Category Archives: Politics

A World for Our Grandchildren

People who know me would likely describe me as a “no drama” person.  Relatively cool-headed, thoughtful, inclined to turn the dial down on conflict and confrontation and find “some other way.”  In a tug-of-war, I sometimes just drop my end of the rope and wait to see what happens.

But Roger Cohen got to me yesterday. I did manage to sleep on it overnight, but I couldn’t get away from it.  He wrote that his fifth grandchild had just been born on February 1, and he didn’t know what kind of world these children would find when they come of age.

Our twelfth grandchild was born on February 2, and I have tears in my eyes when I think of the world that may be awaiting these dozen precious beings.

It could be a beautiful world – one where the natural environment is moving in a healthful direction, blossoming with possibility. One where nations have abjured war, and where their representatives share their desires and interests with an intent to find a win-win instead of zero-sum outcomes. One where people of diverse backgrounds gather in creative endeavors to brighten all our lives, where those who have more resources find helpful ways to share with and encourage those who have less.

But our world now is agitated by emotions that are unhelpful –  fear, anxiety, and anger, energized by a desire to blame others.  When a country like the United States, a beacon of light for so many,  starts to nurture that hateful, constricted morphic field of emotion, the effects are far more damaging than they might be from other places. When they come from the elected leader of this country, and are supported by many in a major party – not just an extremist group – the effect is like standing behind a jet plane as it takes off.

When I let it in, I feel as though I can barely stand on my feet.  That’s how I felt after reading Cohen’s op-ed.

It’s true: this administration is slowly “getting people to shrug.” After so much hot air, so much emotional coercion, I’ve developed an avoidance reaction, turning my shoulder to the onslaught, a “shrug” that combines disdain, self-protection, and helplessness.   It isn’t a shrug of not-caring, or it-doesn’t-matter.  I know it matters and I care – but how can I stand up to it?  I don’t see a way.

It does not escape me that there is resonance with some aspects of the #MeToo movement.  As Uma Thurman said, one can become more compliant or less compliant. Partly it depends on how much pain one can stand, whether one can persuade oneself to redefine cruelty as misguided attachment, and whether to decide to fight or to spend one’s limited energy on other things that seem much more beneficial and creative.

Here too:   How much pain are we experiencing?  Some people more than others – some not at all right now.  How much do we empathize? How bad does it have to get?

Are we persuading ourselves that cruelty, contempt, and grandiosity are merely misguided patriotism, pride, and insecurity?

If we are we choosing to invest time in our own private, creative and beneficial endeavors in the belief that our energy is best spent that way, we had better investigate our beliefs.

If we hesitate because we “just don’t have the energy for it,” chalk that up to false belief. When we truly commit to the good, the true, the beautiful, the transcendent, the cosmos opens for us an unbelievable reservoir of energy.

The Greatest Generation had to face some choice like that in their Darkest Hour.  I don’t know if we’re there, but we – I – should face reality instead of turning away with a shrug.

I’m looking at my grandchildren’s pictures. I wonder if my dad, when he flew thirty missions over Germany, was thinking of his adored nieces and nephews, and his own yet-unborn children – one of which was me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full Moon, Blue Moon, Blood Moon, Eclipse

blue-blood-moon

And the State of the Union.

Just sayin’.

Not that I believe in omens or anything.

But the second full moon in a solar month seems a worthy occasion to start up this blog again. I’ve been taking a break to work on other projects; and I’ve been reflecting on why I am writing here.

One thing is clear. I’m not blogging to persuade, convince, change minds, achieve leverage, gain a following, or make an impact.  In the overpopulated jungle of the internet, the belief that a lone individual can do that is near-delusional.

It’s more like sending a signal into the far reaches of (cyber)space to say “Life here!”  Mmm… a little more than that:  “Intelligent Life Here!”  If anyone happens to pick up the signal and respond, great.

Intelligent life is important, by which I mean, it’s the way we are importing the creative dynamics of the universe around us.  Intelligence is our receptivity, our sensitivity, our ability to accept what is in-formation.

Sadly, in our collective life much energy is being expended in battles.  Outrage, however justified, takes us out of ourselves, damages our receptive intelligence. All the more, we need to attend to what is deeper, to our inner dimensions.

That’s my purpose. Now some reflections on this remarkable day, January 30-31, 2018.

The coincidental occurrences of the full lunar eclipse visible in America, the State of the Union message, and the Jewish holiday of the New Year of the Trees (Tu b’Shevat) offer us a way of imagining “As Above, So Below”  — and its transformation, “As Inside, So Outside.”

Lunar eclipse:  the earth, sun, and moon are aligned so precisely that the earth blocks the sunlight from reaching the moon. An inner question: are we ourselves blocking the light that makes our particular placement in space so beautiful? The dynamic dance of sun, moon and earth seems to slow, almost stop, to hold our attention, to ask, What does this mean to you?  This planet, this space, this light?  

 The State of the Union:  “The Union” of diverse perspectives, an American ideal, seems blocked as well. We are perhaps too concerned with “The State,” with nation-states. The “blood moon,” referring to the color of the moon in eclipse as we see it from earth, has traditionally been an omen – we might say the overheated “blood” of ethnicity, identity politics, nationalism. And yet it may appear to us as orange, the color of compassionate wisdom, or in another perspective as creativity, exploration.  How can we creatively, wisely reimagine our Union?

Tu b’Shevat:  From this date, the 15th of Shevat on the Jewish (lunar) calendar, we count the age of fruit trees, so we know when they are mature enough for us to take their fruit (the fourth year).  A New Year for Trees calls us to look at renewal in a different way. From this time in the year the earth is warming, the sap begins to run. We begin to thaw from whatever has frozen us. This reminds me of the great movement afoot to deal with trauma. If we look over the past couple of decades, from our deeper attention to PTSD among veterans to our growing awareness of abuse and harassment, sexual and otherwise, we can perhaps sense the beginnings of a thaw.  Painful, difficult, full of personal upheaval and gyrations in social dynamics, but it has the potential to un-freeze us from patterns that have blocked human potential for millennia.  How are we participating in this process?

Letting the sap flow by opening slowly, our skin receiving the warmth of the sun, a little more each day, like sweet amber-orange maple syrup appearing in droplets on tree bark, earth responding to sun. . . . Coming full circle, like the full moon, to new intelligence and compassion.  You can think of more ways to activate these inner dimensions. It does make a difference.

Omen.  Amen.

 

Maybe Something Doesn’t Love a Wall

“To show we’re great, we’ll build a wall!”
He shouted, “Long and big and tall!”

Does God define those out and in
By race or creed or next of kin?
If that’s the purpose of your wall
May all your bills in Congress stall!

But a worse lesson you must learn
Before you take one more bad turn:
Your wall cannot change to a boat
When every house now has a moat.
Walls will not be thought of more
When men must now rebuild a shore.

Your surety you thought would keep
But even you must watch and weep
As walls and towers built to abide
Are strewn across the countryside.

And now will the jeweled isles cry
While you continue to deny
The changes come upon our land?
We can all see the stronger Hand.

We know pride goes before a fall.
Do you think God cares for your wall?

For Emma Lazarus and the Mother of Exiles

in reply to Mr Stephen Miller:

 

Not like the silver tongues of ancient times

Who taught with wisdom in the city gate —

Today a brazen youth steps forth with hate

To twist the meaning of an honored sign!

Our mild-eyed lady need not yield a line

Of meaning from her poem. O let him prate

With facts and figures all drawn up to mate

His pompous thoughts. But we will not resign.

When we refuse the despots in their tower,

Resolving to undo their secret schemes,

Heart’s knowledge reveals to us a different power:

The race is won by courage, love, and dreams.

The golden door will long outlast this hour —

The torch remains aloft, undimmed its beams!

–A Cosmopolitan

Crisis and the Global Brain

Tiffany Shlain, founder of Let It Ripple Film Studios, has compared our newly interconnected society to the developing brain of a baby.  The internet is a global ‘brain’ composed of electronic, virtual networks in its early stages.

I like this metaphor.  I’m not sure it’s exact, because the newborn’s brain develops in the context of  warm, nurturing emotional connections with others, whereas the internet started at the other end, building its ‘neocortex’ first (scientists were the first to use it).  But I think the metaphor can help us understand our current situation.

So let’s take it as a strong analogy. I’ll add to it by suggesting that a year of internet development is equivalent to about a month in infant development.  The history then would look like this:

The internet was in fetal stage in the 1980s, beginning with the Simple Mail Protocol in 1982. Its birth as a global phenomenon was 9 “months” later in August 1991, when the World Wide Web was introduced to the public. A new intelligence came into the world.

At age 2 months (1993) the first instant message appeared – interestingly, husband to wife, saying “Don’t be scared.”  At 4 months (1995), the baby began creating exchanges within its environment that were broader: obtaining goods and communications (Amazon, EBay, Hotmail). At 7 months (1998), it began to explore and search its environment for things it actively wanted (Google).  At 8 months (1999), Emojis arrived to offer a variety of simple emotional communication. While Web TV had been around for a while, interactive (two-way) personal video communication wasn’t till the baby was a year old (Skype 2003) and posting homemade videos two months later (YouTube 2005). Short bits of designed communication (Twitter 2006) were at age 15 months – on that level of the brain, a precocious kid.

In the years since, the internet has transformed our individual brains through the technology designed to connect our personal brains to it more and more intuitively, the iconic inventions being the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010.

An individual baby’s brain from 16 to 24 months is changing at an enormous rate, mastering more ways of interacting with its environment physically, emotionally, and linguistically, as well as developing the beginnings of self-identity.  Babies recognize themselves in mirrors sometime after 15 months of age. That’s a pretty good marker for when our global brain began to recognize, about 10 years ago, that we are becoming a different species – seeing ourselves in a much larger mirror.

I wonder if it is an accident that just then, the USA broke through an old barrier and elected a black president who demonstrated himself to be a globally-oriented leader (sometimes to his detriment in effectiveness). While others had been proclaiming a clash of civilizations, as if the brain were at war within itself, he championed the view that our difficulties were a mirror of adjustment to globalization, to this new evolution of Intelligence.

Many of us, using the new technology, have seen a dream emerging into reality as our horizons expand beyond anything imaginable in our youth.  But we also know that personally, we can easily get overwhelmed by information. Struggling to relate to the new reality, we often exhaust ourselves – our nervous systems are overwhelmed, our time seems to dissipate, we find it difficult to make choices about how to connect, with whom, for what.  This is a challenge of learning something new – of becoming part of a bigger world – but it’s tricky, and we don’t always manage it well.

Just as a toddler will tantrum when over-stressed, as any child can fall back to its previous developmental stage (with parents moaning, “Why is he acting like a baby again?”), so with us. While using the tools of our new technology, we falter. “Too much too soon” is what educators tells us about a child who is in nursery school a bit too early.

We’re just a little over two years old in our new collective brain.  All the pieces that have to come together for us to function competently are not in place yet.  And in political developments – the polis, the public arena, analogous to the nursery school playroom – we are seeing eruptions.

Now, this seemed like a crazy comparison, so I went searching into infant development to see if there was anything remotely relevant.  I happened across some interesting studies reported in research by a group called Zero to Three, focusing on the development from infancy to early childhood.

Before three years old, kids aren’t highly developed in social interactions. In fact, most researchers hold that empathy doesn’t develop much before age five.  However, more in-depth research that depends less on verbal fluency has shown something different.  A fascinating experiment was designed to see whether babies can infer information about others from their behavior.  It turned out that if the experimenter asked a 15-month-old toddler to give her one of a choice of foods, the baby would give her what the baby liked.  But by 18 months of age, the toddler could discern from the experimenter’s previous behavior what the experimenter liked, and would give her that food.  Not only did it reveal inferential abilities, but also that the baby wanted to make the experimenter feel good. This is one of the roots of philanthropic behavior – I can act for something other than what I would want, on behalf of another person.

The enormous possibilities for this development in the global brain are astounding.  Tiffany Shlain gives us an example in her beautiful video The Adaptable Mind.  

At the same time, under stress or crisis, we will fall back into places where we think we can get emotional support – back to our 15-month-old brain. We need those places to recover resiliency.  Blocs of population that are less attuned, or have had less exposure and supportive learning with the new global brain, are more likely to slip out of sync.  And all of us born before 1980 know that, like a language, if you didn’t grow up with it, it’s much harder and sometimes humiliating (“if you can’t fix your smart phone, ask your kid”)!

Thus, over the last 10 years, which developmentally for the global brain would be the time of growing in empathic understanding and desire to give to one another, some parts of the brain are simply not there yet, or can’t sustain it.  In earlier eras, families and religious communities provided the back-up for individuals going through periods of stress. In the era of global brain, we go to social media “bubbles,” or “echo chambers,” where we get reinforcement on an emotional level from others who feel like us.

I hope this sounds familiar. We’ve thought that the stresses of cultural change / global-brain development would gradually dissolve, but instead they intensified and came home to roost in the past year.  We know that one half of the brain fighting another is not good, and the rise of nationalistic identities plus the information wars are exactly that.

A situation that lasts a month or two in the life of a toddler can be rectified.  If it becomes toxic stress, over years of abuse or conflicting demands, recovery is more difficult.

Where does that leave us?

First, don’t add to our stress by feeling guilty or making others feel that way.  Retreating to an echo chamber is like hunkering down in a hideout for awhile. These reactions are natural, on all sides.

Second, comforting experiences are important. Last week we had big rains in southern California, and a few people posted photos of amazing rainbows at the end of the storms. I was surprised to discover in myself how suddenly my tension levels dropped when I lingered a few minutes on the rainbows.  Find your favorite internet tension-relief spots. It’s like a loving parent showing up to give us a hug.

Third, since we don’t want the current stress to go on any longer than necessary, who’s going to drop their end of the rope and say, we’re not doing this tug-of-war anymore?  It’s hard, when you feel that something big is at stake, but brain health is pretty high priority. We have to engage our creativity to find other ways than continued push-and-pull.

Fourth, we can take a big perspective.  The brilliance of Shlain’s work is exactly that – to see ourselves as part of an organism that is evolving. Like the two-year-old who sees herself in the mirror, whose knowledge that she is a whole being affects her entire identity, we too are learning to see ourselves and our future differently.  We need to practice this perspective, remind ourselves daily.

In that big perspective, remember that your presumed ‘opponents’ are stressed out too. Even the president publicly said he needs to be among friends (2/18/17 rally in Florida). While I write that with a considerable dose of irony, there is a drop of sympathy too.

The sympathetic, philanthropic impulse is a matter of the soul. It becomes visible at a certain point in brain development, and that generous connection to the needs and desires of the other is the child’s first initiation into a larger world.  So also for the global brain. Patrick Harpur writes in The Philosopher’s Secret Fire, “There is always enough fear and pain to go around. The secret is to use these experiences for self-initiation.”

As we use our internet experiences for self-initiation – experiences of fear and pain as well as curiosity and joy – the perspective of the soul will be what allows us to heal the global brain in crisis, and draw out its potential for the future.

Religious Freedom – the Movie

Is religious freedom now under threat in America?

A flurry of interest surrounded a draft executive order leaked at the beginning of February. This trial balloon featured greater “religious freedom” for organizations that don’t want to serve all Americans and yet want to be eligible for federal aid.  Basically, if you are working for or representing an organization that doesn’t agree with someone else’s beliefs, lifestyle, or choices, you and your organization would be allowed to refuse them services.

We’re encountering “doublethink” here, turning language inside out from its usual meaning. Religious people are claiming that their freedom to act in accordance with their beliefs is being restricted. But, as one legal commentator noted to the contrary, “Being denied the ability to discriminate against others is not discrimination against you.”

I thought religious freedom was freedom to worship (or not) in the religion of your choice.  I thought it was connected with freedom of speech and the press: you can speak up or publish your beliefs without fear of reprisal.  Exceptions would kick in only, as in general law, if you were advocating violence, or endangering others.

Religious free speech and action is restricted somewhat, in exchange for an organization’s privilege of being exempt from federal taxes. With that exemption, you have to obey federal law and, when engaged in public service, treat everyone equally (that doesn’t apply to religious worship or membership).  Also, your organization cannot publicly campaign for, endorse, or support political candidates and parties.

The idea is that religions are spiritual and charitable, and by common understanding, a benefit for society as a whole if they are kept non-partisan. Religion thus was defined as private to the person, with a social benefit of ethical and spiritual inspiration, from being “above the fray.”

If political candidates had a strong religious tradition, they assured voters that their religion was a private matter and would not interfere with their commitment to serve all the people.  In this delicate way, American democracy created a religiously pluralistic society without becoming anti-religious.

The latest proposals on “religious freedom” disturb me because they cast doubt on that subtle relationship. I am no longer sure that all religious Americans feel the obligation to respect their fellow Americans’ beliefs and practices, that they are willing to serve all without discrimination, and in their workplace and other places of service put the public welfare first.  The questions I have are mostly about conservative Christians, some of whom are Protestant evangelicals and some conservative Roman Catholics.  (Ironically, if I were in a diverse country with a majority Muslim population, I would likely be worried in the same way about some Muslims. It’s not about a specific religion but an inherent tension between a pluralistic society and particularistic beliefs and practices.)

Shadows appeared on my horizon when I realized how many evangelicals were being brought into the new administration. They include Mike Pence (VicePresident), Rick Perry (Energy), Betsy DeVos (Education), Scott Pruitt (EPA), Ben Carson (HUD), Sonny Perdue (Agriculture) and Jeffrey Sessions (Justice).  Reince Preibus (Chief of Staff) maintains an affiliation with the Greek Orthodox church that was his birth heritage, but for nearly two decades has been most active in an evangelical church. Similarly, Nikki Haley (UN Ambassador), grew up a Sikh but is now a committed Christian.  Two politically conservative Roman Catholics, Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn, are high-level advisors.

As for Congress, the Pew Research Center finds not much changed over recent years, and reports a numerical Protestant decline in the 115th Congress. But Pew also observes that the number of “unspecified” and non-denominational Protestants has risen by 10 individuals. Without a detailed breakout we can’t say for sure, but those categories usually indicate membership in a community evangelical church or megachurch and could signal a growing influence from that wing of Christianity.

Even without that issue, Congress remains heavily Christian – almost 99% of Republicans and nearly 80% of Democrats. Overall, 90% of Congress are Christian compared to 71% of the American public. Only 2% of Congress is unaffiliated or not stating a religion, yet 23% of the American public is religiously unaffiliated.  Religion is overrepresented in general, as well as Christianity in particular.  Non-Christian faiths as a proportion of Congress are nearly the same as in the general population, about 8%, though Jews outnumber the others in that category which includes Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Unitarians.

Then there was the presidential inauguration, where we saw a display of religion like we have not seen in our lifetimes: six invocations or benedictions by clergy.  From Truman through Nixon, it was common to have 3 or 4 clergy, including usually a Protestant, a Catholic, maybe a Greek Orthodox and a Jew. That stopped with Jimmy Carter in 1977, and – except for Reagan’s second inaugural – the norm became two people only; Protestants dominated, led by Billy Graham. In George W. Bush’s inaugurals, one was African-American. Obama had the first woman and non-clergy, and the first megachurch pastor.

But this time we were presented with three clergy before and three after the inaugural address; a Protestant, a Catholic, a Jew, an African-American minister, a minister representing the Hispanic community and a non-denominational pastor who is a woman.

On the surface, what diversity!  But not really.  We are accustomed to diversity meaning skin color, ethnicity, and gender.  What about diversity of belief and practice?  Let’s look:

  • Protestant clergy #1, Franklin Graham, is head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Organization and Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief organization.
  • Protestant clergy #2, Wayne T. Jackson, is the ordained bishop of a large evangelical Pentecostal church, Great Faith Ministries International, in Detroit.
  • Protestant clergy #3, Samuel Rodriguez, is the head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (Evangelical) and an ordained minister of the Assemblies of God.
  • Protestant clergy #4, Paula White, is senior pastor of New Destiny Christian Center, a Pentecostal megachurch in Florida, and is a televangelist. She will head the new administration’s Evangelical Advisory Board. (Did you know there is such a board?)

All evangelicals; plus a Roman Catholic, Cardinal Dolan, and a Jew, Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Los Angeles Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The speakers performed the expected duties of praying for the president, vice-president, and government, for the unity of the nation, and for peace. Two of the evangelicals expressed a sense of the diversity of the nation – one mentioning the poor and outcast, and another the many groups that live here as one, even reminding us of “We Shall Overcome” — though he mentioned Mahalia Jackson as the singer rather than the Civil Rights movement the song came to represent.

The New Destiny representative – identified in publicity as the president’s “spiritual advisor” – gave a nationalistic invocation, asserting the blessedness of the United States in God’s eyes. The United States was a country that “You have decreed to Your people.” “In every generation You have provided the strength and power to become that blessed nation.” “‘Thy kingdom come Thy will be done,’ the psalmist declared.”

That wasn’t the psalmist. But this isn’t so much New Destiny as a reworked version of the 19th century’s Manifest Destiny.  Not to be outdone, the Reverend Franklin Graham declared that “in the Bible, rain is a sign of God’s blessing, and it started to rain, Mr. President, when you came to the platform.”

I was startled too by some dramatic invocations of Jesus. As I participate in many interfaith events, I am accustomed to prayers “in Jesus’s name.” I appreciated Rev. Samuel Rodriguez saying “respectfully, in Jesus’s name,” as though he recognized that some in the audience might pray in another idiom. I was interested that Bishop Jackson invoked Solomon and Joseph as well as Jesus as models for the president, and he used the Jewish priestly blessing, even though “in the mighty name of Jesus.”  (Members of his congregation wear tallisim, Jewish prayer shawls, and he gave a gift of a tallit to Donald Trump during the campaign.)

But I was taken aback by Pastor Paula White’s initial “We come to You… in the name of Jesus,” and ending with “Glory to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, we pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.” I was shocked by the Reverend Graham choosing to recite a passage from 1 Timothy that included, “And it pleases God our Savior, Who wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus who gave himself as a ransom for all people.”

I’m not sure what scenario is being written here. What does religious freedom look like to committed Christians, evangelistic in religious approach, conservative in politics?    We can easily guess on some issues, like abortion, but what else will fall under the purview of the Evangelical Advisors?  A member of this board reportedly rejoiced on election night that, for the first time in his life, he’ll now be able to share messages from God directly with the president of the United States.

That could make an interesting scene – another dramatic episode in the new reality film.

That Cunning Serpent

This post is the third of a series that began December 12th.

In my previous post, I explored some of issues around “greatness” which, as we saw, came up in the slogans of our recent elections.

Let’s be clear:  greatness isn’t evil.  Indeed, seeking greatness is natural.  In the Bible, it is embedded in the original instruction to Adam and Eve (and the fish) to be fruitful and multiply.  The word for “multiply” comes from the same Hebrew root that we often translate as “great.”  In ancient times when humans were few, becoming many, becoming “great” in number, was a key to survival.

Yet, the Bible tells us that corruption began to fill the world “when humanity began multiplying on the face of the earth” (Gen 6.1).  “Sons of gods,” probably meaning kings and nobles, began impregnating “daughters of men.”  This sounds like harems or exercising the ancient “right of the first night.” “Strong men,” “men of renown,” took over and imposed their will on others.  The “imagination of man’s heart” became “evil continually” (6:4-5).  What had happened?

The old story of the serpent gives us a clue.  Recall that the cunning serpent enticed Chava (Eve) to eat of the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil by saying, “You won’t die… You will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Then the text reports Chava’s experience. She saw “that the tree was good to eat, and that it was desirable to the eyes, and the tree was pleasant for gaining insight, and she took from its fruit and ate” (Gen 3: 4-6).

She couldn’t see anything except goodness, beauty, and clarity in that tree.  What had tempted her was the idea of greatness, of being more than she already was, “like God,” and specifically by the possibility of knowing something that, until then, was beyond her – namely evil.

The serpent was indeed cunning, because he was manipulating her ignorance. She had no idea what evil was.  To her it might as well have been called “the tree of the knowledge of good and zlwgoeinv.”  Evil, of course, was what the serpent had done – confused her by contradicting what she had been told, and claiming that God had actually hidden the truth from her.

(Today we would call it fake news.)

Adam followed her down that path, and they found themselves hiding from God, lying, and blaming others.  They discovered not greatness but shame.  God postponed the death penalty; but instead of the goodness, delight, and clarity that Chava had glimpsed in the tree, she and Adam faced lives of struggle and pain.

­­­­

In these texts, thousands of years ago, human beings already understood that lies and manipulations, the cunning of the serpent, were the source of humanity’s problems. The serpent said, “You will be like God.” Soon men would claim to be sons of gods.  Later, when Moses warned the people about claiming their wealth as “the work of my own hands,” or of kings “multiplying horses and wives for themselves,” he was referring to the same problem.

I would add one inner dimension, which we also saw in the last post:  The lies promote the idea that “I did it myself,” and pride arises instead of gratitude for all the help we have received. That is the place where we have to do the work. The awareness of our own limits, the feeling of gratitude, the knowledge that the source of success is beyond ourselves – those enable us to feel humility.  And humility is what humanizes greatness.