The View From Chautauqua

This week, we’ve been living at the Chautauqua Institution in NY state. It is a lovely place to visit, if you like serenity, placid lakes, pristine weather, and idyllic living. The Institution has been a place that people come to for stimulating ideas, friendly people, beautiful scenery, and spiritual growth since 1874.

Every summer, there are nine weeks of programming with a different theme each week. The programming consists of a potpourri of religious worship, science, politics, arts, culture, and fun of all types for the family. What makes the place special is that it is a community sort of closed off from the world. When I say community, I mean it is a town within its own walls.

Once you come into the gates, you are in this town where everyone walks from place to place. There are shuttles if you can’t walk or you can use an electric cart. There are denominational houses, an amphitheater for lectures and shows, shops, restaurants, theaters, gyms, and a gorgeous lake for water sports. Since you have to have a pass to enter, the community is secure and a bit worry-free.

This week, “irrationality” is the theme with Dan Arielly as the headliner and Rev. Frank Reid as the chaplain of the week. We’ve been learning how human behavior consists of doing things that are often in contrast with our beliefs and values. Dan has been laying down some heavy ideas. Likewise, for Rev. Reid, who has been preaching it up.

We watched a film yesterday called “(Dis)honesty,” which challenged me to think of areas in my life where I can be more forthright. (I do pay my taxes accurately!) The documentary discussed how human behavior is typically characterized by cheating in all spheres of life.

It is easy for us to over-characterize ourselves as honest and better-than-average. In all likelihood, each of us takes advantage of that extra change or freebie given the right circumstances or environment. It is worth reflecting on this in order to improve our lives in a real way.


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