The Institute For Living

Tag: investment

Integrity at the Core

by on Feb.11, 2012, under Core Values, News Commentary, Politics/Economics, Relationships, Spirituality

Once I had a conversation with a lady who had come to talk about a potential home improvement product. Our conversation spontaneously began with talk about the state of affairs in the country and the world. We seemed to have automatically been in synch with each other — understanding, agreeing with and applauding our mutual desire for a better dialogue than that which we were hearing day to day.

After this warm, heart-to-heart dialogue, though, it was time to “get down to business.” I was struck by how dramatically her mood shifted from one of seeming to care about the plight of people to one of wanting to make money.

This is not an indictment against her. Rather, it is an observation of the bigger system in which she and countless other people live, in which their lives are compartmentalized. In Box A is their genuine concern about the soul level issues of people and their well being — evidenced by the outpouring of good deeds when natural disasters strike. In Box B, though, is a totally contrary behavior that silently speaks, “I’ve got to do my part to make a profit — whatever it takes.”

I suppose most people are not even aware of the conflicting dialogues taking place by their two internal boxes. They literally, ‘just go along to get along.’  I have read stories of some people who, when they became aware of the conflict, lost their jobs by trying to quietly bring justice within the system that was designed to bring profits.  Make no mistake: resolving the conflict is no simple task or it would already be the predominant paradigm.

Ultimately, the mega systems must resonate with the ultimate system. When there is lack of integrity disturbances occur.

One person said that “passion” was the basis for his career, while “purpose” was the basis for his life. It takes a lot of courage to bring those two disconnected circles into synchronization with each other. And everyone may not be able to achieve 100% synchronization. It is a journey. Leaving them totally separate, though, may be like the married man who says, “Passion is my mistress, while purpose is my wife and family.”

Being “on purpose” is what integrity is all about. It may not be easy, because there are surrounding systems where the water is dirty. But integrity is about “wholeness.” It is not about legalism or moralism, or someone’s list of standards.  Integrity is about clarity of purpose.  Scripture says, “Be perfect.” That doesn’t mean living up to someone’s standard of righteousness, because other scriptures teach us that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  There are numerous other scriptures that negate a notion of righteousness based on one’s ability to measure up to some arbitrary standard of living –established by some fallible group of people (who are not perfect).

What perfection, or integrity, does mean is the completeness illustrated by a circle: it is whole and cannot be broken. At core level, when we strive for integrity we will always exhibit love, because it is perfect.

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Room for Compromise?

by on Jul.26, 2011, under Core Values, News Commentary, Politics/Economics, Relationships, Spirituality

I saw two rooms: one sat vacant, the other was overflowing with two groups of people — one unlike the other.

I questioned why one room sat vacant while the other room had plenty of space for discussion.

My answer came: “We are waiting for discussion between the two groups.”

But no discussion happened.

So one room sat vacant, while the other room was overflowing with two groups of people.

There is no right way to do the wrong thing.

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Actions Have Consequences

by on Apr.14, 2011, under Core Values, News Commentary, Politics/Economics, Spirituality

Actions have consequences. That is an inviolate spiritual law. We get to choose our consequences by the actions we take. The problem is we don’t know when the consequences will show up, or what form they will take. But it is as sure as sunrise follows sunset that actions have consequences.

In our limited sphere of operations we can inflict consequences on those over whom we have power, but those become actions — which have consequences. The universe is the final arbiter, and equity is assured.

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Bankruptcy

by on Apr.04, 2011, under Core Values, News Commentary, Politics/Economics, Spirituality

Blockbuster Video has come to be the generic for at home entertainment over the past few decades, yet there is now talk of that company going bankrupt. New trends in media and entertainment have perhaps shifted the dynamics of the market such that it can no longer be profitable with its business model.

But bankruptcy is not new, many successful companies and individuals have declared bankruptcy at one point, and moved on to reinvent themselves. Among the field of our potential presidential candidates, one is reported to have declared bankruptcy more than once, and another could be declared morally bankrupt by virtue of his integrity.

Indeed, in the recent economy — marked by massive layoffs, a mortgage crisis, runaway health care costs, and unsustainable credit — bankruptcy is an inevitable part of the individual and corporate fabric of our lives. Neither the principals nor the creditors are the real beneficiaries; the accountants and legal staff are the winners.

So deep is this structural, not cyclical, malady that its ripple effects are felt throughout communities. Those collective effects render states and our federal government (and, in turn, the world economy) pushing up against a ceiling that is not ideological, political or philosophical.

This crisis calls into question the core function of money. At its root, is money a medium of exchange, or is it a determinant of value? Does money, in fact, have the quintessential role to determine worth?

There is a powerful relationship between variables, and when that relationship is breached,  eternal damage is done at soul level. Priorities are misplaced, intentions are misguided, and behaviors are not authentic.

Unexpected tragedies can bring death at any time. When we trade the currency of life for the currency of eternity, what will we offer? Will we be full, or will our coffers be empty?

We may have amassed great material wealth; built estates around the globe; perhaps even bought an island or two; but when our sunrise turns to sunset, how will we answer the call?

Will our currency be good in eternity?

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Poor People

by on Feb.28, 2011, under Core Values, News Commentary, Politics/Economics, Spirituality

“The Poor you will always have with you” is a well known scripture. It sets the core value for many religious, economic and political conversations. But who are the “poor”?

Are they the ones who don’t have big bank accounts, or the ones who stay awake at night trying to figure out how to maintain the big accounts?

Are the poor those who go along to get along, or the ones who know that they know that they know that somehow…through it all…?

Are the poor those who know the Way Maker or those who become the Gate Keepers?

Is poverty a state of mind or a financial statement presentation?

Even profitable entrepreneurs became so because of their ability to hear the voice of purpose rather than the noise of the naysayers surrounding them.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall see God.”

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Real Money

by on Jan.24, 2011, under Core Values, Politics/Economics, Spirituality

We all need goods and services for daily living. We could barter with each other for all of our needs, but it would not be efficient across time or place. Money, therefore, becomes necessary as a medium of exchange. It becomes the surrogate for value produced and expended.

Money can become corrupted, though, when it is manipulated currency — or “phantom capital” as we called it in previous documents. In these cases, rather than representing real value, it exists on paper only. One of the most common examples is when I buy a house for $100,000 which appreciates to $150,000. On paper, I now have a new $50, 000 worth of capital — money — although nothing new has been created. If I own a business, there is a more complex set of opportunities to create “paper” money. This new money is simply the function of agreed upon accounting and regulatory conventions, which can be changed, hidden, accelerated, diminished, or otherwise manipulated to conform to the wishes of those in control.

In a parable in Luke 19:23 a man is scolded for not giving his money to the bank, who would have charged usurious rates on the money. This precedes the oft quoted phrase: “to him that hath shall be given, and to him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.”

The “haves” and the “have-nots” are the groups that create financial energy in a macro system. Jesus said, “the poor you shall always have with you.” Like stirring a pot of soup, its flavor results from the process of energy generation. Some of the ingredients must die that the soup may live. The cries of the dying, though, are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth (See James 5:4).

“Only the strong survive” is an oft quoted phrase. It provides justification for the tasty broth of the system that is created by stirring the soup to the boiling point. And the financial elite are able to enjoy the tasty delights of the energy created by the soup of financial fantasy.

There’s only one problem: as they enjoy their tasty bowl of soup they forget that it has no real nutrients.

Soon after eating, they will get the runs, because there’s no substance to their meal. Manipulated currency is like a house of cards. Some of them will realize the lack of substance, and feel fear tugging in the stomach — just before the diarrhea starts.

Eternity will laugh

Job 41:10

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But for the Grace of God, There Go I

by on Dec.15, 2010, under Core Values, Politics/Economics, Spirituality

This title phrase is a very common phrase, and perhaps its meaning is different for each person who reads it. Legend has it that a person of significance was walking past a drunkard lying along the street and said, “But by the grace of God, there I am.”

Rather than looking at the drunkard with disdain and disgust, as we would often react, something triggered his response to connect with this person as if he were but a part of himself. Another well known cultural idiom, Six Degrees of Separation, suggests that we are connected to everyone else on the planet by no more than six degrees of separation. This sense of connectedness stands in sharp contrast to the narcissism that plagues our society and prevents conflict resolution.

Although we are each birthed through a unique birth canal, we really are part of the whole cloth of humanity. When we come to understand this, it changes our entire feeling about life and how we interact with other people. Our self worth can no longer be derived from houses, cars, education, physical appearance or other material assets. Instead we realize that we are part of the universe. We realize that we can do no better and no worse than the universal good.

Oh, all of those material assets and attributes are convenient set points from which to engage with other sojourners, but not to define our worth. Those are fluctuating value points that are not reliable.

Reliability is attained when we push beyond those boundaries into non-fluctuating currencies.

One of the most powerful phrases in the Lord’s Prayer says, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” As we push beyond the boundaries of debts and debtors to the concept of oneness we begin to move toward reliability.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is the wise man who sees the drunkard as one with himself, and forgives his debt, so that he may be forgiven.

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We Have no King But Caesar

by on Dec.07, 2010, under Core Values, News Commentary, Politics/Economics

Caesar represents money, power and control; how seductive are those qualities. As we move into the Christmas season, we are presented with the Christ who represents the alternative: love.

But he was despised and rejected of men, and we hid our faces from him. He was a wine bibber and a friend of publicans and sinners. He identified himself with the suffering and those less fortunate. Who would want to be in his club when offered the choice to fraternize with Caesar’s court?

So when the babe of Christmas was offered up to death, the judge said, “I offer you the king”, but the people said, “we have no king but Caesar.”

His mother cried.

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When Greed Cries for Compassion

by on Nov.28, 2010, under Core Values, News Commentary, Politics/Economics, Spirituality

It has long seemed a paradox to me that people who had wronged me would later come to me for compassion when they were being wronged by someone else. I think, for example, of a past job where a supervisor had done many injustices to me. Yet, she felt no hesitancy in confiding in me when she was hurting because of wrongdoing that other people did to her in the organization.

Of course, I listened with compassion and offered her what help I could, because I believe that love and forgiveness is the ultimate solution for our problems.

Nevertheless, I kept my amusement to myself: why would she turn to me — the person she had mistreated — for solace and understanding during her time of trial? This is the paradox of the universe.

This paradox was eloquently displayed by Mr. Bernanke last week (as reported by Time.com) on the subject of Rebalancing the Global Recovery. A simplified paraphrase of his thesis suggests that since the pace of recovery is greater for the emerging market economies than it is for the advanced economies, there must be a voluntary co-operation to achieve balance.

That same — very reasonable — thesis does not seem to apply in Mr. Bernanke’s homeland. If that same penetrating economic analysis were applied stateside, then the same compassion that we are calling for in the international community would be applied to those less fortunate among us.

One phenomenon I have always noticed is that conservatism  seems to be a characteristic of people as they increase their wealth, whereas generosity is one of the truths of the less affluent. Of course, “charity” is commonplace among the wealthy, so long as it is tax structured. There is a spiritual difference in business giving and giving from the heart: God will judge.

So either the root of the tree can  be full of life, or it can be full of decay. The branches and the leaves might take years before they betray a dying tree.

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Bed Bugs in the Queen’s Palace

by on Oct.16, 2010, under News Commentary, Politics/Economics, Spirituality

Recently there has been an outbreak of beg bugs in our country. New York has been especially hard hit, which is the queen of commerce and power. Reportedly some of the landmark venues have at least temporarily closed due to this pestilence. Some have suggested that travelers might unknowingly bring the creatures in their garments from other countries and seed their domestic dwellings upon their return.

Ironic isn’t it that the powered elite are more likely to travel than the unemployed who (1) would not shop in the expensive New York stores, and/or (2) would not engage in foreign travel? While we certainly cannot say that this is an irritant for the rich and famous, we can say that it has not discriminated against the upper class.

And the upper class — or the powered elite — is what most of us aspire to become. The abundance of money is certainly one aspect of its appeal, but the locus of power is no less appealing. Indeed some members of the powered elite are deemed so because of their power rather than because of their wealth.

Recently Columbia University convened the first Elites Research Network conference. This is very interesting at a time when one little $75,000 house  in Maine has caused a foreclosure crisis that threatens to become the bed bug for the nation’s largest banks.

Just like the BP Oil Spill, the Goldman Sachs ordeal and other recent events, unforeseen consequences of routine behavior can disturb the locus of power. No such disturbance is necessary when power relations are maintained in an equitable manner.

Equilibrium is maintained in the universe and all is at peace.

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