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Hunting for Answers and Devouring the Issues

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Tag: belief

Thank you to all the readers following up to now.  I now bring you, drum roll please, Blue Lion’s Top Ten Books That Everybody Should Read!  For this installment we will be revealing books 10 through 6.  So, without further ado, let’s get to the countdown.


In tenth place we have The World’s Religions by Huston Smith.  The Blue Lion has always been interested….OK, maybe always is too long.  The Blue Lion has, for as long as he can remember, been interested in religions and the beliefs of others.  This book was a natural for me to pick up and read.  Mr. Smith does a superb job providing not just the tenets of the world’s major and even some not so major religions, but traces their histories as well.  In some ways, this book is also a history of humanity.  Reading through the histories, teachings of the various religions’ founders, and their modern beliefs, one thing became clear to me.  Every major religion of man has been “corrupted” from the original teachings of their founders.  I don’t mean that every religion is run by corrupt people, although that can be an issue.  What I mean is that the simple and pure ideas each religion started with have been added to and embellished, many times so much so that the original founders wouldn’t recognize them.

Since I’ve been raised as a Catholic, I’ll give Christianity as the perfect example.  Jesus Christ, and we’ll assume he existed and said and did much of what was attributed to him, had a very simple message.  Basically, he told us we were all brothers and sisters.  He included himself in that mix.  He told us to love one another as we loved ourselves and to love God with your whole heart.  With one stroke he superseded the Ten Commandments with one.  This was the essence of the “Good News”.  If we followed this one commandment, we would be “saved”.  All of us sinners could be saved.  Pretty much everything else Christ did or said was an extension of this.

Well, apparently, people couldn’t leave well enough alone.  Somehow, this simple concept has turned into reams of dogma and rules that people had to follow. If they didn’t, they would be damned to hell for all eternity.  Then people disagreed on the rules and broke the religions up into countless demi-religions.  The Churches were established, whose leaders had great power, both secular and spritual.  At one point, the Catholic Church had three people declaring that they were the one and true Pope.  Crazy.

Any way, this book is one of the many that has informed by spiritual thinking of the years.  It started me down the path of realizing that although most religions had some truth to them, there was not a single organized religion that had the entire story.  Also, no religion was entirely true as well.  This book in many ways spurred my search for answers.  Even if you don’t find the answers I did in it, it is always beneficial to understand one’s fellow man and I cannot recommend a better way in which to start than by reading The World’s Religions.


In ninth place we have one of the most purely entertaining series ever written.  I’m talking about J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series.  Ms. Rowling has written one of the best fantasy series of all time, probably one of the best works of fiction as well.  This series starts out with The Sorcerer’s Stone, a wonderful story focused on youths that adults can enjoy as well.  With each progressive book, the main characters in the story grow up and the depth, complexity, and consequences of each story grow right along with them.  By the time of the 4th book, The Goblet of Fire, comes along, the writing and story is as good as almost any adult fiction I’ve read.  The exceptions are further along in this countdown.  The final three books are superb works of fiction.  Ms. Rowling deserves every penny she has earned with this series.  She found the perfect sweet spot in writing.  She wrote something that can be enjoyed by ANYONE above the age of 12.  This is something few authors have accomplished.  Tolkien did it to an extent, but the Potter series is initially more accessible to the younger readers.  I can only imaging what reading this series in step with your current age must have been like.  Since each book came out about once a year, someone who was 11 or 12 when the series started would have been able to read about kids their own age in each book.  I only had the privilege of reading this series as an adult and being able to remember what it was like to be the ages of the protagonists.

As with most stories about great struggles, the people in the Harry Potter series are fighting against tyranny and for their freedom and liberty.  As the series progresses, the consequences of making mistakes against a powerful foe become more and more profound.  Characters we come to care about get killed.  There are set backs for the good guys.  All through this, the heroes learn they cannot give up.  Ironically, they discover that in order to win the future, they need to understand what happened in the past.  With each installment the picture of what needs to be done and why things are the way they are becomes clearer.  The ending is triumphantly bittersweet.  The right people win, but at a heavy price.

This is a series that even people not generally drawn to fantasy should enjoy.  However, even if you can’t bring yourself to read the books, at least the movies are acceptable alternatives here.  All the movies are well done, with some being better than others.  However, even the best of the movies are mere shadows of the books they represent.  Yes, the seven books in this series are long, but they will not waste your time.  I heartily recommend everyone read this saga.


Next up is our eighth place entry; Leadership by Rudy Guiliani.  As everyone in the US probably knows, Rudy Guiliani was the very successful mayor of New York City who turned the city around from a crime infested hell hole to the great place to visit it is today.  I can hear the chorus of “give me a break, he wasn’t THAT good” now.  OK. I guess you have a point.  Maybe getting rid of the windshield washers at the tunnel exits in Manhattan doesn’t exactly turn NYC from a hell hole to paradise.  However, that one act did start the people of NY City to start changing their self defeating attitude that allowed the city to fall into a state of resigned acceptance that things couldn’t be improved to one that allowed the city to bounce back from the September 11th attacks faster than anyone would have imagined.  Mayor Guiliani provided a steady hand on that dark day that helped keep people from panicking, rioting and looting.  Let’s face it, NYC on 9/11 didn’t look anything like LA after the OJ Trial or the Rodney King trial or heck, even the Lakers winning the NBA Championship.

However, this book is not really about Rudy’s success as mayor.  It’s really about his leadership style.  For people who lead other people in any way this is a facinating and instructive book.  The main message I took from it was that you must always treat people with respect.  You don’t always have to agree with them, but you need to be able to discuss controversial or sensitive subjects in a way that makes others feel like they were at least not dismissed out of hand.  It’s the leader’s job to stand in front of the group and point in the direction you want everyone to move.  You need to make sure everyone knows the goals you are trying to accomplish and that the goals are worth while.  While you need to understand what actions are being taken to accomplish those goals, you can’t dictate what everyone is doing.  Everyone needs to be impowered to make decisions and make a difference.  YOu need to care about the people you are leading and be willing to be part teacher, part coach, part councillor and part friend.  While there are concepts that can help you do these things, leadership is an art and not a science.  Rudy Guiliani addresses all of these topics, giving examples of how he applied them, making this book an interesting read.

Now, since these mini reviews are getting longer than I thought they would be, I’m going to change my plans and only do three books each post.  So, next up well have books 7-5.  Until then, good hunting and good reading.

OK. I’m back after a couple of days of camping with the kids and getting my minivan fixed. Let’s get right back to the countdown.


In 14th place we have Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe by Terence Dickinson.  If you’ve ever looked up into the night sky and wondered what you were looking at, this is a great book to have.  This book is, by far, the best book for an introduction to astronomy.  Mr. Dickinson covers all the important topics and the photos used in this book are spectacular.  There is a thorough discussion of the various type of observation equipment, descriptions of the most famous stars and constellations, some great seasonal star charts, and more essential information.

However, the part of this book that puts it on this list is a section that does an amazing job of showing just how large the universe is in comparison to our planet.  He starts with a picture of the Earth filling the frame of a picture in the first step.  With each successive step the picture is further from the Earth such that the sides represent 10 times the length of the sides of the previous step.  This process is followed until the picture is showing the bounds of the known universe.  This is the single best description of the scope and size of the universe I’ve seen that makes it perfectly understandable.  Even if you don’t buy the book, you should read this chapter to get a good idea of your place in the universe.


In 13th place we have Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsch.  Actually, this is now a series of 9 books.  I read the first three and found them very interesting.  If you believe the premise that Mr. Walsch has been getting information from God and writing it down into books, there’s some very interesting concepts here.  Personally, I believe that something is going on here.  How much of the information is direct from “God” is open for debate.  Of course, considering my understanding of us all being God, I guess everything written by anyone is at some level direct from God.  As you can see if you read the Wiki article about the books, many of the ideas about God in these books are in close alignment with my own.  These books started me down the path to the understanding of God and the universe that I believe now.  I guess you could say I’m the rational side to Mr. Walsch’s emotional side.  That’s one key difference between us.  I still recommend these books to the believers reading this blog.  The belief “challenged” will not find these books helpful in the least.


The next entry is another series of books.  I’m talking about the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien.  Ten years ago, these books would have been firmly up into the top ten.  Now they’re coming in 12th place.  For many years this series was the single best example of fantasy and world creation ever accomplished.  It is still a singularly classic achievement.  I’ve read these books more times than I can remember.  For a while, during high school and college, I probably read them about once a year.  These books did much of form my ideas and concepts of good and evil and the understanding that we can never give up or surrender when our lives and way of life are being threatened.  The only reason these books have lost some of their influence on me is probably mainly due to familiarity.  However, there are also two more recent fantasy authors who I now have to place higher on my list and both will be in my top ten.  Please don’t let my preference for these other authors take away from Professor Tolkien’s masterpiece.  Without his work, neither of the more recent fantasy series coming up would exist.


My last “runner up” book comes in at number 11.  That’s Give Me a Break by John Stossel.  Mr. Stossel actually has two books out and they are both well worth reading.  Mr. Stossel is a libertarian and in many respects that’s where my politicial outlook lies as well.  These books explore many of the areas that government regulation actually makes worse than if they just did nothing.  They also discuss many areas where the media are driving unreasonable fears in the public and ways in which the free market should be used as the best way to fairly distribute resources.  These books will make you laugh at the ridiculous, but also get angry and disturbed by the lies we hear every day.

I believe Mr. Stossel is the single best reporter on Network TV today.  If I see a show that he’s done I will always sit and watch it.  He’s one of the few honest reporters who is more concerned with the facts he can find than the political outlook he’s trying to project.  Yes, he has a perspective that he wants people to agree with, but his perspective is informed by facts, not by the way he’d like things to be.  This is apparent by the “conversion” of his perspective from a pro-government intervention one to the libertarian view he now holds.  I’m actually shocked that ABC News has not only kept him employed, but has increased his visibility over the years.  I guess I have to give ABC credit for allowing an alternative view point to thrive.  In any case, John Stossel’s books are worth reading.

That’s all the runners up.  Next post starts into my top ten books.  This is where the real fun begins.

Well, now that we’ve answered “Who am I?”…….well at least started to answer it.  It’s a question we spend our whole lives answering.  We can start to put the whole thing together.  Keep in mind this is an iterative process that we need to continue throughout our lives.  The important thing is to make sure that all your answers are in harmony.  You can’t let something you want change who you are, as we’ve already discussed.  However, sometimes your understanding of why you are here, or where you going may make you change who you are, at least somewhat.

What do I mean by this?  Let’s say you are a member of a religion that teaches that they are the only way to salvation.  OK, most religions do this, some more vehemently than others.  Let’s also say that you are reading a blog or a book, written by someone who thinks about God differently than you do.  No, it doesn’t need to be this one.  What if by reading this publication, you see some information that leads you to now believe that God is more encompassing than you previously did and that there may be some truth in other religions that you hadn’t considered before?  Now, you may want to re-evaluate who you are in this new light.  You may decide you now believe that all who search for truth are on the same path and should be given respect and that you might even want to learn something from them.

Another example involves asking yourself the question “Where am I going?”.  In examining your life, this is one question you need to be continually asking yourself.  Basically, you want to know if the path your life is on is in congruence with who you are and maybe even what you want.  Are you doing things that get you closer to your goals and agree with who you are?  If not, you need to make a change.   You need to make part of who you are someone who does those things that you believe are important.  For instance, if you find that in your job you feel the need to mislead people in order to accomplish your goals, but you believe that honesty is a key character trait.   You need to make a change.  You need to do the difficult thing and be honest to those you’ve been misleading.  This takes courage.  However, there is a payoff.  You will gain credibility.  You may have some short term difficulties, but you will be improving your long term image.  Unfortunately, for those who work in the US Capitol Building, they only look to the next election.  We, as their constituents, should not let them get away with it.

Now, assuming you have a good idea of who you are, what you then want, where you are going, and possibly, why you are here, we only have one more question to ask.  Assuming you’re not where you want or need to be, you need to have a plan.  This is the “How do I get there?” question.  It’s more than a plan though.  Often there is a choice between more than one path.  Some seem easy, but make you compromise yourself in some way.  Some are at least initially hard, but are in harmony with what you believe to be right.  Every once in a while there’ll be an easy path that is also right.  When you see this, be happy.  Obviously, I’m telling you that you have to take one of the paths that will allow you to be true to yourself.  You’ll know which path is right once you know the answers to your other questions.

Many people do things they think are right because it will “get them into heaven” or at least “keep them out of hell”.  That’s a childish outlook.  That’s like saying you’ll eat your vegetables or Mommy and Daddy will get mad.  Adults do the right thing because they know it is right.  They have a code of honor or ethics that makes them do what they do.  Not because someone tells them to, but because they choose to.  This is the essence of free will.  We get to decide, who we are and let everything else follow from there.  There can be no greater gift.  It allows us to maximize the quality of our experiences, which is as I’ve said before, the whole reason we are here.

How do we choose the type of life we will live?  I’ll start looking at some traditional and non-traditional codes of ethics starting in the next few posts.  Next, however, there are some great books I’d like to recommend for everyone to read.  So we’ll have the start of Blue Lions’ Library with 10 books everyone should read.  Until then…..good hunting.

In the truly excellent science fiction TV show, Babylon 5, created by J. Micheal Straczynski (or Joe to those who know him) there is an episode dedicated to the question “Who are you?”.  This episode, entitled “Comes The Inquisitor” is available via Hulu.

There is a scene in the episode where one of the main characters, Delenn,  is asked over and over again in brutal fashion “Who are you?”  Delenn first answers with her name.  That, she is clearly shown, is not the right answer.   She is confused.  She doesn’t know what the “Inquisitor” is getting at.  In the end, she realizes the Inquisitor is asking “What is most important to you?”  “What do you stand for?”  “What values do you live your life by?”  It is only at this point that the testing ends.

So, who is the Blue Lion?  Clearly it’s not my name.  We can wear names like clothes.  Whether you call me Blue Lion, or Leo Blue, or Hey, you!!  Cranky guy.  It doesn’t matter.  It does not change who I am.  I guess the best answer I can give, is in what do I believe?  What are my values?  What would I be willing to die for?

Above all, I believe that life, everyone’s, life is unique and important.  If you’ve read my earlier posts you know that this is because I believe our lives are “God experiencing all there is to experience” or “the Universe figuring itself out (nod again to Joe Straczynski)” depending upon your view of a “Creator”.  Every person should have the right to seek out their own happiness as long as that does not impinge on the rights of others.  Since you need to be alive to pursue your happiness, I can state this as everyone has the “inalienable right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”  The Founding Fathers of the Unites States got this exactly right.

I believe the most evil thing people can do, except under one circumstance, is to destroy another human life, as that is the ultimate abrogation of that person’s rights.  Strangely, maybe paradoxically, I also believe that you have not only the right, but the responsibility, to protect your life and the lives of those you love.  Those you love can, and often does, have a very broad definition in my book.  This leads to the one exception to the rule.  It is not evil to kill another if that other presents a credible threat to either your life or liberty, or the life and liberty of someone you love.  I wish I could say that you can wait to take action until after someone is being attacked, but by then it will often be too late and you’ll end of not saving the person who’s life you were trying to save.  I’m also not saying to kill everyone that threatens you.  It’s a judgment call that each person will have to make for themselves depending upon the situation at hand.

The Blue Lion puts a large amount of value on honesty.  Dealing with other people requires you to have credibility.  Always being honest accomplishes two things.  It cements your credibility and it keeps you from having to remember which lie you told to whom.  Trust me, as you get older the memory is one of the first things to go.  Don’t make it any harder on yourself than you need to.

I also believe that decisions need to be made on the basis of reason, not emotions, in almost all instances.  Emotional decisions, very often feel like the right thing to do, but more often than not end up making a mess of things, because they do not take the law of unintended consequences into account.  Welfare is a perfect example.  It feels right to help people who are struggling (the psychological basis for this is not as altruistic as most people think as it’s usually an ego boost to the helper), and in many cases it makes sense to do so to a limited point.  However, helping people for too long tends to make them dependent on that help.  This lessens that person’s liberty and even their dignity over the long haul.  Since the helpers (I’m talking about good people trying to help here, not those trying to take advantage) don’t intend this to happen, its an unintended consequence.  Help has to be temporary and people need to be made responsible for their own lives again as quickly as possible.

My studies of economics have shown me that capitalism is fairest way to distribute resources.  Read Basic Economics 3rd Ed: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy by Thomas Sowell to get an idea of why this is true. Capitalism, makes those who need a resource most pay the most for it.  It also takes into account human nature.  Now, while I understand that every regulation or tax put upon Capitalism in some way constrains the free will of people to do as they want and slows the growth of an economy (the rising tide does lift all boats, even if it doesn’t lift them evenly), I recognize that rules need to be agreed to and followed so that less evolved people do not take advantage of the more evolved ones.  I also recognize that governments, that need to exist to enforce the rules and protect the populace from outside harm, need funds to accomplish these tasks.

Last of my core beliefs is that representative democracy, in other words, the US system, is the best, most practical form of Government yet invented by humans, at least for humans.  It gives each person a say in running the country, which directly impacts their lives.  However, it is also workable from a practical standpoint.  Pure democracy would mean everyone voted on everything.  In the end, noting but the voting would get done.  The sad fact that our current leaders are out of control and driving this country into a hole, doesn’t mean the basic system is bad.  In fact, in the not too distant future, the system will probably work very well to change the current leadership.  If the leaders we had, actually followed the Consititution and didn’t make things up as they went, we’d be better off than we are now.

As you can see, the answers I have found to the question of “Why are we here?” has had a major impact on “Who am I?”.  I have hopefully explained how my answers to my questions about God, the Universe, and why we are here, rationally (again, hopefully) lead to who I am.  As we go forward, we’ll start to look at “Where am I going?” and “How do I get there?” from both a personal level and at the group levels.  These questions are more practical in nature, and not so esoteric as what I’ve discussed up until now  Until then, good hunting.

This is one of the most personal questions for anyone to answer.  From what I’ve seen, answers generally fall into one of 4 or 5 categories.   The first are those who feel they have a “personal relationship” with God and that the Bible is the ONLY document that needs to be referred to to live your life.  Next are those that definitely believe in God and follow some religion.  There are also those that believe, but follow no recognized religion.  There are also those who are not sure there is a God.  Lastly, are the confirmed atheists, who are sure there is not a God.

Personally, I find the first and last groups the least intersting to talk to about God.  The first group has their minds made up that things are one way and there’s no need to look further.  The last group I can at least understand.  They have a logical point.  They state that since it is impossible to prove that God exists, there’s no point in trying to do so.   Of course, this makes discussing God or “Why we are all here” a very short conversation.

Personally, I was raised a Roman Catholic and for the beginning part of my life, I fit firmly into the “follow a religion” crowd.  As time went on though, I wanted to understand more about the nature of God than the church teaches.  Since my early teenage years, I’ve been on a journey to understand God on a level not yet common among humans.  Do I believe in God?  Yes, I do.  I recognize that this is a belief on my part and not purely rational thought.  It is called faith after all.  I cannot prove the existence of God, but my belief provides me with many of the answers to life’s questions.  However, what I think of as God is definitely not the same as any religion that I know of.  I hope as I go through the questions of life and the answers I have found that the reasons for my belief in God will be made clear. I will also discuss why I don’t believe any religion really explains everything my belief does.

I’ve already stated that if God created the universe, then God is outside of time since time is part of the universe.  Thinking of God in this way will lead to the first of the 5 questions of life.  What are those five questions?

  • Who am I?
  • What do I want?
  • Where am I going?
  • How do I get there?
  • Why am I here?

As we’ll see, the order we address the first two questions, who and what, are critical to the types of decisions and choices we make.  First up will be “Who am I?” which is totally appropriate.