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Life of Meaning

Try a Little Tenderness

February 18, 2018 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

The most important freedom is freedom from your own self-judgment. Virginia Tugaleva

How many times have you heard someone claim, “I would never say the things to others that I say to myself”? How many times have you said that very same thing to yourself?
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Who Are You, Really?

February 10, 2018 by Charlie Hedges − 2 Comments

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. 
Carl Jung

Just Thinking…

How come some of the people I really like today are the very same ones I often intensely disliked when I first met them?

I find it rather comical. If I don’t like you on first impression it is most likely because there is something about you that reminds me of me—generally a part of me that I am not particularly fond of. But after I spend more time with you I discover the similarities and then the next thing I know we are the best of friends.

At the same time this principle provides a unique opportunity for personal growth and wisdom. Instead of bemoaning the reasons why you may dislike another person you may consider that, instead, they function like an undesirable mirror. I like the little quip by author Chuck Palahniuk:

“The difference between how you look and how you see yourself is enough to kill most people. And maybe the reason vampires don’t die is because they can never see themselves in photographs or mirrors.” Haunted

Since the option of becoming a vampire is unlikely, you are stuck with you. I can’t imagine a better person to be stuck with, especially if you are a personal growth and wisdom seeker. Mahatma Gandhi reckoned:

“It is good to see ourselves as others see us. Try as we may, we are never
able to know ourselves fully as we are, especially the evil side of us.
This we can do only if we are not angry with our critics but will take in good heart whatever they might have to say.” 

So, if you want to discover things about yourself that you might want to work on, just evaluate the things in other people you don’t like.

When I Don’t Like You

Is It Because I Really Don’t Like Me?

Photo courtesy of SIphotography at istockphoto

 

Happiness and That Unruly Need

January 20, 2018 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

The pursuit of happiness is perhaps one of our easiest and, at the same time, most confusing endeavors. The irony of happiness is that it doesn’t necessarily come with novelty and excitement or popularity. Rather it is more often discovered in our everyday lives of family, colleagues, friends and other members of social groups.
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The Power of Powerlessness

January 14, 2018 by Charlie Hedges − 2 Comments

I am altogether prepared to admit my powerlessness over all aspects of my life.

Truth: I am altogether prepared to admit my powerlessness over all aspects of my life, especially the ones for which I have little or no skill. But there is a solution. It is a 12 Step mantra that we are powerless over our lives and that we must depend on a higher power. Now, that Higher Power may be God or the divine or the universe or your muse. For me, most likely it is “the divinity resident in all that is seen and unseen.”
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Religionless Spirituality

January 6, 2018 by Charlie Hedges − 2 Comments

“We are moving towards a completely religionless time; people as they are now simply cannot be religious anymore.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1944

You can only imagine my surprise at reading these words by one of the most profoundly influential Christians in modern history. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the leading writer on Christian Discipleship in the 20th century, wrote of “religionless Christianity” only months prior to his Nazi execution (at 39 years old) for his involvement in a plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944.

The Problems with Religion

Author/philosopher Ronald Osborn, in an article titled, “The Church in Crisis: The Religionless Christianity of Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” writes… “Bonhoeffer [considered]… the irrelevance of religion to the problems facing most men and women.”

It is my belief that the problem with most faith traditions lies not so much in the “faith system” itself but rather in the man-made institutions that guide congregations. Too many religious leaders believe they are the direct representatives of God. They are men (and now women) that believe they have the right to dictate how their followers/believers should behave and even how they should believe.

The consequences of such “leadership” have too often resulted in the likes of The Crusades, The Inquisition, and now, Terrorism. But just as troubling to me is their meddling with our freedom to personally listen to the Spirit of the Holy and to follow the ideals of God as God leads, not humans.

An Alternative

So what is the alternative? Am I advocating some kind of withdrawal from churches and mosques and temples? Obviously (I think) I am not some suggesting the people should cease their relationships with their own “houses of worship.” What I am suggesting, however, is that you and I pay more heed to our gut and the leading of your God as you discover God in prayer and in your sacred writings.

In the last year of his life (1944) Bonhoeffer wrote…

“During the last year or so I’ve come to know and understand more and more the profound this-worldliness of Christianity… By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities.

Speaking to Christians (but applicable to ALL religions) Ronald Osborn writes the following…

“Bonhoeffer challenges us to consider that Christ is now paradoxically to be found at the margins, in desolate places, and in and among “secular” people, who in certain ways stand closer to God than the religious themselves.”

What Then?

What is left if not freedom? Freedom in the divine. Freedom to choose your beliefs and behaviors. Freedom to let God be God.

But remember: with freedom comes responsibility. In my mind the only real overarching responsibility is to love. As Jesus said, the entire Bible is summed up in the commitment to (1) Love God, (2) Love people, and (3) Love yourself. (“Love your neighbor as yourself.”)

It is not about religion. It is about the relationship you have with God, with people and with yourself.

With the Freedom to Choose

Comes Great Responsibility

 Photo courtesy of ipopba at istockphoto

Wells of Life

December 30, 2017 by Charlie Hedges − 1 Comments

Money can’t buy you happiness, but it sure helps, unless… the effort is takes to make it and then keep it coming becomes so stressful that you end up frightful and anxiety ridden. Then, money only buys you misery.

Why are Poor People Happy?

I think that might be part of the reason that many of the very poorest of the world—people without running water or electricity or sanitation—can also be some of the happiest people in the world. I know it sounds illogical but those of us privileged enough to visit the rural areas of third world countries have unanimously drawn the same conclusion. It is truly baffling.

The first time I visited rural Uganda was one of the most life-altering experiences of my life.

I was with a group of new friends in the regions of Mubende and Mitiyana visiting the clean water wells we helped build with the non-profit, Wells of Life. For a mere $6000 Wells of Life can construct a “bore hole” (read “well”) that will provide water to 1000+ people for twenty-five years. One of the beauties of WoL is that the entire $6000 is allocated to the well. No money is withdrawn for administration. (WoL raises administration funds through a separate and distinct fundraising campaign.)

The Gift of Humility

No one returns from a trip to rural Uganda (or any third world country) the same as they left. The ever-so grateful and joyful residents mark you deeply for life. I’m sure nothing has impacted me more.

I walked away humbled by families in the deepest of poverty yet possessing the luxury of happiness in the midst of their adverse squalor. What is it that makes them so content with what they have and then be immensely grateful for what they are given? I don’t have a good answer. But this I do know, it’s not all about money. Something else is going on. Is it love for the family? Is it the ability to be satisfied with a simple meal and the love of others in the community? I don’t know.

But, when 1 in 5 children under 5 will die from drinking contaminated water I can say this for sure, clean water is life and it most certainly contributes to the happiness I’ve been pondering. To date Wells of Life has provided clean water to more than 300,000 Ugandans, saving the lives of 35–40,000 children under 5. And in 2018 the organization will begin what is called a WASH program that teaches villages the basics of cleanliness and sanitation.

To Serve or Be Served

Do you ever wonder about the meaning of life and your personal purpose on this planet? Have you asked yourself what it would take to make you a happy person? Obviously I ponder these questions regularly. It was Aristotle that is credited with saying, “the purpose of a person’s life is to contribute to the value of society.”

Is that what it takes to make you and me happy? I believe making a difference on this planet is wrapped up in giving and serving. Jesus said, “It is better to serve than to be served.” I know I am at my best when I help others and I’m sure the same is true for you.

Wanna Help?

So allow me to give you an opportunity to serve some kids and families in Uganda. As I write this, Wells of Life is just $29,000 shy of reaching their 2017 donation goal of $1,000,000. A mere $6.00 will provide clean water for 1 child in Uganda. And any other donation to help us make our milestone goal would help protect the lives of hundreds or thousands in rural villages.

This blog will be posted on December 30, 2017. If you are so moved you can go to www.wellsoflife.org to make a donation. And if not WoL, there are plenty of organizations that would appreciate your help as they serve the needs of the most needy.

It Really is Better to Serve

Than to Be Served

Photos from Charlie’s Library

The Joy Messiness

December 23, 2017 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

“Messiness is a sign of individual empowerment and creativity, contrasted with tidy centralisation and control.” Tim Harford, Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives

I love a clean desk. The only problem is the desk in my office is rarely clutter-free. I have rooms in my home that appear neat and tidy, but warning… never open the door to a closet where I store “stuff,” because doing so may be dangerous. Who knows how much crap will immediately fall out, and possibly hurt you?

My filing system is not original, but it is creative. I “file by pile.” Right now, five “piles” of paper and books rest on my desk, rather sloppily. When I get around to cleaning up my piles (a couple times each year), I will go through the pile, remove anything no longer interesting or important and then put the collections of piles into a drawer in an antique metal file cabinet from an old post office. Then I tape a date on the drawer and Bang!, my filing is complete. (Oh, sometimes I neglect to put a date as well.)

At that time my perfectly neat and tidy desk hungrily awaits the oncoming onslaught of papers, which within a week or two, once again returns to a long-lasting state of messiness. Ah, home again.

So you can see why I feel that a book like Messy was written with me in mind. I have no idea whether or not messiness is truly a sign of a creative mind. I’d like to think so except one of the most successfully creative women I know (Cynthia Joy Sitton) is reverently neat. Nevertheless, I am a creative person living on the border of desiring to be organized, but can’t seem to live up to the desire.

Adrian Lang of The Amazon Book Review writes of Messy

Messy [the book] bolsters the theory that disorder creates heightened alertness. That alertness, in turn, fuels creativity, problem solving, better driving, resilience, innovation, and much more.

That’s a pretty cool explanation of the book. I like it. It gives permission to go on with my messiness. Shoot, it even allows me to take pride in my messiness and disorderly desk (and studio).

Yes. I’m messy… but so is life.

Are You Messy?

If So, Take Pride in It

(Or Not) 

Photos by Charlie

Overcoming Depression: Just Do It!

December 16, 2017 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

“Today I felt passing over me a breath of wind from the wings of madness.” Charles Baudelaire

It’s been a month. One month of apathy and lethargy induced by a dark anxiety-laden cloud that seems to surround me only. On days like this the most difficult challenge is simply getting out of bed. William Styron writes (with my paraphrase),

I get a fine warm feeling when I’m doing well, but that pleasure is pretty much negated by the pain of getting started each day. Let’s face it, [sometimes life] is hell.
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CHANGE-One Thing That is For Sure

December 2, 2017 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

“It would be absurd to say that the individual things of the world are inherently prone to change, and at the same time be astonished at it or complain…” Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

I’ve become fond of reminding people not to believe anything I say today because I may change my mind tomorrow.

I am learning not to anticipate how any event or effort may turn out because it will always be different than I expected.

Every painting I begin is always significantly different from the idea I started with because the process itself demands change.

Stability is Fleeting

I love the quote above by Marcus Aurelius (Roman Emperor, 161-180 AD). Marcus encourages us to remember the absurdity of being surprised by change when change is actually the norm. Stability is fleeting.

Although not one of us is surprised by the idea of change—we know it is the norm—we are still surprised, or even shocked, almost daily that something important is not what we thought what it was yesterday.

Changing Core Beliefs

For me, I expect people and jobs and situations to change. I may be surprised but I am rarely shocked by changes. But the thing that does surprise me is how I can change my fundamental belief systems.

It is common to hear it said, counter intuitively, “the older we get the less we know.” I believe quite differently. I believe the older I get the more I know. But, I know less “for sure.” When I was thirty-five I knew a lot more things “for sure” than I do today at sixty-eight. I have learned that I can change my mind—that I WILL change my mind about important beliefs.

For instance, when I graduated seminary in 1984 I was reasonably certain about the nature and will of God (to the degree that such a thing is at all knowable). 30+ years later, a huge portion of the beliefs I once held firmly are now either completely changed or modified. And even the beliefs I hold today about God are held rather loosely knowing that I can be wrong.

I Could Be Wrong

As I am writing it has occurred to me that rarely are we prepared for changes in our core beliefs, as if we are somehow betraying ourselves. I believe the truth is we should be altering our core beliefs as we grow older, learning and experiencing life in new and informing ways.

For me it begins with the idea mentioned above: I could be wrong! And if the facts, as I understand them, lead me to change my mind it is in my best interest to do so. In fact, it is in the best interest of everyone with whom I associate to alter my beliefs… especially if doing so contributes to me being a better person.

Finally, remember that everything I just wrote may be different next week.

Change

The Only Thing You Can Count On

Photo courtesy of BrianAJackson at istockphoto

Hope for a Future

November 5, 2017 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

Man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in life… Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

I just completed, for the second time, Man’s Search for Meaning, by Nazi concentration camp survivor and psychologist Viktor Frankl. The book is ranked as the eighth most influential book ever written, and for good reason.

I thought I would post four quotes from the book and end the post with a couple comments.
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