“All belief that does not render us more happy, more free, more loving, more active, more calm, is, I fear, an erroneous and superstitious belief.”
-Johann Kaspar Lavater
I have to confess that I’ve been hiding something for the last 30 years, I can’t tie a cinch knot. When I was little, it seemed like every time I went to scouts we were always learning to tie knots but it never took. Of course it didn’t help that I didn’t go very much. And that was okay for the time being because rarely did I encounter a situation where I needed a to tie a cinch knot as a teenager. But in college, I got a job at a large furniture store and as luck would have it I was asked to tie a lot appliances down. I could tie things down alright, I mean with all those knots I was pretty sure things were tied down, but it bothered me that I could never tighten anything down securely. My knots were never taut. I noticed a few guys had the cinch knots down and I asked a few times, but again I never picked it up. As long as people weren’t calling the store about furniture flying out off their trucks I figured I was doing okay.
And the years have gone by and there have been many Christmas trees that made it home without taut knots. Sometimes we bypassed the whole knot thing and had the kids hold the rope through the windows. However, ever since we bought kayaks at Costco, I’ve been exposed. One time I went to a local river fairly close by and barely made it home with the kayaks half hanging off the car. Other times, I have spent hours trying to get the kayaks tied down and hoped that we made it back and forth with the kayaks still on top of the car.
Recently though, it all came to a head when we were invited by our friends to go kayaking. I had to work in the morning so I had zero lead time to spend a couple of hours figuring out how I was going to tie down the kayaks. As I was once again pretending to tie down the stern and bow with ten double knots and a un-taut line, I knew I could not perpetuate the fraud anymore. It was time to learn how to do a taut knot. Despite the fact that we were going to be late, I had to stop the pretending and I forced myself to sit down and watch a short little video called How to Tie a Hitch Knot and after a half hour and many tries I finally figured it out. And that was just the first kayak. Finally, our more than patient friends called and asked if we didn’t just want to go get Mexican food. Heck, yes! And we had a great time together and it ended up raining anyways.
“Notwithstanding this preeminence given the creation of woman, she has so frequently through the ages been relegated to a secondary position. She has been put down. She has been denigrated. She has been enslaved. She has been abused. And yet some few of the greatest characters of scripture have been women of integrity, accomplishment, and faith….
In His grand design, when God first created man, He created a duality of the sexes. The ennobling expression of that duality is found in marriage. One individual is complementary to the other. As Paul stated, “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:11).
There is no other arrangement that meets the divine purposes of the Almighty. Man and woman are His creations. Their duality is His design. Their complementary relationships and functions are fundamental to His purposes. One is incomplete without the other….
There are some men who, in a spirit of arrogance, think they are superior to women. They do not seem to realize that they would not exist but for the mother who gave them birth. When they assert their superiority they demean her. It has been said, “Man can not degrade woman without himself falling into degradation; he can not elevate her without at the same time elevating himself” (Alexander Walker, in Elbert Hubbard’s Scrap Book , 204).
The women in our lives are creatures endowed with particular qualities, divine qualities, which cause them to reach out in kindness and with love to those about them. We can encourage that outreach if we will give them opportunity to give expression to the talents and impulses that lie within them. In our old age my beloved companion said to me quietly one evening, “You have always given me wings to fly, and I have loved you for it.”
Gordon B. Hinckley, The Women in Our Lives.
I cannot walk, but I can fly;
No roof can house me from the stars
No dwelling pen me in its bounds,
Nor keep me fast with locks and bars.
No narrow room my thoughts can cage,
No fetters hold my roving mind;
From these four walls that shut me in,
My soaring soul a way can find. . . .
And when the long, long day is done,
I clasp the dearest book of all,
And through the dim, sweet silences,
I hear my Father’s accents fall.
Then, though, in chains, yet I am free;
Beyond the pressure of my care,
Above earth’s night, my spirit mounts
On eagle wings of Faith and Prayer.
-Annie Johnson Flint
For the first man to climb the hill
And seek a prospect wider still;
For the first man to brave the sea
Unscared by its immensity;
For he who, conquering craven fear,
First found in fire a friend to cheer;
For he who first from stubborn stone
Wrought tool and weapon of his own;
For those the first with patient toil
To break the clod and till the soil;
For all such men, since men began,
We thank the God who made the man.
As Michael Novak recently note in his article Caritapolis: A New Global Vision the powers that be have been over the last century “preoccupied with two questions: one political, one economic.” And behind those two questions lies a philosophy that defines humans as all biology and no soul, or if there is a soul, a personality, there must be a DNA sequence that rules it, even though we’ve been unable to find it. To a degree this is some advanced thinking and should not be ignored. There is no doubt we’ve benefitted from it, but this type of thinking will all be for naught if in the end we, as Novak states, “lived like pigs, enslaved to our desires without reflection”. And it will all be for naught if we increasing become uncivil and never come closer to a voluntary peace among neighbors, communities and nations.
To define humans as only biological brutes who are only motivated by political or economic survival is like driving a vehicle with huge blind spot. You are apt to recklessly miss out on a big part of what it means to be human and miss out on a more complete understanding the human condition. Your will mostly likely fail to understand that we are all pilgrims of the universe, we are all part of that ancient song, all part of the sea and the stars, part of the mountains, the moon and Mars. In other words, we are all part of something bigger than ourselves, more grand than we can fathom. To define human and human motivation as only biology is like defining music only in terms of notes, scales, and measures, when what makes music special is its transcendent ability to express what we cannot with only words. To be only limited to biology, denies the divine that is common in all of us that is most often expressed in our relationships with our families and our friends, most found in our rare expressions of unconditional love towards others. It is what gives each of our individual stories context and meaning, no matter who we are. There are no genes for love, honesty, kindness, work, faith, charity, and humility. Just as there is no genes for greed, avarice, hate, sloth, doubt, and anger. These are not merely survival techniques or biological adaptation or mutations that make us no different from amoebas.
Trying to solve humanity’s problems in only political or economic terms has proven to be divisive and dangerous to whoever is on the wrong side of the powerful because it is has become extremely ideological and ignores what is common between us and foolishly ignores that there is a natural moral law that we all benefit from adhering to.
Instead all things are relative and there is no right or wrong and as a consequence there is no common good to rally around. And what we get is a venal democracy where politicians argue back and forth about their favorite shades of grey and freedom becomes a shallow expression of consumerism and “doing your own thing”, instead of a means to moral and personal excellence. What we need most is more people, especially our young people, striving to do the right thing for the right reasons being able to see beyond what is expedient, convenient or popular with the majority. Our country needs more and more people, no matter where they come from, who are spiritually animated by the pursuit of truth, happiness and liberty and understand their moral and transcendental dimensions.
Our world would be much improved if our solutions included a spiritual dimension that recognized the divinity and dignity in all humans. An enlightened humanity that recognized humans, despite all their faults and perfections, as Thomas Aquinas noted, the most beautiful creature of all creation especially when in their battle between good and evil, freely choose the good.
Bring me men to match my mountains,
Bring me men to match my plains,
Men with empires in their purpose
And new eras in their brains.
Bring me men to match my prairies
Men to match my inland seas
Men whose thoughts shall pave a highway
Up to ampler destinies,
Pioneers to cleanse thought’s marshlands,
And to cleanse old error’s fen;
Bring me men to match my mountains–
Bring me men!
Bring men to match my forests,
Strong to fight the storm and beast,
Branching toward the skyey future,
Rooted on the futile past.
Bring me men to match my valleys,
Tolerant of rain and snow,
Men within whose fruitful purpose
Time’s consummate blooms shall grow,
Men to tame tigerish instincts
Of the lair and cave and den,
Cleanse the dragon slime of nature-
Bring me men!
Bring me men to match my rivers,
Continent cleansers, flowing free,
Drawn by eternal madness,
To be mingled with the sea-
Men of oceanic impulse,
Men whose moral currents sweep
Toward the wide, infolding ocean
Of an undiscovered deep-
Men who feel the strong pulsation
of the central sea and then
Time their currents by it earth throbs-
Bring me Men.
-Sam Walter Foss
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