Taking a Stand a la Martin Luther

 

Martin Luther by Cranach the Elder

 

On this day in 1517, the German priest Martin Luther nailed his 96 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.  You have to admire a person who is passionate enough about his beliefs to take on an entire institution, especially one as powerful as the Catholic Church.

I got to thinking about my own principles.  Were there any that I believed in that strongly?  That I’d be willing to risk everything for?  I’d probably second-guess myself too much, worry that my stand was wrong or that the opinion of others was just as valuable.

So much can get in our way of standing up for our values.  What if we offend others?  What if I incur punishment?  What if I’m wrong?  What if it’s just too much bother?

I suppose, too, we have to know what our principles even are, in order to stand up for them.  Now, some of our ideas will change as we get older and wiser (one hopes).  But are there such things as Universal Truths?  If so, who determines them and what are they?

Perhaps life really isn’t about finding Universal Truths, but about finding our own.  What do you think?

 

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Full Moon Tonight!

Moon phases

In astrology, the Moon is considered so important that it is counted as a planet.  If the Sun is the archetypal masculine, or yang, energy, then the Moon is the feminine or yin.  It represents emotions, receptivity, water, women, motherhood, and memories.  From ancient times, the Moon has been associated with the Goddess in all her phases: the waxing Moon as Maiden, the full Moon as Mother, the waning Moon as Crone.

The Moon has an orbital cycle of just over 27 days.  In other words, it will pass through all twelve astrological signs in those 27ish days.  So, since the Moon represents our emotions, you can see why we human beings are sometimes temperamental.  Every two days, we experience the moon in a different way!  (If you are thinking  “the Moon can’t possibly influence me,” remember that the the Moon does indeed influence the ocean tides and that the human body is about 60% water.)

This afternoon’s Full Moon is in Taurus–coincidentally the arrangement I was born under.  Knowing the current Moon, as well as your own natal Moon, can give you insight into your inner emotional life.  Here is the symbolism for each Moon sign:

Moon in Aries:  Impulse control, overreacting, self-expression, taking action

Moon in Taurus:  Comfort and security, stability, sensuality

Moon in Gemini:  Restlessness, sociability, connections with others

Moon in Cancer:  Mothering, expressive, nurturing

Moon in Leo:  Confidence, playfulness, self-indulgence

Moon in Virgo:  Logic and precision, analysis of feeling, inhibition

Moon in Libra:  Diplomacy and balance, people pleasing

Moon in Scorpio:  Intensity, compulsion, jealousy

Moon in Sagittarius:  Independence, impulsiveness, outspokenness

Moon in Capricorn:  Emotional control, dependability, authority

Moon in Aquarius:  Unpredictability, independence, difficulty with intimacy

Moon in Pisces:  Sensitivity, compassion, escapism

The stormy weather here on the US East Coast will likely prevent us from seeing the Full Moon tonight, but maybe give her a nod as you curl up on the sofa under a warm blanket with a cup of hot apple cider and a good book.  I think Taurus would like that. . . .

Bat Symbolism

Moon and Bats

In the spirit of Halloween, I thought I’d write about poor, misunderstood bats.  Don’t get me wrong; bats freak me out a little too.  But I do appreciate their symbolism and their place in nature.

Bats represent transition and initiation according to Ted Andrews in Animal-Speak.  The Babylonians considered them the souls of the dead; the Mayans thought they were symbols of rebirth.

Symbolic meanings often come from observations of an animal’s traits and habitats.  Since bats literally come out of darkness (a cave), we say that they represent death, transition, and rebirth.

Change and death are scary to many of us, and so this association makes bats a source of fear for many.  But Andrews has a wonderful way of looking at change:

When the bat comes into your life, you may see some part of your life begin to go from bad to worse.  That which worked before may no longer.  This is not negative though!  And it will only be upsetting to the degree we are emotionally attached to the old way of life or to the degree we focus on the past rather than the infinite possibilities of the future.

Change and transformations are blessings.  They are not triggered from without but from within, and the world is our mirror.

Other bat traits include its great auditory perception, its ability to fly (bats are the only flying mammal), and its sociability.  Therefore, bats also symbolize clairaudience (clear hearing, or the ability to hear spirit), the ability to move to new heights, and the opportunities we might find in groups.

If bats show up in your life, you can be sure of some great–and perhaps difficult–changes, but you just might be experiencing an initiation into a new way.

Happy Halloween!

 

Dipping my Toe in (gulp) Political Waters

With the presidential election coming up, I’ve had politics on my mind lately.  In general, I really REALLY do not like talking politics, as I believe that one’s personal beliefs are just that:  PERSONAL.  In fact, part of me wishes we could go back to the days when religion and politics were not discussed in polite society.

With the advent of so much social media, however, everyone and his sister feel compelled to shout out political opinions on a daily basis.  Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest allow us to share our passions with the world, maybe a little too freely, in my opinion.

In general, I applaud the spread of information and encourage anything that teaches, educates, and edifies.  But is it just me, or does it seem like most of the political stuff out there–even from so-called news organizations–is intended to belittle, ridicule, and condemn the other side?

Now, my intention with this post is NOT to convince readers that one side of the aisle is better than the other.  Instead, I hope to shed some light on WHAT each side is.  I find that so much of what is out there is simply name calling:  all liberals are this, all conservatives are that, Dems this, and Republicans that.

I don’t claim to be an expert on politics, so I searched around online until I found what seems to be a mostly opinion-free definition of Liberal and Conservative.  The information below is copied-n-pasted from the website http://www.arationaladvocate.com.  I have no connection to this website and I do not claim it is error-free.  I just thought it was an interesting discussion.  Read below, and then share your thoughts.

Looking to the past, it is no wonder that confusion exists regarding the understanding of what the terms “liberal” and “conservative” really mean. It is only in the last century that the term “liberal” has become associated with socialism. This collectivist ideology involves the redistribution of income and wealth with an accordingly greater control by the central government over the interactions of economic enterprise. Prior to this evolutionary change, being “liberal” had the reverse meaning of being in strong support of individual freedom with an attendant limited role of government in one’s life.

The term “liberalism” was coined in Europe somewhere in the late 17th or early 18th century to represent a political philosophy that emphasized limited government with individual freedom and civil liberties. It promoted representative government and property rights along with freedom of religion In economic matters it favored non-interference from government since the forces of the marketplace would provide the best results for the nation’s people. Thus, at its prime liberalism represented limited government with a separation of powers among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches and economic free enterprise. Sounds like present day conservatism doesn’t it? 

The term “conservatism” was coined to represent beliefs that arose to counter “liberalism” . Essentially, it supported the existing distribution of power, wealth and attendant social status. These beliefs included emphasizing faith and tradition ahead of freedom of thought and speech, as well as, supporting the total interest of society over those of it’s individual members. Sounds to a degree like present day liberalism doesn’t it?

Unlike Europe, America in the process of enacting a Constitution had developed political beliefs that included economic individualism and the limitation of government power. This was incorporated into the Constitution. This did not follow the beliefs underlying European conservatism but was in fact closer to European liberalism. The American beliefs accepted the concepts of a free market and the personal acquisition of property by individuals. Individual freedoms and property rights were representative of attendant moral, religious, political, and civil rights. As the provisions of the Constitution decreed, the federal government was limited to acting in those areas wherein the states themselves did not have that ability, in inter-state matters and in foreign relations. Great importance was placed on separation of powers, judicial review, and states’ rights as opposed to federal power. This then became the foundation of American “conservatism”.

Entering into the 20th century Americans generally accepted these principles that were to carry the conservative label. However, there was a political movement evolving that could now be endowed with the new label of “liberalism”, American style, that had beliefs that government should be more involved in social issues and in controlling the free market. . Since the economy had become more complex as it expanded these liberal elements began to support the idea that the government could best promote the interests of its citizens by regulating the economy and having government provide for the welfare of its citizenry. In addition they wanted government to correct economic deficiencies they believed to be caused by unregulated capitalism. They supported progressive taxation, antitrust laws, a minimum wage, social security, public education, safety and health regulations, consumer protection and environmental preservation laws. Some of them became socialists, although not necessarily openly supporting Marxism and Communism.

 These elements eventually found a way, albeit gradually, to change the course of government. The federal government, supported by three quarters of the state legislatures, aided and abetted these elements in enacting the 16th Amendment to the Constitution in 1913 taxing the income of wage earners. Although at first it placed only a nominal tax on those with extraordinarily high incomes, with time it evolved into a broad based tax on virtually all income.

In the same year, this federal power was also aided and abetted by the passage of the Federal Reserve Act that placed control of the nation’s money supply and entire nation’s banking system in the hands of the central government. The federal government was now able to usurp “states rights” enumerated under the Constitution. Thus, redirecting income taxes collected from residents of one state to the benefit of residents of other states and to federal programs that in the past may have been entrusted to the actions of individual states. Created deficit spending was now able to be financed by the artificial creation of money by the Federal Reserve Bank.

The American “liberal” received another big boost with passage of a package of social programs entitled “New Deal”. President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced the New Deal in 1933 in an attempt to reverse the economic downturn and provide for those in society having been adversely affected economically by the great depression that followed the stock market crash in 1929. This New Deal legislation placed restraints on free market activities, allowed government to intervene in the economy, heavily increased taxes and increased the size of government. However, it took the sale of materials to our future allies and then later for our own use in WWII, and the tightening of the belts by those Americans supporting our troops, to bring the economy back to relatively normal.

During this period American conservatism developed adherents that did not approve of the New Deal and promoted the resurgence of a free-market economy. They continued on this pursuit and in the presidential election of 1964 conservative Republicans supported Barry Goldwater whose book “The Conscience of a Conservative” espoused the principles of conservatism. Although he lost the election conservative beliefs continued to be espoused and in 1980, Ronald Reagan a strong supporter of Goldwater, took over the conservative mantel, ran and won the Presidency. His call for patriotism, religious and moral values, as well as, strong opposition to high taxes, government controls, and federal spending was the motivation for his support by the majority of Americans.

With this background perhaps we have the foundation to simplify the meaning of the terms, as they apply to an individual American, with which we are dealing in the light of today’s world. Let’s try for definitions that can be easily understood after delineating and reviewing what has been stated heretofore.

Conservatism – from the foregoing we find that this term conveys the following:

  • A free market and the personal acquisition of property by individuals
  • Individual freedoms and property rights are representative of attendant moral, religious, political, and civil rights.
  • In accordance with the Constitution, the federal government is limited to acting in those areas wherein the states themselves do not have that ability, in inter-state matters and in foreign relations.
  • There is great importance placed on separation of powers, judicial review, and states’ rights as opposed to federal power.

Simplified Definition: An ideal “conservative” believes in the importance of the individual person and the family structure; that it is the responsibility for the individuals within each family to do as much as they can for themselves before asking for assistance. When assistance is needed the route taken is community, city, county, state and federal, in that order, with the federal government the avenue of last resort. A conservative believes in the least government possible.

Liberalism – from the foregoing we find that this term conveys the following:

  1. Government should correct economic deficiencies caused by an unregulated free market economy
  2. Government should provide social welfare
  3. It is right for government to impose progressive income taxation
  4. Government should impose a minimum wage
  5. The social security system should remain a system where those working support those who are receiving social security payments
  6. Government should only support public education. forcibly paid for by taxpayers even though some object to certain subject matter and the manner in which it is taught .
  7. Stringent government imposed safety and health regulations.
  8. Consumer protection and environmental preservation laws.

Simplified definition: An ideal liberal takes the completely opposite position to an ideal conservative vying for a socialistic form of government working from the top down wherein the freedom of the individual is compromised for the supposed good of the collective group.

Please note that these definitions do not include side issues such as abortion, gun control, immigration, campaign reform etc. Conservatives and liberals may have identical positions without compromising their basic principles with the following caveat. Conservatives generally believe these issues should be determined by the residents of each individual State whereas Liberals believe that they be addressed at the federal level.

In summation, the fundamental difference between a “liberal” and “conservative” lies in personal responsibility.

A conservative believes that when government assumes responsibility it takes away the freedoms and incentives that make an individual productive. Whereas, a liberal believes an individual’s interests should be subservient to the collective interest of the members of society and thus minimizes reliance on personal responsibility. 

Wondering

What if world peace were possible?

What if it isn’t?

What if everyone always gave his best?

Can you really truly be completely non-judgmental friends with people of other religions, political beliefs, lifestyle orientations?

Is ignorance really bliss?

Why is “the high road” usually more difficult?

What if rude people were put in your path to teach you patience, tolerance, or understanding?

What if they are just jerks?

What if there really are parallel, alternate universes?

If there were, would you trade this one for a different one?

What if you did and couldn’t come back to this one?

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then shouldn’t we just stop trying so hard?

If you think bad thoughts while doing a good deed, is the act nullified?

What do YOU think about??

 

 

 

Elephant & Rider: A Tale of Motivation

As a sports coach, one of my jobs is to help motivate.  I suppose, ideally, each person would find her own motivation, but we all have days when we are a bit off, so I know that at any given practice, at least one person will not be at her best.  And some days,  the whole team might be suffering from a general malaise.  Sigh. . . .

In his book The Happiness Hypothesis, author Jonathan Haidt writes about a Buddhist metaphor for motivation.  The conscious mind is the rider, and the unconscious mind is the elephant.  As the logical one, the rider is able to see the big picture, to plan, and to reason.  The elephant, then, represents emotions and impulses.

Bottom line is that each of us needs to learn how to train our elephant.  By being patient and not necessarily acting on our emotional impulses, we can find the key to motivation and self-improvement.

One of the things that helps me train my own elephant is to find that which is greater than the “quick fix.”  Remember, that emotionally-driven elephant is a heckuva lot bigger than the rider.  So I have to find something REALLY compelling to keep that elephant on the road I choose.

In a sports setting, I can use motivators that might seem a little negative or taunting.  For example, I might push an athlete by asking, “What are YOU going to do for this team?  What are YOU going to give RIGHT NOW?”  I often encourage my team members to find out what they are made of, to push more than they thought they could give.

But in a personal setting, when you don’t have a coach yelling in your ear, how do you dig down deep and wrangle that elephant?  Are you able to focus on that big-picture goal and wisely and gently keep your elephant’s eyes on the true prize?

Who guides your actions, elephant or rider?

 

A Poem for Autumn

Barn’s burnt down; now I can see the moon.  Mizuta Masahide

 

I love this poem by the 17th-century Japanese poet Mizuta.  Mizuta studied under another great poet, Basho, and was samurai.  There is something so appealing to me about the bushido code of the samurai that held duty, discipline, and honorable death above all.

This time of year, with the shortening days and lengthening nights, I think about all the holidays that honor the death of summer and herald the coming winter.  The Celtic celebration of Samhain is one of those traditions.  In this holiday, like Hallows or Day of the Dead, we are meant to celebrate the harvest one final time as well as acknowledge our ancestors who have gone on before us.

It is all too easy to be sad in the winter or at the closing of one chapter, before the next one begins.  But what about the moon?  We tend to forget about the moon when we are looking at the wreckage of the barn.

Our ancestors were a little closer to the earth and sky and didn’t have smartphones or television or jobs in a cubicle to distract them from the natural rhythms of life.  They understood that the circle or wheel of life does indeed KEEP TURNING.  It doesn’t stay stuck on “burnt barn” forever.  (Sometimes it just feels that way……  🙂

Have you had a barn burn down lately?  Did you see the moon yet?