Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Called

I have always been a searcher, in all parts of my life.  Theologically, personally, and professionally. Never hesitating when I changed religions, moving from my hometown, changing my profession. Now I was raised to be on a certain track.  Third generation in this country.  My parents, the children of immigrants had both gone to college and become professionals.  They instilled in me a work ethic.  What I found, not just for me, but for many, we are often raised in a culture that puts us on a certain track, with certain expectations, and we buy into those expectations.  Without really thinking about it those expectations, others expectations become our expectations. Early in my life I was the kind of kid that always had my head in the clouds.  I was a dreamer. I was raised on the belief that if you worked hard enough that anything was possible. Now I realized early on that I would never be the starting point guard for the New York Knicks. So I knew I had limits.  I often say that I dont know my limits until I have passed them. So this has some obvious disadvantages, but my experience has found for much of my life and for many people, we often underestimate what we are capable of.  But then I went off the tracks

Then I came of age in the late 60s and early 70s, with the assassination of MLK and RFK, with the Watergate scandal, President Nixon's  impeachment,  in the what I called the age of cynicism.  I lost faith in the structures of society. And due to that,  I cut myself off from the structures of society and in so doing I fragmented my self. And in doing so, I cut myself off from my dreams, cut myself off from my inner calling, cut myself off from the interconnectedness of all that is. I followed a plan, I was a man with a plan.  I was searching for the American Dream. Not my dream, but the American Dream

A house in the suburbs, 2.3 kids, a dog and a cat (well I didn’t really care about the cat, that was part of my wife’s dream), a nice career that would allow me to travel the world and send my children to private school, and eat out at the finest restaurants.  I had no idea how this would happen.  I didn’t even really care how it would happen. I just sort of imagined it would happen.  But a funny thing happened on the way to my plan.  My heart wasn’t in it.  I was often unsettled in my profession, I look back on my old journals, and I see a yearning for more meaning in my life. In truth, I was not very successful in business when my goal was just to make money for myself.
 
In this as in so many ways this religion saved me.  I fully engaged our third and fourth principle which includes spiritual growth in our congregation and a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Just as I tried a number of professions and jobs, I explored many different paths to finding meaning within my congregation. The most powerful areas that provided me growth were teaching children’s religious education, connection circles and being a worship associate.  I would highly recommend each of those!!  And then I had  what I would call a Damascus Rd.  experience.   For those not familiar, the Apostle Paul, before he became a Christian persecuted Christians mercilessly.  In the Book of Acts, it states “Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly around him there shined a light, and heh heard a voice…”   Now a light shone in me, I will call it an inner light and it happened when I led my first service. Somewhere towards the end of my service,  suddenly all of my angst, all of my searching, all of my uncertainty came to an end. I felt an inner peace that I had never felt before. (I would wish that for all of you) And I knew then and there, even though I would not admit it to myself at the time, that I would pursue ministry.  I do not believe that this event could have happened without all of the work leading up to it, but it was a trigger. 

Then  a while later, when I was having lunch with a friend I was complaining about my job and he asked me if money were not an issue, what would you do for a living.  That is a good question. And because he was a trusted friend, I automatically said it. Without thinking, without making calculations, without worrying about the ramifications to the next seven generations, I said if money wasn’t an issue I would be a minister. We were both silent for a long time.  Once I said it out loud I could not take it back.  I had named my intention out loud.  I have said it before from the pulpit, it is important to name your intentions.  It makes it more real, more tangible.

So I did the normal thing I would do when I have a decision to make. I took a pad, and I made two columns, one for pros of becoming a minister and one for negatives of becoming a minister and ranked each item on a scale of 1-10.  At the end of this long list (I must have had 20 items on each side of the ledger, of course it came out tied . Kind of funny how it works out that way.  Then in the pro column I put “just because” and gave it a score of 100 to tip the scales.  And then I did what any right minded person would do.  I called a therapist and made an appointment.  I am serious. This choice made no cognitive, rational or logical sense even to me. 

All I knew and still know is that when I am involved in Ministry, my life feels right.  And prior to that, my life did not seem in balance.  It is in this intuitive knowing that I realized my call.  And in doing so, in pursuing what was my call, my life came into balance.  Interestingly at this same point, my business career took off. Now there were some who saw my career success was just coincidental timing of having worked hard all those years.  In my how shall I call it, my called state of mind I looked at it as the universe opening up and providing for me what I needed to achieve my true inner call.

And  looking back on it,  what I believe really happened was once I found my path, once I found my purpose, once I found meaning in my life, I found no need to compartmentalize my life into different segments.  Work Jay, Parent Jay, Husband Jay, Church Jay, and I was able to

de-compartmentalize my life and be just Jay.  As Henri Nouwen a Catholic spiritualist said “What is required, is to become the Beloved in the common places of our daily existence and, bit by bit, to close the gap that exists between what I know myself to be and the countless specific realities of everyday life.” And in doing so, by integrating who I was with how I acted in the world,  I became more authentic in all my interactions.  And I believe that in that knowing, in that understanding of who I was, that acting with authenticity,  allowed other people to recognize and respond authentically.

So what is my call to ministry. It is about building the beloved community.  It is about empowering others on their religious journey.  It is about deepening people’s relationship and connection with the congregation and the world around them.  My call is about transformation.  Transformation of individuals by encouraging their embracing searches for meaning in their lives. Transformation of our community through the transformation of individuals.  Transformation of the larger community through transformation of our community.  One never knows where the future leads, but we need to take the first step and see where it takes us. I continue to walk daunted with the ambiguities of life, yes I said daunted because this is important stuff, daunted knowing that there are people out there yearning for meaning and yearning for connection to something greater then themselves. 

It is my call/it is our call to build a beloved community that answers that yearning for meaning and connection.  So just like Moses, I said “here I am.” I answered the call of my true self. There was a famous Hasidic Rabbi, Rabbi Zusyua who said “in the coming world they will not ask: Why were you not Moses, They will ask me Why were you not Zusya.  And that is the crux of it. How do we realize who we are.  How do we realize our call? Do we use Reason or Intuition or both.  How do we discern what is right. Some would say that intuition is the Holy Spirit working through us.  I cannot confirm or deny that and so it gives me pause and hope.

Others might say that Intuition may be the lifetime of memories and experiences trapped within our subconscious trying to come to the forward.  That as well should give us both pause and hope.  Much of our subconscious may be the memories of hundreds of generations of evolution telling us to fear or seek something, something that may not even be relevant anymore.  We never really know.  So when you are faced with such a choice, when that little voice in your mind tells you to do something that seems to go against logic, think, is what I am going to do make my life better? Is what I am doing going to make the world a better place? 

Not am I going to make more money, for our lives are valued higher than just the level of our bank account.  We should value our lives based on the level of heart account.  How have I helped another, how have I cared for another, how have I loved another.  Ultimately when we look back on our life, we will determine who we were by our actions in the world, by the relationships we have made, and by the love we have given, WE DuBois wrote, "The prayer of our souls is a petition for persistence; not for the one good deed, or one single thought, but deed upon deed, and thought upon thought, until day calling unto day shall make a life worth living."  

As we gather on this Sunday I ask you to consider what actions are we taking that can make our lives worth living.  What choices could we make that will make the world a better place.  Someone recently asked me, do I have a current theme that runs through my sermons, and I answered that my theme often is “it’s the choices we make in life that determine the life that we live and so we should make those choices consciously and I believe that.  But after thinking about today’s topic, I would also have to say that a common theme is the questions we ask ourselves guide our choices. If we ask the wrong questions we will get the wrong answers 

Remember our  principles say don’t say the search for truth and meaning, they say the responsible search for truth and meaning.  We have to ask the right questions to lead us to the right choices.  So I encourage you to ask yourself.   What is your true best self or what do you want your true best self to be.  When you are at your best, what are you doing?  What brings balance to your life? What brings peace to your life?  What brings passion to your life.. But we cant leave it at that, Then we have to ask, where does our great passion meet a great need in the world.  It is at the intersection of these two answers where you will find your call.

This takes courage to really think about. Because with every choice we make we sacrifice something. But to be whole, we sometimes have to sacrifice the status quo. Climbing mountains is hard work, from the bottom of the mountain, you cant imagine how you can do it, but when you are on top, looking back from whence you came, not only is the view beautiful, but the sense of accomplishment is real.  It is never too late.  It is never too late but now is the time.  No matter how young or how old you are,  Now is the time as the song said Climb every mountain for as long as you live. Now is the time, with an ailing world in need of healing, now is the time with a fractured society in need of wholeness,  now is the time more than ever to find or create healing and wholeness not only in our lives but in our larger communities.  As Martin Luther King Jr. said “No person has learned to live until they can rise above the narrow confines of their individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. Length without breadth is like a self-contained tributary having no outward flow to the ocean.  Stagnant, still and stale, it lacks both life and freshness. In order to live creatively and meaningfully, our self-concern must be wedded to other concerns.” 

And that is the secret…and it is not secret that by helping others you help yourself. By giving of yourself you gain for yourself.  By loving others, you experience what love is.  And we try to live this out through our life in this congregation.  So I ask you what is our call as a congregation.  I do not have to go far to answer that question.  It is in your order of service, it is on our website and let it be on our minds and in our hearts when we wake up in the morning and when we go to sleep at night.  Our mission statement is our call. And it is worth naming it out loud.  To create a vibrant, welcoming, diverse church family which embraces individual searches for meaning and  devotes itself to community good. That is our Mission, That is our Call.

Creating, Engaging, Devoting These are strong words, Good words But they need to be more than just words on a piece of paper.  They should be at the core of every one of our actions. Creating Engaging Devoting.  Let us reclaim our dreams,  let us climb every mountain, let us follow the paths both known and unknown, let us live out our call in the world and let us find the wholeness that we seek.  May it be so.




Thursday, August 16, 2012

Golf and Spirituality

Where I grew up in the Bronx there actually were two golf courses.  One was very difficult to travel to without a car, and other was inhabited by alcoholics and drug addicts, so it was not an especially inviting place to go as a youth.  But when I moved to Florida, it seemed many business deals were done on the golf course, so being a business person at that time,  I took up the game.   To be quite honest, from a competitive standpoint, I am really a terrible, terrible golfer. I found however as soon as I started playing that I was becoming obsessed with the game…constantly playing and trying to improve, taking lessons.  The more  I struggled, the more frustrated I became, yet I still continued in an apparent masochistic march of persistence.   Then one day I stopped to consciously think about it.    What was it that drove me.  What is it I want to get out of this experience.  What am I learning from this experience.  Thus these simple questions started a journey of self discovery and as well as a  vehicle that helped put me in touch with the divine. 

For those who know little about golf, a round of golf consists of 18 holes on a golf course.  I find it interesting that the number 18 in the Jewish mystical tradition is equivalent to the word chai which means life as if a round of golf is a microcosm for life. Each hole ranges anywhere from approximately 100 yards to 500 yards.  The goal is to get this little ball from the starting point into a little hole in the ground at the end which is on what is called the Green. Each hole has a fairway, with fresh cut grass which makes it easier to hit from.  Each hole is unique. Some have water, some have sand, some have trees, some curve. Some have hills.  Every hole on every course is unique. Each hole is a journey unto itself.  I think back to the writings of Joseph Campbell  regarding the Hero’s journey.  I view each hole as a reenactment of a mythical journey.  There are obstacles to overcome…decisions to make.  Do I play it safe or try to hit it over the lake.   Like life, not everything goes according to plan, and we don’t end up in the fairway, it ends up in the rough grass or the woods,  and we have to adapt, and become creative.  Sometimes the ball goes into the lake, and you have a penalty added to your score, but you get a do over shot.  Just like life, we do pay for our mistakes, but we do have the opportunities to start again.

Now we could quit. Or we can accept what had happened try to learn from it, try to learn what our limits are. Sometimes we rise up to the challenge with greatness, and sometimes we fail, only to rise again on the next hole, over the next lake, on the next adventure, on the next journey And these are journey’s that can be ones of solitude but often are journeys  shared with others.  I have been fortunate to find among you some golf enthusiasts and for that I am forever grateful.  My favorite journeys on the golf course have been playing golf with my children…Just finding something that we were able to share together, in and of itself has been fun.  I tried to instill in the them the enjoyment of the game and benefits of the game.  It is also a different dynamic in which we interact.  They were able to see how I dealt with the joys and  frustration of the game  They were also able to compete with me as equals. I remember with pride and joy, the first time each of my children won a hole against me.  It gave them such a feeling of accomplishment. Thinking of  that brings me to another important feature of the game. Justice and equity.

Golf allows all players of all skill levels to compete against each other on a level playing field. Using multiple starting boxes on each hole, those who are not as physically skilled, can start closer to the hole than more skilled players.  Also the scoring, uses a handicapping system, allows lesser skilled players to compete with higher skilled players. This feature certainly does not lessen one’s desire to improve, but it does let one share time with and gain experiences with people more skilled then themselves while still improving.  Imagine if we tried to institute this type of behavior in other areas of our lives.  What if we made the world a level playing field, what if we judged each person’s actions in comparison to their own abilities as opposed to how they compare to every other human in their society.  Wouldn’t that make this a more just, a more fair world.  Isn’t that something we should all strive for.  We can learn this from golf.

Now I would like everyone to close your eyes.  Work with me on this….I would like you to close your eyes, take a deep breath, quiet your mind, and visualize….the sun is rising, there is green grass in front of you as far as you can see and the dew is rising off the grass To the left is a row of beautiful tall pine trees, whose branches are whistling in the wind,  to the right is a beautiful still lake with the reflection of all around it in its waters….Flowers of all colors are in bloom around you…A gaggle of geese are walking beside you, and you can hear the sound of birds chirping in the air. Butterflys of various colors are floating around. Take all of that in, the sight, the sounds, the senses.  Now open your eyes. 

This type of scene is what is experienced on a  golf course. Now, if this was all golf offered though,  it would be as I like to say  golf is “macho hiking”.  Getting to enjoy nature while playing a competitive sport…yet it is much more than that.  These places are particularly constructed to put us in certain frame of mind.  The pace of play is slow enough between shots, that it gives you time to reflect upon wonderfulness of all around you.  Just being in and around nature in and of itself brings one closer to the divine. 
As Deepak Chopra writes in “Golf for Enlightenment”
Golf is played in a man made Eden, a garden.  The setting is made beautiful to refresh the senses, and when you step onto the course you have a second chance at paradise.  He continues “Golf is so addictive, I believe, because it tantalizes us with the hope of returning to a place where the spirit is exalted.”  
I have seen quite a variety of wildlife while playing golf, Deer, geese, ducks, snakes, crocodiles, rabbits, groundhogs, and birds of all types to name just a few.  What is so nice is that they are all part of the nature that is surrounding you.  Now I imagine that there are many of you out there who might not consider seeing a crocodile cross your path 10 feet away a spiritual experience.  Although I can say, when you think you are about to be devoured by another creature, you tend to have a different perspective on life.  And then when that crocodile walked casually on by, not paying any attention to me, I realized that we all just are sharing the same environment, and that we don’t have to always fear each other and destroy each other to co-exist.   This also is a good lesson that we can learn with people that are different from us as well.  We can co-exist peacefully.

Playing golf is so unlike many other sports.  I played many sports as a youth, and you could say I was the Pete Rose of my schoolyard.  So to put that in context, for those who don’t know Pete Rose, or who only know of him as a degenerate gambler, back when I was young,  he played baseball, he was known as “Charlie Hustle.  What he may have lacked in athletic skills he made up for by working harder than everyone else.  He still holds the major league record for most hits in a career. So when I was young, I was quite limited in my athletic abilities (well I still am).  But I tried harder than anyone else.  I always was the first one running down the field breaking the wedge on kickoff returns, I was always the annoying one playing full court defense in a game of basketball, always trying harder to use the full potential of what few skills I did have.  Sadly to say with golf, this type of attitude does not help.  If anything it is a hindrance.  Certainly hand eye co-ordination helps, but truly this is one game where the mind body and spirit must be aligned to be successful.  This is much easier said then done.  In various lessons I have taken, I have learned quite a number of tips.  It is impossible to think and actually repeat them sequentially in the time it takes you to take a swing.  Like the often told story of learning to walk.  You do not think of the many instructions on how to walk, you just walk.  Golf is the same. There are so many complex aspects to the swing and the game that if you are not perfectly in sync it can have negative affects.  It takes intense concentration, focus, almost a type of detached meditative state to  have the shot we visualize come to be. It is not just trying harder. I believe it is a matter of finding the point of our inner harmony within our self that allows us to bring all the parts together and then let the universe take its course.   This I believe to be true in any area of life that we pursue.

Every once in a while I will hit a perfect shot.  I know it the minute I swing, you can feel it in your body, you can hear the ball come off the club you can see it fly perfectly in the air, rising like all our hopes and dreams, hanging in the air like a bird, and then descending back down on the earth with us, where we track it down and continue the journey.  When you hit the perfect shot, everything in the world is aligned, everything that you planned to do, comes naturally, all the thoughts in your brain come together with your bodies actions, all is peaceful, and  you have truly become one with the universe.  It is a momentary fleeting feeling, but once you’ve felt it there is no turning back.  Our intellect tells us if we can do this once, we can do this again, that we should be able to replicate it all the time.  But of course it is not so easy. We go to masters to learn the secrets of how to swing, so we can regain that special moment.  We buy the special clubs, We practice and practice and play with the ultimate hope of regaining that moment. We strive for self improvement.  We look inside ourselves to see what is causing our body to do the things it does.  We look inside ourselves to understand why our mind cannot necessarily control what the body does.  We try to understand what drives us to reach out for this feeling, what drives us to constantly search for this nirvana.  As we struggle to understand this it changes us, it makes us better understand who we are, what motivates us and how we react to the world.  The mere act of becoming more self aware, is the first key to becoming a better human being

As I noted in the quote on the order of service. Golf does not build character it reveals it.  There is no truer saying. When I see how a person reacts on the golf course, it is a fairly safe bet that is how they will react when they are in other settings. And more so, it makes me think about myself.   How am I acting on the .golf course.

Do I get frustrated when I have a bad shot, or do I take it in contemplatively, trying to understand what went wrong.  Do I enjoy myself and appreciate the presence of nature and friends,  or am I stressful about my last shot in the lake and my next shot possibly ending up in the woods. So golf has led me to become more conscious of my actions, and that is the first step to change and improvement.  I bring this same thought process to all aspects of my life now.  I consciously try to think about how I am interacting with  my fellow human beings, and how I can remain in the present mo ent and not become attached to past failures or attached to future outcomes. Now when I catch myself feeling despair… I do not dwell in it, I persevere, I continue to look,  I continue to search for the answers, both in golf and in life.    Once a person starts looking inside, and starts asking questions about their inner self, they have started down the path to enlightenment.

A while back,  I was discussing with a friend differing viewpoints of religious philosophy.  In the very broadest generalized terms we discussed how eastern philosophy tends to focus more on transcending this world, even life, whereas western philosophy tends to focus on creation and actions as a vehicle for enriching the spirit and soul. First I think I should discuss what I believe enriching the spirit gain us.   I truly believe that as a race of human beings we are continually learning and growing and evolving.  We have continually searched for ways to better understand and improve ourselves.  We want to reach the full potentiality of what it means to be human and we want to understand what our place in the universe is.   This is our spiritual and religious journey.  However too often we get caught up in the day to day of our lives that we forget to consciously pursue this path. 

Let me read a translation from the Hindu Upanishads: “The ego and the Self dwell as intimate friends in the same body, like two golden birds perched in the same tree. The ego eats the sweet and sour fruits of the tree, while the Self looks on detached. For as long as you identify with the ego, you will feel joy and sorrow. But if you know you are the Self, the Lord of Life, you will be free from suffering; the supreme source of light; the supreme source of love. You will transcend duality and live in a state of Oneness.” So what does golf have to do with any of this you ask?  Well my hypothesis is that golf is the melding of both eastern and western philosophy.  Playing the game can result in  transcending through a creative and active process.  Think about that, Our religion as well asks of us the same thing. To transform ourselves through living out our values through action in the world. I believe different people within different cultures will need different means to evolve, to improve, and golf and Unitarian Universalism are ways that will lead us down the path of spiritual and religious enrichment.

Just the physical exertion/exhaustion of walking for 4 hours tends to let down our defenses and open and expand one’s mind and stretch its capacities.  Throughout the game, each moment is a unique circumstance, thus it forces us to look at each shot with a different perspective, with different possibilities.  This opens our mind up and prepares our mind to be open to differing perspectives.  To have a successful round, takes long periods of concentration and mental discipline.  These are the skills necessary to overcome the ego, and reach that state of Oneness with the universe. I have found myself,  particularly after a round of golf, transcending this plane of consciousness  I look back towards the course, as if I am on the outside of my life looking back on it.   At times I am frozen in my place, in a momentary out of body experience as if the journey of my life was left on the course.  Then I come back and know I need to take what I have seen from this journey into the day to day journey that is life.
As was indicated in the reading earlier, you must be fascinated by what you are participating in or it will go unnoticed.  Each of us has our own mechanism due to our particular background that can open up and unleash our mind and spirit. 

As I have indicated, golf is a specific venue that has led me to deeper thought, more conscious living, and added to my spiritual enlightenment.  I wish you all fairways and greens in your pursuit of life, but if you end up in the rough grass, don’t let it get you down….persevere, enjoy the adventure and see where it takes you until you end up in that hole at the end of the course. May it be so.


Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Commerce Without Morality

Today is the last of the series on Gandhi’s seven social sins. Having been in the business world, I have seen and studied a lot of commerce without morality. Its like shooting fish in a barrel.  Which is about the only way that I can catch a fish, but that’s another story.  Its easy to look at the current financial mess our country is in and see the predatory and speculative lending practices of banks and mortgage companies and individuals helped caused many foreclosures.

And of investment firms that sold their clients investments they knew to be faulty, as a way to make money for themselves at the expense not only of their clients, but of the economy.  Then these same firms and this is the most gauling part to me, taking government bail out money and paying themselves billions of dollars in bonus. We have Bernie Madoff whose fraudeent investment activities even affected my beloved baseball team the  NY Mets, whose owners invested hundreds of millions of dollars with Madoff and now don’t have h te money to sign free agents.

We have had the various accounting scandals over last decade highlighted by Enron Corporation whose executives encouraged employees to invest in the company as they were selling their shares just before the company collapsed.  We had the junk bond and savings and loan scandals, There has been an ongoing series of corrupt corporate events throughout the history of our country. I could go on and on listing these.  Its overwhelming.  

Its very easy to see that there is direct simple connection between the immoral actions and the devastation it wraught on investors, employees, communities and this countires economy. But there are deeper questions about what it means to be moral in relation to commerce, Morality can be  a very subjective word. What is moral to one person is immoral to another person. We can question whether there is a unversal morality, but living in our day to day world, morality ultimatly is what we determine as a society or as a community as to what is an appropriate action whether it be legal or illegal

Is continuing to use Gasoline as an energy source without a transition plan to sustainable energy moral,  knowing that oil is a non renewable and is devastating our politics and our planet.  Yet I am not going to stop driving my car. Does that make me immoral? Are auto companies immoral if they don’t offer me non gas alternative fuel cars.  I do commit that my next car will be a hybrid car. By our choices, by our purchases we the people can change the culture of morality.  We can make short term small changes, but we need to think strategically for long term solutions together as a united global community, for the use of energy is increasing xponentially, So unless we can create a transporter like they had on star trek, we need to build a new way by finding renewable energy sources. What are the morality issues of Genetically Modified Foods?  Is it saving our crops from disease, or is it putting our crops and health at risk for corporate profit? Are we willing to support new business’ that create jobs,  but put our environmental and personal health at risk? How many lives lost are worth jobs?  We need to build a new way, where the health of the community and environment are taken into account. I wouldl ask, why does it always have to be an either or scenario.

We have to find a balance a balance between the public good and the private investment.  We have to find the balance between our needs for today and the longer term needs that will help our descendants.  We have to look beyond just ourselves and in our timeWhy do some businesses not have the moral capacity to see that the good of society should be more important than the amount of money they make.  Why does our culture value the amount of money we have, the type of car we drive, the size of our house, more than we value the life of the neighbors within our community.

This ambiguity of commerce and morality is epitomized in the movie Wall St.  which was made in 1987 at the height of corporate takeovers. To give you a little background for the clip we are about to see, Gordon Gekko is a corporate raider, by that I mean he is someone who would buy a large interest of stock in a corporation, and then either blackmail ownership to make a large payout to them, or if they wouldn’t the raider would take control of the company and break up the company and sell their assets. 

(Play Movie Scene “Greed in Good” from Wall St)

I hadn’t watched this movie in a long time before preparing for this service.   The line of course that is most remembered is “Greed is Good.”  But the scene is challenging for me.  For in some respects, he was right.  Often Management of companies were protecting their own personal interests above the interest of the shareholders, but even more so over the interests of the organization itself. 
But what really caught my attention when I watched it, was his line, Greed works, clarifies cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed in all of its forms, greed in life, for knowledge has marked the upward surge of humankind. Well we know that knowledge is not wisdom. But what is meant by an upward surge of humankind. Certainly in a material and technological way we have surged.   Trying to justify Darwinian Evolution to a business model can be tricky.  Darwin never said that Evolution was the Survival of the Fittest. but he said survival of a species is based on its ability to adapt to a changing environment. Business is not a species.  It is a method by which we create and distribute goods and services.

So we as a community, have to decide what type of environment are we going to create for commerce to operate in.  We the People create the environment. Let us create an environment where business are accountable. Let us create an environment where business’ have to take into account the communities they are in and the environment they affect. Let us make business adapt to being part of the community not a predator to the community. 

Perhaps the evolutionary leap we need to make for the success of our species is to learn to balance the needs of commerce with the needs of community and the needs of the environment.  Not with some draconian winner take all mentality, but with a cooperative compassionate engagement. We have to build a new way, where people work together for the common good, not just one’s own self-interest.  Just this week I heard an expert on NPR indicating that his definition of socialism was the government managing of the economy and he defined capitalism as private business managing the economy.  Do you ever have one of those moments when you start talking back to your radio….and you wonder why the interviewer doesn’t ask the question or make the comment you think is obvious to you. This was one of those times.  In our country the role of the government is to regulate the economy so as to protect its citizens to protect the people from monopolistic business activity. Its right there in our constitution Article 1 section 8 entitled powers granted to Congress.  We fought our American revolutionary war in large part because British Royalty utilized on a monopoly for goods in the American colonies.  Adam Smith whose writing heavily influenced the founders of our country, and who many free market economists point to for their views, in his book “the Wealth of Nations” warns “of merchants gathering for their own benefit not for the benefit of the citizens, and that government should be there for the benefit of the citizens not for the benefit of business”  Well now instead of foreign Governments controlling business monopolies, as it did at the time of our revolution, we have business interests controlling our government and creating their own monopolies.

But often we don’t live on that macro level of thinking.  We are just trying to make it through the day, work our jobs, pay our bills.  My first job out of high school was in the mail room of an advertising agency. I learned a lot about immorality in general there.  It was very much like the work environment on the show MadMen if you have seen it.  Most of the executives at that agency treated me and everyone horribly, in fact I would say they didnt even recognize my existence.  Except for one. The CEO of the agency, a gentleman by the name of Marvin Sloves, .  One day he saw me reading a dime store novel, and he sneered at me in a snobbish sort of way, and said You should read a book like Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe, People who want to go somewhere in life, read books like that, not the (expletive deleted) you are reading. . 

So of course I went out that night and bought the book Look Homeward Angel. My strongest memory of the book was that I had to keep a dictionary with me at all times when reading it.    The plot of Look Homeward Angel was that of someone leaving their environment and trying to grow beyond it. And that in and of itself was a metaphor of my life at that time. The title of the book comes from a line from a John Milton's poem  "Lycidas" "Look homeward Angel now, and melt with ruth"  Now the word Ruth is not a word we see or hear too much these days.  But you will recognize it, for we often hear it often in  its negative form.  Ruthless meaning without compassion.  That CEO showed me Ruth. Everyday thereafter, whenever I would stop by his office to drop off his mail he would ask me about how night school was going and encourage me to keep at it and then he kept recommending different books for me to read. So remember in all your dealings, how you treat others, can have an impact on their lives.  And on that day when I finally finished reading Look Homeward Angel, I swore on that day, that when I attained a position of authority, I would treat people with ruth, with compassion.  I had a new word and I was going to use it!! All people would  be visible, all people would be heard, all people would be encouraged to their full potential. 

It took me a long time to realize that. For the first part of my career, when I was poor, when my children were young, when I lived paycheck to paycheck and then some, every decision I made seem to be magnified.  I lived in fear of making a wrong decision, of losing my job, and what that would mean as the bread winner of my family. And as I progressed in my career, I worked with small growing privately owned business.  The owners of these business’  had taken out second and third mortgages, on their homes to finance their business.  When you have everything on the line, it can force you to make some difficult decisions, when you know one bad decision can wipe away everything you have built and could cost all your employees their jobs.

 I have learned, that living in such fear, is not a healthy way to live, and its not a healthy way for commerce to be enacted.  Sometimes we feel boxed in, unable and unwilling to risk what we have for what we know is right. Sri Aurobindo the Indian Yogi said,  “Often we find atheism both in individual and society a necessary passage to deeper religious and spiritual truth:  One has sometimes to deny God in order to find God”  Sometimes you have to learn to lose to win.  Sometimes you have to learn that you have to walk away from what you have and just start anew. Sometimes you have to shed your view of the world, and create a new one, Sometimes you have to shed the culture of greed and open yourself to a world of simple beauty, compassion, and community.

As our opening words said, to weave the threads from your heart, to sow the seeds of tenderness and reap the harvest.  Maybe not the harvest of money, but the harvest of a well lived life that when you look back on it you will know you acted with ruth. I can honestly tell you that when I did this, when I said I would not accept acting in ways that I knew to be wrong, when I insisted that I and those who worked for me needed to be treated fairly, it was then, and only then that I achieved the peace within that I so long dreamed of when I started at that mailroom.  I did make it to the board room, but more importantly, I learned how to treat others as I would like to be treated. Let us all learn this and let us build this new way together.

May it be so.