What the Morning Light Tells

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Metaphors may be the closest we humans can come to describing the truths we experience.

Being limited, sometimes the best we can do is say truth is like something else. We point to the truth and name it, knowing our names are approximate. Those who think they have captured truth will find it, like light, cannot be held. No wonder Jesus used parables and Buddha warned not to confuse the finger pointing to the moon for the moon itself.

Most of our lives consist of hints and guesses. Those who claim to have captured truth worry me because truth is more larger and deeper than our human limitations. The great scientist Newton could write: “I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” Wise people also are humble because they know what they don’t know, like Socrates of old as well as Newton.

One metaphor that carries meaning for me is this one: light coming through a window. One notices it but cannot capture it. Watching the morning light come through my windows now leaves me speechless. Another day has begun, the light being its signal as it has for millions of years. There still is one star in the sky above, light years away. In the beginning was the Great Light. In the end will come the Great Darkness.

There are great truths around us all the time if we open our minds. The morning light says this much. One day is all I have while the light remains. Let me rejoice and be glad in it, as the old scriptural verse advises.

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Filed under John C. Morgan, Light, Philosophy, Spirituality, wisdom

Wisdom of the Seasons

“To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.”
(George Santayana)

We can learn much about living from simply observing the world around us, including the changing seasons. The world we can observe is the source of many of our deepest thoughts and feelings, which is why some called this “primary religion,” meaning the first awakenings of our distant ancestors wondering about life’s changes and seeking to find meanings.

I’ve lived in New England where as they say there are two seasons, “winter and July Fourth,” and cabin fever a common affliction. I’ve lived in four of the New England states, so I know that the only thing worse than winter is mud season when you track brown muck into the house and your car slips and slides. If you don’t like ice, try scraping mud off you car.

I haven’t lived in the deep south where it seems to be always spring or summer, but quite frankly I’m be bored with “perfect weather.” the sameness of it all, the lack of change. I know if I lived there, I’d lose the wisdom of the seasons, and, thus, the inner wisdom that comes from observing changes.

And so I find myself happy to be in a part of the country that has real seasons. Don’t get me wrong, I love spring and braee myself to endure the heat and humidity of Philadelphia-like summers and the snow and ice of winters. But right now the tree outside is beginning to change colors–and while I am not looking forward to scraping ice off my car windows, I know that fall with all its glorious colors and cool nights is here.

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Like the natural world outside, there are also seasons to our lives;, each one with distinct qualities and each offering seasonable wisdom. The fall is a time to prepare, get ready for the next stage of winter, which is a time to slow down and go inward. Spring is a time to rejoice and renew oneself; summer a time to slow down, relax, and keep cool.

So the seasons are our most ancient teachers. There is much we can learn about ourselves and life in general by paying attention. I am reminded of the story told about Buddha who was asked if he were a God or a prophet. He said he was neither. When asked what he was, he replied: “I’m awake.”

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What’s Your Life Mission?

We seldom take the time to ask and respond to this question: What’s your life mission

We think the answer is obvious: Doing what we are doing right now. But, as Thoreau knew, many of us live lives of quiet desperation. We are not quite sure who we are or where we want to go. We think of our life mission as our job, not why we are on earth.

I’ve always ask my students to write down and complete this sentence: I am on earth to_____________________________.
Don’t think about your response. Just write what you think as soon as you can. If you think too hard about getting the “perfect answer,” you may be like the centipede who fell over trying to figure out which foot to put down first. Most of my students know the answer and complete it quickly, albeit not always perfectly.

I know we often say “it’s about the journey, not the destination,” and that’s true. But it’s not an either/or issue; it’s not just the journey without the destination or the destination without appreciating the journey. If you don’t have a sense of where you are going, you may end up there. And if you are very goal focused, you will miss the moment.

The first time I responded to the issue of my life mission, I admit listing my vocation, But when I stopped thinking the answer was quick to come: I am on earth to help other people figure out why they are here. Later I realized that was the same life mission of Viktor Frankel whose book Man’s Search for Meaning is one I have read a few times. But I felt humbled to be in the company of a wise teacher and writer.

So try to complete the sentence. Write it down, fold it up, and keep in your wallet and purse to look at whenever you feel confused about where you are going. A life mission mission is not static, but meant to evolve over a lifetime.

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Filed under Careers and Callings, Life mission, Living an dying, wisdom

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do (Part II)

Well, Scotland, you remain part of the British Empire.

Well, Wales, so do you.   May your flag still fly high in snow even as you remain part of the British Empire.

Welsh flag in Winter

There seems to be around the world a move to decentralize, get out of bigger unions, return to nation states.   Sometimes it gets to the level of returning to tribes.   This movement can be exciting, dangerous, sometimes tragically violent.

I must admit there are days when I wish the state in which I live would withdraw from the union.  But then I remember a civil war was fought to keep the union and remove slavery.  Some things need to be done at a federal level, sometimes at a state or county or even neighborhood level.  The trick is keeping the balance and realizing which level works best for which concerns.   Without the federal level, you’d have a mishmash of different laws governing issues that best are dealt with at a national level.

On the other hand, I remember traveling in parts of the world where distinct regions were not happy with being part of a larger nation state.  Often these areas sought to retain their own languages and cultures and histories.  Wales certainly was such an area, and the further north you journeyed, the more you heard people speaking in Welsh and not English and discovered the Welsh flag flying.

So, Wales, breaking up may be hard, if not impossible, to do.   You will have to put up with British tourists (but be glad to take their money), English speaking residents (you can handle this by speaking only Welsh in their presence), and an occasional British Commonwealth flag (you can still fly yours, especially on St. David’s Day).

All I can say to you is:  Bora Da!

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Filed under England and Wales, John C. Morgan, Wales

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Welsh flag in WinterOh no, if Scotland leaves, is Wales or Ireland far behind?      It’s over a three hundred year Empire, thisaaa United Kingdom.  And to think we only broke away 238 years ago.   What’s next, Texas leaving our union?    Maybe by winter, I can fly the Welsh flag outside just by itself.

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Boycott the NFL

Okay, I grew up in Philadelphia where sports is a religion.   I have followed their sports teams for years.  But I am so disgusted by the actions of the National Football League (NFL), that I did not watch a single game this weekend, and I won’t again until the NFL stops protecting its business interests by accepting domestic violence.   It took the picture of one of their players knocking his wife out with a punch on an elevator to make them act, but it seemed almost reluctant.

My suspicion is that as a mega business the NFL owners and commissioner will do anything to protect their profits and only act to stop violence when it hits them when it hurts–in their pocketbooks. Only now have they begun to make some adjustments, but these only came about when the thought of losing fans and income became possible.

My not watching NFL games until they adopt a clear policy about domestic abuse in their ranks won’t really make much difference to them, but it will to me.  And if enough of us do this, it might make the NFL think differently.

My big test comes tonight when one of my hometown teams, the Eagles, play.  I plan to turn the television off. And I will not turn a football game on again until the NFL comes up with a plan to educate its own players about domestic violence and a clear set of expectations and punishments dealing with this issue.

And, while I realize some believe that “sparing the rod spoils the child,” I do not believe in corporal punishment (e.g., hitting children)as a way to discipline children.  Using corporal punishment only teaches children that hitting, smacking and beating are what people do to one another, whether that person is a sports star or not.

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A Few Haunting Words

Every once in awhile, a few words hit home with me and won’t let go until I pay attention.   Usually the words are from a poem, like a Shakespearean sonnet or a Robert Frost poem.

But while traveling in Wales a year ago I came across a slim volume of poetry by a Nineteenth Century poet, Sarah Williams, that keep coming back to haunt me, I think because in the often dark times in which we live these words speak of love and hope and courage.

Here they are from her poem, “The Old Astronomer to His Pupil”:

Though my soul may set in darkness
It will rise in perfect light,
I have loved the stars too fondly
To be fearful of the night.

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(Woods in North Wales, 2013)

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Filed under Hope, John C. Morgan, Poetry, Wales