Archive for October, 2010

Rabbit, Rabbit! A Monthly Pagan Ritual!

October 30, 2010 - 3:54 pm 142 Comments

Origins and History

The exact origin of the superstition is certainly unknown, though it has appeared in print at least as early as 1420 in England, wher the observance itself is said to have originated, though there are some reports place its origins even earlier, into the 1200’s. Today, ithas spread to most English speaking countries of the world, although like all folklore, determining distribution is difficult.  This superstitution appears to be related to the broader belief in the rabbit or hare as being a “lucky” animal…. (as exhibited in the dubious? practicve of carrying around a rabbit’s foot for luck… )

Some adherents believe that it represents a jump into the future, and being able to move ahead with one’s life and in moving, make quick steps towards one’s sense of happiness and sense of a fully lived life…

As with most folktales, which has always been spread most rapidly through word of mouth, there are numerous variant versions of this “rabbit, rabbit” superstitution- in some cases, specific to a cetain time period of region. There are hundreds of viariations, some of the most common of which include:

1) White Rabbits On The First of Every Month: In some parts of lancashire and tha djacent counties, it is unwise to shoot a black rabbit. This is because they were once believed to be ancestral spirits that came back in that form. In Somerset, white rabbits were thought to be witches. That anyone really believes this now is improbable; nevertheless, white rabbits are not popular as children’s pets and they are usually left severely alone, and are not shot!

The luck bringing custom found all over Great Britiain is to say ” Rabbits” or “White Rabbits”once or three times on the first day of every month. it must be said early in the morning, before any other word has been uttered, otherwise the charm loses its force.. In some districts, it is considered to be necessary to say “Hares” or “Black Rabbits” when going to bed on the night before, as well as “Rabbits or White Rabbits” in the morning! IF, however, the speaker becomes muddled, and says ” Black Rabbits” on arising, bad luck will follow! The looked for result of all this variously given as general good luck during the ensuing four weeks, or the receipt of a gift within a few days.”

2) the converse is true! saying “Rabbit” ( or even dreamionmg of rabbits?) will bring you bad luck!

3) Being the first one to say to someone, “Rabbit, Rabbit!” will bring you good luck. Once someone has says”rabbit, rabbit” to you, then you are no longer permitted to repeat it to anyone,thus having bad luck for that month.

4) Instead of saying, “rabbit, rabbit” saying just”rabbits, or rabbits,  and some will extend this to saying, “rabbits, rabbits, rabbits” which has some of the ealiest historical references.

5) The earliest referenced usuage may be to saying “rabbits” three times before going to sleep the last night of the month, then saying “hares” three times upon awakening, though just two years later, it was recorded as three “rabbits” in the morning, and no hares at all!

6) Using the night of the New Moon (traditionally the first day of the lunar month) instead of the first night of the calendar month.

7) Another version is to say “bunny,bunny hop, hop”

8) Saying “black rabbits?” the night before, and “white rabbits?” in the morning in a questioning way…

9) Believing that the effect will be stronger if done during the month of one’s birth.

10) Referring to the first of every month as “Rabbit Day”

11) There are various ways to counter the effect of forgetting to say the “rabbit” word, so that you can counteract the promise of regular or bad luck during the month… Thye first is to say it backwards, “tibbar, tibbar” before you fall asleep or some accounts will offer the rememy of saying, “Moose, Moose” upon waking up on the second day of the month!

12) A different but related practice of saying “Happy Rabbits Day” to someone in order to bring them good luck.

I would add that while the rabbit may or may not have luck ascribed to its name, it certainly is a symbol of vitality, fertility, energy, and resourcefulnesss- all things that can make any month a more favorittable experience… Besides, it is a delightful excuse to contact dear friends, right?)

Towards A Theology… Of Sports?

October 26, 2010 - 9:02 am 144 Comments
Towards A Theology Of Sports?
 A Look at the Place and Importance of Sports in Our Lives
The Reverend Peter Edward Lanzillotta, Ph.D.

Ah, October! The sports fan’s favorite month! It is the epitome of fantastic or the fanatic saturation! Not only does the football season reach its full time coverage of every pass and punt, we also have the basketball season tipping off with all of its deeks and dunks, the hockey season flies down the wings of the rink, seeking to score hat tricks, and if that is not enough, we arrive at the cultural pinnacle of sports, that exoteric ritual we have named The World Series with all of its history and hoopla awaiting its play!

Every team and each major player in whatever sport you are avidly following will have their every move analyzed with endless commentary and in exasperating details…. If you happened to miss a game, there is always Dish, Hulu, Netflix or some other satellite broadcasts and if you want to learn a game, there are plethora of ads for instructional videos, clips looking back at the highlights of last season’s games, etc., that will ensure that we, living in the USA, Whether it is reading, watching or playing, our country might be the most sports conscious culture in the world!

From my historical and not hysterical point of view, not since the Greeks or the Romans, has a civilization emphasized sports so highly… Not since the Greeks held the first games and the Romans held their circuses, has a nation been so preoccupied, or so self-possessed by what is going on its playing fields gyms, and stadiums! Not since the time of the gladiators have rabid fans of all ages and intellects had so much to cheer or moan about! (Remember: the word fan is short for fanatic!)

While it is certainly true that sports seems to be a peculiar topic for a sermon, I feel that every aspect of life benefits from a periodic philosophical review and an ethical appraisal. Body/Mind/Spirit regular and routine check ups?)
Because our society is so intensely involved in athletics, the motives, values and ideals behind sports in America is for me, as a former minister and an ex-jock, now a life coach and spiritual counselor, it is fair game for consideration.

As I have come to understand it, the role and the place of sports in our culture is basically a healthy one. Exercise and participating in sports has been strongly advised as an aid to cardiovascular health, lowering stress, building resistance, increasing immunity, preventing bone loss, and in the latest studies on mental and emotional health, exercise has been established as a contributing factor in lessening depression, relieving anxiety, and other illnesses. So it is clear that sports, exercise and games do have their valuable and importance place in our lives.
The US President most responsible for accelerating our love for sports and athletics in this country was John F. Kennedy. When starting the fitness programs nationally in our schools, he said:
“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity. The relationship between the soundness of the body and the activities of the mind is subtle and complex. …. But we do know what the Greeks knew: that intelligence and skill can only function at the peak of their capacity when the body is healthy and strong; that hardy spirits and tough minds usually inhabit sound gods.” JFK 1961

Even though I can still agree with him, unfortunately, the times have changed! With the advent of a more passive, Mass Media driven culture, there are some very disturbing outlooks, practices, and actions within the world of sports that deserve a more critical examination. Not the least of these is that the passive consumption of sports can function as a deterrent or as a preoccupying distraction from having a more positive and energetic engagement in our lives and giving more time to our personal, civic, and relational priorities! So today, I will outline some of the issues that trouble me as they pertain to how we, as individuals and we, as a society, deal with the wide world of sports…
First, I am questioning the looming social crisis concerning how we approach participation in sports: from the littlest gymnast to the avid golfer, from the playground to the stadium. The dilemma, as I see it, is the wholesale corporate sponsored distortion of personal values to justify winning and being a success in one’s life.
The original lessons from the Greeks all the way to the founding the YM and YWCA’s has taken an unfortunate and often tragic turn. What our children need from us as their parents, grandparents, coaches and teachers is a return to the original ideal of the Olympics and to willingly adopt more of the classical approach that started it all. Succinctly, this outlook is captured in two Latin phrases, “Mens Coporae in Mens Sana” or “Anima Sana in Corpore Sano” A sound mind in a sound body…
Real strength derives from our moral character, and true greatness comes from holding one’s mind, body, spirit in balance. The leader in the Athenian Greek culture was not just a brutish wrestler, or even the best javelin thrower, he was also a fine philosopher, artist, poet, musician or politician. It is a life of activity and balance that appears to be quite removed from the crass materialism, low ethical expectations, and gross standards for stardom we accept today.

Sports in our society have been co-opted and perverted by greed. There is the extraordinary emphasis on money, which encourages children and young adults to play hurt, take steroids or cheat in order to win. Additionally, there is a distinct lack of civility from the fans and alumni supporters and when combined with the moral and abusive infractions of coaches and trainers and the players themselves, we are given a picture of severe imbalances and lack of proper perspectives concerning the value and role of sports in culture today.
Before I get into an examination of a few of these issues, I would like to state that I feel that every concerned parent will need to be more careful about these prevailing attitudes before endorsing their child’s participation in them. Next, I am asking parents and citizens of every age to look deeper into the real consequences and the impact that sports has on our values.

I will ask you to consider these questions:
How does my interest or involvement in sports help or hinder my ethical understanding or my spiritual development? How does it affect or influence our children’s education and enrichment? How does our participation and sponsorship of sports and athletic events assist certain outlooks or how does it create dominant values?

For example, do you see a link between sports and alcohol consumption? Did you know, taking only a few of many examples,
that Coors brewing company has a record of giving its profits to ultra right wing groups? That the Philip Morris tobacco owns Miller beer? Other areas of concern would be the fact that the Shick razor company who owns Bic pens, has supported the John Birch Society! Nike has been known for its exploitive hiring practices, and so on… I am sure you can easily come up with other such troublesome connections! Corporations own and name stadiums today… and along with outrageous prices, the big business of sports often gets tax breaks for their sports complexes!
As I see it, the main ethical issues or problem areas are these: The priority we give to the success motive, the emphasis on materialism and its rewards, and the “body image” worship that is so wrapped up in athletic competition. They lead to a whole host of problems such as drug abuse in sports, the use of anabolic steroids- where the first average use age has increasingly been younger… now as early as 18… There are drugs and hormonal additives used for increased short term benefits without weighing any of the long term negative effects!While I am not objecting or degrading the value of competition, or free enterprise as an inherent evil, (well at least not today I am not!) My present concern is focussed on the increased pressure placed on our children that states something like this: ” You’d better not fail, or lose, or be inferior in any way. You have to be a winner in life!… And the insidious corollary… If you become a winner, I do not need to feel so bad about my own failings or shortcomings.” What has happened to a parent’s supportive and encouraging participation in sports as someone who promotes learning teamwork, cooperation, dexterity, organization, follow-through, kinesthetics … Whatever happened to playing sports and games as a source of having fun? (origin of the word Amateur- doing something or participating for the love of it!) Whatever happened to the noble sentiments of Grantland Rice when he penned” It not whether you win or lose, but it is how you play the game?”
The truth is, that if we allow young people to fail without shame, to lose and then learn new skills without censure, the merits and the values they will carry into adulthood will be far more useful and less toxic— less toxic and damaging to body and soul than being driven to succeed by the fear of criticism, failure, or winning at all costs….
Why I know of men who are still haunted and at times, have had nightmares over a severe public tongue-lashing by a coach… even thirty years ago! We have to look at what values are being created and mirrored back to us by adult needs and the mass media… Adult needs?Yes, indeed, there is a phenomenon that sociologists and psychologists have termed, “vicarious fulfillment.”  This concept simply means that the desire of the parents or the adults to reach or attain their own personal goals is achieved through others- namely through their favorite team or their children’s athletic prowess. This projection or this living out their self-esteem needs through the identification with their children or the efforts of others, can have some unforetold, destructive, even tragic effects.
We have seen this tendency in other places than sports- in the movies or in the theatre, we have seen the “back stage mother” or in academic circles, the “shadow teacher.” (helicopter parent?)
In sports, it is most often the father who becomes the rabid fan, or it is the overly zealous coach who emphasizes success at any cost. This need for sense of fulfillment crates a desire to push their daughter or son early and hard- to become a star. While I would not criticize active involvement in your child or grandchild’s activities, we are seeing ample evidence of coercion at very early ages, and we see elementary school youngsters logging long hours of practice at the gym, on the practice field by the parent who dreams of a rich pay check or a gold medal for…. Themselves.A little personal experience… I was intensely interested in sports all through my youth and young adulthood… I still have the scars and wounds to prove it! I remember hitting a teammate so hard in football practice that I broke his helmet and he received a concussion… It bothered me so much that it contributed to almost failing the first half of my senior year… But all though my life, from Charles Atlas to isometrics, from isotonics, through the martial arts and more, I have deep reflections-pro and con- on all those experiences…. One stands out- I was coaching a Pop Warner Football team… and I was confronted by an irate parent because his son was not first string quarterback! I am glad that a mutual friend intervened otherwise there would have been an unavoidable fight!
(You may recall reading about the angry parent in Massachusetts who actually killed another parent over a peewee hockey game…!)

The ultimate lesson being taught is that you play sports to see if you have enough talent to “make a bundle” and you willingly prostitute your talent for cash and prestige. Whatever happened to the “Chariot of Fire” model for an athlete? Instead, we have parents willing to bring their child for practice at 4:00 AM but not willing to get them up to go to their religious education classes?
From my dialogues over the years with a variety of child advocates, this intense pressure worries many caregivers… from classroom teachers, from guidance counselors to physical therapists and physicians who increasingly are treating joint fatigue and bone growth injuries in their young patients.

As a consequence, while I enjoy following my favorite teams when their games are televised, I am not so sure I would ever allow myself to be a serious fan of anything … Well, maybe cheer leading for a liberal, inclusive and accepting approach to spirituality and religion!

The next issue is our culture’s skewed emphasis on greed and the prizes of materialism. The newspapers are filled with glamour write-ups about huge contracts, signing bonuses, and romanticized lifestyles. The truth is becoming a professional player is a remote possibility… less that 2% of all the people who ever play the game ever achieve any short-lived stardom or status… Careers for most of them are over by age 30; and former professional athletes have a high mortality rate- average age for the onset of serious illness is now 50 years old, and that is without factoring in the insidious price of dementia from repeated concussions!… . Is it worth the price?
What about the college stars who once their playing days are through, find that they many have sacrificed their education to the prestige of a belonging to a great sports team or profit making athletic program… for while they might have graduated, they painfully realize that they are now functionally illiterate!

The last issue I will raise this morning is the effects of the mass media on the quality of role models … The propaganda device for selling products through advertising that is most often used is called the “testimonial.” This when a pro player, or for that matter, a rock musician, movie star, any celebrity is asked to pitch a certain product and lend their credibility, or their star power for an media endorsement in exchange for great bundles of money. The famous person is asked to endorse a particular bat, glove, racket, golf club, sneakers or skis…. beer or fast food… Which breeds a need to identify with that status brand or elite trademark equipment so that the child or teenager can feel accepted and with it… (Sneakers for over $150???)
I used to call this the Joe Namath syndrome, but today I think I would name Peyton Manning- he is selling everything!
I fear that you can name any number of these talented players who will do anything for a buck! I disagree strenuously with Charles Barkley, the basketball star, when he stated that athletes are not role models…. they receive such public attention and acclaim which, to me, morally necessitates their willingness to be role models for the future generations….

In closing, my approach to sports is that there is nothing inherently bad or wrong with sports or any competitive games, unless they become playing fields for learning destructive values. I feel the same way about movies, music, and video games, etc.. If you are involved with a young person in your life, if you are asked to coach or to sponsor any youth event, ask yourself some probing questions about the goals and the way it is played or taught.

Each child has her or his own inner resources, skills and talents and abilities that can serve to enhance their best potentials. We, as the guardians of the personal and ethical growth of the whole person, cannot settle for either media hype or selfish, destructive short term success. May everything we do serve the development of the whole person, so that we all can become winners in our hearts, minds, and souls. SO BE IT!Selected Readings: Homo Ludens (from my Sociology Lectures)

Play is necessary to the health and well-being of our society. Play is the process by which we engage in some meaningful activity that does not qualify as a task, a chore or as work… It is meaningful because it can teach or help to prepare us to participate more fully, more soulfully in our lives and in our relationships.

Everyone needs to do some kind of playful activity- it is essential for relaxation, stress reduction, and it fosters creativity, originality, and ingenuity. Play is essential learning; the training ground for a full and complete adulthood.

Playing is a universal phenomenon, in fact it is clearly one of the things that connects us to every other warm-blooded creature…. Animals play and so do we… In fact one of the definitions of our essential humanness is that humanity is called Homo Ludens- the creature who plays. Play is our special form of self and group interaction that is unlike any other. It provides for a social learning function, for amusement, entertainment, and has a value just in its release or expression. The way a person plays can say a lot about them…

Playful people are more at ease with themselves and can practice more self-acceptance. Play is the microcospherical- it develops within a person and grows to include their whole view of society- it values, importance, it ways of ritual and worship. (Umwalt)

William Blake put it this way: ” A child’s toys and games become an old man’s reasons- and both are the fruit of their two seasons.”

On Success and Failure

One day, a young man came into the Temple and was very distraught…. He wanted to speak to his old family Rabbi about his feelings of being a failure. While the kindly and insightful rabbi listened, the young man complained that 50% of everything he tried never turned our right, and that he was feeling like a loser, dejected, and that he would never be a success.

After the young man was through with his self deprecating tirade, the rabbi told him succinctly, ” Go, turn to page 390 in the New York Times World Almanac, and maybe that will give you piece of mind….

Confused yet curious about the rabbi’s advice, he went to the library, found the almanac, and turned to page 390….

There he found the listing for batting averages among all the baseball Hall of Fame players…

On the first line was simply: Ty Cobb .367

Puzzled by this, I returned to the Rabbi the next day and said, ” What is this? How is this an answer to my feelings?

The rabbi explained. He said:” Ty Cobb was the best hitter in the history of baseball… Yet all through his professional career, he never hit the ball more than once out of every three tries…. And you are complained that 50% of the time you have failed… What do you expect already?”

The fellow thought for a moment and began to understand… Isn’t remarkable that theology can be taught through sports!


Pastoral Meditation: For The Love of It?

When was the last time you did something just purely for the love of it? No need, no compulsion, no reason except to truly enjoy yourself and/or your playmates? I fear that our culture is so driven and obsessed with success and failure that there is no pure recreation left…. It has to be seen as winning and losing… The Olympics and our entire sports and recreation industries have fostered this, and I feel that it is a tragedy that has had a wide negative impact on our society.

Remember, we get the word amateur from the Latin and through Latin to the French… It literally means to do something for the love of it…. Whereas the word professional means someone who is compensated for their time, energy and efforts…. As a famous sports writer once put it, “To participate in sports and games for the sheer love and enjoyment is the sign of the true amateur, because to be a pro means you play for the dough….”

Take a moment and think about your ability to play….

Try to do something for its sheer enjoyment… I ask you to allow some time in your life to play, to explore, to grow and to experience life in away that winning does not matter, where cooperation not competition is most important, where there is a time and an intention to grasp the wonder, beauty and the joy of being playful….

George Washington’s Rules of Civility

October 19, 2010 - 11:34 am 58 Comments
Excerpts from Rules of Civility

1st Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.

2d When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usually Discovered.
3d Shew Nothing to your Friend that may affright him.
12th Shake not the head, Feet, or Legs rowl not the Eys lift not one eyebrow higher than the other wry not the mouth, and bedew no mans face with your Spittle, by approaching too near him when you Speak.
43d Do not express Joy before one sick or in pain for that contrary Passion will aggravate his Misery.

50th Be not hasty to beleive flying Reports to the Disparagement of any.

89th Speak not Evil of the absent for it is unjust.

51st Wear not your Cloths, foul, unript or Dusty but See they be Brush’d once every day at least and take heed that you approach not to any Uncleaness.

54th Play not the Peacock, looking every where about you, to See if you be well Deck’t, if your Shoes fit well if your Stokings sit neatly, and Cloths handsomely.

56th Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad Company.

76th While you are talking, Point not with your Finger at him of Whom you Discourse nor Approach too near him to whom you talk especially to his face.

80th Be not Tedious in Discourse or in reading unless you find the Company pleased therewith.

90th Being Set at meat Scratch not neither Spit Cough or blow your Nose except there’s a Necessity for it.

100th Cleanse not your teeth with the Table Cloth Napkin Fork or Knife but if Others do it let it be done wt. a Pick Tooth.

105th Be not Angry at Table whatever happens & if you have reason to be so, Shew it not but on a Chearfull Countenance especially if there be Strangers for Good Humour makes one Dish of Meat a Feast.

110th Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Celestial fire Called Conscience.

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Civility- A Casuality of Modern Culture?

October 19, 2010 - 11:28 am 36 Comments

Social Virtues and Values:

Civility; Courtesy; Consideration:

Are they being lost?

Are They Requirements for Relationships?

What Are Their Possible Connections to living

an ethical and a spiritual life?

I have been wondering… Is it my imagination or has our world become more coarse? More crude? Maybe my feelings stem only from my personal disappointments with the interpersonal attitudes or crass outlooks of our media, and I willingly accept that it might be that my higher than average expectations for caring and my desire to see a greater consideration of other people’s thoughts and feelings, so maybe my behavioral bar has been set too high… I find myself asking are chivalry, being courteous, and acting with civility dead?

As I look around for possible causes and probable culprits, it could be the rapid fire pace of our culture that doesn’t take sufficient time to listen carefully or pay attention respectfully to others. I ask: Since when has the far limits of personal freedom trumped caring, empathy, or the need to put aside self interest and learn the valuable lessons of working together?

Another possible source is our electronic preoccupation- It is as if our emotional intelligence is supposed to be as quick and as sharp as e-mail, and that we can rely on google searches where the barest of information gives us access to quick answers, sound bites, and super fast conclusions.


Because we are so plugged in and wired, has that manufactured an electronic sense of urgency that has effectively robbed us from taking the time that is necessary to communicate wisely, or to listen compassionately? As Gandhi once put when he was asked to comment on the modern pace of life: “There is more to life than increasing its speed!”

Living at a fast, break neck speed robs us of our need for more careful introspection, it will negate or compromise the quality of our personal interactions, and makes superficiality into an accepted norm because we cruelly admit to not having enough time for one another!

As one surprisingly necessary result, there are many groups, and job sites that are now instituting firm guidelines for community e-mail and the associated terrors of speaking “speaking their minds” in order to keep people from “flaming” one another or allowing communications that would encourage rude discourse.

In my estimation, e-mail could never completely express human feelings, or convey all there is to know, see, perceive, and understand about another person… Whenever possible, we should seek to lessen those avoidable, yet often hurtful misunderstandings.


More insidious, I feel is the current preoccupation with Twitter, or instant opinion sharing… We have erroneously raised the value of personal opinion up to being a stated fact…

Just because one holds an opinion does not make them bright, accurate, or reliable! As it was once said, “everyone is entitled to an opinion, but not to their own set of facts!”

Besides, would people who use Twitter be called Twits?

Right? Or is that my old Monty Python idioms that I remember???

Of course, there are other cultural reasons, that I will soon explore with you, but I wonder, am I wrong about this new atmosphere of social insolence that seems to plague our culture, and skew us towards being incredibly uncivil: towards being more rude, crude and lewd?

In support of my queries and questions, a delightful book has surfaced that helps us to comprehend these social changes…. Not another rule book on etiquette, or a diatribe on the lack of manners, but a humorous overview of our social situation. The English author, Lynne Truss, entitled her book, Talk to The Hand- since my head is not listening! Subtitled as the utter bloody rudeness of the world today, or six good reasons to stay home and bolt the door!


She surfaces many questions that pertain directly to our lives and to the task of refining values that uphold the importance of living in and sustaining a supportive community.

For example, she writes, “The interesting thing is that, when we are cut free from any sense of community, we are miserable and lonely, as well as rude. This is the age of social autism, in which people just do not see or even imagine their impact on others.”

Throughout my years of involvement in ministry and community, when I read the more popular critics of modern culture, they will wail and bemoan the lack of honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness in our society today. Without citing a laundry list of where these various ethical violations can be found- for that would be too easy, starting with “gangsta”rap, demeaning advertising, gratuitous sex and worse, the level of violence we allow in the media, down to the daily acceptance of cursing as descriptive of everything- you see, it will be a LONG list! …

When was it in our lives that we first began to treat others with suspicion? When did it become scary or even unsafe to assume that you can trust people? Or assume that others sincerely care about you? “How Are you??? Do they really want to know???”


The agreed upon solution to these social conundrums is to return an agreed upon modicum of manners and to reinforce a level of decency and consideration in all of our social or personal interactions. The answer, as I see it, is to bring back Civility!

Civility? I know that might sound like such a dated and old fashioned term… You know, like politeness, prudence, courtesy, and even a little kindness… . While I do earnestly hope that politeness and kindness never go out of style, it is because I will declare that civility is more multifaceted, more public, dynamic, more far reaching…

Civility retains its wide, and enduring value because it centers on the importance of self restraint, and acts as a way to uphold mutual respect and promote social dialogue and while still maintaining healthy, ethical norms. In fact, it is said, that to the degree that civility is maintained, it becomes less necessary for us to have laws that police us, or rules that regulate our social behaviors. Civility means that we chose to act in ways that are respectful and considerate of other people; and in doing this, we gain respect and esteem for ourselves. In some ways, civility is a sign that we have understood the moral and ethical lessons that we were taught in our schools and in our places of worship. The development of such social empathy and the effects of a learned desire to reciprocate is not without significance for us personally, professionally, or for the future promise of our civilization.


Compare this to Gandhi’s compassionate teaching and to Nelson Mandela observation: Gandhi stated: The greatness of a nation can be seen by how it treats its animals… And Mandela comments: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

(Some commentataries will cite one or both of these quotes as including women and animals and/or including women and children… And life in SC can attest to that!)

Originally, civility is a concept that finds its origins in morality and manners, and then it was extended to make political and cultural discourse, and it extends the uses of diplomacy and tact to be more effective and sincere. When combined with the necessities of sociopolitical discourse, we get to the core of our Western cultural views for character development, and we see how necessary civility is for the upbuilding of a responsible and ethical society.

In word origins, the word civility comes to us from the same Latin root word for civilization, civitis… Could it be that when people stop being civil to one another, that our civilization begins to truly break down? Is there a connection between keeping a “civil tongue” and holding on to a feeling of mutual regard, caring, or maintaining an emotional safety that makes our society function more cooperatively and harmoniously?


Civility holds an important religious value. When confronting the conservative notions that God controls human behavior by rewarding or punishing it, we need to find a cogent rebuttal:

Rev. Earl Holt, scholar in residence at King’s Chapel in Boston put it this way:

“[Suppose that our moral and ethical character is shaped from within us, by our own spiritual nature and its core values, by our spiritual and ethical heart? If that is true, and then we do not need to have some judgmental God peering over our shoulder, or ready to judge all of our behaviors. So it would follow from our own ethical decision-making, that we humans create the society we have, and the depth, quality, the safety and security of our society is shaped by the people who are living in it!]”

He continues, “[a good society, then, can only be built by good people, by the ethical qualities embodied in who we are, and how well we shape it, and how we choose to conduct ourselves, thereby displaying the depth of their personal character. A society therefore, is not primarily shaped by its government or its economics, but by the character and civility of its citizens.]” Is he right? That there are indeed, guidelines that can be established to maintain civil discourse and that will promote safe, and supportive social dialogue?]”

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As I see it, civility implies an awareness of the impact of our actions on others… It implies that we are all aware of our motives, and awareness carries with it responsibility for what we do, and why we do it.

In connection with contemporary psychology, psychoanalyst Heinz Kohurt advocates for greater civility in our culture and in our congregations as the best antidote for what is popularly called narcissism- an excessive dwelling on or a preoccupation with the importance of oneself. Kohurt connects civility with the capacity for empathy. He states that when people feel as if their have been truly acknowledged, understood, and respectfully heard, then they are better able to handle or manage any tendency towards self centered blindness, and we can learn to interact in more unselfish and balanced ways.

I see a direct parallel between civility and thoughtfulness; between civility and holding a positive regard for others- Civilty asks us to listen to others in a way that seeks concord, that first looks for ways of appreciation and agreement, rather than looking strategically or even defensively for a challenging repartee or to engage in a sharp debate…. Civility when regarded in this way becomes a building block for nobility, for unselfishness, and it moves us towards higher idealism and a wider sense of altruism…


It might even become a cornerstone that supports the origins of the religious and ethical impulse in humankind, and in a interactive contrast to living by the dictates and the legalisms that any judgmental God could convey. Civility can be seen as providing us with a basis for claiming our own integrity, as it requires us to practice a more universal compassion that works to establish justice, heal our world, and to address empathetically and effectively its many challenges.

So as a final question that we can ask ourselves is this:

Is living in an increasingly crude and selfish society worth it?

If not, what steps can you take to improve mutual respect and compassion in our lives? How is it that we can promote those virtues and values with one another and model them for our children?

Sociologists who study the foundations of culture will generally conclude that one of the primary purposes for the family, for the school, and for the church, is to teach, promote, and inculcate civility. That is, to teach the value of respecting others, the importance of self restraint, and how to set safe and comfortable boundaries within oneself and with another people.

If we sincerely seek to change ourselves or transform various conditions and situations in our world, one place we can all begin is in supporting a return to civility…


Not just as politeness, but as a vital means to establishing a guidebook for social harmony where we learn the value of others, and how to unite with others in ways that will truly change, heal, and inspire our world.

So Be It. AMEN


Welcome to a Transformative Fall!

October 1, 2010 - 8:18 pm 557 Comments

Whatsoever that is within us that feels, thinks, desires, and animates, is something celestial and divine and therefore imperishable. God created [humanity] to be an image of [God’s] own eternity. ” Apocrypha Wisdom 2

Welcome to a Transformational Fall!  A Reflection on Change


Change might well be the only constant we can name. Change can be experienced and understood on many levels and across many dimensions of our lives. There are changes in routine, in health, in our work, in our relationships, just to name a few!

As we enter into the glorious season of Fall with all its splendid changes in nature, we cannot help finding ourselves thinking and reflecting on the nature of change in our lives, in our local community, and the world.


While most theorists busy themselves writing about the psychological and the sociological, the environmental or the financial aspects of change, theologians can look at these concerns and place them in a different context.

Theologians see change as the presence of the Spirit that accompanies us in all that we do. Change is life, and the Spirit is that agency and energy that gives breath and life, purpose and meaning to our days. There is not one activity of life, down into its most basic elements, that doesn’t involve us in some sort of alchemical or transformative change in some way.

To breathe, think, walk, relate as a human being means that you are constantly engaged in the processes of change even when you do not realize it! From metabolism and digestion to thought, sensation and consciousness itself, our lives are constantly involved in change.

Sometimes, in our lives, we are consciously called, even compelled to change: To change individually, because of some compelling circumstance, severe obstacle or unexpected blessing we have received. Sometimes, the change we are experiencing is shared– So we are called to change or respond as a group, as a family, or as a community.

In the interfaith and international movement called Creation Spirituality, change is a welcomed energy that gives vitality and meaning to our lives. In this approach to our Western religious heritage, religion combines with relationships, and spirituality with ecology and it is marked or celebrated as the four paths or Vias that a person, or a community travels through in their yearly journey.

The four paths are the Via Positiva, the Via Negativa, the Via Creativia, and the Via Transformativa. These paths can be seen as a liturgical and ecological year corresponding roughly to our seasons of early Fall/Winter, Winter/Spring, Spring/Summer and Summer into Fall. While some religious outlooks might neglect a respect for such observations and natural cycles, I contend that they can offer us valuable insights into how the natural world teaches the human community about the nature of change in our lives.

Fall, is THE season for change-In some ways, it signals new beginnings, such as in the Jewish New Year and the beginning of school, and other ways fresh endings, harvest and reaping what had been sown by our previous actions. In my understanding, this is the essence of real transformation- the new into the old, the old into the new- all in one grand dynamic of change.

This year, as every year has the potential of becoming, can be a transformational year on your life. It will be a year in which we can begin to formulate your personal and community statements of covenant, mission, vision, and personal and relational commitments that can demonstrate greater cooperation, collaboration, and mutual trust.

Waxing theologically, we will be traveling down the Via Transformativa together, knowing full well that who we were as a as individuals and as a community, in some certain measure will change: We will not now stay the same– we always live in a crucible– We do not know what we shall become.

I ask each person or reader to engage in this change process wholeheartedly-as openly and as supportively as they can. Each of us needs to realize that we are all together in an equally shared, transformative journey. Like it or not, change happens to each and to every one of us whether we try to resist it or not. So it would be the best approach for body, mind, spirit and soul, for families, committees, and institutions to consciously seek out new ways to positively embrace change and extract any constructive meaning from it for the greater good…

Some Positive Guidelines Towards Personal Renewal:


Give your body some form of exercise. Preferably, include an aerobic workout, some stretching, and muscle strengthening. Try not to overemphasize any one approach, Simple walking can sometimes suffice, or choose Yoga, Tai Chi etc. Seek out ways that integrate bodily awareness with spiritual attunement.

Pay attention to the quality, color and variety of the food you eat. Eat low on the food chain, colorfully, with an emphasis on freshness. Practice sobriety in all you take in, digest, or assimilate. Become aware of your specific nutritional needs and how your body reacts to stress. Try to avoid any loss of sleep, unnecessary drug usage, wasteful sexuality, overly mental activities- anything that might rob you of vitality and your need for poise and balance.


Daily or regular devotional reading to “open up” one’s heart to inspiration and comfort. Practice rhythmic breathing, and slow, deep inhalations as stress reducers. Offer one act of charity/service or kindness each day/week. Seek to improve the basis and the quality of caring in your relationships. Resolve any contradictions. Clear your conscience. Forgive yourself and offer it willingly to others. Make time for your spouse, children and give attention to their needs.


Evaluate the quality and content of your thoughts and speech. Appraise the power of language and silence in your life. Think before speaking, and choose to be silent rather than be unkind. Keep a journal, a diary or a dream log as a tool for self evaluation. Do not be too quick to criticize or devalue yourself or others. Read, watch, listen to or participate in stimuli you can learn from and respect. Discover something new each day, and share it with a friend or family member.


Look to your understanding of God, and not in the mirror or in your wallet, for your sense of identity.

Try to avoid being self conscious. Assess your values and goals realistically, with compassion and courage. Worship regularly with a community of trust and similar values. Check how you greet each day and for how you get through each day. Ask yourself about your purpose in work and career. Look at your goals and at the motives for what you do and why.

Smile. Sing. Dance. Laugh. Draw, and Dream a little something new each day. Find more inspiration from the beauty of the natural world. Accept yourself. Love one another. See God in yourself and seek the good of God in all things. Rejoice Always!

Lessons from the Dalai Lama

Why? One of the reasons for his popularity and for his endearing qualities that elicit such respect and loyalty is found in his statements about life that reveal his deep and abiding compassion. Here are some words of advice entitled “Instructions for Life:”

1) Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

2) When you lose, don’t lose the lesson!

3) Follow the three R’s: Respect for self, Respect for others, Responsibility for all your actions.

4) Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck!

5) Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.

6) Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.

7) When you realize you have made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

8) Spend some time alone everyday.

9) Open your arms to change, but do not let go of your values!

10) Remember, that silence is sometimes the best answer.

11) Live a good, honorable life. Then, when you get older, and think back you will be able to enjoy your life a second time.

12) a loving atmosphere in your home is foundational to your life.

13) In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation.

14) Do not bring up issues or problems from the past.

15) Share your knowledge. Its a way to achieve immortality.

16) Be gentle on the earth.

17) Once a year, go someplace you have never been.

18) Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your needs for each other.

19) Judge your success by what you have had to give up in order to get it.

20) Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon!