living

So it has been really really hot here.  The city has been passing out water (with gas) on the streets.  People are searching for shade wherever they can find it.  I think yesterday was a record breaker.  Yesterday I noticed three different plants in our yard.  There is this plant near the back of our house…I’m not exactly sure what kind of plant it is because it is completely dead, dried up and withered in the baking sun.  There is also a fern which is still alive, but the tips are completely brown, scorched by the high heat.  There is also some sort of vine that grows on our fence.  Though the heat has been incredible, this vine is thriving, growing, spreading, bearing fruit. 

Which kind of person am I?  Am I dying, surviving, or thriving?  What is it that causes me to really live?

the self prison

Recently a few of us had a nice conversation based on a chapter from Tuesdays with Morrie.  The chapter we read and discussed centered on the role, power and enticement of money in our present day cultures.  As we wandered through the ideas of this chapter, a central question emerged: how do we live in such a way that we are not consumed  by our wants and desires? I was inspired by the thoughts that arose.

The simple effort to distinguish between wants and needs is a life revolutionizing activity.  There are bigger things to live for than my own wants and my own desires.  (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily advocating a monastic lifestyle.)  Training my soul to perceive the needs, value and interests of others can help break the hold my own wants have on me.  The clearer I see others and the world, the smaller my problems become.  We must train our souls to attend to others. 

One of these unviersity students communicated a sense of frustration, “we work so hard just to ready ourselves to participate in this consuming society….to be consumers.”  Is this what it is all about?  Are we simple consuming creatures?  Or are we designed for more? 

But what we are looking for is a deep fundamental shift in our being, an essential change in our orientation from self to others.  We are talking about breaking out of the “self” prison.  Can this redirection of the heart be developed through discipline?  Perhaps to an extent.  Paraphrasing what another friend said, “we can’t make these kinds of profound changes without some kind of an awakening of the heart, mind and soul.”

life

From August to November of 1991 the 87 day siege of Vukovar took place leaving nothing but ruins, hardly any building fully intact, and 100% of the inhabitants scarred by the atrocities of this war.  There is still a heaviness being carried by Vukovarians.

But there is also life, a continued story.  One thing I clearly recognized while in Vukovar this time is the impossibility of outsiders to come and feel, empathize, and make any sort of real impact.  I see our friends Laci and Keri who moved to Vukovar almost three years ago, or our new friend Charles who moved there in 1995.  By doing so they entered the story.  By entering the story they have become fellow journeyers, able and willing to share burdens, meaning, and hope. 

I love this picture of the flowers growing out of a partly destroyed building.  Maybe it is an appropriate metaphor for many us as people, especially our friends in Vukovar.  Impact, meaning, and hope are the fruits of a shared story. 

common sense

Common sense is the most fairly distributed thing in the world, for each one thinks he is so well-endowed with it that even those who are hardest to satisfy in all other matters are not in the habit of desiring more of it than they already have. -Rene Descartes

Thoughts on “Being Present”

Recently Laura and I have been talking with a couple friends about “Being Present.”  Here are few summary questions: (Thanks P & K!)

  • Do I have mindfulness + willfulness?  Or do my actions reveal a lack conscious submission to what is important? 
  • Am I aware that I can influence the outcome of this situation I am in?  Or am I just a product of my circumstances?
  • Do I have that “Burning Yes” in my spirit, a deep sense of commitment and purpose?  Or am I just busy staying busy?
  • Am I giving attention and thoughtfulness to the present details of life?  Or am I too focused on the future or the next big thing?
  • Am I careful about that which enters my mind?  Or do my present words and actions reveal an careless and unfiltered life?

Bázis

   A couple weeks ago, a few of us hung out at the Bázis.  This place is sweet.  It is sort of a pub/café with retro communist 1970 furniture, a loft hand-built by my friends Domi and Balázs, and a old wine cellar transformed into a disco and table-ice-hockey game room.  Whoa.Two of our American friends, Dave and Donnie, were in town visiting, and it was really cool to have them there.  We also had an awesome conversation on the topic of community.  A lot of questions were asked which is usually a sign of a good conversation.  Among several great summarizing thoughts, Dave mentioned,

“Reciprocity is essential but there are no guarantees. Choosing how we will live in a competitive, partnered, and unstable world is risky but essential.  Treating everyone as a competitor undermines all partnership and eventually produces isolation.  Partnership produces community, and community produces much of what gives life meaning: identity, value, and purpose.” 

community building

Somewhat related to the previous post, M. Scott Peck identified a typical process people go through as they are transformed into “true community.”  Here’s wikipedia’s summary of this process:

  • Pseudocommunity: This is a stage where the members pretend to have a bon homie with one another, and cover up their differences, by acting as if the differences do not exist. Pseudocommunity can never directly lead to community, and it is the job of the person guiding the community building process to shorten this period as much as possible.
  • Chaos: When pseudocommunity fails to work, the members start falling upon each other, giving vent to their mutual disagreements and differences. This is a period of chaos. It is a time when the people in the community realize that differences cannot simply be ignored. Chaos looks counterproductive but it is the first genuine step towards community building.
  • Emptiness: After chaos comes emptiness. At this stage, the people learn to empty themselves of those ego related factors that are preventing their entry into community. Emptiness is a tough step because it involves the death of a part of the individual. But, Scott Peck argues, this death paves the way for the birth of a new creature, the Community.
  • True community: Having worked through emptiness, the people in community are in complete empathy with one another. There is a great level of tacit understanding. People are able to relate to each other’s feelings. Discussions, even when heated, never get sour, and motives are not questioned.

movies

Someone asked me what my top ten favorite movies are.  Well, here’s my initial response…in no particular order:

-A River Runs Through It (Folyó Szeli Ketté)

-Neverland (Én Pán Péter)

-The Glen Miller Story

-The Sting

-The Truman Show

-It’s a Wonderful Life

-When Harry Met Sally

-Good Will Hunting

-City Slickers

-Casa Blanca