Me and God

I have an uneasy history with organized religion, but I never had any trouble keeping up a fine relationship with the Divine. I feel like I know God and we work on the same team; but church… I find the institution disturbing. It seems far less interested in the Divine than it is in getting the people to come to the store pay their dues and conform to a narrow agenda.

Christianity had 33,820 denominations with 3,445,000 congregations or churches composed of 1,888 million affiliated Christians. Yet it all seems like so many hamburger stands – each one has the same ingredients – meat, bun, cheese – and each one tries to convince you that theirs is the best of all.

It is impossible for me to imagine that Christians are the sole bearers of truth or that God would lie to all the Chinese, Muslims, Shinto-ists, etc.  My mother’s father was a Roman Catholic, even an altar boy, but he became a Presbyterian because a kindly minister taught him English and business math and he was grateful – and realized the difference. That kind of retail caring for people I can understand. When preachers demonize the other church across the street, saying they are wrong and heathens, I get up and go.

I was raised in the Presbyterian Church down the street from our home. It seems the choice was more about location, than about any philosophical or ecclesiastical issues. The church was close and had Boy Scouts and a confirmation class – so that is where we went. I hated the services – it always seemed that people were reading from the menu. They would recite the Apostle’s Creed with as much enthusiasm as reading a can of dog food.

In the Penn Charter School, I was exposed to the Quakers and immediately felt an affinity for their philosophy. The essence of God is within you and it expresses itself in different ways for different people and in different settings. I drew two important lessons from the Quakers: Since the essence of God is within each of us, then warfare is wrong because you would be killing the essence of God in others. Since all of us have God within, then discrimination on the basis of gender or race is an insult to the Divine. Hence we shall all be treated as equals.

Studying anthropology and traveling the world opened my eyes to see that each religion in each place was tailor-fit to their eco-system and local needs. I cherish Shinto because it seems to address the environment and the divinity. I came to appreciate Islam and its image of heaven with flowing rivers – so appropriate in a desert environment. In fact, I came to see that God is invented in each culture as a unique expression of that culture’s time and place. The admonitions of the elders are reduced to aphorisms that can easily be taught to the children.

Santa Claus is an interesting case. If Santa didn’t exist, parents would invent him. He is such a useful fellow for enforcing good behavior and such a good training tool to prepare people for a lifetime of belief in God. Santa Claus is God with training wheels. They share many features… both are invisible, both work miracles in no time, both have a posse of elves or angels to do the hand’s-on work; God keeps track of every sin, while Santa keeps track of who’s naughty or nice. If you are good, you get rewards and if you are bad you get punished. The only really big difference is that children stop believing in Santa when they discover it is a ruse constructed by adults. But with God, no one admits the ruse. It is the same ruse but we are unwilling to admit it.

All human progress is characterized by the slow but steady loss of the human ego in the explanation of how things are. Copernicus got our ego out of the center of the universe. Air travel got God out of the clouds. Our egocentric view of the world makes the sun and the moon equals until the astronomers figure out that we got that all wrong. Our ego is still in the way of seeing that we are the descendents of a long line of mutations that were subject to natural selection and resulted in us… with all our flaws and wonders. Most of this progress is about reducing the role of God in everything. When we were ignorant, we explained everything with God. As we learned, the role of God was shifted to the remaining mysteries.

Now I find God in the sunset.

I find God in my actions in the world.

I don’t believe in a God who made all things – just the way they are.

I don’t believe in a personal God who watches over each little thing.

I can’t imagine a God who would create 800 million separate species of beetles or the human appendix or the pain of childbirth. I can wrap my mind around those arising via evolution rather than divine creation.

My God is the creator of the underlying scheme of the universe: gravity, magnetism, natural selection, teleology, laws of form, laws of scale, laws of math, and laws of nature….

A God who can invent Natural Selection is indeed a wonder to behold.

So we made our own successes and our own messes.

We are ultimately responsible for the way we manage the universe.

We are not masters of the universe.

My God cares more about what you are doing on Monday morning than what you are doing on Sunday morning. So I  work for the Divine at work, not at church.

The best book I ever read on religion is the “Book of Q” which is a rendition of the words spoken by Jesus, stripped of all the stories about his comings and goings. There is no dogma about miracles or who was his father. All the legends and additions are removed and all you read are the words that the man said (or probably said…). It is a most engaging book, rich with divine inspiration and devoid of the theological issues of a man who is a God. Isn’t it ironic that we rejected the Greek “myths” yet the same stories are all woven through the Christ story? We giggle at Zeus coming to earth to father children, but treat Christ’s divine birth as a serious topic. The “Book of Q” is wonderful reading. Like a conversation with a sage.

I wrote this “Sage and Seeker” in College:

Seeker: Do you believe in God?

Sage: No. I don’t believe. I KNOW God and I have no use for belief.

Seeker: Is God present in the world?

Sage: God is in me. God is in you. God is in everything and everyone in the universe. Present all the time without beginning or end.

Seeker: Did God make the Universe?

Sage: God is not a maker or a creator or a thing nor male nor female, but God is in the order of the world. God is in the way of the world. Like the laws of the universe. God is in gravity and attraction and natural selection.

Seeker: Do you believe in Jesus?

Sage: Kristos, Krishna, Christ … all one. But God has no name and no need for one.

Seeker: What about other religions?

Sage: Moses, Mohammed, Lao Tzu, Confucius, Buddha … all seekers of God, each with a truncated view of the whole. God spoke to each in his own way as appropriate for their people.

Seeker: But what about the Son of God?

Sage: Of my God we are all sons and daughters. Of my God there are no favorites

Seeker: But what about his book?

Sage: None of the books are “HIS” books, my God inspired lots of books, each in the language of the people. Each book is about their lives and their needs. Each book is an incomplete view of the whole.

Seeker: Aren’t some people his chosen people?

 

Sage: That is very egotistical; to want to be special before your God. My God has no chosen people, no special rights to distribute the right word, and no right to make others “wrong”. My God has no earthly enemies, no people upon whom war is made in God’s name, no heathens to be tormented in God’s name. No one dies for my God.

Seeker: Where do we go when we die?

Sage: We go where there is no certainty except that it is as elegant a part of life as life itself.

Seeker: Do you talk to God?

Sage: Yes, all the time. While washing dishes or watching the sunset or listening to a bird or sitting on the toilet. It is all divine time to talk to God.

Seeker: Does God talk to me?

Sage: Yes. In everything you do.

Seeker: What about in dreams?

Sage: Yes and in a dream, God makes stories about me and life and the whole.

Seeker: Can I have your God?

Sage: You already do.

 

Laws of Life

Laws of Life

Wizard’s Principle: On every mountain there is a single pebble which, if you move it will unleash an avalanche. Find that pebble.

The Law of the Missing Piece:  He who shows up with a critical absent resource will unleash a huge response.  One tiny piece changes the whole system.

Motherball’s Law of Options Shock: Whenever you choose something, you are NOT choosing everything else.

Motherball’s Corollary: When you date one girl, you are rejecting all the other girls on earth.  Whatever you are doing, you are NOT doing everything else.

Spencer’s Dictum: If you don’t know where you are going, any path will take you there, but the world steps out of the way to let a man pass who knows where he is going.

Law of the Gnaw: The greatest work is not accomplished by super humans making bold moves; rather it is accomplished by ordinary people tenaciously gnawing away at the task, a little bit every day. Tenacity trumps all other suits.

Alex’s Story Maxim: Never spoil a good story with the truth.

Law of the Adventure: A bad adventure is better than no adventure at all. Always choose the adventure that will give you the best stories later on.

Randall’s Laws of Entrepreneurship

  • Never sell something that won’t sell itself.
  • Selling a bad idea makes more money than sitting on a great idea.
  • Nothing is worth anything if no one knows about it.
  • Only hire additional workers when you are pulling your hair out and losing sleep.
  • Hire experts for the things you don’t know.
  • If it is such a good idea that everyone is doing it, then it is time to get out.
  • Never tell the IRS anything they don’t already know. It will only cause new problems.
  • A foot in the mouth is better than the curse of silence, so speak about your idea.
  • If the first 15 people who hear about a new idea all say “WOW”, then get a patent or copyright.
  • When you are looking at your stock portfolio value and saying “Wow!” It is time to sell everything.
  • In that old saw about BIG money; “Had it, lost it, had it, lost it…” It is way better to end that with “still have it” than all of the other options.

Law of Costly Loss: The most expensive thing for any organization is the person walking out the door on their last day of work. They know all about the business, the people and how it all works.  The replacement person has to learn it all.

Law of lost objects: If you can’t find a tool, it is just like not owning it.  

Randall’s Glass Maxim: Never lament that your glass is half empty or half full. Thank God you have a glass and it will be filled to overflowing.

Lilly Tomlin’s Adage: No matter how cynical you get, it is never enough to keep up.

There are two kinds of people in the world

  1. those who plan ahead and those who wonder what is happening to them.
  2. those who divide the world into two kinds of people and those who don’t.

Rules for Children:

  • No hitting and no hitting back. It doesn’t matter who started it, everyone gets punished.
  • You may not have what you are crying to get, but if you stop and talk we might consider getting it.

 

Paradise Principle: If your brain is working on the Internet, your body can be in paradise

Randall’s Travel Maxim: Film is cheaper than plane tickets. Corollary: Never scrimp on taking pictures at the Grand Canyon.

Good News Guy’s Maxim: “Speak in Sound Bites”

Writers Perplex: When you are writing a book or a dissertation, everyday feels like Tuesday; there is no relief in sight.

Randall’s Line Law: Wherever there is a line, there is an opportunity… To realize the opportunity; get out of line. Do the opposite of what everyone else is doing.

Stars Strategy: Take lessons from the stars. You’ll learn more from the star of their field than from a mundane teacher in your own field.

Alex’s Maxim on Novelty: Every new idea enters a universe that is totally devoted to the old idea.

When presenting new ideas – never describe a new idea using all new vocabulary.

Laws of media:

  1. Good press begets more press.
  2. If your idea is new and spreads like a virus, you do not need to advertise or call random people hoping to make a sale.
  3. Make yourself newsworthy.
  4. Make news.

 

Miracle Maxim: Never underestimate the universe’s capacity to deliver miracles. But they don’t drop out of the sky. Even miracles need a stage, a venue and you must prepare the stage before a miracle can happen.

New Baby Law: Sleep when baby sleeps.

Randall’s Presidential Principle: If you are going to be in the same room with the President, have a letter in your pocket detailing some idea you think should be put into effect. You just might change the world.

 

Margaret Mead’s Laws:

You can’t step into the same river – ONCE! (Her idea, you figure it out)

If you see something odd or unusual, look around to see if the people around you think it is odd. If not, then what you are seeing is normal there. If others are acting like it is odd, then it is odd to them too.

Look for patterns in all things. Look for all the things that don’t fit the patterns and then look for patterns among all the odd fellows.

Mead’s dissertation Adage , “Write on the smallest possible topic, with the least controversy and the fewest elements to examine. You are writing you LAST dissertation, not your first book, so keep it short and simple and get it over with.”

Gregory Bateson said, “All species have organized life this way, the female principle is single and well preserved, while the male principle is multiple and squandered.”

Lesson from Copernicus: All human progress is characterized by the slow but steady loss of the human ego in the explanation of how things are.