Take a Break From Stress: Tough Minded & Tender Hearted

Meeting #17: May 26, 2020

Theme:  In this time of pandemic we hear some voices telling us to be tough minded, sometimes accusing those they see as “soft minded” of being fearful and weak.  Other voices call our attention to the toll of the virus, and equate being tough minded with callousness and irresponsibility.  Dr. King reminds us that in a time of crisis we are called to integrate a tough mind with a tender heart.  He reminds us that science, which seeks knowledge, and religion, which seeks compassion and wisdom, are at their best when in dialog with each other.  As we make our way through this long-term crisis, let us stay committed to guiding our days with knowledge, compassion, and wisdom.  And let’s not forget the indescribable beauty of the world we live in.

Today’s Quotes:

“The “tough minded” person is the person who can hold in a living blend strongly marked opposites.  The idealistic person is not usually realistic, and the realists are not usually idealistic.  The militant are not usually passive, and the passive are not usually militant. The humble are very seldom self-assertive and the self-assertive are rarely humble. But life at its best is a creative synthesis. It is the bringing together of opposites into fruitful harmony. As the philosopher Hegel said, “truth is found neither in the thesis nor the antithesis, but in an emergent synthesis which reconciles the two.”

“Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr., slightly paraphrased from his sermon “A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart”

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,

a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.

If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,

this is the best season of your life.

— “Ten Thousand Flowers in Spring” by Wu-Men

Gently Guided Meditation: Breath/Body/Mind awareness with poetry from Wu-Men.

Video Recording of Meeting:


Meeting #18: May 28, 2020

Theme:  In a recent meditation session we considered that our way of being in the world can be tough minded and tender hearted.  Dr. King’s 1959 sermon on this topic draws a theological picture of the implications of that way of being.  Perhaps his message was not simply that there is a God of justice and kindness, but that each of us is called to bring a tender heart to our tough mindedness.  But how to get to that place?  How to have a mind that sees the need and responds to it unequivocally?  When we’re not sure how to get there, maybe all that is needed is simple hospitality, in which the needs of others are met with firm intention and lovingkindness.

Today’s Quotes:

I am thankful that we worship a God who is both tough minded and tenderhearted.  If God were only tough minded, he would be a cold, passionless despot sitting in some far-off Heaven “contemplating all,” as Tennyson puts it in “The Palace of Art.”  He would be Aristotle’s “unmoved mover,” self-knowing but not other-loving.  But if God were only tenderhearted, he would be too soft and sentimental to function when things go wrong and incapable of controlling what he has made…God is neither hardhearted nor soft minded.  He is tough minded enough to transcend the world; he is tenderhearted enough to live in it.  He does not leave us alone in our agonies and struggles.  He seeks us in dark places and suffers with us and for us in our tragic prodigality.

When we are staggered by the chilly winds of adversity and battered by the raging storms of disappointment…, we need to know that there is Someone who loves us, cares for us, understands us, and will give us another chance. When days grow dark and nights grow dreary, we can be thankful that our God combines in his nature a creative synthesis of love and justice that will lead us through life’s dark valleys and into sunlit pathways of hope and fulfillment.

— Martin Luther King, Jr., from his sermon “A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart”

Out of gratitude I fed the dancers rich, carbohydrate-laden meals for three nights running.  One evening after supper was over and the table had been cleared, we sat drinking coffee and began to talk about feet.  One dancer, to illustrate a point, took off her socks and shoes and placed a foot on the table.  Soon we had all followed suit, and as we talked I realized that we had, by this odd gesture, stumbled into a community.  Dance, after all, is a communal affair, and we had just made a community of those willing to bare the lowly foot.  It was hospitality, an exchange of gifts, that had brought this about; the dancers giving of themselves all week in teaching and performing, and my feeding them as they needed to be fed.

— Kathleen Norris from “Dakota — A Spiritual Geography”

Gently Guided Meditation: Breath/Mind/Body Awareness

Video Recording of Meeting: