The Public Square of Spirit & Compassion & Disinformation

November 21, 2019

Sister of Social Service Simone Campbell of Social Service Simone Campbell is an author, lawyer, poet, and Executive Director of NETWORK, an organization that lobbies on issues of economic justice, immigration reform, and healthcare.

My faith impels me into the public square. It is abundantly clear that Pope Francis is correct when he says that faith has real consequences in the world . . . and these consequences involve politics. . . . Religion/politics is at the heart of my contemplative practice. I am nourished daily by the people I meet and whose stories I hear. My heart is broken open by the truth of their hunger and hope. It is not a theoretical reality for me. My meditation has become breath, that we might see, that we might walk, and, in the process, heal our society that is famished for community and knowing that we belong to each other. . . .

No one can be left out of my care. Therefore [our] political work is anchored in caring for those whom we lobby as well as those whose cause we champion. This was illustrated for me recently when I was . . . lobbying a . . . Senator. . . . I commented on the story of a constituent and asked her how her colleagues could turn their eyes away from the suffering and fear of their people. The conversation went on a bit, and then the senator came back to my question. She said that . . . they did not get close to the candid stories of their people. In fact, some did not see these constituents as “their people.” Tears sprang to my eyes at her candor and the pain that keeps us sealed off from each other because of political partisanship. . . .

In many ways, we are a bit like the senators who close themselves off from the needs of their constituents. We could get caught in the pain of rejection and blame, fighting against an unjust judgment. But for me, the contemplative perspective leads to letting go of my desires and control while opening to the gift of the moment. My consistent learning is that behind the loss is always a surprise, opening into something new. There are prices to be paid, but they are small when compared to the hunger of our people. . . .

My prayer has led me to compassion. Compassion often leads to much more nuanced analysis. . . . The Spirit has pushed us out of our comfort zone of acceptability in order to meet the needs of people we had not known were ours. . . .

-Center for Action and Contemplation


As a platform for disinformation, it is a weapon. To be used intentionally as a platform for disinformation, it is an atomic bomb.

AXIOS

Ad targeting is how Facebook, Google and other online giants won the internet. It’s also key to understanding why these companies are being held responsible for warping elections and undermining democracy, managing editor Scott Rosenberg writes in the opening installment of our “What Matters 2020” series.

  • Critics and tech companies are increasingly considering whether limiting targeting of political ads might be one way out of the misinformation maze.
  • Giant platforms would still allow campaigns and candidates to purchase political ads — but the companies would stop (either voluntarily or by law) selling messages aimed only at narrow segments of the electorate.

How ad targeting works: Facebook and Google have somewhat different systems for targeting ads, but both allow advertisers to bid on narrowly defined demographic groups or keywords.

  • For instance, you can tell Facebook to show your message only to Southern men who don’t have a college degree and earn less than $75,000 — or ask for married suburban moms in three ZIP Codes outside Indianapolis who own SUVs and play tennis.
  • In the political ad world, these tools allow candidates and groups to exploit those populations’ anxieties and resentments, efficiently.

The link between ad targeting and misinformation … Tech platforms stand accused of multiple sins, including:

  • Improperly collecting users’ data to build massive databases of profiles.
  • Allowing politicians and their campaigns to spread lies.
  • Creating partisan “echo chambers” and “filter bubbles” that segment reality by ideology.

Facebook and Google didn’t invent these phenomena — they existed pre-internet. But by tying them together, ad targeting can kick misinformation into overdrive:

  • Data collection and profile building is what makes ad targeting possible. It’s also what keeps getting tech platforms in trouble with users and governments.
  • Campaigns have always shaded the truth and even lobbed false accusations. But in a broadcast world, it was easy for opponents and neutral third parties to witness and call out such behavior.
  • In the world of micro-targeted ads, it’s almost impossible — despite transparency efforts like Facebook’s ad library.
  • Misleading ads fuel frenzies in the closed-loop worlds of partisan echo chambers long before platforms can step in to bar them.

Banning all political ads vs. banning targeting: Many critics have urged social media platforms to bar political advertising altogether — a move both Google and Facebook have resisted, even as their smaller but politically high-profile competitor Twitter said it would embrace it.

  • Facebook argues that such a ban would harm outsider candidates and causes.
  • Twitter’s ban is significant, but its ad market share and targeting capabilities are minuscule compared to Facebook’s and Google’s.

The idea of a targeting ban has gained momentum recently, with figures like Bill Gates and FEC chair Ellen Weintraub endorsing it.

  • Defenders of the status quo argue that online targeting isn’t fundamentally different from longtime campaign practices like ZIP Code targeting of postal flyers, and they maintain that it’s a free-speech issue.

The Guardian

‘DT, hosted the Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg for a private dinner at the White House last month.

NBC News revealed that the meeting, which had not previously been disclosed, took place when Zuckerberg was in Washington being grilled by Congress over topics including Facebook’s limited steps to ban to misinformation in political advertising.

NBC (also) reported the billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel, a conservative who donated to Trump’s 2016 campaign and sits on Facebook’s board, was also present at the meeting.’

Thiel, who is the chairman of private data technology company Palantir, donated $1.25m to DT’s 2016 presidential campaign. In August a report by Mijente, a Latinx organizing not-for-profit, found that Palantir has more than $1.5bn in federal government contracts.

[According to Forbes, Thiel has a net worth of $2.5 billion.]

#PeterThiel

Huffington Post

“…an essay published in 2009, (Thiel) surprised many when he wrote that giving women the right to vote — by constitutional amendment in 1920 — was a blow to democracy.”

For posterity.

11.21.19


 

History is contingent.

November 12, 2019

Matthew Fox, a 76-year-old elder, activist and spiritual theologian, along with Skylar Wilson, a 33-year-old wilderness guide, leader of inter-cultural ceremonies, and an event producer, and Jennifer Berit Listug, a 28-year-old writer, spiritual leader, and publicist, are presenting a challenge and an opportunity in the vision launched in this modest book. That vision is about creating an Order of the Sacred Earth. Essay contributors to the book and its vision include Mirabai Starr, Brian Thomas Swimme, Adam Bucko, and David Korten.

‘In this book the author and contributors present opportunity for building an intergeneration community devoted to environmental activism through restoring a sense of the sacred.

Order of the Sacred Earth is for everyone from all faiths and religions, races, lifestyle choices, generations, professions and ancestry. All are welcome…all are needed…to build a conscious of the whole in service to the Earth and to one another.

1976: Institute for Creation Spirituality, Boulder Colorado

Fox invites us to listen to our deep calling by asking:

What can most readily stir us at his time in history to wake up, let go, give birth and work generously and diligently for the survival of our species and of our planet? What links the wisdom of the young to the wisdom of the old and of our ancestors, while opening our heart and mind to serve future generations with joy and resolve? 

What most empowers us to move from inertia to effective caring and action, from despair or cynicism to hope-filled service?’

-Science of Mind

Pass it on.

“Courage is contagious.”

Daniel Ellsberg, activist and former United States military analyst who, in 1971, secretly gave the Pentagon Papers to the Washington Post.

 

‘The Politics of Death’

November 11, 2019

V E T E R A N S   D A Y

Thomas Merton:

In moments that appear to be lucid, I tell myself that in times like these there has to be something for which one is willing to get shot, and for which, in all probability, one is actually going to get shot. What is this? A principle? Faith? Virtue? God? The question is not easy to answer, and maybe it has not answer that can be put into words. Perhaps this is no longer something communicable, or even thinkable. To be executed today (and death by execution is not all uncommon) one has no need to commit a political crime, to express opposition to a tyrant, or event to hold an objectionable opinion. Indeed, most political deaths under tyrannical regimes are motiveless, arbitrary, absurd. You are shot, or beaten to death, or started, or worked until you drop, not because of anything you have done, not because of anything you believe in, not because of anything you stand for, but arbitrarily: your death is demanded by something or someone undefined. Your death is necessary to give apparent meaning to a meaningless political process which you have never quite managed to understand

-Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Equal Justice Initiative

African Americans bravely served in the U.S. military for generations. But instead of being treated as equal members of society, thousands of black veterans were accosted, attacked, or lynched.’

 #VeteransDay

https://eji.org/news/remembering-black-veterans-and-racial-terror-lynchings

~

Society of Professional Journalists

“Aside from deep understanding and technical knowledge of the military and veteran issues, vets bring with them objectivity, neutrality, and ability to work in crises—all valuable attributes for newsrooms.”

The new nonprofit Military Veterans in Journalism wants to bring more military knowledge and experience into the media

Since the attacks of 9/11, the United States has been in a perpetual state of fighting, in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya. About 7,000 American troops have been killed and at least another 50,000 wounded. One study estimates the U.S. federal price tag of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts at $5.9 trillion.

Despite more than 18 years of war, America’s newsrooms have been shockingly negligent in hiring reporters who know these conflicts and their impacts best—our veterans.

Only 1.1 percent of media workers in the U.S. are post-9/11 military veterans while about 7 percent of Americans have served in the military, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

We Need More Veterans in America’s Newsrooms

Women: The Most Powerful Electorate

“Never forget that it only takes one political, economic or religious crisis for women’s rights to be put in jeopardy. Those rights are never to be taken for granted; you must remain vigilant throughout your life.”
-Simone de Beauvoir

AXIOS

A surge of female winners in this week’s state elections — most of them Democrats, and many of them women of color — reflected women’s rising power since the 2016 election, AP’s Sarah Rankin and Sara Burnett report.

  • Why it matters: Tuesday’s results mean women will hold majorities in places like the Boston City Council, long seen by many as a “boys’ club,” and lead communities such as Scranton, Pa., where voters elected the city’s first female mayor just weeks before she’s due to give birth.

In Virginia, Juli Briskman, a cyclist who was fired after she flipped off President Trump’s motorcade, was elected to the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, representing an area that’s home to one of his golf courses.

  • Briskman said her run-in with Trump inspired her to get involved in politics.
  • “I think this administration has done that for a lot of women,” Briskman, a single mom, told AP.  “They’ve just decided, ‘OK, if someone like this can get elected, … we need to start speaking up and changing it.'”

In Maine, a 23-year-old Somali American woman was elected to the Lewiston City Council, defeating another Democrat and what she described as “internet trolls” who lobbed racist and sexist attacks via social media.

  • GOP women were behind record wins in Mississippi, where 12 women — eight Republicans and four Democrats — won seats in the state Senate. The previous record was nine, set in 2016.

AP

Tuesday was an extension of the blue wave in 2017, when Democrats picked up 15 Virginia House seats, with 11 won by women. The next year, three women in the state defeated incumbent Republicans in the U.S. House.

One of those women, Rep. Abigail Spanberger, said the campaigns in Virginia haven’t just been won by women, but they’ve also been powered by female volunteers and animated by issues women prioritize — such as gun violence prevention and health care.

Spanberger read Tuesday’s results as evidence of the success of centrist, pragmatic politics. She advised Democrats with national ambition to “pay attention.”

“People want us to act, to focus on solving problems, not be the most ideologically pure,” she said. “People are not expecting perfection. But they are expecting you to try.”

DT’s  approval rating among women has been lower than with men throughout his presidency.

Pew Research Center data shows DT’s average approval rating over his first two years in office was 44% among men, compared with 31% among women, a gap in presidential approval wider than for other recent presidents, including Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.

“(Women have) just decided, ‘OK, if someone like this can get elected, something is very, very wrong, and we need to start speaking up and changing it.’”

 

Shhhhhh…the trees are speaking.

November 8, 2019

Robin Wall Kimmerer:

In the old times, our elders say, the trees talked to each other. They’d stand in their own council and craft a plan. But scientists decided long ago that plants were deaf and mute, locked in isolation without communication. The possibility of conversation was summarily dismissed. Science pretends to be purely rational, completely neutral, a system of knowledge-making in which the observation is independent of the observer. And yet the conclusion was drawn that plants cannot communicate because they lack the mechanisms that animals use to speak. . . . But pollen has been carried reliably on the wind for eons, communicated by males to receptive females to make . . . nuts. If the wind can be trusted with that fecund responsibility, why not with messages?

There is now compelling evidence that our elders were right—the trees are talking to one another. They communicate via pheromones, hormonelike compounds that are wafted on the breeze, laden with meaning. Scientists have identified specific compounds that one tree will release when it is under the stress of insect attack—gypsy moths gorging on its leaves or bark beetles under its skin. The tree sends out a distress call: “Hey, you guys over there? I’m under attack here. You might want to raise the drawbridge and arm yourselves for what is coming your way.” The downwind trees catch the drift, sensing those few molecules of alarm, the whiff of danger. This gives them time to manufacture defensive chemicals. . . . The individual benefits, and so does the entire grove. Trees appear to be talking about mutual defense. . . . There is so much we cannot yet understand with our limited human capacity. Tree conversations are still far above our heads.

Some studies of mast fruiting have suggested that the mechanism for synchrony comes not through the air, but underground. [1] The trees in a forest are often interconnected by subterranean networks of mycorrhizae, fungal strands that inhabit tree roots. The mycorrhizal symbiosis enables the fungus to forage for mineral nutrients in the soil and deliver them to the tree in exchange for carbohydrates. The mycorrhizae may form fungal bridges between individual trees, so that all the trees in a forest are connected. These fungal networks appear to redistribute the wealth of carbohydrates from tree to tree. A kind of Robin Hood, they take from the rich and give to the poor so that all the trees arrive at the same carbon surplus at the same time. They weave a web of reciprocity, of giving and taking. In this way, the trees all act as one because the fungi have connected them. Through unity, survival. All flourishing is mutual.

Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation:

‘For too long science and faith fell into the “sin of certainty,” each claiming Truth only for themselves and ignoring the beautifully symbiotic relationship that exists between them. Scientists like Robin Wall Kimmerer are an essential part of the Great Turning, dissolving the artificial binaries that have walled them off from one another. May we all have minds and hearts open enough to integrate the wisdom of our spiritual elders.’

Are trees social beings? In this international bestseller, forester and author Peter Wohlleben convincingly makes the case that, yes, the forest is a social network. He draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers. Wohlleben also shares his deep love of woods and forests, explaining the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in his woodland.

After learning about the complex life of trees, a walk in the woods will never be the same again.


‘…we see what we believe.’

November 6, 2019

We think that we believe what we see. Actually, the opposite is true: we begin with belief, and then we see. What do you believe?

-Judith Lasater, PhD.

Think about trust…whom you put your trust in. Trust is earned.

-Alexandra Stoddard

ELIZA ANYANGWE:

‘Corporations and billionaires get tax cuts while convincing individuals that our consumer choices make the world a better place.

Today, managing editor Eliza Anyangwe makes one thing clear: we must let go of our misguided devotion to personal agency and take action alongside other people if we want to bring these systems down.

History shows that the only way to change the system is to stand with the people around us and fight it head on.

Individual action isn’t bad or meaningless – it’s completely natural – but it’s no substitute for tax reform, migration policy reform, criminal justice reform, intellectual property law reform, international trade law reform and so on.

It’s clear that when we have the means, we’re happy to act – recycle, buy ethical, go green – but we need to think beyond our individual actions and choices and learn to talk, plan, and get to work alongside others if anything is going to change.

On occasion, falling down the rabbit hole that is Instagram yields positive results. It was there, on the social media platform, where I learned that American writer Anand Giridharadas would be speaking in Amsterdam. And, as though the gods of procrastination were this once glad to reward me for my fealty, the event would be free.

And so off I went to listen to the best-selling author of talk about the fallacy of “win-win”. Our economic model, Giridharadas explained, was indeed creating winners – But, there were also losers, left to gather up the crumbs from under the table; and a new entrepreneurial class who believed in their ability to “do well and do good”.

[…]

(American writer Anand) Giridharadas offered an answer: perhaps the success of our current system was in part thanks to the ability of that system to focus our attentions on personal agency rather than systemic transformation.

I believed in the power of my own agency: if the social enterprise lark didn’t work, would choose an employer with a moral compass. And I would be a better consumer; picking products and services that were good for people and planet. Politicians didn’t listen, I reasoned, but corporations did, and they were in charge anyway, so I would vote with my “spending power” – boycotting those brands who had poor records on the things I cared about, and rewarding with my meagre income those companies who took their social responsibility seriously.

We scarcely consider the fact that for all of its virtues, ethical or conscious consumerism is no substitute for tax reform, migration policy reform, criminal justice reform, intellectual property law reform, international trade law reform and so on. What we have contented ourselves with doing instead is essentially playing the same game (consumerism) by the same rules (I buy, therefore I am). We’ve simply changed the ball (ethical products and services).

My guess is that we fear that if we weren’t doing this – buying better, recycling more, eating less meat – we would be doing nothing at all. We have lost sight of the value, or even the possibility, of collective action and it’s easy to see why.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

But (this) will force me to reimagine what good I can do alongside other people, rather than in spite of them. I will see and hear the challenges of those who are most intimately affected by the issues, and maybe one day, when one of us has a grand idea that can “bring the whole system down”, we’ll know other foot soldiers who can stand alongside us.’

https://thecorrespondent.com/102/we-need-to-let-go-of-our-misguided-devotion-to-personal-agency/448868442-92556139

Rev. Masando Hiraoka, Mile Hi Church in Lakewood, Colorado:

“I’ve got to make a confession: I often find it hard to relate with the religious figures of the past. Feeling this, I can also breathe into the vows of the Buddhist who takes refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha as my grandfather took refuge in the Colorado, the only state that welcomed Japanese Americans during World War Ii.

This is why I love Colorado, why I take such pride in where I’m form. It was sanctuary, like the sanctuary that Medina became for Muhammad, peace be upon him, and the first Muslims who were expelled from their home, their holy land of Mecca, because they were considered a threat.

The restoration of dignity and the seeking of safety is part of our legacy.

I believe we know how do do this togetherness. We’ve been taking refuge in each other forever. So we continue this great tradition of staring over again and again and let the ancient ones of the past come back alive in the present through us.

The story of peace is encoded in our DNA. Refuge is written on our bones.”

Center for Action & Contemplation:

“Religion is undergoing a massive shift in perspective . . . as wrenching as the Copernican revolution, which required humanity to bid farewell to an Earth-centered understanding of our place in the cosmos. The religious revolution on the horizon today might well be called the “Evidential Reformation.” We humbly shift away from a human-centric, ethnocentric, and shortsighted view of what is important. At the same time, we expand our very identities to encompass the immense journey of life made known by the full range of sciences. In so doing, we all become elders of a sort, instinctively willing to do whatever it takes to pass on a world of health and opportunities no lesser than the one into which we were born.” –The Rev. Michael Dowd, Eco-theologian

Fr. Richard Rohr:

An evidential worldview has become crucial. We now know that evolutionary and ecological processes are at the root of life and human culture. To disregard, to dishonor, these processes through our own determined ignorance and cultural/religious self-focus is an evil that will bring untold suffering to countless generations of our own kind and all our relations. We must denounce such a legacy. Ours is thus a call to . . . sacred activism. [Twenty-five] years ago, Carl Sagan both chided and encouraged us in this way:

How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed.” . . . A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge. [1]

[1] Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (Random House Publishing: 1994), 50.

More from Fr. Rohr:

“However, if we truly want to be a part of the “Evidential Reformation,” we must each do our part to understand and share the ways science and our faith affirm one another.”

The universe is a single reality—one long sweeping spectacular process of interconnected events. The universe is not a place where evolution happens; it is evolution happening. It is not a stage on which dramas unfold; it is the unfolding drama itself. . . . This [great cosmological] story shows us in the deepest possible sense that we are all sisters and brothers—fashioned from the same stellar dust, energized by the same star, nourished by the same planet, endowed with the same genetic code, and threatened by the same evils. This story . . . humbles us before the magnitude and complexity of creation. . . . It bewilders us with the improbability of our existence, astonishes us with the interdependence of all things, and makes us feel grateful for the lives we have. And not the least of all, it inspires us to express our gratitude to the past by accepting a solemn and collective responsibility for the future. —Loyal Rue [1]

[1] Loyal Rue, Everybody’s Story: Wising Up to the Epic of Evolution (SUNY Press: 2000), 42-43.

“Few things are more important than how we think about our inner and outer nature and our mortality. Thus far, the Evidential Reformation has been centered in science. Now is the time for our faith traditions to honor evidential revelation—facts as God’s native tongue—and carry on the vital tasks of interpretation, integration, and action.

Ours is the prodigal species. Having squandered our inheritance, we are waking up to our painful predicament. Thankfully God—Reality personified—awaits us with open arms and a welcoming heart. As Thomas Berry would remind us, the entire Earth community is rooting us on!”  Rev. Michael Dowd

Fr. Rohr: “I believe we have squandered our inheritance, which is the earth itself, the majesties and mysteries it holds. We’ve taken it for granted, using it too freely for our own selfish purposes while ignoring the deeply divine messages communicated in everything from the smallest sub-atomic particle to the largest black holes. Surely it is time for us to bring science and religion together.”

Just as Augustine reinterpreted Christianity in light of Plato in the 4th century, and Aquinas integrated Aristotle in the 13th, today there are dozens of theologians across the spectrum re-envisioning the Christian faith. Whose ideas are they integrating now? Darwin, Einstein, Hubble, Wilson and all those who have corrected, and continually contribute to, an evidence-based understanding of biological, cosmic, and cultural evolution. . . .

Few things are more important than how we think about our inner and outer nature and our mortality. Thus far, the Evidential Reformation has been centered in science. Now is the time for our faith traditions to honor evidential revelation—facts as God’s native tongue—and carry on the vital tasks of interpretation, integration, and action. –Rev. Michael Dowd


 

The Great Turning

November 4, 2019

I have set before you life and death . . . therefore choose life. 

—Deuteronomy 30:19

R. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation:

Eco-philosopher, Earth elder, friend, and spiritual activist Joanna Macy, now ninety years old, has been promoting a global transition from the Industrial Growth Society to a Life-Sustaining Society for most of her life. She calls it the Great Turning, a revolution of great urgency: “While the agricultural revolution took centuries, and the industrial revolution took generations, this ecological revolution has to happen within a matter of years.” [1] She is hopeful as she sees individuals and groups participating in “1) Actions to slow the damage to Earth and its beings; 2) Analysis and transformation of the foundations of our common life; [and] 3) A fundamental shift in worldview and values.” [2]

Macy understands that the third type of action—essentially, a new way of seeing— “require[s] a shift in our perception of reality—and that shift is happening now, both as cognitive revolution and spiritual awakening.” [3] While the shift may not be obvious in my own generation, we need look no further than the ongoing powerful and prophetic presence of young leaders, like indigenous teenagers Tokata Iron Eyes (a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe who plays a key role in the “Rezpect Our Water” campaign) and Autumn Peltier (also a water protector and a citizen of the Wiikwemkoong First Nation); they have been joined recently by Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who spoke at the United Nations Climate Action Summit and helped inspire Climate Strikes around the world. In the face of criticism, Greta calls her Asperger’s syndrome a “superpower” that gives her a clear perspective on the climate crisis. May we be motivated by these committed young advocates and lend our voices and strength to heal our wounded world.

Macy explains:

The insights and experiences that enable us to make this shift may arise from grief for our world that contradicts illusions of the separate and isolated self. Or they may arise from breakthroughs in science, such as quantum physics and systems theory. Or we may find ourselves inspired by the wisdom traditions of native peoples and mystical voices in the major religions; we hearken to their teachings as to some half-forgotten song that our world is a sacred whole in which we have a sacred mission. [4]

St. Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179), a Germanic nun, mystic, and healer, was doing this 800 years ago. In her book Scivias she wrote, “You understand so little of what is around you because you do not use what is within you.” [5] Somehow, she already understood what science is now affirming: “The macrocosm is mirrored in the microcosm.” Science is finding that the world is an integrated whole rather than separated parts. Nothing in the cosmos operates independently. We are all holons, which are simultaneously whole in themselves, and at the same time part of a larger whole. This understanding is moving us from a narrow, mechanistic, Newtonian view of the universe to a holistic/ecological view. [6] Nothing is static, and if you try to construct an unchangeable or independent universe for yourself, you will be moving against the now obvious divine plan and direction.

Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.

 

[1] Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown, Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to the Work that Reconnects (New Society Publishers: 2014), 4.

[2] Ibid., 6. Emphasis mine.

[3] Ibid., 14.

[4] Ibid., 14.

[5] Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias, 1.2.29. Translation from Avis Clendenen, “Hildegard: ‘Trumpet of God’ and ‘Living Light’” in Chicago Theological Seminary Register, vol. 89, no. 2 (Spring 1999), 25.

[6] Ilia Delio explores the concepts of holons and moving toward a holistic view in CONSPIRE 2014: A Benevolent Universe (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2014), MP4 video download.

Mark Nepo:

‘…to have been at one with the earth, seems beyond undoing. -Rilke

Ilia Delio:

‘Creation is not a demonstration of God’s boundless power but of God’s boundless love, a love so great that creation is drenched in it.’

‘Out of a long history of cosmic cataclysms and mass extinctions, we human emerge. We are born out of stardust, cousins of daffodils and bonobos; we are the conscious voice of a fragile earth.’

Indelible.

…”damaging to the Gospel.”

Josh Harris: Evangelical support for Trump “incredibly damaging to the Gospel”

[Josh Harris, once one of America’s most famous evangelical pastors, admitted in his first interview since renouncing Christianity that he ruined lives and marriages, so he excommunicated himself from the faith that made him famous.- AXIOS]

Asked how much of a connection he sees between the fundamentalist doctrine of fear and the current political climate, Harris replied: “Fear is easily manipulated by political leaders. The more chaotic the world is, the more people want someone to tell them what to do. And when people are afraid, they latch on to people who say, ‘I have the answers.’ […] I don’t think it’s going to end well. To have a leader like DT is part of the indictment. This is the leader you want and deserve; it represents a lot of who you are.”


 

‘You’re not crazy, you’re creative.’ ✧

November 3, 2019

A Circle expands forever
It covers all who wish to hold hands
And its size depends on each other
It is a vision of solidarity
It turns outwards to interact with the outside
And inward for self critique
A circle expands forever
It is a vision of accountability
It grows as the other is moved to grow
A circle must have a centre
But a single dot does not make a Circle
One tree does not make a forest
A circle, a vision of cooperation, mutuality and care

—Mercy Amba Oduyoye 

Mercy Amba Oduyoye, “The Story of a Circle” (Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians), The Ecumenical Review, vol. 53, no. 1 (January 2001), 97. Used with permission.

Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Compassion & Contemplation

  1. Affirming people’s potential is more important than reminding them of their brokenness.
  2. The work of reconciliation should be valued over making judgments.
  3. Gracious behavior is more important than right belief.
  4. Inviting questions is more valuable than supplying answers.
  5. Encouraging the personal search is more important than group uniformity.
  6. Meeting actual needs is more important than maintaining institutions.
  7. Peacemaking is more important than power.
  8. We should care more about love and less about sex.
  9. Life in this world is more important than the afterlife (Eternity is Gaia’s work anyway).

Rilke/New Poems:

Mohammed’s Calling

…but the angel, imperious,pointed over and over

to what was written on the page he held,

and would not held and kept insisting: read.

Then the man read, and when he did the angel bowed. 

It was as if he had always been reading,

and now was able to obey and bring to pass.

Alexander Stoddard/Grace Notes:

’Any profound view of the world is mysticism.’ -Albert Schweitzer

Love the questions. The bigger the questions, the better. The mysteries of life have never been understood by any human so far and never will be. The little things that make you happy, the order you put into your corner of the universe, the joy you feel from these small rituals, are mysterious. You’re not crazy; you’re creative. It’s all right if you are teased. Who cares? You do these things for yourself.

A BIBLICAL ROUGH DRAFT

The New Yorker

[Bob Odenkirk is a writer, a comedian, and an actor. He stars in the AMC television series “Better Call Saul.”]

‘Many do not know that the Bible was once a “living document,” passed orally from person to person, and from generation to generation, before finally being written down. Even the most well-known Biblical passages went through countless iterations before arriving at the final, perfect, logical, cohesive, and treasured versions we now hold dear.

Early written drafts of the Bible were the transcribed pontifications of travelling “storytellers,” who tromped from village to village in floppy sandals, swatting at flies, sipping beads of dew from the undersides of donkeys, and fighting dogs for scraps of raw meat. A close reading of the earliest known transcription of a popular excerpt from the Book of Matthew reveals that the “narrator” is suffering from low blood sugar. No doubt a syphilitic holy man dressed in desert rags, he searches in vain for just the right metaphor, a well-aimed zinger with which to make his point. The toil that the poor fellow suffers in so doing undercuts the very principle he is straining to illustrate.’

[Full essay]

 

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/11/04/a-biblical-rough-draft

 

 

I miss Elijah.

November 1, 2019

 

”My mission is one that comes out of a vision that was created long, one ago. It is a mission and a vision to empower people—to make people realized that the power is within them and that they too can do the things they want to do.”

The ten newly elected U.S. Representative said he couldn’t wait to join everyone on his new journey and shared a poem [1996] that he said defines who he is.

He’d recite it to himself 20 times a day sometimes.

”I only have a minute, 60 seconds in it, forced upon me I did not choose, but I know that I must use it, give account if I abuse it, suffer if I lose it. Only a tiny little minute but an eternity is in it.”

Rep. Elijah Eugene Cummings

January 18, 1951 – October 17, 2019

 

Journalism, Social Media & Radicalization

October 30, 2019

What leads an internet user down a path of radicalization?

A team of journalists from The Correspondent and de Volkstrant investigated and analyzed the data. 

How They Did It: Exposing Right-Wing Radicalization on YouTube

We started by investigating the rise of the alt-right on more obscure forums like 4chan and 8chan as well as on the popular chat app Discord. We were soon struck by the many references extremists made to YouTube videos, and decided to explore this platform.

The amount of right-wing extremist content available on YouTube turned out to be overwhelming: There was racism, antisemitism, antifeminism, white nationalism, and conspiracies on “cultural marxism,” “white genocide,” and “the great replacement” (the idea that white people are slowly being replaced by nonwhites through birth rates and immigration).

Around the same time, researchers began to worry that YouTube’s recommendation algorithm was exacerbating the spread of extremist content by slowly pulling viewers into a rabbit hole of hate. The recommendations that popped up when users were watching videos would slowly become more extreme: A user could start out with a left-leaning video on racism and slowly but surely end up, through a series of recommendations, watching right-wing extremist content.

[…]

In the end, we compiled a list of 1,500 channels, about evenly spread on the left-right spectrum. YouTube has a very liberal API with which you can query the database for a lot of metadata. We wrote extensive software (packaged in a reusable Python library) to examine:

  • 600,000 videos
  • 450,000 transcripts of those videos (by using YouTube’s automatic closed-captioning service, which is not available for all videos)
  • 120 million comments on those videos
  • 20 million recommendations automatically generated from viewing those videos

That’s a lot of data — about 100 GB. But what to do with it?

Full article: https://gijn.org/2019/10/28/how-they-did-it-exposing-right-wing-radicalization-on-youtube/

Mutual love, not fear.

‘The Church came into existence as a community that preserved the dangerous memory of Jesus—totally without reproach but was rather utterly new and beyond anything that could have been previously imagined. This new radical community has held together over two thousand years, as a community based, at bottom, on mutual love and not, as with other human institutions on fear.

The Church’s contemplation of this dangerous memory is what we call ‘theology’, which is actually founded on the marriage of sacred Scripture with philosophy—particularly classical Greek philosophy. This is important. A religion . . . that is without theology quickly becomes fundamentalist as it begins to interpret Scripture in a literal way, full of cultural bias and with little rational underpinning.

Fundamentalism is always culture-bound, whereas, although the story of Jesus is historical, set in a particular time, place and culture, a teaching essentially transcultural.’

-Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation

~

‘When the time comes to enter the darkness in which we are naked and helpless and alone; in which we see the insufficiency of our greatest strength and the hollowness of our strongest virtues; in which we have nothing of our own to rely on, and nothing in our nature to support us, and nothing in the world to guide us at give us light—then we find out whether or not we live by faith.’

-Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

Why so angry?

October 23, 2019

A Course in Miracles

T-30.VI.1. Anger is never justified. 2 Attack has no foundation. 3 It is here escape from fear begins, and will be made complete. 4 Here is the real world given in exchange for dreams of terror. 5 For it is on this forgiveness rests, and is but natural. 6 You are not asked to offer pardon where attack is due, and would be justified. 7 For that would mean that you forgive a sin by overlooking what is really there. 8 This is not pardon. 9 For it would assume that, by responding in a way which is not justified, your pardon will become the answer to attack that has been made. 10 And thus is pardon inappropriate, by being granted where it is not due.

“Anger continued on past its usefulness becomes unjust, then dangerous… It fuels not positive activism but regression… self-righteousness. Corrosive, it feeds off itself, destroying its host in the process.” -Ursula K. Le Guin

Maria Popova:

Le Guin begins with a case study in the cultural history of anger as a tool of social change — epoch-making change she lived through and helped engender:

In the consciousness-raising days of the second wave of feminism, we made a big deal out of anger, the anger of women. We praised it and cultivated it as a virtue. We learned to boast of being angry, to swagger our rage, to play the Fury.

We were right to do so. We were telling women who believed they should patiently endure insults, injuries, and abuse that they had every reason to be angry. We were rousing people to feel and see injustice, the methodical mistreatment to which women were subjected, the almost universal disrespect of the human rights of women, and to resent and refuse it for themselves and for others. Indignation, forcibly expressed, is an appropriate response to injustice. Indignation draws strength from outrage, and outrage draws strength from rage. There is a time for anger, and that was such a time.

Anger is a useful, perhaps indispensable tool in motivating resistance to injustice. But I think it is a weapon — a tool useful only in combat and self-defense.

Le Guin considers how the uses of anger can metastasize into misuses when its aims are left uncalibrated under the ferment of time:

Anger points powerfully to the denial of rights, but the exercise of rights can’t live and thrive on anger. It lives and thrives on the dogged pursuit of justice.

[…]

Anger continued on past its usefulness becomes unjust, then dangerous. Nursed for its own sake, valued as an end in itself, it loses its goal. It fuels not positive activism but regression, obsession, vengeance, self-righteousness. Corrosive, it feeds off itself, destroying its host in the process.

A century and a half after Walt Whitman admonished that “America, if eligible at all to downfall and ruin, is eligible within herself, not without,” Le Guin adds:

The racism, misogyny, and counter-rationality of the reactionary right in American politics for the last several years is a frightening exhibition of the destructive force of anger deliberately nourished by hate, encouraged to rule thought, invited to control behavior. I hope our republic survives this orgy of self-indulgent rage.

https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/12/05/ursula-k-le-guin-no-time-to-spare-anger/

 

Rilke.

October 18, 2019

‘Our security must become a relationship to the whole, omitting nothing.’

 

Elijah.

October 17, 2019

“My life is based on pain, passion, and purpose”

“…it is about the soul of our democracy.”

1951-2019

Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a sharecropper’s son who rose to become the powerful chairman of a House committee, has died at age 68. Cummings was a formidable orator who passionately advocated for the poor.

Elijah Cummings was the heart and soul of our caucus, a dignified leader with a voice that could move mountains. He was our moral and ethical North Star. Now we will be guided by his powerful memory and incomparable legacy. Rest In Peace, my friend. -Rep. Adam Schiff, CA

“Chairman Cummings stood tallest and most resolute when our country needed him the most.” -President Barack Obama

“There was no stronger advocate and no better friend than Elijah Cummings. I am heartbroken for his wonderful family and staff—please pray for them. I will miss him dearly.” Rep. Mark Meadows, NC

THE POTENTIAL OF CITIZENS’ ASSEMBLIES

October 16, 2019

Democracy is supposed to be a system of ruling ‘by the people, for the people’, but representative democracy (democracy as it is practised in most of the west) actively and repeatedly keeps ‘the people’ out of the decision-making process.

Journalist Patrick Chalmers, an expert on political structures, looks to Athens – the birthplace of this modern, failing system – to find a better solution in citizens’ assemblies. 

An Athenian remedy: the rise, fall and possible rebirth of democracy

Aside from clashes between police and protestors, Athenians that summer held people’s assemblies, mass gatherings of strangers talking together in public spaces. These assemblies were what first brought Sagris to Syntagma Square with her mother Tatiana Skanatovits, an actress and assembly organiser. Daily meetings in front of parliament saw people tell their stories of crisis, debate alternatives, and decide on assembly actions.

The economic crisis triggered a well-documented political crisis, the irony of which is not lost on those from the country that gave the world democracy

“If we are talking about democracy, I believe that right now I’m not living in a democratic regime, so I don’t see why I should participate in a process like this,” he said the day before the ballot. “It hurts me deep in the soul to say that, but after 30 years I will not vote.”

For Aristotle, whether states were oligarchic or democratic was deeply ingrained in their ways of working – the politics of structure itself. He believed that cities that chose their office holders, jurors and judges by lottery were democratic and that those using elections were oligarchic – that’s Greek for government of, by, and for the few.

Citizens’ assemblies are happening everywhere from Australia to Canada, Bolivia to France.

The need to build trust and broad interest are also key. After decades of political apathy and the erosion of trust in elected representatives, citizens need faith in their own capacity to shape policy. And that of their peers. Knowing what examples of self-governance have worked, and how, certainly helps.

PATRICK CHALMERS

https://thecorrespondent.com/70/an-athenian-remedy-the-rise-fall-and-possible-rebirth-of-democracy/308046970-e7748531

Death Doulas

 

VICE

by Anne Bokma

The following is an excerpt from ‘My Year of Living Spiritually’ by Anne Bokma, published by Douglas & McIntyre.

The boomer generation is creating a death boom. Five thousand of us die every day in the U.S. In Canada, 235,000 people over age 60 die every year. Most of us want to die at home, in our sleep or surrounded by loved ones, but about 75 percent of us will die in a hospital or long-term care setting, often hooked up to feeding tubes and ventilators, tended to by strangers. We are watching our aging parents die this way, and we don’t like it one bit. Just as our demographic had an outsized influence on the civil and equal rights movements, we’re now at the forefront of a death acceptance movement that’s transforming the topic of dying from taboo to a normal part of life. We’re seeing the rise of death cafes, green cemeteries, home burials and legislation for medically assisted dying. Death is our last great spiritual experience. We want it to be meaningful, and we want as much control over it as possible.

Death Over Dinner is another initiative. Participants are encouraged to gather friends and family to break bread and talk about what constitutes a good death—and a good life. Death Over Dinner was founded five years ago by entrepreneur Michael Hebb, and since then 200,000 dinners have been hosted in 30 countries. “The way we die in Western society is broken,” Hebb said in an interview with the Guardian. “I had a hunch that open conversation about our end-of-life wishes could be the most impactful thing we could do to heal that system and to heal the way we die. We are death-illiterate, and when we don’t discuss death, we are not empowered to make decisions.”

As a death doula, Rochelle Martin teaches people how to become comfortable with death. And as an emergency room nurse, she’s had a lot more experience with death than any of the guests around my dining room table. Our dinner has a Last Supper feel: twelve of us are gathered together and the menu includes fish, loaves of bread and plenty of wine. There’s lots of laughter, despite the seriousness of the topic, and a certain lightheartedness too—I’ve ordered a cake in the shape of a tombstone from a local bakery and placed a plastic skull at each place setting with the guest’s name written in Magic Marker on the forehead. Six tea lights glow in the black candelabra that serves as the centrepiece. In Eucharistic fashion, we eat and we remember. Martin facilitates the discussion, encouraging us to go around the table and share a significant death we’ve experienced.

[full article]

https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/ne89px/how-boomers-are-planning-to-die?utm_source=vicetwitterus

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