Posted in Essay, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space in Perfection

perfection memeRecently, I read dragonkatet’s piece on “Perfection and Creation.” This got me to ruminating on the nature of perfection. In the United Methodist Church, clergy wannabe’s are required to answer the question, “Are you going on to perfection in this lifetime?” And the expected answer is “yes!”

I had heard a rumor in seminary by Dr. Jack Olive that perhaps our understanding of perfection is different than the understanding that early theologians and philosophers had. And that John Wesley turned to Eastern Orthodox wisdom in an effort to better understand perfection. That appealed to me because perfection seems so unattainable. What if there is a different way?

Corina got me thinking about all of this again! Is perfection unattainable? Is perfection only attributable to the Divine? What is up with this kind of pressure we put on ourselves? And as with everything, the truth is that our understanding has drastically changed over time. Which leaves us free to define perfection in a way that leads to greater life.

The Greek concept is where it all begins for western cultures. That word was “teleos.” In many cases, this word is understood to be completeness rather than the common understanding of perfection—“without flaw.”

perfectionchocolateAristotle defines three meanings of perfection:

  1. That which is complete.
  2. That which is so good that nothing can be found better.
  3. That which has attained its purpose.

aquinasquoteThomas Aquinas goes on to give perfection a dual-fold meaning: That which is perfect in itself (its substance) and when it perfectly suits its purpose.

Other philosophers and theologians have defined perfection to be:

  • Endless
  • The greatest
  • Existence

Plato and Parmenides thought that the world was perfect. That it had perfect shape and motion (spherical/circular). The world is perfect, God is not. Attributing perfection, an intellectual concept of humanity, to the Divine, was a heresy.

However, later came the pantheist Stoics who attributed perfection to the Divine. Why? Because the Divine was equivalent with the world. Here, we are just one short step away from the modern idea that only the Divine is perfect and that we all suffer from an inability to be complete in our own bodies and to find and fulfill our purpose. Eventually, Aristotle’s First Cause and Christianity’s Creator became comingled in theology. Although perfection was still not attributed to the Divine as perfection was believed to be finite.

In the 9th century, philosopher Paschasius Radbertus said that “Everything is the more perfect, the more it resembles God.” But still, God was not perfect because of the finiteness ascribed to the concept of perfection. It is Rene Descartes who introduces perfection as applied to the Divine as he introduces the “perfections of God.” However, Descartes also states that “existence itself is perfection.” They may just have been going through a confusion of perfections!

The concept of perfection has undergone great changes throughout human history. “Nothing in the world is perfect”, to “Everything is perfect”; and from “Perfection is not an attribute of God”, to “Perfection is an attribute of God.” (Tatarkiewicz, “Ontological and Theological Perfection,” Dialetics and Humanism, vol. VIII, no. 1 (winter 1981), p. 192.)

perfectionPerhaps it is time to render a definition of perfection that lifts us up and allows us to achieve completeness and fulfill our purpose. In Christianity, we often go back to “The Greatest Commandment.” That is “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” We then focus on the loving God part and then sometimes the loving your neighbor part but totally neglect the implied love yourself part. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” When we love ourselves, we can achieve completeness, find and fulfill a purpose! Artists gotta art. Preachers gotta preach. Poets gotta poem. Architects gotta design. Caretakers gotta care. And so on. Of course, within all of this is the tension between what we want and what we have. There are limits and sometimes part of loving is setting aside the dream and doing the chore. But that is still part of purpose. And it is still part of perfection.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, totally subscribes to the “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself” approach to perfection. He writes,

O grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell, but thy pure love alone!
O may thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown !
Strange fires far from my heart remove;
My every act, word, thought, be love!

I never heard that any one objected to this. And indeed who can object? Is not this the language, not only of every believer, but of every one that is truly awakened? But what have I wrote, to this day, which is either stronger or plainer?
John Wesley, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

easypeasy2Perfection is living life in such a way that “every act, word, thought, be love!” Easy peasy.

Perhaps living a life where everything is derived from love is not so easy. But it is something that I can ascribe to, and with practice, grow into. So perhaps perfection is the process that leads to a complete life fulfilled in acts of love–love that leads to justice, mercy, and humility.

So mote it be!

Shalom,

Terri

Simultaneously published at www.BeguineAgain.com

terrisignoffblog

 

 

Posted in Essay, find yourself, General Interest, John Anstie

Quid est veritas? … Veritas vos Liberabit

(What is truth? … The truth shall set you free)

The story of cosmology is the story of our search for the ultimate truth

Produced using Cloudart
Produced using Cloudart

This quote comes from a recent episode of one of my favourite BBC documentary programmes, ‘Horizon’, which was titled ‘What happened before the Big Bang?’. It centred on the thinking, with the aid of mathematics and string theory, of a handful of professorial academics from around the world, who have developed some new theories. One such theory suggests that the expansion of our known universe since the Big Bang, nearly fourteen billion years ago, is only one ‘bounce of a ball’, of a cyclic series of events and that its apparently infinite size is merely a minimal starting point for the next Big Bang. I don’t know about you, but I find this, at the same time, utterly mind boggling and totally fascinating. It also serves to bring into perspective the true meaning of our lives and, in particular, the meaning of truth, which, in consequence, is only a relative term, particularly when it comes to this area of science. There may be a myriad of learned tomes, on the subject of truth, written by countless thinkers and philosophers over the millennia of human existence, but, setting aside the search for the true answers to scientific and mathematical questions about the origins of our universe, it is on the most basic social and spiritual level that I choose to focus.

My first prompt for this piece occurred three years ago, when I observed, amongst other exceptional acts of forgiveness and the search for truth, the effects of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up in post-apartheid South Africa under Nelson Mandela’s leadership. The second prompt is that constant irritation: politicians! To be fair, this affects all those in positions of influence, with vested interest in maintaining status quo or personal wealth, who are so often inclined to be ‘economical with the truth’, if the truth is likely to compromise their position or possessions. This probably includes all of us from time to time. However, if you are in a position of power, when your decisions affect whole populations, then being economical with the truth may be considered, at best, morally wrong, if not downright contemptible! So much depends on the ulterior motive. Difficulty arises when you listen to words spoken by someone, whose allegiances are unknown to you, and therefore leave you with the dilemma of whether or not you believe they are speaking the truth. For me, sometimes, the solution to this is to do your own research; it is your call.

The third prompt is meat to those who, in telling lies, would argue that the truth is relative to its context. As true as that may be, there are some fundamental questions, which it may be helpful to ask. These questions and their answers rely heavily on my own life’s observations and experience. I’ve presented this, for clarity, in the form of a mock interview …

What is the truth?

The truth is without bias, in conformity with fact and reality, and is concerned only with honesty and integrity.

What defines truth?

The truth is not only defined by its context, but also by your ability to address your conscience*, head on, assuming that it has not been corrupted by external bias (i.e. vested interests). Equally important is an ability to face reality, however unpleasant or painful that may be.

How do we justify the limits we place on our honesty about the truth?

We justify limits on our honesty in many ways: by joining a tribe and deferring to its rules; by focussing on our own self-preservation or our vested interests; and by denying voice to our conscience.

How do we know what the truth is and how do we recognise it?

In order to know what the truth is, it is necessary firstly to cast off our natural bias and prejudice; to open our minds; perhaps also to become pantheistic in our outlook.

How much of the truth can we individually consciously face head on?

Knowing your limits is a safe harbour, but may also be a block to discovering the truth. So, it may be necessary to be courageous in the quest.

What strategies can we devise to help us get to the truth?

Somehow we may not only have to overcome personal prejudice and swallow our pride, but also face the facts and stop echoing and repeating popular myths that come from the pens and mouths of those around you.

How much do we have to sacrifice both to seek and to tell the truth?

We have to set aside our need for material things and kick the habit of consumerism. We also need to examine, evaluate and better understand our pride and prejudice (with apologies to Jane Austen).

Who will speak the truth?

Any of us can speak the truth, but, before we do, we will have to develop the inner strength to resist and cast off all those temptations that beset us with envy, greed, carnal hunger and cognitive bias.

I recently attended a concert, in which the headline act were a folk and roots duo, whose talent and performances we have come to enjoy. The unusual and refreshing part of this concert was that the supporting act, who came on to ‘warm’ us up, was a poet, whom I had first met last year through the Sheffield WordLife movement, at the opening of the Sheffield Literature Festival. The poet is Joe Kriss. One of the self penned poems he read, concluded with words to the effect: stop talking, start thinking and listen to what lies between your ears; only then will you know what’s true.

There are many parts of our lives for which exposure of the truth, if shared with the majority and if reconciliation was achieved, would make for a better world. I wonder, however, if finding the truth in every part of our lives would challenge our humanity. If that truth were too unpalatable to face – the prospect of our own imminent failure, the discovery of a skeleton in our own cupboard, life threatening illness and death … would we still want to know the truth?

Perhaps you might let me know if you have found your truth … and whether you feel it set you free? 

_________________________

* The defining of conscience could, no doubt, be the subject of a veritable treatise. For now, suffice to say that conscience is defined as “the complex of ethical and moral principles that controls or inhibits the actions or thoughts of an individual”. Put more simply, it is “the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one’s conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action: to follow the dictates of conscience“.

© 2014 John Anstie

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer. John has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and was an early player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

Petrichor Rising Book Cover.phpd'Verse Anthology Book CoverJohn has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

Posted in General Interest, Naomi Baltuck, Photo Essay, Photography/Photographer

The Flight of the Sparrow

Last summer I saw a baby Stellar Jay perched on my arbor, resting after trying out its wings. I looked away for an instant; when I looked back, it was gone.

It reminded me of something The Venerable Bede once said.  Bede was an Anglo-Saxon monk born in 672A.D.

In  The Ecclesiastical History of the English People he compares a person’s life to the flight of a sparrow.  Imagine sitting in a mead-hall at supper by the light of a blazing fire, while outside a winter storm rages.

A sparrow flies in one door of the hall, into the light, then darts out out another door, back into the cold dark night.  “So our lives appear for a short space,” said Bede, “but of what went before, or what is to follow, we are utterly ignorant.”

People have many different thoughts, feelings, beliefs and explanations as to what or if anything comes before…

…or after the sparrow’s flight.

Sooner or later each of us will fly out into the night.

That seems to be the only thing everyone can agree upon.

I don’t need to know all the answers before I fly back out.

I am right here, right now, basking in the warm and beautiful light of life.

Whatever happens outside the mead-hall won’t change the way I live my life here and now.

I have work I am passionate about…

..family I love and good friends to play with.

I care about issues in the wider world…

…and in my own little sphere.

I hope I can make some small difference…as a writer, a storyteller, a parent, a friend…

…and to leave even just a little nightlight shining…

…when my flight is done.
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All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Posted in Essay, John Anstie, Poems/Poetry, teacher

Enduring Ancient Wisdom

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī (1207-1273), Iranian poet, jurist and theologian, and Sufi mystic
Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad  Rumi (1207-1273), Persian poet, jurist and theologian, and Sufi mystic

I’m trying to follow the theme of an essay, which I wrote for Into the Bardo, “Fortes Fortuna Adiuvat (Fortune Favours The Bold)”, which was published here at the beginning of August. It was a deeply thoughtful piece that probably comes from my own anxieties at the state of the world. In consequence, it became an overly long and involved treatise, in which I tried to encapsulate my understanding of what needs to happen to rescue the human race from itself.

An impossible dream, you might say, and you could be right. However, a couple of weeks after publishing it, I stumbled upon something that struck me between the eyes! It was an eight hundred year old poem, which felt as if it were a personal message from somewhere unknown! Also, another article that was posted here on Into The Bardo, last Saturday, A Biassed Mind Cannot Grasp Reality: A Message from the Dalai Lama, (Excerpts from His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s address to the inter-faith seminar organised by the International Association for Religious Freedom, Ladakh Group, in Leh on 25 August), spoke of how human ‘agitation’ was the cause of many of our woes. This was a particularly enlightening read; I recommend it to you highly.

The first three verses of this poem, appeared from Rumi’s Facebook page and struck me in a number of ways, not least of all because it represents a special milestone in the recognition of so much that I believe about the human condition, which is to recognise our own individuality, our own convictions and that, I would argue, we should take responsibility for our own actions. I had, therefore to seek out its source and find the rest of the poem, written by that much revered Thirteenth Century Persian poet, jurist, theologian and Sufi mystic, Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī.

“Everything you see has its roots in the unseen world” – isn’t this the space between our ears?

“Why do you weep? The source is within you” – ditto

I have, for a long time, recognised that, whilst we may cover ourselves with a veneer of sophistication, we cannot hide from the frailty of our very human condition. The Industrial Revolution, the engineering and technology, which has resulted over the following two hundred and fifty years, may have produced some remarkable examples of our ingenuity, but the problems of the world that remain, which are, for the most part, of our own making, are the same in essence as they were when this poem was written nearly eight hundred years ago, when humans were still humans, but without the technology. It seems a strange irony that this could be a sign that our resultant wealth, which is far more widely distributed than it was eight hundred years ago, has blurred our vision of life’s purpose, whilst at the same time (certainly in the case of this post) aided it, with computer technology.

When we’ve learned this lesson, when we’ve learned, not just how to recognise this fact, but how to respond to it, to imbue the young minds of future generations with the knowledge that they need to discover how they are going to embrace all cultures, all religions and all manner of human personalities (because we adults have not made a great job of it so far and are clearly not entirely capable of teaching them) then, and only then, will we be truly able to move on as a race … and awaken to that much vaunted new dawn, that enlightenment.

I give you the words of one, who probably knew much more and was more qualified than most of us living today to understand the human condition …

A Garden Beyond Paradise

Everything you see has its roots
in the unseen world.
The forms may change,
yet the essence remains the same.
Every wondrous sight will vanish,
every sweet word will fade.
But do not be disheartened,
The Source they come from is eternal—
growing, branching out,
giving new life and new joy.
Why do you weep?—
That Source is within you,
and this whole world
is springing up from it.
The Source is full,
its waters are ever-flowing;
Do not grieve,
drink your fill!
Don’t think it will ever run dry—
This is the endless Ocean!
From the moment you came into this world,
a ladder was placed in front of you
that you might transcend it.
From earth, you became plant,
from plant you became animal.
Afterwards you became a human being,
endowed with knowledge, intellect and faith.
Behold the body, born of dust—
how perfect it has become!
Why should you fear its end?
When were you ever made less by dying?
When you pass beyond this human form,
no doubt you will become an angel
and soar through the heavens!
But don’t stop there.
Even heavenly bodies grow old.
Pass again from the heavenly realm
and plunge into the ocean of Consciousness.
Let the drop of water that is you
become a hundred mighty seas.
But do not think that the drop alone
becomes the Ocean—
the Ocean, too, becomes the drop!

– Jelaluddin Rumi

A Garden Beyond Paradise: The Mystical Poetry of Rumi
(translated by Jonathan Star), Bantam Books, NY, 1992, pp. 148-149
Edited by Peter Y. Chou, WisdomPortal.com

© 2013, essay and portrait below, John Anstie, All rights reserved

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Oc casional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer.  John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK).

product_thumbnail.php51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_

John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

Posted in Guest Writer, Uncategorized

RESPONSIBILITIES – TIME – AND A CUPPA JOE

This is a story that make its point in a charming and memorable way. Its oft told on blogs and in emails, but not always with the charm invested by Kate. J.D.

COFFEE PHILOSOPHY

by

Kate (Subtle Kate)

A professor stood before his philosophy class with a large empty jar and  and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar, of course the sand filled up everything else.
He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things like your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favourite passions — things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

“The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car.

The sand is everything else –the small stuff.”

If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner.Play another eighteen holes. There will always be time to clean the house, and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked,” he said.
“It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a cup of coffee. “

·

Photo credit ~ Image Chef.com

Kate ~ has been blogging as subtlekate since December of last year and in that time she has garnered an impressive array of awards. She’s a doctor and a mom and says she’s “very much in love with a sexy bald man.” She lives by the sea in Australia. Kate writes quite a bit about writing and reading and is participating in goodreads 2012 reading challenge.