Money

money_world“There is no class so pitiably wretched as that which possesses money and nothing else.” ~ Andrew Carnegie

Carnegie is said to have amassed $298.3 billion in 2007 dollars.

He’s also quoted as saying: “I resolved to stop accumulating and begin the infinitely more serious and difficult task of wise distribution.”

Considering money in more general terms, there’s a wonderful and innovative four-part documentary on PBS called the Ascent of Money narrated by Niall Ferguson. Certainly not a dry documentary; more like a video novel…

The following Spiritual Quote  is a letter from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (a man poor in money yet vastly rich in spirit) written to Andrew Carnegie.

Spiritual Quote:

“O respected personage! I have read your work, The Gospel of Wealth [1], and noted therein truly apposite and sound recommendations for easing the lot of humankind.
[1] An article from Andrew Carnegie’s book The Gospel of Wealth  was published in England in the Pall Mall Budget  and called, also, The Gospel of Wealth, cf. Andrew Carnegie’s Autobiography 255n.

“To state the matter briefly, the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh advocate voluntary sharing, and this is a greater thing than the equalization of wealth. For equalization must be imposed from without, while sharing is a matter of free choice.

“Man reacheth perfection through good deeds, voluntarily performed, not through good deeds the doing of which was forced upon him. And sharing is a personally chosen righteous act: that is, the rich should extend assistance to the poor, they should expend their substance for the poor, but of their own free will, and not because the poor have gained this end by force. For the harvest of force is turmoil and the ruin of the social order. On the other hand voluntary sharing, the freely-chosen expending of one’s substance, leadeth to society’s comfort and peace. It lighteth up the world; it bestoweth honour upon humankind.

“I have seen the good effects of your own philanthropy in America, in various universities, peace gatherings, and associations for the promotion of learning, as I travelled from city to city. Wherefore do I pray on your behalf that you shall ever be encompassed by the bounties and blessings of heaven, and shall perform many philanthropic deeds in East and West. Thus may you gleam as a lighted taper in the Kingdom of God, may attain honour and everlasting life, and shine out as a bright star on the horizon of eternity.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 115

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No Peace Without Justice

ROTTERDAM, Jul 15 (IPS) – “Human rights organisations all over the world will celebrate the tenth anniversary Jul. 17 of the adoption of the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC is the first and only permanent international criminal tribunal to prosecute individuals accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Interview with human rights promoter Dorota Gierycz: “…I believe that yes, there is a very difficult initial period when there is this kind of tension between justice and peace, but in the long run there can be no peace without justice, and if we just keep pushing things under the rug there will be no room for genuine understanding and consolidation of the society and democracy.”

Pushing things under the rug is an age-old activity of humans when they wish to commit a crime or when they feel they just need a break from moral responsibility.

Holding things high in the full light of the sun can be painful. Making the effort to use tact and diplomacy while still pursuing rigorous truth is hard work. It seems mere humans can’t regularly accomplish these desirable goals.

Well, I’m here to say that humans can’t accomplish peace and justice if what they depend upon is just their human powers.

We have more than animal bodies for a reason. Our bodies (and our minds and hearts subjugated to the body) will always vote for the easy path, even if it leads to war—war between nations, members of a family, neighbors…

So, where’s the “instruction book” so many people claim we don’t have?

“The Heavenly Books, the Bible, the Qur’án, and the other Holy Writings have been given by God as guides into the paths of Divine virtue, love, justice and peace.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 61

“The fundamental spiritual truth of our age is the oneness of humanity. Universal acceptance of this principle — with its implications for social and economic justice, universal participation in non-adversarial decision-making, peace and collective security, equality of the sexes, and universal education — will make possible the reorganization and administration of the world as one country, the home of humankind.”
Bahá’í International Community, 1993 Apr 01, Sustainable Development and the Human Spirit

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Transcending the Murmur

Today we have a treat !

Isabella Mori, psychotherapist and owner of the blog, Change Therapy, relates her spiritual insight . . .

~~~~~~~~~

In the late 90’s, early 2000’s, I was working in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Canada’s “poorest urban postal code”. I did outreach counselling and worked out of a number of places, one of them First United Church.

First United Church in Vancouver is a mission church – it focuses mostly on providing services to people who are extremely marginalized: morning soup for people who are homeless, foot care for people with disabilities, advocacy for single mothers, health care for survival sex trade workers, etc.

Now at First United Church they had this wonderful morning service. Right in the middle of people sleeping off their hangovers in the pews and drug users finding a moment’s quiet for their overwrought minds, each weekday morning at 8:45, a handful of people would congregate to sing, read a bible verse and reflect and pray together. It was the most beautiful thing – church, I believe, as intended by Jesus.

Almost right from the beginning of me working out of First United, every day I’d be there – usually Wednesday and Friday mornings – I’d make sure to participate in these services. I loved the songs and the little discussions around the readings, mostly from the bible, sometimes from some other religious material.

Towards the end of each service, we’d say the Lord’s Prayer, in different versions. I really enjoyed the Maori version. But when we said the “normal” version – I just didn’t want to say it. I had a real problem with it, particularly when it comes to “… and lead us not into temptation.” What do you mean, lead us not into temptation?? I imagined a God looking down at us thinking, hmmm, this Isabella down there, should I lead her into temptation today? That kind of God didn’t look at all palatable to me, and I wasn’t going to pray to him!

A few months into me participating in these services, the minister who usually led the service came up to me and said, “Listen, I’ve noticed you show up here every Wednesday. I’m going on vacation, it’s summer, most everyone else is on vacation, too – could you lead the service while I’m away?”

I was a bit flabbergasted but being the sport that I am I said, “Ah, sure, I guess.” But then I remembered: “Wait, I can’t do that! Haven’t you noticed how I never say the Lord’s Prayer?”

“No, I haven’t. I thought you liked the Maori Prayer.”

“I love it. But the other one, the usual version … “

“What about it?”

I explained to him my conundrum. (What a blessing, now that I think of it. I felt so comfortable with this guy that I had no problem telling him what I thought of this God who’s toying with me – “Should I lead her into temptation today? Shouldn’t I?”)

What he said next has made a huge difference in my life. Let me paraphrase:

“Isabella, there are many different ways of interpreting this. For example, you could see it as meaning, ‘as I am going down the path of temptation, please help me steer away from it, lead me somewhere else.’

You can do this with anything in the Bible. As a matter of fact, I encourage you to do that. Read the Bible in such a way that it gives you the most benefit. Let the Bible be something that God has written for YOU. Make it your own!”

It was one of those moments where something that I had known intellectually for a long time all of a sudden made sense to me on a very deep, transformative level. It was as if Pastor Bruce had showed me a door that I had passed by for decades. All I needed to do was open it and walk through.

It opened the door for me to go back to and discover Christian texts – the Bible in its many translations, the beautiful words of the 13th-century woman mystic Julian of Norwich, the more contemporary writings by Brother Roger of Taize, to name a few – as well as other spiritual texts that had heretofore not really touched me, most notably 12-step literature.

It changed my life.

Spirituality had always been an important part in my life but after this, I reached a level of commitment and passion that I had always longed for but could never completely feel in my bones. My lifelong interest in Buddhism deepened, I felt free to reclaim my strong Christian roots planted by my deeply religious Lutheran minister grandfather, I gained a deep appreciation of the wisdom of the 12 steps, and the Pagan stirrings that had been with me since the early 80s unfolded into a beautiful, nurturing and creative spiritual practice.

Why am I telling you all this? A while ago, I read some moving words here on Alexander’s blog. They moved me but … I had a bit of a funny reaction to the specific use of language. Thankfully, I had a little conversation with Alexander about that and showed him my own rewrite of the quote. In response he quoted a Baha’i text:

“Reveal then Thyself, O Lord, by Thy merciful utterance and the mystery of Thy divine being, that the holy ecstasy of prayer may fill our souls – a prayer that shall rise above words and letters and transcend the murmur of syllables and sounds – that all things may be merged into nothingness before the revelation of Thy splendor.”
Compilations, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 70

… and that reminded me of my experience with Pastor Bruce.

Yes.

Let’s rise above words and letters and transcend the murmur of syllables and sounds – that all things may be merged into nothingness before the revelation of God’s splendor.

~~~~~~~~~

Isabella Mori is Canada’s blogging psychotherapist and talks about spirituality, psychology, creativity and social justice on her blog Change Therapy.