Posts Tagged ‘Wisdom’

Not really getting it … and that is ok.

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

We want to get “it.”  To understand life.  To be able to possess and offer the deep insight.  The truth.

But we are flawed.

Caught in our story, shaped by culture, molded by certain prejudices, we are in the end human.

The humility right there I believe critically forms us if we choose it.

The wisdom we do possess “are outward guises, appearances, of what is true and good… but if our lives focus on what is doing what is good the Lord adjusts them toward genuine truth.” (NJHD 21)

Goodness and truth … in the end … ONE.

Our efforts … in the end … imperfect, flawed, beautiful in God’s eyes.

Thomas Merton captured it well…

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” 

A Very Public Departure from Goldman Sachs and Hitting the Lottery

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Gregory Smith, an executive with Goldman Sachs, resigned, publishing the reasons behind his resignation in the New York Times.   The core of his reasoning focused on a shift of culture at Goldman Sachs away from serving customers towards making money for the firm; as he stated “… the interests of the client continue to be sidelined.”   On the heals of the economic meltdown and a public skeptical about the culpability of Wall Street, such a public resignation may feed a needed discussion.

I remember years ago in a class at Penn State experiencing a rare moment of public indignation when a fellow student answered the professor with the response “The only reason people go into business is profit.”  As a child of self employed parents whose orientation towards their business went way beyond mere profit, I was loudly incensed.  And I still believe life is not that easy – that demonizing business or Wall Street as all “bad” because all “they” care about is profit is faulty logic.  Such a position is overly and seductively simplistic, demonstrating the ego’s need to break the world into the good guys and bad versus a more properly nuanced position that understands that yes, individuals and corporations do get off track but that that is a reflection of the mixed nature of the human condition itself, a condition that letters like the one  written by Gregory Smith “calls on the carpet.”

Case in point about the flawed humanity we all share – on the day the above hit the paper, the front page also carried a story about Americo Lopes.  After spending years collecting money from his fellow workers to buy lottery tickets, he purchased the winning ticket worth $38.5 million.  He kept the winning ticket secret from this friends, quitting work and quietling settling into life with all the winnings.  The jury ruled that he had to split the winnings.  And again, note the craziness of it – even if he split the winnings immediately he still would have been a multi-millionaire but that was not enough for him.  He needed it all even at the cost of those friendships!

See that is the human condition – the blessing and breaking.  From those with resources to those without, we all battle the same human proclivity toward selfishness – a battle requiring vigilance.  In Corinthians, we read that Christianity “speak(s) a message of wisdom among the mature but not the wisdom of this age.”    The misguided “wisdom of this age” is what needs questioned, a “wisdom” that commoditizes much of our world.  For healthy dialog, faith must remain a foil of sorts to the commoditization of life, to the breaking down of the world into dollars and cents.   Then faith can rightfully take its place not as a demonizing force but as a “message of wisdom among the mature.”

“Eden” in this world will not a be place devoid of these conflicts, these battles between the higher and lower natures of the human soul.    How can it be?  We all have a Gregory Smith and an Americo Lopez in ourselves.  But we can live into an informed future where faith does speak.

Getting right about where to look

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Christianity is about reframing, about recasting.  It is not about easing the journey through the life – though it often does that.  It is not about bringing peace as in comfort – though it often does that as well.  It is about reframing the world and how we choose to live in it, about joining a wider project.  To see the soul of this faith, we need to slip beneath the waves of common culture so to speak, easing ourselves down into a greater reality.  The apostle Paul spoke to this thousands of years ago in these words from 1 Corinthians.

“Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,  but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

I love the line that for some the “block” was the desire for miraculous signs for others wisdom.   Profound.  I smile at how little we have changed.  An avowed atheist turned Christian, Mary Carr spoke of her spiritual life breaking open when she could finally say the word “Christian” without immediately coughing out the word – underneath her breath – “idiot.”  It is so easy to think of faith as needing the miraculous sign often because we see it as anti-intellectual, as flying right in the face of wisdom!

But the “foolishness” of God, of faith is actually a deep wisdom.  Last night I was reading of a group of Franciscan monks serving in the South Bronx.  No cell phones.  No iPods.  No money.  Just them – willingly stripped down to their capacity to love and serve others.   To many – and to me on certain days – that type of life style is baffling, foolish.  And yet who is engaging life from the deepest wisdom?  As the author noted he paradoxically found in these robbed brothers the most “out of touch” and yet “in touch” people he had ever met.  On a trip uptown, the world of Manhattan looked a lot more lost than the Franciscan world he found in the South Bronx.

Maybe that is why “holy fools” create such an impact on this earth.  I am often dismayed at the “Jesus Marketing Movement” that speaks almost exclusively of church growth vs. church mission. “Holy Fools” like those Franciscans as well as a few marginalized Swedenborgians – all of whom by the way I think would identify themselves as “Christians” first and foremost, preferring that to a denomination label – gently remind me that in simply and courageously living the Gospels we will appear “foolish” much of the time.  But that foolishness quietly conveys a gentle statement that “Life Can Be Different. Life is More.”