I found an interesting parallel today between my old talks about “discipline”, and the “anarchy” that took place in New Orleans.

Let me start off by saying I do not blame the residents of New Orleans for reacting the way some of them did, even though some of it might have been “criminal”, according to American law.

What occurred, and may still be occurring is the result of something. This “something” is not being talked about on any news station, or by any politician. Why? Because they do not know what the “something” is.

I think I do.

It ties in with spiritual discipline, but not in the way you think. You see, these people who reacted in questionable ways weren’t necessarily intending to become criminal, or even frustrated, for that matter. Most have been peaceful, obedient citizens, even in the face of anarchy. But one thing screams out to me very loudly in all of this. The level of frustration is higher in this region than I have ever seen in my life.

That is to be expected, you might say. If you would say that, I would have to disagree with you.

It shouldn’t be expected. Let me explain.

One hundred years ago or so, a town called Galveston, Texas was devastated by a hurricane of similar power. One hundred years ago, that town was washed over almost completely. In fact, the similarities between what happened in New Orleans, and Galveston are eerie, to say the least. There is one huge difference, however. The people of Galveston didn’t get frustrated, they didn’t cry out and expect the world to help…immediately, if not sooner.

The people left in New Orleans have cried out, as well they should, because they can. The people of Galveston, Texas did not cry out, because they couldn’t, and they knew it.

What is causing this frustration? Any number of things, really. It could be fear, pain, anguish, depression, impatience…

It could be our “way of life”.

If it were fear, or loss, or pain, or death of loved ones, if all that was the actual cause, it would most certainly be understood as the most valid of reasons. But Galveston was destroyed in the same way, and we have that as a witness that pain, fear, loss, or death of loved ones does not necessarily cause frustration. So what is causing this frustration exactly?

I think at the top of the list is a generational inability to cope.

I think that statement isn’t going to be received too well.

You know what, I won’t apologize for telling the truth.

Over a hundred years ago, a town in Texas was devastated, and they coped, with as much loss as New Orleans. Not that New Orleans shouldn’t be helped. I believe we should gather and deliver every bit of help we can muster, exactly because we can muster it at all.

But lost in all of this will be our ability to cope in hard times. You won’t hear about the lost art of joy in the midst of suffering, because right now, in New Orleans, we aren’t hearing about joy at all. Right now, we are hearing about frustration, and we are saying, “that is to be expected”.

I guess my question is, since when did we start expecting to be frustrated? I can understand pain and loss, I have suffered enough of it to last a lifetime. But there is one thing I have going for me that few people have; I have WORKED at discipline, I have begun to train my body to obey me, to accept, and then to cope with hard times.

I have been through hard times, times when I didn’t know how I was even going to feed my daughter; times when I had no money left for two weeks, times when all I had was the charity of a neighbor.

I grieved in frustration at first, because I was not accustomed to suffering. Knowing that my lot was not going to change over night, I began to change the only thing I could; my ability to cope. That is the lost art in America. You won’t be taught how to cope in this nation. Not even our churches will train you how to be punched in the face with an eighteen pound circumstance sledge, and stand up through it without hate or frustration. You can no longer learn how to fend for yourself in the wilderness, or even in the city. Rare is the example of the person down on his “luck” who hasn’t received a handout from the government in poor circumstances.

Am I heartless because I say this? No, I think it is a travesty that we have become so unable to cope without being handed our lives, heck, our very needs from the government.

Now we are seeing the President and the government blamed because help didn’t arrive fast enough. Maybe help could have arrived faster, I cannot judge that. But the people of Galveston, Texas didn’t get fast help, and their plight was no different. What was different was their reaction.

This isn’t a racial issue as I see it. This is a people issue; America has become unable to cope. You see it everywhere. Almost fifty percent of all adults in this nation at one time or other have received medication for some sort of depression or anxiety disorder because we cannot cope. One hundred years ago, the people must have been made of hardier stock; that, or they just coped, made the best they could of bad situations.

Were they hardier? Are people DEVOLVING?

Or are we just trained incorrectly?

Knowing what I have suffered in my life, I feel safe in every circumstance. Knowing how I have learned to be disciplined, learned to go without, learned to cope…I know that a tragedy such as the one left behind Katrina will not affect me as it would some others. That doesn’t make me better than anyone; I know above anyone else the wretch I can be. No, I am just better prepared, and it isn’t something that couldn’t have been done by others.

But in this nation, we are not taught to go without. We are instead taught to be a squeaky wheel. You know what a squeaky wheel does, right? It squeaks until it gets grease, and it doesn’t stop squeaking until it gets enough.

The poor people who lost everything because of Katrina lost more than they know, and they lost it a long time before the storm ever hit. They lost their ability to cope with horrendous tragedy, because America doesn’t teach its citizens to cope, America teaches its citizens to squeak.

If you want to learn how to cope, you can only learn it through discipline. There is no other way. In learning discipline, you will quickly see how empty inside you really are; I know, because I saw how empty I was the first twenty-four hours I went without food. My mind raged against the idea of actually “starving” myself…my God! Who would do something so stupid?

Someone who had no choice…that’s who.

America teaches people that we can be in charge of our own destiny, that we control our surroundings. Katrina just made a big fat liar out of America. What is left in her wake is people utterly defenseless against real hardship.

When you turn off the radio, and are left alone with yourself for the first time, your mind might quickly start trying to make noise, your body will do anything but have to face itself…alone. When you discipline yourself to sit in solitude on a day you’d rather be out partying, your body and mind will try to wrest control away from you, and will constantly try to get you to turn from the path you are on.

Who in their right mind would ever PRACTICE such a thing?

Only someone who wants to learn how to cope with the hardest “troubles” this life can dish out…that’s who.

America won’t teach you this, you’ll have to do it yourself. You won’t change your circumstances; if you are poor, you won’t get paid for meditating. But the peace you’ll have, the assurance you need will all be there when you need it. You will have “food to eat that others know nothing about”. Jesus said that once to His disciples. I have found it to be true in the most amazing and physical way…you’d never believe it even if I told you.

Frustration isn’t a sign of bad circumstances, because people get frustrated every day living in million dollar mansions, driving sixty-thousand dollar cars, and eating to their heart’s content every breakfast, lunch and dinner. Circumstances have nothing to do with frustration. Frustration is a fruit of the inability to cope, even with good things.

So why discipline yourself? Because no one in this country is going to teach you how to cope…you’ll have to do it yourself. And, you won’t learn it through osmosis. The body NEEDS to be trained, Paul called it “buffeting”, to MAKE it do what we command it to do. The mind is no different.

Sure, you may never need to cope with bad circumstances, or with a bitch like Katrina. Then again, just learning how to cope with good things is a full time job for most of us.

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