Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wall of Silent Screams

There are times when there is so much bad news it creates a wall of silent screams. Headline after headline supports the ambition of centralized power that holds humanity in a prison of dread and fear. This is more than just a feeling, it is the body's sense that everything created is about to crash. A tsunami coming in slow motion and you know there is nothing you can do to stop it.

More than the threat of fascism it's as though life itself is atomizing into drunken parts. My own body losing muscle, my head unable to think, my fundamental ability to survive lost. Something much larger than politics is invading my universe in a way that I cannot walk through. This can't be explained by the economy. It is an organic response. Should it be ignored or should I try to understand it?

To admit to my own vulnerability is not weak, it's a maturation of my ego, a willingness to move beyond my self interested fantasy to see what is happening outside the bubble. I look for the skills in others I do not possess and call on the skills I have to build a community.

There have been other people I admire for the skills and abilities they bring. I look for strength in diversity. I look for those who can do the things I can't do and feel gratitude for all that they give. I go to them for advice and give advice when I am asked for it.

The hub of community where people have learned how to be contributing stakeholders brings me a sense of peace and comfort. However, as much as I respect them I don't always agree with what they say and do, and so we must learn how to communicate without injuring. My community is not my possession but part of the wealth that I enjoy.

Life is easier when the place we live in is not threatened by authoritarian institutions. Part of my humanity is to keep learning how to engage with my neighbours so they are safe - because when they feel safe it makes my world safer to explore.

There is so much more I need to learn about being human, about how to endure discomfort, uncertainty, or pain. How to find relief from anxiety.

Karen Armstrong writes that compassion is the way we find relief from fear of the unknown. A society that honours equality is more confident in searching for ways to solve community problems such as alienation and loneliness. We feel safer to help those who need help. We learn how to be experienced stakeholders. We can develop the insight that our wealth is the quality of our relationship to one another, and that collecting stuff does not satisfy forever.

But now, in the democratic world, we are threatened by a hatred for the other. The blaming is isolating us into fierce camps. Will we be investing in weapons so that communities protect themselves from the outside while living in denial inside?

Hunger, homelessness, domestic violence, road rage, intolerance are not separate issues - they all arise from decades of structural abuse. We cannot trust the police, the courts, the teachers, the policy makers and our doctors when civil society dissolves into a cauldron of competing egos filled with disappointment, dreading what the future may bring.

Resisting trends that we do not agree with is one way to maintain sanity. When Bertrand Russell responded to an invitation from Sir Oswald Mosley to join his fascist movement, he did it in a way that clearly defined his values without insulting the values of his friend.

"Thank you for your letter and for your enclosures. I have given some thought to our recent correspondence. It is always difficult to decide on how to respond to people whose ethos is so alien and, in fact, repellent to one’s own. It is not that I take exception to the general points made by you but that every ounce of my energy has been devoted to an active opposition to cruel bigotry, compulsive violence, and the sadistic persecution which has characterised the philosophy and practice of fascism.
I feel obliged to say that the emotional universes we inhabit are so distinct, and in deepest ways opposed, that nothing fruitful or sincere could ever emerge from association between us." Bertrand Russell

We must call on our own humanity to protect what we hold dear, and cannot expect to be protected by abusive power if we disown our civic estates.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Shake Up the World: Charter for Compassion

It was Mahatma Gandhi who told us that "in a gentle way, each of us has the capacity to shake the world." We are seeing all over the globe that people are making their voices heard.  Often we might not agree with the messages, but don't we as peacemakers have an obligation to listen carefully to what is being said? Is our goal not to respect the right of free speech, to enter into conversation, to resist with respect and caring? Do we not have a bottom line to refer back to as we protest and forge a new path? All sacred texts point to the Golden Rule as a guide for our actions.  We have a number of good articles and illustrations on the Golden Rule on (Charter) our website. A few weeks back during one of our webinar's, the U.S. Civil Rights leader, C.T. Vivian, told us to find our passion, set our goals and work to achieve them. We are definitely in a struggle and as the theologian activist Harvey Cox once told us: "Not to decide, is to decide." If we want equitable and just change, I'm up to taking on C.T. Vivian's challenge.  Over the next few weeks the Charter is dedicating time to people who are and have decided to take a stand.  Join us in a number of these important webinars.

Charter for Compassion 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Some Wise Advice Circulating

Some Wise Advice Circulating: 
1. Use his name sparingly so as not to detract from the issues. I believe that everyone, regardless of their beliefs, deserves the dignity of being called by their name. However, this is a strategic tactic. While we are so focused on him we are prone to neglect the questionable policies that threaten freedom, justice and fairness advanced by the administration.
2. Remember this is a regime and he's not acting alone;
3. Do not argue with those who support him and his policies--it doesn't work;
4. Focus on his policies, not his appearance and mental state;
5. Keep your message positive; those who oppose peace and justice want the country to be angry and fearful because this is the soil from which their darkest policies will grow;
6. No more helpless/hopeless talk;
7. Support artists and the arts;
8. Be careful not to spread fake news. Check it;
9. Take care of yourselves; and
10. Resist!

Keep demonstrations peaceful. In the words of John Lennon, "When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you - pull your beard, flick your face - to make you fight! Because once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don’t know how to handle is non-violence and humor."

When you post or talk about him, don't assign his actions to him, assign them to "The Republican Administration," or "The Republicans." This will have several effects: the Republican legislators will either have to take responsibility for their association with him or stand up for what some of them don't like; he will not get the focus of attention he craves; Republican representatives will become very concerned about their re-elections.

Friday, February 10, 2017

That's how the light gets in (Cohen)

These four lines have swirled in my head ever since Leonard Cohen died. I am in awe of these simple words and their depth. How each line works by itself and deepens by the presence of what comes before and what after.

Where does that wisdom come from? A crack in our genes? A mystery in the education? The back drop of a civilization where intelligence is shared through public education? Those who see the light creeping through the cracks?

The English speaking world is vast - there are billions who speak this language and yet some of our political stories get more stupid with each decade.

Media had to undergo a lobotomy in unison to fit the expanding fists of the bullies. Media outlets cannot make a profit. Workers cannot earn enough to build the economy with the things they need let alone the things they would wish for. And we are being told that those who are to blame are those who are tied up and whipped again.

Where will we go from here? Breaking apart what does not reveal the light? It's the cracks we should be looking for now because the structures have shut out the light.

The line in the title comes from Leonard Cohen's Anthem

Thursday, February 9, 2017

There's a crack in everything (Cohen)

The crack in everything is what saves us from the ambitions of greedy rulers.

Yes we suffer because of the narcissistic games of those who want everlasting power, who want to keep getting bigger and bigger, who want to die with the satisfaction of conquering the world, forever.

George Orwell's  'boot on the face of humanity forever' is not how demagogues view their ambitions. They cannot see how sick they are, and dependent on the minds and hearts of those whom they control and humiliate.

The crack is what saves us from the ideologies and our vanities that come and go. Even our achievements break at some point.

There's a crack in even the beautiful things that bless us.

Title is from Leonard Cohen's song "Anthem".

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Forget your perfect offering (Cohen)

Perfection is a wonderful idea, but we should not strive to be perfect.

Perfection is a social construct. Sometimes we forget to be perfect and we forget we are not perfect. It is a fantasy created to keep us striving.

But it is more often used to make others feel that they have failed. How can a mother be perfect? How can a figure be perfect?

Perfection comes in a bottle, in gift wrap, in a shop window, in a 30 second commercial. It's something beyond our reach but almost attainable. It's a cloud, a drug, an argument, a hummingbird.

Perfection is the trickster laughing at you when you look in the mirror.

Perfection will keep your self-esteem in check. It will nag you with all your failings when you try to sleep at night.

Perfection is a trap.

"Forget your perfect offering" a line from Anthem by Leonard Cohen

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Ring the Bells That Still Can Ring (Cohen)

The bells are saying this is humanity. Maybe not the actual bells but the invention and the hands, the arms, the mind and the heart that feel compelled to ring. It has its own language.

You can ring a bell when your loved ones get married because you feel joy that they have chosen a partner.

Or you can ring a bell to alert your tribe to oncoming danger.

Or you can ring about your breaking heart, or despair, or grief.

Or you can ring about justice because you know that justice is right. Or injustice when you know that injustice is wrong.

Or gratitude, because if you are not grateful for anything in your life, then you know your life is broken, and the pain is too much to bear alone. And if that is the case then you can ring about pain.

You don't actually need a bell to do any of this - you can simply speak the words to whomever is close by. How they respond is not your fault and you are not obliged to change them.  You have a stake in this moment, but your are not in charge of it.

You are not just a dancing statue on a cathedral in a town square, turning unconsciously from the gears below. You are an organic spirit.

If there were no bells or songs or shouts we would be no more than numbers on a spread sheet, and after we die we will have no voice beyond the memories of those we leave behind.

"Ring the bells that still can ring" is from Leonard Cohen's song Anthem