Saturday, December 31, 2022

Ask Yourself…

 Ask Yourself“What  do you want, what are you willing to give in return for the prize of your obsession…?”

Do not answer in haste…

What are your limits… the measure of your strivings…

How powerful is the force of your drive…

Can you separate your passions from your goals…

Can you prevent their submersion in the shallow pond of someone else’s desire?

Can you direct your days so that your dreams will be realized…

Can you defer your want of immediate gratification to the end of your ultimate fulfillment…?

And about the ghost of doubt…

Can you repair the breach of fear…

Are you able to revive yourself when discouragement attempts to suffocate you… to quench your desire…?

Can you muster the resolve to come again when you feel that you have spent your last shell…?

Can you maintain the definition of yourself when the praise or ruinous witticism of other voices attempt to redefine you in terms of their convenience…

Can you maintain your focus in the light of the redirecting glare of public advisement…?

And finally…

Can you be honest… brutally so if necessary… first with yourself… and then with all else about everything…

Can you forgive yourself your immediate failings… and act with the force of your forwardness…

Can you join in the laughter when dissenting voices pour scorn and ridicule on the blaze of your primordial fire…?

Can you learn to love yourself like this…

And if you can… Will you…

And if you will… Then won’t you…?

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Rise Up and Shine!


There will come a time when the need to change key aspects of your life imposes itself on your consciousness in a markedly undeniable way. You will recognize that moment because it will present itself as a force that reorganizes your life like a storm does to a once tranquil place. 

When that unsettling comes upon you, you will be moved to make a compact bundle of the things that mean the most to you. You will gather around you those who have shared the experiences that shape your current circumstance, and tell them that the time has come for you to pursue a different kind of future. Some of them may also opt to trade the stale air of their own depressing circumstance for the inspiration of that new dynamism they now see in your life.

Realize that your life is yours. It is yours to lose. It is yours to save. It is yours to do something or nothing with. Ultimately no one else can occupy that space in eternity that you now inhabit. Wake up from the complacency that lulls so many into a false sense of security. Open your eyes and train your mind, body, and spirit, for new challenges. 

Rise up!

Ask yourself a few essential questions. What are the aspirations that once energized you that have over time gone dormant? Where is the fire in your gut that once danced as a sparkle in your eyes? Like so many before you and around you, that fire may have been doused by the too many swallowed tears of mounting disappointments. Your primordial blaze may have succumbed to the many buckets of cold water poured on by those who seek to thrive by suppressing the aspirations of others. You may have gotten stuck in the mud of a sense of worthlessness cultivated over time by an overindulgence of a sense of your perceived failings. You do not have to continue to wallow in that precarious state of being.

Your Moment Of Awakening will come,  and when it does, do not slight it as one more occasion of pipe-dreaming. Do not ignore your Epiphany by deferring the need to get up out of the bed of depression and despair. Instead, adjust your position… Determine now to ‘take up your bed and walk’. Make up your mind to leave behind you every influence that binds you to a future of hopelessness.

Beyond the state of bondage and despair that too many of us endure, lies the promise and possibilities of a more fulfilling life. Getting there will force you to confront daunting odds. There will be “many rivers to cross” … many obstacles to overcome. There  will be discouraging voices calling you back to the deleterious ways that you must now discard - voices you must necessarily disregard. Some obstacles will seem insurmountable, but you must nevertheless face and overcome them. 


Our lives are promises to be fulfilled. Our dreams are possibilities to be explored. Listen to the voice within you that calls you to become everything you believe you can be. Beyond the state of bondage and despair lay the possibilities of a more hopeful future. Beyond the disparaging critique of those who live to break others, lies the power of your own possibilities - the boundlessness of your dreams. Beyond the days of pain and grief lies a season of hopefulness that only you can deny yourself. Reach into that future and touch the things you have hoped for. Develop that focus on your life which allows you to grasp the significance of things you have not yet accomplished.

This is the Season to emerge from the rut of complacency. It is a time in which we can stand up and own the determination to find a more stable footing in Life, despite the instability that has come to define our circumstances. 

Beyond the obstacles that are present in the course of all our lives, lies the possibilities of a prosperous future. This moment is as good as any to begin the journey to a destiny more in keeping with our highest expectations.  Let us rise up with the strength that new perspectives bring. Let us shine, let us become beacons of the clarity that comes when we claim a new and more hopeful future as our right,  and our responsibility.

One Love!

R. A. G.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Breaking Free From The Mold… Redefining Ourselves

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

― Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter



We have all wondered, aloud…or silently to ourselves, what other people really think about us. Who do they think we are outside of the impressions we try to make? What is their measure of us beyond the polite expressions they demonstrate in our presence? These are a few of the questions that arise in the course of our conscious or subconscious reflections on the impact we are having in the world around us, and, more specifically, in the various relationships that define who we are in our world.

There are various factors that contribute to how we are seen by others. These include the immediately observable presentations of our lives such as our gender, our ethnicity, our physical attributes, and of course…the props which demonstrate our social and economic status or lack thereof. Not as immediately observable at times, but just as significant to some, are the facts about our genealogy and upbringing. Some people are interested to know, for example, if we “come from money”? They also want to know how much education we have had …and from where? And then there is, of course, the old adage about who we surround ourselves with. “Show me your company” it is said and we will tell you “who you are”.

Many are the challenges that we must overcome in our effort to navigate our way through the course of this life with its many twists and turns, not to mention its hills and valleys. These are exacerbated when the way we look and the other facts of our lives don’t add up to meet the various expectations of others. Be assured, there is nothing unique about our circumstance in this regard. Many remarkable persons…from Jesus of Nazareth to Bob Marley of Jamaica…have had to contend with these challenges.

Of Jesus it was asked: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” And… “Isn’t he the carpenter…the son of Joseph and Mary? Don’t we know his brothers…? Who does he think he is?” The Hon Robert Nesta Marley, early on in his work, had to overcome the indignities implicit in being referred to as “that dirty rasta boy from Trench Town…”. Like so many others with aspirations similar to his, he was told to “get a real job”. The attitudes that load these facts led the Carpenter from Nazareth to give  voice to the well known piece of wisdom that declares:

A prophet is without honor/respect in his own country”.

Bob Marley speaks with an unmistakable forcefulness with regard to the elevation of one’s essential self. He leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind about the need to establish one’s own template for living one’s life when he declares:

We refuse to be what you wanted us to be… We are what we are, and that’s the way it’s going to be…

Some of us are determined not just to rise above some of the the debilitating circumstances in which we find ourselves; in fact we want to speak to and about those situations in ways that we hope would change them for the better. In doing so we can expect to find disparagement even from those who are themselves from the same or similar circumstances. Such persons can’t help but acknowledge the truth of our aspirational statements, but they find themselves in the unenviable dilemma of harboring some very negative feelings about those whose declarations stir in them the necessity to change.

This dilemma is an expression of the very real tension that exists between the embrace of our familiar circumstances, and the challenge to pursue something different. It brings to the fore the edgy coexistence between the old perceptions we hold on to, and new visions of being. This dynamic tension generates in each of us a nudging to give preeminence to the desire for something different …and better. It creates a longing for a life renewed in a way that treats change as a necessary evolutionary ally.

There are dueling existential pieces in each of us. There is that part of us that has become comfortable with things as they are, it does not want to be bothered. It is ok, even if not satisfied, with status quo. It is hard to ignore the beckoning from within and without to reach for something new and better, but that call requires work that many are ill-prepared for. Someone or something reaches deep within us and  spurs us to get moving, to end our complacency… and our initial reactions to being “spurred” are not always nice.

We must all contend with the branding dynamic of our social environment, it happens whether we like it or not. There is, however,  a potentially greater peril than that which is a function of how we are perceived by others. Even more disconcerting at times than the way others see us and talk about us, is the way we see and think about ourselves. For this very reason, if no other, the voice in our own heads is often louder than the disparagement of the crowd. We may often have to contemplate the external challenges to our sense of self, but the noise from our own internal reality must at some point become the focus of our deeper reflection.



Life has many lessons to impart to us daily. The great challenge for us as Life’s students is in identifying what nugget to extract from each experience and applying it appropriately in our lives. We are all prone to getting bogged down in the potential quick-sand of life’s sometimes treacherous path. We all stumble along the way. That is because our path does not always present itself as a classroom, and so wisdom dictates that we hone our abilities of discernment through developing habits of meaningful reflection. Without these habits we may become weighed down with guilt and anger and the consequent frustrations of an existence woefully lacking a dynamic perspective. And so, to our great angst, we become what we have done…and what has been done to us.

In the face of the challenge to live in a prescribed  mold, let us call to mind the great examples of individuals whose stories inspire us because they refused to. These individuals demonstrate to us the truth that the vilest sinner can become a saint. The persecutor can become an advocate for those he once victimized. The addict can rise above the afflictions of addiction and be a witness to what it can mean to live an empowered life. We have seen the abused overcome the dehumanizing stigma of being a victim and become examples of what taking charge of one’s destiny can produce in one’s world. We have seen the slave become a liberator. These are a few examples of what is possible when we refuse to be defined by the gross violations of our experience.

Saint Augustine who went on to become one of the most important theologians of the early church, had his own challenges to overcome before he could attain to the levels of philosophical prominence he achieved.  Exhausted by his own moral, spiritual, and intellectual struggles, he eventually cried out: “And Thou, O Lord, how long? How long? Is it to be tomorrow and tomorrow? Why not now? Why not this very hour put an end to shame?”

Oprah Winfrey, the most wealthy woman of color in the world, rose above the life-inhibiting experiences she has so courageously shared with us to establishing, among other things, a school for young black girls in South Africa that seeks to expand their horizons. Her life and example serves as an inspiration to all of us. She continues to grow, and she constantly reminds us that there are new heights to be achieved no matter how wonderful our achievements. In her regularly featured signature article “What I Know for Sure“, which she writes for O The Magazine, she recently noted the following:

“We have to make ourselves over daily, consistently, in order to keep moving forward. We are not meant to stagnate. If change is the one thing you can be sure of, the goal is to figure out how you can use that certainty to your advantage, to modify, transfigure, and transform your day to day being.”

Jesus of Nazareth asked his Heavenly Father to forgive his persecutors their moral/spiritual ignorance. His life remains an eternal symbol of grace with which we are all acquainted. We are constantly drawn to his example of empowered living, as he showed us how to resurrect our lives from the grips of oppression and crucifixion.

Nelson Mandela emerged from 28 years of imprisonment at the hands of the servants of Apartheid in South Africa to call for “truth and reconciliation” in a country torn asunder by a desperately hateful ideology.

These giants of moral and philosophical achievement  will live forever through the lives they continue to lift up by their great examples.



We have the power, each one of us, to cast off the definitions by which our potentials are limited. We acknowledge that power in declaring our right to name ourselves and thus determine who we are and what we will become. The recognition of this right and this power ushers in a new reality for anyone so inclined. It begins the process of breaking the molds that sabotage our ability to live authentic lives. It makes us available to the empowering possibilities 

of liberated living.

The responsibility to define who we are and what we will become is a sacred trust. It is the foundation on which we build the futures that beckon us away from the distresses of the imposed impotence of a mimicked existence. The authenticity of our being should never be determined by anyone else’s prescription, nor for that matter, anyone else’s proscription. The process of naming ourselves is an exercise in the kind of courage that takes for granted that we will make mistakes. Our imperfection however, should never be a deterrent to acting out our sense of who we are… Or what we want to become. Let us always keep in mind that we are works in progress. To the extent that perfection carries with it the connotation of being finished, it is a claim we cannot even pretend to make… None of us.



Moving forward we must recognize and speak the truth about our experiences. By that I do not mean complain. I do not mean wallowing for attention in what I have called “the muck and disgraces” which are always there if we look honestly enough into all our experiences. Such activity in many instances becomes an end in itself. There is no denying the pain and grief that is a part of our lives, but if we are to heal we must find the wherewithal to identify their sources and effectively address them. Some people may gain notoriety from an overindulgence in self-pity, but it is ultimately an exercise in futility.

There are items of our lives that are sources of pain and shame. Some we are complicit in, and some we are victims of. Some we remain unclear as to what part exactly we may be accountable for. The path to authentic living helps to bring clarity where needed. Where necessary we must seek forgiveness… And we must also learn to forgive. A most empowering meditation in this regard is to be found in The Lord’s Prayer… “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”. The absence of forgiveness as a vital part of our attempts to heal becomes a wall between us and the authenticity we seek. To leave the past behind and grant ourselves the power we need to move ahead, it is necessary to climb over that wall. This is how we gain the needed perspective our renewal demands… By acting to remove the barriers between us and our futures.

Taking charge of our lives is about being purposefully creative. We potentiate the process with acts through which we call ourselves to a spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual housecleaning. This requires us to truthfully unburden ourselves of those experiences that weigh us down in the miry clay of pain and regret. The objective is to rid ourselves of the hurt and guilt associated with bad experiences we have had, and or caused. This is absolutely necessary before we can embark on the journey of renewal.

As we continue this journey we must walk away from the psychological, spiritual, physical, and social instruments and actors that are complicit in the sordid episodes we want to turn away from. Talk is cheap. This is where the “rubber” of the commitments we make meets the “road” of our willingness to act out those commitments. This is where the demands of our renewal become real. It may mean new friends and associates. It may mean moving away from your familiar environment. It may require a new way of eating. New ways of thinking and acting and behaving are required for the renewal we seek. You may have to go back to school as you give up your old job in the club…or at the investment firm. The new you that you seek will need a new foundation from which to grow and develop.

Our personal journey to renewal demands that we commit ourselves to new habits. As humans we have come to think of ourselves as “creatures of habit”. Habit formation is a function of the repeated practice of the skills and behaviors we need in our improved selves. It is believed, and often said that, “practice makes perfect”. The remaking or redefining of our lives demands that we become new creatures through the renewal of our minds that come from the repeated practice of acts determined to speak with clarity about who we are and who we want to be. No longer must we be defined by the old habits, but by our new ways of seeing, and believing, and behaving.



A few years ago I sat with my wife in an audience at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia, as Congressman John Lewis gave the Convocation Address to the thousands of incoming students and their families and friends gathered there to mark the start of their careers as college students. The Congressman is a great example of someone who refused to live in the mold prescribed by the prevailing socio-historical circumstances into which he was born. He had to overcome much in his own experience…  And he did. The following is an excerpt from the biography published on his website:

“He was born the son of sharecroppers on February 21, 1940, outside of Troy, Alabama.  He grew up on his family’s farm and attended segregated public schools in Pike County, Alabama.  As a young boy, he was inspired by the activism surrounding the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which he heard on radio broadcasts.  In those pivotal moments, he made a decision to become a part of the Civil Rights Movement. Ever since then, he has remained at the vanguard of progressive social movements and the human rights struggle in the United States.

As a student at Fisk University, John Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee.  In 1961, he volunteered to participate in the Freedom Rides, which challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. Lewis risked his life on those Rides many times by simply sitting in seats reserved for white patrons.  He was also beaten severely by angry mobs and arrested by police for challenging the injustice of Jim Crow segregation in the South.”

I listened, overwhelmed by a substantial empathy, and I observed the rapt attention being paid to this man by an audience currently reflective of the American demographic landscape. His resounding message: “Never give up! Never give in!” And as I sat there in that audience listening to Congressman Lewis, the words of Dr Maya Angelou came to mind :

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

Dr. Maya Angelou… Wow! Say it with me… WOW! A woman who “phenomenally” refused to be defined by adverse circumstances, the scars of which she carried in her own being. Even now she “rises” … and she lifts us with her to new heights of consciousness and being! I hear her wonderfully commanding and beautifully distinct voice in my head constantly. It speaks with a powerful eloquence that stirs in us a mixture of memory and emotion that cannot be ignored.


Out of the huts of history’s shame … I rise!

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain … I rise!

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear … I rise!

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear … I rise!

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise! I rise! I rise!”


There is a life-proliferating quality to the work of Dr. Maya Angelou. Her literary offerings and the emotions they elicit plant themselves in our consciousness almost effortlessly, and they thrive there as if they have always been there… though unnoticed. In an act of cultural and spiritual intimacy she draws us to a most sacred place on our life-journey, and we experience a mating of ideas and ideals that leave us pregnant with the expectation of something greater for ourselves and the other selves connected to us. Her creative genius reaches deep within us and calls forth the memory of our sacred obligation to “be fruitful and multiply”. Hers is a call echoing from the Eden of our very beginnings. It is a call to new dreams, and new hopes, and a new vitality. She encourages us to revise and refine and redefine who we are and who we would be. In that respect Maya Angelou joins the Jesuses and the Kings and the Mandelas and the Oprahs and the Marleys, in engendering an ongoing work of renewal among us.



The redefinition of our lives that result from our work to create the destiny we determine to be fulfilling for us, brings into our experience of living the kind of abundance that we can only hope for in the absence of this definitive effort. That abundance results from the empowering clarity that we now possess as a result of new ways of looking at things. We discover new possibilities as we cultivate the ability to see things we were ignoring, to hear ideas to which we were once deaf, and to now apply ourselves with the kind of industriousness that Wisdom in her consummate omniscience dictates. Most meaningfully, our example serves as an indispensable guide on what is at times a profoundly difficult road through life. This work of Wisdom and Courage serves to establish lamps in the dark for fellow travelers on the journey to more abundant living.

This virtuous reproduction of ourselves and our lives will inevitably require new and improved templates of being. These new templates are molded through the persistence that a patient and determined willingness to pursue the destiny we have envisioned for our lives develops in us. In order to create the new templates we need it is necessary that we break out of the molds that limit our ability to grow. Complacency must no longer be tolerated as an ally. Fear must give way to courageous action. The existential malaise that saps our vitality must be addressed by proactive efforts to improve our health and well-being. The tendency to say “I can’t” must be replaced with a new enthusiasm that declares “I will!”.

By committing ourselves to growth, and by doing the work required by that commitment, we activate the process of change that fills us with a new dynamism. We move from promise to possibility, and from possibility to actualizing a more powerful sense of being. As agents of change we help motivate others, and thus we become prime movers in the perpetuation of that season for a redefinition of what it can mean to truly live.

Out of the old molds of being…

We can be models for a “newness of life” that inspires.


Justice Antonin Scalia's Conservatism: Bombast and Bollocks

It is no secret that there are those in our government who, having lost two Presidential elections to Barack Hussein Obama and the Democrats, resigned themselves to the prospects of doing everything they could to prevent the President from "Presidenting". Witness the reaction of Senator Mitch McConnell, the then Majority Leader of the United States Senate, to the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. In a not unexpected but nevertheless stunning(sarcasm intended) development, these ardent defenders of the Constitution would now invent every political contrivance to prevent President Obama from executing his constitutional responsibility to nominate a replacement for the late Justice Scalia.

They were still cringing in their reactionary corners from the establishment of the Affordable Care Act as the law of the land. That is an achievement of this Presidency that has put a hot dagger through the political hearts of these reactionaries. Combine this with other recent rulings that raised the bar of Justice above the narrow economic and cultural interests of the American conservative establishment, and we witness the blatant mental and political meltdown of these hypocrites. When the usual verbiage of their semantic tool-sets came up short, they resorted to the store of their old cultural bag of shit... Bullshit that is.

Justice Scalia couldn't face the facts of his judicial/cultural ass-whooping in the matters of the standing up of the ACA and Marriage Equality, so in his pain and cultural anguish he resorted to his bag of cultural antiquities... "Giggery-pokery!" he screamed. The linguists among us revealed the meaning of this bit of antiquity as:  a manipulative or slyly dishonest act – synonyms include “trickery” or “hocus-pocus”. According to Merriam-Webster, the word is thought to stem from the Scottish phrase joukery-pawkery, jock being "cheat" or "dodge" and "pawk" being to "trick." In his vain originalism he reached beyond the contemporary verbiage available to him in order to mask his hyped-up disgust at progress that he and his kind are impotent to stop. 

Between the rulings on Fair Housing, Marriage, and Obamacare, Conservatives in Congress and their servants on the Supreme Court have had no constitutional place to hide from their own giggery-pokery.  For better or for worse we are a nation of laws. Not only that... We find ourselves in a cultural-political dynamic that, we hope, continues to evolve in the direction of greater democracy. According to the Scalia doctrine, any standard of jurisprudence that rebuked his own facile, illegitimate backwardness... was to be considered "trickery".

Jeffrey Toobin in an article in The New Yorker had this to say about Scalia's perspective as a jurist: "... it was in his jurisprudence that Scalia most self-consciously looked to the past. He pioneered “originalism,” a theory holding that the Constitution should be interpreted in line with the beliefs of the white men, many of them slave owners, who ratified it in the late eighteenth century". The historical context observed in Toobin's critique is in and of itself obnoxious enough. Combine that with the fact that we still struggle against the moral short-comings of that period, and what we have is an inexcusable deficiency in Scalia's approach itself... one that we must refuse to continue to tolerate. 

The kind of perspective that a Justice like Scalia brought to his work is akin to that which informs the reasoning that is typical of the religious fundamentalists whose brand of "originalism" led them to believe that the earth is flat. This kind of ignorance not only sought to stand in the way of progress, it led to the tragic victimization of anyone who dared to bring a more scientific perspective to bear in their analysis of life and the world we share. It was this kind of unreasonableness that led to the oppression and torturous death of many who dared to expound and live out their own understanding of being in this world.

The backwardness that Justices like Scalia and Thomas represent will thankfully be left in the tragic past in which it functioned to deny equal access to the blessings of Liberty. The days when people were denied the Rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness... and when we could expect such a denial to be backed up by the guardians of Justice must, and will pass.  The moral "trickery" fueled by rhetorical bombast that passed for Justice in those days is being called by its real name... Bull excrement... . Or, in the antiquity of Justice Scalia, ... Bollocks! 

The reality we wrestle with in our judicial system is that the barbs through which the likes of a Justice Scalia and a Justice Thomas voice their objections to progress, and the moral garb in which they clothe those objections, are terribly soiled by the historically putrid waste of Justice denied. The work of Justice for All must continue among us. With the passing of Antonin Scalia we have good reasons to be enthusiastic about Hope and Change... Remember that? Bombast and bollocks aside, those who were heralds for the demise of this President Obama’s "legacy" may have spoken too soon. 

History has a way of bringing to heel the bullshit of those who continue to walk in the valley of the shadows of injustice.

Monday, October 3, 2022



Hope and despair

are captured here

as in this cell we wait …

Weakness meets might… and darkness meets light…

Wrongs preempt Rights… as instincts encourage flight…

While in this cell we wait …

In time 

East must meet West… and North must meet South…

Love must outdo Hate… as Courage greets Fate…

While in this cell we wait…

And as we sit here… heads lowered in the den of despair… 

We feel the desperation that comes when we are hopelessly herded by the anxieties that inform the tensions between us.

And in those moments of harsh recognition our eyes become overwhelmed by the well of tears within us…

Liquified remnants of the reign of despair

that creates a vexing discomfort 

in the place

in which we wait…


Tomorrow … when it comes … may help us see

the tragic links between us …

That hope for some spells despair for others…

And that to be free we must come to understand

that we are all prisoners of each other’s longings …

And that to survive East must meet West

and North must meet South 

and recognize that we are hostages together

on the one earth that is our prison… or our paradise…

And that we will only be free again

when we decline the invitation to engage with one another

on the basis of those things that we fear about each other.

But until then… 

We wait.

( For us all… And for those held as hostages

in various countries around the world. Love heals. Fear breeds torment. )

Thursday, April 14, 2022

The Pursuit of Meaning in Our Daily Experiences

Among the most frequently asked existential questions is that which seeks to explore ‘the meaning of life’. Acolytes delve into this inquiry with the energy usually reserved for the exploration of deep mysteries. Reflecting on the pursuit of “deep wisdom” implicit in the question brought to my mind the Zen proverb - “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” - It also reminded me of a story told by a friend and college-mate of mine some years ago. 

Here goes…

A rather portly parish priest who was well ‘educated’, was out on one of his pastoral trips in his assigned parish when the area was drenched by heavy rains. In a matter of a few hours flood waters destroyed the only bridge that connected the rural part of his parish from the more urban area where he lived. After being stranded for two days, a local fisherman who was one of his parishioners finally completed repairs on a boat that he had been working on for some time.

Desperate to get back to the comforts of his home, the priest pressed the man to provide him transportation down and across the river back to his side of the town. After some consideration the fisherman warned the priest that he had some doubt about making the journey in what was an untested vessel. The priest insisted, assuring the man that “the Lord will take care” of them. The fisherman finally gave in to his pleadings, but not before reiterating the concerns he had about the age and sturdiness of the vessel. Anxious to get home, the priest brushed aside the fisherman’s trepidations. They set about the trip later that day, even though the waters were still rough. 

As the fisherman rowed, the priest sat back at the other end of the boat with his arms folded across his rather massive stomach as the vessel rocked from side to side in the rough waters. At times he appeared uncomfortable in the presence of his seemingly unrefined pilot. Not being accustomed to holding informal conversations with the common folk, but wanting to demonstrate the “depth” of his wisdom and learning, the priest thought he would ask the hard rowing man a few questions.

So, my friend ” he began, “how much do you know about philosophy?”.

Puzzled by the awkward irrelevance of the question, the fisherman replied… “Philosophy sir... I can't say I know much about that."

Having failed at that initial engagement the holy father pressed on. “Well I suppose that means you wouldn't have any ideas about eschatology then, huh?"

And what would that be?”, the fisherman asked disinterestedly?”.

Well, my good sir, that would be the doctrine of the last things... You know, what will happen at the end of time”.

No sir”, the bewildered parishioner responded.

It would suit you to spend some time learning about such things my good man”, the priest said. Bursting with pomposity, he continued... “You know, this flood we just experienced reminds me of the great flood in the days of Noah. The Bible teaches that next time there is going to be fire that will destroy the Earth

The fisherman interjected… “And I guess that would be an example of...” 

Before he could finish the sentence the priest burst out:

Yes! Eschatology dear sir”.

I see”, retorted his underwhelmed student.

You know man...”, the portly passenger continued,  “...without the knowledge of these things one cannot really live life as fully as the Creator intended. It's almost as if half your life is missing”.

Really?”, the fisherman said.  

Sensing the lack of interest in his attempts at what he must have thought was meaningful conversation, the priest looked out at the waters ahead of them in anticipation of the conclusion of this tedious journey. Realizing that the fisherman’s interests were not exactly the same as his, he lamented:

 “I suppose it's no use trying to talk to you about psychology then...". 

The fisherman did not respond; he just kept up the pace of his efforts to rid himself and his boat of his annoying cargo. They were silent for a while as the boat continued through the deepest part of the river. Suddenly something scraped violently against the bottom of the newly repaired vessel. Less than a minute later water started to seep through the flooring. Looking up quizzically at his captain, the priest became pale with fear. They were a good little distance from shore, and with no life vests. 

With what seemed a mischievous smirk on his face, the fisherman turned and asked the priest in an unambiguously mocking tone: 

My dear sir, do you know anything about swimology?"

What!?” asked his now disoriented passenger... “This is no time for jokes man; I cannot swim, and we are still a ways out..."

Well sir,” said the fisherman sarcastically, “...without the knowledge of swimology it is impossible to survive a situation like this. In fact you can't live fully, or maybe even at all without this knowledge”.

And with that the fisherman relieved himself of the oars and jumped overboard, leaving the sweating fear-filled priest to fend for himself.

( Meaningful pause… )

Usually the folk indulging in inquiries about “the deeper meaning of life” are those most detached from issues of survival in their own lives. They are also marked by a tendency to be generally unconcerned about matters that are the most consequential to the lives of those around them. 

The answers to most of the questions with which we occupy ourselves are usually right there in front of us; that is if we learn to look and listen with the empathy that comes from a real engagement with making the world a better… more meaningful place…  for all. Those answers are informed by the quality of our relationships, and by the extent of our engagement with chopping wood, and carrying water for our own sustainability- and for the sustenance of those around us.  

Ask Yourself…

  Ask Yourself … “What  do you want, what are you willing to give in return for the prize of your obsession…?” Do not answer in haste… What ...