Category Archives: Liberty

The One Word that Makes America Really America

A Contemplation for Our 241st Birthday

I read a book in which an Aboriginal tribe asks why we celebrate birthdays. They point out that we get older regardless. That, in itself, is not a reason to celebrate.

“We celebrate if we are a better, wiser person this year than last. Only you would know, so it is you who tells the others when it is time to have the party.”- Mutant Message Down Under/ Marlo Morgan

Today is America’s birthday. It is up to each of us, individually, to decide if the collective spirit within our land has become better and wiser.

There is a part of me that wants to rail out against the plans to defund our public libraries, the first of which was founded by Benjamin Franklin. The current efforts to privatize our public museums, parks, and schools, for me, diminishes the flame that fires our collective imagination and soul.

Emma Lazarus was the Jewish poet who gave our Statue of Liberty these words to proclaim:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.”

I feel the pilgrims, the founding fathers and Emma would all be ashamed at our current lack of hospitality.

Still, there is a part of me that appreciates that we were the first nation to not be ruled by a king. Our ideal is that America can be ruled by the people, for the people.  A nation that recognizes its inhabitants are…

“created equal…endowed…with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”- Thomas Jefferson

To me, America is all of humanity living peacefully, boldly, as weird as we want to be.

There is an image conjured up in the TV show, This is US, of an abstract painting. While the painting is a metaphor for life, it can also apply to us here in the US.

“We all get to come along and we add our own color to the painting…

And these colors that we keep adding, what if they keep getting added on top of one another, until, eventually, we’re not even different colors anymore? Just one thing, one painting?

Not you, me or them, it’s just us. And this sloppy, wild, magical thing that has no beginning and no end is right here. I think it’s US.”- This Is Us – Kevin’s Painting of Life https://youtu.be/xh-Tof_QxKU

I am celebrating today because I am grateful that, at this point, we still have the one word that really makes America truly beautiful.

We still have a free press and can share the ideas of those we admire. So, I would like to allow the American author Tom Robbins the chance to reveal this one word to you:

“The word that allows yes, the word that makes no possible.
The word that puts the free in freedom and takes the obligation out of love.
The word that throws a window open after the final door is closed.
The word upon which all adventure, all exhilaration, all meaning, all honor depends.
The word that fires evolution’s motor of mud.
The word that the cocoon whispers to the caterpillar.
The word that molecules recite before bonding.
The word that separates that which is dead from that which is living.
The word no mirror can turn around.
In the beginning was the word and that word was,,,

CHOICE”

 ~ Tom Robbins/ Still Life With Woodpecker

From the far right, to the far left, from the Jimi Hendrix museum in Seattle to the Pride-filled sunsets of Key West, from the nude beaches in San Diego, to the bilingual English and French speaking residents at the tip of Maine, and everyone in between, the CHOICE is still yours!

Happy 4th of July!

 

Women marching in solidarity with all of life

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -in the family of things.

-Mary Oliver

Julia and I were grateful to be a part of the Women’s March in NYC on Saturday. I hold the conviction that marching for something is always more powerful than marching against what you do not want.  This is spurred by the story of Mother Teresa saying she wouldn’t march against the war but would march for peace. However, what we experienced on Saturday was confirmed by everyone we talked to, in DC and around the world. The feeling on the street was not one of anger, hatred and rage.  Certainly people were protesting and expressing themselves fully but good will was the prevalent feeling.  In DC alone there was 1.2 million people and as my friend Ashby said, “everyone was so kind to one another.” People were considerate to the police and there were no arrests. Over 3 million people around the world marched in solidarity to peacefully demonstrate the love of freedom, the love of this planet, and the drive to not be satisfied with less than equality for all women. For, as one of the many signs said:

“Women’s rights are human rights.”

“People are realizing that our needs can be met without destroying our world. We have the technical knowledge, the communication tools, and material resources to grow enough food, ensure clean air and water, and meet rational energy needs. Future generations, if there is a livable world for them, will look back at the epochal transition we are making to a life-sustaining society. And they may well call this the time of the Great Turning. It is happening now.”

– Joanna Macy

I believe The Great Turning is happening and what we are experiencing now is a reactionary clinging to the old age.

We are being told to fear.

If we really want to combat terrorism around the world. Educate girls and honor all women.

Malala Yousafzai, the girl who was shot by the taliban for daring to stand up for a girl’s right to education, is still standing.

“The extremists are afraid of books and pens, the power of education frightens them. they are afraid of women.” – Malala Yousafzai

This country was founded by brave people who were willing to face down tyranny,

“…in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”- Preamble to the Constitution

As Gloria Steinem said at the DC March on Saturday:

“The Constitution doesn’t begin with, ‘I, the president, it begins with, ‘We, the people.’

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”

– Malala Yousafzai

You make the difference. We, the people, have the power to usher in the change we wish to be.

Mary Oliver asks: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I will sing in solidarity with all of life. Not just for its right to be here but in harmony with the love that it gives form to.

March on!

Thanksgiving for living signposts

“E pluribus unum”- out of many, one (the motto of the US).

“Devise means for removing the Inconsistency from the Character of the American People,” and to “promote mercy and justice toward this distressed Race.” -Ben Franklin (His last public act was to send Congress this petition asking for the abolition of slavery and an end to the slave trade. Feb 3, 1790)

 Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving cartoon

George Washington was the first to call for a national “public thanksgiving and prayer”, but each state celebrated this holiday at various times. In September of 1863, in the midst of our Civil War, Sarah Josepha Hale, a 74-year-old magazine editor, wrote to President Lincoln urging him to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday to unite the country. Lincoln listened and by October, issued a proclamation that set aside the last Thursday of every November as “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.”

This week, Julia and I drove out to Iowa from New York to celebrate Thanksgiving with her mom and family. On the way, we listened to episodes of a podcast called On Being with Krista Tippet. People have been trying to get us to listen to this podcast for a long time. I bring up the show because as we strive to avoid talking about politics around the family table today, it is important to explore within ourselves the roots of why our communication has broken down.

ON Being

To explore what has divided us in the hopes of uniting us, I will share some quotes and thoughts from two of the On Being Podcasts we listened to. 

Vincent Harding

Vincent Harding was a leading figure in the civil rights movement as well a close friend and occasional speech writer for Martin Luther King Jr. He said that “the phrase “civil rights” never adequately described King’s vision or the human transformation that it stirred.’ The movement, he reminded us, “was spiritually as well as politically vigorous; it aspired in biblical words to a “beloved community,” not merely a tolerant integrated society.”  The question for us now, is “how to carry on democratic conversation that in a sense invites us to hear each other’s best arguments and best contributions so that we can then figure out how do we put these things together to create a more perfect union. To develop the best humanity, the best spirit, the best community, there needs to be discipline, practices of exploring. How do you do that? How do we work together? How —to go back to our conversation —how do we talk together in ways that will open up our best capacities and our best gifts?”

Isabel Wilkerson

Author Isabel Wilkerson, reminds us that that there were 246 years of enslavement here in America, that is 12 generations of enslavement. “You think about those cotton fields, and those rice plantations, and those tobacco fields, and on all of those cotton fields, and tobacco plantations, and rice plantations were opera singers, and jazz musicians, and poets, and professors, defense attorneys, doctors — I mean, that’s — this is the manifestation of the desire to be free and what was lost to the country…we’re so very divided, and there’s such a focus on “other.” And “other” can mean all kinds of things. And so people will often say, “Why is it that those people do that thing?” The only answer to that question is, “Why do human beings do what they do when they’re in that situation?” And it calls for radical empathy in order to put ourselves inside the experiences of another and to allow ourselves the pain, allow ourselves the heartbreak…”

People’s concerns go beyond the economy now. When the chief political strategist for the White House is a member of a white supremacy group, and when CNN broadcasts the question posted by a member of the alt-right asking ‘If Jews are people…”, we have to wonder what Benjamin Franklin would think of his beloved America? We short change ourselves when we try to suppress our diversity.  “By the people, for the people,” is the America I hold in my heart.

Vincent Harding suggested that when we find we are “operating in a situation,” that is, “very, very dark all around,” what we need are “some signposts, some lights that would in other peoples’ lives help them …Live human signposts.”

Fortunately there are many  signposts for us.  We can also rise above our differences to shine out for one another as we gather round a table of gratitude for what we have and what we can share. As a beloved community, we can be a light to the world. 

I am Thankful for you!

Congruent Independence

I hope your Independence Day was intertwined with those you love and that you had a moment or two of meaningful introspection.  Adrian Belew, a musical hero of mine, sang about the Inner Revolution.
Beyond the fireworks and beer, (which are grrreat) we have the chance to remember a small group of farmers facing the most powerful army in the world and defeating a tyrant. They were able to set up the first nation without a king that has allowed its people freedom of choice.  At this stage in the game, we can recognize that the tyrant isn’t always played by someone external to ourselves but can be our own fear and ego demanding that we stay in subjugation to a lifestyle or manner of being that prevents us from being authentic and truthful.  Freedom is still a matter of choice.
I had to laugh at myself this weekend when I made up my mind to stop doing business with someone who was not upholding my best interest at heart. I wrote this individual and then with firm conviction called them and folded at their barrage of practiced wiles. I have written again and trust that I will be able to go on successfully but it has put me in touch with my fear of confrontation and needing to please people.
A friend yesterday made me laugh by saying ‘feel your anxiety and then go about your business, it will be waiting for you.’  
Ben, George and the boys (and girls) didn’t defeat their tyrant overnight.  They banded together and fought hard to win over their shadow reality. We are fighting harder today, or more accurately, we are in need of fighting harder today. 
One of the great Spiritual warriors, Caroline Myss says that we don’t want to give up our shadow and dark habits.  “People trust the dark far more than they trust the light.  They get no buzz off the light. It’s not erotic. It’s not sexy.  It’s not sensual. The dark is all those things, and people know how to maneuver in the dark.  They know it protects them.  They know a lie is safer than the truth.”
She talks about being congruent. “Congruent means that what you say, what you think, and what you do are in alignment with your spiritual and soul values, so they all work together. To be congruent, you really have to put effort into paying attention to the relationship between what you think, say, and do.” –Caroline Myss
Here’s to Live, Liberty and the congruent pursuit of Happiness!

Speeches of Acceptance – worth the gold

After a successful weekend in Kansas City at the Folk Alliance International with amazing musicians from around the world, Julia and I got to watch the Academy Awards.  What struck us were some of the acceptance speeches. JK Simmons started by telling children to call their parents.  Then, without anger or histrionics, an actor, a writer and musicians stood up, not for themselves alone but for their particular portion of humanity.  Beyond the nit-picking of behavior and evaluating performances and dresses, people from around the globe were treated to earnest concern and bravery.  With the overlapping of these speeches alone, the bridge towards our collective humanity gets a boost in production.
That was worth the price of watching.
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 “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s time to have wage equality once and for all. And equal rights for women in the United States of America.” – P.A.
http://youtu.be/OteoFQvQczc
We stand in solidarity with Commons, John Legend, MLK and all of those who long to see this truly be the land of the free and the home of the brave.
“…the same bridge that Dr. King and the people of the Civil Rights movement marched on, 50 years ago. This bridge was once a landmark of a divided nation, but now it’s a symbol for change. The spirit of this bridge transcends race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and social status. The spirit of this bridge connects a kid from the South Side of Chicago dreaming of a better life to those in France standing up for their freedom of expression to the people in Hong Kong protesting for democracy. This bridge was built on hope, welded with compassion, and elevated by love for all human beings.
Thank you. Nina Simone said it’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times in which we live. We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago, but we say Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now. We know that the voting rights, the act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today. We know that right now the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850. When people are marching with our song, we want to tell you that we are with you, we see you, we love you, and march on.
“-
from Commons and John Legend’s acceptance speech at the Oscar’s.
 
“I tried to commit suicide at 16 and now I’m standing here,” he said. “I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere. You do. Stay weird. Stay different, and then when it’s your turn and you are standing on this stage please pass the same message along.” – Graham Moore
 “Call your mom. Call your dad. If you are lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet, call them. Don’t text, don’t email, call them on the phone. Tell them you love them and thank them and listen to them as long as they want to talk to you.”- JK Simmons

Stream of Light 8/20/14

What is in our mind’s eye is there as a token of what we need to learn to let go of.  All concepts are a barrier to being with the present and with our true reality.  Still, it is ok to be where we are.  Thinking is a tool, a means but not the end.  What is known in the heart when you look at the blossoms of Spring is something that goes beyond thought.  To hold all extremes in our frame and become balenced within is to know wisdom.  Getting snagged on the pettiness of one emotion or thought is to be snared and mired.  Let yourself flow in the stream of being while your dark thoughts, fears and the ageold need for revenge become funeral pyres, ashes in the stream.

Joseph Campbell: Pez Dispenser of Myths

Joseph Campbell was perhaps the most celebrated and beloved cosmic Pez dispenser of the wisdom and meaning of myths in every culture, religion and philosophy on this little planet of ours. Not only was he the author of a myriad of liberating books such as The Power of Myth and The Hero with a Thousand Faces, he was George Lucas’s consultant for the original Star Wars Trilogy.  His talks with Bill Moyers on PBS are the stuff of legends, (literally).
In Reflections on The Art of Living he talks of leaving the university where he was studying Celtic Romance.  He had taken all the classes he needed for a PHD but before he wrote his dissertation, he began wandering through Europe where his real education began.  He discovered James Joyce, Picasso, the 1927 crew of writers and artists in Paris .  He realized that when getting a degree, you are not learning but doing what you are told to get the paper. He didn’t think he could go back into that bottle, so he walked away from getting his PHD and spent five years in the Depression up in Woodstock reading books.  Then he drove out to California and a friend of his drove with him to Carmel and introduced him to John Stienbeck, who got him a place to stay.  Joseph became involved with the characters in Steinbeck’s Cannery Row and he was the impetus for the big party in that book.  His wanderings led him to his understanding that, “as Schopenhauer says when you look back on your life, it looks as though it were a plot, but when you are into it, it’s a mess: just one surprise after another. Then, later, you see it was perfect. So, I have a theory that if you are on your own path things are going to come to you. Since it’s your own path, and not one has ever been on it before, there’s no precedent, so everything that happens is a surprise and is timely.”
Essentially he advises us to leave the wasteland of our own stagnation and fears, forget what other people think of us and follow our bliss to our true center where the treasure lies and amidst those jewels, peace itself.