Understanding

As long as one people sit on another and are deaf to their cry, so long will understanding and peace elude all of us.

If that than which no greater can be conceived were only in the understanding, there would be something still greater than it, which assuredly is impossible. Something, therefore, without doubt, exists than which no greater can be conceived, and it is both in the understanding and in reality.

Things reduced to act in time, are known by us successively in time, but by God are known in eternity, which is above time. Whence to us they cannot be certain, forasmuch as we know future contingent things as such; but they are certain to God alone, whose understanding is in eternity above time.

The recognition of the fragility of human life and all in it, as well as the ever-present possibility of tragedy, is essential to understanding the role of love in the meaningful life… Altruism cannot be motivated by pure reason alone. The desire to do good is rooted not in reason but in the varieties of love: the love for a partner, familial love or a kind of general love or fellow feeling for others. Without such love, all the rational reasons in the world would not motivate us to do good.

That we may arrive at an understanding of the First Principle, which is most spiritual and eternal and above us, we ought to proceed through the traces which are corporeal and outside us; and this it to be led into the way of God. We ought next to enter into our minds, which are the eternal image of God, spiritual and internal; and this is to walk in the truth of God. We ought finally to pass over into that which is eternal, most spiritual, and above us, looking to the First Principle; and this is to rejoice in the knowledge of God and in the reverence of His majesty.

Just as life is defined as biological change and death as its lack, so meaning in life is characterized by the application of stable patterns to changing circumstances and the replacing of old patterns of understanding with new and exploratory ones. Meaning is found in the losing of it, the searching after it, and in the finding of it again. The meaning in your life is in flux and is to be found in the flux (the flow) of meaning, which is therefore itself a source of meaning in your life. All this does require, however, the developing of a tolerance for ambiguity, of a willingness to accept the inevitability of change and the precariousness of your present vision, and of an openness to the unending richness of your experience of the world in its manifold variety and diversity.

The ability to become bamboo is a metaphor for reaching beyond the perceptual, intellectual, and feeling habits, expectations, and assumptions of your own psyche and traditions in order to allow the embracing and the understanding of those of another. In actually becoming bamboo it is essential to listen to another with an open mind and heart, and thereby to embrace what you were previously unwilling or unable genuinely to encounter.

Whether or not you decide to emulate that which you have come to understand through empathetic identification, you will never be quite the same again. In learning to think and to feel, to understand and to value more like another you will have grown in your own self-understanding and in your capacity to speak and interact with others. You, and that which you are now able to embrace, may well find in one another nurture, respect, protection, and enrichment. It is in such qualities of living that true meaning will be encountered, however tentative and fluctuating that meaning may be. It is in the very midst of the flux of the meaningful that its perpetuation and its renewal is to be found.

The problems we face today – violent conflicts, destruction of nature, poverty, hunger, and so on – are mainly problems created by humans. They can be resolved – but only through human effort, understanding and the development of a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. To do this, we need to cultivate a universal responsibility for one another and for the planet we share, based on a good heart and awareness.

Modern secularity has offered another way of dealing with religious pluralism. As religious traditions lose their importance as means of self-understanding and community identification, their differences and mutual exclusiveness diminish in importance. Alienation from any particular religious faith tends to move the question of religious particularity into the realm of indifference, as life is determined by nonreligious values and institutions. Yet secularity has been no more successful in establishing human community than has the religious vision. The competing claims of nationalism, economic imperialism, and ideological triumphalism are also demonic forms of particularity that have not been able to establish a new universality in human community.

After the action of the imagination, follows the action of the understanding which we call meditation, which is nothing else than one or several considerations made in order to move our affections to God and to divine things, in which meditation is different from study and other thoughts and considerations.

It is not enough to teach a man a specialty. Through it he may become a kind of useful machine but not a harmoniously developed personality. It is essential that the student acquire an understanding of and a lively feeling for values. He must acquire a vivid sense of the beautiful and the morally good. Otherwise, he – with his specialized knowledge – more closely resembles a well-trained dog than a harmoniously developed person. He must learn to understand the motives of human beings, their illusions, and their sufferings in order to acquire a proper relationship to individual fellow-men and to the community.

True patriotism doesn’t exclude an understanding of the patriotism of others.

Economic outlooks have replaced more traditional ways of understanding the world, religious, or political, for example.

The key to achieving everlasting happiness involves an enlightened four-prong approach: (1) understanding and loving others; (2) being virtuous and serving others; (3) living life fully and in the present; and (4) adopting an indomitable spirit of thankfulness.

God comes to each man with a pattern for him, his own image that can be realized only through a process of understanding, acceptance and growth, in both encounter and indwelling.

We narratively represent our selves in part in order to answer certain questions of identity. It is useful to distinguish two different aims of self-representation that in the end are deeply intertwined. First, there is self-representation for the sake of self-understanding. This is the story we tell ourselves to understand ourselves for who we are. The ideal here is convergence between self-representation and an acceptable version of the story of our actual identity. Second, there is self-representation for public dissemination, whose aim is underwriting successful social interaction.

You grow in grace and understanding by solving your daily problems as they arise, by the Practice of the Presence of God, by a tolerant attitude toward others, by plan horse sense (which is Divine Wisdom in you), by sincere and honest dealing at all times, and by cultivating a true sense of humor – which always brings us nearer to God. The great point is that life is to be met and mastered. Outer conditions and appearances are simply of no importance in themselves except as they supply material for growth.

Whatever complaints the neurotic patient may have, whatever symptoms he may present are rooted in his inability to love, if we mean by love a capacity for the experience of concern, responsibility, respect, and understanding of another person and the intense desire for that other person’s growth.

Understanding religious differences makes for a better understanding of other differences and for an appreciation of the sacredness of human personality as basic to human freedom.