Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Struggle, Striving, and Happiness

Haven't posted much this summer. That is about to change. Since buying a Kindle about a year ago, my new reading habit has been to download more books than I can possibly read. A lot them are free or only $0.99 and they arrive few seconds after a click. So, I'm reading several of them in parallel and it sometimes takes months to finish some of them. When I encounter the same thought in two different books within a few days, it seems significant.

Have been reading Arthur Zajonc's "Meditation As Contemplative Inquiry: When Knowing Becomes Love" for two reasons. One, his book "Catching the Light" was marvelous. (Blogged about that earlier here). The other reason is that I'm wanting to explore meditation. Here is a quotation from a section:

Arthur Zajonc

I have long been attracted to the line by Einstein,“I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves...."  Happiness is really not the goal of life. Einstein’s life was not a commitment to happiness but a long commitment to inquiry. Goethe’s Faust seals his bargain with the devil Mephistopheles promising to go with him if he, Faust, would ever say to the passing moment, “Tarry, thou art so fair!” In other words, Goethe saw striving, not bliss, as the central core of our humanity. Citing Augustine, Thomas Merton described human development as proceeding not in steps but via a sequence of “yearnings.”66
And later, Zajonc says:

Of course, I am not advocating suffering, but it is intrinsic to a life rightly lived. Struggle and suffering are inevitably associated with aspiration and compassionate concern. After all, compassion literally means “to suffer with.”

 A few days later, was reading one of Brian McLaren's more recent books,
"Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words." And, his thoughts follow the above and expand.  

Brian McLaren

Sooner or later we need to accept two truths that both the book of Genesis and the theory of evolution teach us: life isn’t supposed to be easy, and struggle can lead to growth. In Genesis, God creates a universe characterized neither by fully ordered stasis nor complete chaos, but rather by order and chaos in dynamic tension. In that matrix, we experience the stresses of struggle, change, and competition that challenge us to evolve, to grow, to become.
The apostle Paul says that we celebrate our sufferings, because they produce in us endurance, which in turn produces character, which in turn produces hope, which in turn makes us receptive to the outpouring of God’s love in our hearts (Rom. 5:3–5).
The apostle James, as we have seen already, says we should receive trials into our lives with joy, because, again, trials work like a fertilizer for the growth of character (1:2–4). Without trials, we would be morally sterile, lacking qualities like endurance, maturity, and wisdom.
There are days, of course, when we wish there could be some other system. We wish there could be a way of developing patience without delay, courage without danger, forgiveness without offense, generosity without need, skill without discipline, endurance without fatigue, persistence without obstacles, strength without resistance, virtue without temptation, and strong love without hard-to-love people. But it turns out that there is no other way. The Creator has created the right kind of universe to produce these beautiful qualities in us creatures. And among these beautiful qualities is interdependence—the ability to reach out beyond ourselves, to ask for help from others and from God, and to offer help as we are able. The whole shebang is rigged for mutuality, for vital connection. The theory of evolution teaches the same lesson. If survival were easy, species wouldn’t develop new adaptive features. If survival were stress-free, there wouldn’t be 20,000 species of butterflies, 300 species of turtles, or 18,937 species of birds (at last count). In fact, there would be no butterflies, turtles, or birds at all, because it was stress, struggle, challenge, and change that prompted the first living things—slimy blobs in a tide pool somewhere—to diversify, specialize, adapt, and develop into the wonders that surround us and include us now. Seen in this light, evolution isn’t a grim theory of “nature red in tooth and claw” it depicts the planet as a veritable laboratory for innovations in beauty and diversity, fitness and adaptability, complexity and harmony.2 It renders the earth a studio for the creative development of interdependence in ecosystems or societies of life. Put beauty, diversity, complexity, and harmonious interdependence together and you have something very close to the biblical concepts of “glory” and shalom.
So both science and faith tell us that we find ourselves in a universe whose preset conditions challenge us to ongoing growth, development, and connection.


Sunday, August 07, 2011

Back from Wedding and Vacation

Been a while since posting.  Two weeks ago we were in New Albany, MS for Marcus' wedding.  Had a wonderful time.  Afterwards, Dorothy and I stayed in their house, watching the dogs and doing chores, while they honeymoon-cruised to Cozumel.

Had a chance to get a few pictures myself but not as many as I wanted as I didn't get the settings right on my new camera.  Here's the wedding party.  My dad officiated.  His first service since back surgery 6-weeks earlier and he did fine.  Dorothy spent many weeks planning and working with Suzy for the wedding. 

Suzy's family.

Before the wedding in the Church of the Nazarene.

Nice BW pic that Derek took.

After the ceremony, Marcus and Suzy enter the reception area.

Crowd shots at reception.

The couple with two groomsmen in the foreground.

Dorothy, seen here talking with my Dad, was indefagitable.  It's taken two weeks for her to wind down.

Below is the very fine video that Derek's wife, Catherine, made of this wonderful event.  For more on the wedding go to our Facebook pages.

Marcus and Suzy's Wedding Video by Catherine

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