Sunday Mornings …

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.

Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor 161 – 180


When the Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote those mindful words little could he know just how busy life could become two millennia later and how special a morning could be to relish life as he wrote back then. So while each day we arise is a gift, nowadays most Monday through Friday mornings leave little time to languish “… to think, to enjoy, to love.” For me, that kind of morning is a Sunday morning. Sunday morning is mid-weekend. Not yet thinking about the workweek – a full day of the weekend is still before me.

Sunday morning is and I dare say should be a selfish time. And why not? Leisurely having a coffee in bed or even a full breakfast, reading the news or a good book, watching sports highlights from the night before on my laptop, writing, blogging or even daydreaming – Sunday morning is the perfect time to do whatever one desires. To spend it in the company of your kids curled up in bed with you is exquisite. To share that sequestered time with a loved one is precious. Even allowing your pet into bed with you one morning a week is what Sunday morning is all about.

We need to construct this special time for us – and make it selfishly good for us. It is an endeavour to recharge our batteries. Slowing down our mind, attempting to turn off the busyness of the often-hectic five weekdays is recharging our batteries. If you don’t do it for you – who will?

Many will say it is not possible. “I don’t have the luxury to do nothing on a Sunday morning. Too many people depend on me for this that or another.” The old cliché says, “Take care of yourself first or you will have nothing left to give to others.”

Sunday mornings are also times for me to be grateful for what I have in my life – and I don’t have everything or everyone I want in it – but grateful for all that I do have. I am also grateful to meet special people in the course of my day and I think this next Sunday I will reflect on one person in particular. I recently met an extraordinary individual. He does not have an extraordinary job, in fact it is completely blue collar, nor is he blessed with abundant riches. But as we attempted to discuss business, we somehow found the majority of our conversation diverting to more heartfelt and soulful matters. It is hard to explain why this happened. I then learned that this middle-aged individual and his wife had cultivated a unique relationship with a young autistic girl and despite having apparently limited means themselves took her on a trip of a lifetime to Disney World in Florida. As he was gleefully recounting the experience to me his face was glowing not merely with joy of this “good deed” – but contentment with life. I am doubtful this man has had an easy life himself. While his hands were encrusted with the unmistakable marks of decades long, hard laborious work – his soul was as soft as the skin on a newborn child. I am deeply grateful to have met him.

I can’t wait for the next Sunday morning and recharge.

Wishing you too – joy and discovery in your life.

Why do we preach to the converted? Lessons of Martin Luther King Jr.

No doubt, somewhere within your world you are on a metaphorical team. It is your team. The players are all familiar – one of them is also you. The members of your team are all gunning for the same outcome – which to win in some way shape or form! It is Us versus Them – well, you have heard me rant about that before. Most sports teams have cheerleaders. Quite typically representing the outwardly attractive looking of the human species (male as well as female) that bounce, shout and perform their way into our hearts and groins cajoling support for “our” team. But why do I need to watch cheerleaders perform when the Boston Bruins or Manchester United already have my firm and devoted backing? Or put another way – why preach to the converted?

I used to subscribe to a particular newspaper here in Toronto because it ardently spoke to my political issues. This piece of journalism not only had more news items that warmed my heart and spoke to my spirit, but the content of it’s editorial page I found to be rarely contentious (to my way of thinking) and the letters to the editor were populated by opinions I enjoyed (interpret as supported) written by a regular cadre of faithful and devoted letter writers. I would rather read what felt good, seek out comments of those who thought like me and rant to others about “them” to other members of my team.

The difficulty I had with this is as follows: Was I growing or learning anything from that insulated experience? And what if I was wrong in some way? If so was I fortifying a perspective that was without challenge or reproach?

I am often bemused when on social media, individuals will quite graphically bring to the unrequited attention of their “friends” or “followers” articles, memes and the like highlighting and supporting with irrefutable evidence the justification of the correctness of their side – the “us” side. This is akin to convincing me of liking the Boston Bruins. Ya – I already do – so what is your point?

My point here has nothing to do with an allegiance to a sports team. And a cheerleader is an innocuous and trifling analogy on my part. I am talking about substance, the likes of which that helped to create a man like Martin Luther King Jr. MLK’s messages were the outright antithesis of “preaching to the converted”. He preached to those who were down so that they may rise. He preached to those who needed to hear who were deaf to the truth. He preached to those who were resistant to changing the way things were. Martin Luther King Jr. never preached to the converted. His was a mission of a cultural inflection point and it was wretchedly cut short. His unfinished mission must continue. It is desperately needed today.

So what is our point of “preaching to the converted” over and over again? Some positions are so relatively extreme that any friends of opposing viewpoints have either already unfriended you or you them. I personally know of this only too well. Therefore who is left on our “friend” list are those with your same intolerant and intractable viewpoints. And whom then are you trying to convince? Yourself perhaps? Against a wave of bitterness it is “us” who cling to the past. It is “us” who need to convince ourselves that our position is good and right. I do believe that it is not Us vs Them – it is after all Us vs Us …

Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” MLK

Does this make you uncomfortable?

“The more something upsets you, the more it is meant for you. When it no longer upsets you, it is no longer needed because the lesson is complete.” Bryant McGill

Have you ever stopped to ruminate on why another person’s idea, just an idea causes another to become upset? In particular, when this notion is prima facie an anathema to what we recognize as a core value, how does that make you feel? A liberal may scoff and dismiss as extremist a conservative’s viewpoint on national security. A conservative may ridicule as naïve a liberal’s position on gun control. Don’t fancy what you are hearing on religion – well, the late Howard Cosell said it best. “Don’t get me started.”

Do you hold so strongly to a position that debate, even within your own mind is not tolerable? Are you so rigid that when catching-wind of this opposing view you shut down, refuse to consider another viewpoint and then cast dispersions on not only the contrary perspective but on the deliverer of that rationale too?

Over the past few months since I began to write in this space, some of my propositions have lets say aggravated certain people causing a few of them to request or demand be removed from my email list – to which I immediately complied. There have been a few with visceral reactions akin to me committing some sort of theological or intraracial crime. Those who oppose my positions – that I am aware of – fall principally into three camps:

  1. A fully self and intellectually aware individual who after reading my piece has an honest difference of opinion
  2. A person who doesn’t read the blog in it’s entirety or only sees the title and make up their “mind” negatively about the unread content – and tells others
  3. A potentially doctrinaire individual who reads the piece but does not see the words before them

Clearly it would be superfluous of me to detail my opinions of the three examples any further. I know that beyond cordial disagreement I have touched a sensitive nerve or two for some of you – not my intention at all. My intention is merely to write what I feel yet aware of the possibility of crossing one of your lines in the sand. But that is okay as it my truth that I pen. But what is it that makes you uncomfortable? My ideas? Or are they your thoughts and opinions – the ones you cling to unwaveringly yet not fully comprehending why?

I challenge us all to be honest about our undesirable reactions to other mind-sets where we don’t find concurrence. Why do we sometimes disagree with opposing viewpoints so fiercely and categorically? Are we afraid of exposing an incongruity in ourselves? Are we fearful of potential self-change from these steadfast positions? Do we find comfort and safety in our rigidity despite the consequences? Do we feel trapped in some way? Trapped to the past, to a ritual of the way things have always been? “How can he write that – he used to think as I did … what has happened to him?” I believe and have come to understand through my past experiences that our own negativity or animosity to almost anything has much more to do with what is going on inside us than outside us – with others.

I will close with the instructive words of American writer John Gardner.

 “Self-renewing individuals are versatile and adaptive. They avoid being trapped in the procedures and routines of the moment or being wholly imprisoned by fixed habits and attitudes.”

Here is to many more lessons … for all of us.