God and the Professor’s Brain

I found this story on People for Others, Paul Brian Campbell’s blog. While I have not spend inordinate amounts of time pondering the link between God and college professors’ brains, this story shines a nice light on the parallels . . . illuminating, I think!

Enjoy.

A college student was in a philosophy class, where there was a class discussion about whether or not God exists, the professor had the following logic:

“Has anyone in this class heard God?” Nobody spoke.

“Has anyone in this class touched God?” Again, nobody spoke.

“Has anyone in this class seen God?” When nobody spoke for the third time, he simply stated, “Then there is no God.”

The student did not like the sound of this at all, and asked for permission to speak. The professor granted it, and the student stood up and asked the following questions of his classmates:

“Has anyone in this class heard our professor’s brain?” Silence.

“Has anyone in this class touched our professor’s brain?”

Absolute silence.

“Has anyone in this class seen our professor’s brain?” When nobody in the class dared to speak, the student concluded, “Then, according to our professor’s logic, it must be true that our professor has no brain!”

 

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Of the Many Ways Confession Can be Good for You

This comes from facebook, but it really is too funny not to share … along the lines of things are never quite what they seem to be ….

‘Bless me Father, for I have sinned. I have been with a loose girl.’

The priest asks, “Is that you, little Joey Pagano?”

‘Yes, Father, it is.’

“And who was the girl you were with?”

‘I can’t tell you, Father, I don’t want to ruin her reputation.’

“Well, Joey, I’m sure to find out her name sooner or later so you may as well tell me now. Was it Tina Minetti?”

‘I cannot say.’

“Was it Teresa Mazzarelli?”

‘I’ll never tell.’

“Was it Nina Capelli?”

‘I’m sorry, but I cannot name her.’

“Was it Cathy Piriano?”

‘My lips are sealed Father.’

“Well then, was it Rosa DiAngelo?”

‘Please, Father, I cannot tell you.’

The priest sighs in frustration. “You’re very tight lipped, and I admire that. But you’ve sinned and have to atone. You cannot be an altar boy now for 4 months. Now you go and behave yourself.”

Joey walks back to his pew, and his friend Franco slides over and whispers, ‘What’d you get?’

‘Four months’ vacation and five excellent Leads.’

Problems of the Heart

A visitor to an insane asylum found one of the inmates rocking back and forth in a chair cooing repeatedly in a soft, contented manner, “Lulu, Lulu…”

“What’s this man’s problem?” he asked the doctor.

“Lulu. She was a woman who jilted him,” was the doctor’s reply.

As they proceeded on the tour, they came to a padded cell whose occupant was banging his head repeatedly against the wall and moaning, “Lulu… Lulu…..”

“Same Lulu?” asked the visitor.

“Yes,” said the doctor. “He’s the one Lulu finally married.”

Lesson?  Be careful what you wish for! And keep your heart open to visitors, but be careful who you invite to live there?

I read this recently on People for Others, the blog of  Paul Brian Campbell, SJ. He cites Tony de Mello as his source. Where ever it came from, I’m still laughing!

On Aging and Heaven

Yesterday MaryLou and I went to a ‘free lunch’ to hear about a program that provides in home services to senior citizens who cannot perform one of basic the activities of daily living (things like bathing, dressing, hygiene, transferring, walking, eating, shopping, cooking, managing medications, or managing finances). Well, it is true, there is no free lunch. It was a sales pitch for a kind of insurance program: you pay them lots of money and they provide a case manager who will see to it that you get the services you need in your home. Or so they promise. As the guy talked, I kept hearing this voice in my head saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

So we left the lunch feeling mopey, and wondering about how we will cope with those days when they come – the days when we can’t manage on our own, those days. Both of us are realistic and pragmatic enough to know that those days will inevitably come. We both have seen each of our four parents weather those days. And we were there for them. But … oops, we forgot to have kids! So, we know we have to figure something out, we need to have a plan, a backup plan, and a couple of contingency plans. At some point we will likely move into a condominium or town house, maybe down the road (way down the road) into an independent living senior community. But that is about as far as we have gotten in our planning. That and to say we – we as a society – we need better options and alternatives for the graying population who are moving ever more steadily into our golden years.

As I pondered the pragmatics, I eventually (OK, fairly quickly) found them too much, and so I retreated to philosophy and stories. And it occurred to me that the long and the short of it is that all that really matters is love and the love that we give and receive. The rest can be dealt with somehow, someway. And then I found myself thinking about how along with the vicissitudes of aging, so many of us fear death that great unknown. And THEN I remembered this story:

There was a 90 year old couple who died in a car crash after having been married nearly 70 years. They had been in relatively good health even the last 15 years mostly due to the wife’s insistence on healthy food, including liberal doses of bran and daily exercise. When they reached the pearly gates, St. Peter took them to the mansion which was to be their heavenly home. It had a beautiful state of the art kitchen, living room with a gianormous wide screen TV, luxurious bedroom, bathroom and spa. They oohed and aahed about their accommodations, and then the man asked St. Peter how much it was going to cost, and St. Peter, said, “this is heaven. It’s all free.”

Out behind the house was a lovely swimming pool and expansive gardens. The man asked St. Peter about the maintenance costs. And St. Peter said, “this is heaven, it is all taken care of for free.”

Then they went back into the house and the man looked in the refrigerator. It was stocked with all of his favorite foods, wines and deserts. The man reluctantly asked St. Peter where the low fat and low cholesterol foods were.

St. Peter laughed and said, “you are in heaven. That is the best part. You can eat as much as you like of whatever you like and you never put on weight and you never get sick. This is heaven.”

Hearing that the old man went into a fit of anger. He threw his hat on the floor and stomped on it shrieking. St. Peter tried to calm him down, and finally asked him what was wrong. The old man looked at his wife and said, “This is all your fault! If it were for your darned bran muffins and low fat yogurt, I could have been here 15 years ago!”

 

And so the story goes. Kind of makes the next life look pretty good. But who knows? There really is no way of knowing what comes next. And yet, we do all have our beliefs and hopes.  Here’s hoping that the best of all our hopes and beliefs do come true. And here’s hoping that when we all get to ‘those days’ the days were life here is a bit more demanding than our abilities, here’s hoping that we are able to find and manage the resources to life with dignity and grace.

Anyone have any plans you are willing to share?

 

Why I Want to Grow a Beard

Back in 1993 or 1994 I was on sabbatical and was stressed out because I pretty much knew that no matter how much I wrote I was not going to get tenure at the university where I was working. I knew that they valued empirical research and I  was writing about theory.  As part of my most profound effort to deny and avoid thinking about all of that, I wrote a short essay called ‘why I want to grow a beard.’  The title of that has been popping up in my mind recently, for reasons unknown to me (unless it has something to do with those pesky post-menopausal facial hairs?), but anyway, I thought I would share the essay with you . . . hope you enjoy!

 

As I sit at my desk, staring out the window, avoiding work, there is a postcard tucked into the window ledge which says, “Every loving thought is true. Everything else is an appeal for healing and help, regardless of the form it takes.” The back of the card credits this quote to a course in miracles.

Today, as I sit and look and think, my mind drifts back to September and the beginning of my sabbatical. At that point I was feeling particularly anxious about productivity, my ability to write publishable material, and my ability to sustain a focus. So, there were days (lots of them) when I would get up, wash quickly (very quickly), have some coffee, and head down to the desk in the sweat suit that I had slept in the night before. After a few days of this, the sweats would walk down to the study by themselves and carry me along for the ride. Ultimately I would find my way to the bathtub and clean clothes; but do note the word ‘ultimately’ that opens the sentence. Well, a dear friend finally said to me, “Next you’ll be growing a beard!” and I got to thinking, could there be some truth in her proclamation? Or was it a plea for healing and help? For whom? Of what? Could it be that it was both true and a plea?

The short simple answer is, of course, it was a plea. The woman wanted me healed of that behavior pattern, and wanted help with improving my contribution to her view of the landscape. (The regular occurrence of a bath and of clean clothes beyond the same two pairs of sweats really is not all that unreasonable, I guess.)  But more interesting to me was the notion of growing a beard. Might I want to grow a beard?

What does it mean to grow a beard? Lots of things. Think about men on vacation. Some grow a beard as a sign they are stepping outside of their participation within the traditional institutions of the social structure. Within the dominant society, participants within the more powerful social institutions are expected/required to be straight forward (and straight), clean and clean-shaven. Growing a beard is a visible sign of momentarily stepping outside of one’s role within the social structure. For a man on vacation, it can be a sign of his appeal for personal rejuvenation (healing). For a man on a mission (as were the ancient prophets or contemporary social reformers or revolutionaries), it can be a sign of his appeal for social change or transformation (healing).

I want to be able to do that. I want a sign that ears witness to my stepping outside the social order to call for social change. So what is the parallel sign available to women? Well, truth be known, I don’t think there is one. At least I couldn’t think of one (other than becoming a lesbian and practicing witchcraft, but that is another set of reflections). So . . . but, why not? (Why not as in why is there not on, not why couldn’t I think of the parallel sign.)

Why not indeed. The current organization of the social structure precludes it. In order to be able to step outside of one’s assigned role within the social structure, one needs to first have an assigned role within it. I found myself coming back, yet again, to the recognition that, by and large, women do not have significant roles within the more powerful social institutions. (Oh sure, there are some significant roles that we’ve captured access to, but we all know that if we slowed the struggle for even a minute, the availability of those roles would be gone all too soon. And assignment [as in designated, selected, a position of duty] is very different from captured [as in seized by force or craft]). Women’s assigned, acknowledged social roles stand outside institutions of power and the power of institutions (actually underneath them). Women’s socially defined roles remain primarily nurturers, caregivers. Our backs still too often buffer and cushion the impact of the road our male partners and colleagues walk.

But we mostly know this. Why revisit old wounds? “Every loving thought is true. Everything else is an appeal for healing and help, regardless of the form it takes.” The absence of significant roles for women within the social institutions of power is an appeal for healing and help, all-be-it in a rather contorted form. Until it is an option for women to stand outside the social structure, an option that will only come into being when we stand with significance within the social structure, the social structure and social roles are in need of healing and transformation.

These reflections are a call for these truths to be re-membered, and re-visioned. These reflections are a call for the radical transformation of our consciousness and of society. These reflections are a call for the personal exclusion of women from roles of significance within institutions of power to be understood as a form or appeal for the political healing of the social structure. (Oh sweet mother, yes I said it again, the personal IS political.) In the meantime, I’m growing a beard.

 

So, I wrote that over 20 years ago. Sadly, I think it is still pretty much relevant and true enough. So sisters, let’s all go grow us some beards!

Two frogs but no spilt milk

Once upon a time there were two frogs. These frogs were the best of friends, and went nowhere without each other. Well, one day the frogs found themselves in a dairy barn. They were exploring around, hopping here and there, and just checking things out when the cows began to wander back into the barn. Well, the frogs had never seen animals quite that large, and they were in fear for their lives, afraid that the cows would accidentally step on one or both of them.

This is the story of two frogs. One frog was fat and the other skinny. One day, while searching for food, they inadvertently jumped into a vat of milk. They couldn’t get out, as the sides were too slippery, so they were just swimming around. Without thinking or looking, they two of them jumped into a huge vat of milk to get out of the way. They swam around in the vat for a while, and then things with the cows quieted down, so the frogs decided it was time to get out of the vat and head home. So they began to try to leap out of the vat. But it was too deep. They could not reach the bottom to gain any leverage for leaping. And the sides of the vat were too slippery from the milk fat, and they could not gain any traction to push off a side.

One frog looked at the other and said, “Bud, there is no use paddling any longer. We are just going to drown here in this milk. We might just as well save our energy and give up.”

But the other frog was wiser, and said, “Hang on Bud, keep paddling. Someone may come along and get us out.” And the two frogs kept paddling for hours and hours. But no one came into the barn. By then it was dark. And the first frog said, “Bud, it is no use, no one is coming. I’m exhausted. We are doomed. There is no way out.”

And the wiser frog said, “Just keep paddling. Something will happen, just keep trying.” And a few more hours went by. But still nothing.

The first frog said, “Bud, I can’t go on. You know what they call it when you keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? That, my friend is insanity.” And with that the first frog gave up and he drowned in the milk.

But Bud kept paddling. And a few minutes later he felt something solid under his feet. He had churned the milk into butter. Standing on that, he leapt out of the vat.

And the moral of the story? What do you think? Was Bud wiser?

With thanks to Roger Darling (www.rogerdarlington.me.uk) for the heart of the story.

 

On Seeking Serenity

So, who wouldn’t want a little more peace and serenity in their life, right? And of course the moment I hear the word serenity, I think the serenity prayer from Alcoholics Anonymous. You know, the one that goes: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

But of course Bill W. and Bob S. the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous were not the authors of the prayer. The original Serenity Prayer is attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, and the full length version is a bit longer than the commonly quoted four verses. The full version says:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

–Reinhold Niebuhr

But, oh, the joys of the internet!! If you do a diligent search of the internet, you can uncover a differentially distributed Serenity Prayer by Myers-Briggs Type! Which of course is funny only if you have a bit of background understanding of the Myers-Briggs Types. So, here is a little on Myers-Briggs Types, followed by the Myers-Briggs Serenity Prayers.  (oh be persistent, read the background, the differentiated Serenity Prayers are funny enough to be worth it).

Excerpted with permission from the MBTI® Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®

Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)Favorite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world?

Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning?

Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances?

Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options?

So, your Myers-Briggs Type is your combination preferences from those four groups. This is a very quick and very, very dirty way of coming at it, but have a look at the four groups, and the questions, and pick out your four preferences. Then have a read below 😉

And here are the Myers-Briggs Type based Serenity Prayers:

 

ISTJ – God, help me to begin relaxing about little details tomorrow at 11:41:32 am

ISFJ – Lord, help me to be more laid back, and help me to do it exactly right

INFJ – Lord, help me not be a perfectionist (Did I spell that right?)

INTJ – Lord, keep me open to others’ ideas, wrong though they may be

ISTP – God, help me to consider people’s feelings, even if most of them are hypersensitive

ISFP – Lord, help me to stand up for my rights (if You don’t mind my asking)

INFP – Lord, help me to finish everything I sta. . .

INTP – Lord, help me be less independent, but let me do it my way.

ESTP – God, help me to take responsibility for my own actions, even though they’re usually not my fault

ESFP – God, help me to take things more seriously especially parties and dancing

ENFP – God, help me keep my mind on one thing – Look, a bird – at a time.

ENTP – God, help me follow established procedures today. On second thought, I’ll settle for a few minutes

ESTJ – God, help me to try not to run everything, but if You need some help, just ask.

ESFJ – Lord, give me patience and I mean right now

ENFJ – God, help me to do only what I can and trust You for the rest. Do You mind putting that in writing?

ENTJ – God, help me to slow downandnotrushthroughwhatIdoAmen.

As Niebuhr says, Forgiveness is the final form of love. Let it be.

 

 

The wandering woman wizard, the inn and happy trails

Once upon a time in a place of magic and truthfulness, a place far away from today’s world and very near to our hearts, a wandering woman wizard of great girth and grit knocked with great gusto on the doors of the local palace.  The woman entered the palace, and marched right into the throne room where the king and queen were seated in their weekly audience with the town’s people.

The queen looked at the woman and asked her, “what is it that you want, woman?”

And the wandering woman wizard answered, “A place to sleep in this inn.”

The queen responded, “This is no inn, this is our palace.”

“Your Queenship, may I ask who owned this place before you?”

And the queen replied, “My mother. She is dead.”

And who owned this place before her?”

And the queen replied, “My grandmother. She is dead as well.”

The wandering woman wizard replied, “so, you describe this palace as a place where people lodge for a brief while and move on – is that not an inn?”

With thanks to Anthony de Mello and Paul Brian Campbell.

Indeed, what is it that we all want but a safe place to lay our heads and find some rest when we are tired? We are all looking for a safe have, a safe home, a place where we are known and loved.

Every now and again, I think it is a good idea to remember that we are all strangers in a strange land, pilgrims who may or may not be making progress.  What a grace and joy it is when we find a special someone to travel with for a while.

And, with Nell Morton, let us all remember that the journey is indeed our home. There is no particular there that we should be getting to, no grand goal to be attained. There is here and now, this moment, this very precious moment as we all travel along on our journeys.

So, as we all travel along, at the end of each day’s journey may we each find a warm and welcoming inn. May we each travel in the company of someone who knows and cherished us even with our tatters, someone who we know and cherish as well. May we all travel paths that lead us to places of wisdom and compassion.

To one and all,

Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin’ until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we’re together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you, ’till we meet again.

Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.
It’s the way you ride the trail that counts,
Here’s a happy one for you.

Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin’ until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we’re together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you, ’till we meet again.

And, since I am in the mood and am remembering Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, here are the Roy Rogers Riders Club Rules:

  1. Be neat and clean.
  2. Be courteous and polite.
  3. Always obey your parents.
  4. Protect the weak and help them.
  5. Be brave but never take chances.
  6. Study hard and learn all you can.
  7. Be kind to animals and take care of them.
  8. Eat all your food and never waste any.
  9. Love deeply and take time to feel awe in nature.
  10. Always respect all cultures and wisdom traditions.

(ok, so I tweaked a few of them, by and large they are still pretty good rules for traveling buckaroos.)

 

The Price of Adultery

So, I was channel surfing the other day, and I came across a commercial for “Family Feud.” The question posed in the commercial was “how many of the ten commandments did you break in a day?” The most frequent answer was 7 – SEVEN!! Well, of course I had to run through the commandments in my head to figure out the three that were likely not broken.

  1. I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me.
  2. Don’t make any idols.
  3. Don’t take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
  5. Honor you father and thy mother.
  6. Don’t kill.
  7. Don’t commit adultery.
  8. Don’t steal.
  9. Don’t lie.
  10. Don’t covet your neighbor’s stuff.

Well, I thought about it, and thought, maybe killing, adultery, and theft where the three people didn’t violate as frequently. And then I came across this little story on the web …

A man suspected his wife of having an affair. So he waits outside the house one morning when he should have left for work. Sure enough, after a half hour a car turns up, and a man got out and let himself in with a key. The husband waited for 15 minutes determined to catch the man and his wife in the act. So, after a time he slipped into the house, crept up to the bedroom and opened the door. Sure enough he found his wife is naked in bed, but she was alone. Just then our man heard footsteps running towards the kitchen. He followed the footsteps, but when he got there the kitchen was empty. He looked out the window to the yard and sure enough he saw a man climbing over the fence. Our guy is totally enraged at this point. He looked around for a weapon but couldn’t find any. With the strength brought on by his rage, he picked up the refrigerator and hurled it through the window hitting the man and killing him.

The dead man goes straight to heaven and St Peter says, “You’re not due here for 20 years? What happened to you?”

The man says, “Well I was taking a shortcut through someone’s yard and out of nowhere a refrigerator came flying out of the house and landed on me and killed me!!”

St Peter says “Well, wait over there please. We weren’t expecting you so we will need to find you a room.”

In the meantime, the exertion of hurling the fridge killed the husband. He too arrives in heaven.

St Peter says to him “You’re early too. What happened?”

So the husband says “I threw a fridge at the man my wife was having an affair with and the strain brought on a heart attack.”

St Peter says to him “Well, we’re a bit busy today. You’ll have to wait for a room too.” And Saint Peter directs him to the opposite end if the waiting room.

And then there appears a third man who was naked and looking very puzzled.

St Peter says to him “Not another early arrival! What happened to you??”

And the naked man says, “Well, I was hiding in this fridge. . . ”

 

Ah, the price of adultery!!

 

Gifts, abundance, greed and contentment

Abraham Lincoln is said to have said, “Most people are about as happy as they choose to be.” When I was a social worker, lo those many, many years ago, I always wanted to have two posters on my wall. One with that quote, and another that simply said, “Get a Grip!” Well, and maybe a third that said, “NO WHINING!!” But, I figured in the context none of them would come across as particularly caring or compassionate. So, I became a college professor instead. Then I retired.

Anyway, I found a version of this story on Paul Brian Campbell’s blog, “People for Others.” He apparently found it on Philip Chircop’s blog, “Wisdom Stories to live by.” Chircop seems to have found it in McMane’s book , “Living Grace: Spiritual Growth in the Everyday World.” (Marlin Press, 2011) page 129. Here is my version of it.

 

Stella walked into her social worker’s office, grunted a non-greeting and plopped down into the comfortable chair, looking depressed, agitated, resentful and a good bit more gruff than her usual.

The social worker, put on her professional compassionate face and asked, “Stella, can you tell me a bit about your feelings?”

Stella replied, “I don’t remember if I told you but, three weeks ago my Uncle Stanley died and he left me $40,000.”

“Hmmm” the social worker replied “And?”

Stella continued, “then, two weeks ago, my cousin Sophie died and left me $85,000.”

“It sounds like you’ve had a good bit of loss in your life lately” the social worker responded.

Stella cut her off saying “You don’t understand. You see, last week, my great aunt Sasha died, and she left me almost a quarter million dollars!”

The social worker nodded empathically and said, “So, Stella, if I may paraphrase, I hear you saying that you are troubled by the paradoxical feelings of great loss for dearly loved relatives, and gratitude for the generous bequeaths they left to you? Is it these conflicing feelings that are troubling you?”

Stella grunted a sigh of disgust and said, “No, you really don’t understand, you see, this week … nothing.”

 

When you stop laughing, maybe spend a minute or two thinking about how easy it is to fall into the greed of wanting more, and to forget to appreciate the abundance that we already have in our lives. We are after all about as happy as we choose to be!