A Google search on the word ’empowerment’ shows that there are several nuances to the way we use it – at least, today. These range from being ‘allowed’ to do a job without micro-management, to having a meaningful say in decisions that affect one’s life. The common theme is that we are trusted and that our decisions are respected. And that’s certainly something that we owe to others, around us, even as we hope for it from them. When we ‘know what’s best’ and we override the wishes of others (or even assume that they would coincide with ours), we disempower them and we invite the same in return. The result is a descent into conflict.

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Forgive Us Our Sins

The above title is, of course, an extract from the Christian Lord’s Prayer: in theory, a daily devotion to remind us of our duties. The prayer comes from Luke 11:2-4, and the words above are followed by, “as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us” [or different translations to that same effect]. Some – perhaps many – would believe that to sin means to transgress the laws of God: the laws that Moses received on Mount Sinai (Exodus:20-23). But is that the only ‘sin’? And why should we forgive the sins of others?

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Clever Bastards

There are some people who are natural problem-solvers. It isn’t a ‘male’ or ‘female’ thing: it’s a type of intellectual development that organises a problem in a way that lets a solution (or many) fall out. We might call such people ‘clever’, but it’s just a shape: a shape of intelligence. When others defer to this accidental ability, it makes the clever person feel valued – needed – but it’s also a trap for both parties. For the clever person, the deference is a drug, and like any drug there’s a ‘withdrawal’ cycle that happens when the deference is not received. For the ‘user’ of the clever person, the payment of deference moves quickly from gratitude to drudgery: the cleverness becomes expected, and the ‘value’ disappears.

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Going Nowhere

How often do we come up against that thought? However much we strive, in the ordinary way of life, we keep realising that we don’t know where our life is going. We have vague ideas about ‘success’ or ‘stability’ but in such moments, we see them as merely treading water: going nowhere, but at least not going down the plug-hole. Is there another option? Is there something about life – or ourselves – that we’re missing? Is this just ‘existential angst’, or is there something important behind these thoughts?

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In the earliest part of his life, a would-be-human sees everything as a marvel. He wonders what it is, and what significance it may have. With deadly speed, however, he learns to label what he sees. And these labels accrue ‘meaning’, which is to say they link to other labels and memories. Through this process, the labels acquire personal meaning and significance: positive or negative emotion, relating to a central concept or label of “I”. They also get linked to language, so that the growing ‘person’ can negotiate with others. And thus the early sense of wonder gets muted and ‘mastered’. Knowing overtakes being.

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The Pursuit Of Happiness

We all, it seems, have a desire to be ‘happy’ – even if we can’t define what that is. We know it when we get it: or more properly, some time after we get it (when we wake up to it). Some people go to great lengths, to ‘find’ happiness – or go at it with an aggression that others find surprising. Some moan that they’ll never find it. There’s even serious scientific research on the topic, because being ‘unhappy’ causes a state of physical stress. Quite aside from suicide and substance abuse, you can die from being miserable.

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Objective Reason

In the language of the Fourth Way, the initial state of a man – one might say the ‘usual’ or ‘normal’ state – is to be wholly subjective in his (or her) being. Though there’s nothing ‘normal’ – or perhaps ‘proper’ – in that state, except in the purely statistical sense. The subjective man has subjective reason and subjective emotions. They all relate to him (or her). And whilst it is possible – even desirable – for science to be objective, it is quite often coloured by the subjective viewpoint of how ‘right’ (and perhaps how ‘famous’) the scientist is seen to be.

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Compassion is one of the ‘abilities’ that most of us believe we possess. What we generally mean by it is that we can experience an emotion ‘as if’ we are another person. But there’s a trap: it is rather easy to reflect what we, ourselves would feel, if we were in the position we perceive another to be in. Technically, that would be ‘sympathy’, rather than compassion. We imagine that it’s what the other person would be feeling, and although that assumption is often correct, sympathy is a ‘projection’ rather than a perception.

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For some, it is an axiom that prayer is always answered, even if you don’t appear to get what you requested. And of course for others, prayer is a pointless exercise, because ‘there is nobody listening’. Well, I, too, don’t believe there is anybody – or anything – listening; or not in the way we would usually understand that. And yet, I do believe that prayer is always answered. How so?

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Coping Mechanisms

Before a person properly ‘wakes up’ – shifts the centre of gravity of their being from acquired / externally-driven personality to internal ‘essence’ – their life is necessarily filled with tension. Not all of the time, of course, but most of the time. It can even fill their dreams with unresolved issues, so that they wake up feeling drained, instead of rested. One answer is a holiday – a break from the usual routine of concerns. It’s just one of many ‘coping mechanisms’.

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