Posts tagged " Garden of Eden "

River Revival

December 2nd, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 4 comments

Hannah is a full-time mom working strenuously, with her husband’s partnership, to raise five delightful (but rambunctious) children.  Sometimes, the daily pressures threaten to overwhelm her, and she finds herself snapping shrewishly at her family.

Jake recently launched his own small business. He is hoping soon to marry his girlfriend, whose family is equally enthusiastic about the pending union.  However, Jake sabotages his success by procrastination and by allowing unimportant distractions to derail him.

Henry, a middle-aged, senior level executive suspects he is losing the respect of his professional associates, and is increasingly estranged from his wife.  He often ends his day feeling depressed and miserable.

Hannah, Jake, and Henry all suffer from exactly the same problem and Scripture provides the prescription.

A river flows out from Eden to water the Garden,
and from there it is divided and becomes four headwaters.

Genesis 2:10

Unfortunately maps prove that no such arrangement of waterways ever existed. Another problem: If the purpose of the river is to “water the Garden,” it ought to flow into Eden rather than out from Eden. 

Clearly there must be more to this story than improbable geography.  Ancient Jewish wisdom helps by showing how the main river represents the human yearning to achieve our best life.  The river flowing from Eden makes it possible for us to swim back upstream to our own personal Eden. 

This ‘waterway to wonderful results’ comprises four basic rivers representing our four basic drives.  Each needs to be developed and focused if we are to head towards Eden.

Why four basic drives?  We possess both physical and spiritual needs and the world can provide us with both physical and spiritual commodities. Combined, that makes four drives.  Here they are with examples of how each drive is fulfilled.

  • What I need physically and the world supplies physically: food, water, shelter
  • What I need physically and the world supplies spiritually: friendship, connection, love, and esteem of others
  • What I need spiritually and the world supplies physically: a sense of security, beauty and culture
  • What I need spiritually and the world supplies spiritually: a connection with God, gaining of wisdom

In other words, the four Biblical rivers that lead us to the main canal of contentment represent four categories of human need.  Our desires and motivations come from our being both physical and spiritual creatures operating in a world that supplies both physical and spiritual commodities. 

Someone who ignores category 1 leaving himself and his family hungry and cold while vigorously advancing himself in category 4 would be viewed as foolish and perhaps even evil.  Similarly,  single-mindedly increasing one’s bank account while ignoring human relationships is sheer folly. 

Ancient Jewish wisdom emphasizes that as complex beings, people need to experience growth and progress in each of these four categories if they are to live purposeful, successful, and fulfilling lives. 

We all know that we need food, water and shelter.  However, categories 2, 3, and 4 are less blatantly obvious and more easily ignored.  In the same way that balance is important in diet, exercise and investment portfolios, balance is equally important in healthily developing our life blueprint.

This Biblical model brings into our lives the ability to balance our existence.  This balance is critical.  For instance, my very capacity to earn money or relate to my spouse and children will be diminished if I do not also work at gaining wisdom and spiritual connection at the same time.  Think of it as a balanced diet. 

Hannah, Jake, and Henry need to study the rivers of Genesis. They should work on identifying the categories they are neglecting.  Their unhappiness will start to dispel once they begin repair work. 

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Pebbles and Panoramas

May 20th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 4 comments

My children constantly fascinate me when we hike in breathtakingly beautiful British Columbia during the summer. Some of them visibly thrill to the vast vistas and magnificent landscapes revealed as we crest a hill.  Others seem oblivious to the large scale spectacles but will stoop to pick up a pebble which can absorb their attention for twenty minutes.  Similarly, when boating, one child gazes endlessly at the wave pattern stretching to the horizon.  Meanwhile, her sister lies on her tummy on the edge of a dock peering down at a school of tiny fish darting around as if being signaled by an invisible choreographer. 

We learn much from the patterns of larger arrangements such as the earth’s upheavals that created the mountain ranges and the erosive forces that carved majestic canyons.  However it is just as important to understand the microscopic forces that help atoms to form molecules and the characteristics that shape those tiny molecules into complex substances.

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Not Your Average English Country Garden

December 26th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 20 comments

Born to a confused sixteen-year-old girl impregnated by a man she met at an English pub, virtuoso guitarist Eric Clapton didn’t have much of a wholesome family childhood.  His father vanished before he was born and he was raised by his grandmother, led to believe that his mother was his sister.  Young Eric was soon playing guitar on the streets of London while passers-by dropped coins in his hat.

Years later, in rehab for alcohol addiction after having become an international music star, Eric writes in his autobiography:

“…I was absolutely terrified, in complete despair.  At that moment, almost of their own accord, my legs gave way, and I fell to my knees.  In the privacy of my room I begged for help.  I had no notion of who I thought I was talking to, I just knew I had come to the end of my tether, I had nothing left to fight with.  Then I remembered what I had heard about surrender, something I thought I could never do, my pride just wouldn’t allow it but I knew that on my own I wasn’t going to make it, so I asked for help and getting down on my knees, I surrendered.  Within a few days I realized that something had happened for me.  An atheist would probably say it was just a change of attitude, and to a certain extent that’s true, but there was much more to it than that.  I’d found a place to turn to, a place I’d always known was there but never really wanted or needed to believe in.  (emphasis added) From that day until this I have never failed to pray in the morning on my knees asking for help, and at night to express gratitude for my life and most of all for my sobriety. ”

Eric survived and went on to thrive because he took his soul seriously.  Treating his addiction as if it only afflicted his body wasn’t working.  Like the famed twentieth century Swiss psychiatrist who played a role in the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous by recognizing that alcoholism has a spiritual dimension, Clapton involved his soul by using prayer.

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S.O.S. – Save Our Souls

November 17th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 19 comments

When I was a teenager, my parents sent me to study Torah in Israel with my great-uncle, Rabbi Elya Lopian.  Watching and listening to a man who was a giant of ancient Jewish wisdom opened my eyes to spiritual reality.

Large numbers of young men from around the world flocked to study with him at his yeshiva, Knesset Hezekiah. A student, on one occasion, sought permission from my great-uncle to miss yeshiva while he returned home for a family wedding. Reb Elya inquired whether there would be young women dressed immodestly at the wedding.  My friend responded honestly that there was every possibility of this. However, he assured our teacher that his spiritual level was so high that he would be immune to whatever exposed feminine charms he might encounter.  He barely noticed attractive women, he concluded.

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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

February 23rd, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Bernie Sanders (with whom I’d much rather spend an evening with than Hillary Clinton) is almost comical in his sputtering fury against “Wall Street.”  When he panders to students, it’s “Wall Street” that imposes draconian interest rates upon their loans.  When he panders to groups based on skin color, it’s again “Wall Street” that causes their troubles.  No doubt it’s again “Wall Street” that is responsible for this winter’s poor snowfall in Vermont.

It goes without saying that one could easily find human beings who have worked in companies located in buildings on Wall Street that have behaved reprehensibly.  In just the same way, there are more than 700 teachers still employed by New York public schools accused of offenses ranging from violence against students to sexual misconduct who are being paid their full salaries to sit around in what are called ‘rubber rooms’. That fact doesn’t discredit the idea of education any more than miscreants in finance discredit the free market. (more…)

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