world is a sacred vessel and cannot be controlled.  You will only make it worse if you try.  Some are meant to lead, and others are meant to follow; some must always strain, and others have an easy time; some are naturally big and strong, and others will always be small; some will be protected and nurtured, and otherw will meet with destruction.  The Master accepts things as they are, and out of compassion avoids extravagance, excess, and extremes. 

Acquiescence: If you want to become whole, first let yourself become broken.  If you want to become straight, first let yourself become twisted.  If you want to become full, first let yourself become empty.  If you want to become new, first let yourself become old.  Those whose desires are few get them, those whose desires are great go astray.

Alertness: They were careful as someone crossing a frozen stream in winter; alert as a warrior in enemy territory….

    Courteousness: Courteous as a guest…. 

         Adaptability: Fluid as melting ice. Shapable as a block of wood. Receptive as a valley. 

Compassion: Thus the Master is willing to help everyone and doesn’t know the meaning of rejection.  She is there to help all of creation, and doesn’t abandon even the smallest creature.  This is called embodying the light.

Contentment: Those who try to outshine others dim in their own light.  Those who call themselves righteous can’t know how wrong they are.  Those who boast of their accomplishments diminish the things they have done.

Cooperation: The supreme good is like water, which benefits all creation without trying to compete with it.  It is content with the low places that people disdain.  Thus it is like the Tao.

Detachment: The Tao is infinite, eternal.  Why is it eternal?  It was never born; thus it can never die.  Why is it infinite?  It has no desires for itself; thus it is a present for all beings.  The Master puts herself last; and finds herself in the place of authority.  She is detached from all things; therefore she is united with all things.  She gives no thought to self.  She is perfectly fulfilled.

Direction: Can you love people and lead them without imposing your will on them?  When Heaven gives and takes away, can you be content with the outcome?  When you understand all things, can you step back from your own understanding? 

Dwelling in Emptiness: Thirty spokes are joined together in a wheel, but it is the center hole that allows the wheel to function.  We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds what is useful.  We hammer wood for a house, but it is the inner space that makes it livable.  We work with the substantial, but the emptiness is what we use.

Ease: She perceives the universal harmony, even amid great pain, because she has found peace in her heart.

Faith: Hope and fear are both phantoms that arise from thinking of the self.  When we don’t see the self as self, what do we have to fear?  Have faith in the way things are. 

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From the Buddha

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The thought manifests as the word;
The word manifests as the deed;
The deed develops into a habit;
And habit hardens into character;
So watch the thought and its’ways with care,
and let it spring from love borne out of concern for all beings…
As the shadow follows the body,
as we think so we become.

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