Category Archives: Choice

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!

 

Change your Story, Change your life

Do I live in a friendly or hostile universe?

I was riding the train into Manhattan when a man sitting opposite hailed me.  He showed me his purple heart metal and said he had two of them.  Apparently,  he wasn’t being given enough common courtesy from the woman taking the tickets. His father came to the US from Italy and, as soon as he had landed, signed up and fought in the Second World War.  He, himself, had served in Vietnam but ruminated that, with the people coming into the country now and the way folks acted, he wouldn’t do it again.  I said there were a lot of good people. His opinion was that there are only a handful. We agreed that a little common courtesy went a long way. Just talking with him seemed to sway his view that this society was no longer worth serving. He boarded the train with a story in his head that he was verifying. That story was capable of being shifted.

When I got home, I found a letter from a close friend. She said someone had given her an unexpected sum of money and she was sharing it with Julia and I because she believed in who we were and what we were doing. This kindness and consideration blew us away. Even though our friend could have certainly used this money for herself, she felt she could afford to offer a portion of it to us. She believed sending us this gift would enrich her being. Knowing this friend, I can say that she does feel that this society is worth serving.  It is another story that can be verified.

One of my favorite quotes is from Albert Einstein:

“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”

I do have to remind myself often that I live in a friendly universe.

However, I have demonstrated the validity of this decision to myself innumerable times. When I find that my mind is taking me down a rabbit hole, and I am becoming anxious about the state of the world and what might happen if this or that occurs, I declare that I live in a friendly universe. I can actually feel the story I am telling myself start to shift. The outcome, for me so far, is that I continue to live in a friendly universe. For that, I am immensely grateful.

I believe the mythologist, Joseph Campbell, would have agreed with Albert that our beliefs and reactions to the world around us reflect the stories that we subscribe to.  Each religion, spiritual practice and culture revolves around a set of stories.

People in power with vested interests, and salesmen in the media, often try to convince us that we live in a hostile universe. This belief leads to fear of others whose stories are different from our own. It can also lead us to take our own stories literally and become ridged in our thinking. Once our hearts are closed off, we often find that we do, indeed, live in a hostile universe.

I also believe we can get to a place where we are able to share our stories to mutually benefit one another.

I know someone whose basement was flooded one year just before Christmas. All of her families’ presents were destroyed. On Christmas day, her doorbell rang and when she answered it, instead of finding a person, she discovered a mountain of presents for her family. When people ask her if she has told her kids that Santa is not real, she says that he is. Someone used their story of a jolly man who brings presents and good cheer to others, to help this woman’s family; they became Santa Claus. Santa is a story that we can take to heart, that we share to mutually benefit one another.

There is a Jewish legend of the Lamid Vavniks, that predates Santa and describes 36 anonymous folks who are so pure of heart they keep the whole world in balance.  This story makes it a virtue to do something wonderful for someone else in secret.

How many other myths or stories outside of our comfort zone could benefit us in ways that we have not even considered?

Being willing to not only shift our own story but recognize something beautiful in someone else’s story, can help us to decide, on a daily basis, that we live in a friendly universe.

The Story I Can Hear

“If we see it all as literal, it might end up in a fight.

If we see it as a story, it might work out alright.

Let’s go out and meet the modern, willing to embrace-

See the gold inside the dust, be the change that’s taking place.

I long to tell the story I can hear.

One that fills my eyes and opens up the skies.

I long to tell the story I can hear.

One that fills the skies and opens up my eyes.

Not just for believers, or those who think its true,

but that holds me in its arms as it reaches out for you.

We’re busy telling stories. Meanwhile, life goes on.

It listens to our verses. It sings all of our songs.

One song. Our songs.

Not just for believers, or those who think its true,

but that holds me in its arms as it reaches out for you.”

The Levins  (inspired by Joseph Campbell)

May your story place you in the center of a friendly universe.