The candle we call, ‘Love’

Everywhere we turn, it seems, we find ourselves face to face with a humanity, especially given the advances of the twenty-first century, that is bogged down in war, divided, and afraid. Yet so many are resolved to turn their heads and pretend they do not see.

What kind of world are we returning to our children and to our children’s children? Is it a world worthy of their dreams?

The choice is ours. Perhaps it is time we looked upon the possibilities with our hearts, rather than with our eyes.

You see, friends, although it is tempting for us to think upon better times, even kinder, gentler times of the past before America left behind its time-honored role as a caring brother to strong-arm its way into history as the bully on the block with its perpetual offensive against peaceful men, women, and children everywhere for the petty sake of perks, profits, politics, party, and power, let us, instead, think ahead to a time not so distant that releases us from the grasp of man’s inhumanity to man, a time when human decency matters, a time when humanity and life matters. Such a day is near. A day of peace that celebrates life, a day that embraces the oneness of all that is.

Let us, therefore, be the first to place a proverbial candle on the sill of our journey’s window so all may see our hope in the dawning of that new day when the dark clouds of history roll away to welcome the warm light of a day worth hoping for, a day that celebrates a beauty-full world where all the sacred colors of man blend into a single hue of humanity that shines like a hundred suns!

Let us call that candle, ‘Love.’

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Our Walk Talks

Leaders, because our walk, whether we like it or not, does our talking for us, it seems to me we would do well to heed Morpheus’ advice to Neo: “There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”

The people understand this difference; they will follow those who are walking.

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Does Trying to Be Happy Make Us Unhappy?

Earlier this week, I tweeted “To pursue happiness is to keep it out of reach. To find it, look not for it.”

Chuang Tzu, writing around 300 BC, had this to say: “If you ask ‘what ought to be done’ and ‘what ought not to be done’ on earth in order to produce happiness, I answer that these questions do not have an answer. There is no way of determining such things. Yet at the same time, if I cease striving for happiness, the ‘right’ and the ‘wrong’ at once become apparent all by themselves. Contentment and well-being at once become possible the moment you cease to act with them in view, and if you practice non-doing (wu wei), you will have both happiness and well-being.” Chuang Tzu then sums it up:

“Heaven does nothing: its non-doing is its serenity.
Earth does nothing: its non-doing is its rest.
From the union of these two non-doings all actions proceed, all things are made. How vast, how invisible this coming-to-be!

All things come from nowhere! How vast, how invisible –
No way to explain it!

All beings in their perfection
Are born of non-doing.

Hence it is said:
‘Heaven and earth do nothing
Yet there is nothing they do not do.’

Where is the man who can attain to this non-doing?”

Returning to Chuang Tzu, we learn of a disciple who sought guidance with contradiction (essentially, fear). He was sent to Lao Tzu. Lao Tzu’s advice:

“If you persist in trying to attain what is never attained (it is Tao’s gift), if you persist in making effort to obtain what effort cannot get, if you persist in reasoning about what cannot be understood, you will be destroyed by the very thing you seek.”

But there remains hope. Lao Tzu continues, “To know when to stop, to know when you can get no further by your own action, this is the right beginning.”

Friends, is it happiness we seek?

Seems to me we want someone, anyone, to help lead us to a better place. But it’s not leaders the people seek; they want only to know love.

Do the people who have asked you to lead them know love?

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Heroes, and what they do

I often drop by to read Harry Tucker‘s insightful Observations and Musings. Harry recently asked, Why Do Heroes Stand Out?

My response follows:

Harry, thank you for sharing this inspiring story AND prompting us to consider its relevance in a world so fascinated by ‘me.’ As I look around the globe, it seems to me we live in a world where people have come to know more about fear than they know about the stuff of heroes: compassion, decency, and tenderness. Yes, you read that right. We have it wrong if we think popularity or power makes heroes; our heroes, our true heroes, rise from the midst of the people because, in simplest terms, they stand among them. Like all the others, heroes seek tenderness, decency, and compassion. Unlike the others, heroes are willing to be tender, decent, and compassionate when they, personally, have little or nothing to gain from it. We are immediately drawn to them.

If only we could be more like them.

Paul Rogat Loeb, writing in Soul of a Citizen, helps us see the log in our own eyes: “The walls we’re building around ourselves, around the closest to us, and ultimately around our hearts may provide a temporary feeling of security. But they can’t prevent the world from affecting us.” More importantly, I would suggest those same walls stand in our way, preventing us from positively affecting the world around us. Heroes, it seems to me, bring those walls down.

Some may ask, ‘why go to all the trouble?’ For me, the answer is simple: heroes bring down those walls for us because we need each other, and we need love, unconditional love — it’s what we crave most. This unconditional love we seek is readily evident in the decent, tender compassion heroes exude; it is manifest in the knowing we hold deep within that what happens to one somehow affects all. To feel the jubilation of a seven-year-old’s touchdown is to score big points in our own lives.

Deep down, we are saddened to realize unselfish acts of compassion are the exception in our fragile lives rather than the norm. We stand face to face with a heart-starved society. We are so busy trying to become all-stars, movie stars, and rock stars, we forget we live among the stars and that people everywhere are dreaming dreams, each desperate to hitch their wagon to those stars. People need something to believe in, they need their dreams to come true, and they need our help to reach those stars. People need people. Ordinary people willing, if called upon, to do extraordinary things, expecting nothing in return. No fame. No glory. No accolades. No ticker tape parades.

Humanity has issues, some really big issues, which require our attention. Sadly, we tend to get so busy addressing the symptoms we are completely fail to realize the solutions have been with us all along. Heroes know this. We see it in their constant, quiet empathy, sympathy, and affections. We see it in their love for a stranger. We see it in their service. We see it in their sacrifice.

Heroes stand out because they are not hiding behind their vulnerabilities. They stand out because they do all they can to help another stand up in a world ready to knock them down. We see them because they create safe spaces where kindness dwells.

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Who shall lead us?

“That which acts on all and meddles in none — is heaven …

The Kingly Man realizes this, hides it in his heart,
Grows boundless, wide-minded, draws all to himself.
And so he lets the gold lie hidden in the mountain,
Leaves the pearl lying in the deep.
Goods and possessions are no gain in his eyes,
He stays far from wealth and honor.
Long life is no ground for joy, nor early death for sorrow.
Success is not for him to be proud of, failure is no shame.
Had he all the world’s power he would not hold it as his own,
If he conquered everything he would not take it to himself.

His glory is in knowing that all things come together in One,
And life and death are equal.”

~from The Way of Chuang Tzu, translated by Thomas Merton

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The Modern Servant Leader asks, Red or Blue Pill Leadership?

A recent post from the Modern Servant Leader, Ben Lichtenwalner urges us to (re)consider our understanding of and commitment to leadership. Following Morpheus’ example, he offers us a choice, red or blue?

Folks often find it difficult to make a choice if it involves taking a stand. My response to Ben’s question follows:

It seems to me, Ben, there’s a whole lot of purple goin’ on. By that, I mean folks will take the red pill in situations that reward the serving nature of leadership (churchy stuff comes to mind) so long as they live in a blue pill world. Unless a person is willing to give up everything that matters to them (i.e., peace and security, job ‘security,’ relationships, traditions, predictability, and the like), they can never take the red pill. The red pill is not convenient. And it is not comfortable. It is hard to swallow. The red pill calls upon us to accept others, respect others, love others, serve others. Not just those ‘others’ who look like us, believe like us, and live like us, The red pill demands total respect for others, all others. To take the red pill is to see all as equals. It requires tolerance. It says ‘I am here for you.’ The red pill is not for the faint of heart but, rather, it is for the big-hearted. The red pill says you can stand on my shoulders to reach your dreams. The red pill says I will give my life so you may experience more life. The red pill says keep going when the rest of you wants to stop. The red pill says do everything within your power to make certain everyone within your circle has a chance at life. The red pill says I will not drink from the fountain until all the others have quenched their thirst. The red pill says the world is not about me, it’s about ‘we.’ The red pill says ‘make gentle the life of this world.’ The red pill says peace is the way, and it comes through love. The red pill says mi’taku’ye o’yasin (we are one); therefore, let us love. one. another. Always.

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Credit – The Gift That Keeps Giving

Seth Godin recently posted a very insightful statement to his blog:

“You know something is important when you’re willing to let someone else take the credit if that’s what it takes to get it done.”

I certainly agree with Seth, but I think we need to go much further.

What do we gain, after all, if we are more concerned about who gets the credit than about daring something worthy? Forget the credit. Better, yet. Always give the credit to others for they, too, dream dreams and raise hopes of a better tomorrow. In lifting them, we let love shine through so the rest of us have something to hold on to as, together, we create a beautiful life – and a beautiful world – for all who call this place home.

I call this leadership.

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Where Is Our Allegiance?

“What good will it do you to take by force that which you may have by love?” ~Powhatan (father of Pocahontas), 1607

Friends, a survey making the rounds in Facebook asks whether we (Americans) should require our children to recite the pledge of allegiance each day. As a guy who recited that pledge daily and later served in the USAF for 20+ years, my thoughts, for what they are worth, follow:

Does our allegiance lie with power, patriotism, or principality, or does it rest with the people? If with the people, why draw imaginary lines where none are needed? Our allegiance, in my mind, should be with the living, and doing our very best to serve and care for life; it is only there, through love and compassion, we shall find peace. A child should be afforded equal opportunity to align their allegiance as they see fit, not as others dictate. To take the opportunity away is no worse (or better) than mandating recitation. The world is made of many peoples, none better or worse than ourselves. Let us, therefore, pledge ourselves to making their lives more gentle. In so doing, we make life gentler for all living things.

Whatever we do, let us do it with love.

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To Live As One

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.” ~John Lennon

Friends, John speaks to the hope each of us holds in our hearts, a hope to live as gentle neighbors watching our children play together. To live as one does not require us to be like the others. We are unique. Our gifts are unique. To live as one is to glory in the diversity that brings us together, and let us stand side by side, like the colors of a rainbow after a sudden shower, so, together, we may draw on the power of love to enhance the beauty within each of us, a beauty multiplied many times over, so we may at once pierce the deep darkness of our world and bring it joy.

I’m a dreamer. How about you?

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