We can live so close to another, share their bed and walk their path and yet be unable to penetrate their mind.
“A penny for your thoughts”? Experiences are shared, opinions aired but thoughts & feelings are shrouded in mystery.
What do you really think or feel is the burning question, the question never to be answered that plays upon the mind.
We shut down and rest our case, for fear of what we may be forced to hear. The truth can set us free but it can also remove our sanity!

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If you can see yourself in another
If you can see the pain in his face
If you can see that you are not so very other
Then you deserve to be in this place

If you can see the trembling hand
If you can the terror in his eyes
If you can see and truly understand
Then you deserve to be in this place

If you can see behind the mask
If you can see his anxiety and fear
If you can see that all you have to do is ask
Then you deserve to be in this place

A book on the mental state of great leaders has left me pondering how much influence my personality type and mental state has had on my life. Retired, I have the time to think about the past with the aim of trying to learn something of value. Some call this pursuit a luxury but I view it as a great necessity! Surely critical reflection is an essential part of preparing to complete the circle of life?

I have reacted to or dealt with life situations within the parameters of my introverted and high-reactive persona.
I have been driven by exaggerated fear and anxiety. My neatness and attention to detail stemmed from an obsessive compulsive personality type. I have over-reacted to criticism and discontent at least in part because I experienced
three episodes of bullying during my school career.

It’s helpful for me to eventually understand my behaviour but I am also concerned that I could have handled some situations more graciously and profitably. I realise that its “water under the bridge” and that “hindsight is an exact science”, but it’s still distressing to acknowledge the failures of the past. To be fair, there were flashes of insight but these learnings were often not applied.

On a positive note, the book did help me to realise that mental health issues (like depression & anxiety) can help a person to be more compassionate and understanding. It can also promote a more realistic and sober view of the world. Those not “blessed” with these mental challenges can sometimes misjudge the severity of a situation. Clearly our genetic makeup, nurturing and socialization all serve to influence the way we live our lives.

A giraffe did the splits on the water’s edge
While an elephant drank with its trunk
A heron snacked on a lively frog
While a crocodile basked in the sun

A buffalo chewed the cud like a cow
While a hippo raised its head draped with water hyacinth
A stork picked its way through the grass and mud
While a baboon sat on a rock, crossed its arms and mimicked a man

Its possible to get lost looking at the stars
While the earth weaves its magic right before us
The animals are adapting as we watch
While the crust ever so slowly takes new forms

The boy, or adolescent if you like, had been treating his mother with disrespect. It was suggested that he ask his parents for forgiveness before his sixteenth birthday. When he approached, not without fear and trembling, his very stern father the response was “go and sin no more” or more accurately “stop abusing your mother then we can talk about forgiveness.

The lad was duly taken aback and sloped off to lick his wounds in his room. A lesson, all be it rather harsh, was learned. Bad behavior has consequences, we do “reap what we sow!” The hapless fellow now a full-grown adult, still ponders the real meaning of forgiveness. He is now convinced, maybe it is genetic, that the simply solution to all wrong doing is the extension of forgiveness.

What may go some way, he thinks, towards the healing of a wound is genuine contrition on the part of the perpetrator and the victim’s fuller understanding of the said aberrant behavior. Possibly, forgiveness is not the goal but rather an acceptance of the imperfect nature of the human being. No one is perfect, “all have sinned”, all are wounded and from time to time act out their woundedness.

The above is the title of an address to be given at a Men’s Breakfast later this week. I can imagine what the content will be… The title is enough to get my mental alarm bell ringing. The inevitable contrast will be made between man’s wickedness and God’s goodness. How interesting the event would be if it was turned into an open debate on the nature of man and where the focus of man has led the world over the millennia. We could discuss the huge influence that personality, mental health, the availability of resources, culture, education, etc. have had in the shaping of the world.

Instead we will be treated to an exposition of one man’s understanding of the extraordinary nature of God. He has already lost me! Allowing for the possibility that there may be a God, how can man comment knowledgably on the nature of the wholly Other or the universal Spirit? Surely man can only comment on the basis of his understanding of the sacred scriptures of his particular faith community? Primitive man may still understand the workings of the world on the basis of natural phenomena! Consequently, when a religious man talks about God he should at the very least preface his remarks by indicating that his views are based solely on his reading of his sacred writings.

To talk about God being vitally active in his life and experience is a matter of faith at best and a matter of pure speculation at worst. He cannot provide any concrete evidence of such activity. It may as well be a train of thought in his head. Yet, time and again, men of faith will stand up and address other men about the wonders of God and about how they must submit to his perfect will. I just don’t get it! Advocate a sound set of universally acceptable values necessary for the smooth functioning of society, this will be really helpful. This material may include elements of a particular faith world view but it will definitely not include a clarion call for commitment to a God whom no one can really know.

 

I apologize for the use of the male gender, it was retained in this instance as being contextual

The fight is done, the battle won
Life’s been good under the sun
Learned much, had great fun
Time to quit, time to run

What good to fight again
Prove something, what to gain
I’ve raced in sun and rain
I’ve kept my head, I’ve stayed sane

Let me heed the writing on the wall
Continue walking tall
Not be afraid to fall
With courage face the final call

Its time to quit!

 

Thinking of a friend who received a bad diagnosis

Reflecting on our moods can be fun. It’s good to be able to laugh at ourselves. We can be so concerned about our changing moods, fretting about feeling down and concerned about moments of high anxiety, that we may even be tempted to analyse ourselves and come up with some important sounding label.

It may be useful to simply accept that our moods fluctuate and that this is quite normal. Feeling up or down, calm or anxious is part of being alive. On reflection, we are usually able to pin point the reason for our change of mood and can sometimes have a good chuckle!

This blog is obviously not trying to make light of mental illness, it is simply saying that we sometimes take ourselves too seriously. In fact, even when contemplating our eventual death we can become far too morbid because we focus on the demise of our “important” selves and forget that we are an integral part of the great mass of humanity.

He’s a stubborn old chap, well a time will come when stubborn doesn’t work anymore
She’s a control freak, controlling ways will have to stop at some point
There are many different ways of dealing with life, most work for a time but none work for ever
We have to give up the old ways and embrace the new
If we don’t, others will take over and we will have no say at all
So stop being an old fart, a young speed freak, a workaholic or whatever
And wise up to better ways of living and enjoy life to the full
Better by far to start adapting to change sooner than later
It will be less of a shock!

rudyardh

Yesterday I caught myself out praying for help with a plumbing crisis at our home. I reflected on this mental lapse and came to the conclusion that my “prayer” was in fact “an expression of hope” that the plumbers would find the cause of the obstruction. I think that is a good definition of prayer, “an expression of hope”. Spiritual maturity does not allow for “asking prayers”, God does not reach down and pull roots out of a sewage pipe! We have trained people who do that work. Praying for things or situations that we are perfectly capable of addressing, is pointless.

This morning I awoke to the news of the horrific terror attack in Nice. How do spiritually mature people deal with these unspeakable acts of violence? We do not pray and ask God to intervene! We pray to “prepare our minds for action”. We ask ourselves “what can…

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