“Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best” (Henry Van Dyke).
When I was twelve, my family moved to Bryn Athyn. I was excited to move to a congregation with other church people my age who cared about the things I loved so much. I was disappointed. I found few kindred spirits, but at the time I mostly felt mocked for my strong convictions. In the spring of that year, we had dance classes. With 27 girls and far fewer boys, it did not bode well. The rule was that once the first batch of girls were asked, it was assumed the boys would ask the “leftover” girls for the next dance. Then once all the girls had been chosen, they could re-ask the other more popular girls.
One day when I was standing in the reject corner (like I did every week), all the other “second class” girls were picked before me. I watched as one boy took one look at me, chose to ignore the rule, and went back to the popular corner. I wanted to cry. Instead, I just walked over to join the other girls who were not dancing. It left me wondering what I had done wrong to deserve such treatment. Was I not good enough? I repeated this question to myself over and over, feeling like I was inferior to everyone else.
Looking back, I can clearly see that I was not the problem in that equation. Perhaps the boy who snubbed me was just thoughtless. Perhaps he was dealing with his own inadequacies. Either way, I did not need to take it personally, but I did of course. I was an insecure girl and it hurt. Continue reading Leaving Inadequacy Behind
Step one: identify the problem. Step two: come up with a solution. Step three: solve the problem. I understand this process of problem solving and yet somehow I find myself time and again getting stuck between steps two and three. It’s all well and good to come up with a solution; to understand how to solve my problems but putting that solution into action appears to be harder than it sounds. That disconnect between our thoughts and our actions is hard one. We can have all sorts of plans and ideals going around and around in our minds, and yet actually living our lives according to those ideals and plans can go very wrong.
There is a little known German fairy tale, first recorded by the Grimm brothers, titled, “The Shreds” that shows how important it is to not only think what is good but to do what is good as well.
It is a short little story about a beautiful girl who is so lazy that while she is spinning thread and comes upon a knot, she will pull off the knot and throw it on the ground. Her maidservant, on the other hand, is so industrious that she picks up these threads, cleans them, and weaves into a dress. A young man falls in love with the lazy maiden and they are betrothed, but on their wedding day, the maidservant wears the dress she wove from the shreds and dances in it. The beautiful maiden complains and tells her bridegroom that the dress is made from her shreds. The young man, then sees how lazy the beautiful maid is compared to her maidservant and he decides to marry the maidservant instead.
This is a clear cautionary tale against laziness, but using Swedenborg’s science of correspondences, a more spiritual meaning can be seen as well. Continue reading Shredded Truth
When I get anxious I withdraw. Or maybe it’s simpler to say that only when I’m not anxious do I fully participate. There’s something small to be anxious about almost all the time. Something to be processing, holding, understanding, or accomplishing, and a need to do it “right.”
This last year has been an anxious one for me, and so one of near constant withdrawal – even as the loneliness and isolation has become a part of the problem. I have gotten a lot of things “right” this year in terms of my priorities – my kids and my marriage are pretty solid. We are happy in our day to day interactions. But something’s been missing for me, and I’ve been reflecting recently that I think it comes from too much separation. I’ve been holding back so as not to be overwhelmed, but held back so much that I’ve let go of some of the things that make life full and joyful. Continue reading A Life in the World
It was lunch time on a Tuesday afternoon and I was starving. As I perused the menu options I considered which would serve the purposes of both filling my painfully empty stomach and be the most pleasing for my taste buds while doing so. When I saw tacos in the hot line my heart skipped a beat. I could barely control my excitement as I gingerly carry my two overstuffed pockets of cheesy, meaty goodness to my usual table. After witnessing my first rather ravenous bite, one of my teachers inquired as to the quality of my meal. I replied through a second bite that the tacos were delicious. Despite a slightly skeptical look, my teacher quitted the table presumably to retrieve his own plate of tacos. It was not long after his return, however, that he indignantly informed me that I lied to him and the tacos were no good at all.
This anecdote serves as a platform on which to introduce a few questions on the matters of opinion, honesty, and truth: How should an opinion be formed and what use does it serve? How valuable is an “honest” opinion? Do opposing opinions invalidate each other or should we accept the opinions of others? Is even the truth simply an opinion? The irony of these questions is that one can try to answer them but even those answers are little more than an individual’s perspective. So keep in mind that what follows is only one humble but honest opinion.
According to the Oxford dictionary, an opinion is defined as, “A view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.” This makes sense since anybody can have an opinion on any topic with little to no knowledge to back it up. Doctrine is similar to an opinion except that it is an interpretation based on our understanding of the word which has an internal meaning that is the Truth. A refined doctrine is based off a great deal of fact and knowledge of the Word. According to the teachings of the New Church doctrine must be formed by interpreting the Word and learning doctrine taught by others (Sacred Scripture 53). First you start with a foundational doctrine, which you need in order to understand the word because without doctrine the internal meaning of the word is impossible to comprehend (Sacred Scripture 51). Then you must go to the word on your own to discover more truths. You can then mold your personal doctrine based on your foundational doctrine and your new found truths from the Word. This process can be seen in the formation of opinion as well. Continue reading An Honest Opinion