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  • Reverend James Squire

Life Is A Two Edge Sword


Photo by Krys Amon


One of my guiding principles in life is that life is a two-edged sword. That saying can be expressed in many different ways. For example, in the discipline of Physics we have Planck’s Wave/Particle Theory that all matter is constantly changing from a wave to a particle and back to a wave again in a continuous process. Tevya in the musical, The Fiddler on The Roof, sung the two-edged sword nature of decision making with his famous song where he sings “on the one hand this, and on the other hand that.” Everything cuts both ways. We need water to survive, but too much can destroy us and our property. The father of existentialism, Jean Paul-Sartre, said, “All of us can be heaven or hell for others!” Relationships make a sacred difference.


This paradoxical nature of life is captured in the title of a book by an innovative psychologist, Sheldon Kopp. The title is If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him. One of his truths that he lists on his eschatological laundry list is, “If you have a hero, look again, you have diminished yourself in some way.” When I read that statement from this skilled therapist, I got very angry because I have a lot of heroes who have been guideposts on my road through life. Kopp enjoys stirring up trouble in our souls. What could he mean by this statement? If heroes are by definition good, what could be bad about having one?


If you bet against me going from a shovel in my hand in a steel mill shoveling coal in a blue- collar community to a place where my life could be somewhat helpful to others, you would have lost the bet. It is why we human beings love the stories about those who have overcome great odds, and in the eyes of the world have made it. It is this paradox that made the movie, Rocky, an instant hit. Listen to the theme song, and your blood immediately starts moving quicker. At least mine does! How many times when we listen to candidates for political office, do we hear candidates talk about their hard road to how they got to be where they are today? Everyone wants to be part of that story whether it be Biden mentioning that he was a Scranton kid or Trump stating that he didn’t get much inheritance from his father and made his way in real estate on his own.


Remember the mantra, “Be Like Mike,” meaning be like Michael Jordan. Few of us have the physical attributes that he has to be a world class basketball player, but he was also known for his work ethic and always trying to do his best. That is something we all can do. I think that what Kopp is getting after is what has psychological and spiritual significance. Don’t try to dunk a ball. Try to give your all to everything you do. If you focus on the dunk, you will diminish yourself. Focus on effort and character is the better way to place your focus. As the saying goes, when you stand before the pearly gates hoping for admission to heaven, God is not going to ask you, “Where you like Moses?”. He will ask, “Did you try to be all that you could be?”


Life is a paradox. It can work both ways. It is a two-edged sword. How could the election of Barack Obama to be the first black President have a negative side to it? It can be a form of racism in the following way. I have heard it, and it makes me cringe. It is when I hear someone say to a young person, “Look at President Obama. You are a black kid. If he can do it, you should be able to do it too.” I could see the young person’s self-esteem diminish before my eyes, particularly if he lives in an underserved community with no back up or mentoring. Education, mentoring, and character are needed to make one’s way forward. Everybody seems to forget about Rocky’s trainer and girlfriend, and their role in his success. Adrienneeeeeeeeeee!


How could having a great experience in high school be a negative experience when you are in college? I have seen this more times than I would like. It is when you have such a great experience at a place like Episcopal that nothing seems to match it in the college experience.


What does all of this have to do with our spiritual lives? Think of the heart of the Gospel. The paradox here is not a negative but a description of the spiritual life like the wave/particle theory describes a law of physical lifeC.


The heart of the Gospel is God became man. How could this be? But we know that He did.

How could this be that Jesus died and lived again through the resurrection? But we know that he did.


Belief is a two-edged sword! It is a paradox, a seeming self-contradiction! So is all of life!

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