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Archive for May, 2019

Do you know, do you comprehend, in the moment, who or what you serve? –Maya Angelou

Consider: Global Warming/Climate Change.  It seems clear to me that addressing (remember ‘addressing’ does not equate with ‘solving’) global warming and climate change via putting curbs on CO2 emissions have to do with the ‘Public’ not the ‘Private’ sphere (the focus is on the ‘Public’ more than the ‘Private’ even though there are steps each of us ‘privately’ can take in order to help curb emissions).

I am thinking of the fellow I chatted with a number of years ago.  During our conversation about curbing CO2 emissions he became quite animated and said: ‘Sure, I want to lower CO2 emissions, but am I going to wait around for the local bus to take me home at the end of my work day?’  He paused, then smiled wryly and continued: ‘Anyway, they discontinued that bus line.’ 

Now, as a ‘Consumer’ I have many ‘Private’ consumer choices, but if what I would like to do is take public transportation so that I don’t have to drive (and, by the by, Gentle Reader, public transportation is safer and gets us where we are going faster – in smaller communities the bicycle is faster; just ask the Dutch) a recurring response is: ‘You want to take what?’

One reason that this question surfaces is that for many of us ‘Public Transportation’ does not exist.  That ‘Public’ choice was taken off of the table years ago.  In our Country we celebrate our freedom when it comes to what type of car we want to purchase, lease or rent.  We view ourselves to be ‘free’ if we can obtain a Jeep Liberty (pun intended) BUT… and this is a BIG BUT, we don’t see ourselves as unfree if there’s no public transportation.

The pro-private, anti-public, choice was made in our Country after World War II.  Europe and America were not so different up to the war although we (in America) were starting to look different because as a Culture we were firmly rooted in ‘the individual trumps the community’ approach to society.  After WWII there was a window of opportunity open to us and we faced the fundamental choice of whether to build a fast interstate rail system and a light-in-city rail system, like Europe’s, or to build an interstate highway system.

During the first term of Eisenhower’s presidency [1953-1961] our Congress was faced with this choice.  Their charge, on behalf of the American people, was to choose a path.  The decision was not clearly set until the rubber, steel, oil and auto industry lobbies pressured congress (yes, Gentle Reader, even then big money determined big votes by Congress): Congress voted to build an interstate highway system.  That decision secured for many decades the positive future of the automobile, rubber, oil, steel, asphalt and cement industries in America.  [AN ASIDE: One major unintended consequence is that today we are not able to keep up the road infrastructure we need – keeping up a public transportation infrastructure is cheaper, more efficient and more effective; Europe and Asia have demonstrated this for decades.]

Another immense consequence: the more fundamental and important choice between public and private transportation was taken off of the table and today, efforts to get it back on the table are proving at minimum daunting and at maximum impossible.

There were/are additional major unintended consequences to the decision that Congress made in the early 1950s.  Consider two huge consequences. . .

Few are guilty, but all are responsible. –Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

 

 

 

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Awareness does not bring comfort, more often it brings disturbance. –Greenleaf

Good morning Gentle Reader.  This morning I am inviting us to consider what Benjamin R. Barber called ‘privatization ideology.’  Hopefully you will accept my invitation and consider the following (consider = do not dismiss what I offer simply because it does not ‘speak to you’ or because it might be ‘disturbing’ AND do not simply accept what I offer; I invite you to reflect upon and think about what I have to offer as you seek to understand – by-the-by, remember that ‘understanding’ does not mean agreement).

From what I am learning, ‘privatization ideology’ has, for the past 69+ years, taken firm hold of both democrats and republicans here in our country (liberals, conservatives, and socialists world-wide have also embraced this concept).

Here is a question that might help you frame your considerations – it is a question that I have been holding: Do you trust the ‘markets’ more than the ‘government’?

Consider how many folks who are holding this question will respond with: I trust the markets more than the government.  This answer has certainly been one given by both Democrats and Republicans (most recently, President Obama seemed to do so and President Trump certainly does).  One reason is that because markets are decentralized and diverse they represent to us ‘real people’.  On the other hand, Government represents big bureaucracy – impersonal and unwieldly.  [AN ASIDE: ‘We the People’ forget that in reality ‘WE’ are the Government.  ‘Why’ we continue to forget this – or is it that we ‘deny it’ – is a subject for another time.]

Consider this: Even today, as I type these words, when the government is playing a ‘weak’ role in championing a pluralistic health system that will cover at most 32 million out of the 45+ million Americans who need it, God forbid there should be a public option, even a modest one, to compete with the private insurance companies.  You might recall that President Obama himself yielded without much of a fight – he demonstrated that he, too, was a hostage to ‘privatization ideology.’

‘Privatization Ideology’– the concept that the private is what counts; the private is more important than the public; the private is more important than the state AND consumers are more important than citizens.

In our ‘Private-focused Culture’ consumers making private choices about what they want count much more than citizens discussing together what society and the  community needs (think: Each of us needs adequate health care).

‘We’ have accepted and integrated a dominating notion: ‘I’ – the Consumer – trumps ‘We’ – the Citizens.  The consequences – intended and un-intended – as we will see, have been, are today and will continue to be taking a toll on us, a toll that our Children and Grand-Children will have to pay (sadly, the current projected ‘toll’ will be like a college-loan, a loan that will never be paid off).

For example, let us Consider ‘Global Warming.’

 

 

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BEING SANE IS NOT ENOUGH. . .

Good morning, Gentle Reader.

Consider that Evil often comes in the guise of the sane.  Thomas Merton wrote ‘A Devout Meditation on the Memory of Adolf Eichmann.’  Merton wrote that what worried him about Eichmann was not Eichmann’s banality but his sanity.  The doctors who examined Eichmann found him to be a very sane man.  To quote Merton, ‘We rely on the sane people of the world to preserve it from barbarism, madness, destruction.  And now it begins to dawn on us that it is precisely the sane ones who are the most dangerous.  . .’

 Consider this photo of Eichmann.  What evil lurks in the heart of this man? 

Adolf E.

Psychotics will be suspect.  No one suspects the sane, and the sane ones, as we have seen, will have perfectly good reasons, logical, well-adjusted reasons, for ‘firing the first shot.’   Sane ones will be obeying sane orders that have come sanely down the chain of command. . . We can no longer assume that because a person is Sane that one is therefore in his/her ‘right mind.’  Consider: The whole concept of sanity in a society where spiritual values have lost their meaning or have been adulterated for idolatrous means, has itself become meaningless.

Sane people see themselves as guilt-free as they continue to behave in inhuman and inhumane ways to others – especially to women, children and the marginalized – those who are ‘different’ and those who don’t agree with their definition of ‘sanity.’  Sane people tend to embrace dualism – ‘Good over Evil’ becomes one mantra for them – and ‘evil’ is too often defined as ‘different from us.’  ‘If you are not with us then you are against us!’ is another popular Cultural mantra.  It is a small step for the sane ones when it comes to moving from marginalizing, to banishing, to ‘killing the other[s] guilt free.’

It is not, I think, the reason-able, the rational that will protect us; the sane are truly rational.  What will protect us is rooted in the spiritual and in community nurtured by love and enhanced by diversity [in its broadest and deepest sense].  Sanity, Plus. . .

 Adolf Eichmann taught us a crucial lesson: Being Sane is Not Enough! 

 The question is: To what extent have we learned from his lesson?

 

 

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‘LIFE IS A BANQUET’. . .

For thousands of years, wisdom figures of most faith and humanistic traditions have said to us, over and over and over, that ‘Life is a Banquet to be savored.’   In 1972 my mentor, Lowell, had become frustrated by my behavior.  I knew when he was frustrated for he would begin a statement with ‘Richard, I am confused.’

Lowell was a gentle soul and so he mostly spoke in whispers.  On this morning Lowell welcomed me and began with ‘Richard I am confused.’  He smiled, a warm smile, and he paused.  He continued: ‘You want me to take you to the banquet of life and when we get there all you want to do is eat quickly and go take a nap!’  How often during my life have I neglected to savor the banquet that is my life?  How often have I missed the life-sustaining (if not life-saving) banquet that is available to me?

As I reflect upon Lowell’s words-counsel I am reminded of a story.  Many years ago there were a number of folks trapped on a raft off the Coast of Brazil.  They were perishing from thirst.  They had no idea that they were floating on fresh water.  There was a river coming into the sea and this river’s flow was so powerful that for miles into the ocean there was, indeed, fresh water.

In the same way you, Gentle Reader, and I are surrounded with nourishment (banquet and fresh water).  We are surrounded by joy, contentment, happiness, caring and love.  Yet, how many of us are not aware of the nourishing banquet and life-giving water available to us.  How often do we miss these gifts because we are obsessed with ruminating about the past (‘letting go’ is perhaps the greatest challenge we face)?  How often do we obsess about the future and feed our anxiety with our obsession?

The wisdom figures have told us, continue to tell us, over and over again: ‘Live in the now!’ ‘Be fully present to the now!’  For Christians the message of the ‘Good News’ is clear – the banquet is here NOW.  How many Christians have the faith to accept this ‘Good News’?

Sitting here in one of my favorite coffee shops this morning I cannot begin to count the number of times I caught myself focusing on the future and missing the ‘now.’  I don’t think I am unique.  How about you, Gentle Reader, how many times a day do you miss the ‘now’ and ruminate about the past or focus on the future (think: ‘What am I going to do this afternoon or this evening or tomorrow?’)?

I leave us this morning with the words of Anthony de Mello: ‘Wake Up! Wake Up! Pay Attention!’

 

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THE WHIP, THE WHIP. . .

Because ‘we’ (you and I, Gentle Reader) are human beings, we are empowered, responsible, response-able and ultimately accountable.  This is one of the best kept secrets of many faith-traditions and families (and some societies).  We can, and should, decide what to think, do and be and we can, and should, be response-able in doing so (some would say that we should be unconditionally response-able).

However, certain faith-traditions and families want their whips because they want control; indeed they believe it is best for us if they are in control [for ‘whips’ read ‘clergy,’ ‘dogmas,’ ‘creeds,’ parents, grandparents, ‘culture,’ ‘values,’ ‘assumptions,’ prejudices – the list could go on].

Each wants to keep their ‘followers’ in line; this enhances their ‘control.’  AND, many of us collude with them.  We like the whip.  The whip saves us from having to make up our own mind; the whip saves us from having to be response-able and responsible and even, at times accountable.  The whip saves us from having to choose and to freely act.

In response to the ‘Whip’ we even agree to things that we do not really support; we agree for we want to belong; we agree for we don’t want to be shunned; we agree for we don’t want to be marginalized or condemned or ‘punished.’  We give up our power [here is my definition of ‘power’: power = one’s ability to act rooted in moral reflection].

I find it encouraging when a person refuses the whip in his or her life; when a person wants to work it out for him/her self; when a person chooses and embraces being response-able, responsible and accountable.  I heard of a man who had worked all of his life in order to please his uncles and one day he woke up and realized that his uncles had died years ago – and he was still trying to please him.

Each day I am reminded in many ways that this is MY LIFE; it is not another’s life.  If I am going to be ‘empowered’ and if I am going to choose to be response-able, responsible and accountable then I have to choose to embrace and live my life.  This is frightening at times, but it is also affirming and energizing.

Excuse me, I have to go and check to make sure that what I just wrote passes muster with the many ‘Whips’ in my life. . . Or do I?

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WHAT YOU DO. . .

Yesterday I had the opportunity to have connection, conversation and coffee with my daughter, Rebecca. Rebecca is the Senior Event Planner (my title for her role) at the Alexander Hotel here in Indianapolis (check it out on-line, it is a wonderful hotel – for many reasons). She had had a challenging week with a client that she had ‘inherited’ – the client had asked that the person they were working with be ‘replaced’.

Rebecca loves her work and one of her many strengths, and gifts, is her ability to connect with folks and ‘partner with them’ (her words) and work with them so they have an experience that more than satisfies their needs. She has a gift of healing strained and broken relationships with clients and she has partnered with a diverse number of ‘team’ members and together they have co-created a high performing team. Did I mention that she loves her team members, her clients and her work?

For me, Rebecca is a living testimony to the counsel I received from a mentor more than 40 years ago: What you do should be worthy of your attention and dignity, and affirm and demonstrate the respect you have for yourself. I have learned, and Rebecca has learned, that if you love what you do, then you will do it beautifully. The deeper, more light-filled side of your soul will help you bring the light of love to what you do, to how you serve. What you do, rooted in love, will be creative and transforming. Because Rebecca is who she is, the client experienced the person, Rebecca, and the professional. They worked together to create and a broken relationship was transformed into a partnership.

Here is a ‘Blessing’ written by John O’Donohue; I find it fitting for today.

A Blessing

May the light of your soul guide you.
May the light of your soul bless the work you do with the
secret love and warmth of your heart.
May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.
May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light, and
renewal to those who work with you and to those who see
and receive your work.
May your work never weary you.
May it release within you wellsprings of refreshment,
inspiration, and excitement.
May you be present in what you do.
May you never become lost in the bland absences.
May the day never burden.
May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your
new day with dreams, possibilities, and promises.
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.
May you go into the night blessed, sheltered, and protected.
May your soul calm, console, and renew you.

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WHAT’S THE ‘SOLUTION’?

Nosce te ipsum = Know Thyself. –The Oracle

Good morning Gentle Reader.

How often do you approach life as a problem to be solved?  How often do you find yourself seeking ‘solutions’?  How often do you approach life as a paradox to be embraced?  As fully human beings, when we are at our best we are living paradoxes to be embraced; we are not problems to be solved.

One of the ways we seek to solve a ‘life-problem’ is via renunciation.  The alcoholic renounces alcohol.  The celibate renounces sex.  The Lenten Faster renounces candy for forty days.  Now consider this Gentle Reader: When you renounce somethings you are actually providing it more staying power.  What???  Talk about counter-intuitive.

Years ago I was a thought-partner to the owner of a company.  He was a wonderful man, a good leader, a caring owner, and an avowed atheist.  As we were developing our relationship he told me that he was raised to be a ‘good Christian’ and that when he was 16 his dog became quite ill.  He prayed to God and prayed to God and prayed to God to heal his dog.  God did not.  His dog died. He renounced God. He embraced being an atheist.  Now, he was in his mid-forties and the owner of this company.  When we met he always wanted to talk about God – no matter how hard he tried he could not get God out of his mind.

Consider Gentle Reader that when you renounces something you, paradoxically – or is it ironically – become tethered to it.  You weave it into the very fabric of your life, of your soul.

For thousands of years the great mystics of all faith and humanist traditions have counseled us ‘to embrace’ (some refer to this as ‘to receive’), not renounce, our demons.  There is a wonderful story that helps me with this concept.  I will share the short version with you.

The fully human being returned home – a log cabin in the woods – s/he had been away for some time.  When s/he opened the door and crossed the threshold s/he saw that the cabin was full of terrifying demons.  S/He looked at them and said, ‘Welcome to my home.’  Immediately 50% of the demons disappeared.  The remaining demons, however were more terrifying than the ones who had disappeared.

The human went to the stove and boiled some water.  S/He then took out some tea bags and said to the demons, ‘Sit with me and have some tea.’ Immediately 50% of the remaining demons disappeared.  Then the fully human took down a lyre and sang a song of joy and all but one demon disappeared.  This was the most terrifying of all the demons.

The demon approached the human.  The human smiled and embraced the demon.  The demon disappeared.

Part of the challenge of all of this lies, as it usually does, with our ‘identity.’  It is crucial to understand that the power comes from our having ‘become’ what we want to renounce.  ‘Being an Alcoholic’ defines us – I saw this ‘being’ in my younger brother.  Who of us wants to, or is willing to, give up his/her identity?

As with many challenges, a major goal is first to seek to understand.  Once we understand – or understand more fully – then we can begin to identify whether our challenge is a problem to be solved, a paradox to be lived into, a polarity to be engaged, or a dilemma to be resolved.  Consider that ‘identity challenges’ are almost always ‘paradoxes to be lived into.’

The unexamined life is not worth living. –Socrates

 

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