My dog does have his failings, of course. He's afraid of firecrackers and hides in the clothes closet whenever we run the vacuum cleaner, but unlike me he's not afraid of what other people think of him or anxious about his public image. He barks at the mail carrier, but in contrast to some people I know he never growls at the children or barks at his wife.
So my dog is a sort of guru. When I become too serious and preoccupied, he reminds me of the importance of frolicking and play. When I get too wrapped up in abstractions and ideas, he reminds me of the importance of exercising and caring for my body. On his own canine level, he shows me that it might be possible to live without inner conflicts or neuroses: uncomplicated, genuine, and glad to be alive.
Mark Twain remarked long ago that human beings have a lot to learn from the Higher Animals. Just because they haven't invented static cling or television evangelists doesn't mean they aren't spiritually evolved.
But what does it mean for an animal (including the human animal) to be spiritually evolved? In my mind, it means many things: the development of a moral sense, the appreciation of beauty, the capacity for creativity, and the awareness of one's self within a larger universe as well as a sense of mystery and wonder about it all. These are the most precious gifts we possess, yet there is nothing obscure or otherworldly about such 'spiritual' capabilities. Indeed, my contention is that spirituality is quite natural, rooted firmly in the biological order and in the ecology shared by all life.
~ Gary A. Kowalski, The Souls of Animals
Over and above personal problems, there is an objective challenge to overcome inequity, injustice, helplessness, suffering, carelessness, oppression. Over and above the din of desires there is a calling, a demanding, a waiting, an expectation. There is a question that follows me wherever I turn. What is expected of me? What is demanded of me?
What we encounter is not only flowers and stars, mountains and walls. Over and above all things is a sublime expectation, a waiting for. With every child born a new expectation enters the world.
This is the most important experience in the life of every human being: something is asked of me. Every human being has had a moment in which he sensed a mysterious waiting for him. Meaning is found in responding to the demand, meaning is found in sensing the demand.
~ Abraham Joshua Heschel, Who Is Man?
It is very important to recognize the basic nature of humanity and the value of human qualities. Whether one is educated or uneducated, rich or poor, or belongs to this nation or that nation, this religion or that religion, this ideology or that ideology, is secondary and doesn't matter. When we return to this basis, all people are the same. Then we can truly say the word sister, brother; then they are not just nice words—they have some meaning. That kind of motivation automatically builds the kindness. This gives us inner strength.
What is my purpose in life, what is my responsibility? Whether I like it or not, I am on this planet, and it is far better to do something for humanity. So you see that compassion is the seed or basis. If we take care to foster compassion, we will see that it brings the other good human qualities. The topic of compassion is not at all religious business; it is very important to know that it is human business, that it is a question of human survival, that is not a question of human luxury. I might say that religion is a kind of luxury. If you have religion, that is good. But it is clear that even without religion we can manage. However, without these basic human qualities we cannot survive. It is a question of our own peace and mental stability.
~ The Dalai Lama, A Policy of Kindness
The true motivation of prayer is not, as it has been said, the sense of being at home in the universe, but rather the sense of not being at home in the universe.
Is there a sensitive heart that could stand indifferent and feel at home in the sight of so much evil and suffering, in the face of countless failures to live up to the will of God? On the contrary, the experience of not being at home in the world is a motivation for prayer.
That experience gains intensity in the amazing awareness that God himself is not at home in the universe. God is not at home in a universe where God's will is defied and where God's kingship is denied. God is in exile; the world is corrupt. The universe itself is not at home.
To pray means to bring God back into the world, to establish God's kingship for a second at least. To pray means to expand God's presence.
~ Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Insecurity of Freedom
We always look from outside within; from knowledge we proceed to further knowledge, always adding and the very taking away is another addition. And our consciousness is made up of a thousand remembrances and recognition's, conscious of the trembling lead, of the flower, of that man passing by, that child running across the field; conscious of the rock, the stream, the bright red flower, and the bad smell of a pigsty.
From this remembering and recognizing, from the outward responses, we try to become conscious of the inner recesses, of the deeper motives and urges; we probe deeper and deeper into the vast depths of the mind. This whole process of challenges and responses, of the movement of experiencing and recognizing the hidden and the open activities, this whole is consciousness bound to time.
The cup is not only the shape, the color, the design but also the emptiness of the cup. The cup is the emptiness held within a form; without that emptiness there would be no cup nor form. We know consciousness by outer signs, by its limitations of height and depth, of thought and feeling. But all this is the outer form of consciousness; from the outer we try to find the inner. Is this possible? Theories and speculations are not significant; they actually prevent all discover.
From the outer we try to find the inner, from the known we probe hoping to find the unknown. Is it possible to prove from the inner to the outer? The instrument that proves from the outer we know, but is there such an instrument that probes from the unknown to the known? Is there? And how can there be? There cannot be. If there is one, it's recognizable and it it's recognizable, it's within the area of the known. The strange benediction comes when it will, but with each visitation, deep within, there is a transformation; it is never the same.
~ J. Krishnamurti, On God
Deterrence is a parent of paradox. Conflict theorists, notably Thomas Schelling, have pointed out several paradoxes of deterrence: that it may be to the advantage of someone who is trying to deter another to be irrational, to have fewer available options, or to lack relevant information.
Consider a typical situation involving deterrence. A potential wrongdoer is about to commit an offense that would unjustly harm someone. A defender intends, and threatens, to retaliate should the wrongdoer commit the offense. Carrying out retaliation, if the offense is committed, could well be morally wrong. (The wrongdoer could be insane, or the retaliation could be out of proportion with the offense, or could seriously harm others besides the wrongdoer.)
The moral paradoxes of deterrence arise out of the attempt to determine the moral status of the defender's intention to retaliate in such cases. If the defender knows retaliation to be wrong, it would appear that this intention is evil. Yet such "evil" intentions may pave the road to heaven, by preventing serious offenses and by doing so without actually harming anyone.
Scrutiny of such morally ambiguous retaliation intentions reveals paradoxes that call into question certain significant and widely accepted moral doctrines. These principles are what I call bridge principles. They attempt to link together the moral evaluation of actions and the moral evaluation of agents (and their states) in certain simple and apparently natural ways. The general acceptance, and intuitive appeal, of such principles, lends credibility to the project of constructing a consistent moral system that accurately reflects our firmest moral beliefs about both agents and actions.
For a system of morality to reflect our firmest and deepest convictions adequately, it must represent a middle ground between the extremes.
~ Gregory Kavka
For the sake of general coherence, I think that we do have to make the assumption that whatever we know or think about is part of a more fundamental and broader actual reality that is not generated by thought.
We have been saying that thought does not cover everything; it is limited. Therefore we know of the world, there is always more. We find things that we did not know about, and we find things that contradict what we already know. This is a sign of reality that is beyond our knowledge, our will, our intention, and our desire, as well as being beyond what we have created.
The feeling that has arisen from the consideration of all this is that we exist in a vast, illimitable reality out of which we emerged, probably, as suggested by scientific evidence, through a process of evolution. But, of course, religious people say it came from God. Whichever assumption we make, we are here in this reality; we are participating in it.
~ David Bohm and Mark Edwards, Changing Consciousness
There is a general agreement, East and West, that life in a body provides uniquely good opportunities for achieving salvation or deliverance. Catholic and Mahayana Buddhist doctrine is alike in insisting that the soul in its disembodied state after death cannot acquire merit, but merely suffers in purgatory the consequences of its past acts.
But whereas Catholic orthodoxy declares that there is no possibility of progress in the next world, and that the degree of the soul's beatitude is determined solely by what it has done and thought in its earthly life, the eschatologists of the Orient affirm that there are certain posthumous conditions in which meritorious souls are capable of advancing from a heaven of happy personal survival to genuine immortality in union with the timeless, eternal Godhead.
And, of course, there is also the possibility (indeed, for most individuals, the necessity) of returning to some form of embodied life, in which the advance towards complete beatification, or deliverance through enlightenment, can be continued. Meanwhile, the fact that one has been born in a human body is one of the things for which, says Shankara, one should daily give thanks to God.
~ Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy
Justice as fairness begins with one of the most general of all choices which persons might make together, namely, with the choice of the first principles of a conception of justice which is to regulate all subsequent criticism and reform of institutions. Then, having chosen a conception of justice, we can suppose that they are to choose a constitution and a legislature to enact laws, and so on, all in accordance with the principles of justice initially agreed upon. Our social situation is just if it is such that by this sequence of hypothetical agreements we would have contracted into the general system of rules which defines it.
Moreover, assuming that the original position does determine a set of principles (that is, that a particular conception of justice would be chosen), it will then be true that whenever social institutions satisfy these principles these engaged in them can say to one another that they are cooperating on terms to which they would agree if they were free and equal persons whose relations with respect to one another were fair. They could all view their arrangements as meeting the stipulations which they would acknowledge in an initial situation that embodies widely accepted and reasonable constraints on the choice of principles. The general recognition of this fact would provide the basis for a public acceptance of the corresponding principles of justice.
No society can, of course, be a scheme of cooperation which men enter voluntarily in a literal sense; each person finds himself placed at birth in some particular position in some particular society, and the nature of this position materially affects his life prospects. Yet a society satisfying the principles of justice as fairness comes as close as a society can to being a voluntary scheme, for it meets the principles which free and equal persons would assent to under circumstances that are fair. In this sense its members are autonomous and the obligations they recognize self-imposed.
~ John Rawls, A Theory of Justice
The Greek word which we translate as 'virtue' or 'excellence' meant primarily 'efficiency at a task'. It was the philosopher Aristotle, Plato's greatest pupil, who defined it as 'the right condition of the soul'.
Human beings have bodies, minds, and characters. Each of these is capable of what the Greeks call 'virtue'. The virtue or excellence of the body is health and fitness and strength, the firm and sensitive hand, the clear eye; the excellence of the mind is to know and to understand and to think, to have some idea of what the world is and of what the human has done and has been and can be; the excellence of the character lies in the great virtues.
This trinity of body, mind and character is our humanity: the human's aim, besides earning a living, is to make the most of all three, to have as good a mind, body and character as possible; and a liberating education, a person's education, is to help them to this; not because a sound body, mind and character help promote success, or even because they help promote happiness, but because they are good things in themselves, and because what is good is worthwhile, simply because it is good.
~Sir Richard Livingstone, The Future in Education
Jason E. Royle
Welcome to my blog. I'm an open-minded theologian committed to Christ-like compassion & understanding.