Monthly Archives: May 2010

What Religion Really Means

I felt good as it took me less than 3 weeks finished reading the book, ‘The Case for God’ by Karen Armstrong. Of all the books that I’ve read, this book ranked the toughest and hard to digest so far. She suggests that if we draw creatively on the insights of the past, we can build a faith that speaks directly to the needs of our troubled and dangerously polarized world. I feel blessed with my true faith and will learn more about it. Not only that, I begin to develop sense of respect for all the religions in today world. As Karen said, religion was never supposed to provide answers to questions that lay within the reach of human reason; it helps us to live creatively, peacefully and even joyously with realities for which there were no easy explanations and problems that we could not solve. However, it requires a great deal of effort and cannot succeed if it is facile, false, idolatrous, or self-indulgent. Overall, she concluded it well what religion really means as the extract below which I taken from the epilogue:

From almost the very beginning, men and women have repeatedly engaged in strenuous and committed religious activity. They evolved mythologies, rituals and ethical discipline that brought them intimations of holiness that seemed in some indescribable way to enhance and fulfil their humanity. They were not religious simply because their myths and doctrines were scientifically or historically sound, because they sought information about the origins of the cosmos, or merely because they wanted a better life in the hereafter. They were not bludgeoned into faith by power-hungry priests or kings: indeed, religion often helped people to oppose tyranny and oppression of this kind. The point of religion was to live intensely and richly here and now. Religious people are ambitious. They want lives overflowing with significance. They have always desired to integrate with their daily lives the moments of rapture and insight that came to them in dreams, in their contemplation of nature, and in their intercourse with one another and with the animal world. Instead of being crushed and embittered by the sorrow of life, they sought to retain their peace and serenity and in the midst of their pain.

They yearned for the courage to overcome their terror of mortality; instead of being grasping and mean-spirited, they aspired to live generously, large-heartedly and justly and to inhabit every single part of their humanity. Instead of being a mere workaday cup, they wanted, as Confucius suggested, to transform themselves into a beautiful ritual vessel brimful of the sanctity that they were learning to see in life. They tried to honour the ineffable mystery they sensed in each human being and create societies that honoured the stranger, the alien, the poor and the oppressed. Of course they often failed. But overall they found that the disciplines of religion helped them to do all this. Those who applied themselves most assiduously showed that it was possible for mortal men and women to live on higher, divine or godlike plane and thus wake up to their true selves.

To listen to her voice, you can go to this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/documentaries/2009/07/090714_theforum_120709.shtml

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Repentance At Night

I cannot sleep tonight. My pillow is wet with tears, my bed is crumpled with my grief. I am not weeping for fear of man or weakness or self-pity. I lie awake at night because I know I have been mean with you, and that thought breaks my heart and defeats my sleep.

I could not imagine, at that unhappy moment in the day when my conscience blacked out and the evil deed was wantonly done, that its shadow was going to grow so fast on me, destroy my mood and ruin my sleep. And I cannot imagine now how I can have forgotten you at that fateful moment, and acted as if you did not exist, as if you were not in my neighbour whom I will knew I was wronging. I did it coldheartedly, as all do it in the harsh competition of this ruthless world. I did it too, and thought I would get away with it.

But with the night the flimsy support of the surrounding hypocrisy faded away, and I was left alone with my conscience and my deed and the tears on my pillow. I am weary with sorrow, and that is not a made-up feeling of repentance but the naked realization that if I have failed you so badly and unexpectedly today, I can do it again any time any day and where does that leaves me? How can I trust myself anymore? How can I say that I love my neighbour if I hurt him so easily? And if I don’t love my neighbour, how can I say I love you? And if I cannot say I love you, how can I sleep?

My vigil today is not penance but love, is not to implore pardon, but to create awareness, or rather, yes, it is to implore pardon in the shape of healing, to ask for mercy, and the greatest mercy which is grace not to do it again.

Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am weak; heal me,my very bones are shaken; my soul quivers in dismay.

Come back, O Lord, set my soul free; deliver me for your love’s sake. The Lord has heard my entreaty; the Lord will accept my prayer. The Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.

Study life from the perspective of Tennis

For the whole 14-week of this semester, the most enjoyable course is none other than Tennis. I considered myself very lucky to have been able to register this course as it was full house initially. As I was praying fervently during add-drop week, God really answered my prayers as there were 3 fellows dropped the course and wait for no more, I signed up merrily inspired by Roger Federer.

Tennis is an interesting game, and it’s a lot like life. For one thing, it’s played on a court according to strict rules. So is your life. Live within the bounds of a society and abide by its law. Tennis always begins with a serve and so does each day. Every morning, you begin with a fresh possibility. Make the most of it. Like life, tennis is a game of volleys. You won’t win them all, but you wont lose them all either. If you learn to recover, charge the net once in a while, and develop a strong backhand, you’ll get through it okay.

Tennis is a game of endurance, and so is your life. A tennis match can go on for hours, and often becomes more a test of stamina than of skill. Determination is your greatest ally off the court as well. If you make up your mind to persevere, you can achieve nearly anything. Someone once said,” I don’t play tennis because I don’t want to be involved in a game where love means nothing.” Make love your motivation for every goal you strive, to accomplish love for God and for other people. Life isn’t just about tennis and points; it’s about good plays along the way.

When I get back my badminton racquet not so long ago and swing it, I feel awkward when my arm moves instead of my wrist. Now I can see why badminton and tennis cannot play at the same time. It clashes and conflicts with each other. Anyway, glad to learn new game, new knowledge.

“If life doesn’t offer a game worth playing, then invent a new one.” –Anthony J.D’ Angelo

Peace Amidst the Storm

               There was this story of a king who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace.Many artists tried.The king looked at all the pictures.But there were only two he really liked, and he had to choose between them. One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for peaceful towering mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace. The other picture had mountains, too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky, from which rain fell and in which lightning played. Down the sideof the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. But when the king looked closely, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest – in perfect peace. Which picture won the prize? The king chose the second picture. Why? “Because,”explained the king,“peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all these things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace.”

Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amidst the storm.