Saturday, March 24, 2018

WHAT IS KEEPING YOU FROM A LIFE OF ADVENTURE?


WHY NOT LIVE AN ADVENTURE?

I was talking to a guy my age the other day. Just making conversation in a semi-crowded room over coffee and cake. I asked him how he spent his time. His response began with “I lead a pretty boring life,” and continued from there with a quite predictable list of senior-acceptable, time absorbing activities and pass-times.
I just had to ask him, why he was leading such a boring life? At that time in his life, with no debts, no responsibilities, free time and all the experience and confidence he had accrued, why was he choosing a life of boredom instead of adventure? What was holding him back? Where was the risk? He challenged me as to just what 'adventure' was possible. I countered in asking him what adventure was not possible.
What purpose or cause was important to him, I suggested. Wasn't there a need, bigger than him, that could use him? Was a life of boredom and uselessness really a sign of success, the culmination of all that his life had been?
I don't remember his name. Maybe our short conversation isn't remembered by him even these two short weeks later. However, it's clear in my mind. There's something very powerful in verbalizing our own thoughts, especially with others. Sometimes it's easier to share deep questions and hopes with strangers.
The question was really for me. Why not chose to live a life of adventure? Does age really have anything to do with it? Hardly! It's an excuse like any other. Just imagine what a difference could be made if those of us of many years were to start living as if we and the world were important. If we would choose to 'side' with today's youth in actually doing what was right and needed, we would really count for something 'of life' and not be just statistics searching for nursing homes.
So, to all people, if we aren't living a life that is open to adventure, are we really living? WHY NOT?

Anthony Gifford


Monday, February 19, 2018

FAMILY DAY as a Follower of Jesus of Nazareth

FAMILY DAY? WHAT FAMILY?

It's Family Day again in Canada. A great and needed sentiment. If I were with my siblings, all four of them, and our various 'accumulations', we'd have a good time, mainly catching up on lives and such. We'd spend time talking about the old days, our wonderful folks (yes, really), and do a lot of singing.
But we wouldn't be able to talk about any topic that was really important. Some of us are 'Trump' supporters, so that takes a third of life's topics out of the possibility for discussion. At least two of them are pro-gun in a big way. Some are simplistically so-called 'Evangelical Christian' and just know that all others, including most of the family, are going to fry in their Hell forever. Many of others think that any who have faith or hope at all in a 'spiritual' way are just as delusional.
So, we sing and talk about the kids and how well we're all doing.
On Family Day, it's good for me to remember the story of how Jesus was once with his friends and supporters, people with whom he shared his questions and life. He was talking with them and word came to him that he was wanted by some members of his family. (In that culture, there was nothing more important than kin-folk.) Instead of jumping up and running to 'do his duty', even to his mother, he stayed where he was, looked around at those dear to him, those with whom he shared his future, and asked them, “Who is my mother, my father, my brothers and sisters? Those who are with me in doing the will of God; they are my family.”
I suppose he eventually went out and saw his family, but there was no doubt as to where his values and support lay. On this Family Day, yes, I think of my biological family, as I hope we all do. However, I feel very sorry for those who have to say that the highest of their values and lives are held within that group and past. If we haven't grown beyond them, have not found a More that challenges us and gives us meaning and purpose, we have hardly given life a chance and have not used the basis of our original families as a foundation for new life.
So, a toast! Here's to our old families, the ones in which we were born and had no choice about. May we love them all!
And here's to those with whom we chose, with whom to grow in love and adventure, who bring out the best in us, with whom we can dance, even when our toes are getting stepped upon!
To Family, born and chosen! To Life!
Thanks.
Anthony


Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Two Reasons I'm Not An Atheist

WHY I'M NOT AN ATHEIST

Because I write (share) about spiritual things, values and reasons for living, I'm often accused of being a 'know-it-all'. Nothing could be more wrong. Along with everyone, I only really 'know' what I have experienced. If it hasn't actually happened to me and is passed along as second-hand, at best, I can suspect that it might become a truth for me. My whole reason for writing and sharing about this stuff is that I know that others don't agree with me, that most others, maybe even all others have not experienced just what I have. That means that I haven't experienced what they have. And only in the sharing will I and them be able to grow in understanding and in life.
Fact: I don't believe in God. I KNOW there is a More that affects me and my world, a More that is both within me and in all I know and can imagine. This More is part of me every second, even though I have the complete power to turn away, which I often do. But again and again, the More awakens my most inner self and urges me onward toward new life and purpose.
For me, the best and most faithful path to follow this More, is the Way shown by Jesus of Nazareth. I'm not a Christian, however, for thinking that Jesus was divine and different from the rest of humanity makes no sense and would make any attempt to follow his path a farcical and doomed waste of effort. I assume that there are many other paths (spokes) to the Hub of Life. Only in sharing do we start to know more of the totality of this awareness.
Maybe this More is simply an illusion, or a social awareness. Or maybe the accumulated energy of the Universe. I couldn't care less. To not live within it as much as possible, is untenable over time, for this purpose alone brings me Joy.
There is a second reason that I'm not an Atheist, one who believes that there is nothing more than what can be measured and recorded. Something happened to me when in my early twenties: I interacted with a ghost, a specter that scared me to my core. I won't go into any more details here. Suffice it to say that I know there is more to life that what we can even imagine. To ignore this fact would be to simply waste my life, be it end at my death or continue in other realms.
So, back to my basics: to share with others in the hope that they might return in kind; to be critical of anything 'religious' that is narrow and does not enable people to question and share. (This, of course, includes most of Christianity.) The purpose of our lives is to grow. It is most hard to live in a culture that is based on the opposite.
So, back to life. Good luck to you and why not share enough to give life/love a chance, no matter who you label yourself? What you call yourself makes no difference. It's what you do that brings new life.
Again, thanks for your time.

Anthony

Thursday, February 8, 2018

AND WE THINK WE'RE SO SMART!

THE ILLUSION OF HUMANS BEING 'SMART'

Being the 'smartest' of animals is an assumption of all people. Every ancient tradition shares this with its descendants. We humans certainly get in more trouble than any other species. If that impulse counts toward being 'smart', we'd have good cause for the boast. If, however, we use a more basic test of stupidity, we'd find that people are surely the opposite.
Aren't we told that it's a sure sign of 'stupidness' if someone, time and time again, tries to do the same things that fail? Would 'smart' people not learn from mistakes and stop doing what they know, won't work and is hurting them?
There is absolutely no doubt that our world is in great crisis. The world as we know it is in jeopardy. Our politics and economies are controlled by fewer and fewer. Yet those of us who have even a smidgen of power or influence do little or nothing, allowing things to sail on as ever, again, vowing even harder to try again the very things and systems that got us into this mess in the first place.
Humanity, in its infancy, was based upon sharing, as is most advanced (and much that is not) animal life. When seen from space, and from any truly 'human' point of view, it is clear that only by humans leaning to share again, do we have a chance.
Is this basic truth heard or seen in our culture? It is not heard in our religious circles, unless whispered among a few who'd rather not be branded as 'counter-culture'. A politician would be unelectable if they shared this view. In truth, a life of sharing, let alone, a world-view that embraces this is very rare and is given no credence.
I have no real reason to expect the world not to swiftly continue on its downward spiral, nor for people to not choose to follow or allow the ways of death. Greed and blindness are in control and there are few who stand in their way. Those 'nice' folks around us are so caught up in the ways of our death-culture that they are not able to change.
Yet, tomorrow is still to come. And I know that there are many people, some young and many older, who know deeply that there is another Way. There is no reason we MUST remain stupid. Part of our humanity is the ability to change, no matter the odds against it.
The 'modern' torch that we hold high to illuminate our present way is a stick of dynamite. Will we lay it aside for a light that may lead to a better end? Will we even talk about it?
If there's a God, is He/She laughing or crying?
All the best,

Anthony

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

tHE JOY OF THE SEASON?

THE OFFERING OF JOY, AGAIN

Are there any of us who don't want Happiness, or to live in Joy? I hope not. In the Christmas season we are told 'great joy' is offered to us by God. The traditional 'church' slant on this was that in Jesus, we were finally freed from the power of sin that had condemned all of humanity since Adam and Eve. I don't know about you, but that's hardly a inspiring or hopeful message. Any God that has that kind of vindictive streak hardly inspires joy.
I know many people who have left any faith in God because, as they reason, there can't be a God worth their belief, when there's so much suffering and imperfection in the world. They assume that God has to be an all-powerful 'fixer and doer', making sure that all is perfect and in the proper and holy order. Example: “How could God have allowed that drunk to run his car up on the sidewalk and kill my sister?” Each of us can change that question in our experience and find good reason to quit the whole concept of hope in any idea of God.
Many of us cling to an assumption that God will make everything alright 'in the end'. It's like the lies we hear from the Self Improvement folks, that if we just stick with things, they'll eventually work out. NOT. We all can't be best-seller authors, billionaires or rock stars. Not that we should give up on our dreams, but it doesn't take many smarts to see that 'joy' of any kind is not a matter of just trying harder or longer. Things keep changing, but they surely don't always 'work out in the end', either by God's or our doing. But do we just give up on the whole concept of Joy? Maybe the birth narratives will give us a clue.
Maybe Joy comes in searching for God (Love) in the small and ordinary, even in the birth of a baby. Maybe Joy is always surrounding us, singing to us from the hills and stars, even amidst the suffering. Maybe Joy can be found with great searchings, as is shown by the 'Wise Men'. Or perhaps is finds us when we're just doing our jobs, as did the shepherds. The birth narratives don't ignore the fact of evil: the Roman Empire has the power to move us around and bring death to the innocent. But even the most poor and 'unclean' (the shepherds) can hear and see the power of the message of joy. The story doesn't say that everything worked out fine for them, only that they knew that Joy had come, and was a gift from God. But they were still shepherds.
If we're expecting life to be more easy and free of pain and grief, don't look to God to change it. Life on this planet is a matter of luck, as well as hard work. But it is a lot easier and worthwhile if we are open to Joy. This is the gift we can search for, find, and share. But it usually isn't in the places we search. Not in riches or power. It's in the smallest and even most familiar. Even a new birth.
Instead of setting ourselves up for failure by expecting Joy to knock us over with huge events and winnings, let's begin to be more open in the joys we can find and share in the common, understanding that all around is infused with the holy. If the shepherds and wandering strangers can hear, see and find Joy, so can we all.

In this season for searching, and Joy,

Anthony

Friday, December 8, 2017

TIME FOR A NEW SEASON OF 'ADVENT'

HOPE IN A RENEWED ADVENT

Here we are, well into the Christmas/Holiday Season. In the 'old' days, a couple of generations ago and beyond, 'Christmas' came on December 25, and was prepared for mainly in the previous week. Most Christians in that culture, and society in general, at least gave lip-service to the traditional season of Advent, the four weeks before Christmas. The idea of Advent was two-fold. Firstly, it was seen by the Church as a time of preparation for the coming (again) of the Christ Child, a time to give thanks that once more we could give thanks to the loving God that we wouldn't have to burn in hell because God was going to send us His Son to die for us.
The second aspect of Advent was that it provided a time to expect the unexpected, to search for and be open to the 'Holy' being experienced in yet unknown ways. While this hope was talked about, in reality it was directly opposite to the first. In all truth, it is impossible to be open to anything new if one's attention is consumed by what is assumed and known. But the idea of a time given for questioning and openness is one that needs consideration.
With the commercialization of Christmas and the watering-down of Christianity in general, Advent is gone. But just think, even for a few minutes of the idea, that the 'Holy', however dreamed or believed, is here for us, waiting to be found, experienced and shared, not only in the unusual, but in the ordinary and every-day. Even in a birth of yet another poor and illegitimate child in a conquered and poverty stricken people.
In this culture it is most uncommon and even threatening for people to share their deeper understandings and questions. Even in church we leave this to the professionals. So again, year after year, we become more isolated and ill-at-heart. Just imagine that once a year, for a few weeks, we gave each other the permission, and even the hope, of not only searching for the 'holy', but to share this with each other. Whether Christian, Jew, of Islam or Buddha, Agnostic or Atheist, to look for what is beyond, to be able to ponder and share.
Just to have a time in which we contemplate the possibility that there is more to life than the size of our bank accounts or home, THIS in itself would be a real change.
As it is, as we all know, this time of year has no time for anything more than just making it through. It's more than filled with family and traditions, good stuff all, but no time for More, for any real searching and newness. Such a shame. So stupid on our parts.
Sadly, I don't see any place on the calender for such a happening. And who sees the need for anything like this, anyway? And it is sad, for only a true Advent People, people who can search and share together, can start to make changes that will lead to life and break the spiral of fear and greed on which we're spinning.
For the few traditionalists, and futurists, where ever you are, Here's to a new Advent! May we start to gather in our searchings and sharings! Here's to the journey, and may we not let 'Christmas' stop us!


Anthony  

Friday, December 1, 2017

THE TIME TO SHARE THE HOLINESS OF LAUGHTER

THE HOLY GIFT OF LAUGHTER

I'm my own worst enemy. And need to increasingly learn and take time to laugh at myself and the rest of the world. I know this but usually put it off and dwell on the 'deep and meaningful' things of this life. This was brought again, thankfully, to my attention last week when I chanced to turn on Turner Classic Movies and caught the end of a delightful old flick, Sullivan's Journey, staring Jimmy Stewart, one of my favourites. He played the part of an activist who's goal it was to right all wrongs, involved with many causes, always on the side of the poor and oppressed. Right on!
The focus of the plot was when he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was unjustly convicted of a crime and spent several years doing hard time in a hard place. There, he learned the power of laughter, even admist the misery.
Eventually his innocence was proved and he was released, upon which, he devoted his life to comedy, realizing that maybe in doing that, he was more able to help people.
This speaks to me in that I'm called in my soul to do and proclaim 'Love', however understood. And this, most often, gets in the way of my being a fun person to be around. I take things way too seriously. Judy often urges me to have another drink, or a 'brownie'. During this time of year, Advent in the old church calender, when traditional Christianity is supposed to be urging people to be open to newness and life, humour is needed the most. For churches of all sorts are the most closed to anything new. Tradition reigns. In most ways, this is the time of year most closed to anything different. And hence, of course, we miss anything of the Holy, again.
Yet, I need to be able to laugh. If I didn't, I would sink to despair. And those who despair are no good to anyone or any cause.
So, help me to laugh, especially in this season. Friends and enemies alike, offer me another drink. If I'm sitting in a corner, you have my permission to invite me over. Indeed, please prod me into a conversation. In the doing, in the sharing, even in casual converstation, lies seeds of sharing and the 'holy'. I know this, but I resist. Shared laughter is a gift from God, however understood. In this season, let us all know this and share it, helping each other to set aside the bigger pictures that, however good, often keep us from living and sharing our lives to the fullest. We need to tend the trees, even while we have the whole forest in our thoughts.
To all, however you see and name this time before Christmas, please try to share in laughter and joy. And, if possible, include me. I need it.

Anthony



Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Danger of Only Half Remembering

THE DANGER OF ONLY HALF-REMEMBERING

Remembrance Day was over a week ago. Time to reflect and ponder on that event; the people, words and actions that symbolize such an important part of us as a people.
Should I worry if only a small piece of reality was presented? Is it my problem only? Or is there a real danger of partial truths leading to more harm and being even counter to the hopes we wish for?
The names of the dead were shared, along with the names of the wars in which they died. Good. But why did they die? It was clearly said that they died because they were brave, and because our freedom was threatened. They were all heroes, by definition. All who die in uniform, in our popular opinion, are heroes. No other view is allowed.
But our main assumptions just aren't true. Only in one of 'our' wars, WWII, were we attacked, at least our allies were attacked. (This is apart from the many times we were attacked by the United States. In their point of view, they were trying to liberate us, to bring us true freedom. But that's another story.)
In the two Boor Wars we were on the side of the British Empire, fighting against freedom, the freedom of the Dutch settlers of South Africa who only wanted to be left alone, cursed as they were, by occupying space that was coveted for it's wealth. So gleefully went off, for God, King and country, ready and eager to kill, because the very idea of any who didn't want to be like us, was threatening.
WWI had no cause other than the empires of Europe all wanted to become even richer. So we fought, of course, on the side of the British Empire. Brave? The boys were told they'd be home by Christmas. Those Huns didn't have a chance! It would have been a stalemate if the US hadn't joined in the fun. And the terrible terms of the 'peace' only assured the necessity of WWII.
And the wars since? Have our invasions since brought about peace? How's Afghanistan doing? When will we learn that very rarely do people want to be invaded, no matter their motives. (Remember those Yanks?)
I'm not against our gatherings at the cenotaph. But let's try to do the whole thing. When do school children learn of the big picture? When do we get a chance to truly weep about how, time and time again, we believe lies told to us by the rich and powerful, so that we'll give our lives for their 'national good'? There have been many times when the truly brave were those who stayed at home, choosing to live with the insults and stigma of peace. When do we hear of this? Why are the only things remembered are the dead, and not what killed them, nor what will bring new life? Why is the only poem remembered is one that urges us to keep on killing, especially from a war that was wrong and stupid?
I'll keep going to gatherings that remember. But also, I'll continue to urge us all to remember everything. 'The whole truth' is better for us all, I assume.

Anthony