Friday, June 20, 2014

Changing Devotions and Perspectives: The Calling?

Changing Devotions and Perspectives II
Tony Dillon-Hansen
May 2014

As life progresses, we encounter ideas and perspectives that shape our current being.  The question of what is God calling me to do today is a mystery in a couple ways. There is a question about the existence of God or the premise of the deity’s personal interest in my path.  If there is such, what does that “calling” request of me? Finding Des Moines’ Plymouth Congregational Church on that path may yield clues to that request.

Through martial arts, study of Asian philosophies, and experience of Catholic teachings, I grew in strength with a sense of compassion for all people. Yet, the experience of being bullied, understanding religious hypocrisy and losing a child has wounded my once naïve compassionate sense of the world into a deeply questioning position of worth and purpose. There was little place for justifying the worth of religion. There is a question of the existence of a being that is directing the efforts and pathways in this world on any sort of macro or micro level. I will not pretend to witness God other than life exists with no explanation given, and I would hope that being has much more important things to attend than my lonely, trivial requests.

Perhaps, the entity has no interest in lording over people’s behavior (that would explain the ugly historical atrocities committed in the name of God or even without invoking such), and nature exists just simply as a manifestation of events. Parents and teachers of all stripes can easily attest to this where the point of lessons is to learn how to be autonomous. That we are here, today, in this environment, and one’s “ego in this bag of skin and bones” is a realization of something, and that people display that idea with virtual autonomy over own actions. Nature has many opportunities to learn about action and consequence, and proponents of chaos theory might suggest that “nature” is always ready to teach new lessons. That much is clear.

For all that has been boasted about God and religion, right, wrong, proper or foolish action ultimately requires one to do something, even if that something is nothing. The existence of God is very real to some people and to consider the absence of such, or of Lording qualities, would negate personal existence. So I would not know if God is calling me to do anything, but the position of where I am and where I have been has set me on a path that will yet change. The question is what was learned in the time and what can be imparted to others if anything.

There is a reason that I had to endure some things because as the Tao and the Buddha might suggest, one cannot possibly know good without knowing bad (and thus begins the 4 Noble Truths.) I can only hope that my path brings me towards better things and better places.  Experiences have helped to identify a proper course, and of course, chaos is always waiting to challenge that idea. With respect to chaos, a good fighter will tell you that strategy, flexibility and skillfulness are more useful than brute force attacks.  

With these ideas and if there is a calling, I became an ordained minister because a part of me still believes in compassion and honesty within human nature.  If there is a calling in the path, that is still a mystery to me. Yet, I found a great convergence of good teachings at Plymouth Congregational Church. 

I met with cynicism the first time that I heard the words, “No matter who you are; No matter where you are on life’s journey; you are welcome here.” As I heard subsequent sermons and discussions within and around the Church, there are people with critical thinking skills and people duly interested in expressing the compassion of humanity rather than hypocritical dogma and corrupt rhetoric. I can have reverence for the works and traditions of Church once again. That brought me home.

With Plymouth Church, I realized, for myself, that the purpose of church is to be a part of something that is larger than oneself, and I found more ways here to serve the community since many other organizations also meet at Plymouth. This place welcomes diversity and the purpose is clearly conveyed in order “to grow in love of God and neighbor.”  Church can be a place where people go to understand more about life and to do good work for your neighbors and community.  Thus, partially due to the tradition established in my youth, I actively serve in this Church because this Church expands its work into areas of the community that are in need of compassion (e.g. prisons, homeless, GLBT, and more), and they do not ask for a test when you walk in the door. This is close to what were my youthful ideas of the Church and the teachings of Jesus.

I still question the integrity of organized religion and God. I cannot un-live my experiences that caused questions and non-acceptance of my own senses, but maybe, I am not supposed to un-live them. My faith in people has been somewhat renewed by those involved with Interfaith Alliance and Plymouth Church. The mind has become quieter, acceptance of oneself is better, and possibilities are more positive. There is still more for me to do, and in what capacity that will be is what I have to find. That is the universal truth for everyone.  If there is a calling, it will take me somewhere better than I was and to go there with good people. If there is a calling, it has brought me here to this moment for a reason, and that is only a start of the next journey. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Smiths 5 Keys to Safe Driving

A number of people have asked me why park my vehicle by backing into the slot.
When I worked at a previous company, that company spent time and effort on helping employees become better drivers, partially because many of us would operate company vehicles and having safer drivers insures less expensive car fleets.  In doing so they, introduced us to the Smith Driving System and the "5-Keys".  
I believe the system has helped me to become a better driver and have less issues with insurance!
Thus, I want to share this resource with you. While I am not associated with Smith System organization, if you have question, I will be happy to answer as much as I can.  You may want to copy the link for your home viewing if you like  
That document gives an overview of the points, of which backing into a parking slot is key to #1, 2 and 3.  There are more material available online, and so you may find this to be useful for yourself in your own driving habits.  
Here is a summary of those points:
The Smith System states that following these five rules can dramatically reduce the risk of major accidents on highways and roads.
1.   Aim High 
The first rule for this method is “Aim high in steering”. Staying alert of the dangers and traffic ahead not only avoids rear-end collisions, but it also alerts other drivers behind your vehicle to slow down. The driver should steer and focus their attention high, so as to view the road as whole and not just a few feet ahead. 
2.   The Big Picture
Be aware of your surroundings at all times” may seem obvious to say, but distracted drivers are just as dangerous as intoxicated ones. Erratic and angry drivers take up a large portion of the traffic we see daily, so avoid major accidents by noticing how other drivers behave on the road. Having the whole picture means that you are doing your part to keep your vehicle as safe as possible while moving 1000ft a second. There are a variety of hazards between your own vehicle and other drivers, and a keen awareness of these dangers will reduce these risks.
3.   Keep Your Eyes Moving
The third standard of the Smith System asks drivers to remain alert. Energy drinks can only do so much before they cause the body to crash, and any repetitive motion sends us into a trance. Consistent eye movement prevents your body from entering the trance state, keeping you alert to every driving condition ahead of you.
4.   Leave Yourself an Out
The fourth principle of the Smith System states to leave yourself a way out. This means ensure that other drivers do not box you in while selecting their lanes. Do not follow other vehicles too closely, and always anticipate what choices other drivers make.  Iowa driving manual suggests no more than 2 seconds between you and vehicles ahead of you, but Smith System recommends 4. When you pull up to a stop light with cars in front of you, be sure to be able to see their back tires. 
5.   Make Sure They See You 
The worst thing a driver can do is assume. Assume other drivers can see them, assume other drivers are not dangerous, or even assume that they will just get to their destination safely. The final rule for the Smith System is “Make Sure You Are Seen”. This rule prevents accidents by removing assumptions made behind the wheel. As a driver, make sure that other drivers can see you and anticipate your move. If you feel you are coming into another driver’s blind spot, use the horn to get their attention. Avoid getting behind high profile vehicles where you cannot see anything but that vehicle.