Last Sunday was a pondering sermon (text/audio here as “And a Balanced New Year”).  This is a sermon where I have an idea but need to look at it from various points of view because I am still considering it.  I was articulating my concerns about extreme opinions concerning the power of positive thinking.   I framed my pondering as an argument with Yoda, the Jedi Master of Star Wars fame – specifically his quote: “Do, or do not. There is no try.” (5 minutes film clip for context)

In a sermon discussion after worship, it became clear that people have very different ideas about what the word “try” means.  I note that consulting Webster’s for a definition was of no help.

For some people, “try” implies a somewhat half-hearted effort – not really giving it ones all.  For others, to exclude the word “try” would imply a guarantee of success – absolutely knowing that one would/could do a thing.  In this second camp, in which I include myself, there is a question of integrity which requires the word “try” as a way of acknowledging that success is not guaranteed.

In what I thought was the end, I found myself appreciating both points of view.  While I will probably continue to use the word “try,” not as a hedge, but as a matter of honesty, I think I will more quickly understand those who fall into the other camp.  Understanding always helps to highlight and correct possible misunderstanding.

However, I realized later that day, that I was not at the end of my pondering.  On facebook, Jay, a ministerial intern who comes from 1U, posted the closing words from the morning’s service in Tampa.

People often become what they believe themselves to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” – Mahatma Gandhi

So, I continue to ponder.  Our thoughts and beliefs matter.  This I know.  But how much?  Where are the limits?

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6 Responses to Trying

  1. Raquel says:

    I use try in the sense that I do my best but sometimes there are powers beyond my control that might interfere with success and lead my efforts towards failure.

    My try is positive and if I fail my failure is not negative. But that has everything to do with honesty. I am a positive thinking realist. I know I can set a mile high goal and possibly achieve it but I can not control all the force at play to my success. I can not control a loved one’s sickness that will take a priority.

    Yes, when I hear the word try I know my “try” might be different that your “try”. I am hopeful that yours meets mine but realistically know your “try” might come from a different place on the path.

    • revkathys says:

      There was a suggestion in the sermon discussion that there might be a gender difference. The men seemed to think of try as implying weakness. The women seemed to think it allowed for the unexpected, for example, as you say, the illness of a loved one. Not really a large enough sample to draw generalizations but it was an interesting idea.

  2. Linda says:

    Pondering sermons are my favorite, and that was a good one. Asking the questions is much more interesting than knowing the answers.

  3. Chip Dockery says:

    An excellent and IMO a much needed sermon. I have experienced both the power of positive thinking and the power of negative thinking, and both I now believe can shape and determine a life more that anything except a traumatic emotional or physical event. I personally use some form of positive thinking daily and it’s magnificent. That said, any “real” life thus lived exists in the external realm of action on the mortal level. Lack of such action results in a waste of life, which is sad at best. There are those who hope that thoughts, classes, spells, candles, prayers, whatever, will in and of themselves cure problems, and fail to pursue the actual work they can do to get mortal results. In the words of Prof Dumbledore to Harry Potter regarding the mirror of Erised which shows each the deepest and most desperate desire of their hearts, “It does not do well, Harry, to dwell on dreams and forget to Live”.

    Keep going, Rev Kathy. You rock!

  4. I’m a bit in the “ships are safe in a harbor but that is not what ships are built for” camp.

    If you are going to succeed at anything, you’re going to have to try first. And then again. And then again. Yes, you’ll hit rough patches but, again, that’s why we made the silly boat in the first place.

    I think that, for me, the possible disconnect in so many personal definitions of “try” seems to stem from how we view failure and success. Can an obstacle be looked at as inspiration for the journey ahead or is a single road bump reason enough to completely toss in the towel? Is success getting it right the first time or is it learning from a horrible mistake and having the insight to change directions completely, redefining your goal as you go?

    Sure, you may not always win the game, even if you give it your all but I do know that if you never step on to the field, never move toward the ball, never take a shot at the goal, there is no possible way, you’ll ever score a single point. Refraining from trying on account of fearing failure isn’t going to do anyone any good. :O)

    So, I guess, while I don’t believe in THE “positive thinking” of recent media hype, negative thinking or complete inaction won’t get you there, either.

    I don’t, of course, think that it is a law of nature that one must succeed every time one tries, heavens! If all people succeeded in positively willing themselves to their ultimate goal, there would be many a cheerful dictator owning and operating his or her own personal planet. Certainly, at some point, no matter how hard we “do” OR “try”
    , the natural flow of give and take, gain and loss finds us.

    “Try”, for me, also carries a certain unspoken confidence. It symbolizes the strength to explore and experience even though there may not be a fairytale ending. If you consider math, science, art, philosophy, anything, truly, no progress would ever have been made and will never be made in any of these areas without trial and error. NO, that’s not that they came about due to willing such things through pure positive thinking; rather, just the opposite. By trying and failing and allowing mistakes to help rather than hurt, we have progressed as a society.

    I feel like there is a strong connection to Figment, here, but I think I may need to stop this rambling and write my own blog post, already….

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