Category Archives: Marianne Williamson

Hope, the American Way, and the “Man of Steel” Trailer


So there appears to be some brouhaha over the newest trailer for Man of Steel.  I have seen complaints about this on no less than 3 different political web sites, which seems a bit much for a trailer, but since they want to make a federal case over it, it should be pointed out that their case is baseless.   Namely the problem seems to be with the following lines:

Lois Lane: What’s the “S” stand for?

Superman: It’s not an “S.”  On my world it means “hope.”

Lois Lane: Here it’s an “S.”  How about Super…ManofSteelsymbol

Now the first complaint is that this is changing the story, where it has always stood for Superman.  This is a silly claim, especially for a comic book movie, which is based on comic books that have been restarted so many times with so many variations D.C. comics actually had to come up with a storyline about multiple universes just to keep all the versions straight (still didn’t help).   When you’re translating a story from one medium to another it’s pure insanity to think everything can remain the same.  Further, yes you might be justifiably angry at those changes…but only if those changes make the story worse.  The new Star Trek stripped all the good out of the original series and created a cheap sci-fi film that would never have gone anywhere without banking on the greatness of the original…so there bitching about the changes is justified.  Conversely, Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy took the Batman story from a more simplistic action/detective comic and created one of the deepest most meaningful films ever made.  Those changes made the story better, and so whining about purity of the original story is just bunk.  Rewriting stories is a part of literature dating back to when Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides rewrote the works of Homer for stage, nobody in their right mind claims they ruined the stories.  Now it may be that whatever changes Nolan and Snyder have made to the Superman myth in this film may make it better or worse, we’ll have to see, but change is not necessarily good or bad on its own.

The other reason this is silly (and keep in mind I’ve never read a Superman comic in my life, and even I could find this out easily) is that in terms of the meaning of the “S” they haven’t really changed anything.  In the original film starring Christopher Reeve, the symbol stood for the House of El, the Kryptonian family that Superman is a part of. But what about the “Hope” thing?  Apparently some on the Right are having knee-jerk reactions to the word and thinking that this is intended to be a reference to Obama.  It’s not.  This actually is taken directly from the 2004 comic Superman: Birthright written by Mark Waid (Obama had only come onto the national scene at the 2004 Democratic convention in July, the comic came out in September which means it was probably written well before July).  I will shortly come back to why using Waid’s work as a basis for this movie is a very, very good thing.

Finally there are of course the constant complaints still going on about the line from the last movie “Find out if he still stands for Truth, Justice, all that stuff” and how the writers shoved away the phrase “the American Way” and the worry that this will still continue in this film (this of course ignores that the line came from Perry White, the most cynical character in the Superman universe who probably would find the phrase silly).

ManofSteelAfter this trailer I especially find this fear also fairly unwarranted.

Why?

Well what is the American Way?

Contrary to what many believe, it has nothing to do with land, or resources, or economic success, or military prowess, or scientific achievement. America is America because of our ideals.  The ideals of liberty, of meritocracy, that anyone can achieve by their own will.  Or as I have stated before:

We’re the nation that fought to create a republic where the haves and have-nots gave equal measure.  We’re the nation that fought our own citizens to free slaves.  We’re the nation that pioneered capitalism and law that gave liberty and opportunity and progress to more people than any other country in history.  We’re the place where “tired, the poor, the huddled masses” come to be energetic, successful and stand on their own feet.  We’re the country that conquers whole nations so that others may be free then tries to rebuild them and then leaves without tribute or power.  If you don’t think we’re the “shining city on the hill” you don’t know history, philosophy or human nature.  We’re not perfect, we’re not always right, but we are consistently the nation that calls for the best in humanity to put down the worst.

The American way isn’t a habit, or a land, or a race, or even the citizens of this particular country, it is an ideal that believes the best in humanity can always rise above the worst in humanity, that the individual left to their own devices will rise to the pinnacle of achievement and not sink to the depth of depravity.

And just in this trailer alone, we see that way, that ideal.

We see it in Jor-El’s statement

What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended?  What if a child aspired to something greater?

Are you going to tell me a line about how a single individual can rise above the shackles of whatever society throws on them, and achieve because of their own will and merit isn’t at the very heart of America?

Or perhaps Jonathan Kent’s:

I have to believe that you were sent here for a reason.  And even if it takes the rest of your life, you owe it to yourself to find out what that reason is.

The belief that life has a purpose.  It has been seen in philosophy since Aristotle, but it has never been realized until America.  And this quest to find meaning is a personal one, “you owe it to yourself,” not one laden down with obligations to family, or clan, or religion, or state, or culture, or history or whatever other un-American claptrap other nations have followed.

Or perhaps we should go to first trailer, with another line from Jor-El

You will give the people an ideal to strive towards.  They will race behind you.  They will stumble.  They will fall.  But in time they will join you in the sun—In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.

Shining city on the hill anyone?  The beacon of hope and light that America is supposed to be.

Oh I said “beacon of hope” which brings us back to the symbol and them taking that point from Mark Waid.  This is important that they are drawing form Waid’s version. Why?  I would direct you to an essay written by Waid in the book Superheroes and Philosophy entitled “The Real Truth About Superman and the Rest of Us, Too.” (It’s an excellent essay which you may want to read.)

The essay covers the thought process Waid went through when the head of D.C. asked him a simple question: “Why does Superman do what he does?  Why doesn’t absolute power absolutely corrupt in his case?”  He quickly found the stock answer of, because he’s Superman, to be unsatisfying to the employer who was hiring him to revitalize the franchise.

What follows is an argument that references two of my favorite philosophical beliefs.

The first is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Waid starts from the premise that even though an alien, he has the same needs in the same order as any human.  Physical needs then Safety needs then Emotional Needs then Maslow's Hierarchy of NeedsAchievement needs then finally the need for Self Actualization.  (You’ll find that the American beliefs in liberty and capitalism parallel this order of needs quite well).  Now for Superman, the first two, physical and safety need, aren’t an issue at all.  So that leaves emotional, achievement and self actualization needs.  Now he might gain some emotional connections by just being mild mannered Clark Kent, but certainly not achievement or self actualization.  Which then comes to a question of how much does he need to achieve…and this is where Waid turns to another idea, a quote in fact (which I’m hoping against hope will make it into the movie):

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” [Italics on the last part added]

 

It is the realization that Superman is who he is because to do anything less would not lead to his Happiness, and that a central theme of the story has always been that we should all strive to the edge our abilities, as Kal-El does, not just to help others achieve their goals (You will help them accomplish wonders) but to also achieve our own Happiness (you owe it to yourself).

So this is why I’m happy they are pulling from Waid, with the concept of Superman being a symbol of hope, the city on the Hill, because it places the whole story in a very strong and correct footing of spiritual values and Aristotelian virtue based ethics.

Now while Waid, or Marianne Williamson who first wrote this in her book A Return to Love: Reflections on A Course in Miracles, don’t make the connection, it is only through the American Way of personal liberty and personal achievement that we achieve the heights of shining our brightest.  So I feel the need to again point out, that the American Way is being championed in this movie already, whether they say the words or not.

Now, no one has seen this film yet, so it could either suck or make the Dark Knight Rises look like an F film student’s half-hearted attempt…or anything in between. I am merely pointing out that the complaints based only on this trailer are completely unfounded.  This movie appears to appeal to the best in this story, the core ideals that have let it rise above whatever flaws have plagued the various incarnations over the years.

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Eric Cantor on Conservatism and the Future of America

Eric Cantor“We will go forward with this agenda with the conservative emphasis on individual effort, opportunity, on self reliance and on opportunity for more people.”

Majority Leader Eric Cantor will probably never be label with the moniker of “The Great Communicator”…which is unfortunate because his ideas are great ones that need to be heard.

Today he gave a speech at the American Enterprise Institute on the goals of the GOP in this Congress covering the free market solutions to innovation, education, immigration, workforce laws, taxes, and healthcare.

What makes this speech interesting is that not only does encompass sound policy but it starts using the more emotional based arguments in defense of capitalism suggested by Arthur Brooks (who happens to introduce Cantor).  The thought being that we all know the numbers and the logic of the free market work…but we’re trying to sell it people who primarily think in terms of emotions not logic, thus we must make the argument that Capitalism, Liberty, and the free market are not only Just and Pragmatic, but fair as well.

“It’s about making life work again for people for more people.”

(I personally love his response to the 2nd to the last question.)

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Weekly Meditation: Ignoring the Ego

 

As the kindled fire consumes the fuel, so, O Arjuna, in the flame of wisdom the embers of action are burnt to ashes.

 

There is nothing in the world so purifying as wisdom; and he who is a perfect saint finds that at last in his own Self.

 

He who is full of faith attains wisdom, and he too who can control his senses, having attained that wisdom, he shall ere long attain Supreme Peace.

 

But the ignorant man, and he who has no faith, and the skeptic are lost. Neither in this world nor elsewhere is there any happiness in store for him who always doubts.

 

But the man who has renounced his action for meditation, who has cleft his doubt in twain by the sword of wisdom, who remains always enthroned in his Self, is not bound by his acts.

Therefore, cleaving asunder with the sword of wisdom the doubts of the heart, which thine own ignorance has engendered, follow the Path of Wisdom and arise!”

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4 Verses 37-42

 

Of all the traditional holy books in the world, possibly none is held in higher regard by me than the Bhagavad-Gita.  I hold it in such a high opinion that I was a little hesistant to start pulling quotes from it.  After all, it is more or less fairly straight forward no matter what level of spiritual evolution you’re on (and one of the great features of the Gita is that each line holds truths for every level of enlightenment) and if you still need further discussion of the wisdom of Krishna as he speaks to Arjuna there are commentaries by Yogananda and other far wiser people like me.

 

Still if I didn’t bring up anything from the Bhagavad-Gita it seemed like it would be an insult to such a divine book.

 

So let’s talk about what the Gita means by Self.

 

New Age and most Eastern religions make a needed distinction that the West so often ignores.  The typical vision in the west is that you yourself are a rational being with free will and have the choice between two forces the positive forces of God and the negative forces of whatever you want to call the negative force (the more enlightened in the west will call it our negative nature, the less enlightened will give make a full blown opponent of God and call it the Devil.)  This is best represented by the cartoon image of the angel and the devil on your shoulders.

The incorrect view

 

This view could not be more wrong. The Eastern/New Ager view is more that you are composed of your self and your ego* (which actually doesn’t exist, we’ll get to that later). Now for all of your ego’s lacking qualities it is quite cunning and it has convinced you of two three very important lies. It has convinced you that you and the angel on your shoulder are two different beings…this is silly because you, your Self, is a part of God an infinite and divine being, and you, your Self, is a part of all that is good.  You and the angel on your shoulder are the same being.

 

The next thing the ego did to you was that it convinced you that it was you, that all of it’s thoughts are your thoughts, that’s it’s fears and doubts are yours.

 

And finally it created the image of the devil on your shoulder an outside enemy.  To distract you from all of it’s fearful and destructive thoughts being against your best interest it gives you the idea that there is some outside force that is your enemy, a devil on your shoulder, an outside enemy to distract you from the real one.

 

Learning to do away with your ego is the final lesson of the cycle of rebirth.  It’s a hard lesson…if it weren’t you wouldn’t have 6 billion souls on this planet.  But it’s a easy lesson, all you have to do is accept the truth: I am a part of God.  I am holy.

 

All you have to do is believe it.   Yeah I know, easier said than done.

 

But let’s start with something easy.

 

Every time this week when you recognize that you have had a negative thought, ask yourself:

“Is this voice in my head coming from the best in me or from the worst?”

 

If it is from the best it is from mutual voice of your soul and God working in tandem.  If not, it is likely the voice of your ego.  Ignore.

 

You’ll miss some negative thoughts, you’ll give in.  Don’t chide yourself for it, self-deprecation of that sort is a weapon of the ego to make you hate yourself.   Just worry about the ones you do catch.  When you catch them, recognize their source and ignore them.

 

Try only to listen the voice that tell you that you will and you should achieve your dreams.  That you are worthy.  That you are beautiful.  Listen to that voice.

 

Learn to recognize the other voice so you can ignore it.

 

Will this solve all you problems?  No.  But it’s a start.

 

And if you’re having problems, just repeat my favorite passage:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

 

*Don’t confuse the Eastern/New Age idea of the ego, the miscreation of fear and hatred that is a part of your psyche, with the traditional meaning of the word as arrogance or mere sense of self.

Remember each one of these symbols is telling you are you are a part of God and divine…maybe you should listen.

 

 


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Stupid Quote of the Day

It’s not really a liberal quote per se…but the underlying psychology is what creates a lot of liberal political belief.

I saw this picture make the rounds on facebook the other day.

 

It seems like a hopeful statement of compassion and thankfulness.  So what’s the problem?

“Much more than I deserve.”  That’s my problem.  The idea that you are unworthy.  The Bible states we are made in God’s image.  The Bhagavad-Gita states that the soul is unchangeable and a piece of God himself (Chapter II verses 24-30).  And of course in the second part of A Course in Miracles among the many lessons there are these three that you are supposed to learn and believe because they are true “I am blessed as a Son of God.” “I am the light of the world.” “I am entitled to miracles.”  And of course there is that Marianne Williamson quote I overuse. 

The long and short of it is that you are divine in your nature.  You deserve enlightenment, eternal happiness, and all blessings.  What could possibly count as “more than I deserve” after that?

But so many people believe they are not worthy of that Happiness which they are…and thus they prevent themselves  from experiencing the blessing.  God is infinite love and does not hold back on his blessing which are infinite.  The only limiting factor is what you choose to take for yourself.

And thus what seems like an uplifting statement is actually bordering on evil in that it reaffirms the lie that your are not worth what you have, that you are corrupt and given more than you deserve, that you fall short of what you have earned.  Not in the least.

(And it is this lie that you are guilty and inferior that liberals use to make you think that you have some obligation and duty to sacrifice your happiness for the whole.)

Try this instead “Thank you God, for helping me realize I deserve infinite Happiness.”

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Misconceptions about New Agers and Pagans: That we’re all liberals

One of the main reasons for this blog and my book Republicans and Reincarnation is to kill this persistent myth that that all Pagans and New Agers are liberals (usually the common beliefs paints us as the hippie progressive type).  And I’ve had a few blogs about various misconceptions about New Agers but I felt I should once again deal with this major one.

Why?  Well because as the GOP race gets closer to the end (and especially since that dimwit Santorum has been given press time far exceeding what his lacking intellect would justify) I get to once again hear the phrase “Judeo-Christian values” bantered around and around in debates, speeches, on blogs, in news stories, on Facebook and Twitter.  Judeo-Christian values.

I have asked in various different forums and in person what that phrase “Judeo-Christian values” means.  Each time I have asked I have gotten nothing for answer.  I mean if it’s supposed to be a catchall phrase for a long list of values and principles shouldn’t someone be able to list it?  And it seems to be usually argued that these values dictate that you should be a conservative, but I’ve heard it argued the other way around.  I think part of the problem is that nobody really knows what that list means.  Yes the Founding Fathers followed Judeo-Christian values, but if you corned Washington, Adams or Madison and got them to delineate even 5 of those values I doubt it would be even remotely be close the list Santorum, Huckabee, or Perry would come up with.  And if we don’t know what that list is, then how can we even use the phrase.

One the other hand I can tell you exactly what some of the values of New Agers and Pagans are.  Is this a complete list?  I doubt it.  But it is a list I think any person who calls themselves a Pagan or New Ager (I’m just going to use New Ager as a catchall from here on in) can agree to…and I think they clearly lean to one political philosophy over another.

God is a being of love and reason.

Unlike some religions New Agers do not load down God with very human flaws like anger and jealously (or in some truly insane cases genocidal rage and say He is not bound by such things as reason).  We accept that old Platonic formula that God is Good, which means that God is Reason and Just and Beautiful and True (and adding the logical extension that Plato forgot but the Christians didn’t, God is Love).  This doesn’t translate into any political form by itself, but it does offer us the idea that reason and compassion should be a guidepost in all things.

The Divinity of Life

Every New Ager I think would agree that life, all life, has a spark of the divine in it and as such has value.  Now there might be a wide variety of debate over the equality of the value of a turnip and a human, I would be more firmly planted in the field that human life is unique and given special predominance, but I think we’ll all agree that we are not slaves or servants of God, but a part of him, his children (and if we can get rid of our fears and delusions) his equal.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson, A Return To Love: Reflections on A Course in Miracles [Italics added]

What does this translate into politically?  It wipes away any political system that denies that “all men are created equal.” This doesn’t have a lot of value in most modern American political discussions, because I would hope we all agree on this, but it is a place to start.

Intellect, Free Will and Liberty

The next thing I think we all agree on is that our greatest gift from God is our intellect and our free will.  We have the ability to look at our life and not just analyze but choose the course we are to take.  This is what makes us the equals of God; beside God no other being in the universe has both the intellect to judge the world around them and free will to act upon those choices.  Some religions decry reason, others consider our free will a sin and think we should slavishly reject our will and submit to another’s.  We however revel in ours because we know that when we use both perfectly our will and God’s are not opposed, but the same.  We take comfort in the fact that while free will can allow us to make mistakes it also allows us to learn from those mistakes and grow.

“He tells you but YOUR will; He speaks for YOU. In HIS Divinity is but your own. And all He knows is but YOUR knowledge, saved for YOU, that you may do YOUR will through Him. God ASKS you do your will. He joins with YOU. He did not set His kingdom up alone. And Heaven itself but represents your will, where everything created is for you. No spark of life but was created with your glad consent, as you would have it be. And not one Thought that God has ever had but waited for your blessing to be born. God is no enemy to you. He asks no more than that He hear you call Him Friend.”—A Course In Miracles Chapter 30, Section 3

What does this one mean politically…well quite obviously the political extension of free will is liberty, the right to exert your free will.  And as it is a gift from God the freest use of our liberty should be allowed to the greatest extent that it does not harm anyone else’s right to life and liberty.  Thus it is the government that governs least that governs best.  Further since everyone is equal this pretty much dictates a classically liberal democratic-republic.  It also means that any drive to control society through government should be curbed, government is not there to tell people how to live their lives, only to protect their right to life and liberty (oh and a few other things, but we’ll get to that).

The Point of Life is Happiness and Learning

 

See there is a reason I ordered the first three this way.  New Agers view life in two ways, as an individual life, and as a series of lives in a long chain of reincarnated existences.  From the individual life perspective the highest goal is Happiness  (capital H), Happiness in the Aristotelian sense as a fulfillment not just of our needs but of our aspirations and highest virtues and greatest gifts shared with friends.    Meanwhile the goal of the multi-life existence is Enlightenment (a return to God) which is more of an eternal Happiness.  Happiness is in each individual life is a requirement for meeting this goal, but you also need learning, self-reflection and growth.

“If you possess happiness you possess everything:  to be happy is to be in tune with God.”–Paramahansa Yogananda

In a political sense this translates into two very important points.  The first point, when considered in light of our first three values, leads to an acceptance that rational self-interest (if Happiness is a goal rational self-interest is the only way to get there) and rational self-interest leads to capitalism when taken to a grand scheme.  Capitalism is the only system of economics that allows for the expression of free will where people are allowed to treat each other as equals and deal with each other through reason (or if they choose through compassion).

Quality over Quantity in Life

Having that view to Happiness and leads to a natural preference for quality of life over the quantity of life.  What does that mean?  It means we New Agers should find more beauty in a single act of compassion of one person helping another than in a million welfare checks handed out.  It means that a short life lived well is more important than a long life merely survived.  It means that life should be judged by the quality of our choices, the number of true friends we make, and the amount of learning we achieve…not the years lived, the diseases survived, or the amount of things collected.

“Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives.”—A. Sachs

What does this mean in a political sense?  It means we should reject calls for social welfare programs because they only care about quantity of life not quality…but it does reaffirm our need to be generous and charitable in our personal lives.  But just because some choose to make the wrong choice and not show the amount of charity that will bring them the most happiness, it is the previous points about free will and Happiness destroy any argument that these individual’s foolish choices of irrational self interest means we have to provide for those who do not have.

The Long Term Solution is the Best One

When you live with a belief that you’ll be reincarnated, as most New Agers do, long term planning is kind of important.  The karmic payment plan “Buy now, pay forever.”  So not just in your personal life, but in the political sphere, short term fixes are usually to be shunned as you will always have to deal with their effects…even if those effects are over a generation off.  So government plans that won’t work for the next 50 years, hell even a hundred years are not popular when in the New Age mind set.  Programs that will never be able to pay for themselves and never yield real long term progress should not be popular with New Agers, and this leads to a fairly conservative view point (note I’m saying conservative not Republican, those idiots can be some of the most short term thinkers around).

***

Classically Liberal democratic-republics coupled with near laissez-faire capitalism and thedesire to keep government small, efficient, and protecting your rights is the logical out- growth of Pagan and New Age principles.  One wonders why so many Pagans and New Agers are liberal.

 

 

And you know what?   Forgetting that these are values of one spiritual outlook or another…I would bet you the Founding Fathers would agree with this list more than any list Rick Santorum or Barrack Obama would come up with as their guiding values.

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4th Chakra Meditation: Our Deepest Fear

This weeks mediation deals with self love, something that is often ignored .  What follows is from Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love: Reflections on A Course in Miracles.  Read it to yourself two to three times and then just ponder it for at least 15 minutes.  You should believe every word as absolute truth, and if you don’t search for the reason why in your meditation.

“As I interpret the Course, ‘our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (Reflections page 190-191) (Bolded Text added)

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Republicans and Reincarnation is for sale!!!!

It’s for sale.

Republicans and Reincarnation: The Conscience of A New Age Conservative is finally for sale!!

You should buy a copy. Or three. One for you. One for your best friend whom you want to have one of the best books of the 21st century. And one just because you never know when you’ll need a back up copy.

Buy it at my publisher AuthorHouse

Barnes & Noble

Amazon  (although they apparently are not selling the Kindle version just yet, but they should have it up soon).  

Prices for the book are lower at my publisher, prices for the Nook at B&N is lower than the price at my publisher.  (Royalties are higher from my publisher, so you know where my bias lies).

Feel free to write a review or two…Feel free to mention it to every carbon based life-form you know…feel free to forward information to any member of the media you know.

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New Age Thought for the Day

My day job is working as a High School English Teacher (or at least it was until I very recently found myself unemployed, but as I’m looking to return to the field, I would say that I am and always will be a teacher). As part of trying to be a great teacher I try to always be self-reflective in my craft, and as a person isn’t always the best judge of their own qualities, I ask others for critique as well. So yesterday I asked one of my closest friends/colleagues what my biggest flaw as a teacher was. After several moments of reflection (I’ll be honest it was quite reassuring that he didn’t have a knee-jerk immediate answer to this question) he told me that while I was quite intelligent and deep in my teaching, and while I got along with some students exceptionally well (the high achievers, the bright ones, the honors kids… in other words the nerds) able to push them further than most teachers could because they trusted and respected me, this deep and effective relationship was not something I shared with the middle range or low achieving students. He continued that as such most students didn’t feel comfortable taking their problems to me, that I was shut off from them, and they were in turn shut off from me. That because I didn’t connect with them I couldn’t teach them as well, and had a tendency to ignore them when I saw they weren’t interested in learning what I had to teach them. That one of my greatest flaws was not respecting these students because while they would never come up to the level that I expected from my high achievers, they could still learn from me, and until I accepted this I would never be as great a teacher I as I could be.


I agree with every aspect of his assessment of my teaching flaws…except for that last point. And I’ll get to it in a moment. But first a brief interlude onto why this has some relationship to the New Age spiritual movement.

Possibly on the most quoted passages from a New Age book is the following from Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love: Reflections on A Course in Miracles:

“As I interpret the Course, ‘our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (Reflections page 190-191)

So what does that mean? It means that we are all “brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous.” But clearly not all in the same way…We are all talented but we all have a different talents that we are meant to bring to the universe. We all have a different individualized mission here that we are meant to fulfill, even if all our missions are leading to same place, each person has a different role fulfill at this time, in this place, during this life. “We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.” And our purpose to bring whatever that gift is to everyone around us. Now it is true some of us have multiple gifts, but not everyone is a Michelangelo who can sculpt, paint fresco, design great architecture, and write poetry. Most of us are more specialized in what gifts are. And it is only by using those gifts, by “[making] manifest the glory of God” in the way that we have been given for this life the we will ever achieve happiness or enlightenment; not mention that it is the only way we can effectively be a catalyst to help others achieve their own happiness or enlightenment. So as cliché an idea as it might seem, a New Age core belief is “To thine own self be true.”

What does this have to do with the comment made about my teaching and its flaws. Well I agree that I don’t get along with the middle to low achieving students. But is this really a flaw in my teaching? In the conversation about my flaws my friend brought up a conversation he had had with a student who had recently come into some personal losses, was very depressed about it, and contemplating a very self-destructive choice of dropping out of our school to go to an easier school nearby. My friend connected well with student, discussed his problems, and got him to work through his difficulties all within the space about half an hour (my friend in addition to being a great teacher would have made a wonderful psychiatrist). I had been watching the whole conversation, having originally come in to ask a quick question but staying to lend moral support (and knowing enough to know that if I left it would be another emotional blow to this student, as if to say ‘I really don’t care about your problems’). After the student had left, feeling much better, I commented to my friend how I admired his skills to counsel students and saying it was a skill I wouldn’t likely be as good at….Back to yesterday’s conversation, my friend said I needed to acquire that skill if I was ever going to be great teacher.

But I don’t think he’s right. I think we both have our niche to fill. His is to be the teacher that students can go to have help to work out his problem. Mine is to be the teacher that the aspiring intellectuals can go to. No teacher can be all things to all people, just as no person can be great in all things. There may be the concept of the Renaissance Man who is an expert in multiple field but for every Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and Jefferson with their wide breadth of skills, there is also a Beethoven and Shakespeare with their more one venue greatness. Now you might scoff and think that high achievers always get along with any teacher… which is kind of true, most tend to get along with them… but not every teacher can push them. High achievers tend to be really good at running cost benefit analysis and are very good at doing just doing the bare minimum what is required to get an A or B and nothing more. It takes skill to make them give 100% percent when that effort is rewarded in the grade book with the same “A” that giving 50% would get them. It takes even more skill to make them realize that what they thought was 100% was merely a fraction of what they are capable of. To make them enjoy doing it takes even more skill.

To do all this is a gift I have. And to do this requires cultivating a certain air of that alienates those who deep down are less than thrilled to find out what they are really capable of. To cultivate the counselor in me would be at the expense of being the one to push the high achievers as far as they can… at the expense of the gift and light I was given.

Now a good school needs someone like me, and needs someone like my friend, and needs a lot of other teachers with other skill sets. But to my way of thinking, saying that I don’t get along with all levels of students isn’t a flaw, it’s a recognition of what my personal gifts are.

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Filed under A Course in Miracles, Education, Marianne Williamson, New Age, Purpose of Life, Teaching