Saturday, June 21, 2014

What will make me and you happy?

How do I know what the right thing to do is?

The Dali Lama said that the meaning of life is the pursuit of happiness. Great! I think he is right as far as he goes, but the bigger question, of course, is what will make me happy?

In our capitalistic society the answer is money and things. Most people in America worship Mammon. The religion of America is materialism. Walmart, Target, and the malls of America are America's cathedrals where people go to worship. Black Friday is the holiest of the holy days of the year.

Has materialism made us happy? Up to a point, but then banality sets in and even worse our possessions own us, we no longer own our possessions and we suffer the side effects of environmental degradation and divisiveness between the haves and the have nots.

Rev. Galen Guengerich's eighth chapter in his book, God Revised, deals with the question of ethics and is entitled, "How We Should Live: The Source of Ethics".  He writes, "In a secular age, the process of establishing ethical standards is more complicated than opening a book of scripture or doing what seems right in our own minds." p. 155 So what should be the basis of an ethical code which guides us in how to live the good life? Guengerich reviews some of the ideas which have come down to us through history and then writes at the end of his chapter "The key to doing what's right is to focus not on fear but on the calling." p.172

He writes a little further, "How do we decide what we ought to do in a particular situation? What values do we use to set our moral compasses and from where do these values come? To answer these questions, we turn to the ethics of gratitude." p.172

I don't know how Guengerich arrived at the conclusion that the ethics of gratitude is the answer to the question of where our values which inform our ethics should come from. Maybe we will learn more in his ninth chapter where he seems to intend to address this question.

My answer to the question of where our values which inform our ethics come from is Jesus, The Holy Spirit, the Muse, Mother Nature, Cosmic Consciousness, Higher Power, Tao, Great Spirit, Spirit of Life, whatever, whomever you want to call it. The moral compass comes from within informed by the without. The moral compass ultimately is Love. What would Love have us do? The question's utility is based on our purity, our ability to chose between the ego, and what A Course In Miracles calls a "Miracle". The "Miracle" is a shift in perception from the ego plane to the spiritual, to the plane of Love. The fourth principle of the Principles of Miracles is, "All miracles mean life, and God is the Giver of life. His Voice will direct you very specifically. You will be told all you need to know." T-1.I.4:1-3 God's voice is always there talking to us. The question is whether we are tuned in and open to hearing it? Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. People who are pure of heart live examined lives. People who are pre-occupied with the ego live lives of drama.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:7 - "Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you." It seems that the key, here, is in the presence of mind to ask. It would seem to me that the basis of this purity of heart is humility first, along with self awareness, then perhaps gratitude, but first comes humble curiosity, inquisitiveness, innocence of wanting to know God's will for us.

So, I am worried that Rev. Guengerich takes us down the wrong road. We shall see. I think gratitude is important and a contributing aspect of important values that inform our ethical code for how to live the happy life, but I think first comes humble curiosity and willingness to do God's will and not our egotistical own.


  1. Love your magazine. I get a lot out of it. Have you written any books?

  2. Theorizing and conceptualizing stimulates the imagination and enhances awareness but at the end of the day the question is whether the ideas get applied in our daily lives and make us and others better people, right? So, it seems to me, that what is being advocated here is a daily examination of conscience and maybe even a moment to moment effort to discern what it is that Life is calling us to do that is right, right? The key to the spiritual life is in the asking of the question. It is in asking of the question of life that we manifest our inherent worth and dignity as self aware, conscious human beings who have the ability and power to create our own realities and influence our own fate.

  3. The interesting things is that conversations, theorizing, conceptualizing do not just report and describe what we think is real and true, they create a new reality, a lense and framework of understanding our experience. Theorizing and conceptualizing does not merely describe and report, but creates. What is being done here is describing a new way of viewing the world and oneself, and raises to consciousness what previously was unconscious and we are the better for it and can't help but change what we see, think, feel, do in our lives. To live, as the article suggests, with an attitude of curiosity also implies an attitude of reverence, appreciation of mystery, and an openness to transcendent reality. Bravo to the author of this piece. It has opened doors for me, for which I am grateful.

  4. I told my 3 year old son he seemed cranky because he didn't take his nap. He looked my right in the eye and asked "So what's your excuse?"

    I hadn't considered my irritation with him was coming from somewhere else until he called me out.

    I had planned on doing some things while he was napping and when he didn't nap, I didn't get those things done so I was frustrated, disappointed, and discouraged. As I reflected, I realized he wasn't cranky, I was. I was engaging in what the psychologists call "projecting". I was seeing in my son's behavior what actually was in mine.

    How can a three year old be so perceptive and wise while I, a 33 year old, am oblivious? It is the humble curiosity, and reflection on my own thoughts, feelings, and behavior which snapped me out of my judgmental trance when my son questioned me. Perhaps this 3 year old is my guru, the catalyst of my spiritual awakening. I wonder what else he knows that I don't?