Monthly Archives: November 2015

There is no Zen in PC thought.

“Tolerance isn’t about not having beliefs. It’s about how your beliefs lead you to treat people who disagree with you.”

-Timothy Keller

We live in a pretty disturbing time. Yes, we have to contend with ISIS, economic woes, poverty and many other issues that consume our thoughts. But in the last couple of weeks, however, something more disturbing has come to the forefront and really needs to be examined.

Let me first say that I am no fan of political correctness. My friends, political correctness has run amok in this country. Our college campuses, high schools and society have fallen prey to the ideas of a few, and if you don’t agree with them, you are then branded a bigot among other things. Gone are the days when you could actually have an opposing thought, because if you don’t agree with a person or a group, then you have committed some form of unthinkable crime. Peter Thiel says that “the core problem in our society is political correctness.”

I firmly believe that we all strive to think and act in ways that correspond to a belief that most everyone is tolerant of others in society. Unfortunately this is not always the case. It seems that those who claim to be the most tolerant are not. I honestly can not comprehend how you can say that a person is racist, bigoted, homophobic or whatever because they don’t agree with you is acting in a tolerant manner. Noted author Ray A. Davis sums it up perfectly when he says that “tolerance only for those who agree with you is no tolerance at all.”

As a strong believer in the first amendment, it should be obvious that as long as you’re not threatening anyone or spreading any type of hate speech that could hurt someone, then what you say should be left alone. You shouldn’t be demonized, threatened and ostracized because of your beliefs. The beauty of the first amendment and living in the United States is that we are allowed to actively disagree with others who do not share the same thoughts.

I would like those who instantly have a guttural reaction to those who oppose them and vocalize it to rethink their reaction and ask themselves, “how is this being tolerant?”

In trying to be a more compassionate, and yes, a more tolerant person, I am trying to keep an open mind to other people. I’m not going to lie-this has proven to be a very difficult task. I do not agree with a great many things, but I refuse to resort to saying that someone is a racist etc. because they do not agree with me. What then can we do to truly show that we are tolerant?

First and foremost, everyone needs to accept the fact that people are not going to agree with everything that you say or think. Having this belief alone would considerably elevate the level of discussion in this country when it pertains to controversial issues,  

Second, let’s agree that just because someone disagrees with us that they instead choose another way of reacting than spewing hate back at your detractors. Accept what they have to say as what they believe. Resorting to the old responses of “you’re a racist or a homophobe” just doesn’t cut it anymore. If anything, it shows a distinct lack of intellectual depth and understanding of what free speech is.

Third, if you disagree with a radio program or a television show based on its content or message, turn it off. If you find a book, blog, newspaper article or any other written matter to be offensive, don’t read it. It really is as simple as that. As fervently as you hold your beliefs, so do people who disagree with you. And that is the point as well as the big picture.

As with earlier posts, you may be asking yourself, “What does this have to do with hiking, and more importantly Zen Hiking?” I believe that a distinct correlation exists between the two. Being Zen in being able to live in the now, and not worry about what has happened in the past and what may happen in the future. We all want to live our lives as we choose without being afraid to express our views.

Taking the time to think while I hike has allowed me to do several things. I know that at work I have colleagues who have expressed differing viewpoints as to handle a situation. When I am out in the woods (especially this time of year) walking, thinking and breathing in the crisp autumn air gives me a chance to examine each side of a situation. Sometimes I stand firm and other times I am compelled to change my view based on what has been presented to me. Regardless of what the end result is, I have thought about it and can further articulate it when asked to do so. I am not blindly and ignorantly shutting down the ability to express opinions that differ from mine own.

Another colleague, whom I respect immensely, told me recently after a rather contentious discussion that she disagreed 100% with what I had to say. No name calling, no threats. A mutual disagreement among colleagues that did not end badly That is how it should be.

My point is a simple one. We all choose how we react to everything that happens to us everyday. We can choose to react passively or in anger. We can choose to react showing our ignorance. But, if we choose to do so, we can react in a manner that shows compassion and tolerance. Labeling and calling people names because they do not share our thoughts is the antithesis of actually being tolerant.

Think about these questions:

If I choose to react in a negative manner to those who disagree with me, how is that promoting any type pf beneficial discussion?

If I choose to accept the fact that other people will hold different beliefs, can that possibly hurt further discussion?

If I am at a point where I hold a very strong belief, can I at least get to a place where I can, at the very least, begin to understand where that other person is coming from?

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.



Remember when you were young?

Does anyone besides me remember when kids played outside and had to actually engage in some form of human interaction? For years now, whenever I talk to kids (I work in a high school) and ask them what they did over the course of a weekend or during summer break, I always get the same answer and it never involves being outside.

Most of the responses I get involve the couch, sleeping and video games. Very rarely do I have kids tell me about the time they spent actually being outside and just playing. Forget about hiking. I talk about the hikes that I do and they look at me as if I am from another planet. As a matter of fact, the look they give me is the same one that I see when I tell them when I was their age we only had channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13  to choose from on the television. And to make matters worse, Channel 13 was Public Broadcasting!!!

Children of my generation just didn’t play outside, we explored. There was a sense of excitement as we ran through the woods and built forts and just spent hours upon hours of wandering. The great thing about it was that it never got old. No matter how many times you walked through the same woods, on the same path, it didn’t matter whether it was a beautiful day or raining, it seemed as if there was always something new to experience. The only limits to do what we could do depended on how much our imagination held us back. Remembering that time, there were no limits.

As you know, I look forward to being outside hiking as a way to balance myself and to get rid of the mental garbage that accumulates on a daily basis. I find it refreshing to be able to breathe in the air and feel the soft swell of the earth under my feet as I hike towards an awesome view point or from trail to trail. I have found that it is not the end that counts, it’s the journey.

REI, the sporting goods company, is giving all of their employees the day after Thanksgiving off so that they can “opt outside.” Why? They are encouraging all of their employees to take the day and hit the trails. Shouldn’t we all be doing this? Shouldn’t we be encouraging our kids to get outside and do something? We have an entire generation of kids who spend seven hours a day in school and then the rest of the evening inside watching tv or playing video games.

In looking at the big picture, can I automatically assume that everyone will experience the same benefit that I do from spending time outside? Can I assume that if someone takes the time to get out and just walk around, that they would feel better, both physically and psychologically? I think that the proof of this can not be denied.

We all lament about the “good old days” and how things used to be so much simpler than they are today. The time where we didn’t mind being outside, even in the rain and the snow. I really wonder what it will take to get back to that time? Can we? Should we? Sure, it is really great to be able to get out into the woods when I can, but I’m not going to lie, it isn’t enough and I wish it was more.  Do you remember when you were young?