Wednesday, July 19, 2017

FROZEN IN TIME


Glacial Mummies, Switzerland

The digital issue of USA TODAY this morning had a fascinating article about a Swiss couple that had disappeared without a trace almost exactly 75 years ago on August 15, 1942. A ski lift operator found their mummified bodies at the edge of a melting glacier at 8,600 feet. Items including ID papers found in a backpack led to the identification of Marcelin (40) and Francine (37) Dumoulin, the parents of seven children. Their youngest daughter Marceline who is now 79 said that the family had spent their entire lives looking for their parents and praying for their return on the glacier every August 15. The two surviving siblings can now give them a proper funeral with a deep sense of calm.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if modern science had progressed to the point today that would enable scientists to restore life to Marcelin and Francine? The thought occurred to me as I read this compelling article because I was born exactly two months after they apparently disappeared into a crevice in the glacier. My entire lifetime of watching world events unfold would enable me to be an ideal person to fill in the blanks of the past 75 years.

I would begin by telling them that the horrific world war that had begun just before they were frozen in time was eventually won on the European front primarily by overwhelming logistics and the Pacific front was ended when the world was introduced to the nuclear age with two devastating atomic bombs beyond comprehension. And now today, rogue nations have this capacity to destroy our planet. We have made great strides in technology and have even put a man on the moon. But now we have the capacity to trigger another ice age. We have eradicated many diseases, but are now vulnerable to mutations that could one day resist all our vaccines. We are depleting our natural non-renewable resources at an alarming rate and the world population is soaring. Our youth has never been exposed to a world-wide conflagration and many find no place in their life for a divine Creator. The human race does not seem to be keeping pace with the technology that hardly anyone can understand. We have mapped the basic human building blocks of DNA, but some are already crossing the ethical line of playing a dangerous game of creation. The line between good and evil still crosses the heart of every man.

But the world is still producing good people that care about this planet and future generations. We are far from self-destruction, but we need a new revival. Native Kansa Indians of my homeland prayed to the Great Spirit of the South for winds to melt the ice that gathers around our hearts with the warm breath of compassion. These natives lived a harsh but harmonious life out in God’s creation every day of their lives. They were convinced of the existence of a Great Spirit and the sacredness of the earth. They understood that we do not inherit the earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children and grandchildren. Perhaps we’ve reached a milestone in human evolution where we pause the music and relearn the lessons of being in touch with creation and our Creator.

Perhaps we can make a compelling case for restoring new life into the planet and assure a now 115-year-old Marcelin and his 112-year-old wife Francine that there is still hope.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

TIME IS LIFE


Sands of Time, Jamestown, NC

I entered the full time working world as a graduate Industrial Engineer. One of the primary objectives of this career is to optimize the cost of a product or process. That usually involves optimizing the time that it takes to produce a given deliverable. This is a discipline whose mantra states that “time is money”. Living a working life around this mantra was in opposite conflict with the need to balance my time with other priorities. In fact, I worked for a Vice President at one point that called all of us young managers into his office and noted that we all seemed to be spending too much time on the golf course. He put us on notice that if he ever heard any of us had a single digit handicap, we’d be fired. He said that somewhat jokingly, but we got the message that he expected us to be spending an inordinate amount of our waking time on the job.

The opposite point of view is adhering to a mantra that “time is life”. And "time is love". To live a balanced life, we need to be conscious of the time we clock on our job life, our family life, and our spiritual life to have a full and satisfying life. It’s important to take inventory of where we spend our time—for where we spend our time is where our heart resides.

Spiritual time includes time to be still. Time to listen to the sounds of life all around us; the sound of wind gently moving through the trees, the sound of waves rhythmically breaking onto a sandy beach, the sound of a baby’s cooing in his mother’s arms, the sound of a wren singing in the first light of day, the sound of melted snow in a mountain stream rushing over smooth stones in the spring, the summer sound of a loon’s melancholy song across a northern lake at dusk, the sound of rain drops slowly falling on a metal roof in the fall, and the lonesome sound of a train whistle on a winter’s night.

We need to pause life occasionally and shake ourselves awake to the reality of time and its precious availability to us all so that we can live it to the fullest. Each of us is born with a variable number of grains of sand in our hourglass. And the hourglass is always in motion until the last grain is spent.

Monday, July 10, 2017

STARDUST




Starry, Starry, Night, Internet Domain
Condensed Stardust, Jamestown, NC


The general theory that matter can neither be created nor destroyed seems to apply if you include energy and its photons into the equation. Matter emerged from an extraordinarily condensed mass at the instant of the Big Bang! That mass was one-trillionth the size of the period at the end of this sentence. And one thing is certain from that time on—matter is in a constant phase of transformation. The stardust was attracted by gravitational pulls that condensed into planets and stars. Matter became the basic building block for all the other diverse forms of the universe. Matter is everything around us. Atoms and molecules are all composed of matter. Matter is anything that has mass and takes up space.

I’ve read that even when we drink a glass of water, we are taking in the stardust of long forgotten ancestors along with matter that could have been manifested into any number of earthly creations. The Biblical book of Genesis relates the story of Adam and Eve, an archetypal couple of imperfect human beings representing all of us that were formed from the stardust of the earth. When our Creator confronted them for disobeying the one rule they had been asked to follow, they were destined to share a common legacy of their mortal bodies returning to that stardust at the end of their lives. The stardust is never destroyed, but transformed into something new in a creation that is never ending with each new sunrise.

Everything in this existence is subject to birth and death, being and nonbeing. Nothing of matter lasts forever in this world, except the stardust of creation. Fortunately for human beings, we were created in the image of our Creator. We are conscious mortal beings with a spirit while our Creator is already a conscious spiritual being that has created us with a soul that transcends our time on earth. When our earthly body returns to stardust, our spiritual being returns to the one consciousness of the universe. This knowing frees us of any fear of dying as we gaze in wonder at the night sky filled with a bright moon and stars beyond counting in the darkness of space.

We walk around and say we have a soul, but we do not have a soul.
We ARE a soul with a stardust body.

Heaven's Gate, NASA

MEDITATION HAIKU


Serene Sunrise, Blue Ridge Mountains, NC

Breathing in, I see,
creation’s stardust in me.
Breathing out, I smile.

Breathing in, I see,
the light of the world in me.
Breathing out, I smile.

Breathing in, I see,
all my ancestors in me.
Breathing out, I smile.

Breathing in, I see,
I am always transforming.
Breathing out, I smile.

Breathing in, I see,
there is no death and no fear.
Breathing out, I smile.

Breathing in, I see,
all the wonders of this life.
Breathing out, I smile.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

INFLUENCE OR IRRITATE


American Gothic, Columbus, OH

It’s rather alarming to observe just how polarizing America has become in recent years. This year’s presidential election was nothing short of contentious. When either side of an issue refuses to listen to one another to better understand where someone is coming from, it illustrates the height of hubris. These divisions are tearing at our social fabric.

Adam Hamilton, a Methodist minister and writer, recently noted that it’s much easier and far more productive to take the time to discuss an issue with those on the opposing side. Once we see where people are coming from we can better influence both our own position and possibly theirs. He makes the point that we can all achieve a better world if we seek to influence versus irritate those with whom we disagree. Once we see the humanity in others, we can quite probably even think differently ourselves. To ascend a ladder, we must first let go of the rung we're holding onto so that we can reach for the next one. And I'm sure that we've all learned by now that it's much easier to irritate than influence someone.

The ancient teachings of the Bible are still relevant today and it’s important that we read them through the lens of understanding God’s ultimate will for our generation. Those 66 books split into nine sections including wisdom literature were written by inspired men in ancient times through the lens of their culture. Jesus left us with the simple but profound commandant to love God and our neighbor. That acid test for all issues in life can still enable us to sort out the direction for our lives. Does our position still adhere to that one ultimate commandant?

“Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.”—Carl Jung

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

MYSTERY WOMAN


Mysterious, Charlotte, NC

As I was making my way to an airport newsstand during a long connection with my iPhone in hand, I looked up to notice a rather mysterious woman walking just ahead of me. “People watching” at airports revives the good old days in the 50’s of parking on Main Street in my hometown on Saturday afternoons with my mother and big sister and watching all the people walk by. My dad was always smart enough to be working or shooting pool with his relatives and railroad friends. Talk about excitement! That was especially entertaining during the Christmas holidays. I always fantasized about who they were and what they were up to solely by their appearance without ever knowing them!

This woman was walking rather gingerly in a pair of orange Nike clogs with a pair of nylons rolled down to her ankles. She had on a pair of very tight fitting black Yoga pants with racing strips down the sides. But what really got my attention was the bright pink and white stripe poncho over her shoulders capped off with a jaunty straw hat. As fate would have it, she also turned into the newsstand ahead of me. I couldn’t resist the impulse to quickly switch my iPhone to “camera” and snap an image for posterity.

Who was this mystery woman? Why did she choose to stand close to a fire extinguisher? Where did she come from and where was she going? If she was traveling incognito, it wasn’t working. Was she wearing sunglasses? Is she "the most interesting woman in the world"? Was she moving under the government’s secret witness program? Was she working as a mule smuggling illicit drugs into the country under that suspicious outfit? Did her checked luggage contain a secret compartment with encoded top-secret information that had the potential to destroy the civilized world as we know it? Was there a cyanide suicide pill in there in case she was outed? Did the poncho conceal a buff body that could break a concrete block in half? Was she on her way to an extreme sports competition? Did she look like Wonder Woman or the cashier at Home Depot?

Or was this just an eccentric twenty-something teacher that was on a much needed vacation from an overcrowded classroom of fifty third grade kids on her way to Puerto Vallarta? We’ll never know, but I think the poncho might offer a clue. On the other hand, perhaps judging a person strictly by their appearance might not be such a good idea…

INTERBEING




Sunflower Heart, Jamestown, NC
Camillia Heart, Jamestown, NC
Magnolia Heart, Greensboro, NC


Beauty is a mystery in its knowing, but we know it when we see it. It exhibits itself in the golden spirals of a sunflower’s seed arrangement, the florets of a daisy, the bracts of a pine cone and the branches of a tree. These Fibonacci numbering sequences are nature’s mathematical order in the universe all around us. Fibonacci numbers have been called the Fingerprint of God that is hidden throughout nature. They certainly belie randomness. It’s been said that if you look into the heart of a flower, you look into the face of God. And when you look into the heart of a sunflower, you look into the beautifully patterned order of all creation that shows the way into the Language of God in the form of spiraling DNA strands.

Buddhist philosophy teaches us that the earth is one giant, living, breathing cell and when we simply consider the heart of a flower, we can see that it is full of life. It is full of soil, rain, sunshine, clouds, oceans, minerals, space, and time. That’s one of the main reasons I find it so fascinating to photograph the heart of a flower and then edit the image even further into its interior. When we walk through a garden and observe patches of flowers, we don’t always bend over and look closely into their hearts.

Thich Nhat Hanh, whose students of mindfulness call Thay (for teacher), writes that “We too are full of so many things and yet empty of a separate self…The whole planet is one giant, living, breathing cell, with all its working parts linked in symbiosis.” Like the flower, we contain all its elements along with consciousness and the continuing DNA strings of our ancestors. Christians would add the critical element of an eternal soul that transcends this mortal life. The whole cosmos has manifested into who we are today. In fact, everything relies on the critical balance of life in this universe we occupy to survive and prosper. We are one with the universe.

Thay teaches that our parents “are in us and we are in them. We are the continuation of all our ancestors. Thanks to impermanence, we have a chance to transform our inheritance in a beautiful direction.” We have a chance to manifest the beauty of this existence as it was originally created, as we see it’s potential in the fleeting beauty of a flower’s heart.

And although there have been many disciples in the history of humankind, only we can be a disciple for our time.