Same as it ever was…

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Safe With Ourselves

“These basic rules of conduct: not killing, not stealing, being very careful and responsible in our sexual conduct, having ethical speech and not destroying our minds through drugs and alcohol – these are eternal rules of conduct… it’s like a cup: if we want to pour in the elixir of the dharma, we have to have something to support it, we have to have something to contain it…so, it doesn’t just run everywhere and get wasted. It holds it, it contains it. So, likewise, for our spiritual cultivation we need a container. And this is our basic ethical conduct, that we live in this world in a way, that any being, who comes in our presence, knows, they have nothing to fear from us, because we are not going to hurt them, we are not going to steal from them, we are not going to misuse them, we are not going to cheat them… they are safe with us and we are also safe with ourselves, because we know, we are not going to do these things, because we have promised ourselves and the Buddhas not to do that.” ~Tenzin Palmo (via)

Ideas of Dignity and Generosity

We read Goodbye Mr. Chips by James Hilton, ©1934, when we were in the seventh grade, and it was wasted on us. In the autumn of life things resonate that have little meaning to those still in their spring.  His novella is really aimed at older people, who have lived a bit.

In this excerpt it has fallen on Mr. Chip’s shoulders to announce at the weekly church service the names of the alumni, his former students, who were killed that week in the first world war:

On Sundays in Chapel it was he who now read out the tragic list, and sometimes it was seen and heard that he was in tears over it. Well, why not, the School said; he was an old man; they might have despised anyone else for the weakness.

One day he got a letter from Switzerland, from friends there; it was heavily censored, but conveyed some news. On the following Sunday, after the names and biographies of old boys, he paused a moment and then added:–

“Those few of you who were here before the War will remember Max Staefel, the German master. He was in Germany, visiting his home, when war broke out. He was popular while he was here, and made many friends. Those who knew him will be sorry to hear that he was killed last week, on the Western Front.”

He was a little pale when he sat down afterward, aware that he had done something unusual. He had consulted nobody about it, anyhow; no one else could be blamed. Later, outside the Chapel, he heard an argument:–

“On the Western Front, Chips said. Does that mean he was fighting for the Germans?”

“I suppose it does.”

“Seems funny, then, to read his name out with all the others. After all, he was an enemy.”

“Oh, just one of Chips’s ideas, I expect. The old boy still has ’em.”

Chips, in his room again, was not displeased by the comment. Yes, he still had ’em– those ideas of dignity and generosity that were becoming increasingly rare in a frantic world.

Goodbye Mr. Chips is in the public domain in most of the world, but not the United States.  If you live outside of the United States, you can download a free copy HERE.

Six Degrees of Abbie’s Tree House

I shook hands with a man who shook hands with Jimi Hendrix. (He said it was a very limp handshake. Guitar players try to protect their hands.)

So, everyone who has shaken hands with me is now part of that chain, too; they’ve shaken hands with a man who shook hands with a man who shook hands with Jimi Hendrix.

And I was thinking, over coffee this morning, how we’re all connected to each other through a chain of touches. We could conceivably construct a chain connecting ourselves to anyone, living or dead, from Mozart to the Queen of England.

All of us part of a huge web of touches.

It Was Only A Kiss

In this excerpt from Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein ©1961, Jubal Harshaw asks why the girls so enjoy kissing Michael Valentine, “the man from mars”:

“Anne, tell me something. What’s so special about the way that lad kisses?”

Anne looked dreamy and dimpled. “You should have tried it when he invited you to.”

“I’m too old to change my ways. But I’m interested in everything about the boy. Is this actually something different, too?”

Anne pondered it. “Yes.”

“How?”

“Mike gives a kiss his whole attention.”

“Oh, rats! I do myself. Or did.”

Anne shook her head. “No. Some men try to. I’ve been kissed by men who did a very good job of it indeed. But they don’t really give kissing a woman their whole attention. They can’t. No matter how hard they try, some parts of their minds are on something else. Missing the last bus, maybe– or how their chances are for making the gal– or their own techniques in kissing– or maybe worry about their jobs, or money, or will husband or papa or the neighbors catch on. Or something. Now Mike doesn’t have any technique… but when Mike kisses you he isn’t doing anything else. Not anything. You’re his whole universe for that moment… and the moment is eternal because he doesn’t have any plans and he isn’t going anywhere. Just kissing you.” She shivered. “A woman notices. It’s overwhelming.”

Practical Atheism

Excerpted from Thank God Ahead of Time: The Life and Spirituality of Solanus Casey by Michael H. Crosby O.E.M. Cap., © 2009:

Solanus Casey interpreted the conflicts of his time as grounded in theoretical or practical atheism. Theoretical atheism involved one’s denial of God’s existence; practical atheism stood for the lack of faith-in-action in people who embraced their culture’s patterns to the detriment of their professed beliefs.

I like the term “practical atheism.”

America abounds in obvious examples.