Thursday, June 19, 2014

Some thoughts on my "road less traveled"

Earlier this year, I wrote an essay to explain why I am in college, pursuing my dream of a degree in philosophy. The essay I wrote explained a lot about my personal philosophy of a life redeemed.

This is how I see my "road less traveled."

Not many of us get second chances; I am one who has been gifted with a second chance at reaching for dreams I did not know I even had.

This is a tiny bit of "me" that I am sharing below; an edited version of my scholarship essay.

     In 2007 I was working a second-shift job on an assembly line.  I had the chance to try finishing my college education through tuition reimbursements. I found that I could take classes on-line. Once I started taking classes again, I began having successes. I found that I really was smart; this is what slowly unraveled the entrapping web of lies that had been told to me all my life.

     As Robert Frost wrote, I have decided to take this “path less traveled” and I have found that it is making “all the difference.”  I have reexamined what my definition is of success, and I am striving after something different. I am after a type of success that involves the satisfaction of developing my intellect and to concisely share my ideas; this is my new life’s adventure!

     I have discovered that so much of what people value are mere “things,” useless toys which rust and break; but developing real wisdom and creativity are things that can never be taken from you; things which I believe stay with you forever.

     I have lost much in this life, but the treasure of learning tempers the losses with a deep and abiding joy. I have friends who give me support, and I have the pleasure in learning and growing.  To be on this road “less traveled by” is making all the difference.

     This difference is with me every morning. No longer do I struggle to find reasons to get up, and out of bed; instead… 

  • I get up in the morning to the bright colors of the sunrise; knowing there are new academic challenges awaiting me.

  • I get up in the morning because of the adventure of a new day.

  • I get up in the morning because the air is fresh, and the mountains are waiting!

  • I get up in the morning because I live a beautiful and fulfilling life.

     I get up in the morning because I am finally free: free to make my own decisions, free to wear what I like, free to listen to the music that makes my spirit soar, free to color outside the lines; but most of all, I’m finally free to pursue the education possibilities I never had before.

     I have decided to explore this road less traveled, a life of fulfillment and yes, insecurity; but one that brings me great joy. I feel fully alive, living boldly the dream that I can achieve anything I put my mind to. Sometimes we need to leave behind the stories we were told by family, culture, and conditioning, and break down the mold of what it means to be a woman. Am I any less feminine because of my pursuit  advanced education? No, my gender is irrelevant to my goals, and my age is irrelevant as well; at least I think it should be.

     I feel that I have something valuable to contribute in this life. I believe that philosophy needs more women’s voices.  I believe that the great ancient philosophers have words that can still teach us today. That we can learn the value of virtue, to recall what Eudemonia means, and what human flourishing is all about.

     If we decide that there really is some magic limit to learning, that there is a time for us to stop trying, that one should just keep your head down and grind at the mill, and let go of your dreams: this is how we lose our humanity. There is something vital and strong about striving, about pushing your old limits, about not quitting, and stepping out fearlessly. You can dig deep within yourself to find those hidden resources of courage, bravery and the strength to grab that next handhold in this climb out of the valley of despair. 

Remember…The air is fresh and the mountains are waiting!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

From "The Christian Experience of Forgiveness" by H.R. Mackintosh

A quote from the chapter, “The Divine Reaction Against Sin” in The Christian Experience of Forgiveness

“…[S]hould we dream of describing as good or loving one whom we believe to be incapable of anger at wrong-doing? Just here is found one of the difficulties of which earnest but not very clear headed people are conscious when they are being urged to forgive an injury. They hesitate, because to pardon looks like confessing that their anger was reprehensible; whereas they know, without reasoning, that in the circumstances anger was not only permissible but obligatory. Lack of indignation at wickedness is a sign, not of a poor nature only, but of positive unlikeness to Jesus Christ…Unless we sophisticate ourselves, we all feel this. Intentional discourtesy, the calculated ruin of purity, an act of savagery to a child—he is not to be envied who can look on calmly when such things are done. For beings like us, doubtless, it is hard to be angry and not sin, but we must not turn this frailty into a proof that wrath is inconsistent with Holy Love.
     Occasionally the flank of our difficulty seems to be turned by the phrase that God is angry not with sinners but with their sin. And it would be pedantry to cavil at such an expression when used colloquially or in poetry:

           Thou judgest us: thy purity
           Doth all our lust condemn;
           The love that draws us nearer Thee
           Is hot with wrath to them.

     None the less, the phase when insisted on is a misleading catchword. There is no such thing as sin apart from a sinner, any more than pleasure could be real, in pure abstraction, irrespectively of a pleased consciousness. The one fact in the case is the sinful life to which God’s attitude invariably is personal. To be angry with a thing—and sin abstracted from sinner is no more –ranks as a moral absurdity. The man who spitefully kicks the stool over which he has tripped in the dark has for the moment become irrational. Anger, the anger of moral love, can only be directed upon moral beings. If therefore it is permissible to speak of God’s wrath, it is with sinners—with ourselves when we defy love—that His wrath has to do. (p 144-145)

The Christian Experience of Forgiveness. H.R. Mackintosh (1961, Glasgow, Fontana Books)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Some thoughts on Friendship

In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis writes of the often overlooked variety of love we call friendship, and notes how few “modern people” think this type of companionship is even love at all.

But in our highly computerized lives; the face-to-face, or better yet, the side-by-side human contact of friendship is vital to keep us mentally and spiritually grounded and connected as persons. There is something so important about having a real conversation with someone you can see, that you can reach over and touch, which helps reinforce the fact you are really not alone.

Lewis writes of the start of friendship growing from a moment of companionship, where two or more of the companions share something that “…each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’” That moment when you realize a companion shares something you consider valuable, and that you believed was somewhat unique.

This moment is especially poignant when you both realize that you understand the life-reorientation that happens after deep suffering or personal tragedy. Here is another person who does understand not only that life-does-go-on, but that we are forever changed by suffering; and neither of us want to go back there, or stay stagnant where we are now. 

But remember that this chance at friendship would not happen without the agreement to meet for-real, and in-person; you can’t hide your experience behind a computer screen, and you can’t know a person by seeing their profile photo. To see in another’s eyes the comprehension of how life can change, and how you can go on, is only something a longer-lived-life can teach.

That is a real blessing from God that the virtual world cannot supply.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Excerpt from Seneca's "On Anger"

Here are some excerpts from Lucius Annaeus Seneca’s book On Anger.

To put Seneca into historical context, he was a part of  Emperor Gaius staff; and emperor we know better as Caligula, and after an exile, ended up working as an advisor to Caesar Nero. Nero ordered Seneca to kill himself in 65AD.

To give you a bit more interesting context, the person addressed in this book On Anger  is a person named Novatus.  Seneca wrote this book sometime before 51-52 AD, because Novatus’ name changed (by adoption) to Lucius Iunius Gallio Annaeanus; and he was named the proconsul of Achaea, the same Gallio named in Acts 18:12. Gallio's words are recorded in Acts 18:14-15 “If you Jew were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter ourselves. I will not be judge of such things.”

Seneca's book On Anger, was written to educate on the danger of allowing anger reign in the rational mind, according to Stoic teaching.

To Novatus on Anger: Book 2 Book 4 of the Dialogues

 22 (3) Don’t lend your ears too easily to accusers. It’s a flaw in human nature, well known to us and regarded with mistrust, that we’re glad to believe what we don’t want to hear, and we grow angry before we judge. (4) What of the fact that we’re moved not only by accusations but by suspicions, and that we grow angry at innocent people because we’ve put the worse construction on someone else’s look and laugh? One must plead the case of the absent party against one’s own interests and keep anger suspended. Punishment postponed can still be exacted, but punishment exacted cannot be undone.


24 Credulity does the most mischief. Often you shouldn’t even lend an ear, for in some matters it’s better to be deceived than to mistrust. You should entirely eliminate suspicion and guesswork, the most unreliable goads to anger: “that man greeted me with too little warmth. That man separated himself too quickly from my kiss. That man quickly broke off a conversation I’d begun. That man didn’t invite me to dinner. That man had a rather unfriendly look. (2) suspicion will find proof to support it; straightforwardness is wanted, and a kindly judgment. Let’s believe nothing save what stares us in the face and is caught red-handed, and let’s scold our credulity whenever our suspicion has been shown to be empty. For this sort of scolding will make us slow to believe as a matter of habit.


28 “If we want to be fair judges in all matters, let’s first convince ourselves that none of us is without fault. For this is the source of the greatest indignation, the thought ‘I’m without sin’ and ‘I did noting’: no, rather, you admit nothing. We resent it when we’re chastened by a word of rebuke or some restraint, though at that very moment we’re doing wrong by adding arrogance and defiance to our misdeeds. (2) Who’s that man there who claims he’s innocent before all laws? Even thought that might be so, what a pinched innocence it is to be ‘legally good.’ How much more broadly the norm of appropriate actions extends than the rule of law! (3) But we cannot even represent ourselves as satisfying that very narrow definition of innocence: some things we’ve done, others we’ve planned, some we’ve hoped for, other still we’ve supported; in some cases we’re innocent only because we didn’t get our way.”

Seneca: Anger, Mercy, Revenge. Translated by Robert A. Kaster and Martha C. Nussbaum (2010, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press)