The Olympics invoke unity of humankind

The opening of the 2012 Olympics – the 30th Olympiad of the modern games – by Queen Elizabeth II, on Friday, July 27, could not have been more expressive of the theme of unity which is the core of the games. It was moving to witness nations come together in harmony, differences aside, and in unity as equal members of the human race.

Where else would the flags of so many nations fly together in harmony, and citizens of that many nations march together as one.

Seeing Israeli athletes march on the same track with their Palestinian and Iranian counterparts is a firm demonstration of the possibilities of coexistence. Similarly, representatives from war-torn Syria appearing in the same company with newly liberated athletes from Egypt expresses the possibilities of freedom for all mankind with no oppressors or oppressed.

How about a contingent of 550 representatives of the United States in company with those of Palau, not to mention four or so of no state?

The Olympic Torch is appropriately a unifying symbol. After its journey from Greece and throughout the British Isles, it finally made its way into the Olympic Stadium to rousing cheers, The one torch was then used to light several torches which in turn merged into the one huge torch that will light during the games.

One person can indeed ignite another’s light who in turn ignites the next person and thereby create a ripple effect. That is the oneness of the human race, and the opening of the Olympics clearly demonstrated that to the fullest.

It is to be hoped that this spirit prevails throughout the games and well beyond after they conclude.

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David’s failures as transformational experience

After David’s chain of colossal moral failures and sins – abuse of power, adultery, murder, breach of  trust (and the list can go on and on) –  the prophet Nathan woke him up to face the consequences  (2 Samuel 12).

First, David accepted his failures: “I have sinned against the Lord”, he declared (2 Sam.12:13). Then he fasted and mourned. He was devastated, in other words. These were extraordinary failures by any standards.

Even then, he knew he had to move on. “But now he (the child) is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again?…(2 Sam. 12:23). David could have mourned and fasted and stayed depressed  for the rest of his life, but that would not have changed what had happened.

We commented recently that there is nothing anyone can do about the past, but to be wiser and focus on the present on which the future will be built. Stop wishing for a better past.

According to tradition, David wrote several psalms which still touch lives of millions to this day. One of them is the penitential psalm 51.

The past, and the mistakes and failures associated with it, can only provide lessons and wisdom for the present and the future. Similarly with achievements and glorious moments. Life must be lived in the present

Even the biggest failures in life can still result in transformation

 The First Reading for this coming Sunday – the 9th After Pentecost – is one of the most popular passages in the Hebrew Bible, though the reasons for its popularity vary.

2 Samuel 11:1-15 relates the story of David and Bathsheba. The king committed adultery, then tries to cover it up. When that failed, he had poor Uriah – Bathsheba’s husband – killed. This story has led many people to wonder how Jews could regard David as the greatest king of Israel.

Even after inquiring about Bathsheba – whether or not she was married (presuming that he would have added her to his harem if she was not) – David succumbed to temptation. One could assume too, that since Bathsheba was having a ritual bath after her period, David would have known that it was a time when she would very likely have been pregnant.

Ironically, Uriah’s loyalty to David resulted in his death. He even carried his own death warrant. 

If this were the end of the story, we would indeed not view David as the greatest king of Israel. This story was one of the puzzles that the Men’s Bible Study group at Christ Church Cathedral wrestled to solve – or at least to understand.

There is more to this story ahead, and how it serves as a lesson towards transformation.

Capture the spirit of the Olympics to boost happiness

 For most people the Olympics symbolize sportsmanship, prowess, endurance and competitiveness. Indeed, some competitors are expected to “break records” or simply set some new ones. It is fair to say, that as the 2012 Olympics open in London on July 27, the mindset for most spectators and television audiences across the globe will be about medals to be won and records to be set.

Yet, the true character of the Olympics is union or unity more than individual, team or national medals.

From antiquity, when the games began in 776 BCE, they were intended to augment the unity of body, mind and spirit into a balanced whole being.

The games were held every four years at the plains of Olympia and dedicated to the 12 Olympian gods of Greek mythology. As a pan-Hellenic event, the Olympiad brought together participants from every corner of the Greek world. The central element was unity – politically and spiritually.

The human race will be united in London during the Olympics – men and women, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus and more. An Afghan woman will be one of the sprinters – in her traditional head cover. In an interview she conceded she was not expecting to win medals. It is unity that matters.

With so much negativity and sad news on television these days, watching the Olympics in the right mindset will go a long way in boosting happiness.

 

 

 

 

Keep an Open Mind

This is the last on the list of 10 Commandments for Happiness. A closer look reveals that it embodies many of the elements of the other nine “commandments”. Striving to be better, for example, entails being open minded about possibilities. Similarly with not second-guessing yourself or working towards something meaningful or even treating others the way you want to be treated.

Close-mindedness is very limiting, to say the least. Avenues for growth, adventure and even discovery – all elements of happiness – remain closed.

Recently, for example, there has been some news about the so-called “God particle” (to be discussed later) and the discovery of  new galaxies and even possibly new planets. For the close-minded these challenges to rigid formulas and belief systems can be frustrating; and frustration does not contribute to happiness.

A judgmental attitude is another element of close-mindedness which may hinder the benefits of meaningful associations and compassion towards those deemed to be different.

If one thing only were to be said about keeping an open mind, it would be that it opens up possibilities and that is a source of happiness.

Surround Yourself with Positive Influences

 In an earlier discussion of the 10 Commandments for Happiness, we emphasized the importance of positive attitude towards life. Gratefulness, thanksgiving, generosity are among the elements of a positive attitude.

 A passage in 1 Corinthians 15:33 reads as follows in different versions: “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” (NIV). “Stop being deceived: ‘Wicked friends lead to evil ends’” (ISV). “Don’t let anyone deceive you. Associating with bad people will ruin decent people” (GWT). 

Clearly, negativity begets negativity and ultimately chokes any element of happiness.

 Jim Rohn wrote: “Be around people who have something of value to share with you. Their impact will continue to have significant influence”. Actually simply having a friend who is positive goes a long way towards your uplift which in turn is a source of happiness.

In a previous blog I recounted how a one hour a week Men’s Bible Study positively influences the whole group for the rest of the week and even beyond.

 Make it a priority, if you haven’t already, to surround yourself with positive people. You will truly find happiness and you will also contribute to theirs.

Always Strive to be Better

This is the eighth in the list of 10 Commandments for Happiness – not chronologically by rank but numerically. Striving to be better involves improvement and change.

An anonymous author wrote, “The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement”. Another wrote, “The best contribution one can make to humanity is to improve oneself”. We have already noted that happiness comes from giving or contributing to someone or something beyond oneself.

We are told that the human brain is capable of holding one thousand terabytes of data, roughly 100 times the capacity of the U.S. Library of Congress. Thus the human brain’s capacity for learning more and improvement is almost beyond imagination.

Improvement also means growth, and moving beyond one’s present station is a source of happiness. That is what C.R. Lawton meant in this quotation: “Unless you try to do something beyond what you have mastered, you will never grow”.

We can therefore summarize by saying, self-improvement, growth and change, all contribute to happiness and they are interconnected. A final quotation from Les Brown: “You cannot expect to achieve new goals or move beyond your present circumstances unless you change”.

Treat others the way you would like to be treated

You can hardly find happiness if you are not involved in others’ happiness. Look at every faith tradition and you will discover that they all emphasize compassion. Compassion is a lot more than simply pity or feeling sorry for another person.

Essentially, compassion is feeling what the other person feels. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are…” (Romans 12:15-16).

There is a desire for compassion in every human being. Being compassionate with others leads them to be compassionate with us. Conversely, treating others with contempt prompts them to treat us with contempt.

Happiness is a two-way street: give it; you will receive it. Withhold it; you will be miserable. Essentially, that is what it means to treat others the way you would like to be treated.

Next, we will look at the remaining 2 of the 10 Commandments for Happiness

 

Memorable Events

 

Last week the TV networks reported that when people were asked about memorable events, their responses varied significantly. They concluded, however, that television was a major factor in identifying memorable events.

 

Age was another factor; for example many of the younger generation did not include the landing on the moon as a memorable event. By the way, it was on July 16, 1969 that Apollo 11 was launched on its way to the moon. It is not surprising, therefore, that the testing of the atomic bomb on July 16, 1945 was not in anyone’s list.

 

After all, the Manhattan Project was carried out in total secrecy, and so was the test. Unlike the O. J. Simpson trial or the death of Princess Diana, there was no television coverage of the event.

 

That, notwithstanding, the atomic bomb remains one of the headaches of the modern world. The nightmare that its chief architect, Robert Oppenheimer, feared still haunts humanity 67 years later.

 

Nations determined to destroy others are still pursuing the device while “peace loving nations” are determined to stop its acquisition. Neighbors, like India and Pakistan, are racing to increase and update their arsenals, not for peace, but for so-called deterrence. And the race continues.

 

The atomic bomb was, undoubtedly, a very unfortunate human creation and fittingly ought not be memorable. Nevertheless, we would do well to learn from our mistakes and be wiser.

Road to the London Olympics

After the close of the impressive 2012 World Choir Games, the people of Cincinnati can now turn their full attention to the upcoming London Olympics which open on July 27, 2012′

For the first time, women in the U.S team outnumber men 269 to 261.

One of the women, the prospective – or even, the projected – first ever U.S gold medalist in Judo, has roots in Cincinnati. Not only that; Kayla Harrison, a Middletown native, has a life story that is pure inspiration as an example of one who overcomes affliction to emerge out a star.

It is fair to say that, even before London, Kayla Harrison is role model and a teacher to many. In 2004, when she was only 13, she was sexually abused by her judo trainer, and a sexual relationship continued for three years.  It is devastating at such a tender age – or even at any age – to be abused by a person in a position of trust.

Yet, she overcame all that. Lou Holtz is quoted to have said, “It is not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it”. That is the first lesson we all learn.

The second lesson is how she bonded with positive people at Pedro’s Judo Center in Massachusetts, and managed to keep pursuing her Judo dreams after her emotional ordeal. It a lesson everyone can learn.

A first gold medal in Judo for the U.S will be a well-deserved crown for Kayla Harrison for her endurance. Again, that is almost assured. However, even without it, she has this far taught many some useful lessons which will continue to be part of her legacy.

At only 22, Kayla Harrison is, and will continue to be a role model for many across the country and around the world.