Watch me paint this mountain landscape in 2 minutes

(time lapse)

If we imagine life as a balanced landscape with fresh waters running through the center, mountains sheltering the skyline, trees neatly arranged on each side and rocks as a protective boundary, we may visualize balance. Balance organizes tall and short, up and down, high and low, dark and light, stillness and movement, realism and fantasy. When we are in balance, we are in various stages of harmony.

Balance Checklist

I could go on like this for hours. The point is, life is about extremes. We experience highs and optimal living, along with lows and hardships. A balanced attitude sees harmony and embraces life as a moving orchestra. Instead of pursuing perfection in the highs, or focusing disproportionately on the lows, an attitude of harmony is about acceptance of what “is”. The reality is that there are good days and bad days, and often our perception of bad or good changes by the hour or even by the minute. May we change what we can and accept what we cannot.

Do not say, 'Why were the old days better than these?' For it is not wise to ask such questions. Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun. Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it. Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future. In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these: the righteous perishing in their righteousness, and the wicked living long in their wickedness. Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise— why destroy yourself? Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool— why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes."
- Ecclesiastes 7:10-18 NIV

In our human journey there are extremes in our approach to life, like “wise” or “fool”. There are also extremes in what we mean by having a “good” day or a “bad” day. In times of crisis, tragedy, and loss, our pain may feel unbearable. On the contrary, the joy of falling in love, winning a hard fought achievement, or holding a new baby may make one forget all the pain. When we accept what is, it may be extremely good or extremely bad. Not every day is balanced in itself. It is our mind that must find the harmony in the bigger picture.

The totality of our lives is like an oil painting. Each blob of paint doesn’t look like much on its own. When isolated, it’s nothing but a splat of color. But when seen from a distance, all of the colors come together to form a picture. If we could see our lives from a distance, we may see how all of the good parts and the bad parts form a picture of who we are. And we are a masterpiece!

We may not always have a choice about what we experience, but we have free will for how we respond to it. We can choose to see bad events as part of a bigger picture. We can also choose to forgive those who wrong us. By “forgiveness” I do not mean offering a pardon to those who deserve justice. I mean the act of letting go of bitterness, lest it destroy us. Spiritual strength allows us to remain true to ourselves even if we have no other recourse left.

In our quest for balance, we must resist the tendency to see all situations as a sliding scale in which all things are made to seem equal. When we put all of the good things and the bad things on a see saw, it will balance itself. This may appear as if the good things and bad things are equal. No, they are not. They are simply arranged on the see saw in such a way as the weight of each is evenly distributed. But if we take an extreme of one side and pair it with a weakness of the other, the see saw will flip erratically, with one side down and the other side up.

We must also consider this paradox: while one strong element can flip a weak element, there is no such thing as a little bit of evil or a little bit of good. Good and evil are extremes. One small act of goodness has a lot of power, and can lead to bigger acts of goodness. The same is true for one small act of wickedness. One lie begets another. One resentful thought emboldens another. An act of malice from one, invites the hatred of many. It is not extreme to see the truth of this. Choosing wisdom over foolishness is a valid, honorable decision.

In a misguided effort to avoid extremes (or by intention to mislead others), some may not recognize that extremes exist, or may mislabel what is extreme, or may rationalize extremes to equalize all situations as the same. This is simply not true. The harmony in an orchestra is not found by making all instruments sound the same, but by hearing them all together. If one musician blares a sour note, it will indeed ruin the piece. No conductor would find this acceptable.

We cannot make life feel acceptable by accepting the unacceptable, or by pretending that a sour note doesn’t ruin the music. Life will forever be a paradox. It is good AND it is bad. In the big picture, we may see how it all comes together, or we may never know. We enjoy our days more when we accept what is, and live in hope that the good will outnumber the bad.

I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it."
- Ecclesiastes 3:10-14 NIV

As we approach another new week, may we find satisfaction in our days, be happy, and do good. May we enjoy good food, good weather, and good people. Everything is beautiful in its time.

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Be a Lamb

Watch me paint these lambs in 50 seconds (time lapse)

Yesterday’s blog post was “Be a Lion“, part 2 of “Are you a lion or a lamb?” Today, we’ll take on part 3. Let’s ponder why being a lamb is important to a happy life.

The definition of the word lamb, as it applies to humans as per The Free Dictionary:

  1. a sweet, mild mannered person, a dear
  2. a person easily deceived; one who can be duped or cheated especially in financial matters
  3. a person who is innocent, meek, good
  4. like a lamb to the slaughter (without resistance, innocently)

Of these, we don’t mean 1, 2, or 4. Of course we don’t want to be deceived or destroyed. Nor do we aim to be “mild mannered”. No, we are also lions! For the purpose of this blog post, what we mean by “lamb” is a person who is innocent, meek, and good.

  1. Innocent

There are two paths to innocence:

A person who is innocent because he’s done nothing wrong, or declared innocent because he’s been pardoned is free. Being a lamb is about service and sacrifice. It’s difficult to serve from a position of slavery. Freedom isn’t a selfish choice; it’s our responsibility to remain free.

     2. Meek

Meek also has more than one meaning. A person who is meek may be “easily imposed on; submissive”, which is the definition that many people think of. This is not what being a lamb is about. “Showing patience and humility; gentle” is the definition we mean. 

Why are we happier when we are innocent, meek, and good? What do the traits of a lamb have to do with living an ideal life? Goodness, mercy, and prosperity are often grouped together, along with blessings and a secure future. We can meditate on these things as spiritual gifts, but who we are in spirit and the rewards we manifest spiritually also impact the natural world.

It’s an upside down world when evil people are depicted as exciting, popular, and living ideal human lives, when the opposite is true. Evil is wrapped in hate. Malice is born of anger, bitterness, resentment, impatience, vanity, hostility, and no moral accountability. Does any of that seem happy? Not only are they themselves not radiating happiness, but their tendency to control and dominate people leads to misery of many others as well.

     3. Good

Whereas, when we see a good person, we find peace, patience, perseverance, humility, and inner joy. These are traits that seed a happy life. Not only do such people manifest happiness in their own lives, but they inspire other people as well. This is why we must be lambs. The world needs innocent, meek, good people. Lambs reassure and encourage others. Haven’t you often heard people say, “It makes me feel better to know that there are still good people in the world”?

Goodness Checklist

Lambs don’t lie, aren’t selfish or vain, and don’t betray our fellow humans. We don’t betray each other by arriving late to relieve them from work, or to meet with them socially. We don’t betray them by not completing a chore that we promised we’d do. On a grander scale, we don’t betray them by complying with oppressive actions that will then grow in greater power over more people as a result of our selfish cowardly compliance. And we certainly don’t shame, bully, and coerce others to comply with coordinated propaganda campaigns to control the populace. Lambs do not terrorize anyone in the name of “virtue”, “health”, or “science”. The actions of good people match the words from their mouths.

Lambs live a happy life because they embody the character of happiness. Happiness doesn’t hold grudges or seek revenge on those who they perceive to be enemies. Happiness doesn’t have an unquenchable thirst to control others, or a hunger to dominate them. Happiness gives space and freedom to all. Happiness is sweet, humble, and kind. Anger and happiness are not compatible, nor is hate or tyranny compatible with happiness. One cannot oppress others when one is happy, as actions of malice aren’t created from a state of happiness. It is like planting a pumpkin seed and expecting a tomato. Malice doesn’t seed happiness; love does.

Goodness brings the fairness and joy we seek, and our joy is then shared beyond our own lives. Although we make a difference when we are as a lion, we are incomplete without the character of a lamb. Wise people from long ago understood that the pursuit of happiness is an important freedom. For while evil has been made popular and lucrative, it is a lie. Happiness is seeded from good. Therefore, goodness- not evil- is the state of being that is truly exciting and ideal.  

Be a lamb.
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