Thursday, December 22, 2011

Are you afraid of your dark?

The winter solstice is almost here. On this shortest day of the year we traditionally come together to face the darkness and to remind ourselves that the days will get longer, the sun will return. It seems an appropriate time to talk about darkness. Are you afraid of your dark?

Everything in our physical universe comes in balanced pairs. Just as species produce male and female plants and animals so must light always be balanced by an accompanying darkness. It is the perfect time of year to look at ourselves from this perspective. We all spend a great deal of time attempting to embrace the light. We want to find and bring forward all of the good and noble parts of our personalities. What about the less desirable qualities? Do we honour our darkness?

It seems to me that this darkness has its place. We all attempt to shove it down. We may shy away form it . It is there in all of us. This darkness serves to balance the light so that we can be whole. If we only have light we may be blinded, thinking that all of life is perfect. The light can make us complacent. It can also prevent us form seeing the injustice and cruelty in our world and thereby rob us of our desire to correct it. An over-focus on the light can also leave us vulnerable to those who have powerfully embraced the darker side of human nature. Our own dark side comes to the fore when it is time to defend ourselves against an attack. It is one of its most important functions.

So many of the myths that we remember at this time of year speak of epic battles between light and dark. Between good and evil. Perhaps it would serve us better to use this time to see the dark more clearly now that the light doesn’t stand in our way. To look into ourselves and see that in balance the darkness serves us as the light does and brings us to a place of power where both sides are used to forward our growth and express our good character.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Do I have enough?

I recently made a trip to Tanzania, one of the poorest countries in Africa. I can honestly say that anyone reading this has more than enough. In fact, you may have too much. One can’t help noticing the poverty in a country like Tanzania. What also struck me is the peaceful, gentle, nature of the Tanzanians. They seem happy and content even though they have so little. This is perhaps the greatest lesson that Africa can offer us.

Our social programming tells us that we must have more. We are bombarded with marketing that carries the same message. We have been sold on the idea that we can’t be happy with what we have. There is no rest. There is no satisfaction. As soon as we have the new car we think about how we can move up when we get the next one. If it isn’t cars it might be shoes, houses or even pets. Have you ever stepped back and asked yourself if any of these things really made you happy? If so, how long did that happiness last?

To be truly happy we need to be satisfied. There’s nothing wrong with wanting things, but can our desires rob us of satisfaction and thereby happiness? How long can you remain satisfied until the next best thing comes along? Are you on the “must have it” treadmill?

I invite you to step back and take a look at all the good things in your life. Look at the emotional and spiritual but also look at the material. Evaluate how much it is that you really have. Stuff is great, but, it’s just stuff. Every one of us already has enough to last us a life-time.

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Monday, December 5, 2011

If it's legal it's OK, right?

I was traveling in Tanzania recently. We were at a small regional airport when we saw a couple of tourists led by a hunting guide. They were followed by a porter with several elephant tusks on a cart. There are licensed, private, game reserves there where hunting these beautiful animals is permitted. I was shocked that the Tanzanian government could allow this. But how can one of the poorest countries in the world turn down the money? From the preserve owner’s perspective there is nothing wrong because it is all perfectly legal.

Our obligations to ourselves, our communities, our fellow human beings and the planet, extend beyond law. Acting with good character often requires that we look more deeply and at our actions. We must seek to avoid any harm and hopefully do some good in the world.

These majestic creatures are endangered. The international ban on ivory trade has not prevented elephants from being killed for their tusks.  Killing them only serves greed and ego. Intelligent creatures who may be 70 years old are still being slaughtered. This is not in good character on the part of anyone involved.

Global poverty can be addressed so that these senseless killings can stop. The wealthy West must take a lead in that. Sharing wealth and using limited resources fairly is the only way it can work.  Acting with good character means thinking beyond ourselves. It means working towards a better world. We can create a brighter future for every being living on this planet.

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