Heady Stuff

The author concludes his book Always We Begin Again by reminding the reader of some basic precepts.


  1. Lead one’s life faithful to one’s best character.
  2. Exercise patience with our own and other’s faults.
  3. No book or words can accomplish what is necessary in one’s own life.
  4. Life cannot be totally understood only experienced.
  5. Love your life just the way it is.
  6. Always practice humility.
  7. And, prefer nothing to the caring for others.


Heady stuff. I would add one more. Remember each morning “to begin again.”




I am hearing more and more often people say about religion that is the cause and impetus for great wars, cruelty, and inhumanity. Certainly, what is happening in the Middle East is feeding that type of reasoning. I hear it as well from young people as a reason to avoid joining a church or attending a worship service.


I need to develop a better response when I hear this type of talk. I guess I should begin by saying that I know of few individuals who can or do live up to the standards of their religion, but I’ve never attended a house of worship where there weren’t a number of persons who are sincere, worthy of  close friendship, and from whom I could learn a lot about faith, spirituality, and life.


We are social creatures and joining others in a ceremony of love, thankfulness, and reverence does no harm, and leads to much good. Our houses of worship are perfect places for individual prayer and meditation especially during those times where services are not taking place. I find entering a beautiful sanctuary in the quiet of the day a wonderful humbling experience.


Yes, a lot of evil has been done in the name of religion, patriotism, and God’s will as defined by humans. But, the fault lies at the feet of humanity not religion or God. Every major religion has at its core, Love. It is up to us to seek out that core in everything we do and place we go. In our houses of worship are great places to seek and find Love.


One of the best experiences one has on “sabbatical” is learning about service to others with humility. Similar to the Benedictine rule, life in the “monastery” called prison is very similar, except there are not a lot of Gregorian chants from the brothers. Rap and hip hop are heard a lot more than chanting. But true to a real monastery no one is exempt from performing the mundane tasks of life. Vanity and ego have no place in our modern “monasteries.”


One learns that if you have a special talent, cutting hair, teaching a second language, or short order cooking it should be used for the benefit of others, but there is no place for vanity in prison, the man who cleans the toilets is held in equal esteem to the man who cleans the warden’s office. Through such lack of hierarchy one learns that humility unlocks the universe and that the pursuit of material gain and recognition destroys life.


Ask yourself during meditation whether putting yourself at the center isn’t in fact isolating. Hasn’t some of your greatest experiences in this life been when you abandoned all sense of self and served someone else? Humility put us in touch with that true self we search so very hard for and yet is always present.






Around Christmas time I usually get the question, “What do you want for Christmas?” My answer is usually something like, “I don’t need a thing.” I am then told by the recipient of my answer, that I’m not being helpful.


In the Benedictine way of thought, our needs should be very small, and our wants should never exceed what we truly need. It is said that a truly wealthy person is one who is satisfied with what he has. This lesson was driven home to me on my sabbatical, where I learned to be very satisfied with enough clothes to keep me warm, three meals a day, and perhaps a good book to read. What I wanted during my sabbatical wasn’t material. I wanted and needed the touch of my wife’s hand, a hug from one of my children, and a few words from a true friend.


It was good for me to be stripped and deprived of any other needs or wants. I sometime wonder if we don’t all need a second Lenten season. How well would we do if for forty days we deprived ourselves of all wants, and prayed and meditated instead?


The Benedictines teach that the material side of existence should be treated reverently, ownership of anything is always temporary and we are to be good stewards of the material things entrusted to our care. We must also be constantly on guard against making the material an end.