Parker Palmer

Every Day Is Extra

December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas
~
Former Senator and Secretary of State John Kerry began his conversation at the Community Library in Ketchum, Idaho with these words: “Our country is in trouble, our democracy at risk.” I was in that moment grateful for Executive Director Dr. Jenny Emery Davidson’s own preface before introducing Mr. Kerry. She read words written by Walt Whitman on the eve of the Civil War in his preface to ‘Leaves of Grass’: This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men — go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with the mothers of families — re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the richest fluency, not only in its words, but in the silent lines of its lips and face, and between the lashes of your eyes, and in every motion and joint of your body.” Author and educator Parker Palmer once wrote about these same words, “I love the grounded quality of Whitman’s counsel. In it, I find a powerful antidote to our tendency to get distracted by bling, to lust after shiny things, to bow down to false authority and lose our souls in the process.” Mr. Kerry reminded our community of hope’s possibility and reason for optimism, to put our country over party, and ”have patience and indulgence toward the people.”

Walt Whitman, 1855

~

Conversation with John Kerry by The Community Library, Ketchum, Idaho

Saturday, December 22, 2018

4 pm

https://livestream.com/comlib/johnkerry

Holiday Love.

December 6, 2018

“Many of us are longing to experience a season of joy, but we feel winter’s darkness spreading in the midst of relentless violence, cruelty, and dehumanization. Here at the Revolutionary Love Project, we believe that if we pause to breathe together, we can find wisdom, even joy, inside the struggle.

This holiday season, we are excited to offer you a short series of video conversations with thought leaders in our movement who offer deep wisdom — Parker Palmer, America Ferrera, Sharon Brous, Traci Blackmon and more.

Here is your first gem! A conversation with author, activist, teacher and luminary Parker Palmer and our founder Valarie Kaur at Middle Church’s 2018 Revolutionary Love Conference. Parker and Valarie have developed a remarkable intergenerational friendship: He offers her insights drawn from decades of experience; she inspires him with a next-generation vision of fighting for justice. In the course of their friendship, Parker has come to call Valarie’s framework for Revolutionary Love “the new non-violence.”

Watch their conversation before a live audience as they reflect on life and death and love.”

http://valariekaur.com/2018/12/wisdom-parker-palmer-holiday-treasure-chest#video

No human is illegal.

September 12, 2018

I recently met a professor who left a predominantly white college to teach undocumented youth in Souther California. When I asked him how it was going, he said, “Best move I ever made. My previous students felt entitled and demanded to be entertained. My undocumented students are hungry to learn, hard working,  and courageous enough to keep moving beyond their comfier zones.”

America will be renewed by people with those qualities. And if we who have privilege and power will welcome them, collaborate with them, and help remove the obstacles in their way, the years ahed will be full of promise for all of us.

-Parker Palmer, On the Brink of Everything

CNSNews.com

Susan Jones/Sept. 12, 2018

https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/susan-jones/ice-issues-proposed-rule-keep-families-together-pending-immigration-rulings

On Sept. 7, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) issued a proposed regulation that would make it easier for the government to detain adults along with their children — but even that family unity plan is controversial.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) on Tuesday night accused the Trump administration of intending to “establish internment camps to lock up children behind barbed wire.”

“So we’re going from the horrendous policy of ripping children out of their parents’ arms, and of course we’re still trying to reunify all those families — to a new strategy of building internment camps that would be funded through…I.C.E.”

Merkley told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow he has obtained a document showing that the Department of Homeland Security is taking $10 million out of the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) budget and is transferring that $10 million to ICE to support detention centers where children could stay with their parents or legal guardians.

Until recently, the Trump administration was essentially arresting the adults, then putting their children in custody of centers run by the Health and Human Services Department.

Merkley and Maddow noted that the $10 million cut out of FEMA’s budget happened at the start of hurricane season, and now, with all eyes on the approaching Hurricane Florence, they criticized the transfer:

“So $10 million comes out of FEMA when we’re facing a hurricane season, knowing what happened last year,” Merkley said. “And then look what we’ve had since, a hurricane just barely missed Hawaii; a tropical storm that almost became a hurricane hit Mississippi; and now we have this hurricane Florence bearing down on the Carolinas.”

Merkley said he finds it “extraordinary” that the Trump administration would take money from FEMA’s response and recovery budget to build what he calls “family internment camps.”

“And we haven’t done anything like that since World War II,” Merkley said. “It absolutely comes from a dark and evil place in the heart of this administration. They’re going from one strategy of inflicting trauma on children to a new strategy that they’re trying to implement to inflict trauma on children, all to send, as Jeff sessions says, a message of deterrence to discourage people who are fleeing persecution from ever considering arriving on the shores of the United States of America.” 

(Merkley said much the same thing on CNN Wednesday morning.)

~

“We have been taught that in the annihilation of a mail, the ancient virtue of the family is destroyed. And in the destruction of the virtue and traditions of a people, vice and impiety overwhelm the whole race.”

Bhagavad Gita

Your energies, your gifts, your vision.

August 11, 2018

No one ever died saying, I’m so glad for the self-centered, self-serving, and self-protective life I lived.” Offer yourself to the world–your energies your gifts, your visions, your spirit–with open-hearted generosity. 

-Parker Palmer


“Life has set the stamp of individuality on your soul. You are different from any other person who ever lived. You are an individualized center in the Consciousness of God. You are an individualized activity in the Action of God. You are you, and you are eternal. Begin to live today as the immortal being you are and all thought of death, all fear of change will slip from you. You will step out of the tomb of uncertainty into the light of eternal day.”                                                            

-Ernest Holmes

We are here to live out loud. -Emile Zola

“Imagine if birds only sang when heard. If musicians only played when approved of. If poets only spoke when understood.” 

“Remove your human hesitation. As you inhale, feel what rises in you. At the top of your breath, blink the mind shut like an eye. As you exhale, let the feeling sound from you, no matter how softly.

-Mark Nepo

Revolutionary ❤

July 28, 2018

David Whyte

Heartbreak is unpreventable; the natural outcome of caring for people and things over which we have no control

Heartbreak begins the moment we are asked to let go but cannot, in other words, it colors and inhabits and magnifies each and every day; heartbreak is not a visitation, but a path that human beings follow through even the most average life. Heartbreak is an indication of our sincerity: in a love relationship, in a life’s work, in trying to learn a musical instrument, in the attempt to shape a better more generous self. Heartbreak is the beautifully helpless side of love and affection and is [an] essence and emblem of care… Heartbreak has its own way of inhabiting time and its own beautiful and trying patience in coming and going.

Maria Popova:

“Words belong to each other,” Virginia Woolf asserted in the only surviving recording of her voice. But words also belong to us, as much as we belong to them — and out of that mutual belonging arises our most fundamental understanding of the world, as well as the inescapable misunderstandings that bedevil the grand sensemaking experiment we call life.

David Whyte:

Heartbreak is how we mature; yet we use the word heartbreak as if it only occurs when things have gone wrong: an unrequited love, a shattered dream… But heartbreak may be the very essence of being human, of being on the journey from here to there, and of coming to care deeply for what we find along the way.

[…]

There is almost no path a human being can follow that does not lead to heartbreak.

Then, p. 113-115 in Consolations:

Hiding is a way of staying alive. Hiding is a way of holding ourselves until we are ready to come into the light. Hiding is one of the brilliant and virtuoso practices of almost every part of the natural world: the protective quiet of an icy northern landscape, the held bud of a future summer rose, the snowbound internal pulse of the hibernating bear. Hiding is underestimated. We are hidden by life in our mother’s womb until we grow and ready ourselves for our first appearance in the lighted world; to appear to early in that world is to find ourselves with the immediate necessity for outside intensive care.

Hiding is an act of freedom from the misunderstanding of others, especially in the enclosing world of oppressive secret government and private entities, attempting to name us, to anticipate us, to leave us with no place to hide and grow in ways unmanaged by a creeping necessity for absolution naming, absolute tracking and absolute control. Hiding is a bid for independence from others, from mistaken ideas we have about ourselves, from an oppressive and mistaken wish to keep us completely safe, completely ministered to,and therefor completely managed. Hiding is creative, necessary and beautifully submerse of outside interference and control. Hiding leaves life to itself Hiding is the radical independence necessary four our emergence into the light of a proper human future.

Parker Palmer

p. 161:

Suffering breaks our hearts, but the heart can break in two quite different ways. There’s the brittle heart that breaks into shards, shattering the one who suffers as it explodes, and sometimes taking others down when it’s thrown like a grenade at the ostensible source of its pain. Then there’s the supple heart, the one that breaks open, not apart, the one that can grow into great capacity for the many forms of love. Only the supple heart can hold suffering in a way that opens to new life.

p.39:

We both know that everyone has inner wisdom, and that one of the best ways to evoke it is in dialogue.

p. 161

Does a nation-state have a heart that can become supple enough to respond to collective suffering without violence?[…] I am not going to yield to cynicism. There are enough real-world facts and possibilities to justify hope.

p. 172

Pay attention to what’s right here, right now, and you’ll be rewarded immediately–the Beloved Community is in our midst.

pp. 117-188

Keep reaching out means saying to the world, “I’m still a member of this community. I have a voice and things I need to say, and I want to be part of the conversation.” Seeking Sanctuary is about finding the solace and support we need when our engagement with the rough-and-tumble world of politics starts to cost us our physical and mental well-being. I’m a Quaker. I stand in a religious tradition that asks me to live by such values as community, equality, simplicity, and nonviolence.

Recognize manipulations of

F

E

A

R

“Violence is what happens when we don’t know what to do with our suffering.” [Palmer]

Valarie Kaur is a civil rights activist whose personal lens is colored through feminism and inspired by the Sikh concept of the warrior-saint.

p. 157:

Valarie is redefining and reviving the great tradition of nonviolent action in terms that respond to what Martin Luther kIng Jr. called “The fierce urgency of now.”

Quoting Thomas Merton:

“Loving God is a piece of cake compared to loving another human being. Being human is harder than being holy.”

Revolutionary Love

 

Declaration of Revolutionary Love:

We declare love even for our opponents. We vow to oppose all executive orders and policies that threaten the rights and dignity of any person. We call upon our elected officials to join us, and we are prepared to engage in moral resistance throughout this administration. We will fight not with violence or vitriol, but by challenging the cultures and institutions that promote hate. In so doing, we will challenge our opponents through the ethic of love.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Enlightenment for a wave is the moment the wave realizes that it is water. At that moment, all fear of death disappears.

Profoundly, grace comes to the wave when it realizes what it is made of. Since it has risen from the very same water into which it will crash its fear of ending is somehow lessened. For it is already a part of where it is going. Can it be that you and I, like simple waves experience such an enlightenment the instant we realize that we are all made of the same water? […] I think now that the other way to read all t his is to say that enlightenment is the moment we realize that we are made of love. At that moment, all fear of living disappears. For grace comes to the heart when it realizes what it is made of and what it has risen from.

-Mark Nepo, The Book Of Awakening

“The ‘Go away’ tribe believes that human beings by nature are self-serving and untrustworthy, in need of control. The ‘Go away’ tribe believes in stringent laws and constraints, both moral and legal, to ensure that people don’t run amok. The ‘Come, teach me’ tribe believes that human beings by nature are kind and trustworthy. The ‘Come, teach’ tribe believes in cultivating laws that empower freedom, to ensure that people actualize their gifts through relationship.

While Mark was a perceptive diagnostician of the modern world, offering insights into the human cost of industrialization. Marx foresaw that capitalism and industrialization break people from their true nature. In time, the modern world alienates from our true selves, which leads to fear and the strident calls of the “Go away’ tribe. Regardless of the type of government we support, there is always the need to repair that brokenness and to restore us to our true nature–from which we rediscover, one more time, that we are more together than alone.”

What we see across the devoid is us. We have created the systems we suffer under.”


Walter Starke

I realized that the spiritualization of our nation’s corporations is the most important development that can possibly happen for the spiritual growth of the the world as a whole.

The power of organized people.

July 10, 2018

Richard Rohr

Center For Action & Contemplation

People have good reasons to be angry and afraid today. Poverty, racism, climate change, and so many other injustices are causing real suffering for much of the world. Unfortunately, dualistic and oppositional energies cannot bring the change we so desperately need; we cannot fight angry power with more angry power. Only the contemplative mind has the ability to hold the reality of what is and the possibility of what could be. Unless our hearts are transformed, our fears will continue to manipulate our politics, reinforcing a polarized and divided society.

Quaker activist and teacher Parker Palmer has a hopeful, but not Pollyannaish, view. He writes:

Human beings have a well-demonstrated capacity to hold the tension of differences in ways that lead to creative outcomes and advances. It is not an impossible dream to believe we can apply that capacity to politics. In fact, our capacity for creative tension-holding is what made the American experiment possible in the first place. . . . America’s founders—despite the bigotry that limited their conception of who “We the People” were—had the genius to establish [a] form of government in which differences, conflict, and tension were understood not as the enemies of a good social order but as the engines of a better social order.

As “We the People” retreat from the public square and resort to private gripe sessions with those who think like us, we create a vacuum at the center of America’s public life. Politics abhors a vacuum as much as nature does, so nondemocratic powers rush in to fill the void—especially the power called “big money.” . . .

When the Supreme Court gave big money even more power [in the 2010 Citizens United decision], it made many Americans feel even more strongly that their small voices do not count. . . . Wrongly held, our knowledge of the power wielded by big money can accelerate our retreat from politics, discouraging us from being the participants that democracy demands and reducing us to mere spectators of a political game being played exclusively by “them.” 

Palmer quotes Bill Moyers: “The antidote, the only antidote, to the power of organized money in Washington is the power of organized people.” 

Care & Action

March 26, 2018

”…it’s about caring for our shared world, lest we let it sleep away through inattention and neglect. […] The active threats to that world have multiplied many times over. There’s a new urgency about paying attention and responding to what we see. The Powers that Be are intent on ‘disappearing’ so much that million of Americans care about—pristine wilderness, clean air and water, affordable health care for all, the social safety net, and mutual respect in the midst of diversity.”

Parker Palmer/On Being

What can a person do to help bring back the world?

We have to watch it and then look at a each other.

Together we hold it close and carefully save it, like a bubble that can disappear

if we don’t watch out.

-William Stafford

[full article: https://onbeing.org/blog/parker-palmer-to-watch-the-world-and-then-each-other]

_______

Reclaiming this nation starts with reclaiming our attention.

The next time you open up the newspaper or sit down in front of your computer or open an app on your phone to inform yourself about the day’s news, take a moment to set an intention of reading majority non-DT-related news. If you do read a piece related to him, attempt to privilege the information that is about his actions, not his style. When you are in a conversation with someone and it veers down the path of deconstructing something DT has said, intentionally steer it away. Take something you learned while de-prioritizing him and offer it up to your conversation partner. Be part of the solution — highlighting the world around us that has been deeply and poisonously overshadowed by the political climate of the last year and more.

Media obviously has a role to play here, but so do all of us. Our consumption patterns determine what media producers focus on during the next cycle. What we talk about with our friends, neighbors, families all contribute to either feeding or starving this obsession with big politics, as opposed to science, art, our communities, and so much more.

I’m not advocating for disengagement. There’s never been a more important time, at least in my lifespan, for citizens to lean in hard to our duty — to be aware, to be awake, to take action. But obsessing over tweets doesn’t count as civic duty. It’s rubbernecking, not awareness building, and it’s making us feel more disconnected than ever before. Reclaiming this nation starts with reclaiming our attention, our daily media practices, our everyday conversations.”

-Courtney Martin, Columnist

A more perfect union.

October 29, 2016

afterimage

Losing Our Illusions

A few years ago, my wife and I spent a week hiking on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, returning to a comfortable room at the lodge each night for what I fondly call “roughing it.” As we set out on our day hikes, we’d often see kids messing around at the edge of the Canyon where it would be easy to slip, fall, and die. If their parents were watching, they weren’t saying anything, and the kids responded to our warnings with the gimlet eye.

When we met a park ranger on the trail, I told him I was baffled by this parental neglect. He shook his head and said:

I’m not sure it’s outright neglect. A surprising number of folks think of the Canyon as a theme park, a fantasy land that may look dangerous but isn’t, where hidden nets will save you from injury or death. Every day I have to remind some people that the Canyon is real, and so are the consequences of a fall of hundreds of feet. I guess some people prefer illusions to reality — even though illusions can kill you.

The ranger named a problem larger and more pervasive than the fantasy that the Grand Canyon is Arizona’s Disneyland. We Americans prefer illusions to realityat every level of our common life, even though illusions can kill us. Why? Because indulging our illusions comforts us — especially when they’re supported by a culture that loves to play “let’s pretend.”

That culture goes back at least as far as 1776 when America proclaimed the “self-evident” truth that all people are created equal — then proceeded to disenfranchise women, commit genocide against Native Americans, and build an economy on the backs of enslaved human beings. Today, our culture of illusions threatens to take us over the edge, not only on basic issues of justice but in critical sectors of our society like education, religion, and politics.

Let’s start with education. Educating a child is a challenging job, especially when we get real about the world in which kids live. It’s a world where nearly one fourth of our children live in food-insufficient homes and come to school too hungry to learn; where public schools are starved for resources as the push to privatize K-12 education continues apace; where many kids need help with heartbreaking personal problems while schools can’t afford to hire counselors.

Truly educating a child would mean adapting to the circumstances of the children in our care, including such “extracurricular” services as providing morning nutrition for those who need it. We must teach core subjects, of course, and hold teachers accountable for results — but we also need to teach life skills like emotional intelligence, relational trust, and problem-solving. Put it all together, and truly educating a child is complex and costly, though not nearly as costly as failing to do so.

Confronted with hard realities, we’ve given up on educating children. Instead, we’ve become obsessed with non-stop high-stakes testing, driven by the illusion that passing standardized exams equals getting an education. One way or another, the test scores must go up — even if that means “teaching to the test,” or getting rid of “irrelevant” subjects like music and art that aren’t easily tested, or telling adults to alter kids’ answers if they are wrong.

Surely most of us know that being able to pass tests is a far cry from being educated. But in the face of education’s real challenges, we are too comforted by our illusions to mind the difference. In fact, we double down on our illusions by passing legislation (e.g., “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top”) that multiplies the damage done to our kids, their teachers, and our schools.

Who’s the “we” behind all this? You and I and all who make up “We the People” — we who have allowed our legislators to give the “testing illusion” the power of law and have voted down the tax hikes that real education requires.

The world of organized religion is another place where we often favor illusion over reality. No, I’m not about to argue that faith is fantasy. As a person of faith, I believe we have two eyes: the eye of the mind and the eye of the heart. With one we see the empirical world as known to science and reason. With the other we see invisible realities as known in the great spiritual traditions, including secular humanism. Only when our eyes work together can we see life steadily and see it whole, or so I believe.

The problem is that too many lay people in the Christian churches — the only form of organized religion I know personally, as an insider — have embraced the illusion that we can avoid spiritual challenges by hiring clerical proxies. As long as we’re in the pews on Sunday and there’s a clergyperson up front reading the Scriptures and preaching the Word, we can pretend we’re making a personal spiritual journey. In truth, we’re on a bus touring the Holy Land, while an ordained driver speaks into a mic, telling us what we’re seeing and what it means.

The sadness is that “real church” — where lay people as well as clergy do inner spiritual work — can make a difference in the real world. Need evidence? See the Civil Rights Movement, where the “habits of the heart” nurtured in the black church by generations of African Americans flowered in the nonviolent movement that advanced racial justice in the 1950s and 1960s.

Today, there are many clergy who want the church to reclaim that kind of reality. They work hard to encourage the ministry of the laity in places like the family, the workplace, and civil society, and to transform passive parishioners into active communities of support for such ministries.

But woe be to the clergyperson who pursues that vision too vigorously. More than a few have been pushed out by lay people who insist on having paid professional who will “do their religion” for them. The notion that a person can have a spiritual life by proxy is as illusory as the notion that good test scores equal being educated. This kind of religious unreality is one of the reasons many have left the church in search of spiritual nourishment: illusions are thin soup.

Then there’s politics, a field so rife with illusions it’s hard to know where to begin. But there’s one persistent American illusion that leaps out at me: “exceptionalism,” the claim that “the United States is the greatest nation on earth.” That’s a claim that frequently takes us beyond the virtue of national pride and into the sin of national arrogance.

What makes that claim illusory is, of course, the facts. On global rankings of many serious social ills, the U.S. scores poorly compared to other countries — but how many of us accept that simple reality? I’m talking about things like mass shootings and other gun deathsnumbers and percentages of incarcerated citizensinfant mortality rates, and child poverty and all that goes with it. Then there’s the fact that the evil practice of enslaving human beings is still with us in disguise, as Michelle Alexander has persuasively argued in The New Jim Crow.

If America’s founders were to come back to check things out — having had a lot of time to contemplate and do penance for their own mortal sins — I don’t believe they’d buy the idea that our task in 2016 is to make America great again. After Googling “Trail of Tears,” “Civil War,” “the Great Depression,” “Japanese internment camps,” and “Vietnam,” to name just a few, they’d ask us to choose a period in U.S. history of which it could truly be said, “Back then, we were great!”

Next, the founders would remind us that, as early as 1787, they knew that the truly great American task would never be to reclaim a mythical utopian era. Instead, it would be to work forever on forging “a more perfect Union” — and the founders gave us a suite of political institutions brilliantly designed to do exactly that. It’s not their fault that “We the People” have allowed our leaders to lay waste to those institutions in recent years.

I believe that most Americans want to take on the real problems bedeviling this country. Doing so demands that we dismantle the culture of illusions that blinds us to reality. Culture change is neither quick nor easy — it will take a long time to find our way through the smoke and mirrors. But all long journeys begin with one small step, so here’s a modest proposal: let’s reclaim “disillusionment” as a word that names a blessing rather than a curse.

When a friend says, “I’m so disillusioned!” about this or that, why do we say, “I’m so sorry! How can I help?” We ought to say, “Congratulations! You’ve just lost an illusion! That means you’ve moved that much closer to reality, the only place where it’s safe to stand!”

Right now we’re hip-deep in an election year that offers us a rare opportunity to become seriously disillusioned and more grounded in reality — not only about the state of the nation but of education and religion as well. When fact vs. fiction becomes a non-issue in politics, might it be because in school millions of us were taught to pass tests, but not to challenge claims, ask questions, do research, and think for ourselves? When millions of us find racism, bigotry, sexism, and xenophobia no barrier to high office, might it be because in church we let someone else “do religion” for us, allowing our unexamined inner lives to be polluted by a toxic fear of “otherness?”

As we lose our illusions, we’ll see reality more clearly and develop better solutions to our most pressing problems. As we embrace the fact that we don’t live in a theme park but on the rim of the Grand Canyon, we’ll understand the urgent need to walk ourselves and our kids back from the edge of the abyss onto solid ground.

This day called Independence.

July 3, 2016

fivehabitshealdemocracy-1920x1080

Neil Young

‘Was he thinkin’ about my country
Or the color of my skin?
Was he thinkin’ ’bout my religion
And the way I worshipped him?
Did he create just me in his image
Or every living thing?

When God made me

Was he planning only for believers
Or for those who just have faith?
Did he envision all the wars
That were fought in his name?
Did he say there was only one way
To be close to him?

When God made me

Did he give me the gift of love
To say who I could choose?

When God made me

Did he give me the gift of voice
So some could silence me?
Did he give me the gift of vision
Not knowing what I might see?
Did he give me the gift of compassion
To help my fellow man?

When God made me
~

What do we celebrate this Independence Day? Freedom? Democracy? Choice? Hope? Are we a democracy, a republic, an autocracy, or plutocracy? As Americans celebrate with parades, bar-b-q’s and boats, author, teacher, and speaker Parker Palmer writes this July 4th:

‘Given the deep concern many of us feel about this country—even as we celebrate all that’s good about it—these words from Terry Tempest Williams seem well worth pondering:

          “The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up—ever—trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy?”

Williams reminds us that what we need to preserve the great but fragile political legacy called democracy is not beyond our reach. It is very close at hand—as close as our own hearts.

Today and every day, let’s celebrate democracy as the great gift it is—and invite “the better angels of our nature” to overcome all that has threatened it from the day it was born.’

This country was founded on suffering, grounded in the annihilation of Native Americans, the brutality of slavery, and the struggle of immigrants. It was suffering born of power and greed. We live in the grace of those who sacrificed for a fantasized  ideal we call freedom and democracy. Racism, bigotry, mass incarceration, poverty, illness, homelessness, random acts of violence – –  is this democracy? We are governed and manipulated by the wealthy and false rhetoric.

Yes, the human heart, as Williams shares, is the ‘home of democracy’, but do our actions reflect the potentialities? Perhaps this outlook will seem dire and pessimistic. I offer, however, that the opposite of pessimism is not optimism, but activism. Therein lies our hope. Rebecca Solnit writes in her book, ‘Hope in the Dark (2016),’

‘This is an extraordinary time full of vital, transformative movements that could not be foreseen. It’s also a nightmarish time. Full engagement requires the ability to perceive both.’

[…]

‘Hope doesn’t mean denying these realities. It means facing them and addressing them by remembering what else the twenty-first century has brought, including the movements, heroes, and shifts in consciousness that address these things now.’

[…]

‘This has been a truly remarkable decade for movement-building, social change, and deep, profound shifts in ideas, perspective, and frameworks for broad parts of the population (and, of course, backlashes against all those things).’

Hope in activism, born of suffering. Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl writes in his book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning,’

‘Does all this suffering, dying around us, have meaning?’

[…]

Et lux in tenebris lucet:

‘And the light shineth in the darkness.’

Let us this Independence day celebrate the ‘last of the human freedoms,’ as Frankl taught us, ‘The ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.’

Love and hope in suffering is attitude that begets positive action, lest we suffer from indifference.

Elie Weisel:

‘And action is the only remedy to indifference, the most insidious danger of all.’

Nick Licata writes in his book, ‘Becoming a Citizen Activist,’

‘Every generation of students has the power to shape the future. A democracy only works when all citizens can fairly participate in it. Show up at the voting booths. Let our voices be heard. The power for changing the world lies—with us.’

Life on the Mobius Strip.

February 23, 2016

Parker Palmer:

‘If you take your index finger and trace what seems to be the outside surface, you suddenly find yourself on what seems to be the inside surface. Continue along what seems to be the inside surface, and you suddenly find yourself on what seems to be the outside surface.

I need to keep saying “what seems to be” because the Möbius strip has only one side! What look like its inner and outer surfaces flow into each other seamlessly, co-creating the whole. The first time I saw a Möbius strip, I thought, “Amazing! That’s exactly how life works!”

Whatever is inside of us continually flows outward, helping to form or deform the world — depending on what we send out. Whatever is outside us continually flows inward, helping to form or deform us — depending on how we take it in. Bit by bit, we and our world are endlessly re-made in this eternal inner-outer exchange.

Much depends on what we choose to put into the world from within ourselves — and much depends on how we handle what the world sends back to us. As Thomas Merton said:

“We don’t have to adjust to the world. We can adjust the world.”

Here’s the question I’ve been asking myself ever since I understood that we live our lives on the Möbius strip:

“How can I make more life-giving choices about what to put into the world and how to deal with what the world sends back — choices that might bring new life to me, to others, and to the world we share?”

mobius-strip

 

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April 28, 2015

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