Reflections from my life and work to encourage the reader to think. But not too much. After all, thinking is only needed until it is not needed... and, then, needed again. So, please think until the shades are no longer drawn over the Window. Two words to leave with you before you proceed: Wisdom shines!
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I started signing correspondence to persons with an image of the Sun. The signature signifies the Sun always shines, even on overcast or stormy days. Please don't forget that. Please don't be misled by feelings. Please remember gray and inclement weather is okay... just don't forget the Sun.
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Buddhists say when we reach the other shore - Nirvana, Enlightenment -, we discover there was never but one shore. To me, at least, that is saying no shore. Then, we are told to let go of the raft, which means the prior effort to reach the no-other-shore. This is partly true. That is a grave danger in wisdom teaching - mistaking a part truth for the whole truth. Another is merging the relative and the absolute. Possibly, the more accurate truth is when you reach the other shore, you're ready to row to the next other shore. How many other shores would there be, anyway? Who knows? If you do, please don't tell me; I don't want to know.
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I recall looking sadly at my first-ever graded paper. I was in the first grade at Satilla School, a small rural school, grades one to eight, in south Georgia, USA. Likely, no one in my school had ever gone to kindergarten. I was standing at the water fountains outside. My new friend, standing besidemewith with his graded paper in hand, had a 100 written in bold ink on his paper - a perfect score. I had a big 0, everything but perfect. I was deeply saddened. What a beginning! But to what? In time, I completed several professional degrees - two Master's, one from medical school, a Ph.D., and, in addition, clinical chaplaincy certification. I was the second youngest in my first graduate school to get a Ph.D., missing the youngest by only weeks, and graduated with a perfect grade point average. Immediately, I went into teaching in one of my alma maters. I have more education than likely the person who would do open-heart surgery on you if you needed it.
There's a lesson to learn in that, if you listen. Otherwise, there's no lesson.
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Robert Atken, the late Zen Teacher, told of his grandad, the astronomer Robert Grant Aitken, saying to him, "I spent the entire afternoon confirming the middle initial of William Herschel, the British astronomer. I suppose you might think I was wasting my time." The grandson noted, "I didn't think so then, and I remember him now as I confirm a Dharma name, then transliterate it from the Hepburn transcription to the Wade-Giles, and finally to the Pinyin. I am grateful to Grandfather for his genes."
Equating work done with time is a prevalent illusion. Let's not underestimate the wise use of time, which may mean doing a little something for a short time or a long time. It may mean enjoying what you are doing, regardless of time... forgetting time altogether. Is there something wrong with any of this?
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In my mid-40s, I took out all my sermon notes covering decades of hard work. I was standing in my garage, looking at some of the papers lying in my hands. A trash can was nearby. I dumped all that work into the trash. I couldn't go back, and I knew I couldn't.
You can't either. No one can. So, it's best not to try to. You can't move on and move back at the same time. Try stepping forward and backward. What's that like? But, sometimes, we try... until we learn. Hey! The Garden of Eden is here. Tomorrow, it will be here, too.
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Many say Enlightenment - whatever that means - will take millions of lifetimes. If you believe so, possibly. If not, likely not.
Why thirst for water when the River flows at your feet?
Why keep looking for the Beloved when Her hand is caressing your face?
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I keep remembering a small water hole I discovered near our home. I was a young boy walking alone deep in the woods and came upon it. No one had ever spoken of it. I don't know if anyone knew it was even there. When the place comes to mind, over four decades later, peace welcomes me. But, then, it may not be later, after all.
Some places speak to us long after, maybe forever. Regardless, keep those magical places alive in memory. They can provide some temporary refuge from the present place - some present places turn out to be everything other than magical.
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I recently walked into a used bookstore near the little room I call home. I entered to give some books to the store and look around. When I went to the desk where the clerk sat, a man stood in front of the desk and did not move for me to hand my used books to her. He paused just long enough for me to speak a few words to her. I walked over and explored a section of books. He kept talking... on and on and on. He talked out loud the entire time I was in the store and still when I was walking out the door.
Later, I thought, "Don't trust persons who can't stop talking." That is kinder than saying the equally true, "Beware of persons who can't shut up."
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What is it about people who seem to have some need to keep hearing themselves talk - they are everywhere? I sense a lot of what people call conversation is little more than that - persons needing to listen to themselves say something. I prefer to be around people who don't need to hear themselves talk; they don't need to say anything. They have more to say - at least more of what I need to hear. After all, there is a big difference between the mouth speaking and the heart speaking. The heart speaking feeds your soul, so to speak - you can feel it.
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Now, as to saying something ...
Let your life speak. Let your presence talk.
Those who can hear, will. The others... well... - you know.
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In his teachings, the sage Jesus said something weird to our modern ears: "If you have ears, listen." He knew not everyone with ears had ears to listen to his teaching. That's still true. Wisdom speaks, but who is listening? So, take care of your ears. It'll pay off in the long run. Even ears can forget how to listen.
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Recently, in facilitating a spiritual group during the Christmas season, we entertained the idea of "virgin" as relating to Jesus' birth in the Christian Bible. So many Christians - likely the vast majority - claim Jesus had to have been born of a virgin, as was taught to me as a child in the little Baptist church. Whether he was or not dosen't really matter to me. Either way, whether Mary conceived Jesus through sex with a man or not, he was born of a virgin. He still is. Those who argue he had to have been conceived by a woman who had never copulated with a man seem to miss this verity entirely.
So, regardless of how much sex you enjoy, even if none - remain a virgin.
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*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2024. Permission is given to use photographs and writings with credit given to the copyright owner.
*Brian's book is An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love. The book is a collection of poems Brian wrote based on wisdom traditions, predominantly Christian, Buddhist, and Sufi, with extensive notes on the poetry's teachings and imagery.
*Story from Robert Aitken. In Miniatures of a Zen Master. P. 112. Catapult. Kindle Edition.