Wednesday, September 16, 2009


You will probably remember back in October 2006 when there was the news of the awful tragedy at an Amish school in Pennsylannia. Some crazed man broke in took hostages, eventually killing five girls before killing himself. After the tragedy it was noted widely how quickly the community forgave the man and even reached out to his family to give support. In 2007 a book called "Amish Grace: How forgiveness overcame tragedy" was released to popular acclaim.

I have not read the book, but something I saw this week reminded me of a news interview I saw back in 2006. A reporter was interviewing and elderly Amish woman about the tragedy and asked her how the community was able to forgive so quickly. The woman responded that they believed in "Gelassenheit"and it was an integral part of their Christian faith. This is a German word that translates as "yieldedness". They forgive because they accept, they "yield" their own feelings and agendas to realities truth. Which, of course, in their mind is synonymous with "God's will".

Whether one believes in God or not this is a very powerful and liberating frame of mind. Let me explore it a bit.

My first thought is that you find the same intuition in most if not all religious or spiritual systems. The one that comes to mind first is the Taoist path. The sage Lao Tzu said famously "The tree that bends does not break". This is pretty much it in nutshell isn't it? If we rigidly hold on to our desires and do not "bend' or let them go when necessary, we suffer. You find the same thing in Buddhism whose "first noble truth" is that "life is suffering". How do we over come suffering? By letting go of desire. Easier said than done I know! But lets face it...think back to any moment you were experiencing suffering, or even discomfort. The root of the problem can only be one of two things: either you wanted something you did not have, or you had something you did not want. It's as simple as that.

If you are not turned on by religion then you have (for example) the decidely non-religious teachings of the Stoics. This classical philosopical system, epitomized in popular culture in recent years with the Star Trek character Mr. Spock, goes back to the ancient Greco-Roman period. A basic example of a Stoic arguement would be as follows: It is the nature of glass, when it falls from a height, to break as it hits the ground. So why are you upset that your glass has fallen off the table and shattered? Is it not it's nature to break? How could it be otherwise? Why then are you being emotional? Accept the truth of reality and you are free. (It helps if you imagine Leonard Nimoy's voice reading the last few sentences)

What do you think people? Any thoughts?

Friday, September 4, 2009

We must protect our children!

I am watching with interest the current fracas over President Obama's upcoming address on September 8th to high school age students. It is designed to be played to the children while they are at school. Many parents are expressing concern and even outrage that the President would presume to"teach" their kids. Many are considering keeping their kids at home to "protect" them. According to the AP the speech is going to be about "the need to work hard and stay in school". Okay... now I understand the outrage. We must protect our children from these Commie priniciples of hard work and education!

But seriously, who are these people? And why are they angry? Please, can someone tell me what is wrong the President trying to encourage our young people?

These are of course rhetorical questions. The reason for the outrage is clear. In this era of hyper-partisanship no idea or action, no matter how lofty or noble, is to be countenanced as long as there are politicial points to be gained by opposing it. This is the new guiding principle of goverment. Seriously, it is. Rush Limbaugh summed it up neatly when, shortly after Obama was elected, he said he hoped that the new President failed. That's right! For those on the political right (I almost said Republicans) it is better for this country to fail at the highest level, than to succeed if it means seeing an opponent get the credit. You will get this same basic message anytime you happen to watch Fox News. Obama and his legion of Socialist Democrats are out to ruin this great country. They must be stopped at all costs.

And by the way, did you know that Fox News gets (by far) the highest ratings of any televison news program in this country?

Here is a non-rhetorical question for you: Are we a nation of mostly idiots?

Abraham Lincoln, when putting together his cabinet, purposely picked several people who were his opponents to be his closest advisors. The main reason being that the country was in peril, and he would rule out no ideas. Even from his detractors. Doris Kearns-Goodwin tells this tale beautifully in her book called "Team of Rivals". You may want to pick it up as a cure for the indigestion you get when contemplating the current political scene. Maybe send it to your Congressperson when you are done with it.