I really didn't notice until now, but this is the 300th post on Firehouse Zen. Since I'm not churning out three or four a day (or even a week), that's pretty astounding to me. And what better time of the year to celebrate, than during the celebration of Christ's birth, as well as a number of other religious holy days and observances. It is definitely a time to celebrate, although given the tumult of this year, I would expect many to argue otherwise.
How is it that I can be even remotely positive? Well, things pop up that cause me to think deeply about what it is we are called to do and how we go about it. For example, I'm sitting here in our warehouse at a workstation I'm not normally at, planning on a quick Zen Zone post. Instead, my eyes are drawn to a page from the publication Our Daily Bread, folded open to where one of our colleagues has apparently put it for inspiration. In response to Isaiah 26:1-9 – "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you" – it reads, "When we put our problems in God's hands, He puts His peace in our hearts."
I found a certain amount of peace during my most challenging periods in life. This year I think I have failed to do that on many occasions. I found myself arguing internally with what I have been taught and what I have seen. In the very beginning of this year, we witnessed tremendous suffering among many and callousness of those who profited from that suffering. We experienced great disasters, we experienced personal loss, and we experienced challenges to values we considered to be right. And we continue to be faced with hypocrisy, profiteering, and greed, while a great many simply gawk at the problems and assume someone else will save us.
In speaking about the strength of belief before, I pointed out that belief can be very powerful and even dangerous. Conversely, belief can be life-changing, inspirational, and healing. I know first hand of instances where profound belief, even in complete contradiction to science, has proven to be miraculous. A mentor of mine, whose wife has been dealing with congenital heart and lung malformations for decades, was told he would lose his wife if she were not to have a heart and lung transplant. This was back around 1983 or so that he as told this. She is still with us, and science hasn't been able to justify any reason why. But I can assure you, she and her husband are examples of people with a tremendous amount of faith. You can't look at them and knowing all they have been through, think anything other than faith heals.
We can't answer a lot and science tries daily to put our lives into context, only to open more questions. I heard once that when asked about the schism between science and faith, a researcher said that you can't be a scientist and not believe, because when one door is opened, it just seems to reveal more doors. Life itself is still too complex to even be answered by science.
Belief is more than about religion. Belief transcends religion. In my eyes, religion is just a way for us to frame the existence of God in a manner we can understand. We have no way of knowing if and when any of the world's religions are right or wrong, but they all certainly have the shared themes of justice, discipline, and virtue, among other qualities. In these shared values we should all be working toward a better existence rather than trying to decide how we are going to divide up the globe.
In looking back on the issues that faced us in 2011, I found much in the way of rhetoric from our leaders and very little in the way of solutions. In an amazing year when solutions should have been pursued to make lives easier, political, religious, governmental, non-governmental, and educational leaders failed their followers on any number of occasions. And when a leadership vacuum occurs, something is going to fill the void. In our case, I'm not sure I like the looks of that eventuality.
I choose to believe that there are people out there who really care about others and care to make our world a better place to live. I believe that there are those who are good and just individuals and will fight to preserve the rights of those who can't fight for those rights themselves, those being the young, the elderly, the poor, and the oppressed.
Leadership starts at the roots. If you are a leader, it doesn't start at the moment you hit the firehouse doors, it is a life choice. If you are truly a leader, you live it at home, in your work, in your church, in your community. At this time in our lives, we really need good leaders. We need those of you with values that encourage hard work, belief in others, justice, and civility to step forward and take on some of these pseudo-leaders. This isn't an issue of what party you are a member of, or what church you attend, or what school you graduated from. It is an issue of being an example for those who need to see what an example of good leadership is, of being a good steward of your community, and of serving others.
When 2012 rolls around, I am hoping that those of you who read this share it with those who can also fill the post, and each of you pass it along to create a new "virus" of good, not evil; love, not hate; of peace and fairness; of prosperity for those who strive for it and earn it rather than for those who happen to have access to the backroom deals.
This should not be a time of anarchy. Anarchy is definitely NOT what we need right now. We need leaders who understand what their followers are going through and are empathetic. We need people to stand up to the bullies and to advocate for those who need it most. We need to be tolerant of each other and have the difficult conversations without those conversations lapsing into angry diatribes and accusations. We need leaders who believe in the good to rise up and to cause positive change to the status quo.
In this season of celebration, our entire world should be celebrating the changes that came about when the oppressed finally shrugged off their bonds, in places like Egypt, Libya, and many others. We need to allow those who will speak against the entrenched to do so, even in our own nation, without fear of persecution. But regardless, we have to believe in one another, we need to have faith, and we need to be looking right now to whatever we believe in to help bring us together, because we are all one people, and we should be sharing our burdens to lighten the load, picking up some of the load for others who need help, and being a real member of the human race, not just a sheep pretending to be. Actions speak louder than words. Do something in 2012 to help others.
If you are doubting in the events happening around our world, contemplate what is really happening around you. Realize that there are deep, deep connections we have to one another and that nobody, not even those religious or scientific, can explain how they work. But if we can have faith in others, in ourselves, and in a higher being, however it manifests itself, we can reflect on those problems and work toward a better solution. Even when things seem dark, take a moment and meditate on what you are being presented wth, understand it, and see it for what it is. Every door we open is to another room with other doors. Create opportunity, focus on the goal, and move forward.