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2 years ago  ::  May 15, 2012 - 12:12PM #1
newsjunkie
Posts: 5,741
Or if holiness is too much of a loaded term, perhaps the thread could be called What is the best goal? or What is the best way to live?

My husband and I were talking a few days ago about religion, as we do sometimes. In such discussions he often says that Jesus was preaching selflessness. In other religions like Buddhism for example, selflessness seems to be the ideal. What Catholicism and Buddhism seem to present as "holiness" is pretty much selflessness, ISTM.  

Then we started discussing whether selflessness was really a good goal. I mean, if I selflessly give away all I own and give it to the poor, wouldn't I likely end up poor as well and in need of a handout?

Maybe a better goal is to make sure you take care of yourself first, but share your excess with others.

My husband suggested that maybe it's a better goal to produce as much as you can so that others can have more. Maybe that would mean being a bit selfish while you get started, but wouldn't that be OK if it means in the end you do more for others?

I'd be interested in hearing what others have to say.

 
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2 years ago  ::  May 15, 2012 - 12:19PM #2
Buggsy
Posts: 4,630

I'm sure His Hollowness will weigh in on this one.

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2 years ago  ::  May 15, 2012 - 12:21PM #3
cherubino
Posts: 7,277

May 15, 2012 -- 12:12PM, newsjunkie wrote:



I'd be interested in hearing what others have to say.

 



I like this:


PERFECT JOY

Is there to be found on earth a fullness of joy, or is there no such thing? Is there some way to make life fully worth living, or is this impossible? If there is such a way, how would you go about finding it? What should you try to do? What should you seek to avoid? What should be the goal in which your activity comes to rest? What should you accept? What should you refuse to accept? What should you love? What should you hate?
What the world values is money, reputation, long life, achievement. What it counts as joy is health and comfort of body, good food, fine clothes, beautiful things to look at, pleasant music to listen to.
What it condemns is lack of money, a low social rank, a reputation for being no good, and an early death.
What it considers misfortune is bodily discomfort and labor, no chance to get your fill of food, not having good clothes to wear, having no way to amuse or delight the eye, no pleasant music to listen to. If people find that they are deprived of these things, they go into a panic or fall into despair. They are so concerned for their life that their anxiety makes life unbearable, even when they have the things they think they want. Their very concern for enjoyment makes them unhappy.
The rich make life intolerable, driving themselves to get more and more money which they cannot really use. In so doing they are alienated from themselves in their own service as though they were the slaves of others.
The ambitious run day and night in pursuit of honors, constantly in anguish about the success of their plans, dreading the miscalculation that may wreck everything. Thus they are alienated from themselves, exhausting their real life in service of the shadow created by their insatiable hope.
The birth of a man is the birth of his sorrow.
The longer he lives, the more stupid he becomes, because his anxiety to avoid unavoidable death becomes more and more acute. What bitterness! He lives for what is always out of reach! His thirst for survival in the future makes him incapable of living in the present.    
What about the self-sacrificing officials and scholars? They are honored by the world because they are good, upright, self-sacrificing men.
Yet their good character does not preserve them from unhappiness, nor even from ruin, disgrace, and death.
I wonder, in that case, if their "goodness" is really so good after all! Is it perhaps a source of unhappiness?
Suppose you admit they are happy. But is it a happy thing to have a character and a career that lead to one's own eventual destruction? On the other hand, can you call them "unhappy" if, in sacrificing themselves, they save the lives and fortunes of others?
Take the case of a minister who conscientiously and uprightly opposes an unjust decision of his King! Some say, "Tell the truth, and if the King will not listen, let him do what he likes. You have no further obligation."
On the other hand, Tzu Shu continued to resist the unjust policy of his sovereign. He was consequently destroyed. But if he had not stood up for what he believed to be right, his name would not be held in honor.
So there is the question, Shall the course he took be called "good" if, at the same time, it was fatal to him?
I cannot tell if what the world considers "happiness" is happiness or not. All I know is that when I consider the way they go about attaining it, I see them carried away headlong, grim and obsessed, in the general onrush of the human herd, unable to stop themselves or to change their direction. All the while they claim to be just on the point of attaining happiness.
For my part, I cannot accept their standards, whether of happiness or unhappiness. I ask myself if after all their concept of happiness has any meaning whatever.
My opinion is that you never find happiness until you stop looking for it. My greatest happiness consists precisely in doing nothing whatever that is calculated to obtain happiness: and this, in the minds of most people, is the worst possible course.
I will hold to the saying that: "Perfect joy is to be without joy. Perfect praise is to be without praise."
If you ask "what ought to be done" and "what ought not to be done" on earth to produce happiness, I answer that these questions do not have an answer. There is no way of determining such things.
Yet at the same time, if I cease striving for "happiness", the "right" and the "wrong" at once become apparent all by themselves.
Contentment and well-being at once become possible the moment you cease to act with them in view, and if you practice non-doing (wu wei), you will have both happiness and well-being.

Here is how I sum it up:
Heaven does nothing: its non-doing is its serenity.
Earth does nothing: its non-doing is its rest.
From the union of these two non-doings
All actions proceed,
All things are made.
How vast, how invisible
This coming-to be!
All things come from nowhere!
How vast, how invisible--
No way to explain it!
All beings in their perfection
Are born of non-doing.
Hence it is said:
"Heaven and earth do nothing
Yet there is nothing they do not do."

Where is the man who can attain
To this non-doing?

~Thomas Merton, translator: The Way of Chuang Tzu, 1965

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2 years ago  ::  May 15, 2012 - 12:43PM #4
Buggsy
Posts: 4,630

Holiness is like beauty, evil and good.  Pretty difficult to define but pretty easy to use in everyday discourse where like-minded people agree. 


Is the Dalai Lama holy?  Not according to the Chinese government who claim he's a 'splitist' a liar and a conman.  But according to Tibetan Buddhist monks he's a divine being. 


What is holy water?  dangerous drugs?

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2 years ago  ::  May 15, 2012 - 1:30PM #5
newsjunkie
Posts: 5,741

May 15, 2012 -- 12:21PM, cherubino wrote:


May 15, 2012 -- 12:12PM, newsjunkie wrote:



I'd be interested in hearing what others have to say.

 



I like this:


PERFECT JOY

Is there to be found on earth a fullness of joy, or is there no such thing? Is there some way to make life fully worth living, or is this impossible? If there is such a way, how would you go about finding it? What should you try to do? What should you seek to avoid? What should be the goal in which your activity comes to rest? What should you accept? What should you refuse to accept? What should you love? What should you hate?
What the world values is money, reputation, long life, achievement. What it counts as joy is health and comfort of body, good food, fine clothes, beautiful things to look at, pleasant music to listen to.
What it condemns is lack of money, a low social rank, a reputation for being no good, and an early death.
What it considers misfortune is bodily discomfort and labor, no chance to get your fill of food, not having good clothes to wear, having no way to amuse or delight the eye, no pleasant music to listen to. If people find that they are deprived of these things, they go into a panic or fall into despair. They are so concerned for their life that their anxiety makes life unbearable, even when they have the things they think they want. Their very concern for enjoyment makes them unhappy.
The rich make life intolerable, driving themselves to get more and more money which they cannot really use. In so doing they are alienated from themselves in their own service as though they were the slaves of others.
The ambitious run day and night in pursuit of honors, constantly in anguish about the success of their plans, dreading the miscalculation that may wreck everything. Thus they are alienated from themselves, exhausting their real life in service of the shadow created by their insatiable hope.
The birth of a man is the birth of his sorrow.
The longer he lives, the more stupid he becomes, because his anxiety to avoid unavoidable death becomes more and more acute. What bitterness! He lives for what is always out of reach! His thirst for survival in the future makes him incapable of living in the present.    
What about the self-sacrificing officials and scholars? They are honored by the world because they are good, upright, self-sacrificing men.
Yet their good character does not preserve them from unhappiness, nor even from ruin, disgrace, and death.
I wonder, in that case, if their "goodness" is really so good after all! Is it perhaps a source of unhappiness?
Suppose you admit they are happy. But is it a happy thing to have a character and a career that lead to one's own eventual destruction? On the other hand, can you call them "unhappy" if, in sacrificing themselves, they save the lives and fortunes of others?
Take the case of a minister who conscientiously and uprightly opposes an unjust decision of his King! Some say, "Tell the truth, and if the King will not listen, let him do what he likes. You have no further obligation."
On the other hand, Tzu Shu continued to resist the unjust policy of his sovereign. He was consequently destroyed. But if he had not stood up for what he believed to be right, his name would not be held in honor.
So there is the question, Shall the course he took be called "good" if, at the same time, it was fatal to him?
I cannot tell if what the world considers "happiness" is happiness or not. All I know is that when I consider the way they go about attaining it, I see them carried away headlong, grim and obsessed, in the general onrush of the human herd, unable to stop themselves or to change their direction. All the while they claim to be just on the point of attaining happiness.
For my part, I cannot accept their standards, whether of happiness or unhappiness. I ask myself if after all their concept of happiness has any meaning whatever.
My opinion is that you never find happiness until you stop looking for it. My greatest happiness consists precisely in doing nothing whatever that is calculated to obtain happiness: and this, in the minds of most people, is the worst possible course.
I will hold to the saying that: "Perfect joy is to be without joy. Perfect praise is to be without praise."
If you ask "what ought to be done" and "what ought not to be done" on earth to produce happiness, I answer that these questions do not have an answer. There is no way of determining such things.
Yet at the same time, if I cease striving for "happiness", the "right" and the "wrong" at once become apparent all by themselves.
Contentment and well-being at once become possible the moment you cease to act with them in view, and if you practice non-doing (wu wei), you will have both happiness and well-being.

Here is how I sum it up:
Heaven does nothing: its non-doing is its serenity.
Earth does nothing: its non-doing is its rest.
From the union of these two non-doings
All actions proceed,
All things are made.
How vast, how invisible
This coming-to be!
All things come from nowhere!
How vast, how invisible--
No way to explain it!
All beings in their perfection
Are born of non-doing.
Hence it is said:
"Heaven and earth do nothing
Yet there is nothing they do not do."

Where is the man who can attain
To this non-doing?

~Thomas Merton, translator: The Way of Chuang Tzu, 1965




I haven't been doing much lately, so that's sounding pretty good to me!


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2 years ago  ::  May 15, 2012 - 1:54PM #6
Buggsy
Posts: 4,630

May 15, 2012 -- 1:30PM, newsjunkie wrote:


I haven't been doing much lately, so that's sounding pretty good to me!




Pretty funny.  But it does bring up the point that stillness, silence and non-doing seems to be antithetical to anything that should be considered holy or sacred.  If not then anything inorganic is holy - by definition.  I like Campbell's thought . . . . something catches our attention sometimes and that awe and wonder leaves us speechless and thoughtless.  Maybe that's what what non-doing or silence is all about.

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2 years ago  ::  May 15, 2012 - 2:03PM #7
mokantx
Posts: 3,813

NJ (et al.)


For me, I'd suggest the following thoughts:


1: there is no "one size fits all" holiness, in the sense that holiness is as individualized as we are.  So I can marvel, for example, at a man who withdraws from society and spends his life as a contemplative monk, or as one who commits his life to that of a parish priests, a married woman, or perhaps as a teacher.  Each and every one of these paths can suggest a life being lived in holiness, yet as we know, the specific path is no guarantee of holiness per se.


2: One of the more amazing things to me about life itself, is how diverse life is, how individualistic we all are.  My gifts are often miles away from those of my wife, and we both marvel at the gifts/talents of our kids.  So I think a big component of holiness is that we be consistent to that which makes us up as individuals.  There is a great deal we have in common, but there are also unique gifts.  I think a large component of holiness is being consistent with what we've been given.


3:  Holiness to me, runs close to joy, and perhaps balance.  Those people I've known who I think may be the holier, are those who embraced life, at every level, and gave all they had to it.  A favorite priest I knew in the seminary had upper arms that were as thick as my thighs.  But he didn't get those from weightlifting.  The man loved working with his hands.  So I'd see him out chopping wood, working on the school's tractor, running our school's offset printing press, etc...  He was a great priest, a strong preacher, a good teacher, etc. But I think he'd found a way to integrate all of those things (each of which used various of his gifts), with his other gift/passions, namely "things mechanical" and nature.  I suspect for him, a great sin might be boredom, for he would give 100% at all times, no matter what he was doing.  I contrast him with an older neighbor of ours, a widow who died recently.  She had been married to a WWII era doctor, who had risen high in the US Military medical corps.  She'd traveled the world, collected a lot of art, loved to read books, etc.  Again, she did things VERY different from the priest I mentioned, but she was consistent with her gifts, her knowledge, her life experience.  And through it all, both of these folks were giving.  They were rooted, so they knew they had to take care of themselves, but they also cared for others whenever they could.



So I guess when I think about it, holiness strikes me as what happens when a person takes each and every gift they have, and tries to live in a way that maximizes those gifts, always aware of others, and always trying to do the right/best thing.  From that often springs a joy that becomes infectious.  These folks aren't really focused on holiness: that's not their central aim.  I think they focus on the gift of life itself, and they see that life as something temporal, and thus not to be squandered. 

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2 years ago  ::  May 15, 2012 - 2:30PM #8
newsjunkie
Posts: 5,741

May 15, 2012 -- 2:03PM, mokantx wrote:


NJ (et al.)


For me, I'd suggest the following thoughts:


1: there is no "one size fits all" holiness, in the sense that holiness is as individualized as we are.  So I can marvel, for example, at a man who withdraws from society and spends his life as a contemplative monk, or as one who commits his life to that of a parish priests, a married woman, or perhaps as a teacher.  Each and every one of these paths can suggest a life being lived in holiness, yet as we know, the specific path is no guarantee of holiness per se.


2: One of the more amazing things to me about life itself, is how diverse life is, how individualistic we all are.  My gifts are often miles away from those of my wife, and we both marvel at the gifts/talents of our kids.  So I think a big component of holiness is that we be consistent to that which makes us up as individuals.  There is a great deal we have in common, but there are also unique gifts.  I think a large component of holiness is being consistent with what we've been given.


3:  Holiness to me, runs close to joy, and perhaps balance.  Those people I've known who I think may be the holier, are those who embraced life, at every level, and gave all they had to it.  A favorite priest I knew in the seminary had upper arms that were as thick as my thighs.  But he didn't get those from weightlifting.  The man loved working with his hands.  So I'd see him out chopping wood, working on the school's tractor, running our school's offset printing press, etc...  He was a great priest, a strong preacher, a good teacher, etc. But I think he'd found a way to integrate all of those things (each of which used various of his gifts), with his other gift/passions, namely "things mechanical" and nature.  I suspect for him, a great sin might be boredom, for he would give 100% at all times, no matter what he was doing.  I contrast him with an older neighbor of ours, a widow who died recently.  She had been married to a WWII era doctor, who had risen high in the US Military medical corps.  She'd traveled the world, collected a lot of art, loved to read books, etc.  Again, she did things VERY different from the priest I mentioned, but she was consistent with her gifts, her knowledge, her life experience.  And through it all, both of these folks were giving.  They were rooted, so they knew they had to take care of themselves, but they also cared for others whenever they could.


So I guess when I think about it, holiness strikes me as what happens when a person takes each and every gift they have, and tries to live in a way that maximizes those gifts, always aware of others, and always trying to do the right/best thing.  From that often springs a joy that becomes infectious.  These folks aren't really focused on holiness: that's not their central aim.  I think they focus on the gift of life itself, and they see that life as something temporal, and thus not to be squandered. 




Oh, I like that too!


One of the suggestions I made to my husband when we had this discussion was that maybe  holiness is taking whatever gift you have and using it to the best of your ability. A few weeks ago the documentary, "Being Elmo" was on PBS. It's about Kevin Clash, who is the puppeteer behind Elmo. I had heard him interviewed on Fresh Air last year, and he amazed me then. I'd never given much thought to puppetry, or Elmo, or Sesame Street, but when I heard this guy's story it was really inspiring. The movie showed how special his gift of puppetry is and how it has inspired so many children, and adults, too. In the movie it shows that his life was not in balance, however. He spent too much time at work and not enough time with his wife and daughter. He got divorced. He seems like a happy, joyful man, and he certainly has brought joy to others.


I wouldn't use the loaded term "holy" to describe Kevin Clash, but he is a person who used his gift very well, and I think that's great.


Some of us may not have extraordinary gifts at a particular art or trade. Most of us are called to do something with our lives other than be a contemplative nun or monk. I think trying to give the best effort you can to what you're doing is good. If it doesn't provide fulfillment or joy, maybe try something different.

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2 years ago  ::  May 15, 2012 - 3:08PM #9
hewy1952
Posts: 2,454

I don't think anyone has touched the essential expressed by Josef Goldbrunner, many years ago, and one that guided much of our (seminary years) understanding about real holiness.  Simply stated, Holiness is Wholeness.  (The title of his book). 


 


For believers who believe in God/Yahweh/Allah the Creator, what is so in tune with that creation.


For believers who believe in the Salvation of Jesus, what is more true of him than  that message.


For those who believe in Buddhism,  enough said. 

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2 years ago  ::  May 15, 2012 - 4:03PM #10
Seefan
Posts: 3,632

When I read anything about those who are considered holy (by the world it seems) it has to do with using their skills and beyond to, as Brother Lawrence put it, practice the presence of God and to make it a real part of their lives.  In whatever Faith one follows it seems to be the practice of those spiritual principles designed to help us and the world at large to develop and grow, for the sole purpose of gaining near access of God and not to further one's self in the eyes of the world.  I suspect that those who do this on a daily bases can't but positively affect those around him/her.  And while they may not be considered a saint or even holy in the traditional way have a very high spiritual calling indeed ...


 

Today the one overriding need is unity and harmony among the beloved of the Lord, for they should have among them but one heart and soul and should, so far as in them lieth, unitedly withstand the hostility of all the peoples of the world ... (Baha'i Writings)
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