Sunday, May 29, 2011

Living As God In This World

Yesterday I attended a workshop at my spiritual centre, Unity Kitchener, and was introduced to the book "Heart-Centered Metaphysics" by Paul Hasselbeck, a Unity leader and author. My friend Susan graciously let me borrow it overnight and when I was flipping through it last night I came across something interesting.

At one point Hasselbeck writes about stumbling blocks in our relationship with God. Something he said re-ignited a belief in me that has lay dormant for some time now. He writes that referring to ourselves as sons or daughters of God can actually be a stumbling block. Now, I grew up believing that there was primary Son of God, that being Jesus, but all those who believed in him were also sons and daughters, or children of God. Throughout the last few years, even as the beliefs of my origins have been fading in the rear-view mirror, I have still occasionally used the term "children of God." But it has been becoming more uncomfortable for me.

The reason that I kept using this term the last few years was because I believe so much of the spiritual life is about relationship. Indeed, I used to believe that there was literally a relationship within God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) though I could never fully wrap my mind around that one - who could?

But now, while I still believe relationships are hugely vital in this life, so is oneness.

After personally doing away with the terms "children of God" or "sons and daughters of God," I began to use the term "expression of God." It seemed to bring humanity a little closer to God, and it was effective for a couple of years. But alongside the imagery of us being expressions of God came another thought that I've tried to keep buried for the most part since it first arose within my mind. The thought is this:

We are not children of God.

We are not sons and daughters of God.

We are not expressions of God.

We are God, in the flesh.

To my family within Unity as well as many others reading this, this may be nothing new or surprising. To others, it is blasphemous.

But I believe it, I've heard the inner voice telling it to me again, and it's about time that I follow it. Oneness. God is not someone separate from us who wants to be worshiped. God is being born into the world as us and wants to experience life!

Life is not about learning new beliefs in order to become better or more acceptable to an outside Being. Life is about remembering what we have forgotten! There is very short story that I heard quite awhile ago that I want to share with you:

A young couple had one little girl and a new baby. The little girl wanted to be left alone with the baby but the parents were afraid. They had heard of jealous children hitting new siblings, and they didn’t want the baby hurt.

“No, no,” they said. And, “Not yet.” And also: “Why do you want to be with him? What are you going to do?”

“Nothing, I just want to be alone with him.”

She begged for days. She was so insistent that the parents finally agreed. There was an intercom in the baby’s room. They decided that they could listen and if the baby cried, if the little girl hit the baby, they could rush into the room and snatch the infant up. So, the little girl went in, approached the crib. Alone. She came up to the newborn baby, and over the intercom they heard her whisper, “Tell me about God. I’m forgetting.”

Similarly, after service this morning at Unity Kitchener as my friends and I walked the pathway toward the parking lot, ahead of us was this little boy, around 2 years old. He was wandering all around, exploring, playing, picking dandelions. I turned to my friend and said, "Why do people have to grow up?"

How easily we forget our true divine nature.

What are the repercussions if, instead of being separate from God, we are God in the flesh? The first is incredible power. Jesus, who knew himself as God, demonstrated great power. But he didn't stop there. He then turned to his followers and said "You will do even greater things!" We, as God, have the power to do so many things and to heal so many diseases. The power truly is within! Unity teaches that we change our lives by changing our thought patterns. I completely agree.

Does it make me haughty or boastful to say "I am God?" Not at all. I can say "I am God" and still be a selfless, humble person.

Does "being God" mean that I have all the answers? No, of course not. That's why meditation, prayer, and relationships with others are vital, so i can increase my knowledge.

Living as God means saying goodbye to "never being good enough," and to always trying to be more acceptable.

Living as God also means taking responsibility for our world.

Living as God means seeing not just myself or those within my spiritual community, but ALL people as God.

Blessings to you today on your spiritual journey!

Mark Andrew

Suggested Reading - Living As God: Healing The Separation by P. Raymond Stewart

Thursday, May 26, 2011

On Giving & Receiving Love Freely

The following is an excerpt from The Inner Voice Of Love, a book/journal by Henri Nouwen. Afterward I will make a few comments:

Give Gratuitously

"Your love, insofar as it is from God, is permanent. You can claim the permanence of your love as a gift from God. And you can give that permanent love to others. When others stop loving you, you do not have to stop loving them. On a human level, changes might be necessary, but on the level of the divine, you can remain faithful to your love.

One day you will be free to give gratuitous love, a love that does not ask for anything in return. One day also you will be free to receive gratuitous love. Often love is offered to you, but you do not recognize it. You discard it because you are fixed on receiving it from the same person to whom you gave it.

The great paradox of love is that precisely when you have claimed yourself as God's beloved child, have set boundaries to your love, and thus contained your needs, you begin to grow into the freedom to give gratuitously."


I want to hone in on Nouwen's second last paragraph where he says a couple of things. Firstly, he states that one day we will be free to give a gratuitous love, one that does not ask for anything in return. I think that this can take a long time for some of us, to be able to give love without any type of hidden agenda. Sometimes those agendas are known to us, some are deep in our subconscious. Still, there can be reasons or expectations that we have when we give love to people. Perhaps we are trying to fill a sense of inadequacy in ourselves, maybe we are trying to get over a failed relationship. And we think the best way to be healed is for someone to love us, and in order to obtain that we must try to love them. If you do this, don't beat yourself up over it, millions of people have done it. But now you're conscious of it and can break free from the bad habit. You can move onto a purer love, one that has no strings attached. It is a love where you truly are thinking solely of the other person's well-being.

The second point that Nouwen makes is that we often don't recognize love because it comes from someone we didn't expect it to come from. We can become so fixated on one person or one experience for our source of love that we become blinded. Nouwen suggests that we give our love away gratuitously, selflessly, without need of being loved in return by the person or persons we gave our love to. This is where trust in God comes in. If we indeed fully trust in Spirit, we can know we are held in Her embrace and that someway, somehow, Love will find us. Yes, Love will fill us to overflowing. We are no longer tied to just one or two sources of love. This is an abundant Universe and Love comes to us in a multitude of ways.

Blessings on you today,

Mark Andrew

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I Will Not Give In To Any Religion Of Fear

As 6pm approached on Saturday wherever you happen to live, you most likely fell into one of two camps. Firstly, there are those who from the outset recognized Harold Camping's apocalyptic predictions as nonsense and you had some fun with it. But perhaps you found yourself in a second group who, while also believing his predictions were foolish, you found yourself asking "What if?" I found myself in the second group a couple of times over the past 2 days.

The Rapture and the end times were always events that I was fixated on while growing up as an evangelical Christian. I ate up books about The Mark of the Beast, and books authored by Grant Jeffrey, and I even caught cheesy 70's movies based on the end times. I got so worked up about things and so afraid, even though I was a Christian, that I would occasionally get up in the middle of the night to peek into my parents room to make sure they were still on the planet - true story. I was always afraid that I hadn't been good enough and that I had been left behind.

But I will no longer subscribe to any religion that wields fear as a weapon, particularly eternal damnation. Indeed, the question of Hell was one of the first big theological questions to come to my mind which in turn led me to leave evangelicalism 10 years ago. "Are people really going to be cast into a lake of fire if they don't believe in Jesus? And who is to say who really believes in Jesus correctly?" Others ask "How could a loving God send people to Hell," and they are often met with the clever response "God doesn't sent people to Hell, people do that themselves." I now believe that the concept of Hell was originally conjured up in order to scare people into believing whatever the powers that be wanted their followers to believe. What better image to scare "the Hell" out of people than to tell them that if they don't believe a) b) & c) that they will burn in an everlasting lake of fire. Finally, on the topic of Hell, people tend to liken God as to a Father. If this is the case, which parent among you has ever sent their child to their room...eternally. A literal Hell is just as ridiculous.

I will no longer be scared into believing anything. Instead I will be drawn in by love, kindness, inclusivity, and peace. Could I be wrong on some of my views? Sure, and that's fine by me. But I will not threaten those who disagree with my religious views with an everlasting lake of fire or impending doom.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

This Sneaking Suspicion


I've got this sneaking suspicion that things are really the other way around.

I've got a feeling that somewhere, somehow we learned fear and sadness and pain, but they are all illusions. They sure seem real, but they are like fog that is meant to dissipate and not remain.

I've got a feeling that the happiness, the peace and contentment that we have been craving, that we've been dying for, are much closer than we've thought.

If only we wouldn't attach to our fears or to our pain. If only we'd learn to quickly let them go. Then we could breathe in peace.

Then we could again dream big dreams and feel empowered to carry them out.

Do I believe in God or is it all a big charade and a bunch of words.

We can be transformed by the renewing of our minds as we consciously let go of our pain and instead trust fully that Life wants the very best for us.

Happiness, peace, joy and love are not for "the others," not for those who seem to get all the breaks. They are for you and I, if we would only free our minds and believe.

It won't be easy at first, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it is more than doable. Let's have the lives we've always wanted.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Just For The Hell Of It: Wading Into the Debate Over The After-Life

Today I entered into an unexpected conversation with someone in a professional situation when I casually mentioned that I was on the Board of Directors at my church. “Which church is that?” she asked. Now, whenever someone asks me that question, I have to do my best to briefly clarify that Unity is not a traditional, fundamentalist Christian church. “It has roots in Christianity, but it is quite liberal and inclusive,” I said. And then she said, “Oh, kind of like Rob Bell?” “Nope, I think we'd go beyond Rob Bell.”

If you're unfamiliar with Rob Bell and the recent controversy, he's a Christian author who, many say goes “way beyond Christian orthodoxy” by saying in his new book “Love Wins” that God saves everybody from Hell.” I must confess I haven't read the book, but I'm sure I'd find it interesting, and that he doesn't go far enough for my liking.

Recently, speaking of the idea of Hell, the VP of Communications for Unity (of which I am a member), Paula Koppel quoted another author, Dr. Tom Shepherd,who said the following in his book Friends in High Places:

“Only the conservative fringe of Christianity still clings to the charred edges of hell in a vain attempt to convince people that a fiery afterlife awaits evil-doers. The idea of eternal punishment is considered so repugnant to the modern mind, so immoral and sub-Christian, that it has been summarily dismissed from the discussions of religious scholars.” (p. 25)

“Wow, (Coppel writes), I thought, could we really be finally outgrowing these mythical beliefs that not only defy logic and common sense, but also demean and insult the image of a loving, forgiving God?

I read on:

“However, the general population remains unaware of [this] because church leaders on the Religious Right make a lot more noise than the moderate center-left majority. Consequently, the conservatives have succeeded in convincing the public that ‘turn-or-burn’ is not only prevalent but the only authentic Christian doctrine. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Shepherd then quotes an Anglican theologian John Macquarrie, who, as academic chair of theology at Oxford, once stated:

“Needless to say, we utterly reject the idea of a hell where God everlastingly punishes the wicked, without hope of deliverance … Rather we must believe that God will never cease from his quest for universal reconciliation, and we can firmly hope for his victory in this quest …”

Now let me chat for a bit in response to the above quotes. Firstly, I don't agree that it is only a “conservative fringe” that still believes in a literal Hell where sinners go. I for one grew up saturated with this belief within my evangelical, fundamentalist denomination (Brethren In Christ), and the notion of Hell was in the Christian music I listened to, in the books, and even on T-shirts. Secondly, I do agree, along with the Anglican quoted, that there are many many people within Christendom who do not believe in Hell and have rejected it summarily. Here, though I would state that a lot of said evangelicals and fundamentalists would merely summize that these “leftist, liberal Christians” are not “really” Christians at all. This, to me, is another sign of arrogance, and one that I used to hold myself. I used to drive past the United, Anglican, Presbyterian churches in my village when i was growing up and I thought to myself “they aren't REALLY Christians. The Baptists, Mennonites, Pentecostals – maybe, Missionary Church people were all good, but not those other ones.” So I would just caution both Coppel and Shepherd that Anglicans, etc can say all they want but a lot of evangelicals will have none of it.

I do agree that the Religious Right, more conservative Christians “make more noise” about these issues, so many non-Christians look at the news and may think that all Christians believe in a fiery Hell where God sends people. This is far from the truth. Many many believers in Christ do not believe in a literal Hell (and a whole host of other issues might I add, such as that gay people are sinning by loving their partners).

Let's get back to Rob Bell for a minute. TIME magazine did a story on the whole “Love Wins” controversy, and this is a quote from that article:
“From a traditionalist perspective, though, to take away hell is to leave the church without its most powerful sanction. If heaven, however defined, is everyone’s ultimate destination in any event, then what’s the incentive to confess Jesus as Lord in this life? If, in other words, Gandhi is in heaven, then why bother with accepting Christ? If you say the Bible doesn’t really say what a lot of people have said it says, then where does that stop? If the verses about hell and judgment aren’t literal, what about the ones on adultery, say, or homosexuality?”

There are a few important questions posed here to Christians. If Heaven is where everyone is going to end up, what is the point of following Jesus? My answer to this is that believing in and following Jesus is not “fire-insurance,” and people should not be scared into the kingdom like old hellfire and brimstone preachers used to try to do. I think following Jesus can be more about living the kind of loving, compassionate, kind life here on earth that he proposed and exemplified. Including the “unloveable,” hanging out with societal rejects, choosing humility over exalting oneself.

Secondly, what about the Bible then? Paula Coppel says it nicely here:

“Any serious study of the Bible reveals it is anything but a seamless consistent whole, much less a reliable documentation of actual historical events. Shaped largely by myth and oral tradition, and written by non-eyewitnesses decades after Jesus died, it is an interesting read not because it is historically accurate but because it depicts the culture, mindset and consciousness of the times and gives us at least a general idea of what Jesus stood for.”

I believe that we can learn much from the Bible, but a lot of it must be taken in a historical and cultural context. Taking it a step further, I believe in the evolution of truth, that as time passes we understand new things. For instance in places the Bible advocates slavery, murdering babies, considers divorced women to be adulterers if they re-marry, and basically says that women should shut up in church and not have leadership over a man. How many implement these Biblical statements into their lives these days?

Coppel concludes: “So what happens if we take out the hell, heaven, fear, damnation, prejudice, oppression and judgment in the Bible? We can focus on what Jesus was trying to tell us about how to live our lives—how to love God and each other, which is what Christianity should really be about.”

Personally speaking, it honestly does not worry me one iota what happens to me when I die, it is more important what happens while I'm living and how I love and care for my friends and family in this life. There is no fear of burning. Unity teaches that “hell” and “heaven” are states of mind that we experience here, right now on earth. And we can change our experience by the renewing of our mind with spiritual principles and love. And oddly enough, now that I am not an evangelical Christian, I can perhaps be a more faithful follower of Jesus by paying attention to what he had to say and how he lived while walking this earth.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Xanax & The Art of Love-Making

I have a few thoughts as I sit here at Starbucks on a Wednesday evening, quite a beautiful evening actually.

First of all, I'd like to express my undying devotion to the makers of Xanax, for you are the reason I am having that "soooo relaxed feeling" even though I'm drinking the bold blend o' the day here at Starbucks. Tonight promises more of the same as I sink into my comfy blue couch and watch some Julia, some Aslan, and perhaps some Steve Carrell. Hells ya. It's been a shitty day, so here's to you, Xanax - I may just name my firstborn after you (it it's a girl I'll name her Xena instead, because who doesn't love a warrior princess?)

On to the thrust of this blog (I like the word thrust).

Isn't it easy to live our lives from the outside in? I think we all have done it at one time or another in our lives; perhaps just in our childhoold or teenage years, and perhaps we do it still. We become like chameleons, changing who we are depending on what situation we are faced with. If someone expects us to be happy and "all together" then we put on the fake smiley face and laugh at their unfunny jokes. If we are "into" someone romantically, we can put on a completely different face, one we think he or she will love, and then when they don't, we get pissed off or devastated, or both. Or maybe we're very unhappy and we think that our lives haven't amounted to much thus far, so we try a whole other persona on for size hoping to find a place in society. But inside we're near-dead.

I think we need to live from the inside out instead. We need to unearth that inner goodness and beauty that lives within each and every one of us. Perhaps we saw this inner beauty years ago in our lives, before we experienced trauma or disappointment or failed relationships. But my friends, it is still there. And I think it is only by getting back in touch with it, and the dreams and desires that come with it, that we can healthily move forward in our lives. How do we do this? Some people may be able to do it by some personal journal work or spending quiet time alone. But then there are scores and scores of people like myself who need good quality time with a therapist, someone who's job it is to sift through all your shit and suggest ways to bringing out your innate beauty and goodness.

It is as we connect and unearth our own goodness and strength that we will finally avoid the exhaustion of changing ourselves depending on every situation. We don't have to be bitchy, but essentially we can say "Screw it, I don't care what you think or are telling me to be like. I love myself and the way that I am, and too bad if you can't accept that."

Each of us has so many gifts and possibilities within us, we just need to tap into them. Sometimes I'm a sinner, sometimes I'm a saint. Sometimes I'm hopeful, sometimes I'm horny. Or in the words of the immortal Meredith Bainbridge, "I'm a bitch, I'm a lover, I'm a child, I'm a mother." Hahaha, classic.

Hopefully we can find ourselves and figure out who we are. Then we can love ourselves, live from the inside out, and find people who can love us for exactly who we are.

Peace Yo,

Mark Andrew

....and oh ya, this had nothing to do with love-making. :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

There Are Days Like This

There has been talk of days when bliss reigned supreme, and if we reach back - way back - into the recesses of our mind we may be able to remember when those feelings touched our lives.

There are whispers of days when dreams came true and hearts were full and serenity washed over minds.

We traverse our towns and cities watching people live their happy lives, with their happy kids, their happy jobs and their happy wives.

We listen sadly as the family next door gathers happily with their children and grandchildren.

We nod and smile as our co-workers describe their 3-week cruise or their latest outing to the new place in town.

But for you and I there are days like this one.

Days like this one, where the fog is so thick that it engulfs each thought and every moment.

Days like this, when total peace seems more like theory than something achievable.

Days like this, when laughter is chased down and overcome by anxiety and lingering worry.

There are days like this when you see smiling people and wonder "How the hell does a person get to be that way?"

In times like this we are merely surviving, rather than living.

In these times all spiritual principles or religious beliefs seem to escape us, almost as if we had never learned them in the first place. All the right prayers, all the positivity, all the lessons learned, they are completely out the window.

Sadness has came like a tsunami and washed even God away it seems.

On days like this, all we can do is blurt out some raw words to the Universe and hope against hope that there will come an answer. And we remember that we have friends, if even one, that truly does love us deeply.

There will be happier times, I must and do believe this. I must believe that as long as there is life there are possibilities for happiness and fulfillment.

I must believe that one day I will be so overcome by love that the unshed tears will be replaced by visible tears of deep gratitude.

I must believe that my soul is ancient, that it is made of love and has a homing device drawing it back to love.

I must believe that our hearts desires can and will be met, and that the dreams that are in my heart and mind, however deeply buried, shall come to pass.

But there are also days like this, and I will take the time to feel, to be gritty and real, and if possibly, weep openly.

And I know that I am not alone.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Avoid All Forms Of Self-Rejection

The following is an excerpt from Henri Nouwen's journal/book "The Inner Voice of Love." I may include a few thoughts following the passage.

You must avoid not only blaming others but also blaming yourself. You are inclined to blame yourself for the difficulties you experience in relationships. But self-blame is not a form of humility. It is a form of self-rejection in which you ignore or deny your own goodness and beauty.

When a friendship does not blossom, when a word is not received, when a gesture of love is not appreciated, do not blame it on yourself. This is both untrue and hurtful. Every time you reject yourself, you idealize others. You want to be with those whom you consider better, stronger, more intelligent, more gifted than yourself. Thus you make yourself emotionally dependent, leading others to feel unable to fulfill your expectations and causing them to withdraw from you. This makes you blame yourself even more, and you enter a dangerous spiral of self-rejection and neediness.

Avoid all forms of self-rejection. Acknowledge your limitations, but claim your unique gifts and thereby live as an equal among equals. That will set you free from your obsessive and possessive needs and enable you to give and receive true affection and friendship.


My first thought is that we need to take ourselves waaaaay less seriously than we do sometimes. Let me rephrase that: I need to take myself way less seriously than I do sometimes. I can only do this if I have accepted every part of myself and accept that I am not perfect. And that's ok.

Secondly, we have to stop relying on others for our sense of identity. I lived like this for a long long time. I lived from the outside in. If I felt someone didn't accept me or like me for who I was portraying at the time, I simply became a chameleon and adapted to suit their needs. This only leads to exhaustion and huge disappointment in the friendship/relationship department. Instead, why not say "I am happy with who I am, I believe that I truly am a good person, so if a person doesn't like me, I'm not gonna be devastated." Take what other people say about you lightly. Relax, have fun! Almost every one of us has a very close friend or two who will tell us if we're being a prick. Until that happens, relax and believe in your own goodness.

Lastly, I think we have to go into friendships and relationships believing that we are on a level playing field with the other person. Otherwise we will be either too needy or too arrogant and things will only fall apart; it's just a matter of time. Again, we can only do this inasmuch as we have truly accepted ourselves.

Hmmm, that's all.



Friday, May 6, 2011

When I Cannot Dream

When I cannot speak eloquent words of thanksgiving or petition

When my mouth and my mind are paralyzed by torrents of rain

When lofty thoughts and big dreams are completely covered under a heavy blanket of night

In these times when I cannot speak and I cannot muster even the tiniest of inward dreams

May my very breath be my prayer, may the mere beating of my heart be a calling out to You.

For I cannot manage anything more in this moment.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Learning To Love Selflessly

"Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained." - C.S. Lewis

I like the warm fuzzies and most likely you do too. You know, that feeling of curling up on the couch with a girlfriend or boyfriend while sipping hot chocolate and eating popcorn. Or the feeling of walking through the park hand in hand, sneaking in a kiss or two as you walk the trail. These are great feelings, but they're not necessarily love. I suppose if two people are on the same page and are happy with their relationship being mainly about these warm fuzzies, then that's good for them. But for me, love goes farther than that.

For me I want the warm fuzzies to be a reflection of a deeper commitment, a stronger love. Lewis is right when he says that love is not affectionate feeling. Hell, we can have affectionate feelings for a cocker-spaniel or a new cat. The question comes to me: What happens when those affectionate feelings disappear, either for a day or even a week. Is there anything left?

I am finally - finally - learning at 32 years of age that love is indeed, as Lewis opines, a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good, AND I would add, a commitment to nurturing their highest good.

There are many reasons why we can not seem to love someone else selflessly. Perhaps we were so wounded in either our family of origin or in a previous relationship that we are left devestatingly needy. Therefore we can woo a partner with the warm fuzzies, but when the relationship deepens, we use the other person as more of a therapist than an equal. I've done this. More than once even. Rather than say "I love you" I could just as easily have said "I need you," or "Help me" or "Fix me." A relationship based on one persons almost inexhaustible need is destined to hit the rocks.

Another reason why relationships may not last is because we don't take the time to see the other person as they truly are. Instead, we see them as we want them or need them to be. Again we do this out of need. And so we find ourselves in relationships not because we actually love the other person, but because we think they can fill a need or desire that we have. I've done this too. I've had flings (short-lived ones) with people that I knew I wasn't compatible with, and I've even had relationships with people I knew I wasn't compatible with, all because I just wanted those warm fuzzies or because I was needy. It's in these types of relationships that you can find yourself thinking "Well maybe she (or he) will change and then we'll be more compatible." Ain't gonna happen sistah.

Finally, we can find ourselves in relationships simply because we're lonely and don't want to be alone anymore. So we overlook things in the other person or in the relationship that we know aren't ideal or even acceptable. Loneliness sucks, but I don't know that it sucks as much as being in a relationship with the wrong person.

Back to the warm fuzzies for a minute. I love them, and I don't think there's anything wrong with them, that is unless you base a relationship on them when really you're looking for something more lasting. Hollywood seems to perpetuate this candy-coated myth that the warm fuzzies are actually what love is, but love, I believe, is deeper, more rooted, and a much larger commitment.

To me, truly loving someone, whether it be a friend or someone you're in a romantic relationship with, is about selflessly loving them. It's about truly having their best interests at heart. It is not about "what can you give to me today" or "how can you make me feel good." This isn't love, it's love with conditions, with strings attached. It is a tainted love. No, true love is about looking at that other person and thinking "How could I make that person truly happy today. What do they need?" You can't be another person's saviour, but you can bring a lot of light into their life. Love is about being a non-judgmental and helpful presence in the life of your friend or partner, rather than playing games in order to get something in return.

We can love a person truly and freely and not expect anything in return, because they can't completely fulfill us anyways! I think many a relationship hits the rocks because one or both parties expects too much and finds that the other person can't provide what they need. Only God (Spirit/Life/Mother/The Universe) can truly, completely fulfill you and I. We must learn to not expect from a human being what only God can give. As we spend time in prayer or meditation and have our needs met that way, we can be truly and selflessly present in our friendships and relationships.

In conclusion, warm fuzzies are nice, but if we really want to love others, we must ask "What is in the best interest of (insert name)" rather than "What have you done for me lately."


Mark Andrew

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Osama bin Laden Was Not Evil

There were hoots and hollers, there was flag-waving, crowds flocked in front of the White House in celebration. Similar eruptions of happiness occurred in cities across America.

What was it? The 4th of July being celebrated a little early? Nope. It was the death of one Osama bin Laden.

In the 2 days since President Barack Obama made the stunning announcement that U.S. forces had killed the terror leader in Pakistan, the old words have once again been bandied about. Osama was "the face of evil" and "a monster almost on par with Adolf Hitler." The Toronto Sun today ran an editorial cartoon of bin Laden standing in Hell next to Satan and a snake. Satan says to bin Laden "I'd like you to meet your mother, Osama."

I'm here to say that Osama, as much as we may like to paint him as such, was neither "evil incarnate" or "a monster."

What is even more frightening is that Osama bin Laden was none other than a human being, just like you and me. He came kicking and screaming into the world, played with trucks and cars growing up, and he laughed and giggled as a toddler. As a teenager he inevitably crushed on girls and discussed music or sports with his friends.

"Now now" you may be thinking, "you're not trying to humanize Osama bin Laden are you?"

Yes, yes I am. And here I will insert my necessary caveat. What Osama bin Laden orchestrated on 9/11 and beforehand with acts of terror were heinous, terrible, heart-breaking, and utterly condemnable.

But this is my point. I think as a society, whether in America or here in Canada, we like to set certain people apart and then label them in order to make ourselves feel better. "A human being couldn't possibly order planes into full skyscrapers," we say. My answer is "Yes, Yes they can. Yes we can." The same goes for Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Paul Bernardo, Ted Bundy, and Russell Williams, the military man who assaulted and killed two women a few months ago.

These are human beings, just like me. The difference came in the choices that each of these people made. Each of us has a choice when we wake up in the morning whether we're going to do acts of beauty and good, or offer negativity and even violence. In my opinion, the people listed above as well as others who have committed inexcusable heinous acts have simply fallen further and further into an abyss as they've repeatedly made awful choices.

So if people aren't evil in and of themselves, does evil exist? Well, let's look at the definition of evil from 1. morally wrong or bad; immoral; 2. harmful; injurious. I can get behind all of these definitions of evil. What I can't get behind is this one: "the force in nature that governs and gives rise to wickedness and sin." I don't believe we have a "force in nature" that gives rise to such things.

So if evil is not in our natures, where does it come from? I have a couple thoughts here:

1) Evil comes from the absence of love. Where love is healing and expands our worlds to include other people and those who are different from us, evil collapses our hearts in on itself and becomes suspicious of people who are different from us. Whereas love causes us to think of other people's well-being, evil causes us to only think of our own survival.

2) Evil comes from a place of fear. People become very very messed up out of fear that they have experienced, whether it be in their family of origin or from their peers while growing up. They learn to place walls of defence up around themselves and live a life of suspicion instead of growth and openness. This breeds evil acts.

3) Evil comes from a place of loneliness. For one reason or another people's minds and hearts back away from healthy relationships with others, whether this is insecurity or, again, something that happened to them early on in life. In order to not be hurt they stay away from people. The power that it within them to love instead turns in on itself and becomes intense pain, which can at times turn to acts of evil.

Of course there are many many other reasons for evil acts, but my point is that while it may be easy to set people like bin Laden, Hitler, and Bernardo apart from humanity, the truth is they are flesh and blood and as human as Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, or you and I.

Osama bin Laden was not evil incarnate. He was a human being like you and I who made terrible terrible choices.