Life of Meaning

Mirrors of Goodness

November 21, 2020 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. Edith Wharton

When I was in the business of performing weddings, I always took the opportunity to remind couples that, in a very real sense, each was a mirror for the other. Whenever a wife gazed at her husband, it is often not the husband she sees but rather the wonder of herself. The same is true for a husband encountering his wife. Each spouse in tasked with a profound power, the power to make or break the self-worth of your partner.

When I Look at You I see the Value in Me

It may be a startling idea, but you are a mirror for other people to discover their own value, even when they are feeling “less than.” If my wife sees me as a valuable, loving, and contributing member of our family she cannot help but to demonstrate that in her eyes and smile and demeanor. I look at her and oddly I feel good about myself.

We all need mirrors—all the more reason to become mirrors reflecting the goodness in people, especially when they are particularly feeling a sublime sense of goodness within themselves.

Not the Absence of Judgment but the Presence of Love

I was listening to a lecture by psychotherapist Jim Finley. He talked about how so many of his clients “felt safe” in his presence and in his office. Jim was quick to point out that while most people attributed their feelings of safety to the lack of judgment and condemnation they found in the therapists domain, there was something more impactful and even more stubble to going on.

Jim Finley was able to discover the goodness of every person in his office and the to transmit that goodness by means of non-verbal communication—eyes, tone, gestures, and facial expression.

What if?

What if we all took on that responsibility? Instead of looking at the competition or the roadblocks we often find in others, what if we looked for their goodness and their need to be affirmed? And what it we were the ones with that assignment?

What if we saw in others the light of the divine, created in the image of God?

As Mirrors of Goodness, I believe our impact on the world would magnify substantially.

Look at Me

I am the Best Mirror You Will Ever Gaze Into

Photo courtesy of Kuzmichstudio at istockphoto

Losing Our Soul

November 14, 2020 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

In George Orwell’s book 1984, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Huxley’s Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us; Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us. I fear that Huxley may have been right.” Thoughts from Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

Neil Postman, in a book written in 1985, prognosticated exactly the state of the America in 2020 when he foresaw our fondness for distraction and the pleasure associated with it.

On Becoming Narcissistic Autobots

With social media, biased published media, TV, movies, and smart phones we are indeed amusing ourselves to death. I fear the price for self-centered and narcissistic entertainment is costing us our very souls. We are in danger of becoming inhuman autobots, arrested by a hunger for amusing electronic toys.

Children no longer “play make-believe.” When I was a kid we did two things: Played make-believe and baseball. And now, as adults, instead of thoughtful soul-searching activities (like reading or writing or painting or hobbies), we seem to be more fascinated by an engagement with sycophants on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.

Endangered Values???

Candidly, in the November Elections of 2020 I feared the power of the one party to seriously endanger my core democratic values of freedom, meritocracy, and individualism. As it turns out, that while the some political party may chip at the edges of my values, it is our own predilection for distraction that will prove to be our downfall—anything to keep us from having “to work at thinking.”

This, I believe, is induced by a belief that the ultimate goal in American life is the acquisition of money, which many of us use largely to purchase pleasure.

The Soul-Enriching Pleasure of Doing Nothing

“Everyday life,” as we once knew it, cannot satiate our newfound need for sustained titillation. Therefore solitude and the pleasure of a cup of coffee while lounging outside in leisure soaking in the bliss of a garden becomes an abhorrent abyss of boredom. A garden or some setting in nature genuinely satisfies the soul, while our amusing “toys” arouse only the senses. What we are facing is yet another bastardization of Epicurus. Like love, we seek pleasure in all the wrong places.

The loss, I fear, is greater than some aberration of my core democratic values. The real loss is the negation of my soul.

Losing Our Souls

And Loving Every Minute of It

Photo courtesy of Antonio_Diaz at istockphoto

The Discomfort of Creativity

November 7, 2020 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

The purpose of art actually is, in many cases, to make you feel quite uncomfortable. Or at least to go to that place that’s already of discomfort inside of you and tap into that.”  Michael Moore

One sure way to secure disapproval is to create. Although “creatives” are often lauded for some enviable talent of making or doing something new, creatives are nevertheless often buoyed to a tether-less anchor. For, to create is to incite change and change is most often a fearful destination.

I once spent time in a special gallery of fine art in Carmel, CA. I would linger for hours, often engaged in deep discussion with the owner/curator who introduced my to the provocative art of Gevorg Yeghiazarian. “Great art,” he loved to remind me, “always draws mixed customer reviews. If everyone likes a piece, it probably is not great art. If everyone hates a work it is most likely not very good art either. But, if reviews are mixed—some love it, some don’t and still others don’t understand it. That piece, yes, that piece just might be good, even great, art.”

Such is the life of the creative. Creative expression is not about public approval or uniform appreciation. It is about revealing or proclaiming some internal truth demanding release to the public. And that truth is often uncomfortable. Radical creativity is more frequently rejected than praised. And sometimes for understandable rationale.

Creativity does not require acceptance of anyone but the creative herself.

If your expressions of creativity, whether it be in fine arts or in writing or in business… or even in politics meets with resistance or discomfort maybe, just maybe, your are producing great art… just out of sync with the times.

Creative Expression

Is More About the Joys of the Creator

Than the Approval of the Crowd

Photo courtesy of KatarzynaBialasiewicz at istockphoto

Out of My Mind

October 31, 2020 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

“Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves… And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world.” Etty Hillesum

I write this post “dazed and confused” on the Eve of the National Election 2020. (Well, not “Eve” precisely as it is still three days away.) And I find myself so regrettably distracted from what matters most: my soul. It’s almost as if my inner life has ceased to exist.

Okay. In this craziness, I know fully that I cannot change the world. Still, I must, nevertheless, continue to participate in it… with love and compassion and kindness—a messenger of peace. And I fully intend to do just that.

But, I fear that not everyone sees it that way. Many do. Just not everyone. And unfortunately those that choose defiance and violence and vitriol are those that “make the news.” And those that “make the news” seem to be perceived as those who represent the whole. And those that “make the news” mess with my head.

Like a little leaven in bread, a little evil goes a long way. It always has and will continue to do so until THE Next Chapter.

Still… I believe a little love will always eventually conquer the wreckages of evil and malice and hatred and selfishness.

For that reason, I sense, in my innermost core, that it is time to get “out of my mind,” for all my fears actively reside “in my mind.” Thoughts upon thoughts upon more thoughts. Fear mounting upon fear. But it is in the contents of my soul that I find the peace and security of the Divine.

So, my attempt today and in future days is to get out of my mind and back into the love and peace of my soul.

And God knows, I will be a better person for it.

Troubled Times

Make Troubled Minds

Photo courtesy of KatarzynaBialasiewicz at istockphoto

Born to Imitate

October 24, 2020 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

From the very moment of birth, humans learn how to imitate others… In a sense, what we become is shaped by whom we imitate.
Ilia Delio

It’s funny. I have always thought it a bit arrogant of St. Paul to suggest that his followers “imitate” him. After all, it seems that it would take a pretty heavy dose of “I’ve got my act togetherness” to make such a bold statement. But after further consideration I realize he was merely stating obvious human nature.
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Returning to Eden

October 17, 2020 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

“With “the failure in Eden,” humans became anxious seekers, desperately seeking what they lost.” Ilia Delio, Simply Bonaventure

Upon graduation from a most conservative seminary my advisor told me how much he appreciated my work, but that he was fearful for me because I seemed to possess what he called, “a proclivity for the novel.” Haha. What he feared, I considered a virtue.
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Humility Begins with the Death of the Ego

October 3, 2020 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

“To be humble is to subdue our ego so that things are no longer all about us.” Neel Burton

It is easy to think that life revolves around you. Everywhere you go, guess who is always there, you are! Indeed you are, in a sense, the center of your universe. Everyone you encounter and every thought you ponder occurs either in your presence or in your mind. You are truly the master of your internal universe… or are you?

These days I am in deep meditations considering the oft times overwhelming power of my needy and selfish ego, an ego with a driving desire to make all things “about me.” My feelings, my desires, and my life seem to matter most and take priority.

Self-Centered or Other-Centered

In the U.S. we live in a time begging for an “other-centeredness.” After decades of pop psychology in which notions of Self have dominated social discourse, topics like self-esteem and the establishment of personal boundaries have been the rave.

Please know that I am indeed an advocate of healthy self-regard and some kind of emotional / psychological protection from the invasion of domineering and selfish people. However, necessary these attributes may be, they are not to be exercised at the expense of sacrificial love.

As a result, we seem to be in need of the radical virtue of humility—to think less of our own needs as we pay heed to the needs of others.

Annihilation

Humility asks for a diminishment of our irrational need to create a finely armored exterior by means of power, possessions, and prestige.

It is my belief that self-centeredness (read “ego”) is found at the heart of most of our personal and social troubles today. And it is the fear of loss—loss of power or possessions or prestige—that drives our somewhat makeshift and misdirected motives.

The early Christian mystics fervently called for “the annihilation of the ego.” In the beginning it was misdirected ego that tempted humans to choose self-rule over the comfort of divine orchestration. And it this needy, selfish ego that continues to rule in our lonely hearts today.

Humility: The Great Equalizer

Humility is not about considering yourself as lower than anyone else. In my mind, humility is the great equalizer—the raising up of the physically and emotionally poor and the lowering of those overly content with power and prestige. All meeting at middle ground.

Such humility is most evident in the person of the Christ, who thought divinity was not a position to be held on to, but instead emptied himself of that divinity to become fully human: to live and die as one of us, showing us the power found in a life of love and self-sacrifice.

Yes, “less of me and more of you” provide a mysterious connection with living fully and with immense pleasure. Humility, therefore, is oddly enough the most self-replenishing act we can opt for.

To Gain Life in Its Fullness

Is to Lose Life in Its Selfishness

Photo courtesy of Madrolly at istockphoto

Feeding the Beast

September 26, 2020 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

Our ego was never meant to die, only to be tamed so that its wild energies could be put to better use.” David Richo

Let’s begin today with a familiar story…
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Fearless Love: Makes You Cross the Border

September 19, 2020 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

“In your heart the choice was clear / You didn’t join the other side / The battle lines just disappeared.” From “Fearless Love” by David Wilcox

In the raucous and polarizing dialogue of our day it has become all too easy to categorize and therefore assign value. Many readers find themselves avid supporters of neither Trump nor Biden, but most certainly feel some responsibility to maintain affection for left or right.
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