Category Archives: Philosophy/Theology

Archaic Lessons

via Daily Prompt: Archaic

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(Photo: cdn.touropia.com/gfx/b/2015/07/ancient_corinth.jpg) Remains of  the ancient temple of Apollo in Corinth, a city that originates long before the Archaic Period (750 – 480 BC). It was the center for the worship of Apollo. In the time when St. Paul visited Corinth around 49 or 51 AD, Corinth was a city of temples representing many deities, and featured a temple of Aphrodite. It was a major port city with two harbours on each side of a four mile wide isthmus, and critical to those in power for trade, but also for the movement of soldiers, and therfore it was pivotal for Rome.

Corinth was one of the main city states of ancient Greece, it was allied with and against Sparta during the many Greek wars at different points in its early history. It formed part of emerging Greek democracy, was important to Rome when later occupied, and has been a major player in modern European history. Corinth was equally part of Greece’s cultural development as other cities were, it developed art and pottery, contributed to philosophy, and the solidifying of religion and culture.

Corinth has been a robust, tenacious, and adventurous city, it has been host to great events in history, and has seen the long trajectory of cultural development. It has weathered many wars and has been occupied and reoccupied time and again, yet it still seemed to find within itself a particular strength in its own cultural and historical identity. It has been a survivor. Of course, Corinth is not unique in this, but it has had one of the longest experiences. Cities don’t do this in and of themselves, bricks and mortar, stone and glass are to a great degree inanimate. It takes a people, flesh and blood, to do that, to define identity, to build, grow, and develop, to accumulate meaning and culture.

I think we are in the midst of a great shift in culture now, we are seeing the fearlful and resentful cling to older, archaic ways in order to retain power and control, even if only in their own minds. We can see the ruling powers trying to come to grips with the mercury-like behaviour of markets, internet, politics, alliances, and the real events of climate change. Governments must be very conscious that high tech policing cannot hold people together permanently and thus the world is in a new place of flux with governments trying to guide populations towards manageable political goals. In the end compromise and friction will dictate otherwise, and the pasaage of time will make much of today’s anxieties redundant tomorrow.

As the world shifts and weaves, the Corinthians of old have something to offer, something archaic, to read the times and discern which way to go. Whether to fight with Sparta or against it, to adapt to Roman ways and cultural influence (ironically infusing Roman culture instead), to weather war and occupation, to be part of new ventures and cultural developments, and in the end – to simly be. They didn’t sit down and plan it, they were themselves just living into the experiences of push and pull, just as we should be, but in a global sense. The Corinthians weren’t Archaic in the midst of their great cultural leaps, they were themselves. To be archaic is to remain in the past. Make like the Corinthians is hardly a catch-phrase, but it is a great ideal, live in the moment, let go the past, adapt, weather, learn, and move on, together.

“The contemporary tendency in our society is to base our distribution on scarcity, which has vansished, and to compress our abundance into the overfed mouths of the middle and upper classes untill they gag with superfluity. If democracy is to have breadth of meaning, it is necessary to adjust this inequity. It is not only moral, but it is also inteligent. We are wasting and degrading human life by clinging to archaic thinking” Martin Luther King Jnr.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Daily Prompt: Assumption

via Daily Prompt: Assumption

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The assumptions we sometimes (perhaps often) hold become like a dirty film that encrusts our windows to the point we can no longer see out of them! In other words, our assumptions blind us, distort our view of people and life, the world.

How do we form assumptions? Well instead of observing what is going on around us in the world, instead of checking facts, instead of trying to understand another person’s view, we tend to bias our views on what is going on in our inner world. And so we base our views on our emotions, feelings, expectations, beliefs, preceptions, and even our desires and wishes. Our inner world, which can be so helpful and yet in extremis, so unhelpful, becomes, in assuming things, the controlling factor. In assumption there is no second voice, no check, no brake, no alternative canvassed, it is all in our mind. In assumption we are going solo, but we are also going mono. The problem is we begin to believe our own views to the exclusion of other voices and facts, and we become convinced that we are right, and we live into our own reality, our own version of the world.

Simple assumtions don’t really matter, but important ones really do.

One example would be the infamous bystander effect. Following the murder of Kitty Genovese in NY city in 1964, researchers Latane and Darley discovered that there were many witnesses, but all had assumed another would act or do something, hence their coined phrase The Bystander Effect (perceived diffusion of responsibility).

Another example would be the original 1968 Broken Window Theory where Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo was able to prove that when buildings, parked vehicles, and property in general are left unrepaired, some people assume they too can vandalise that property. Thus, one broken window becomes several broken windows on a factory. We assume no one cares.

In terms of people we often make assumptions. We have written off people with disability, we have been suspicious of the foreigner, the refugee, the person who is different by race, colour, belief, creed. Sometimes we cannot even see the person if they hold different political or religious views. we assume they are too different, not from our world, not of our kind. We assume they are dangerous. We just assume.

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We must clean our windows! Alan Alda makes a good point when he said: “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”

Assumptions are costly in every way.

One of the greatest antidotes to assumption is dialogue, to simply sit with your neighbour, be that house, train, bus, walkway, beach, college, wherever, just get to know the person and not the assumption. Simple really, yet so little practiced. The other antidote is to check your internal view against what is going on around you, don’t just take self-reference as the expert view, or what I call the Facebook view of the world.

Talk and reflect – what do you see now?

All is now darkened
my mind has painted the glass
my ears will bring light

©Paul Cannon

 

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Out Of This World

Out Of This World

When I think of out of this world I think of the stars, beyond our galaxy, but in another sense I think of places of transcendence like Uluru. But his morning there was something else. At Flat Rock the dolphins were absent, even the birds, but frogs were singing their song, the water was still, and then, as you will see in the top left corner of the video, as a tiny insect flew over the water, a fish appeared. I might not have been there, but I was and it happened. It was ordinary, simple, normal, yet in another way it was transcendent, it took me out of this world, just in the moment, wonderful.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Core Values

via Daily Prompt: Core

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Are there any angels in Politics? Gandhi, but so few others. No one is perfect, as the saying goes, and perception is probably 9/10 of the problem.

There are a number of political biographies that I read in my teens and twenties, and which have haunted me ever since. Martin Luther King Jnr., Sukarno, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandella, Steve Biko, And Patrice Lumumba (photo above). My blood still boils at the injustices they have suffered.

It was the early 1960s, African nationalist movements were in full swing, independence was coming. The Cold War was the context, and African minerals were the agenda, especially uranium, and the West would do anything to preserve their access. If you then place a leader who is a strong nationalist in power and who then pursues independence and who rails against the old colonial powers, you have the risk of losing those minerals. What to do? Kill that leader of course. But first make sure that his country, and then the world, see that leader as deeply flawed, incompetent, corrupt, a communist, an extremist, anti-western, and so on. Then shoot them.

Lumumba was a Pan-African, he wanted to see an interdependent cooperative Africa, and to be free of colonial control. He believed that african nations could be great nations under their own people. He was intensely critical of the colonial powers, in particular, Belgium, who had ruled his own country Congo and had a murky record in governance of Congo. He was for nonalignment – the stance of not choosing sides between the US and the Soviet Union. His main principle of governance was “National Unity.”

No sooner had independence been grudgingly and conditionally granted to Congo by Belgium, that Lumumba had won government with his party Mouvemnet National Congolais (MNC). But then a crisis developed over political direction and dependence on Belgium. Lumumba began to extract Congo from colonial trade and patterns, this caused anxiety in the US, UK, and Belgium, all who were worried that this young primeminister would turn to the Soviet Union for trade and support. The western nations are implicated in wanting to remove Lumumba, but none have been directly connected to the firing squad that murdered him.

Lumumba was deposed, arrested and imprisoned by the military, tortured and later shot. The man who was behind this was Colonel Mobutu Sese Seko (with western suport), who installed a government under his own control, and later in 1965, he overturned that government and became direct military ruler of the Congo until 1997. The only real winners in all of this were the western powers, notably, Congo has never thrived, it has given western nations its minerals at great cost to itself.

Patrice Lumumba had strong core vlaues, his was a selfless desire to lead Congo into a strong independent nation, he wanted his people to have access to health and education, he had hopes to provide modernization, and decolonialisation. He wanted Congo to benefit from its own natural wealth. He talked of an egalitarian community where everyone was valued. For this he was painted as a communist and as a dangerous leader. For these values he was murdered.

In his famous speech before independence, a speech highly criticized by western leaders, Lumumba said: “The colonialists care nothing for Africa for her own sake. They are attracted by African riches and their actions are guided by the desire to preserve their interests in Africa against the wishes of the African people. For the colonialists all means are good if they help them to possess these riches.”

How prophetic! He was absolutely right. He is still right.

Patrice Lumumba’s life ended in tragedy, but it wasn’t completely in vain. He inspired his people to seek the best for Congo. Many of his political ideals have been picked up across Africa, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, his thinking has been embraced on a number of fronts.

For me, Lumumba’s story is a reminder that there is a cost for integrity in political leadership.  For Lumumba there was no other way, there would have been a cost for him personally had he caved in to Mobutu and the West. He was true to his vision and core values. He was far from perfect, but he died for his vision for the future of Congo, and that vision lives on.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under Economics, history, Philosophy/Theology, politics, quote

Rebel Without A Gun

via Daily Prompt: Rebel

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James Dean? Che Guevara? Arafat, Mobutu, who?

Mohanda Karamchand Gandhi, the quiet revolutionary, and was living proof that violence isn’t requisite for societal, especially political change.

Trained in law in London from 1888, then he initially served the Indian expatriate community in South Africa for twenty-one years, and it is during this time that he formed his social and political views. He opposed the race laws that affected his people, which brought physical and political retribution against him, but he persevered, and peacefully, influencing people and decisions where he could.

But in 1915 he returned to India. There he immediately threw himself into the fight for independence from Britain. Gandhi used law, legislation, and commincation to take the fight through the people for Indian sovereignty. He harnessed the people and the process. Again he was gaoled, and targeted by the British administration. Yet his response was always peaceful protest. He organised peaceful protests, trade boycots, local product fidelity, and more. He hit the British economically, administratively and politically, a very astute leader. One high point was the famous Salt March in 1930 where Ghandi organised a boycot against the British salt tax, he and thousands who joined him along the way, marched 388 kms from Ahmedabad to Dandi on the coast, it captured the nation and wounded the British image irreparably. The administration loathed Gandhi, and Churchill branded him as seditious and dangerous, a Hindu Mussolini! He was a true rebel, but without a gun.

Indian independence arrived August 15, 1947. It was tainted for Gandhi by the seprate agreement of the British to allow the partition of India to include East and West Pakistan as separate states for Muslims. Gandhi opposed the move. Many died in the process, but civil war did not erupt.

Gandhi believed that love could win over hate. His life is testimony that it can, and it can bring down empires and open the door to new visions. His patience won out in the end.

Sadly he was assasinated on January 30 1948, but his life was clearly not in vain. He has been a model for many others of many cultures and beliefs, and an inspiration for peaceful protest for change (Aung San Suu Kyi and Benazir Bhutto come to mind). But he, I’m sure would be the first to acknowledge that what mattered was that he’d managed to inspire his own people, that’s my kind of rebel, peaceful, loving, grass-roots based.

Two quotes of his that I love are:

“the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”

“You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.”

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Laughter Is The Good Medicine

via Daily Prompt: Laughter

Rowan Atkinson as Mr. Bean.

In a documentary he did on comedy I remember Atkinson saying that he’d modelled Bean on the great silent comedy actors, Buster Keaton in particular. Atkinson was quite serious about his comedy. Mr. Bean is not everyone’s cup of tea though. Comedy is a matter of taste, some people struggle to laugh at contrived misfortune, others don’t get certain types of jokes. I love all types of humour, and I struggle to be serious for too long. I think life without humour becomes a rut, which “is a grave with both ends kicked out” (attributed to Earl Nightingale). Unfortunately we have entered an age of poltical correctness that won’t allow for certain types of humour –  it would be hard to imagine Benny Hill starting out now.

I thoroughly enjoy the slapstick of Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, the satire of Monty Python or Littel Britain, the black humour of Blackadder, the innocent humour of the Vicar of Dibbley or Keeping Up Appearances, and the pointed humour of Yes Minister. The gentle humour in Friends, or the raucous Seinfeld, political humour with John Stewart. Some of you may remember Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, in Australia the Graham Kennedy Show, the Glass house and so on, too many to list here.

Humour is even acknowledged in religion. Osho taught that laughter was releasing, and held sessions in laughter release, he also taught that laughter brought energy to the fore and was for a few moments a meditative state. Both Jesus and St. Paul used sarcasm. The Christian Pentecostal movement encouraged holy laughter as healing. In the Medieval Church a mass was developed in France where the lowest of society were invited to take high position and celebrate their own version of the mass, a social inversion, pure comedy. It was an attempt to offer an opporunity to release social pressure.  Naturally, the Church hierarchy were horrified, but the Feast Of Fools is still celebrated (and still upsets serious minded purists, which in my view is a good thing). In his book, “My Spiritual Journey” the Dalai Lama, reflecting on the many sadnesses of exile and hardship, says: “… I am a professional laugher …”  There is even laugher yoga.

Laughter is also homespun, families have their own treasure chest of humourous moments. Some yo uhave had to have been there to really get the humour. Mine include dad handing mum the steering wheel when it detached from the column (as we entered the school parking lot). Or when our family were at a Chinese restaurant and the vegetable oil for the sizzle dish spilled onto a napkin and my yongest son said: “I’ll help” and tried to blow it out, turning it into a blow torch that set fire to my beard (fortunately quickly doused). We are still laughing.

Laughter is releasing and it is claimed that it brings several health benefits. It destresses, uplifts, it is contagious, breaks down barriers, is enjoyable … Some of you would be familiar with the maxim of the Readers Digest – “laughter is the best medicine.” I certianly feel much better after a good laugh.

I love a good laugh and I don’t mind being laughed about. I like ot think I’m a professional laugher – I hope you are too.

For those who are more serious minded a video about laughter 😊

sitting for dinner
my beard is aflame now
laughter douses it

©Paul Cannon

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Mentor

via Daily Prompt: Mentor

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In Homer’s epic Odyssey, Mentor was the trusted friend of Odysseus, and, during the Trojan war, Mentor remained in Ithaca to care for Odysseus’ son Telemachus. Mentor’s role was to prepare Telemachus for leadership of the family while Odysseus was away fighting the war.  The goddess of wisdom Athena advised Telemachus anonymously when she assumed the identity of Mentor.

Later, the French author, and archbishop of Cambrai,  Francois Fenelon (1651 – 1715) wrote, “The Adventures of Telemachus”, in which Fenelon establised a connection between mentoring and education. Something we accentuate today in school programs and community groups.

I have had many mentors in my life, and still do, too many to name all of them here. But John, Skip, Wilfrid, Colin, John, Jeff, Thelma, Harry, Brian, Laurence, Derry, Greta, Peter, Ken, Hughie, Penelope, David, Hillary, Roger, Ken, Adrian, are just a few that are probably more significant overall, and deserve particular mention. Some are perhaps anonymous, or indirect, the people I have encountered briefly, or I have read about, or observed in films and some detail or practice has made sense.

We all need a mentor (and plural too) because our significant others, even our primary mentors and guides may be engaged in something far away, and not necessarily geographically far away, but perhaps psychologically, physically or spiritually. Death has taken several of mine, and diverging paths or points of view has taken others, but for a season, they were there for me when I needed someone most. I have found mentors wherever I have been and in many unlikely places. And for me a mentor is not so much a formal educator, but more of a muse, a stimulous, sometimes a radical sometimes other, occasionally gauche, bohemian, or not. For me it is the trusted person who can hold the space for me to speak, to ponder, to rail, to doubt, to envision and dream. We all need those people in our lives. I have been fortunate to know that others have called me mentor, a privilege I never sought in itself, but one that came through friendship and being there.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Tides

via Daily Prompt: Tide

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The tide coming in at the Wilson Inlet, Denmark, Western Australia.

Rachel Carson, to whom we all owe a debt of thanks for her tireless work in advocating for the protection of nature, once said: “The winds, the sea, and the moving tides are what they are. If there is wonder and beauty and majesty in them, science will discover these qualities … If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem called “The Tides.” An autobiographical  poem that speaks of despair (the loss of his wife) and the rediscovery of joy (the tide upbore – lifted him up) as the tide lifts him from despair.

"The Tides" Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

I saw the long line of the vacant shore,
The sea-weed and the shells upon the sand,
And the brown rocks left bare on every hand,
As if the ebbing tide would flow no more.
Then heard I, more distinctly than before,
The ocean breathe and its great breast expand,
And hurrying came on the defenceless land
The insurgent waters with tumultuous roar.
All thought and feeling and desire, I said,
Love,laughter, and the exultant joy of song
Have ebbed from me forever! Suddenly o'er me
They swept again from their deep ocean bed,
And in a tumult of delight, and strong
As youth, and beautiful as youth, upbore me.

But none ever so bleak as Matthew Arnold’s famous poem “Dover Beach.” A poem that is thought to be four very loosely connected sonnets about change. The third stanza tells how the tide is representative of the institution of the Chrisitan Church, that it is fading lifke the receding tide.

From "Dover Beach" Matthew Arnold, stanza three:

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and rounded earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Arnold would have been a contemporary of Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote “God is dead.” (“The Gay Science” 1882) The way I read Nietzsche, is the way I read Arnold, they are simply pointing out that the institution of religion was dying, and the idea of God (the Medieval, the Christendom, God) was dying. For me that has been a positive, the old had to die for the new to come to life. Just as the tide goes out, it also, with equal regularity comes in again. this is its natural rhythm. Religion as a political power elite has been receding for some time, thankfully, and spirituality and mindfulness have entered that space. The absurd God of tribalism and petty moral values has died, thankfully, and a new sense of the divine has enetered, a more communal and relational divine.

So, in the end, I really resonate with Longfellow’s last line from “The Tides” –  “And in a tumult of delight, and strong as youth, and beautiful as youth, upbore me.”  The tides of Arnold and Nietzche simply wash away the dross of what ails religion, while the tide of Longfellow indicates hope in a season of loss and grief in an uplifting tumult of delight.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under beach, Country, life, mindfulness, nature, Philosophy/Theology, poetry, quote, religion

Disrupt Yourself

via Daily Prompt: Disrupt

There’s a whole movement out there that began a few years ago. Some names you may be familiar with are Jay Samit or Whitney Johnson, their TEDx Talks are well known in business circles. These talks on disrupting yourself are mostly applied in the context of marketing, designing, entrepreneurship, or general business leadership. Kate Canales, another TEDx presenter, does give another slant (and with good humour too), that the change we bring to our lives is indicative of potential in all areas of our lives.

Disrupting ourselves is not simple, we are creatures of habit. Who enjoys change? (Well, actually I do, mostly) Most people find they enjoy routines and patterns, I must confess I find many routines deadening. Though it is true to say, no one could sustain unrelenting change, that would equate to chaos, nihilism. Research shows we used to enjoy set television viewing patterns, now we choose online, delay or download. Work used to revolve around set timetables. Study was a regime or intent. Some of these things have been disrupted as technology has changed how we work and study, and whether we watch Netflix or still hire DVDs or watch TV. Over Fifty years there has been a dramatic shift in values and expectations, rights, and social behaviour. Point is, we are often forced to change, we rarely choose to change. The point Canales is making is, we will be presented with opportunities of all sorts for innovation and change, but what will we do?

Canales and others are simply trying to encourage us to look at ourselves and to be prepared to take those chances and risks that are at our core – our passions, driving force, creativity, desire, gift, and go for it. Must we wait for change to be forced?

When we disrupt ourselves, we break patterns and routines, past mind maps and the like, we set ourselves free. A sobering quote I’ve loved for years says it well: “A rut is a grave with the ends kicked out.” (attributed to Earl Nightingale) Life is to be embraced, engaged, and lived into in all the mess we are and all the potential we offer. When was the last tine you made a change in your life?

But perhaps disruption and change are not what they seem anyway. Carl Jung said: “In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.” This was popularised through Chaos Theory, that all disorder has an explanation. And isn’t that why we say, “It was meant to be” when strange or unplanned things happen, recognising that there is indeed something ordered even in disruptions, changes, or chaos? Isn’t that why we say “It’s a crazy world” recognising we don’t have complete power over everything? If there is no default control switch, no default pattern, what are you waiting for?? Disrupt yourself and set a new course.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

 

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The Four Quartets

Quartet

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I love music of many kinds, so quartet brings to mind the Norwegian musicians – Vertavo String Quartet, or from a jazz perspective, the John Coltrane Quartet. However, What is forever etched on my mind are four poems,  the ‘Four Quartets’ by T.S. Eliot.

The ‘Four Quartets’ are reflective meditations on humanity’s relationship with time. Eliot engages spiritual themes, and philosophy, and includes such influences as John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich (mystics), presocratic thinkers (Greek philosophy), and the Bhagavad Gita (Hindu).  The poems were written between 1936 and 1945 and originally published separately, until 1948 when Faber published them in one volume. The period in which he wrote these poems is perhaps indicative of the content. The threat of war, followed by the long war and the blitz, which he endured, must have impacted his sense of mortality and time.

The Quartets are: ‘Burn Norton’, ‘East Coker’, ‘The Dry Salvages’, and ‘Little Gidding.’

My favourite of the four is Little Gidding, simply because it contains a profound observation of the human condition that is neither perfunctory, nor damning, but rather, somehow, encouraging. That observation of Eliot’s comes in part five of ‘Little Gidding.’

We shall not cease from exploration
And at the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

As I’ve quoted before, Proust puts it well when he says: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Eliot is not at odds with Proust in this. He too is suggesting that we humans are curious, we are seekers of truth, of belief, fact, geography, place and space, and more. But, in spite of great travels and in spite of much learning, eventually we return to our roots, our beginning points, and see them afresh.

For me that means seeing the horizons of body, mind and soul with new inner eyes, being able to see with the eyes of wholeness, forgiveness, love, kindness, compassion, and self-giving. Eliot also speaks of how experience is transformative (if we allow it to be so). He also speaks to how we mature in those experiences along life’s journey, and how time affects us, that aging and experience might afford us opportunity to see ourselves afresh. We engage with our youthfulness and “kick the traces” as we used to say, rebelling; we turn to masks, we invent personae for the public I, denial is the trope of our lives. But in the end, at our very core, there is only ever, our true self, if we but look carefully. And if we attend to our true self, accept our self, love our self, we see ourselves whole as if for the first time.

In a stark reminder, he’s also suggesting that, as with the story of Adam and Eve, so with all of us, we never leave the awkwardness of self-awareness, separation, and a sense even an anxiety, that we could do better we could be someone. All of us strive to overcome those things, but find that we were/are, perhaps, a little too hard on ourselves and that we just need to see ourselves as good. The journey we engage is one to be whole and perfect, but yet, the end of our searching leads us back to where we began, that we were indeed whole in the first place, and that nothing is ever perfect.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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