Monday, February 6, 2012
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Friday, February 26, 2010
As a believer in Christ and follower of his teachings, for me this is the highest calling. In fact it is to define the very foundation and boundaries of my existence. It is within the context of love I am to make my decisions, raise my children, inspire and encourage my wife, lead my family, maintain my work ethic, and care about my coworkers and responsibilities.
It is love that should support my respect for life and human dignity. It is love that makes me stand for what is right and good and true. It is love that should make me kind. It is love that does not get angry and does not swell with pride. It is love that enables me to stay sane amid a maddening world.
The love of God is given to me as a gift. The love of Christ is demonstrated to me by example. The love of my family is grace undeserved. On these bases I must love. If I do not, I am untrue to all that is most dear to me. God help me to love more, love deeper, and love more often: loving unselfishly in humility, expecting nothing in return.
In conclusion, these Mystic Lessons are deep ones indeed. If one could master them, life would be richer every moment. My prayer is that I may learn them better and be a better man, husband, and father every day.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
The key word here is “genuine.” It is easy to be outwardly self-deprecating and humble when people offer their congratulations. It is another thing entirely to not inwardly rejoice at the adulation.
I am not good at this. It is tough to be humble. I like to receive credit for what I do. I like to be praised by others for a good performance or a job well done. I like to be congratulated and recognized for contributions or achievements.
I must say that I am somewhat bewildered about how to introduce more honorable humility into my life. I do not think humility simply means embarrassment of one’s person or degradation of one’s psyche. I think it must mean more an attitude or spirit of kind gentleness that does not seek reward or compensation in exchange for grace or help or expect honor or reward for one’s deeds. Rather, it gives fully without reservation or expectation. To me this seems the most difficult of the lessons to learn.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Throughout my life I have found the greatest satisfaction when serving: when truly serving not just nominally. As a young adult, I ministered to an assisted-living community of senior adults who were still in possession of all their cognitive faculties. I loved these people and it was not difficult to serve them. I enjoyed spending time with them learning from their lives. I did not mind going to the hospital to encourage them when they were sick. I did not mind setting aside other plans to spend time with them. They were valuable to me and I found great fulfillment sharing life with them.
A few years ago, I was outside mowing my grass. I felt a strong impression to go over and mow my neighbor’s grass. I ignored the feeling. It took me an hour to mow my own grass. I had no desire to spend forty-five minutes mowing the grass of a neighbor I barely knew. However, the feeling persisted. I selfishly continued to fight it; but finally I decided that I should do it. So I finished my yard and went into theirs and continued mowing.
Upon my completion of the task, the neighbor came out of the house almost in tears, grateful for my help. She shared that her husband had hurt his wrist (or shoulder) and could not push the mower. She also was physically prohibited from doing it. Their children are handicapped and could not do it, and their church friends had been unable to fit in their schedules. So, my simple act of conflicted unselfishness had incredible value to them.
I was very humbled by this and learned a great lesson in the joy of service. I am reminded to do these things more often: to go out of my way, to set my agenda aside and help others. In it is great satisfaction.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
The trouble is that our world today produces so little solitude. We live in roaring suburbs inundated with a multitude of “noises.” Dancing images from the television, movies, and the internet distract us. Our headphones jam with latest tunes. Headlines scream. Radio hosts jabber. Bosses yell. Advertisers clamor. Technology rings, vibrates, buzzes, and hums. Amid all this, we must somehow sort through the cacophony to find harmony and peace. The best way to do this is to find a moment, a place, a breath of solitude.
That place may be may be at the top of a snow-covered mountain or in the brisk scent of a pine-filled valley. It may be on the shore of the ocean or bank of a gurgling brook. It might be at 30,000 feet in an airplane. But, most likely it will be a glass of iced tea on the front porch on a summer afternoon or a brisk walk through the neighborhood before the morning lurches to life. It will be on my knees in a chapel or beside my bed. It will be piddling in the garage or traveling to work in my car. In these alone moments, I listen to hear that inner voice that guides me. If I do not hear it, I feel lost and alone.
So, for me solitude is essential. And, I admit, I am not afraid of my own company. Sometimes, I particularly like being alone and I am perfectly content to take that glass of iced tea and shut myself away to enjoy some quiet. I just wish I could experience it more frequently. I need to take my own advice and make more quiet moments alone. Maybe more of my next steps in life would come into focus.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Please allow me to describe what I mean. If there is no eternality, then the present is all we have. Extrapolated, that means there is no higher purpose or reason for living. Only the existential moment matters. The past becomes irrelevant. The future has no value. Only the now is. If this is the case, then it does not matter what one does or who one is. These are only figments of a society’s collective imagination.
If the past is irrelevant, one’s past transgressions or achievements are insignificant. If the future is valueless, then why strive for goals or avoid offenses? If the present only matters, then do what you will. Have fun or not. Believe or not. Be kind or not. Be faithful or not. Build or destroy. Succeed or fail. Give life or take it. None of it matters.
But, if eternality is reality, then everything matters. If my existence is tied to the past where I was made, the present where I exist, and the future where I may be, then every moment of my life matters. Who my parents were shapes me. Who I marry is significant. Who my children are is important. What I become is relevant. Whom I impact is momentous. And, what I do with every facet of my life for all of my life will matter or not based on the choices I make and the choices I influence.
This is why I take time to make to make decisions. This is why I love to talk to my Mom and Dad on the phone. This is why my heart warms at the laughter of my children. This is why I pause to consider the possibility of a Creator when I view nature or the universe. This why I strive for higher education, a broader circle of friends, lives to touch, and goals to achieve. In all these things I see the eternal moment where everything – yes, everything – matters.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
As an individual I always have wrestled with what I did not understand. My favorite question as a boy (much to my father’s friends’ chagrin) was, “Why?” I asked this question about everything and in all reality still ask it nearly every day of my life. I question the smallest things such as “why does that bolt go there?” But, I also am perplexed by larger questions such as “How can a loving God permit the molestation of an infant?” These are mysteries to me.
Somewhere in the middle are the mysteries of what the love of a wife or father means; who or what inputs the essence of soul into a child; how do we define beauty, and why do we love magnificence?
In these mysteries I find meaning every day. I may not be able to answer the questions or define their meanings, but I do relish being in the arms of my wife. I love my children fanatically. I notice the sunrise, and I pause with an intake of breath when I view a sky spangled with stars.
So how do I find meaning in mystery? I find the meaning when I stop trying to understand. I find meaning when I accept it for what it is whether I understand or not, and just revel in it. I guess that’s part of the mystery!
Friday, February 19, 2010
“Look for the reality within” is the first lesson. There is a key word in this statement. It is a simple article: “the.” If one was to say, “Look for reality within,” many would agree with the idea and many would state that in some manner they have found some level of reality within themselves at some point in their lives. However, to say, “Look for the reality within,” speaks to several ideas including the possibilities of a single higher purpose or existence, an alternate dimension of understanding greater than mere day-to-day sensory perception, or the existence of an underlying fundamental reality shared by all. I think the mystics would have agreed with the latter definition.
As with all things, it is one thing to comprehend a concept, another to analyze it in one’s self and a different thing altogether to delineate it. I can honestly say that I have looked for reality within myself all my life. It is as much a part of who I am as is my environment and upbringing.
Raised in a family where spirituality and a “God-ward” outlook were encouraged, I was sensitive to conscience at an early age. Particularly in my teenage years as my perception of the world broadened and my exposure to new ideas and cultures enlarged, I found my reliance on my inner “voice” increasing.
When confronted with ideas that questioned core beliefs I held, I relied on my inner sensitivity to sort out what was logical, what was right and wrong, and what was true. I carefully compared ideas, weighed their ramifications, and considered their consequences, always listening within myself for that inner confirmation that I was on the right track.
Today, I still listen for that inward sense although, as an adult, it is often hidden in a cacophony of other voices. I constantly strive to align my living with what I believe to be true and most important in life. When it does not align, I feel off-balance and uncertain. I would say then, that the inward voice propels me to remain on an even keel and to maintain a realistic big-picture perspective on life.
So, in many ways, the reality within me shapes the outward expressions of reality in my existence. As I mentioned before, I was much more aware of the inner voice as a teenager and young adult. As I have moved into adulthood, its keenness has faded some. To return to a point where I can once again shape my world with a reliance on what I believe to be fundamentally true, I need to spend more time in quiet meditation and study to once again be in tune.
If a cellist holds his instrument next to a piano, when the piano keys are struck, the corresponding notes will sound from the cello strings even though it has not been played. The cello strings are resonating at the same frequency as the sound waves emanating from the piano. In the same way, I want to be in tune with that inner voice so that my life resonates with what is good and true.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
What is happiness? To possess fundamental happiness, one must be at peace: peace within and without. It has been my experience that one may find great satisfaction in many things, but true peace in few. It is my observation that true inner peace begets outer peace. Where does one find such inner peace? In my experience, one finds that peace in relationship with Jesus Christ. No other earthly pleasure, diversion, or exercise, will clear the conscience and soothe the spirit in quite the same way. If one finds inner peace in Christ, that peace can generate an outward peace and even calm in the most horrific moments of life. For this reason I encourage you, my children, to follow hard after Jesus Christ. Walk in His wisdom, obey His precepts, and follow in His footsteps. This alone is the foundation of lifelong success and happiness.
Having established a core of peace in your life, ensure that you maintain it through devotion, clean living, and kindness to others. It is in such kindness you will find your next great reward. Receiving gifts from others or acquiring material possessions and wealth will generate brief enjoyment; but, the greatest pleasure is to be found in serving others. Seek out opportunities to love other people with your money, your life, and your smile. Touch other lives and always bring a song into their hearts by your actions and words.
When you have done these two things, you will be well on your way to happiness. However, there are many more things which I may write that might be of some use to you. So, I continue.
Love God first, love your family second, love your community third, and finally love the nation which you call home. This great nation of which you are a citizen is a privileged land. Learn well the principles upon which it was founded. Honor its God and protect its freedoms. Do not be ashamed to exercise your rights on behalf of others and of your nation. Resolve to defend it against all enemies foreign and domestic with the pen and with the sword.
Honor your father and mother: a commandment of great promise. Honor the senior saints of your life. They have traveled far and learned much. It will do you well to spend time with them and learn from their wisdom. Share with them your youthfulness. It is welcome warmth to dying embers. Respect those in authority over you and obey their guidance so long as it does not compromise your principles or character.
Cultivate a strong character. Choose tasks for yourself which are not most simple. Go out of your way to accept challenges. Make careful friendships. Surround yourself with people who will build you up – not drag you down. Seek out others less fortunate than yourself. Befriend them. Lift them up. By doing so, not only will you build your own character, but you will make lifelong partnerships more valuable than any other thing you may possess.
Choose your words carefully. They are powerful. The tongue is like a fire. It can be used to inspire or destroy. Choose carefully when to use each capacity. Do not be afraid to say, “I’m sorry” when it is honest and efficacious. However, never apologize for truth when it needs to be spoken.
When it comes to love, do not rush. The sweetest loves are those carefully chosen, tenderly nourished, and deeply rooted. Take your time to find your life companion. Build a friendship to last your lifetime. Foster the skills to make yourself a competent partner. And when you do find “the one” with whom you will spend the rest of your life, treasure them above all else. Place them first in your life. Love them with selfless abandon. Don’t build your bond on emotion or sexuality alone. However, don’t be afraid of these important parts of a relationship. Human emotion is a wonderful gift. Life would be empty without it. Sexuality is also an exquisite delight to be savored, nurtured, and shared between one man and one woman. It should be cherished and guarded against plunder at all costs.
As you build your relationships and discover life with all its’ nuances, don’t fail to notice the tiny details of the spectacular world around you. Take time to smell the roses, to revel in the fragrances of fresh rain in springtime, and taste the sweetness of spring water. Pause to consider the magnificence of the heavens and the grandeur of all creation. Work to preserve it and be a good steward of the resources of this planet.
Take pleasure in things beautiful and do not cheapen or squander them. It is gratifying to hear the harmonies of a symphony, to watch the choreography of the dance, and view the strokes of the master painter. It is inspiring to grasp the power of a story, to find the secret in the drama, or solve a mystery. Do not be afraid of these things, but also take care to avoid overindulgence in pleasure alone without a balance; else, beauty is cheapened and pleasure is diluted.
Strive hard to learn all you can learn. Be a voracious reader with an insatiable appetite. Stretch your mind and grow it at every opportunity. Be a thinker. Consider ideas with which you are not familiar. Build upon the things you know. Seek understanding of everyone and everything around you. But, be balanced in all things. Never fail to give a hearing to the ideas of another even if they differ from your own. To do otherwise is to disrespect the other person’s journey. This is not to say that all things you hear will be true. It is only to say one must respect others even in moments of strongest disagreement. Give them a hearing. It will make you a better person and likely give you opportunities to share ideas with greater effectiveness by far.
Be kind. Be disciplined. Be strong. Do not be afraid to be afraid. There is nothing wrong with healthy fear. It increases ones awareness and enhances caution. However, do not cower in the face of it. Rather take heart and do what must be done in spite of your fear: this is true courage!
Be honest. Do not seek gain on the shoulders of someone else’s labor. Work hard. Set goals. Achieve them. But do not forget to enjoy the journey along the way.
Take care of your body. Do not squander time on vanity, but do not be a slob. Keep your body fit. This will make your life more enjoyable and productive. Remain neat and well-groomed and be sensitive to style. This is not to say that one should continually change with the whims of fashion. However, one can and should be professional and/or tasteful in their dress and comportment always. Not only does this contribute to one’s own sense of self-confidence, but it allows one to have audience with most people.
When you choose your career, choose something you love if at all possible. It is far easier to spend a lifetime doing what you love than grinding away at your existence in something you hate. At the same time, do not be afraid to change when it is needed. Change is inevitable. It is one of the few certainties in life. Do not fear it. Embrace it and subdue it and use it to the advantage.
When it comes to money, do not fear it, but do not underestimate its power. It is a force with which to be reckoned. It has a powerful potential for generating great good, but if it becomes master it will wreak great havoc and sorrow. Be sure to remain its master and use it for great virtue.
Don’t be afraid to dream. In dreams are great possibilities. Don’t be afraid of those who mock your dreams. They are recklessly wasting their own.
These are the fundamentals I have discovered for living a happy life. If you start with these, you will be far along the road to success. These are by no means the end of wisdom. This is just a start. By learning and practicing these things, I hope you will avoid errors I’ve made and will be stronger and better for the knowing of them. However, if and when you do experience failure, fail gracefully. Stand up. Brush yourself off. Get back on the bike and ride onward.
My dream for you is that you will take life by the horns and make a thousand million memories. Take lots of pictures. Sing lots of songs. Do not hesitate. Do not falter. Think always. Have faith. Laugh often. Live every moment with vigor. Never give up. Chase the impossible. Love with abandon. Always sing. Never stop dreaming!
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Friday, December 11, 2009
I think the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 is a legitimate step in the right direction to encourage employees to more carefully consider the impacts of their actions in a moral context. However, though it will offer better protections to employees who ultimately become whistleblowers, I question whether or not it will increase the number of whistleblowers or increase the frequency with which they choose to go public with their accusations.
The general status of societal morality combined with the internal culture of organizations is still the driving force behind the actions of employees. In an increasingly amoral culture with a decidedly relativistic bend, I wonder if our very perception of morality (what is right and what is wrong) is becoming so skewed socially that it reduces the number of individuals willing to come forward with allegations of wrongdoing. If such a pool of individuals willing to step forward to prevent immoral corporate behavior is reduced, it does not bode well for improved corporate performance. If this is combined with corporate cultures willing to stifle whistle-blowing in pursuit of the almighty bottom line, even legislation like the SOA is only one small finger in the dike holding back a mighty ocean.
As for whether or not our current lending crisis could have been prevented by whistleblowers, I don’t think so. Perhaps its scope could have been reduced but I don’t believe it would have eliminated. I think there was a systemic and pervasive willful blindness to reality and commitment to selfish gain as profits soared. Even today, as a real estate agent, I see an industry that still silently craves a return to the “boom years,” even at the cost of the consumer. I still routinely observe mortgage brokers and lenders that would repeat previous offenses if given half a chance. Still they would loan money to borrowers who are not credit worthy if there was a way for them to pawn off the risk.
To me this indicates that current policies and procedures enacted since the crash are more of a knee-jerk reaction to the circumstances rather than a heartfelt morph to higher responsibility and accountability. Policies seem to have been instituted more as survival mechanisms rather than as means to a better more equitable moral future.
In light of this, can corporate America police itself? I think it is capable. That this automatically implies willingness is another matter entirely. American corporations do have the resources and ingenuity to implement self-policing at all levels. However, this requires a commitment from the top down, and a willingness of management to follow-up all private allegations of misconduct as vigorously as if they were under a watchful public eye.
I do not necessarily think more regulation is the answer. Discussions of the merits of capitalism and government regulation are for another time and place, but I will simply posit that I think government regulation can only go so far. As an old preacher once said, “Gentlemen, there comes a time when we cannot legislate the heart.” This is to say, at some point, our collective corporate behavior must stem from an internal desire to operate profitably, both monetarily and morally rather than simply choosing to get away with as much as possible in the context of current law. Our fundamental corporate culture must be founded on solid moral policies from which ethically sound profitability may be sustained. I know this is easier said than done, but it certainly is worthwhile goal for which to strive.
Approximately 582 words
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
First allow me to summarize the views of both men and answer the last question first. Then I will briefly delve into my opinion.
Bowie feels that business has two responsibilities when it comes to their environmental interaction: first, obey the law; second, do not interfere with the law-making process. In this way he feels the market and its stakeholders (including government) will determine what the appropriate level of involvement for the business is. He feels that the business will be prevented from improperly influencing the development of such legislation if they are not allowed to meddle in the process.
Hoffman, on the other hand, feels that business has an environmental responsibility that exceeds the limits of the law and should approach that responsibility from a naturalistic, biocentric perspective rather than from a humanistic homocentric one. In other words businesses should be proactively involved not just reactively involved, regardless of how it impacts its profits.
Bowie’s view would be the perspective most closely in alignment with Friedman’s theories. His response is true to the Friedman position of allowing the market to determine its own course and allow those with purchasing power to guide it.
Hoffman did not seem to think that equating environmental responsibility with a business’s self-interest was an adequate ethical foundation. I can see his point, but I tend to disagree a little bit. I agree with Hoffman on the basic idea that businesses should possibly have a responsibility above the law. However, I feel this is nearly always justified by a business’s own self-interest.
In the case he mentioned of the business-owner who bankrupted his business trying to achieve environmental responsibility, I feel there were several real errors in judgment. Thus, I do not feel that is the best case to represent a concept of social responsibility. As Hoffman indicated, it is one extreme. However, I do think responsible businesses must participate in a steady focused long-term campaign of environmental responsibility. They must do this to preserve their resources, their capital, the good will of their stakeholders, and steady long-term profits. Additionally, this concept is not untrue to shareholders because a responsible posture reduces the probability for lawsuits, clean-up costs, and health care coverage costs due to hazards resulting from unsafe and irresponsible behavior.
Hoffman did not seem to have much confidence in the long-term planning abilities of corporations (which I admit has been justified by corporate behavior in the last fifteen years). However, this is not a good excuse to not teach a long-term paradigm shift to corporations beginning with the lowest echelon of management. As has been repeatedly discussed and demonstrated, American culture and business – from the ground up – needs to retrain itself on impulse control, long-term planning, community cognizance, and quality management. This will facilitate the environmental responsibility desired by Hoffman.
At a more fundamental level, this discussion needs to consider the effects of world-view on how an individual approaches this debate. In a nutshell, the evolutionary bias of belief in the survival of the fittest lends itself to irresponsible behavior justified as we elbow and stomp our way over species and environments more fragile than ourselves. Juxtaposed to that idea, the Christian worldview provides a framework for the sacredness of all life, the value of the environment as a magnificent and precious creation, and the command for responsible stewardship of all resources. I understand this is a complex and far-reaching discussion that cannot be adequately treated here, but it is a foundational element of the discussion and should not be forgotten.
Overall this is a complex issue and I don’t think any one approach is sufficient. I think the marketplace is the ideal place for these changes to be made, supplemented by proactive businesses, and guided by active government regulation. Additionally, based on my belief in the Christian worldview, I would have to agree that business sometimes may have a responsibility above the law. However, this responsibility extends to all of us as individuals as well. Businesses are not to pursue this responsibility alone. All of us have the responsibility to do our part even above and beyond the law if necessary.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
[Written in 1844, this poem provided inspiration for the leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. When deciding on a name for their new publication in 1910 they agreed that the name of their magazine should be The Crisis.]
WHEN a deed is done for Freedom, through the broad earth's aching breast
Runs a thrill of joy prophetic, trembling on from east to west,
And the slave, where'er he cowers, feels the soul within him climb
To the awful verge of manhood, as the energy sublime
Of a century bursts full-blossomed on the thorny stem of Time.
Through the walls of hut and palace shoots the instantaneous throe,
When the travail of the Ages wrings earth's systems to and fro;
At the birth of each new Era, with a recognizing start,
Nation wildly looks at a nation, standing with mute lips apart,
And glad Truth's yet mightier man-child leaps beneath the Future's heart.
So the Evil's triumph sendeth, with a terror and a chill,
Under continent to continent, the sense of coming ill,
And the slave, where'er he cowers, feels his sympathies with God
In hot tear-drops ebbing earthward, to be drunk up by the sod,
Till a corpse crawls round unburied, delving in the nobler clod.
For mankind are one in sprit, and an instinct bears along,
Round the earth's electric circle, the swift flash of right or wrong;
Whether conscious or unconscious, yet Humanity's vast frame
Through its ocean-sundered fibres feels the gush of joy or shame;-
In the gain or loss of one race all the rest have equal claim.
Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God's new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,
And the choice goes by forever 'twixt that darkness and that light.
Hast thou chosen, O my people, on whose party thou shalt stand,
Ere the Doom from its worn sandals shakes the dust against our land?
Though the cause of Evil prosper, yet 't is Truth alone is strong,
And, albeit she wander outcast now, I see around her throng
Troops of beautiful, tall angels, to enshield her from all wrong.
Backward look across the ages and the beacon-moments see,
That, like peaks of some sunk continent, jut through Oblivion's sea;
Not an ear in court or market for the low foreboding cry
Of those Crises, God's stern winnowers, from whose feet earth's chaff must fly;
Never shows the choice momentous till the judgement hath passed by.
Careless seems the great Avenger; history's pages but record
One death-grapple in the darkness 'twixt old systems and the Word;
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,-
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.
We see dimly in the Present what is small and what is great,
Slow of faith how weak an arm may turn this iron helm of fate,
But the soul is still oracular; amid the market's din,
List the ominous stern whisper from the Delphic cave within,-
"They enslave their children's children who make compromise with sin."
Slavery, the earth-born Cyclops, fellest of the giant brood,
Sons of brutish Force and Darkness, who have drenched the earth with blood,
Famished in his self-made desert, blinded by our purer day,
Gropes in yet unblasted regions for his miserable prey;-
Shall we guide his gory fingers where our helpless children play?
Then to side with Truth is noble when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and 't is prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses, while the coward stands aside,
Doubting in his abject sprit, till his Lord is crucified,
And the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.
Count me o'er the earth's chosen heroes,- they were souls that stood alone,
While the men they agonized for hurled the contumelious stone,
Stood serene, and down the future saw the golden beam incline
To the side of perfect justice, mastered by their faith divine,
By one man's plain truth to manhood and to God's supreme design.
By the light of burning heretics Christ's bleeding feet I track,
Toiling up new Calvaries ever with the cross that turns not back,
And these mounts of anguish number how each generation learned
One new word of that grand Credo which in prophet-hearts hath burned
Since the first man stood God-conquered with his face to heaven upturned.
For Humanity sweeps onward: where today the martyr stands,
On the morrow, crouches Judas with the silver in his hands;
Far in front the cross stands ready and the crackling fagots burn,
While the hooting mob of yesterday in silent awe return
To glean up the scattered ashes into History's golden urn.
'Tis as easy to be heroes as to sit the idle slaves
Of a legendary virtue carved upon our father's graves,
Worshippers of light ancestral make the present light a crime;-
Was the Mayflower launched by cowards, steered by men behind their time?
Turn those tracks toward Past or Future, that make Plymouth Rock sublime?
They were men of present valor, stalwart old iconoclasts,
Unconvinced by axe or gibbet that all virtue was the Past's;
But we make their truth our falsehood, thinking that hath made us free,
Hoarding it in mouldy parchments, while our tender spirits flee
The rude grasp of that great Impulse which drove them across the sea.
They have rights who dare maintain them; we are traitors to our sires,
Smothering in their holy ashes Freedom's new-lit altar-fires;
Shall we make their creed our jailer? Shall we, in our haste to slay,
From the tombs of the old prophets steal the funeral lamps away
To light up the martry-fagots round the prophet of today?
New occasions teach new duties; Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of Truth;
Lo, before us gleam her campfires? We ourselves must Pilgrims be,
Launch our Mayflower, and steer boldly through the desperate winter sea,
Nor attempt the Future's portal with the Past's blood-rusted key.
- James Russell Lowell
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Monday, October 5, 2009
War. We are all too familiar with war. The United States has been continually engaged in conflict somewhere in the world for more than two decades, with no end in sight. Daily decisions are made that affect our nation, its position in world affairs, and the futures of our children. In spite of the importance of these stakeholders, it often seems we have little understanding of the context and impact of these serious choices. Now, as President Obama is confronted with keeping his campaign promises to refocus on Afghanistan and withdraw from Iraq, how do we evaluate his performance? What has been the impact of the war in Afghanistan and what will it continue to be on business, government, and society at home and more importantly in Afghanistan?
Historically, Afghanistan has been sporadically at war for nearly two centuries with various European and Eurasian interests (primarily Britain, Russia, and Pakistan) beginning with the first Anglo-Afghan War in 1839. In the past four decades, Afghanistan has been roiled by nearly continual fighting, multiple regime changes, natural disasters, rending cultural shifts, and a burgeoning narcotics trade funding diverse warring factions. (www.afghan-web.com)
Still reeling from the terrorist attacks on the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the United States naively entered Afghanistan thirsty for bloody retribution facing an enemy it barely knew or understood. Fast forward to today, nearly eight years later. Sidetracked by a war in Iraq for so long that its initial gains in Afghanistan faltered, the United States faces a resurgent Taliban reinforced by extremists from all over the world.
On August 30, 2009 General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. Commander in Afghanistan released his stark assessment that victory in Afghanistan was far from a sure thing. He stated, “Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near term (next 12 months) – while Afghan security capacity matures – risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible (Washingtonpost.com).” It is in this grim context we consider the impacts of this particular war on our businesses, our government, and our society and look for a way forward.
Let us first examine the facet of Government since it is the primary policy driver for a war. Undoubtedly war is a heavily governmental function. Broad powers are granted by the Constitution to the Congress and particularly the President for the conduct of war (usconstitution.net). This places responsibility for wartime decision-making squarely on the shoulders of the executive and legislative branches of government (though one might allege duration of such conflicts seems to be dictated more by public sentiment than consistent policy). President Obama seems understandably reluctant to make a quick decision on the matter. Nevertheless, at some point in the immediate future, he will give direction to his administration on how to proceed. Whether it is an escalation of commitment or a reduction of force, the policy will have broad implications for business, government, and society here and abroad.
Let us consider for a moment some of the possible consequences. If the government pursues a policy of force reduction, it will risk international loss of face. It will increase the risk of resurgent terrorist groups and their infrastructures as threats to the Afghan people, the United States, and its allies. It may result in reductions to loss of American lives but will not necessarily result in a decrease in overall loss of life. It will be more likely to create a climate favorable to an increase in human rights violations and war crimes similar to those seen in the 1990s under the Taliban (www.afghan-web.com). It will rapidly reverse the gains in education and equality made on behalf of women and girls in the country. It will increase the success of the narcotics trade fueled by the opium poppy (www.fas.org). It will reduce the volume of international aid flowing into the country for the betterment of its people and devalue the billions of dollars invested in the country by NGOs, aid groups, and multinational corporations. This is only a limited summary of the likely impacts of a policy of force reduction.
On the other hand, if an escalation of commitment is approved by the Obama Administration, there is little doubt U.S. and allied casualties will increase and the fight will be long and difficult. International perception of the Obama administration will be impacted. And, while initial success may be experienced in focused battle, the protracted struggle against the insurgency will take place on much more fragile turf: the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.
Such a commitment will cost billions of dollars. However, such a commitment might also result in a better human rights climate for the nation, a stronger more equitable education system, reductions in the narcotics trade, and robust international business investment (and that’s the beginning). Such gains should result in long-term stability and the opportunity for prosperity in Afghanistan. Though such an outcome is uncertain, its possibility should make us seriously consider its advantages. In light of the pros and cons presented here, we can see that the repercussions of governmental policy will be broad and deep in Afghanistan as well as in the United States and abroad.
After we recognize the role of government, we should experience a realization of our role in society. As U.S. citizens, we have the responsibility to remain informed and aware in order to hold our government officials accountable for the decisions they make while at the same time possessing an understanding of the scope and difficulty of such decisions.
Additionally we have a rich and diverse cultural heritage that should not only enable us to empathize with the Afghan people but should also motivate us to help improve the lives of their people from a civil rights perspective. In our nation we have fought long and hard to achieve equitability among races, sexes, and social classes in education, suffrage, and employment (to name a few). While many would argue we have far to go, we certainly have raised the bar worldwide on what it means to live free. Afghanistan still faces the challenges of politics inseparable from religion, inequity between sexes, sub-par education, and complex multiculturalism with four major languages, 30 minor languages, and multiple dialects spoken within its own borders (indexmundi.com).
With a deep cultural understanding of what it means to achieve unity from diversity, we should champion the Afghan people who yearn for the same peace and prosperity we enjoy. Having kicked down the door of their nation in pursuit of our own international policies, it is the least we can do in return.
The actions of our nation should first be rooted in a firm societal belief in justice and equity. This should be exercised through concrete coherent governmental policy. However, this is not to say there is no profit potential to the United States. Nobility of action might very well result in profitability for business. Additionally through reciprocity, successful business often results in domestic success.
How is this possible? Market capitalism with all its flaws has resulted in a worldwide betterment of the standard of living for millions. Even from a governmental policy perspective, the strength of communist ideology in China seems to have been weakened by the pervasive influence of materialism and the system of free enterprise that feeds it. Though there are still “haves” and “have-nots” in the world today, the “have-nots” have far more than they otherwise would have. Our textbook stated, “Even as economic growth has widened the gap between rich and poor, it has dramatically reduced the proportion of the poor in the total population (Steiner, 24-25).”
With this in mind, I envision the positive possibilities before us for business in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan Investment Support Agency touts itself as “a fast growing emerging market of strategic importance close to some of the largest and fastest-growing markets in the world.” With strong markets for the expansion and modernization of infrastructure and telecommunications, reinvigoration of the harvesting of natural resources, and the availability of large quantities of relatively inexpensive labor, the potential for massive profits does exist. Though faced with many security challenges, businesses who survive in this climate remain poised for sustainable long-term profits.
This sounds like a greedy misappropriation of nobility and military power. It would be if it were not for the advances already made and those still to come in corporate social responsibility. As we have studied this term, business wields great power. If that power is used maliciously, it can be a vile thing indeed. However, if that power is harnessed for good, it may result in sweeping positive changes.
By exercising the seven levels of power in the seven environments of business, corporations may initiate and motivate sustainable positive change. Exercising economic and technological power in Afghanistan can mean providing infrastructural stability through the provision of electrical power, stable telecommunications, potable water, and consistently navigable roads. These foundational elements - once established - will enable better medical facilities and treatment, permanent schools, and the movement of goods and services more efficiently within and without the country.
As these sectors stabilize and grow, they will provide employment to the people which results in further stabilization. This comes not only from providing an occupation for idle hands but also from increasing money flow within local and national markets and generating revenue from taxes to support governmental services. As governmental services become more sophisticated, businesses may wield political and legal power to influence positive changes. These positive circumstances may perpetuate over time.
Businesses can increase the chances of success by exercising environmental power, cultural power, and power over individuals through corporate social responsibility. They do this by encouraging technological and professional advances ethically and in an environmentally safe manner. If in the course of providing employment they teach ethics, professionalism, and efficiency, these become intangible local exports to the society in which they function. Along with these “intangibles” may come better physical and mental health and more opportunities for individual peace and happiness. Overall, they may translate into a better way of life for the entire community.
In conclusion we see that our government will set the course for our national and international policies. Within the framework of those policies, businesses may be encouraged to seek profits in the emerging markets of Afghanistan. If they are so motivated, businesses will serve an integral role in the stabilization of a war weary nation. Through their policies and procedures as they implement their individual strategies to achieve profit, these same businesses may wield their seven powers for the good of their business and the good of the Afghan people.
As U.S. citizens it will be our societal responsibility to hold our government and businesses accountable for their actions and policies to ensure that both the government and the corporations exercise their corporate social responsibilities in a consistent manner. If we do this successfully, we may rescue what otherwise might have been a lost cause and someday see the end in sight.
3. http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html 20091003
5. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL32686.pdf 20091003
7. Steiner, John F. & George A., Business, Government, and Society: A Managerial Perspective, 2009
8. http://www.aisa.org.af/ 20091003
1. Do you agree with the Cash for Clunkers bill to get people to drive with fuel efficient vehicles? Why or Why not? No I do not agree with the "Cash for Clunkers" program. Though there is much less gasoline consumed... overall, other resources are utilized in the manufacture, maintenance, and disposal of these newer vehicles (Think Lithium). Also, electric cars consume fossil fuels at night while they're plugged in to recharge. This combination of factors reduces the gain in my mind.
2. How effective has the program been on economic stimulus?
This is the sad part. I think all the gains are temporary at best and certainly artificial. They are not sustainable and do not fix some of ... the core problems in our economy. Rather than a "dot com bubble" or "real estate bubble," we create a "stimulus bubble." When it pops, where do we go from there?
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
This is pretty powerful stuff worth genuine consideration.
by Amy Carmichael
If I belittle those whom I am called to serve, talk of their weak points in contrast perhaps with what I think of as my strong points; if I adopt a superior attitude, forgetting "Who made thee to differ? And what hast thou that thou hast not received?" then I know nothing of
If I find myself taking lapses for granted, "Oh, that's what they always do," "Oh, of course she talks like that, he acts like that," then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of
If I can write an unkind letter, speak an unkind word, think an unkind thought without grief and shame, then I know nothing of
If I do not feel far more for the grieved Savior than for my worried self when troublesome things occur, then I know nothing of
If I can rebuke without a pang, then I know nothing of
If my attitude be one of fear, not faith, about one who has disappointed me; if I say, "Just what I expected" if a fall occurs, then I know nothing of
If I am afraid to speak the truth, lest I lose affection, or lest the one concerned should say, "You do not understand," or because I fear to lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the other's highest good, then I know nothing of
If I am content to heal a hurt slightly, saying "Peace, peace," where there is no peace; if I forget the poignant word "Let love be without dissimulation" and blunt the edge of truth, speaking not right things but smooth things, then I know nothing of
If I hold on to choices of any kind, just because they are my choice, then I know nothing of
If I am soft to myself and slide comfortably into self-pity and self-sympathy; If I do not by the grace of God practice fortitude, then I know nothing of
If I myself dominate myself, if my thoughts revolve round myself, if I am so occupied with myself I rarely have "a heart at leisure from itself," then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If, the moment I am conscious of the shadow of self crossing my threshold, I do not shut the door, and keep that door shut, then I know nothing of
If I cannot in honest happiness take the second place (or the twentieth); if I cannot take the first without making a fuss about my unworthiness, then I know nothing of
If I take offense easily, if I am content to continue in a cool unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of
If I feel injured when another lays to my charge things that I know not, forgetting that my sinless Savior trod this path to the end, then I know nothing of
If I feel bitter toward those who condemn me, as it seems to me, unjustly, forgetting that if they knew me as I know myself they would condemn me much more, then I know nothing of
If souls can suffer alongside, and I hardly know it, because the spirit of discernment is not in me, then I know nothing of
If the praise of others elates me and their blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know nothing of
If I crave hungrily to be used to show the way of liberty to a soul in bondage, instead of caring only that it be delivered; if I nurse my disappointment when I fail, instead of asking that to another the word of release may be given, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I do not forget about such a trifle as personal success, so that it never crosses my mind, or if it does, is never given room there; if the cup of flattery tastes sweet to me, then I know nothing of
If in the fellowship of service I seek to attach a friend to myself, so that others are caused to feel unwanted; if my friendships do not draw others deeper in, but are ungenerous (to myself, for myself), then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I refuse to allow one who is dear to me to suffer for the sake of Christ, if I do not see such suffering as the greatest honor that can be offered to any follower of the Crucified, then I know nothing of
If I slip into the place that can be filled by Christ alone, making myself the first necessity to a soul instead of leading it to fasten upon Him, then I know nothing of
If my interest in the work of others is cool; if I think in terms of my own special work; if the burdens of others are not my burdens too, and their joys mine, then I know nothing of
If I wonder why something trying is allowed, and press for prayer that it may be removed; if I cannot be trusted with any disappointment, and cannot go on in peace under any mystery, then I know nothing of
If the ultimate, the hardest, cannot be asked of me; if my fellows hesitate to ask it and turn to someone else, then I know nothing of
If I covet any place on earth but the dust at the foot of the Cross, then I know nothing of
That which I know not, teach Thou me, O Lord, my God.
Amy Carmichael, "