Archive for October, 2012

All You Need Is Love, but Is It True?

The Beatles captured the world for music almost 50 years ago, but did they capture philosophical truth? The phrase, “all you need is love” needs, to borrow from Socrates, exploration. A hidden assumption to the song’s title is that the rest of the moral virtues are irrelevant. No need for justice if we understand the world as loving harmony and further understand injustice as an inconvenient misunderstanding. No need for forgiveness if there is no injustice.

Let us suppose that we could put a constraint on justice and forgiveness so that they do not exist. They, like injustice, are failed misunderstandings from a primitive past. All we have is love.

Now further suppose that a 14-year old girl comes to you and she has a sprained ankle, two cracked ribs, a swollen face, and a boat-load of resentment and mistrust because two boys accosted her on her way home from school. They laughed at and demeaned her.

Now what? We can bind the ankle, give her pain meds for the ribs and love her. But what do we do about the boat-load of resentment? “All you need is love.”

So, does she start to see what happened as a misunderstanding and to love the bullies, the law-breakers? Well, I suppose we could take a step back and first seek justice. We could call the police, make out a crime report, and stop the brutes so that this does not happen again.

No, wait a minute. In our world of love, there is no justice because there is no injustice.

OK. Sorry about that. Does she then start with forgiving the boys for……Sorry again. There is no forgiveness in our new world. Forgiveness is a mistake our ancestors made when they thought there was injustice in the world.

Our message to our battered friend is the refrain, “All you need is love.” We say to her: Train your mind to see mistakes where you thought there was brutality; train your mind to see your cosmic connection with boys who beat and batter and demean.

We may all be connected in some way, but we are not in harmony. Not by a loving long shot.

Aristotle famously told us over 3,500 years ago that we cannot practice any of the virtues in isolation of the others, for to do so distorts even the one moral virtue we have isolated. For example, try to help a courageous non-swimmer who has no wisdom (one of the virtues) to refrain from jumping in the stormy lake to save a dog. The courage degenerates into reckless bravado. It is no longer courage.

Try to tell the wounded 14-year-old girl that all she needs is love and you condone brutality. Even love, you see, degenerates and is no longer love. It is reduced in our case of the battered girl to patronizing her complaints, her agony to retain a point of view that cannot be defended. We know better than she does. She needs time to advance in her thinking. Condescension is not loving.

Some sing that they won’t live in a world without love. Can we start a new tune, singing that we won’t live in a world where there is only love? I hope it has a good beat and is easy to dance to, so that we can keep it on the charts for awhile, say, until the end of time.

Dr. Bob

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Eric Lomax, “The Railway Man,” Dies at Age 93

The Vancouver Sun – A prisoner of the Japanese during World War II, forced to build the infamous Burma to Siam railway, Eric Lomax, age 93, passed away on October 8. Mr. Lomax went on a quest to find and forgive his interrogator, sparking interest from around the world.

Eric Lomax, a former British prisoner of war whose moving tale of wartime torture and forgiveness is being turned into a film, died Monday in Berwick-upon-Tweed in northern England, his publisher, Vintage Books, reported. Lomax was 93.

Lomax was a British army officer when he was captured by Japanese forces as they overran Singapore in 1942. Lomax endured horrific conditions and savage beatings as he and thousands of others were put to work building the infamous Burma to Siam railway.

Lomax endured years of suppressed rage at the torture he suffered at the hands of his Japanese captors, but when he tracked his interrogator down, it set the stage for a dramatic act of forgiveness that formed the heart of his celebrated 1995 memoir, The Railway Man.

His book, The Railway Man, published in 1995, has been an inspiration for those wanting to forgive offenders for severe offenses. It is currently being turned into a movie staring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman.

Read the full story “Ex-POW’s Tale of Forgiveness Touched Millions.”

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Is it possible that. . . .

Is it possible that…..

…..forgiveness can awaken a sleeping world?

…..you can play a part in this awakening?

…..even if people treat you like a stray cat and throw a shoe to silence you……you continue to startle by loving?

…..others eventually might thank you for awakening them from their Rip-Van-Winkle slumber?

…..you will have a wide-awake new purpose for your life?

It is possible.

Dr. Bob

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Almost a year ago, my girlfriend of two years began telling me that she loved me and wanted to be together, however she wanted the freedom to be with other people. We did not talk for nearly two months, but in that time she had admittedly done a lot of reckless things. When she reached out to me to reengage our relationship, she was extremely apologetic and sincerely remorseful. So I agreed to try to forgive her and mend our relationship. Since then she has put great effort into telling me how sorry she is. Sometimes it hurts to be together and sometimes it hurts to even see her interact with other people, knowing that she so easily betrayed our relationship for the attention of others. Please help me with some ideas about what I might need to do in order to feel ok again.

You say you have tried to forgive your girlfriend and perhaps you have. A key issue now is trust. You can forgive someone and still have trouble trusting in certain, specific areas. In your case, it may be fidelity in the relationship. Forgiveness is an unconditional response of goodness toward those who have hurt us. I say it is “unconditional” because every moral virtue we can name (justice, courage, kindness, and so forth) never requires that someone else does something before we choose to be just or courageous or kind. And, if forgiveness were conditional on an apology, you would be trapped in unforgiveness until the other said those two little words: “I apologize.”

Trust, in contrast, is part of reconciliation, which is always conditional—conditional on the other person’s remorse (an inner response), repentance (“I apologize”), and recompense of some kind. In this case, the recompense seems to be trustworthiness, which is earned one small step at a time. You seem to lack trust because of your statement about your feelings when your girlfriend interacts with others.

I recommend first going through the forgiveness process at least once more to be sure that you have forgiven. If you are still feeling resentful or uneasy, then from your position of having already forgiven her, consider whether or not you should discuss the theme of trust with your girlfriend. This needs to be done in love and in truth so that she does not feel condemned. The point is to talk about ways to build trust so that you can solidify the relationship.

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I am the adult child of an alcoholic father and so I have my scars, both emotional and physical. When I went to my minister for help, he said I should work on forgiving my father. When I went to a counselor who calls herself a “spiritual healer” she said that I have nothing to forgive. She said it will take some time for me to develop sufficiently to really understand and accept this as true. She said that my minister is not developed enough to see this truth. I am confused by the two very different messages. Can you help me understand and move forward?

Your minister and the “spiritual healer” have conflicting views of how the world works. They cannot both be correct. Let us start with your minister. He will tell you that there is such a thing as sin, or offense against God. God has standards of right and wrong and when the standards are broken, not only is there offense against God but also against our fellow men and women. The offenses against people are injustices, not sins against other people. Moral virtues have been created by God (your minister will tell you) as ways of dealing with offenses against other people. Two primary virtues are justice and forgiveness. When a person sins against God, he or she usually commits an injustice against persons, and we try to right the wrong by engaging in the moral virtue of justice. We try to deal with the consequences of injustice through forgiveness. Thus, justice (righting a wrong) and forgiveness (responding to the consequences of injustice) exist side by side.

The “spiritual healer” seems to espouse New Age beliefs. The gist is that love is at the center of the universe and it so dominates that there is no sin because there is no God-as-a-person (or as a trinity of Persons). If there is no personified God, then there is no sin (because there is no divine Person to go against). If there is no sin, then there is no injustice. If there is no injustice then there is no need of forgiveness. What, then, of all of our disappointments with how others act? Those misbehaviors are actually mistakes (according to New Age beliefs) coupled with our mistaken notion that the person has sinned and been unjust. One is to see mistakes where your minister sees sins and injustices.

Here now is your dilemma: Do you think it is a good idea to say that all of your father’s behaviors toward you, which scarred you both physically and emotionally, are mistakes on his part? Do you think it is a good idea to say that your seeing injustice in your father is a mistaken thought on your part? If so, then the burden is on you to change your thought. If the “spiritual healer” is incorrect, then you will be fighting against your natural inclination to label as unjust what your father did to you. You will not have recourse to forgiveness.

You cannot choose both world views without living a contradiction. You now have a fork in the road of your life’s journey.

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