Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Clarity and Compassion

I have been trying to remember when I began to consciously study the differences between what I choose to see and what was actually present in reality. When I worked as an industrial engineer at a bleachery, I was sent to school to learn how to perform time motion studies. This technique breaks tasks down into individual components. Each component is studied. Then the entire job is optimized and piece rates are set, allowing the individual employee an opportunity to earn a higher rate if they work at a faster pace (or not).

By the time I was a floor supervisor at a saw chain factory I understood that it was critically important to see what was actually present, not what I expected to see, not what I wanted to see, but what was really there. Over time I developed an eye to pick out small behavioral variations in my employees or an object that was out of place. Being able to identify what is essential with clarity and composure before making a decision is an important part of good management. No system, no matter how perfectly constructed, will work all of the time. The human element is an unpredictable part of the equation.

There are always people out there who will try to separate fools from their money and their freedom. How can you tell who to trust? If a politician is telling you that there is a great crisis that requires your sacrifice (but not his) be suspicious. If a politician is promising you some benefit that will be paid for by other people’s money, be suspicious.

If it sounds too good to be true……be very suspicious.

When making an investment, look deeply into what has happened; what is happening; and what is likely to happen. Watch the flow of money calmly, dispassionately, without judgment, remembering, “It’s only money.”

This task can be incredibly difficult. People are screaming that you can’t live without some luxury they are selling. People are telling you they have the magic box that makes money out of nothing. However, it takes your money to start the magic box process. People have very real financial problems that are threatening to overwhelm their lives. They have been disempowered by their own desires, a world system that is quite frankly constructed to enslave them, and the devil.

Yes, evil is real. It is actively involved in the world financial and political system.

But even looking for evil in others is a trap. We demonize our political opponents comparing them to Hitler and the Nazi Party, when they are really just our neighbors, ordinary sinners, trying to find their way home.

Evil does exist, but I think Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said it best.

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

The same greed, lust, and hatred that dwells in the heart of your enemy can also be found in your heart. Understand your own weaknesses and limitations before making a political or financial decision. Don’t make a decision when your passions are running high. There is a very good chance you will live to regret it.

In recent days, we have seen an unqualified expression of evil in the Middle East. How can we tell what is evil and what is good? This verse comes to mind.

John 10:10 (NIV)

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

If the focus is on robbery, murder, enslavement, and destruction you are looking at evil. If the focus is on empowering others to take responsibility for their own behavior and giving others the tools necessary for a better life, you are looking at—life—and at the possibility of a more abundant life.

It is hard to know where to find the balance. Evil is not to be tolerated. At some point it is necessary to take up arms against other human beings, whether it is a policeman dealing with gang violence or a nation state intent on mass slaughter in the name of God or some ideology. Even in those cases it is wise to extend compassion to others caught up in outright coercion or horribly distorted value systems (think of the Iranian army using twelve year old boys to clear mine fields).

Consider this quote from a prison interview with Hermann Goring, certainly one of the most evil men of the twentieth century.

“The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

A capacity for good or evil exists in every human heart. Spend some time today investigating the activities going on in your own heart, without fear, without judgment. Calmly, with compassion, study what is really present there in your innermost being.

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