So I was telling you a little while ago about how Gwyneth Paltrow has this new website and an associated newsletter that as far as I can tell goes out once a week. Well, I was reading one such newsletter recently and found it interesting/really disappointing.
Here is the basic rundown:
Paltrow begins by stating a general interest in various religious traditions and tells us that periodically she will be asking a religious type question to several different religious leaders. Here is the first question:
I have a friend who sees the world in a pessimistic light. This person is highly suspicious of people and situations, and sees, as well as experiences negativity at most turns. Why is this and what does it mean? What can be done to help someone of this nature?
And here is the response by the only Christian in the group:
A: I am not so sure it’s a question of nature, but of nurture – or lack thereof. We live in a world where fear and cynicism are running sky high, where traditional institutions of faith and culture are breaking down, and where our dislocation from nature and the natural rhythms of life leave our souls a little pent up and crazy. Suspicion and pessimism are pretty good defenses against a world gone mad. But the great spiritual teachings of the ages have suggested a radically counter-intuitive response. When this same question came up in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s great novel The Brothers Karamazov, the wise elder Fr. Zossima said in response, “Go help someone. Reach out to a brother or sister in need. Feed the hungry, heal the sick – (or at least, take on your small share of the task) – and then, only then, will you come to know that the world is trustworthy and God is real.” His point is tough, but true: First the eye of the heart must open, and only then will one see confirmation in the external world. As long as suspicion and pessimism are being projected, suspicion and pessimism are what the cosmos will confirm.
So how to break the vicious cycle? Fr. Zossima’s advice is still as true today as it was in his time: look for a chance to serve. Volunteer in a shelter, a food pantry, a nursing home: it will soften your heart. Spend time in nature, in a playground with young children; sing!; read love poetry; hang out with the "good, the true and the beautiful," however they speak to you. The problem is that we are starving – all of us, really – for the energy of beauty and goodness so long absent from our contemporary cultural experience. But we have to start making these energies ourselves – from within ourselves. That is not only an individual task; it is our collective human task and our planet will thank us for it.
I found this answer, as well as all the other answers that can be found here, interesting and even true, BUT I was so disappointed that the one individual of the group professing to be a minister of Jesus Christ fails to point toward Jesus Christ as the answer--and really who better to talk about when discussing the need for service in our lives than the best example of service we have ever known?
Here are a few brief sketches of some of the thoughts I've had on this topic over the weekend:
1. First, let's not beat around the bush here: Pessimism is an attitude and attitude is a choice. You will be miserable as long as you want to be miserable. Breaking the habit of pessimism may be difficult but it is your choice to make.
2. If you are weighed down by things you have done in your past (let's call this sin) that causes you to feel negatively about yourself, your situation, and the people and things around you then the answer is to come unto Christ. By seeking forgiveness through repentance the Atonement of Jesus Christ can wash you clean and remove those things that are weighing you down.
3. If you are weighed down by things done to you that causes you to feel negatively then the answer is to come unto Christ. Jesus Christ endured all that he might know best how to succor you in all things. No one knows better the pain and anguish that you have endured and no one is better equipped to heal you--and he will as you come unto him: seek him through scriptures and prayer and he will lead you in the way that you should go.
4. What you need is faith. Here are some of the things that I know by faith: In the most basic terms, I know that there is a Plan of Happiness and that through this plan it is intended that I would come to Earth to be tried and tested, yes, but also to be happy here. And after I have finished my work here on Earth it is intended that I return to live with my Heavenly Father--how cool and amazing is that? Of course this will not be easy, but through the Atonement of Jesus Christ it is possible. In addition to the Plan of Happiness, I know that there is a specific plan for me and that plan is meant to make me a better person and to bring joy into my life. I know that through, and only through, the Atonement of Jesus Christ I can repent and be healed and that peace and joy will come into my life. I know that despite the evil and wickedness evident all around me that if I endure all will work out for my good. I know this to be true in more immediate ways--I have come through difficult times and am a better and stronger person for it--and in ways that are not currently manifest. I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth. I know that God speaks to a prophet on earth today who guides the Church of Jesus Christ and that because of this it will never fail. I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ live. I know that they know me individually and that they love me. And because I know these things my soul feels to rejoice.
5. The service principle is a good and sound principle. In serving others you forget yourself. In serving others you let the light of Christ into your life and can't help but feel lighter and happier.
6. Give thanks. Despite all the bad in the world today there is an immense amount of good: the trees, the flowers, hot chocolate, a sunset, good family and friends, a child's laugh, a hug, beautiful art, etc., etc., etc.
So there are just a few of my thoughts. They may not be as eloquently stated as the professors of religion that Paltrow approached but I believe they hit the mark much closer.
If Paltrow's religious ideas aren't very interesting to you try her recipes here. They all look very, very yummy.