WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED IN VEGAS??

It is a little past noon as I write this. I’m sitting in Urban Joe’s, a quaint coffee shop in West Allis, Wisconsin where I live. Curtis, a very charming and congenial young man is working with his wife Danielle. It would seem to be the prefect Monday, with one exception – Las Vegas.

Last night was the deadliest shooting in US history. 58 innocent people lost their lives. People on the television as well as in the coffee shop are musing as to what the motive may be and how could this even happen. Questions you may be asking yourself.

Routinely I am asked if the world seems to be getting worse. We hear about terror attacks across the globe and right next door. The level of divide between people seems to be growing.

To me the answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’. I believe, sadly, this sort of violence has been around nearly as long as mankind has. If we review the pages of history we can easily find examples of that. What has changed is the ‘closeness’ of the world. We can hear what happened across the globe seconds after it has transpired. We also hear about every incident. News that used to be relegated to the town it occurred in can now be viewed online by someone half way around the world.

There are two things I would like point out at this time. First is not to give in to the going of fear being pushed on us by the media. Let us not start treating each other with harshness based on judgements we have come to from world events. When we hear about certain groups of people perpetrating crimes it is easy to fall victim to the temptations to pass that judgement on to others who may belong to that group. The only way for us to overcome the social challenges that face us is through treating each other with love, respect and compassion. An “eye for an eye” mentality can only lead us to a blind world.

While we are on the subject of solutions, let us explore how we can help ourselves not feel overwhelmed by all the negative news we are exposed to. This is something I first wrote about in 2012 and several times sense. I refer to a story shared by one of my favorite philosophers, Mr. Fred Rodgers. He once shared a story of asking his mom about the negative news on the television. His mom gave him advice I think we could all use today. She told him, quite simply, “Look for the helpers.”

In the wake up both this tragic event, the recent hurricanes and earthquakes we have seen a flood of people rushing to help from across countries, to across the globe. These heroic efforts can get lost in the deluge of reporting on the Loss of property, lives and love for our fellow humanity. I encourage you to dig deep and read a few of these. See even in the darkest hours of humanity there are always beacons of light. Stay in love and light my friends.

SAME..BUT DIFFERENT

As we watch what is going on in our current political climate i am reminded of my great friend Cari. That is a picture of her above. Not only does she obviously have great taste in books (you can get a copy of that very book by clicking this link A Happy Life for Busy People) but she is one of the sweetest people I have the honor of having in my life. Cari literally will help anyone and everyone she can. When her friends are hurting, she is hurting. She is a great listener and has a kind word about everyone. She even bakes amazing cookies. 

Other than the fact I am grateful for my friend and can take a moment to brag on her,what is this post about? Here is something about Cari and I, when it comes to some very important issues we have major differences. We are both very spiritual people and lean heavily on our faith. It is one of the things that I respect most about Cari. She stands by her beliefs even when it is not the easiest thing to do. She also does her very best to not only stand by them, but live her faith as well. She ‘walks the walk’. She also expresses her faith quite openly.

One evening Cari and I met for dinner which ended up lasting several hours. We discussed at length our beliefs and how they would apply in certain situations. We discovered on a lot of issues, important ones, we were miles apart. On others our views were in direct conflict with each other. 

A discussion like that could lead to conflict between the two individuals. How often have we heard never to discuss religion and politics? Here is what came of the evening with my friend. We expressed our views openly and passionately while the other party listened with the intent of understanding and not to ‘correct’ or even contradict each other. On several issues we agreed to disagree and on others even incorporated each other’s belief to gain a more complete understanding. 

The reason i bring this up is to encourage all of us to do the same. We can obviously see on a bigger scale governments having difficulty doing this, but it starts at a fundamental level between two people. I encourage us all to search for common ground and learn to agree to disagree. You can certainly respect someone and their convictions even if you do not agree with them 100%. Feel free to share any ideas you have for doing so in the comments below. 

HOW TO TURN AN ENEMY INTO A FRIEND

This comes from the religious text of Islam. Without being Muslim myself, I have personally used this great secret often. Read the quote again. It shares with us the plan for turning enemies into friends. It also tells us what to do when we are faced with a negative, or evil situation. What is that? Repel it with what is better? Someone treats you harshly, treat them with love. Someone continually expresses views contrary to the ones you express? Treat their opinions with respect and consideration. Is this easy? Not at all.

Then why should we do it? Why, as the Quran urges us here, should we take the high road? If you look at the beginning of the quote is reminds us that good and evil deeds are not equal. Meaning that in the long run, doing good will be more powerful than doing bad. Thus, the quote instructs us to repel evil with what is better, not just what is opposite. I am a firm believer that good will always triumph over evil. Hitler, Stalin and lots of other famous evil doers had the final years of their lives filled with paranoia and suffering, even though at periods of time it seemed they may never be toppled.

Another reason why we should always counter evil with good, negative with positive is stated in the final line of this quote. The one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend. Enemies are a lot of stress. When we know there is someone who is against us we must always be on guard for deception and wrong-doing. This drains us of a lot of energy and physical well-being. So how do we turn enemies into friends? We cannot do so by force, or by proving our points or our person as superior to their own. The French revolution should be evidence of this. No, the only way we can turn the hearts of our enemies is through Love and compassion. The two most powerful tools against hate and evil.

Tomorrow we tie everything we have learned this week with one amazing example. I look forward to sharing that with all of you.

HOW TO ALL GET ALONG…

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This has always been one if my favorite bumper stickers. Recently the tragic events in Orlando have sparked some interesting debates. I have heard people speak out against the LGBT community,  I have heard certain people speak out against the Muslim community. There have been arguments on both side of the gun issue. There have been both praises and criticism of law enforcement and government. I even heard a republican broadcast mention the shooter was a registered democrat.

Whenever tragedy strikes people want to look for something to blame. It gives them comfort and a false sense that they can correct the ‘problem’ once they assign blame to what they think the problem may be. It is this kind of thinking that is the problem. Your sexual orientation does not make you kill people. Your ideology does not make you kill people. Certainly what political party you vote for does not make you more or less likely to commit violent acts. Yes, it would be easy (and very naïve) to say all members of this religion are bad, or if you vote in this political party you are to blame for all of the worlds ills. When I hear statements such as this it makes me think the person making them is not very well educated.

So what does cause people to harm others? To be filled with such hate that they resort to violence? It is the inability to coexist with others who are different from them. There are over 7 billion people on this planet and if we cannot get along with others who may do things that we would not every day will be a long day. I am not saying you have to be in agreement with everyone that would be ridiculous and very boring actually. Still, being able to afford others the right to believe the way they do even if we do not agree with it is a sign of a mature and cultured individual. I am not gay, but I have quite a few friends who are. To expect them to be straight because I am makes no more sense then if they were to ask me to be gay because they are. I am not Muslim so I do not celebrate Ramadan, but I certainly wouldn’t want to prevent my friends who do from doing so.

Ok, so what then is the answer to all of this senseless violence? I believe it is compassion and knowledge. For years I have encouraged people to explore other cultures and beliefs. If you do not agree with someone or something, get to know more about it. You may still not believe the same thing, but it will help you appreciate why they believe as they do. There have been several times when people I know who “hate” this group of people meet one of my friends who happen to fit into that group of people and tell me how nice they are. After they find out they belong to a group that the person believes is no good they end of feeling a little confused, silly and sometimes angry. I have even seen this with members of my own family. It is through this positive exposure that minds are slowly changed and beliefs questioned.

So what can we do? What is our part of the solution? First, learn all you can about the people you meet. Look for the good in them. Second, whatever you are, be a good one. If you are gay, be the nicest, most helpful gay person you can be. If you are a republican, be the most caring and compassionate republican you can. That is the only way you can truly change someone’s beliefs is through experience and education. Share all the positive aspects of who you are. If someone voices a strong dislike for it, try reaching them through education and compassion. If they persist in their hate all you can do is be shining example of how wrong they are and the only way to do that is by being an amazing human being.

Lastly, share this post. Let us educate everyone and let us all do our part to get along with those we may disagree with the most.

REMEMBERING

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Today marks the anniversary of the attacks in the US of the world Trade Center. It stands as a low point in humanities relating to one another. After the attacks Americans began to look for someone to blame. This is a  natural response to tragedy.  When I lived one is hurt or killed, or even the country you love you want payback.

Let us look at who really is to blame, what they tried to accomplish and how we can best pay them back. First, who is to blame. There are countless conspiracy theories out there,but I am just going to address the accepted version and the group that claimed responsibility, a extreme terrorist group.  What was their goal in taking all of these innocent lives?  To propagate racial fear and hatred and continue their holy war. How did they do? Considering the attitude towards those in the Muslim faith in America, pretty good.
I recall protests about a mosque being built near the sight of the attacks. “how dare they!” people shouted.  This very thinking is what those attackers tried to fuel.
So how can we pay them back? What is the best way to pay these people back for taking thousands of innocent lives? Making sure their goal and their endgame fail. When all the people began protesting the mosque I began to think, “this is just what they wanted” I would love to see a building with several of the major religions all in one. A Christian church on one side, a Buddhist temple on a second, a Muslim mosque on a third followed by perhaps a Hindu shrine? The biggest ‘middle finger’ we can give to those who were behind this attack would be to draw together.

Another reason this is good. Abraham Lincoln noted during the civil war that people divided are easier to conquer and control. If we unite in love, not only will we be a stronger force, we will not be lead astray by corrupt politicians or religious fanatics. Make no mistake, the attacks did not end 14 years ago. They continue to this day with the racial and cultural hatred running rampant in todays world. Think you are hating the ‘bad guy’? Think again. I know many people of many different cultures and beliefs. Some are bad, most are amazing people. When you judge someone based on anything other than who they are as a person, you are helping further the cause of terror groups everywhere. The best revenge we can enact is to learn to love our brothers and sisters on this planet. When the people of the earth unite as one we will be able to accomplish great things. No act by an extreme few will again be able to tear us apart and create fear.

So do your part to fight terrorism today. Learn about a culture different than yours. Hang out with people who are wonderful, yet different than you. Myself? I am going to work with my French/Irish girlfriend and hopefully we will see our German, Asian, African-American, Hispanic friends. Do you know what we will do? Love them all and by doing so telling those who wish to create fear and hatred in the world to kiss our ass. Let’s all learn to love and forget how to hate.

JAMES AND A CUP OF COFFEE

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Here is my current work situation,  a small table in the corner of a local Starbucks. I was deep in thought with the current post I was writing for this site when an interesting thing happened. A gentleman approached me and asked me if I could help him fix the Facebook messenger on his phone. My knowledge of technology does not rank near the top of the pile, but I told him to go into his app setting and try updating them. A few minutes later I was working away and the same kind gentleman came over to thank me and let me know that it worked. There was something in his approach and genuine sincerity that made his interruptions a pleasure. So as I watched him return to his seat a few tables away I felt the urge to share with him this site. What happened next is proof you should listen to your hunches. I went over there and give him my card. He thanked me and explained he could really use some motivation because in addition to being recently divorced he had just returned from a trip to Syria, where he was from, in which he was lucky to get out of the country. He explained to me the trouble was while he was there he was under suspicion because he was an American citizen. So he finally returns and guess what happens when a person of the Muslim faith returns from Syria? Yes again suspicion. He explained how frustrated he felt because he loved both countries and yet both of them were suspicious of him. We went on discussing our beliefs on compassion and life philosophy. We exchanged phone numbers and he even mentioned he might have an idea for my next book. All of this because I had the good fortune of helping a gentleman with his cell phone issues and trusting my hunches. There are many lessons that can be taken away from this, but I will leave today’s lessons up to your interpretation.

SAVE YOURSELF!

English: A "Jesus Saves" neon cross ...

English: A “Jesus Saves” neon cross sign on a church in Alphabet City in New York. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This month Christians around the world have been celebrating Christmas. This holiday represents the birth of Jesus Christ, their savior. Hopefully all have had an enjoyable and healthy holiday season. Different spiritual beliefs all have their own saviors. A figure that will bring them to salvation. What is salvation? Well with slight variations on the term it means deliverance from a life lived on a lower plane to one lived on a higher plan. It involves forgiveness of the things we have said and done wrong to ourselves and to others. No matter what spiritual belief you follow, or if you follow none at all there is a savior we all have in common. This person can lead us from a life of despair and depression to one filled with passion and joy. They can fill our hearts with love and forgiveness. They know our pains and our hurts and have the best information to heal us and deliver us to a new and amazing life. So who is this person and how can they know all of our deepest feelings? Don’t worry it is not some secret operative or a government conspiracy. No this savior, this person who can reveal to us a whole new life can be found in the same place whether we are Muslim, Hindu, Christian or have no spiritual yearnings what so ever. Are they in a secret temple? Are they found deep in a mysterious forest? No. This great leader can be found in rather humble place…the bathroom; the mirror to be specific. That’s right you are your own savior. The anger and pain in our hearts is kept alive by one person, ourselves. Sure, you can blame the person who broke your heart, but that was their action. We can not control others words or actions. We can, however, control what they mean to us. Are there some feelings of hurt or pain in your heart preventing more joy and love from entering? Have you been carrying a grudge that poisons your emotions and outlook on life? It is time to let it go! Do not know how? Think of the savior you follow. If it is Jesus, what do you think he would say and do to save a soul like you? Would Mohammad let you settle for a life that is less than your worth? It is time to view yourself as someone who both needs to be saved and can do some saving. Do not view yourself in a condescending manner, but one filled with concern and compassion. What could you to live a life of love and forgiveness and well as one with passion and meaning? If you do not know, study, find out, do whatever it takes. Your life is one that is worth saving and you are one powerful savior!