Zen and the Art of Rowing

Zen and the Art of Rowing

Models used for illustrative purposes

A guest post written by Cynthia P. Barnett, Christian Science Committee on Publication for North Carolina.

It was an intriguing duo on the Today Show. Actor Jeff Bridges (the Dude) introduced his friend, Zen master Bernie Glassman, and the new book describing their relationship in The Dude and the Zen Master. Bridges was in his scruffily cheerful element as he enthused about the enlightenment he’d come to experience with this new friend.

It was the end of this interview with Natalie Morales that I remember best. As the summation of his wisdom, the guru intoned somberly, “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream; Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, Life is but a dream.”

Curiouser and curiouser, I thought. Is this man on to something? Consider: First, ROW, we were told. Does this mean that first we have to take action, not sit on the sidelines of life? Actually do the good deeds for humanity that Bridges and Glassman are known to do?

Second, we were to row GENTLY. Was that a clue as to how we were to journey through this life? Without resistance, without stress, without friction?

Third, we were to go DOWNSTREAM. Did that suggest that the journey need not be hard, but could actually be pleasant?

Finally, LIFE IS BUT A DREAM. OK, I get it now. This whole human experience is just a shade of the real, wonderful stuff we will understand someday. But meanwhile we can row our boats.

The Zen Dude reminds me of comforting truths I learned as a child: that Love will make us lie down in green pastures beside still waters, restoring our souls and guiding us in righteous paths all the days of our lives– with goodness and mercy, no less. ( Psalm 23)

I like this Zen Dude’s message. It’s deep, deep. I just may find it in other nursery rhymes.

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet…? Not so much. Three little piggies went to market…? Nah.

I’ll keep on rowing.

Link to Barnett’s blog.

Qualities That Bless

Qualities That Bless

model used for illustrative purposes

A guest post by Sheila Kelly

A friend with a gentle sense of humor recently sent me an email that said: Two of the greatest qualities in life are patience and wisdom.

Below was a picture of a big brown and white dog on the deck of a large log chalet – looking mighty patient and wise – observing a skunk, with tail briskly curled up, casually munching on the kibble in the dog bowl.

Maybe it was photoshopped (who knows these days?) but it made a good point.

The expression on the dog’s face showed clearly that even in the animal kingdom God’s creatures can choose to reject suggestions of impatience, and pay very good attention to wisdom and being a good neighbor.

This email of expressing wisdom and patience reminded me of a friend who was a Christian Science Chaplain and taught a Sunday School class at a girls’ correctional facility. One thing the chaplain invited the girls to do in the class was to make a list – in ink – of all their good qualities. Then she asked them to write in pencil the traits that got them in the facility and to write – in ink – the opposite of that trait.

For example: impatience might be in pencil and patience in ink.

The girls understood, maybe for the first time, that they actually had a choice of which thoughts to have – and to choose to express the good quality and reject the suggestion of the bad trait. Apparently, so many girls began to make good choices it made a noticeable difference – not only in improved harmony in the facility, but also in the healing of relationships with family members.

Then they got to erase the false trait written in pencil, which was no part of their true identity of being created in the image and likeness of God. (Genesis 1:26,27).

Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered the Science of Christ Jesus’ teachings and healings, wrote, “Christian Science commands man to master the propensities, – to hold hatred in abeyance with kindness, to conquer lust with chastity, revenge with charity, and to overcome deceit with honesty. Choke these errors in their early stages, if you would not cherish an army of conspirators against health, happiness, and success.”

The wisdom my friend showed in teaching these girls their true nature through a method they would understand, and the patience to continue teaching until their behavior reflected their God-given nature, makes me even more grateful for these two great qualities in life. Learning of our divine nature and expressing God’s qualities blesses us as well as family, friends, and neighbors.

The RNC and Healthy Politics

The RNC and Healthy Politics

photo illustrated by Tito & Eva Marie Balangue

A guest post by Robert B. Clark, Committee on Publication for Florida

Even though I live closer to the beach than the bay, Tampa’s hosting of the Republican National Convention (RNC) is already starting to impact my life. As soon as the last Olympic medal is awarded, the RNC will take center stage here in the Bay area. Then it gets serious.

There’s great potential for the RNC to be a healthy event for everybody. Healthy politics? Really? What would that even look like? How would we get there from here?

I was pondering those questions recently from a Biblical perspective. I have a great Bible search engine that allows me to keep looking until I find some Biblical wisdom on any given topic. I often find a story that illustrates the power of divine wisdom where human ability or judgment fall short. Entering the word “judge” yielded this gem from the book of Isaiah:

 “For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us.”  Isaiah 33:22

From what I can tell, the political situation in the prophet Isaiah’s neighborhood was pretty grim when he wrote those words. There’s talk in the rest of Chapter 33 of “treachery” and “tumult,” “languishing” and “hypocrisy.” Sound familiar? Is it possible that not much has changed in the intervening millennia?

Well, some things never change. Divine justice, divine law, and divine leadership are just as available now as they were then. That hasn’t changed. And as it turned out, Isaiah was right about a lot of things, including what he said about the arrival of the Messiah, still eight centuries away.  What if he was also right about government having a divine basis ?

Our American government is in fact based on those three elements Isaiah mentions: judicial, legislative, and executive. What if we were willing to consider the idea that any genuine and lasting power that judges, lawmakers, or chief executives wield has a divine impulse that redeems and uplifts the human element? Would that make a difference? I think so.

Another Biblical character, Solomon, whose name is synonymous with wisdom, seems to have been all three in one: judge, lawgiver, and king. A tough act to be sure, since times were probably not any easier then. But he was known for his wisdom, wealth, and power. And although he was not perfect, his forty-year reign was marked by unity and peace.

Early in his reign, Solomon had a dream in which God asked him what he really wanted. His reply? Wisdom. This humble answer, in contrast to other potential requests—Destroy my enemies, give me plenty of personal power—made Solomon a greatly revered judge/lawgiver/king. God granted him humility, and he used it wisely to judge, legislate, and rule.

And what exactly does that have to do with healthy politics today?  Well, here are some questions to consider. Why would humility be any less important or in shorter supply today than several thousand years ago? Why shouldn’t we expect it of our leaders today? And what about another humble world leader’s words, “You must be the change you want to see in the world”?

So can we have a healthy RNC and healthier politics in general?

I think so. But I’m pretty sure it has to begin with us. We can access a divine source for wisdom and humility, just like Isaiah and Solomon. And we too can use it to listen humbly and sort through confusing and conflicting reports about our government and those we elect to run it.

Yes, we can have healthy politics, marked by true wisdom and genuine humility, which have always had a divine not a human source. And it can start now…with us.

Link to Bob Clark’s blog