Monday, May 20, 2013

As I remember from books I’ve read, the Algonquin language does not contain a word for time. People invent words for things that have meaning for them and apparently time meant little in the Algonquin culture. For our culture, time is of the greatest importance. Whether that’s good or bad I’m not sure. In some ways we are controlled by it. We go to bed, get up and eat by it. We measure our daily activities by it. We use it to decide our ability to perform tasks, accomplish our work, enjoy our day.

Just what is time? It’s not a constant; it varies. That’s been established by science. Some say it doesn’t exist at all, that there is only the “eternal now.”  There may be deep meaning in that but don’t try telling that to your boss when you’re late for work. Others say time is money. They use the measure of time to measure the size of their wealth—or loss of it. When people find themselves faced with more than they can accomplish, they blame the lack of time. They say there’s not enough time in the day.

But just what is it? Actually, it’s an invention of ours, created by us to bring some order to our lives and to coordinate our activities with others. It is a convenient way to measure progress and to plan the future. If we use it wisely it can serve us well. The danger in time is when we allow it to have power over us and control us. That’s up to us, for whatever meaning or control or power it has, we give to it. There is neither too much time nor too little time; it is neither a master nor a slave and it is not money. Time itself is meaningless and is worth nothing. It is only how you use it and for what you use it that gives it any value. That, in turn depends on another measure, one that you yourself construct. It depends on what you consider to be of value.

Friday, May 17, 2013

I’ve been thinking about boxes lately, as in the kind of boxes that one is supposed to or not supposed to think outside of. They’ve shown up in my writing and as an almost daily reference in my life from a variety of sources. Another theme that has been prominent in my life is peace. That’s one I have affinity for and encourage.

Just recently, these two subjects came together for me in an unexpected way. I’ve been reading a book called The Human Potential for Peace by Douglas P. Fry, an anthropologist. In this book, Fry traces the tendencies for non violence and war in a number of societies and over millennia of the human presence on earth. In one of the final sections o the book he unites the concept of peace with my understanding of a box.

Fry states that a common contention is that war is an integral part of humans. It is a given fact and is therefore inevitable, or so goes the common belief goes. Not so, says Fry. Throughout the book he maintains that that popular belief is in error and not supported by scientific evidence. In the section to which I make reference, he states “. . . new modes of thinking are relevant to replacing war with other approaches to seeking security.”

In other words we are, according to Fry, thinking inside the box, one which we have constructed for ourselves. Fry quotes Einstein as saying in reference to the nuclear age “everything has changed, save our modes of thinking.”

What society regards as unchangeable—our propensity to wage war—has no basis in fact. This is what Fry argues throughout his book. It is only what we have become accustomed to, what we have made true simply because we, as a society or a people or as a planet, believe it to be true.

Apparently, we construct all sorts of boxes, from our own personal enclosures to large, national and international constructs. But no matter how large the structures may be, they all depend on the beliefs of those within the box for their longevity. In the end, our own personal boxes are what decide what stands and what fails. If enough individuals learn to think outside their own little individual boxes, the larger boxes of society, nations or the international community cannot hope to contain them.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

At a discussion group last night i was reminded again of the quote by Mother Teresa concerning anti-war demonstrations. The exact quote is, “I was once asked why I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there.”

This quote keeps coming up, prodding me, demanding my attention as if there is something about it I’ve been missing. I understood the concept of an anti-war demonstration putting the emphasis on war, the very thing the demonstration is organized to protest. What other significance is there? I took another look at the quote and saw it in a different light. “Anti-war”, while trying to be positive, places the emphasis on something that is negative. Organizing a pro-peace rally would be something positive to be sure, but would that be the only alternative? The essence of Mother Teresa’s thinking, it seems to me, is not in anti-war vs. pro-peace, but in positive vs. negative. To counteract a negative thing, it does mo good to place great emphasis on something that is equally negative. What is needed is emphasis on something positive.

That would be a natural thing for Mother Teresa to propose, for was that not the message of her whole life? To combat the ills and injustices of the world she did what she could to heal some of those ills and injustices. So, in approaching great injustices such as war or other work of negativity, perhaps the best course would not be to simply oppose it, but rather to engage in some positive activity that would improve some other sector of life. That makes sense. If all the energy that goes into protest against negativity, were turned into positive improvement of some sector of existence, who knows what volume of good works might be accomplished. Eventually, such a practice of positive activity might become the more common endeavor.