The Wandering Desert Monk

The Wandering Desert Monk

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Thomas Merton on "Thinking About God"

"And so there are two dangers to be avoided. First, we must not take our conceptual knowledge of God for what it is not. Second, we must at least take it for what it is. It must neither be underestimated nor overestimated. Both these these excesses end in a practical atheism. If we attribute too much power to our 'clear ideas' of God, we will end up by making ourselves a god in our own image, out of these clear ideas. If we do not grant concepts any power to tell us the truth about God, we will cut off all possible contact between our minds and Him."

Thomas Merton, The Ascent to Truth, p. 96

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Thomas Merton on "Contemplation"

"But true contemplation is not produced by images or clear representations in the soul. It is the experience of an immediate spiritual union with God, a union which can only be effected by God and which is essentially a union of supernatural charity. Needless to say, no spirit other than God Himself can unit himself immediately to the soul, and no one but God can infuse supernatural charity into the soul. True contemplation is, then, the experience of a union that is so purely and perfectly supernatural that no created nature could possibility bring it about."

Thomas Merton, The Ascent to Truth, p. 79

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

D. H. Lawrence on Death

“Now it is autumn, and the falling fruit and the long journey toward oblivion.  The apples falling like great drops of dew to bruise themselves and exit from themselves.  And it is time to go.  To bid farewell to one’s own self and find an exit from the fallen self.  Have you built your ship of death?  Oh, have you?  Oh, build your ship of death for you will need it. We are dying!   We are dying!  So, all we can do is now to be willing to die and to build the ship of death to carry the soul on the longest journey.  A little ship with oars and food and little dishes and all accoutrements fitting and ready for the departing soul.  Now, launch the small ship.  Now, as the body dies and life departs launch out the fragile soul in the fragile ship of courage.  The ark of faith with its store of food and little cooking pans and change of clothes upon the flood’s black waves, upon the waters of the end, upon the sea of death where still we sail darkly, where we cannot steer and have no port.”

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Golden Rule

I used to teach World Religions at least once a year at a local university, I thought you might find this interesting:

"...a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?" Samyutta NIkaya v. 353
Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." Udana-Varga 5:18

"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12, King James Version.
"And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." Luke 6:31, King James Version.
"...and don't do what you hate...", Gospel of Thomas 6. The Gospel of Thomas is one of about 40 gospels that were widely accepted among early Christians, but which never made it into the Christian Scriptures (New Testament).

"Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you" Analects 15:23
"Tse-kung asked, 'Is there one word that can serve as a principle of conduct for life?' Confucius replied, 'It is the word 'shu' -- reciprocity. Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.' Doctrine of the Mean 13.3
"Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence." Mencius VII.A.4

"This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you." Mahabharata 5:1517
"Listen to the essence of Dharma. Having listened, focus on it, and establish it in your mind. Do not do any thing to others which you do not want to be done to yourself" Vedas

Islam: "None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." Number 13 of Imam "Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths." 5

"Therefore, neither does he [a sage] cause violence to others nor does he make others do so." Acarangasutra 5.101-2.
"In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self." Lord Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara
"A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated." Sutrakritanga 1.11.33

"...thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.", Leviticus 19:18
"What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary." Talmud, Shabbat 31a.
"And what you hate, do not do to any one." Tobit 4:15 6

"The heart of the person before you is a mirror. See there your own form"
"Be charitable to all beings, love is the representative of God." Ko-ji-ki Hachiman Kasuga

Compassion-mercy and religion are the support of the entire world". Japji Sahib
"Don't create enmity with anyone as God is within everyone." Guru Arjan Devji 259
"No one is my enemy, none a stranger and everyone is my friend." Guru Arjan Dev : AG 1299

Sufism: "The basis of Sufism is consideration of the hearts and feelings of others. If you haven't the will to gladden someone's heart, then at least beware lest you hurt someone's heart, for on our path, no sin exists but this." Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order.

"Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss." T'ai Shang Kan Ying P'ien.
"The sage has no interest of his own, but takes the interests of the people as his own. He is kind to the kind; he is also kind to the unkind: for Virtue is kind. He is faithful to the faithful; he is also faithful to the unfaithful: for Virtue is faithful." Tao Teh Ching, Chapter 49

I have chosen this list based on Huston Smith, The World's Religions.

Milan Kundera and death

I hate to hear the beat of my heart; it is a relentless reminder that the minutes of my life are numbered… the greatest masters of rhythm (in music) know how to silence that monotonous and predictable regularity, and transform their music into a little enclave of ‘time outside time’… the heart’s beat is amplified so that man can never for a moment forget his march towards death.
Milan Kundera, The Art of the novel

Merton and non-violence

...for non-violence seeks to "win" not by destroying or even by humiliating the adversary, but by convincing him that there is a higher and more certain common good than can be attained by bombs and blood. Non-violence, ideally speaking, does not try to overcome the adversary by winning over him, but to turn him from an adversary into a collaborator by winning him over.

Thomas Merton. Faith and Violence, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press: 1968, 12

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Why didn't you, God?

"I hate going to work on days like this - sun shining, cool breeze. I think we used to call these the lazy days of summer." remarked my friend as we sat down with our coffee.

"I hear you. Gonna take the wife to the airport and then probably get a haircut."

"Where's the wife off to?"

"Virginia.... Babysit the grandkids while their parents go to a wedding."

"I see. Do you remember my last question yesterday?"

"Let's see. Why didn't God intervene in Kerry's life so she could live to take care of Austin?"

"Yah. It would seem to me if you are a theist and believe that God is personal, active and concerned about the world that he would be interested in the life of a baby's mother."

"Makes perfect sense to me. Of course, you aren't the first person to ask this question. Starting with Job to the present many people have asked this question."

"I am sure that there have been as many answers as there have been questioners."

"It seems that way. To you question. There are two popular answers. The first one is called 'the best possible world' answer. Here the belief is that God made a world in which he wanted people to freely choose to believe in him and to freely choose their behaviors. God isn't interested in robots. The consequence of this best possible world is that people could make wrong choices which would have a negative consequence for themselves and others."

"I guess that makes sense. What are my other options?"

"The other view is that evil happens by God's permissive will. Many people when they try to make sense out of tragedy will say something like this: 'God has a greater purpose that we don't know today.' Many people find this answer quite comforting. None of us would want to think that tragedy is meaningless. Closely tied to this view is the opinion that bad things happen to be teach us something and that we don't have the whole picture about what happened."

"I have heard that last point. I guess that is finding out the 'what' of the tragedy instead of focusing on the 'why' of it. I have seen many people change their lives after something bad happened to them. I guess that woud make sense for some people. Can I go back to the first one?

"Be my guest."

"Let's see if i get this :God made a world where evil was a possibility. Kerry died of a cancer that attacked her liver. As far as we know Kerry did nothing to invite this cancer into her body, kind of like the lung cancer victim who has never smoked, so how does she end up with cancer?"

"Let me congratulate you on not blaming God for giving her cancer. Kerry died of cancer not by divine fiat. God didn't kill Kerry, cancer did."

"Ah here's the rub. Could God have intervened and stopped the cancer? Don't other people get a chance at a miracle?"

"Yes, God could have intervened. Since God didn't intervene in the way we think he should have, doesn't mean that God doesn't exist or that God doesn't care. At this point, many people go back the 'we don't have the whole picture' option and remind themselves that we live in a world of freedom. As to the miracle question, that is a separate issue deserving its own time."

"Of course, even if we solve all these age-old questions, it doesn't bring Kerry or Austin back."

"This is true. What happened is very sad. We grieve with Kerry and Austin's family. All the answers in the world won't dull the pain."

"Coffee tomorrow?"

"Yup. Your turn to buy."

(c) 2009 Ronald Friesen

I have treated many hundreds of patients. Among those in the second half of life - that is to say, over 35 - there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life.
Carl Jung

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent as a guide from beyond

Jalaluddin Rumi-Balkhi

Otto Rank's perspective

"The individual then feels himself driven forward by regret for wasted life and the desire to retrieve it. But this forward driving fear is now death fear, the fear of dying without having lived, which, even so, is held in check by fear of life”  Otto Rank, Will Therapy, p. 188-189

Sunday Baroque - Mozart

Sunday Baroque - Bach

Thursday, May 19, 2011

“If you want to endure life, prepare yourself for death.” Sigmund Freud

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I was in E Becker's last class at SFU


Fountain of Wisdom

Seeker of Wisdom,

Play in my fountain

Throw the Water of Wisdom
In your face

Let the Water of Wisdom
Wash over you
Cleanse you
Refresh you
Invigorate you

Stay as long as you need

Come as often as you desire

My fountain is always flowing

-Your Keeper of the Fountain of Wisdom

(c) 2007 Ronald Friesen

Life is....

Life is a first run edition, there are no re-writes. - Ron Friesen

To err is human, to forgive divine. - Alexander Pope

You can start your life over anytime you want. 12 Step program

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  - St. Paul

Your past is not your destiny. - Ron Friesen

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Keeping yourself in the tomb...

We settled down in our chairs and sipped our coffees enjoying the beauty of a spring morning when my friend turned to me,

"I have wondering about something."

When my friend says this, I know that we are up for a deep conversation.

"I have been wondering if what happens to us defines us."

"Whoa, this is heavy stuff for 7 o'clock in the morning!"

"Think about it - how many people do you know that define themselves by their abuse?"

"Oh, a lot of people do. I know people who walk around all day saying, 'Hi, my name is Sue and I was abused as a child.' And if they don't say it in the first 15 seconds, they will tell you before you leave them."

"That's what I am talking about it. Too me this seems wierd."

"Well, I know you were abused as a child. You and I have talked about it."

"Maybe it's because I am a man that I don't walk around with a banner over my head saying, "I am a victim of abuse."'

"No, I don't think so. I know men excuse their behavior because of their past."

"So there is more to this?

"Think about it this way: "Are you your experience or are you a man who has had an experience?"

"I'm listening."

"If you were diagnose with cancer, would you walk around saying, "Hi, my name is Bob and I am cancer.'? Of course not. No one does that. Yet when people experience sad, tragic events they seem to want to make themselves their experience. Many people keep themselves in a tomb by letting their experiences define them."

"I get that - so what your saying is that people are more than their experience."

"Right. They are sons, daughters, mothers, fathers. They are car mechanics, nurses, teachers. They are hardworking, kind, generous, helpful, caring. They are people of worth, people worthy of respect."

"Okay. Even though I was abused as a child I still have these wonderful qualities."

"Yes, and look how you have used these qualities to make a difference to lots of people. You are a man with an experience, a terrible, horrible, awful experience and you are man who is much more than his experience. Has that terrible childhood helped shape you in some ways that you may not have been shaped if you didn't have the experience? Sure. But your experience is not your identity. Your history is not your destiny."

"Whew, that is heavy stuff. Can I think about this some more?"

"Of course. Make it a great day taking your wonderful self to the hurting world."

"I will."

(c) 2009 Ronald Friesen

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Welcome to my blog....

I have been blogging for over  6 years. I was a member of the Blogstream community until it recently closed.

Some of my friends think I am an old sage. Some others think that I am the young 60 plus year old who is always thinking thoughts which challenge them. Some people know that occasionally I do actually preach a sermon.

This blog is about encouraging seekers of truth and life.