Category Archives: humanitarian

Taking the BIG view

 “In the future, humanity will overemphasize the intellectual element of the mind. Instead of recognizing the wholeness of life, people will perceive life as having a worldly aspect and a spiritual aspect that are separate and unrelated to each other. People will also loose themselves  in isolated fragments of conceptual information and become victims rather than masters of their knowledge…Intuition knows the whole, intellect knows only fragments.”
– Lao Tzu
Sabine Bode
Yesterday on The New Yorker Radio Hour, Sabine Bode, a journalist, talked about interviewing elderly Germans, who were born at the end or after WWII. She wanted to see, if like her, they were traumatized by wondering to what extent their parents had gone to as Nazis. Many of the people she talked to had lived either in denial or were as wood. Sabine remarked that many people had little or no sympathy for the children of Nazis.  As she talked, her humanity flowed out through the radio and it endeared me to her.
This made me consider the reality behind all the groups that act reprehensively. For every terrorist, there are wives, children, parents, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends associated or attached to them. Many may not share their ideologies or beliefs but are hijacked into silence or coerced into action out of fear.  Surely some stand up or are die in resistance but many are swept up.
Last night, Julia and I continued to listen to Brene Brown’s book, Rising Strong. Brene interviewed hundreds of individuals to see if they thought that on the whole, people were doing the best they could with what they had to work with. She found that if people were compassionate they agreed that people were doing the best they could with what they had to work with. This included murderers and terrorists. Of course having compassion doesn’t mean that we condone their behavior. We can understand someone’s actions and know that the best thing is to make sure they don’t continue to cause harm.
Brene suggests “Living Big”, using Boundaries, Integrity and Generosity. Setting boundaries helps us define clearly and honestly which behaviors are ok and which aren’t. Integrity allows us to not just talk about our values but to go beyond what is easy to consider the whole picture and generosity allows us to see humanity not in black and white according to our current blanket judgments but with kindness and discernment.
Integrity
There is a musical group called My Favorite Enemy comprised of Israeili, Palestinian, Jordanian, American and Norwegian famous recording artists and songwriters.  They sing, “Too many stones have been thrown.”
What is flowing through us is so much grander than the defined concept we have of ourselves and one another. Surely things are always more complicated than we can understand but as we expand our hearts we can intuit what it is to be whole and help to untie these knots.
May our humanity allow us to flow beyond borders and definitions to heal those who have been swept up, including ourselves.

Reviving the heart of humanity

“I can see you are me in disguise.”- The Levins

“The shell of a book can be burned…but no one can damage the subtle truth that is beyond any form. – Hua-Ching Ni

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Suffragette pic

Last week we watched the movie Suffragette .  It is astounding how much we have suffered and still struggle to go beyond form.  That women should have been pushed to the point of violent social protest to gain the right to vote, especially at a time when they were slaving away in factories, could have been enough to wake us up.

While we were visiting Julia’s sister in Iowa, we all watched the president host a televised Town Hall meeting to address racial tension. More than a hundred and fifty years after the Civil War, that we even need to have a movement called “Black Lives Matter” is beyond disgraceful. It is another call for us to look beyond our current form and become aware of the stream running through everything that is.

Lao Tzu, author of the Tao Teh Ching and Hua Hu Ching said, “The confrontational nature of duality is merely an illusory product of the mind. In order to perceive the integral reality of the universe, it is necessary to transcend the mental process of separation and fragmentation.”

He also said, “There is no separation.  (One) is not the isolated individual (they) thought (themselves) to be. All divine, subtle beings, all enlightened beings are one with (them.)  What happiness one experiences in that state of consciousness!”*

On our way back east, Julia and I played a house concert in Kent Ohio.  Not only were there friends present that strengthen our Judaic-Celtic connection but there was a beautiful Iranian Islamic couple who were huge fans of Hafiz.  They saw our CD: My Friend Hafiz before we played and asked if that was their Hafiz.  Once again, the fourteenth century mystic poet raised the roof of our molecular structure so that we were able to bond beyond seeming separation.

Women, men, Black, White, Hispanic, Gay, Transgender, Disabled… Despite the current political climate, which is acting as a lightning rod to our basest reactions, I still believe we are right on the cusp of recognizing that being attached to form only causes our suffering to increase. The actress Elaine Stritch said she wasn’t old, she was getting older… and that we are all going that way. We are all heading towards releasing this current form, still we cling to it as if that is all there is.

Diversity

We battle to gain equality.  We collectively oppress ourselves because some of our disguises seem to  give us a decided advantage.  But I agree with President Obama when he says, “Reject cynicism, reject fear, to summon what’s best in us.”

Last night Dr. Rev. William Barber said, “When we love the Jewish child, and the Palestinian child…when we love the Muslim and the Christian and the Hindu and the Buddhist and those who have no faith, but they love this nation…we are reviving the heart of our democracy.”

This doesn’t just go for this nation but for the world, not just for democracy but the heart of our humanity.

Through our journey towards accepting that we are all just playing hide and seek, may your bond with those around you be motivated by love so that you can celebrate your current form without attachment.

 

*- Lao Tzu/ Hua Hu Ching – translated and elucidated by Hua-Ching Ni

 

 

[JB1]

Elie Wiesel- Independent but never alone

“Self-confidence is knowing that we have the capacity to do something good and firmly decide not to give up.”

The Dalai Lama

“Self-confidence is not a feeling of superiority, but of independence.”                                      — Lama Yeshe

Even if only one free individual is left, he is proof that the dictator is powerless against freedom. But a free man is never alone; the dictator is alone. The free man is the one who, even in prison, gives to the other prisoners their thirst for, their memory of, freedom.        —Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel

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Happy Independence day.

July 4, 1776

What we celebrate today is the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The draft of this famous document was submitted to the Continental Congress on July 2nd and they were able to agree on the changes by July 4th.  Then the real work began.

It is significant that Elie Wiesel, Holocaust Survivor, Nobel Laureate, Humanitarian and American citizen, passed away on July 2nd.  His life and passing are inextricably linked to American Independence and what that truly means.

Here are some excerpts from Mr. Wiesel’s essay entitled The America I Love:

“The day I received American citizenship was a turning point in my life. I had ceased to be stateless. Until then, unprotected by any government and unwanted by any society, the Jew in me was overcome by a feeling of pride mixed with gratitude.

From that day on, I felt privileged to belong to a country which, for two centuries, has stood as a living symbol of all that is charitable and decent to victims of injustice everywhere—a country in which every person is entitled to dream of happiness, peace and liberty; where those who have are taught to give back. That day I encountered the first American soldiers in the Buchenwald concentration camp. I remember them well. Bewildered, disbelieving, they walked around the place, hell on earth, where our destiny had been played out. They looked at us, just liberated, and did not know what to do or say. Survivors snatched from the dark throes of death, we were empty of all hope—too weak, too emaciated to hug them or even speak to them. Like lost children, the American soldiers wept and wept with rage and sadness. And we received their tears as if they were heartrending offerings from a wounded and generous humanity.

In America, compassion for the refugee and respect for the other still have biblical connotations.

Ever since that encounter, I cannot repress my emotion before the flag and the uniform—anything that represents American heroism in battle. That is especially true on July Fourth. I reread the Declaration of Independence, a document sanctified by the passion of a nation’s thirst for justice and sovereignty, forever admiring both its moral content and majestic intonation. Opposition to oppression in all its forms, defense of all human liberties, celebration of what is right in social intercourse: All this and much more is in that text, which today has special meaning.

Granted, U.S. history has gone through severe trials, of which anti-black racism was the most scandalous and depressing. I happened to witness it in the late Fifties, as I traveled through the South. What did I feel? Shame. Yes, shame for being white. What made it worse was the realization that, at that time, racism was the law, thus making the law itself immoral and unjust.

Still, my generation was lucky to see the downfall of prejudice in many of its forms. True, it took much pain and protest for that law to be changed, but it was.

America understands that a nation is great not because its economy is flourishing or its army invincible but because its ideals are loftier. Hence America’s desire to help those who have lost their freedom to conquer it again. America’s credo might read as follows: For an individual, as for a nation, to be free is an admirable duty—but to help others become free is even more admirable.

Some skeptics may object: But what about Vietnam? And Cambodia? And the support some administrations gave to corrupt regimes in Africa or the Middle East? And the occupation of Iraq? Did we go wrong—and if so, where?

Hope is the key word for men and women like myself, who found in America the strength to overcome cynicism and despair.

Well, one could say that no nation is composed of saints alone. None is sheltered from mistakes or misdeeds. All have their Cain and Abel. It takes vision and courage to undergo serious soul-searching and to favor moral conscience over political expediency. And America, in extreme situations, is endowed with both. America is always ready to learn from its mishaps. Self-criticism remains its second nature.

Hope is a key word in the vocabulary of men and women like myself and so many others who discovered in America the strength to overcome cynicism and despair. Remember the legendary Pandora’s box? It is filled with implacable, terrifying curses. But underneath, at the very bottom, there is hope. Now as before, now more than ever, it is waiting for us.” – Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel made his life about speaking out against indifference.  He believed in the Independence that does not stand alone but recognizes that caring for one another is at the heart of our freedom.

May his light kindle our own vigilance and courage to continue to stand up to injustice.  If we strive to “Make America Great Again,” let us remember what really makes us great is our generous spirit, our kindness and striving compassion to promote true freedom around the world.

Tiff Gravel: Capturer of Light