Suspending my creative promotions for a moment.
The murder of George Floyd is something we can’t ignore. All of us feel that. If you watched the video of Mr. Floyd’s last moments on earth or even just saw that brutal, incendiary image of the officer’s knee crushing his neck, there is no looking away. The question has been forced.
The question: is it in any way acceptable for an officer of the law to kill a man — unarmed and handcuffed and pleading for mercy — in broad daylight with no provocation whatsoever?
The answer is no. It is not okay. In the name of the most basic definition of human decency, we demand justice for George Floyd.
But then there’s something more.
That photo. The white man’s knee, the black man’s gasp.
I can’t pretend to know what’s in your heart but I can look into my own. The question I keep asking myself is: to what degree am I complicit in George Floyd’s murder?
Sure I wasn’t there at the corner of Chicago Ave and East 38th in Minneapolis. But the fact remains that I am a benefactor, an inheritor of centuries of white privilege, white provision. The law purports Liberty and Justice for All, but even after two centuries of reform, the law is on my side first.
That officer’s knee was in my name. Me. The soft child of the American family, indulged and coddled.
A few freedoms I know and can name: I’m blind to most. I take for granted the world through which I move, as though it were my birthright.
But what would it be like not to have the whole system of justice and economic invention arranged like an armed phalanx behind you? What is it like to be black in America? I cannot know.
But I can listen.
That there are white folks like me awakening to the knowledge of not only our collective biases, but more importantly, the consequences of those biases, is perhaps cause for a quavering hope. It won’t give George Floyd his life back, or Breonna Taylor hers, or restore Ahmaud Arbery, Donnie Sanders, Tony McDade, or the extinguished lives of countless others. It might yield the imperfect consolation of justice. But what next?
The sense I’ve gotten from talking with my friends and family is that the spirit is willing, but the way forward is uncertain. It’s hard for an individual person, however well-meaning, to know what to do, where to start. I’m not sure whether a post, or a hundred posts, will add up to anything truly meaningful. I don’t know.
Change begins in the heart. Okay fine. But what does that mean? What does change actually look like? I can say any number of things to ally myself with people of color, but is that really a solution? Talk is cheap.
Voting change into office will help. Let’s get busy doing that.
But I’m looking for something personal. I think we all are. It’s not just about police brutality. It’s about wanting to be whole. Whole individuals. Whole people. A whole nation.
Well, what’s possible?
Let’s for once allow ourselves a wild hope. Let’s dare to concede the possibility that maybe, somewhere in the future there’s an integrated America, where Black Lives Matter, where the rights of each individual really are extended to all.
At the very least, maybe it’s possible to be a little more whole.
I’ve been quiet the last few days, mulling over this question. Reading a bunch of different perspectives. Trying to get my thoughts in order. Praying about it.
What would it look like to be a little more whole?
And this is where the death of George Floyd has shined a light in a dark corner of my own heart.
See, I live in a mixed neighborhood in East Nashville.
While its gentrification has been going on for more than fifteen years, I still have neighbors of color. Close neighbors. Two of the houses within a hundred feet of me are occupied by black families.
I have lived in this house for almost five years. I love living here.
But wait. Do I even know my black neighbors’ names?
We have been living in parallel universes.
Worse, there are little kids in the family of one of those houses. What am I teaching them, by never saying hello when I see them playing in the yard? By them never seeing me talk to their parents?
I’m teaching them that white people don’t see them. They are invisible.
By the sheer act of being unneighborly to my literal neighbors, I’m participating in the furtherance of this no-longer-acceptable status quo.
There are other ways I, I know. But allow me to focus on this one for a second.
The question is, who is us? You draw a circle, everyone inside it is us. Great. But where is the boundary — the place where us ends and them begins? How big can we make the circle? I don’t know the answer to that question. But I think, where I live, I can expand my circle of us, even if just a little bit.
When I was a kid growing up in Twin Falls Idaho, it would sometimes happen on summer evenings that my dad would fire up the home made ice cream machine.
There is nothing as distinctive as the nasal whine of the buzzing motor cranking that frothy mixture of milk and sugar into something thick and sweet and frozen. The sound would fill us kids with anticipation. Shivers in our bellies.
Ours was a cheap unit and my dad would have to sit next to the machine on a chair and free up the motor with his hands when it would stall. After a half-hour or so he’d lift the frosty cold canister from the wooden bucket of rock salt and ice. Suddenly all the neighbor kids would magically appear in our driveway. My mom would hand out bowls and spoons and we’d eat our fill as fast as our mouths would let us. It was an unqualified joy.
So I’m going to try something. An experiment.
My friend Laura helped me make a few little handmade flyers. Yesterday I started handing them out to the people on my street — knocking on doors, inviting them to my house this coming Sunday, for an ice cream social.
Just, pop over for a bowl of homemade ice cream and say hello. Everyone welcome.
I have all kinds of neighbors. Young families, white folks, black folks, famous musicians, student renters, a couple people I’m pretty sure voted for Trump. All of us living right next to each other, basically never communicating beyond a wave from the sidewalk.
But what would it look like if we — for the time it takes to eat a little ice cream — act like the neighbors we are, for one hour, one time? I say let’s try it.
The Sunday Social Ice Cream Hour. Folks will come at 6. We’ll be done by 7:30 at the latest. Maybe a lot sooner if no one comes!
Either way I’m gonna do this again and again. I can be fairly relentless when I’ve made up my mind.
It might be amazing. It might be awkward. I don’t know!
The thing is, we have nothing to lose. It’s clear that doing what we’ve been doing is no longer acceptable. For me, change begins at seeing what’s in front of you. Seeing who’s in front of you. Just saying “Hey! What’s Up? Who are you?”
I’m not trying to claim this is the answer. But it might be an answer. To see if we can draw that circle a little bigger. White people living in mixed neighborhoods have a unique opportunity in this critical moment.
And that’s what I have felt these last few days: if not me, who?
Hey man, come over to my house. Bring your kids. Let’s hang out for a few minutes.
Maybe it’s a start. The invites are out. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I’m sorry Mr. Floyd. You didn’t die in vain. My prayer is that some small good can come of this. Maybe we can be a little more whole.
Korby is a writer/producer and singer/songwriter. He currently lives in Nashville.
George Floyd with his baby girl, Gianna.
A gofundme fundraising page has been created for Gianna.
From author Seth Godin:
“When a problem appears too large, too intractable and too unspeakable to deal with, it’s easy to give up.
There never seems to be enough time, enough resources or enough money to make the big problems go away.
Perhaps we can start with a very small part of it. One person, one opportunity, one connection.
Drip by drip, with commitment.”
Dorothy Day [1997-1980], journalist and social activist, was 8 years old on the night of April 18th, 1906, living in Oakland, during the San Francisco earthquake.
‘There were broken dishes all over the floor, along with books, chandeliers, and pieces of the ceiling and chimney. The city was in ruins, too, temporarily reduced to poverty and need. But in the days after, Bay Area residents pulled together. “While the crisis lasted, people loved each other,” she wrote in her memoir decades later. “It was as though they were united in [compassionate] solidarity. It makes one think of how people could, if they would, care for each other in times of stress, unjudgingly in pity and love” [David Brooks, The Road to Character, 2015, pp. 74-75.].’
‘Writer and editor Paul Elie has said, “A whole life is prefigured in that episode”…the crisis, the tense of God’s nearness, the awareness of poverty, the feeling of loneliness and abandonment, but also the sense that that loneliness can be filled by love and community, especially through solidarity with those in the deepest need [Brooks, p. 75].’
The most startling thing about disasters, according to award-winning author Rebecca Solnit, is not merely that so many people rise to the occasion, but that they do so with joy. That joy reveals an ordinarily unmet yearning for community, purposefulness, and meaningful work that disaster often provides.
A Paradise Built in Hell is an investigation of the moments of altruism, resourcefulness, and generosity that arise amid disaster’s grief and disruption and considers their implications for everyday life. It points to a new vision of what society could become-one that is less authoritarian and fearful, more collaborative and local.
“What is this feeling that crops up during so many disasters?” Ms. Solnit asks. She describes it as “an emotion graver than happiness but deeply positive,” worth studying because it provides “an extraordinary window into social desire and possibility.” Our response to disaster gives us nothing less than “a glimpse of who else we ourselves may be and what else our society could become.” Her overarching thesis can probably be boiled down to this sentence: “The recovery of this purpose and closeness without crisis or pressure” without disaster, that is “is the great contemporary task of being human.”
In “A Paradise Built in Hell” Ms. Solnit probes five disasters in depth: the 1906 earthquake and fires in San Francisco, the Halifax munitions cargo ship explosion of 1917, the Mexico City earthquake of 1985, the events of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. She also writes about the London blitz, Chernobyl and many other upheavals and examines the growing field of disaster studies .
It is not more bigness that should be our goal. It must be to bring people back to … the warmth of community, to the worth of individual effort and responsibility … and of individuals working together as a community to better their lives and their children’s future. -Robert F. Kennedy
Each of us must rededicate ourselves to serving the common good. We are a community. Our individual fates are linked; our futures intertwined. And if we act in that knowledge and in that spirit together, as the Bible says, ‘We can move mountains.’ -Jimmy Carter
“Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.”
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
A. Philip Randolph organized the March on Washington where Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. He was a civil rights activist, a labor organizer, and instrumental to desegregating the military.
“Yet in reality, she was only an abandoned child, a little girl surviving on her own in a swamp, hungry and cold, but we didn’t help her. Except for one of her only friends, Jumpin’, not one of our churches or community groups offered her food or clothes. Instead, we labeled and rejected her because we thought was was different. But, ladies and gentlemen, did we exclude Miss Clark because she was different, or was she different because we excluded her? If we had taken her in as one of our own, I think that is what she would be today, If we had fed, clothed, and loved her, invited her into our churches and homes, we wouldn’t be prejudiced against her.”
-Poet and theologian, Pádraig Ó Tuama’s work centres around themes of language, religion, conflict and art.
Like many “adult” things I try to explain to her (daughter) these days, this one made little intuitive sense. “Because he doesn’t want our neighbors to be able to get in,” I said.
Our president’s desire for a wall has all but brought our country to a standstill. And while his unforgivable dehumanization of immigrants is deeply rooted in white supremacy, the morning chat with my daughter reminds me that it’s also deeply rooted in America’s obsession with private ownership.
I might not be a white supremacist, but I live in a neighborhood — as you likely do — where we live among fences and organize our lives around the maintenance of our own homes and cars and possessions. When those in the upper middle class need help, as we inevitably do, we hire someone — a house cleaner, a childcare provider, an in-home nurse. We underpay these people and keep them off of our social media feeds. In that way, it’s not just our physical surroundings and stuff that we maintain with a lot of attention and energy; it’s our performance of self-sufficiency.
Each day, in a hundred little ways, elite American families build a mental wall between ourselves — capable, efficient, and deserving — and the others — the weak, sick, addicted, uneducated, undeserving. We may even pity the latter, but we don’t — as a rule — believe that our thriving has anything to do with their struggle. Not really. We have our house, our car, our country. They have theirs.
We may have more empathy for immigrants than President Trump, but our daily actions don’t teach our children that each human being on this planet deserves dignity. We tell our kids to share but do little of it ourselves. Maybe, in addition to fighting his walls and his white supremacy, we should be doing more to welcome our own suffering neighbors.
In other words, where are the places where neglect and a lack of moral imagination exist in my life and in the life of my family? I’m trying not to just tell the story over and over again about how much I abhor this president’s politics, but also tell a new story about us.
‘You have a vision and keep at it, bit by bit it will happen.’
‘Let’s take a moment to go back in time.
For most of human history, we lived in small groups of about 50 people. Everyone knew everybody. If you told a lie, stole someone’s dinner, or failed to defend the group against its enemies, there was no way to disappear into the crowd. Everyone knew you, and you would get punished.
But in the last 12,000 years or so, human groups began to expand. It became more difficult to identify and punish the cheaters and free riders. So we needed something big — really big. An epic force that could see what everyone was doing, and enforce the rules. That force, according to social psychologist Asim Shariff, was the popular idea of a “supernatural punisher” – also known as God.
Think of the vengeful deity of the Hebrew Bible, known for sending punishments like rains of burning sulfur and clouds of locusts, look and lice.
“It’s an effective stick to deter people from immoral behavior,” says Shariff.
For Shariff and other researchers who study religion through the lens of evolution, religion can be seen as a cultural innovation, similar to fire, tools or agriculture. He says the vibrant panoply of religious rituals and beliefs we see today – including the popular belief in a punishing God – emerged in different societies at different times as mechanisms to help us survive as a species.
This week on Hidden Brain, we explore a provocative idea about the origin, and purpose, of the world’s religions.’
-The Hidden Brain/NPR
The political is spiritual.
‘A farm in not a farm without its barn.’
- stewardship of the Earth
- and peace.
From a friend:
“All of us, culturally, and each of us individually, has a piece of the puzzle, a part of the answer; I don’t quite know the question, but I believe that the answer is peace.”
There is simplicity…ease…in kindness, inclusivity, and compassion. Complexity and chaos are created when we allow ‘other’, dominance, greed, and power.
Grace is born in community, communication, and care.
A new paradigm, therefore, is created locally, which in turn effects the collective.
Not government, or policy, or military.
We, the people, can embrace our own dialogue, and meaning, without outside influences born of profit, and alternative motive.
’It’s not that there are no difference—the world is made of infinite variety—rather it is the seizing of differences, the fearing of differences, that keeps us from feeling grace.
Paradoxically, everything in life touches the same center through its uniqueness, the way no two souls are the same, though every soul breathes the same air.
The mind’s worst diseas: the endless deciding between want and don’t want, the endless war between for and against.’ -Mark Nepo
‘Living in community means living in such a way that others can access me and influence my life and that I can get “out of myself” and serve the lives of others. Community is a world where brotherliness and sisterliness are possible. By community, I don’t mean primarily a special kind of structure, but a network of relationships. On the whole, we live in a society that’s built not on community and cooperation but on individuality, greed, and competition—often resulting in oppressive economic systems, unnecessary suffering, and environmental devastation.
Today we might call powers and principalities our collective cultural moods, mass consciousness, or any institutions considered “too big to fail.” These are our idols. We are mostly oblivious to this because we take all our institutions as normal civilization and absolutely inevitable. It is the “absolutely” that makes us blind and allows us to make passing structures into complete idols. Because we partly profit from these frequently collective evils, it doesn’t look like evil at all—but something good and necessary. For instance, I’ve never once heard a sermon against the tenth commandment, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods,” because in our culture that’s the only game in town. It is called capitalism, and we live comfortably because of it. It is only our unwillingness to question such powers and principalities, or in any way limit them (which is worship), which makes them into a false god. “The angels of darkness must always disguise themselves as angles of light.
(see 2 Corinthians 11:(14-15)
The individual is largely helpless and harmless standing against the system of disguise and illusion. Thankfully, we’re seeing many people, religious and secular, from all around the world, coming together to form alternative communities for sharing resources, living simply, and imagining a sustainable and nonviolent future. It is hard to imagine there will be a future without them.’
Enlightening & educational interview with Dave Davies speaking to the importance of identity, community & purpose, combined with vulnerability. Excellent dialogue.
‘A Former Neo-Nazi Explains Why Hate Drew Him In — And How He Got Out’
“…after eight years as a neo-Nazi, Picciolini began to question the hateful ideology he espoused. He remembers a specific incident in which he was beating a young black man. His eyes locked with his victim, and he felt a surprising empathy.
It was a turning point. He withdrew from the movement and in 2011 co-founded Life After Hate, a nonprofit that counsels members of hate groups and helps them disengage.
So it was the fear rhetoric. … I can tell you that every single person that I recruited or that was recruited around the same time that I did, up to now, up to what we’re seeing today, is recruited through vulnerabilities and not through ideology.
In fact, I had never in my life engaged in a meaningful dialogue with the people that I thought I hated, and it was these folks who showed me empathy when I least deserved it, and they were the ones that I least deserved it from. I started to recognize that I had more in common with them than the people I had surrounded myself for eight years with — that these people, that I thought I hated, took it upon themselves to see something inside of me that I didn’t even see myself
Here we are in 2018 and we have a lot of hallmarks coming from political figures, the administration and policies that are very similar to what we espoused 30 years ago. … It is a white supremacist culture that is being pushed.”
[A couple of weeks before the end of President Obama’s White House, Life After Hate received a $400,000 grant to continue their work. After the new administration took office in 2017, the grant was rescinded. Comedian Samantha Bee brought awareness to the situation and helped raise $500,000 for the organization.]
Science’s Next Frontier? It’s Civic Engagement
by Louise Lief
‘…scientists’ problems run deeper. According to a number of recent surveys, there has been a rapid decline in knowledge about and sympathy for scientists and the institutions where many of them work, particularly among Republican and Republican-leaning voters. Politicians from the same party who now govern in over 32 states, the White House, and Congress are aware of these sentiments.
These developments point to an urgent need for the scientific community to rethink the enterprise and reintroduce science to the public as a trusted, non-partisan civic actor, a collaborator that can help communities address their problems, and partners in a dialogue where each party brings its unique lived experiences to the table. Scientists need to create more portals to the public, and the citizen science community may be best situated to lead this transformation.
There is evidence that the public is hungry for such exchanges. When Research!America asked the public in 2016 how important is it for scientists to inform elected officials and the public about their research and its impact on society, 84 percent said it was very or somewhat important — a number that ironically mirrors the percentage of Americans who cannot name a scientist.
Recently, I have focused on civic engagement, studying how communities try to identify and address collective problems and apply collaborative problem solving. There is a central role for scientists in this effort.
To better introduce themselves to the public, it makes sense for scientists to work with civic institutions the public already trusts. Arizona State University’s efforts to partner with local public libraries is one such step that helps root citizen science programs in communities, creating a natural alliance of knowledge seekers, science, and public engagement, and establishing community feedback loops. (Full disclosure, Cavalier is the PI of this initiative, supported by the Institute for Museum and Library Services.)
Scientists need to be present at these tables, and practice those deep listening skills. At a minimum you will meet new people and gain new insights. But you may also make valuable new connections, find new collaborators, and most important of all, forge stronger bonds with your community. Don’t underestimate the power of the data you collect and create to impact community decision making.
News note: During the height of the Cold War, Esalen launched the Soviet-American Exchange Program, and a series of Soviet-American citizen diplomacy gatherings, organized by Michael and Dulce Murphy and others. At these meetings held at Esalen, Joseph Montville coined the phrase “track-two diplomacy”, which is now a well-recognized diplomatic method. This work led to the first spacebridges which enabled Soviet and American citizens to speak directly with one another via satellite communication, along with multiple other projects. The following article was written by Joseph Montville for Stratfor Enterprises, LLC and republished with their permission.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev recently wrote an op-ed that, amid the many conflicts brewing around the globe today, recalls an era of diplomacy worth revisiting. In the Oct. 11 column, he expressed fear that the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty he signed with former U.S. President Ronald Reagan in December 1987 is at risk of collapse. Though 80 percent of the nuclear weapons that the United States and the Soviet Union accumulated during the Cold War have been decommissioned and destroyed, and both sides have complied with the deal’s strategic weapons clauses, the INF faces stiff opposition in each country today.
“Track two diplomacy is a process designed to assist official leaders to resolve or, in the first instance, to manage conflicts by exploring solutions out of public view and without requirements to formally negotiate or bargain for advantage. Track two diplomacy seeks political formulas or scenarios which might satisfy the basic security and esteem needs of the parties to a particular dispute. On its more general level, it seeks to promote an environment in a political community, through the education of public opinion, that would make it safer for political leaders to take risks for peace.”
Treading Where Diplomats Cannot
As today’s headlines make clear, the American public is becoming increasingly concerned that Trump’s policies on North Korea could precipitate a disastrous conventional war capable of destroying Seoul and its millions of citizens, along with tens of thousands of Americans living in South Korea. Many worry that Japan, too, may become a target of Pyongyang’s short-range nuclear missiles.
In an Oct. 22 interview, Carter showed some sympathy for Trump while reiterating his recent offer to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The former president has a history of intervening in tense conflicts. He went to North Korea in 1994 to head off a potential war, reportedly annoying then-President Bill Clinton. Later that year, he persuaded Haiti’s leaders (this time with Clinton’s approval) to peacefully leave the country in order to fend off a U.S. invasion. Of course, Carter has never felt bound by strict instructions from the White House if he believes they reduce the chances of a peaceful resolution to conflict. His chief focus is eliminating violence; that’s the way he is.
North Korea has already been the subject of many Track Two initiatives, even if the North Korean participants in those talks could never be considered unofficial. According to journalist M.J. Zuckerman’s major cover story “Track II Diplomacy: Averting Disaster,” published in 2005, the Carnegie Corporation of New York supported several “Track 1.5″ meetings that eventually yielded a deal to resume formal negotiations among the six-party nuclear group made up of North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.
I now realize that properly done Track Two does not seek to ‘get in the way’ of Track One diplomacy, as those in office sometimes fear, but rather to complement it, often by going to places where Track One is unable to tread and by tackling subjects it cannot approach.”
I began to discover that human maturity comes as we begin to bring out heads and hearts together.
-Humanitarian Jean Vanier
“I commit to cultivating community by finding kindred spirits along the path, soul friends with whom I can share my deepest longings, and mentors who can offer guidance and wisdom for the journey.”
#3/The Monk Manifesto
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“It is for [us] to understand that nothing happens as a punishment but rather as a lesson. It is our birthright that we should learn and grow from life. It doesn’t matter what the circumstance; look for the spiritual truth. Look for the light behind every bit of darkness. We are here to learn and grow and become. There are no accidents. When we realize that everything is happening for our spiritual growth, we can ask, ‘What am I to learn from this?’ ‘What possible good is in this situation?'”
-Science of Mind
︶⁀°• •° ⁀︶
“So much of the time we think our good is somewhere down the line, that we will be ‘king our purpose’ at some time in the future. Well, surprise. You are living your purpose right now – each word out of your mouth, each action you take.”
-Rev. Karen S. Wylie
︶⁀°• •° ⁀︶
Alfonso Montuori, California Institute of Integral Studies:
“According to neuroscientist Anil Seth, we’re all hallucinating all the time; when we agree about our hallucinations, we call it “reality.”
Neuroscientist explains how your brain hallucinates your conscious reality:
I am because you are, you are because I am.
It is something that I have always believed in that in the ignited space of our deepest suffering, in the release of our deepest fears, in the familiar peace of our deepest joys, we are each other. I have been finding it in every path, in every way … in Martin Buber’s sense of I-Thou, where only in keeping what-is-between-us real can God appear … in the gift of Jesus, where two or more of you come together, there I am … in the one compassion of Buddha … in the numinous love that ancient stones manage if we are still enough to bow to them. Ubuntu … I am because you are, even in how we live off the breath of plants, you are because I am, even in how plants live off our exhalations.
We need each other to be complete.
-Mark Nepo’s, The Book of Awakening
“Piety is something you do alone,” he says. “True freedom, spirituality, can only be achieved in community.”
On Being with Krista Tippett
“…I was searching for that elusive thing that all of us search for. Most of the time we’re not even conscious of it, but we’re searching for ourselves in an authentic way. We want to recognize the person we see in the mirror, and embrace that person with all the brokenness and lackluster, all the things that only we are aware of in the depths of our being.”