28 May, 2000

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Building a Strong Foundation

One summer during High School, I worked at a small concrete company. It was hard, messy work, most evenings I came home with nostrils full of cement dust. At the time, I thought the only valuable lesson I was learning from this job was, "Go to college!" Looking back, I see there may have been others.

Concrete, a material not often pondered, but can you imagine a world without it? Roads, housing foundations, entire skyscrapers, dams, are just a few of the structures built with concrete we take for granted. Concrete is made from four ingredients: cement, gravel, sand and water. Skip an ingredient, or add the wrong amount, and your mixture is useless for building.

Our lives too, need something solid like concrete to build upon. I believe this "spiritual concrete" is also created from four critical ingredients: desire, faith, humility, and love. Like physical concrete, each of these ingredients is required or our strength will be inadequate and we'll crumble.

One of the best examples of desire is attributed to the one of this world's great philosophers. A young man approached Aristotle and asked to become one of his students. Aristotle led the young man into a nearby lake, and when in the water up to their chests, forced the would-be student's head under the water for what seemed like an eternity, then released him. As the young man came coughing to the surface, struggling for breath, Aristotle replied, "when you desire knowledge as much as you just desired air, then you may become my student." How badly do we desire further knowledge and spiritual enlightenment?

Faith is another critical ingredient required for building a strong spirit. Faith in God, a supreme being or intelligence, who created and maintains this amazing universe we live in. Faith that our individual lives have a purpose. Faith that we can discover that purpose, and that the power lies within us to truly become god-like.

Humility is also required. A healthy understanding of how little we really know. Acknowledging our faults and weaknesses. Not viewing ourselves as being better than other people. A humble nature will allow us to learn the truly important lessons required for our development.

Finally, love is necessary. Love for all people. Each day we need to express this love through thoughts, words and deeds. Love for mankind is one of the central tenets of all religions. Developing and sharing this love (a concurrent process) is what will transform us as individuals, then our communities, then our nation and ultimately the world.

Keep these four ingredients in mind. Develop and maintain large stockpiles, use the ingredients liberally as you continue to evolve. And at the end of this life, the wonderful edifice you construct will not be a simple physical monument, destined at some point to be replaced or destroyed by others, but a magnificent soul, eternal in nature, growing ever nearer to God.

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