Sunday, April 19, 2009Today's Heroes
The hero is commonly the simplest and obscurest of men.
--Henry David Thoreau
Here is a rather large excerpt from financial pundit, author, and TV celebrity Ben Stein. It's the last of his biweekly column called 'Monday Night At Morton's.' Definitely worth a read as it covers the change of values taking place that we have talked about in this blog. (Hat tip to Billy in Kaua'i)
I loved writing this column so much for so long I came to believe it would never end. It worked well for a long time, but gradually, my changing as a person and the world's change have overtaken it.
I no longer think Hollywood stars are terribly important. They are uniformly pleasant, friendly people, and they treat me better than I deserve to be treated. But a man or woman who makes a huge wage for memorizing lines and reciting them in front of a camera is no longer my idea of a shining star we should all look up to. How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in insane luxury really be a star in today's world, if by a 'star' we mean someone bright and powerful and attractive as a role model? Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating only raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their nails. They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any longer.
A real star is the U.S. soldier who was sent to disarm a bomb next to a road north of Baghdad. He approached it, and the bomb went off and killed him.
A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day, is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a piece of unexploded ordinance on a street near where he was guarding a station. He pushed her aside and threw himself on it just as it exploded.. He left a family desolate in California and a little girl alive in Baghdad .
We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our magazines. I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who is eating at Morton's is a big subject.
There are plenty of other stars in the American firmament...the policemen and women who go off on patrol in South Central and have no idea if they will return alive; the orderlies and paramedics who bring in people who have been in terrible accidents and prepare them for surgery; the teachers and nurses who throw their whole spirits into caring for autistic children; the kind men and women who work in hospices and in cancer wards.
I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters. This is my highest and best use as a human. I can put it another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier or as good a comic as Steve Martin...or Martin Mull or Fred Willard--or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald. Or even remotely close to any of them.
But I could be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much for me.. This came to be my main task in life. I did it moderately well with my son, pretty well with my wife and well indeed with my parents (with my sister's help). I cared for and paid attention to them in their declining years. I stayed with my father as he got sick, went into extremis and then into a coma and then entered immortality with my sister and me reading him the Psalms.
This was the only point at which my life touched the lives of the soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters in New York. I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human.
Faith is not believing that God can. It is knowing that God will.
--By Ben Stein
Saturday, January 17, 2009Letting Go, Service, and Integrity
And the reason all this works is that you let go and give to God, joyfully and unconditionally.
From God Is Your Partner (on seeding) by John-Roger, DSS
Well, if that short sentence doesn’t say it all regarding living the spiritual principles of abundance and prosperity I don’t know what does. Please take it in.
If you didn’t see Michelle Obama’s call to service on Martin Luther King Day on Monday here it is. (2 mins)
This is a must see video, named Four Generations, to warm your heart and may redefine abundance for you.
The Achaemenid Persian Empire (550–330 BCE), which at the height of its power had more than 20 nations under its control, was built on the most basic principles - that of truth and justice, which formed the bases of the Achaemenid culture. Based on the Zoroastrian doctrine, it was the strong emphasis on honesty and integrity that gave the ancient Persians credibility to rule the world, even in the eyes of the people belonging to the conquered nations.
This largest Empire of the Ancient World was forged by Cyrus the Great, and spanned three continents, including territories of Afghanistan and Pakistan, parts of Central Asia, Asia Minor, Thrace, much of the Black Sea coastal regions, Iraq, northern Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and all significant population centers of ancient Egypt as far west as Libya. It is also noted for freeing the Jews from their Babylonian captivity, and for instituting Aramaic as the empire's official language.
As we have seen, the United States of America has wandered far from its founding fathers who did have the principles of truth and justice in mind. And certainly we have seen any emphasis on honesty and integrity evaporate before our eyes in the last six months. It has taken a generation for things to come off their tracks and in my opinion it will take a generation to get them back on again. Let’s hope that Tuesday will get us off to a good start.
Saturday, January 10, 2009Service, The Only Game In Town
Anne commented on yesterday’s post:
My job these days is to keep re-focusing on the inner truths so that I am there as a habit. I wonder if that would make any difference to the outer world of which I am a part?
Have you seen any evidence of this kind of thing happening - where individuals holding a positive inner focus have impacted on results in the world?
A few years ago I was dilettante in the Japanese tea ceremony and I read that the head teacher in Japan was doing the tea ceremony for world peace. I really found that funny and since then when I wish to inflate my self-importance I take whatever I am doing and declare that I am doing it for world peace.
The world is a doing place, a place of action, and while I do believe that peace does indeed begin with me, I have absolutely no expectation that it will go any further than that.
I had lunch today with one of my new volunteers. She had just done a fantastic job of editing the new GPTV episodes from Living in Grace, which I hope to share with you in a week or two. This young lady (27 years-old) had left her job in September to work as volunteer office manager in the San Fernando Valley for the Obama campaign, working endless hours with little sleep. She had previously been a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.
She had to leave our lunch early to meet with her Obama team. Now the campaign was over they were still meeting to see what charity work they could do together as they enjoyed working with each other so much. All this was being done without a hint of self-consciousness on her part. I was completely humbled. This person was head and shoulders above me in consciousness.
Now who do you think was doing more for World peace--her action, or my gestures toward action? My mantra these days is that it will soon be pretty obvious that service is the only game in town and that there will be a lot of service opportunities.
I do think that our inner focus can have an enormous influence on the person next to us. My volunteer certainly influenced me today by just being herself and I do think that unconditional service reverberates throughout the world. To me, it’s the silent saints, the ordinary people who go about their lives with kindness and no thought of recognition, that makes the world a tolerable place to live in.
Thanks for the question, Anne. It allowed me to talk about a subject that is getting closer to my heart each day.
Friday, December 26, 2008Some Good Reading
Peace is not like a leaf floating on still water. Peace is alive and vital. It includes children who are making noise, laughing, crying and doing life their way.
~ John Roger, DSS
About Nancy Rivard (see yesterday’s post):
After searching for life's deeper meanings in all corners of the world, after meeting numerous sages and saints, after experiencing inexplicable phenomena, after all the mundane trials and tribulations, Nancy came to an understanding: she saw that the extra-ordinary lies in the ordinary, that joy comes in service, and that the potential of love resides in each action, every moment.
So when she says "love in action", it's no longer a cliche. It's an experience.
From blogger Corey Amaro:
Somewhere while praying I heard the Priest's words clearly speak to me...."Participate in your divine Presence."
From that moment on I have thought of nothing else. To be our divine self is the greatest gift we can be and give to one another. To be present to our divine being, that which is holy, which uniquely connects us to one another. To put our divine presence in front of us, to let it guide us.
Financial quote of the day #1
Madoff's scheme played into the belief that wealth was not something to work for, but something to scheme for. It could be generated by playing your cards right, hooking into the right networks, and finding the right "investments." The people with whom he dealt had, it turns out, some internal sense that there was something a little bit shady about the whole operation. But they dispensed with this sense when the fat checks arrived, and concluded that whatever was making this perpetual motion machine operate, it did work.
--Art Carden of the Ludwig Von Mises Institute.
Financial quote of the day #2: (Long but a must read).
It is a sorry place at which we Americans find ourselves this none-too-festive holiday season. The biggest names on Wall Street have gone to their rewards or into partnership with the U.S. Treasury. Foreigners stare wide-eyed from across the waters. A $50 billion Ponzi scheme (baited with, of all things in this age of excess, the promise of low, spuriously predictable returns)? Interest rates over which tiny Japanese rates fairly tower? Regulatory policy seemingly set by a weather vane? A Federal Reserve that can't make up its mind: Is it in the business of central banking or of central planning? And to think -- our disappointed foreign friends mutter -- all of these enormities taking place under a Republican administration.
Barely nudging Mr. Madoff out of the top of the news was the Federal Reserve's announcement last Tuesday that it intends to debase its own paper money. The year just ending has been a time of confusion as much as it has been of loss. But here, at least, was the bright beam of clarity. Specifically, the Fed pledged to print dollars in unlimited volume and to trim its funds rate, if necessary, all the way to zero. Nor would it rest on its laurels even at an interest rate low enough to drive the creditor class back to work. It would, on the contrary, "continue to consider ways of using its balance sheet to further support credit markets and economic activity."
One market, only, registered a protest. The Fed's declaration of inflationary intent knocked the dollar for a loop against gold and foreign currencies. In many different languages and from many time zones came the question, "Tell me, again, now that the dollar yields so little, why do we own it?"
It was on Oct. 6, 1979, that then-Fed Chairman Paul A. Volcker vowed to print less money to bring down inflation. So doing, he closed one monetary era and opened another. With Tuesday's promise to print much more money, the Federal Reserve of Ben S. Bernanke has opened its own new era. Whether Mr. Bernanke's policy of debasement will lead to as happy an outcome as that which crowned the Volcker anti-inflation initiative is, however, doubtful. Whatever the road to riches might be paved with, it isn't little green pieces of paper stamped "legal tender."
Our troubles, over which we will certainly prevail, stem from a basic contradiction. The dollar is the world's currency, yet the Fed is America's central bank. Mr. Bernanke's remit is to promote low inflation, high employment and solvent finance -- in the 50 states. He wishes the Chinese well, of course, and the French and the Singaporeans and all the rest besides, but they don't pay his salary.
They do, however, buy the U.S. Treasury's bonds, which frames the emerging American dilemma. If the Fed is going to create boatloads of depreciating, non-yielding dollar bills, who will absorb them? Who will finance the Obama administration's looming titanic fiscal deficits? Who will finance America's annual surplus of consumption over production (after 25 more or less continuous years, almost a national trait)? Inflation is a kind of governmentally sanctioned white-collar crime.
Every crime needs a dupe. Now that the Fed has announced its plan to deceive, where will it find its victims?
--Jim Grant (Highly respected financial commentator who called our present troubles a couple of years ago)
It’s enough to make you reach for the Prozac!
Diagnoses of ADHD and depression have skyrocketed over the past decade. Pediatric bipolar disorder is up a whopping 4,000 percent. And prescription rates have jumped accordingly: 5 million American children (6.6 percent of them) now take psychotropic drugs. But according to Harvard psychologist Jerome Kagan, many of them needed neither diagnosis nor drugs.
Kagan argues that the rise in diagnoses reflects an ugly collision among increasingly squishy parenting (which creates disruptive or depressed children), immense social and economic pressures to have kids perform well, and increasingly sloppy diagnostic practices that “medicalize” every behavioral problem. Too often, he says, we ignore problems in a child’s environment and substitute medications for the structure, discipline, and nurturing he or she needs. Change the environment, he says, and you will usually change the child. Sadly, in the age of Prozac, Ritalin, and Risperdal, such change is rarely attempted.
Well said, and proof that the world is getting increasingly meshugganah!!!
Thursday, December 25, 2008Merry Christmas, Aloha, and Heartfelt Service
Merry Christmas, everyone.
I think in the coming years, starting now, service will be the only game in town. We’ll be talking more about it, and next year’s MSIA Conference will have it as its theme. And, I am compiling a J-R book about it.
Jesus the Christ spoke some very simple truths, and as we tune into and partake of the inner Light, we know full well that all things are eternal, that there is a season for all things and a time for all things. And we know full well that when our time is full upon us, we do give birth to the Christ within. It's there. Many times it's there in barren soil. Sometimes it's there in scorched soil, but it is there. It will always be there, just waiting for you to scratch below the surface of your consciousness and bring the determination of who you are to bear upon this seed of greatness and usher it forward.
(From The Christ Within by John-Roger, DSS)
When I was in Kauai in September I came became acquainted with the idea of being a man or woman of Aloha.
This NY Times article explains it a little more. Excerpt:
The mood of Mr. Obama, to many observers here in Hawaii, embodies the Aloha Spirit, a peaceful state of mind and a friendly attitude of acceptance of a variety of ideas and cultures. More than simply a laid-back vibe, many Hawaiians believe in a divine and spiritual power that provides a sustaining life energy.
Wings of Love
Loved this article and this excerpt:
As a child, Nancy would write letters to "God" and submit them to her messenger -- the wind. Perhaps her father's untimely death provided the answer to her incessant question -- what is the deeper purpose of my life? In pursuit of understanding life and death, Nancy's travels took her to exotic places and provided incredible experiences and insights. She lived with the Hopi Indians, adopted a girl in Sri Lanka who was later killed, encountered healers in the Philippines, met with spiritual teachers in Thailand, Africa, India, Russia and the list goes on an on. But she kept on learning and re-learning the same answer. "Stop looking outside for teachers and answers. Look within, find yourselves in service and discover the love that is aldready within you," she says.
And talking of this service this time closer to home, I received this touching email from Heartfelt’s director, Patti Rayner:
My dear friends, I wanted to let you know that our Christmas Service Project of December 13, continued until last night. For those of you who participated in the event, you may have missed a homeless woman with 6 children who got to party just as our rental truck was leaving and everything given away. It had taken them hours to get from Skid Row to Santa Monica. So we missed them.
But God had other plans.
She called Monday to see if there were toys left and I invited her to come to my office to pick out toys for the kids. Once again she trekked across LA but this time, I had a moment to chat with her and discover her situation. They were living at a downtown mission in the midst of drug addicts, pedophiles, and the most difficult of circumstances. The mother had refused efforts to split up the family. They had nothing but a little hope left.
On leaving she happened to mention a housing program in Long Beach and that she'd been offered a place for the family if they could come up with the move-in fees. When I brought this dilemma to the Heartfelt Service Board, they dug into their pockets, passed the word, and before day's end there was all the money needed to get them out of the shelter. And so we decided to get this family housed before Christmas.
Yesterday Mike Wolfe and I went to the mission, jammed our little cars full of children, bags of belongings, the disbelieving mom, and traveled to the Long Beach offices of the apartment being reserved for them.
But to all of our shock and surprise, this wasn't just any apartment, this was a beautiful, brand new, fully furnished,
4 bedroom, 2 bath, new everything, apartment!!! New beds, new lamps, new refrigerator, dishwasher, etc. The children were beside themselves with joy and the rest of us couldn't close our mouths.
We left them late last night, warm, together, safe, incredulous, hopeful, together, and with a brand new life afoot.
Thanks to all of you who so graciously make Heartfelt service possible. I share these stories with you because you are a part of them, too.