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June 17, 2017

One of most amazing characteristics of being human is our ability and freedom to choose our actions and reactions of everyday living. A fundamental characteristic of all life seems to be the sensing and reacting to stimuli of our environment. That’s true of an amoeba or an oak tree or a mosquito or an elephant. And we humans have in our evolved brains, many of the basic responses of those evolutionary ancestors. But as human beings, our brains have also evolved – to an amazing degree – with frontal lobes with which we choose to control many of those more basic responses. The traditional term for this is free will, but it’s more meaningful to me to call it free choice.  Some threats to our body do produce an automatic reaction – like touching a hot stove.  But in most situations we can choose how to react .

We see examples every day of people letting their more basic “animal instincts” take over. We see news stories of a parent lashing out in anger at children or spouse. We see road rage. We have war! It’s the source of so much of the suffering and evil in the world that is all around us.  But then I think of Nelson Mandela. After years of imprisonment, he chose peace, not vengeance, and he changed a country.   And I also think of Mother Theresa who gave her entire life to others. When we saw people fleeing from the burning World Trade Towers, others, mostly police and firemen, were running towards the incident to help. We humans, both as individuals and in society have the capability either to let those animal instincts take over, or to choose a more “humane” response that reaches out to our potential of becoming more fully human. It shows in how we treat our environment, how we treat other people, and even how we treat ourselves.

The fundamental choice for me as a human is to recognize that “ME” within my consciousness as God. That is my direct experience of God as an intrinsic part of my being. It is that ME that reacts with awe and thanksgiving and praise at the glory of a sunset sky, or watching ocean waves breaking on a beach, or the holding of a newborn baby, or listening to the sounds of a Bach fugue, or feeling the touch of a loved one, singing a Brian Wren hymn in church, biking along the Moldau River, or attending the graduation exercises of my grandchildren.

I no longer think of God as a distant being somewhere beyond the sky who created the universe some billions of years ago and now watches and intervenes periodically. To me, God is that continuous creativity that we now know and see and feel as happening throughout the universe. God is in the life that is all around me on this planet Earth. I am an individual participant in this evolving universe at this moment and place in space-time! I am an integral part of something grand! Within me, within each of us, there is this spark of consciousness that is ME. Meister Eckert, a tenth century mystic, described it as, “My me is God.” The writer of the Gospel of John has Jesus say, “I am in my Father, and you in me and I in you.” [John 14:20]

I choose how I react to the Universe and to the Earth that is my home. I choose how I reach out to the people that I interact with every day.   I can choose to control those strong self-protecting animal instincts that are so close to the surface of my being.  I can choose to listen to those higher instincts of our human potential that lead us to wholeness, those instincts of compassion and care, of fairness and justice, of loyalty and love. It’s not always easy. It takes practice. But only then can we begin to reach into our wholeness as human beings.

Loren Bullock
Revised December 7, 2017


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