Radical Acceptance, Desire, Suffering, And the Ways of the Universe

As a child I had a great sense of fairness in my mind in the way I thought things worked in the world.  For one I was a good hearted kid.  I liked people and found comfort and strength in relationships.  I was also raised in church.  From the pulpit things always seem to turn out right for God’s people by the end of any given sermon.  The preacher never hooped and hollered a sad ending when climaxing the point of his message.  Then there was Hollywood.  In movies and television, the good guys always won at the end.  Justice was always served.  I recall the first time I saw the good guys ‘lose’ and a bad guy get away was in an episode of “Hill Street Blues.”  Though I don’t recall the exact details I do remember feeling jarred emotionally with a sense of loss and injustice.  Nowadays that’s pretty common for TV.  Seasons 1-5 of “The Wire” crystallized the realities of life more than any other show in television history.

For me there has always maintained this inner struggle between right and wrong, truth and justice, fairness and hardships.  All of these factors mentioned above made muttering through life mentally and spiritually difficult many a day.  I struggled with questions like why do people hurt others on purpose?  Why do good things happen to bad people?  Why do bad things happen to the good people?  Why would an elected official do evil things to the people he/she serves?  Why would a friend betray you or someone hurt you if you gave them your all?  All my life I’ve heard that doing the right things, working hard and treating people justly will bring good fortune and a good life.  I’m almost 45 years old now and through the study of history, events from around the world and life in general, it feels as if I’ve seen it all in some form or another.  And all that I’ve seen show that life is way more complicated than this.

The above mentioned formula didn’t seem to work true to life.  And most of my internal struggles have been an attempt to decipher the ways of how I fit in within the schemes of constant contradictions and suffering through good intentions.

It was my counselor and life coach Mrs. Francis Thomas (Miss Francis I call her) who first introduced to me the concept of ‘radical acceptance.’ Sitting in her office she forced me to consider ‘Letting go of fighting reality and accept your situation for what it is.’  Sounds simple doesn’t it?  Folks have a term for it nowadays.  “It is what it is.”  How many times have we heard that one?  Taking a closer look however, the concept of truly accepting things as they are is not natural to our culture.  There is and always has been a push and pull to try to influence or change reality.  And why not?  That what this country has been since immigration.  People came to this land to be what they wanted and live in a fashion empowered by personal ambition.  Those causes weren’t altogether pure either in that often living a chosen life rarely included allowing others to do the same.  And so there was and is conflict for the remaining up and comers, even till this day.  (See Colonization, Slavery, The fight for Civil Rights and Immigration)

And so we live, we love, we compete, and we pursue a vision not for what we accept but for that which we desire personally, vocationally, culturally, and institutionally.

This is our living.

And yet the midst of pursuits in happiness there is always a fly in the ointment of the oil that flows through what we call life.  Suffering.

No matter what we do, suffering seems to be inevitable.  I’ve tried to minimize mine as much as possible by following the golden rules.  But that’s too simple in the scheme of things.  So I sought knowledge.  How can I eliminate or reduce suffering?

Buddhist teaching reveals that the very cause of suffering is the attachment to ‘desire’ or craving.  The Second Noble Truth for instance include:

The Cause of Suffering– samudaya
The principle cause of suffering is the attachment to “desire” or “craving” (tanha). Both desire to have (wanting) and desire not to have (aversion).
1. Desire for sense-pleasures–kama-tanha
The desire for sense pleasures manifests itself as wanting to have pleasant experiences: the taste of good food, pleasant sexual experiences, delightful music.
2. Desire to become–bhava-tanha
The desire to become is the ambition that comes with wanting attaiments or recognition or fame. It is the craving to “be a somebody”.
3. Desire to get rid of–vibhava-tanha
The desire to get rid of the unpleasant experiences in life: unpleasant sensations, anger, fear, jealousy.
The clinging to desire comes from our experience that short-term satisfaction comes from following desire. We ignore the fact that satisfying our desires doesn’t bring an end to them.

Part of the Third Noble Truth simply says:

The end of suffering is non-attachment, or letting go of desire or craving.

In my spirit I totally understood and resonated with the substance of these words.  I sensed a light or a glimmer of hidden wisdom that I had never seen.  This was especially enlightening because by nature I am a doer, a man of action.  If I want something to be a certain way, I did what I could to make it happen.  I used action in an attempt to gain the reaction I desired. (Good deeds, hard work etc.) The thought of letting go of desire seemed to be a game changer.  A freeing experience if you will.  I started the process of embracing this concept slowly in my life.

Reading this may give the impression that by letting go of desire we are to just stand pat and allow whatever happens to happen in our lives.  That brings me to another teaching form Miss Francis.  “A life or inner peace will not consist of embracing an all or nothing paradigm.”

My journey of living is a continuous evolution of learning that the colours of life are rarely black and white, but shades of varying schemes that paint the world.  If there are no desires, there is no progress.  I believe we were created and the Universe calls for us to make contributions towards giving and receiving from the earth, as well as it’s inhabitants.  We can’t make a difference without having a ‘desire’ for something better.  Our humanity provides that we are creatures with feelings and emotions, as well as creativity and logic.  We not only want to survive, but thrive in serving and fulfilling a purpose all the while enjoying pleasure and senses of accomplishment.  The key is balancing all of life’s journey with a certain brevity and perspective.

In the bible Paul deals with this dichotomy.

In Philippians 3:14 he says he continues to press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ.

In Philippians 4:11 he says he’s learned to be content with whatever state he’s in.

Ecclesiastes 3 goes in great detail identifying the cycles of seasons and change in our existence.

The reality is that as long as we are living there will always be this struggle in understanding the push and pull of life; What to try to change and what to accept, how to love in the midst of hurt, pain, or rejection; Whether we are indeed living in a season or if it’s within our power to change the climate.

For in our flawed sense of justice through our blurred lenses the wicked do often prosper, good is not always rewarded, the good die young, love is not always returned gracefully.  Neither the good nor the bad are always what they seem.  And even the very best of us are often guilty of doing to others that which hurt us the most.

I submit that walking in the balance of universal harmony in the midst of it’s seemingly continuous contradictions is impossible for the natural life.  Indeed it requires a supernatural experience and existence which must be practiced if not perfected.

We should desire to be significant though not necessarily popular.  (Though being significant can bring fame.) By focusing on the process of living as well as the intent and ramifications of our actions rather than the results, in the end, I believe the Universe will balance and pay, and regulate accordingly.

And if not,… well then hey, it is what it is.

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Fact Is – Truth Is (Part 2) Absolute Truth – fact or fiction

In Part 1 of the post concerning truth – I mentioned my background within the Christian faith community.  Some things have changed over the years concerning what is emphasized in Christian teachings – mainly in evangelically influenced circles within the scope of the political climate of the last 12 years.  I sometimes tune in to the local Bott Radio broadcast which feature many of the prominent preachers around the country.  Most of these preachers lean toward conservative principles and preach the bible from that perspective.  Lately I have heard a lot of teaching about absolute truth – and how liberals and Darwin type thinkers reject the absolute truth of God’s word and principles as an excuse to pretty much do and behave as they please.  They stress this absolute truth vigorously and yet in incomplete fashion. As I listened to one program I kept wondering initially what the speaker meant as he touted the surety of absolute truth and how we should embrace it – and yet I didn’t grasp what he meant specifically.  Upon more listening I learn that the absolute truth they refer to are directly related to a few key items.  First that Jesus Christ is the only way one can have salvation and peace with God.  This is influenced by the growing number of competing religions in this country; namely Islam.   This in spite of this nation’s founding principles which Evangelicals regularly tout in terms of the Constitution, The Amendments etc. – not including freedom of religion.  The rest of these absolute truths fit into the scope of the hot button issues most prevalent to evangelicals such as gay and lesbian rights, (or lack thereof) abortion, and now including the overall conservative agenda as it relates to prospective laws and the judges who will enforce these laws.  Some call it biblical worldview – but by that they mean their worldview of what the bible is saying.While I certainly hold to the principles of seeking the absolute truth as stated in the previous post – I am skeptical of someone or some organization flaunting a specific definition and manifestation of said truth to fit their paradigm for the rest of humanity.  This is because as much as I do believe that truth is absolute, I do not believe in absolute truth as it is taught within these circles.  I’ll explain:To preach absolute truth from a theological and religious perspective is easily flawed even by biblical standards.  To prove this I will use a scripture reference: I Corinthians 13:8-10Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.This scripture speaks of the human condition with its flaws and discrepancies.  Let’s look at the continual conflicts within scripture itself.  Notice I didn’t say contradiction – but conflicts or juxtapositions for differing areas in which the same God acted differently than most any theologian can justly explain. 

I remember being in a Christian men’s meeting – and we were discussing God’s ways and what we know to be His will.  The leader spoke of how some things are just givens that we can know for sure when it comes to what He wants from us.  Like for instance we know God’s will is not for us to kill anyone.   I having the inquisitive mind that I have – being the antagonist for deeper through – I posed a question as to how are we to really know that to be His will in every situation.  I mean after all we know that one of the Ten Commandments talk about not killing or murdering anyone – and yet according to scripture many times God endorsed and even ordered the killings of tens of thousands – many including women, children and animals.  As a matter of fact, King Saul was demoted from his throne in lieu of David because he did not kill everything he was supposed to – and yet David was NOT demoted after he took Uriah’s wife and had the man intentionally killed as a way to cover up her pregnancy.  This is not to say that David didn’t suffer – as he lost the son who was conceived.  But then he had another one named Solomon – who built the temple that David was not allowed to build because of the blood on his hands.

Notice that Solomon had several hundred wives and concubines – God never said a word to him about it.  Instead he warned him against marrying women who had other gods not associated with the God David taught him about.  In this case the issue in the scripture is not the amount of wives or concubines – it was their religious preference that God called into question.   Many men had multiple wives and according to the scriptures God found these things perfectly acceptable.  When I posed this question about how we now tout God’s will about marriage being one man and one woman – how God ordered hits against the enemies of Israel including children – the answer I was given was that, “That was the old testament.”  I asked for an explanation seeing that the bible says that God is the same yesterday, today and forever – the moral dilemma even for the old testament seems antithetical to anything we know of today.  If David were King of Israel today and the news of he and Bathsheba hit CNN – any preacher, priest or rabbi would be hard pressed to accept his moral failings, or invite him to speak as God’s representative.  As a matter of fact they would seek to have him ousted – and yet not only did God keep him on the throne, there is a scripture that says David was a man after God’s own heart.  We Christians love David because he was quick to repent and he gives us hope within our own moral downfalls – and yet the same Christians wanted to stone Bill Clinton and toss his behind clean out of the White House for the same thing – minus the pregnancy and murder. 

Speaking of David – the bible says that he and Saul’s son Jonathan shared a love that was deeper than that of a love between a man and a woman.  What is that about?  Did David have a little sugar in his tank too?  Did he and Jonathan practice a little bow and arrow in the wilderness while getting to know one another?  Who knows?  I certainly don’t… and the truth is nobody does.  Republicans love Abraham Lincoln and say that they are “The Party of Lincoln.”  And yet a simple study will find that Lincoln slept with a man nightly.  This is not a commentary regarding an opinion of homosexuality – these are just questions I asked in a bible study class.  I didn’t profess to have the answers – and I didn’t suspect any of the committed Christian men in the meeting could produce them either.  But what was most sad, is that they were so closed minded and fearful of their theology being shot to hell in a hand basket – they would not even discuss the issues.  I felt to grapple with these matters would create stimulating discussion and debate – which stimulate the mind to learn and get a bit closer to what the truth may be in these matters – regardless of whether we actually got the answers as gospel.

So where does that lead us?  As much as I search for the highest form of truth – I understand and acknowledge as the scripture says – I know in part – I understand in part.  What I know about my Creator is in part.  I have lived 41 1/2 years – I can’t make one tree – one bird etc.  I can’t explain the universe or how the human body and spirit live together.  The world functioned before I showed up and I suspect it will go on without me.  And even what I feel I know now is subject to modification.  

Even if we were to get the whole truth from our Creator who formed the entire universe – who is to say we could comprehend or understand it?  Puuuulease!  There is not that much intellect in the world – for intellect is limited and some things are caught and not taught.  AND we are created beings – we have creative ability but to brag that we are carriers of the complete and divine understanding on par with an everlasting spiritual greatness we have come to understand as God is tremendously short-sighted, arrogant and plain stupid at best. 

That’s my take – what’s yours?

Fact Is – Truth Is (Part 1)

Growing up in the Christian faith community “confession” was a prevalent teaching among the congregations I associated with.  The faith movement was based highly on words – ala God created the Heavens and Earth with words… Jesus is called The Living Word – There are scriptures that say life and death are in the power of the tongue – and that those of the faith should call things that be not as though they were and so forth.   Today many Christians are very careful about what they say.   They do not want to claim negativity.  I recall seeing people appear to have a cold, and as he/she coughs and sneeze say in the next breath – “I’m not going to claim sickness.  I am perfectly fine.” 

I can understand the thinking – I do believe the mind is one of the most powerful forces in the universe and the words we say on an ongoing basis make a difference in our state of being.  However, sometimes I think we take it too far.  In other words there is a difference between faith and denial.  One does not have to deny facts to in order to seek out and confess a higher truth.  For there is a difference in facts and truth.  I would define it this way.  Dictionary.com says of a fact in short;

Fact – Knowledge or information based on real occurrences

But truth is as I define it for the purposes of this post…

Truth – the highest form of reality – an ultimate universal treaty

Truth would not deny a fact but would supersede it.  So for a person was sick or depressed and yet understand that their ultimate state should not be sickness or depression – it would not be best to deny what is evident.  But yet what is evident is not necessarily the last word.  Facts are outside manifestations, but truth is ultimate destination.   So one could admit to the fact that he/she is afflicted with sickness, and yet not deny the ultimate purpose and destination of wellness.  Facts are temporary and yet if to US those facts become truth – then they become one in the same. 

Ultimately people live by and make decisions based on the truth as they know it – not the facts.  For example, I recall driving my car and running out of gas with money in my pocket before.  Well I knew by intellect or ‘fact’ that the car could indeed run out of gas – and yet the ‘truth’ is I didn’t really believe it or else I would have stopped and added gas to the car before it happened.  As the hand slipped to the left of the ‘E’ I thought I had more and more time.  Well once that happened to me once – it has never happened again.  The potential for walking because a reality to me – especially cause it was like 15 degrees below zero that night. 

Simple as it may seem we all live by the truth that we know in our hearts – not the facts that we learn.  Or else we all by way of knowledge would live and do everything we know to do.  We wouldn’t abuse our bodies with alcohol and drugs.  We wouldn’t eat the wrong things if we really “knew” that those things were killing us.  Obviously knowledge is not what we lack.  Our personal realization of “truth” is what guides us in the long run. 

I submit that our task is to recognize and acknowledge the obvious.  We have needs, we are faulty, we have potential to be great and regardless there will be the best and worst of times.  At the same time we should strive to learn that which is true – that which surpasses facts for it is by those principles that we are led most. 

Part 2 Next…. “Absolute Truth” – fact or fiction