I was confirmed at Catholic mass



I attended a Catholic mass last Tuesday and heard the Bishop of Columbus speak. He said something that has changed my view of religion in a deep and meaningful way. In fact, after he confirmed the class of young people, he confirmed my formula to power.

In conclusion to his talk, the bishop said that unless you know, love, and serve God, you cannot be happy. I found it important that he concluded by mentioning the key to personal happiness.

So God brings us happiness…but how?

I thought about this and realized that God has absolute power. We do wrong and he tells us to accept him as having this power and he will take away that sin. Fault is our feeling from doing wrong. If God takes away that fault, we can be happy and that’s the only way we can be happy.

So why are people, both Christians and others, still unhappy?

Christianity is misused. Some followers rely on others for their connection to God. Their minister, their priest, other authority figures. But Chrisitianity tells us we need a personal relationship with God.

There is another misuse: We help others before we help ourselves. We feel good about ourselves through these actions, but Christianity tells us that the crux of finding happiness isn’t through our actions, it’s through recognizing we make mistakes and are imperfect. And this knowledge, not action, is where we must start:

We must accept ourselves

Religion fails -rather, WE fail- when we jump ahead of this state of mind: We fail as Christians when we think going to a church and giving to others will make us happy. We cannot be happy unless we know ourselves. Knowing God and knowing ourselves is the same thing. The saying God is love makes sense: When we know God, we love ourselves despite being imperfect.

But God cannot accept our guilt, only we can. The Bishop did not say God knows us. He said WE must know God. That’s why when we’re unhappy, it’s not God’s fault. It’s our fault. And once we accept this fault, we accept responsibility for ourselves. We lose that ego, we lose that worry. We become free and empowered.

Once we’re free from worry, we immediately become connected to others, because we see that everyone else is imperfect, too, and we’re not separate from them. And we see that when we don’t help them, it’s like not helping ourselves.

Freedom and connection are the consequences of accepting our imperfection. And freedom is happiness.

The Bishop was correct that we cannot be happy without knowing, loving and serving this idea: Accept your imperfections.

I thank the Bishop for confirming this in me.

The most difficult decision of my life

There are some actions that are not right, but context defines our decisions. Sometimes we must do the wrong thing at the right time. Me walking away from a medical degree, for instance. It was what needed to be done at the time, much to people’s disbelief. But I wasn’t living my life. My life was living me.

What is indisputable is that we’re here to do something worthwhile. And who is the one that’s going to tell you what that thing is?

Well, that’s going to be you. Not society. Not your parents. Not your neighbors, and not your partner.

The how and the why is answered by you, and you alone.

Your values are what make your actions your own.

The perfect backyard and the perfect person.

I was out walking with Jesse the other day. The sun was setting and the western skies were aglow with shimmering orange and yellow and red. We passed a home with a back yard that was carefully landscaped with evergreen trees. They were clustered within neat rings of stone. A decorative stone bench sat at either end of the yard. There was small, neatly trimmed shrubbery flanking the area.

“That yard looks like a park,” I said.

I thought about the care of the owners to ensure that the branches were trimmed. The stones and benches clear of weeds. The grass surrounding them cut. I said, “I wonder what the yard is going to look like in a hundred years. Will the yard even be there? Will it be destroyed? Will the family have moved on, and will there be another family owning the place?”

The transience of life

I think about how much the yard was appreciated. I think of our constant struggle to keep order. Maintaining our hygiene, cleaning ourselves, walking about, working, exercising, cleaning again. Picking out the soap and shampoo that we like, maybe it’s the cheapest, or the one that has best scent, or the one used in all the salons, or the one that’s not tested on animals.

Finding the restaurant with the tastiest dishes, the ones we must have, and we’ll pay for it, because nothing else is good enough. Maybe getting fast food, because we just want to eat something, anything. Or going to places that get their ingredients locally. Or having a garden, or not eating animals because we do care, we care a lot about our actions…

Does it matter?

Eating, brushing our teeth, eating again, brushing again, stopping the rot, keeping the bacteria at bay. Our diligence! Cutting the grass, cursing the rain, cutting the grass again, trimming bushes.

Again and again and again.

Going shopping to replace worn clothes, or just because it feels good. Trying to make more money, searching for that job that will make us comfortable, that income that’s just out of our reach, if only we could get to it.

Until we don’t do it anymore

Until one day, we stand at the gates to be judged. The gates of truth. Our conscience. And we ask ourselves if we spent our time wisely. Did we make an effort to do the right thing, or did we follow the crowd? Did we work too much, too little? Did we care about our contribution, about the consequences of our actions? Did we care about people, about the future, or did we throw up our hands in helplessness? Did we worry too much, or did we enjoy our life?

I looked at the yard and thought all this, because this is what I do. I thought about the big clock. Tick-tock. And then I stopped thinking of that. And I started appreciating everything a little bit more.

The perfect backyard and the perfect person? Neither is possible. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try for them.

Don’t blow through the pleasantries.

“Hi there.”
“Hi”
“How are you?”
“Good. How are you?”
“Almost perfect.”

It’s true that I’m almost perfect. Really.

I’m being more honest than when I say “ok” or “good”.
I’ve also heard people give the depressing “Not bad” and “Can’t complain”.

The “How are you”s are part of the exchange of pleasantries. They’re supposed to be pleasant, right? Then why do we blow through them with a catch phrase? And then we stall, searching for something more tangible to talk about, like the weather, which will save a conversation, yes, but it will also make you want to check your cell phone for more stimulating conversation with faceless people.

I realize that the so-called pleasantries breakdown the walls we have built up. They slowly bring the conversation to more meaningful levels, so that we’re more comfortable.

Why is that?

Sure, our genes may be coded with the fear response to strangers. Strangers who may be from another tribe who want to kill me for my food, shelter, or women, but why continue the drive-by pleasantries today, especially in this country, where survival is pretty easy? Even in low-income areas, no one is starving.

Ok, so keep the superficial pleasantries…what’s next?

When we get to the more meaningful part, we circle around asking the “how” and “why” question and get neck-deep in the comfortable quicksand of what we did, where we went, or what someone else is doing. We might get to some feelings, like “It sucked.’ Or “It was awesome.” But when was the last time we asked a probing “Why?” follow up?

We’re conditioned to make the “How are you?” the start of the conversation, and it’s ok to make it a greeting. Hey, it’s the best greeting I can think of..It jumps right into YOU. But instead of it being the start of the conversation, I think it should be the conversation. Let’s keep the courage of our convictions and see how someone else feels. Maybe give each other a new perspective?

The “how”s and the “why”s are the reason we’re here: It makes up the dialgoue that enables us to connect with people and grow.

I think a good start to connecting is to take that greeting seriously.

So…
How are YOU?

TED Talk Tuesday: Fear, mistaken expectations, and the war on terror


Have you ever done comparison shopping and thought you were being a smart shopper? I have. This item is 50% off but that item is 75% off. The logical thing to do is buy the one with bigger savings, right?

Not always.

Dan Gilbert is a Professor of Psychology at Harvard. He tells us why we might be making mistakes because of our tendency to compare things in the wrong context. He begins with questions like, would you pay $25 for a Big Mac? Or, would you drive across town to save a $100? But Dan moves on to more serious questions. He has consulted with the Department of Homeland Security, so he talks of the reaction of terror caused by 9-11:

“We already know, in the United States, that more people have died as a result of not taking airplanes -because they were scared – and driving on highways, than were killed on 9-11”

Is our reaction disproportional to the threat? Was it worth going to war? Was it worth Obama signing a bill yesterday that took our right to trial in an effort to protect us from terrorists? Terrorists who caused more deaths by making us avoid airplanes than their actual act of terrorism? Regardless of your answers to these questions, realize this: The people who are the most aggressive about protecting America are the ones who are the most fearful, and fear can cloud our judgment.

In the end, Dan tells us how vital our mindfulness is to our future:

“We are the only species on this planet that has held its own fate in its hands…The only thing that can destroy us and doom us, is our own decisions.”


Follow me and I will take you away from the everyday.