Thursday, April 30, 2009

What is courage?

Every now and then I stumble upon entries from other blogs, or words of wisdom shared in conversation, or inspiration from some other source, that help me define what courage is

If you go back through the years of entries in this blog (and if you're ambitious its 3,000 + comments) you'll see I try to define courage often, inspire it in others, reflect on it, increase it in my daily practice, and otherwise search for a greater meaning behind the word. 

I have some inklings in my brain as to why I am fascinated with this word and its meaning (though I've never been brave enough to definitively state my motivations) but I did find a passage the other night in 1 John, 5:18 that struck me with its clarity and purpose.

So if our question is 'what is courage?,' here is John's response:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.

What is courage then? Perfect love. 

What a brilliantly phrased definition. I am fascinated by the implications for how we love as humans if  you reflect on the idea of perfect love. Are we talking about agape? Eros? A form of Philia? Storge? In all these ways of loving a perfect love can exist, without fear of punishment, free to soar with the greatest intentions and celebrate the highest values, creating in all those it touches true courage to live a bold life of peace and harmony.

When we say with sincerity, 'I wish for peace,' or 'I'll think of you often,' or 'I'll pray for  you,' are we truly saying, 'I love you?'

In this sense, courage has little to do with actual fear. The idea that courage is not the absence of fear but doing the right thing even when afraid is perhaps better understood as a measure of conviction, not courage? For if we possess the greatest conviction in a scenario where others may feel fear, then we will not fear. In that instance it remains possible for us to love perfectly. If our conviction falters some so that fear creeps into our hearts and doubt into our minds, then even if we do our duty or perform our task, we do so without full conviction, but rather with enough conviction. And so while in that moment we may be capable of love, we are not capable of perfect love.

Share your thoughts or ideas, please! 

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Art the power

Found this blog post via meta filter; talks about how city artists took over billboards and instead of subjecting us all to advertising for a day we got art instead.

This is the kind of illegal activity that I can support.

Monday, April 27, 2009

In the field

One of my favorite films is Legend of Bagger Vance, and I just left a comment over on Indigo's blog where she talks about how she's celebrating her five year's of sobriety. The memories and thoughts she brought to bear led me to a reflection about what we all look to for inspiration when fighting off feelings of sadness, desperation, or madness. 

One of the things I do is watch films that speak to me in certain way. In this case, Legend of Bagger Vance reminds me that harmony and peacefulness in our souls can be found in the pleasure and joy of daily life and the natural world around us - it's only when we attempt to let ourselves become a part of everything that we become anything. 

Here's one of my favorite clips from the movie that I'd like to share with you! In this part of the film Damon's character, Rannulph Junnah, is struggling to come to terms with his life in a way that makes sense to him, that explains why what happened to him has changed him forever. His caddy, played by Will Smith (Bagger Vance), is telling him about 'the field', that place where you are synchronized with all of the world around you and your working mind stops and ascends to an enlightened moment where you see how you can contribute to the glory of nature, life, and the spirit.

Have you had such moments? What allows you to find them? For me, I have found them in sports, truly, and in practicing my faith, but also in meditation and in the rhythm of certain activities like fishing - Rebecca Anne, I'm looking at you - and sometimes I find them unexpectedly as a day dream is intruded upon by a warm spring breeze that steals my mind away and leaves me sitting in sheer rapture and joy!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What vitamin are you?

Some light fare today - a long day so I've not had much time to devote to reflection or meditation. 

As a result - blogthings:

You Are Vitamin D
You're a naturally strong person. You've always had a lot of endurance.
You can survive what would make most people crumble. You have both mental and physical strength.

You don't do a lot to stay healthy - you just live a pretty natural lifestyle.
You stay away from processed junk, sleep like a baby, and get plenty of sunshine!

Friday, April 24, 2009

They don't love you like I love you

Another favorite of mine (and one of my wife's, too, I should add!) that I found an embed for. 

I love the desperation in this song, the quiet plea that is at the same time a rehearsed act. Does she mean it, or doesn't she? Would Maps be better off moving on and leaving her, is he strong enough to leave?

Pack up;
I’m straight; 
Oh say, say, say;
Oh say, say, say;
Oh say, say, say;
Oh say, say, say;
Oh say, say, say 

Wait, they don’t love you like I love you; wait, they don’t love you like I love you;
Wait! They don’t love you like I love you.....

Lay off;
Don’t stray;
Well, my kind's,your kind;
I’ll stay the same!
Pack up;
Don’t stray;
Oh say, say, say;
Oh say, say, say!

Wait! They don’t love you like I love you;
wait! They don’t love you like I love you;
Wait! They don’t love you like I love you!
wait! They don’t love you like I love you!
Wait! They don’t love you like I love you …
(guitar solo)
Wait! They don’t love you like I love you;
And wait! They don’t love you like I love you;
Wait! They don’t love you like I love you!
And wait! They don’t love you like I love you!
Wait! They don’t love you like I love you …


I've been thinking on my entry on fear from the other day and then on this snippet from Psalm 140 - 'Deliver me, Lord, from the wicked; preserve me from the violent, from those who plan evil in their hearts, who stir up conflicts every day, who sharpen their tongues like serpents, venom of asps upon their lips.' - and I hate how closely connected the two are in behavior.

Maybe I'm getting a little too Yoda on myself (see the video clip below if you have no idea what I'm talking about) but all too often fears are used to provoke and stir up hate, to create conflict from peace, and to poison our minds and behaviors.

Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, one thing you can say about the words and speeches of our new president is that he has cast off the language and rhetoric of fear and hate in favor of something filled with reason and hope. I find strength in the fact that every time I listen to our leaders now I need not steel myself against words designed to manipulate insecurities and rational thinking. It's refreshing to look forward to a speech by a national leader because our message is no longer about dividing us and them, but community and purpose and inspiration.

Whether you agree with the politics or not, whether you think it candy coated hogwash or real inspiration, you cannot deny that no longer are we subject to the words of fear and conflict, and that gives me comfort.

What is it about us though, I wonder, that lets others get away with fear and hate mongering? Free speech is not what I'm debating here, but a lack of persistence and strength in resisting the use of fear and terror as an assault on hope and reason. I am sure we all know someone that spews bile every time they talk, that ferments hatred and drinks it in with drunken glee, and revels in the discord they cause with their putrescent words; let's take a stand the next time we see it, or hear it, and put reason and hope to the test - I'm willing to bet they will win out in the end if we stick to our principles.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Out of fear

I've written a few lines today that have all revolved around the 'why' of my actions - why I do what I do, what I think, etc., and I think I've found something to meditate on later today; why does acting out of fear so often lead to behaving wrongly?

It's a line from Nehemiah 7, where the question is why do we act out of fear to sin? Whether you believe in sin or not, fear drives us to do so many foolish things and if you've been a reader of my blog you know that fear is an emotion that I've long tried to understand, think on, and write about.

Why do you fear? How does your fear express itself? What is it that you fear - and I don't mean spiders, or snakes, but what about them do you truly fear? A phobia is like fear, but different, that's why I make that distinction....

Someone spray me with a hose!


Your Spicy Score: HOT!

You're confident, sexy, and not afraid to go for it. Life is for living.

You love being the center of attention, and you'll do anything to stay in the spotlight.

You have no inhibitions. You're comfortable in your own skin, even when you have no clothes on!

You're out for a good time, simple as that. You can't help it if other people get burned.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I just finished up a couple of chapters in Deuteronomy looking for some meditation inspiration for later on and I think what struck me most is this idea of charity. If you are familiar with that book of the Bible, you'll know it's full of community and religious laws regarding cleanliness (ritual and otherwise) and right behavior, but charity is one of the underlying values present in almost every dictum.

In these tough times of recession and fear and bankruptcy it is nice to see charity surviving.

How have I been charitable today? Financial? Physical? Mental? Spiritual? Emotional?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Animal I have Become

This just poppped along my Pandora channel, enjoyed it truly. It reminds me of those times I let my anger take me regardless of how I've tried to fight.

Animal I Have Become lyrics
Songwriters: Stock, Barry; Brown, Gavin; Gontier, Adam; Sanderson, Neil; Walst, Brad;
I can't escape this hell
So many times I've tried
But I'm still caged inside
Somebody get me through this nightmare
I can't control myself

So what if you can see the darkest side of me
No one will ever change this animal I have become
Help me believe it's not the real me
Somebody help me tame this animal!
This animal, this animal

I can't escape myself
So many times I've lied
But there's still rage inside
Somebody get me through this nightmare
I can't control myself

So what if you can see the darkest side of me
No one will ever change this animal I have become
Help me believe it's not the real me
Somebody help me tame this animal I have become

Help me believe it's not the real me
Somebody help me tame this animal

Somebody help me through this nightmare
I can't control myself
Somebody wake me from this nightmare
I can't escape this hell

This animal, this animal
This animal, this animal
This animal, this animal
This animal

So what if you can see the darkest side of me
No one will ever change this animal I have become
Help me believe it's not the real me
Somebody help me tame this animal I have become

Help me believe it's not the real me
Somebody help me tame this animal!
This animal I have become


Bonus video by the same artist: I hate everything about you.

Every time we lie awake
After every hit we take
Every feeling that I get
But I haven�t missed you yet

Every roommate kept awake
By every sigh and scream we make
All the feelings that I get
But I still don�t miss you yet

Only when I stop to think about it

I hate everything about you
Why do I love you
I hate everything about you
Why do I love you

Every time we lie awake
After every hit we take
Every feeling that I get
But I haven�t missed you yet

Only when I stop to think about it

I hate everything about you
Why do I love you
I hate everything about you
Why do I love you

Only when I stop to think
About you, I know
Only when you stop to think
About me, do you know

I hate everything about you
Why do I love you
You hate everything about me
Why do you love me

I hate
You hate
I hate
You love me

I hate everything about you
Why do I love you

How boring are you?

You Live an Exciting Life

You are anything but a bore. You make sure that life is full of excitement.

You have an adventurous spirit, and you don't like to sit still for too long.

If you feel like doing something, you don't think about it. You just do it.

There's no way you could ever live a boring life. There's too much to do and not enough time.

Havoc part 2

Thank you to those that left comments regarding their beliefs on fate and future. Last night while meditating on the meaning of the two phrases my mind centered on a shared point: that justice will out. Regardless of the nature of what confronts us, what challenges us, attacks us, maybe even defeats us, justice will come if we stay true to right ideas and right morals and values.

I don't know that I'm putting forward some idea of 'what goes around comes around,' but rather that justice centers upon not what happens to those that persecute, but how we handle ourselves when faced with injustice. If we remain faithful to our just values and beliefs the persecution we face is in name only and injustice exists only in the corporeal. 

Justice remains with us in mind and spirit if we have the strength to persevere. 

Monday, April 20, 2009

Cry havoc!

'Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war, that these foul deeds might stink above the earth with carrion men groaning for burial.' ~ Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 1. 

I've had this sentence stuck in my craw for some days now and I've been gnawing on it diligently, with tired determination, pondering its stubbornness. 

True, I saw it at first for only a moment as it flashed across my screen, but since it's taken up unpleasant residence in my mind and mouth, bitter and chewy, like so much lemon rind ground to a mealy paste and slathered over my gums.

An irritant of the highest order, second only to George W.B., but its message remains elusive no matter how long my mouth and mind work it over.

It resonated all the more when I read this passage from Acts 20 today:

'I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock.'

Some sort of fear, perhaps? Regret? An omen? A portent of darker days? Some sort of hiraedd? I don't know, but wish I did. 

I don't necessarily believe in fate, but rather something closer to wyrd (pronounced 'weird'). It's an old Anglo-Saxon concept that has reflections in the Catholic understanding of time and God. Concepts like wyrd helped create understanding of a linear perspective of time, even though true wyrd is more like a web than a line. 

Think about it like this: If wyrd is like a spider web, there are may parts, and although a fly lands on one small sub sect of the web, its actions vibrate and impact the entire web's existence, telling the spider that dinner has (maybe) arrived. The fly is not doomed, not yet. Certainly, its wyrd is grim (chances are it's a goner) but still, the fate of the spider and the fly depend on how well the insects react, move, interpret sensory data and so on. Wyrd is the web of our lives, the situations we find ourselves in, the choices we have to make, the past influencing us here in the present, and how what we do influences the future.

Wyrd is like one of those Celtic drawings you see of interlaced knots that are really only one strand wound irrevocably round itself. If you imagine your life like one of those drawings, a giant road that you walk on, then whenever we come to a knot in the pattern (a fork in the road, a choice in the present) we have the chance to impact the direction we travel and perhaps even untangle the knot (make straight the path) to ease our travel. So, the next time we come to a similar situation (crossroads in our life) or find ourselves right back where we started, we'll have an easier time figuring out which way to go and perhaps even accepting the outcome of our decisions.

So, wyrd is a concept that means while what will happen to us in the end is known (after all, the web is a predetermined shape), how we get there is of our own making. We can face our situations how we choose, with what values and beliefs and character we possess, and make the best of every opportunity. 

Maybe these messages, from Caesar and Acts, are meditations on how well we confront adversity? One the avenger of the betrayed (Antony spoke the lines), the other with courage enough to leave the flock with the weapons he provided, trusting them to fight off the wolves (Paul was speaking to his disciples for the last time before leaving Asia for Jerusalem)? Maybe it is a meditation on how good must always struggle, or that even those with the best intentions may be led astray?

What are your thoughts?

Friday, April 17, 2009


It was a long afternoon yesterday. My boss placed a very tight deadline on me, reacting himself to pressure placed by another. I confess irritation and perhaps a snarky tone of voice, but I did not (fully) lash out. ;)

Still, I toiled here until 8:00 p.m. and then went home to help my wife with our baby. I felt spent, wasted, and frustrated with my day, my performance, and even my state of mind. While miserable then, I am pleased that the sight of my daughter melted that distaste into a puddle of sappy love, cooing, and smooches.

She taught me a simple lesson last night. She said, 'Dad, listen man, you know how it is; if there's something that you know is right, something that you know you've got to do, then you've got to stick with it. Sure it's gonna suck, it's gonna be hard, and it might even just piss off a few people, but what's the point if you can't be proud of persisting when challenged?'  And she said all that with her eyes and a little half smile brought on by a wicked fart. 

I'm glad she said it - I needed to hear it. Perseverance is so hard when mired down in the ick of daily grinds. Her message is the first thing that popped into my head when I read this passage today:

Malachi, 3: 20-21
But for you who fear my name, there will arise 
the sun of justice with its healing rays;
And you will gambol like calves out of the stall
And tread down the wicked;
They will become ashes under the soles of your feet,
on the day I take action, says the Lord of hosts.

Old Testament fire and brimstone aside, I think the message here is really about persevering in  the face of opposition. If we're true to ourselves, true to our loved ones, true to our values, then in the end we will bask in the sun of justice's healing rays. We need live up to only our own measure every day, and if we are people of faith, then perhaps the measure of our God or Goddess as well, but ultimately if we can't sleep at night it's no body's fault but our own.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Return to the now

With my impending lay off on June 30, the transition of the LBC to an entity on the other side of the country, and my now 1 month old baby going through the fussiness of a growth spurt, I am reminded of just how much I need reminding that it is only the 'now' that is most important. 

I am terrible at remaining in the moment during times of stress; my mind works overtime and attempts to calculate the odds of every possible scenario for every task that I must complete, that I'm currently working on, and even those not yet (but maybe!) assigned to me. This kind of thinking serves no real purpose as the situation is rarely ever that imagined and often the opposite! 

Even on days like today, when the college's finance office demands a product, my Director demands a product, and the person who the entire operation is transitioning to demands products all by the end of the day, or no later than tomorrow, I have to remember that the most I can do is a deliberate and determined focus on the now; to do my best work this moment, to turn out work that is complete and of high quality.

Frustrations aside, and there are many regarding who sets priorities, knowing who I actually serve, and the complete ignoring of where my own job responsibilities fall into this transition, clinging to my integrity and turning out the best possible work and maintaining a positive attitude is paramount. 

Ecclesiastes 11: 9-10 is a nice place to start a meditation on this lesson:

Rejoice, O young man, while you are young,
and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart, the vision of your eyes;
Yet understand that as regards all this God will bring you to judgment.
Ward off grief from your heart and put away trouble from your presence,
though the dawn of youth is fleeting.

Some might see this passage as a doom and gloom judgment is nigh message, but rather I take it as encouragement to live right now, in the moment, to not lament or worry about that which will come, how it will come, and certainly not to fear that which I don't fully know or understand. Instead, as I put forth my best efforts here in the now, I just have to remember that how I respond in this moment to the stresses and challenges I face will have consequences. 

People may be unfairly criticized, or I may become cynical, surly, and maybe even downright insubordinate, all of which are inappropriate and not consistent with what I believe is good behavior. I want my consequences to be well-intentioned and well-reasoned. 


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

new header

So I spent some time in today and put together the little header image you see above. I'm not sure if I like it - if it's in its final iteration, that is, but what's bugging me is that I can't for the life of me figure out why that little gray box is up there on the right hand side of the header. That is NOT in my .png file. If anyone has a clue, please let me know. 

Where can I hide?

Stumbled on this passage today in Psalm 139:

'Where can I hide from you spirit?
From your presence, where can I flee?
If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;
if I lie down in Sheol, you are there too.
If I fly with the wings of dawn
and alight beyond the sea
Even there your hand will guide me, 
your right hand hold me fast.
If I say, 'Surely darkness shall hide me
and night shall be my light'-
Darkness is not dark for you, 
and night shines as the day.
Darkness and light are but one.'
To me this passage serves as a reminder that whatever my inspiration for a post the reflections I craft are meant to be universal comments on ethics, truth, belief, and the self, not some proselytization. You need not be Christian to receive inspiration from Christian writings, or Muslim to be moved by the Koran, and so, to those that find there way here, please remember that Courage is commentary on life and its choices, not a pulpit for judgment. 

I suppose I'm posting today because of this passage. Inevitably I think about my writings here, I debate picking the keyboard back up, and no matter my excuse I cannot seem to leave this place alone. I've tried. Consistent efforts to bury, disappear, and otherwise let Courage fade away into cyberspace always fail and I keep stewing over my inactivity. So, here I am, unable to hide and writing again. We'll see if I  can keep it up on a regular basis. 

On a personal level, I like how this passage reminds me that I have a responsibility to myself to engage in real, critical, and regular self-reflection. I'm not talking necessarily about existential questioning of the self (though it could be), but about a commitment to improve my character and live my life and ideals with integrity. I know I pretend often enough that I need not do those things, but life is always easier to manage when I do.