Category Archives: America

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!

Shining out while standing within

Holding the chord

Barring love to uphold justice prevents the completion of the circuit that fulfils our aim.  Locked within us are the answers we seek to resolve the struggle that our minds cannot reconcile. Belief is an individual process that becomes entangled with our upbringing as well as loyalties to both the need to be accepted and our innate fear of punishment.  Love transcends our need for self-preservation.  Wanting to uphold for all beings what we desire for ourselves is not rational but instinctual.  Nestled in our conflict is the desire to embrace our vehemence and outrage, to allow the song of life to rejoin itself in harmony.

Israeli Palestinian peace*************************************************************

Last week I posted the Stream of Light about Elie Wiesel onto Facebook. A musical acquaintance of mine made some accusatory and ugly remarks about Mr. Wiesel.  I deleted his comments. He was outraged and asked me to unfriend him for censoring him.  We messaged back and forth.  I apologized for deleting his comments without asking him to.  My acquaintance is very passionate about standing up for the rights of displaced Palestinians and he felt that Mr. Wiesel, who stood for other groups rights, failed to do so for the Palestinians and was antagonistic to their plight.  I looked up an article written by a Palestinian writer who was a fan of Mr. Wiesel’s book Night but who was disappointed in Mr. Wiesel’s actions.  Since my acquaintance also works for peace, I pointed out that although outraged, our ability to not close the hearts of those who are needed to amend or help facilitate justice, is vital.

Elie Wiesel, who would have concurred that he was not a saint, said:

“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.”

At the end of our conversation, my acquaintance and I reached an understanding. We both were able to be heard.  In fact, that Friday night as Julia and I sang for a service at a temple, I was wrestling with the issue of people wanting a home for themselves and their families. The depth of the situation, is parallel to the plight of the Native Americans, whose land many of us rent or seem to own.

During the service, Julia and I were asked to sing Jerusalem of Gold, by Naomi Shemer. The song reflects 2,000 years of yearning for a homeland. In the middle of it, I held one of the chords and stood there with my eyes closed. I had to wait, overcome by what felt like an endless torrent of tears.  The innate connection to the song felt deeper than my identification with my tribe. The moments of holding that chord in silence felt like the collective longing all of humanity has for shelter, to belong, to be embraced by the dignity of their own wholeness.

When I related this event to my mother, she shared this excerpt from one of the I Am discourses:

   “When you enter into the understanding of what Indestructible harmony means to Life, you will have entered into the Powerhouse of the universe, because discord is disintegration; and the only thing that is Eternal Perfection is Indestructible Harmony. There is no freedom without Harmony, no permanent health without Harmony, no Victory over that which you call evil, which is discord, except Indestructible Harmony.”

Last night, here in Iowa, Julia’s mom gave me an article she has saved for me about Elie Wiesel talking in a church. Mr. Wiesel confessed that he was only able to speak and sing in this church because he was able to put aside his anger and recognize that not all Christians had turned their backs on the Jews during the holocaust.  What he said after that was what had stayed with the author of the article ever since:

“I believe people who can stand together and sing together, can live in peace together.” – Elie Wiesel

Even in the midst of all this heart wrenching unrest and the Civil Liberties that we still need to stand for here in America and around the world, remembering our harmony will help us to sing as we stand.  I believe our internal harmony bridges the gap between us.

May you hold the chord, even as you struggle to regain your voice within the silence of yearning.

 

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

***************************************

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.

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!

Happy “Who discovered America?” Day!

Happy “Who discovered America?” day!  
Since it is a federal holiday in America and Columbus’ actions are hardly worth honoring, we could join Seattle and Minneapolis as they officially celebrate Indigenous People’s Day. However, although this seems like a step in the right direction, it isn’t nearly enough to really celebrate Native Americans, who discovered America 1,400 years before the lost  explorer, who wasn’t a very polite guest, usurped that title. So, let us take today and appreciate the wisdom that greeted us as we strove to create a land of freedom and liberty. 
While we are at it,  let’s celebrate one another too!
image
Columbus Day Is Now Indigenous People’s Day in Seattle A…

Some cities seek to change the second Monday in October to a more politically correct, inclusive holiday
Preview by Yahoo

“I salute the light within your eyes where the whole Universe dwells. For when you are at that center within you and I am that place within me, we shall be one.”

-Crazy Horse, Oglala Lakota Sioux (circa 1840-1877)

“In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.”

– Iroquois Maxim (circa 1700-1800)

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

– Chief Seattle, Duwamish (1780-1866)

 

“Being Indian is an attitude, a state of mind, a way of being in harmony with all things and all beings. It is allowing the heart to be the distributor of energy on this planet; to allow feelings and sensitivities to determine where energy goes; bringing aliveness up from the Earth and from the Sky, putting it in and giving it out from the heart.”  

– Brooke Medicine Eagle

“We, the great mass of the people think only of the love we have for our land, we do love the land where we were brought up. We will never let our hold to this land go, to let it go it will be like throwing away (our) mother that gave (us) birth.”. – Letter from Aitooweyah to John Ross, Principal Chief of the Cherokee.

When you know who you are; when your mission is clear and you burn with the inner fire of unbreakable will; no cold can touch your heart; no deluge can dampen your purpose. You know that you are alive.

– Chief Seattle, Duwamish (1780-1866)

Stream of Light for 9/11

Where there is love, we can overcome lamentation.  Beyond the fortress of censure and confrontation, we are allowed a glimpse inside the inner workings of beauty.  Where is the beauty in the ashes? In the rising; in the life that continues.  Where we are today in the stream of our own lives intercepts with the lives of countless who have ventured beyond our sight.  In this moment of stillness, feel the lives of billions around the world, yearning for the same freedom we hope to attain. Count what you have that can be taken away. What remains? What can you keep?  Hold it up. Hold that up for all to see.
Extending the moment of silence into now, we can reach out in our hearts to all of those who were directly and indirectly effected by the attack on the world trade center thirteen years ago.  We can hold them in our embrace and be with them as they yearn for healing and justice.
Beyond the controversy and the outrage, today allow this silence to help us ponder the suffering of those around us that we never fully know of or understand, and of the rising life provides us daily.  There is anger, there is fear but life itself offers strength and a freedom beyond what can be attacked.  
Hatred breeds more fear and decreases what security we may already have.  Looking at the examples of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani school girl who stood up to the Taliban and others around the world who stand up, not just for themselves or their countries, religions, or cultures but for an individual’s right to freedom that can apply to all of humanity.  
The Vietnamese teacher/poet Thich Nhat Hanh toured America at the time of 9/11 in 2001 and was aware of how much fear there was within our shores.  “How do we calm down our fear?  In the Buddhist tradition, there is a practice called compassionate listening.  This can help people suffer less. We also have the practice of loving speech.”
Whatever tradition or practice we have that allows us to be there for those around us and lift them up on this day, and every day, may me remember we have access to it.
Let the grass grow, let our hearts become tender as we guard what is essential to us.
“Positive vibrations toward healing of the planet
and our beloved beings who inhabit its many shores.” 
– David Picarillo

 

Happy Birthday America

It is the birthday of America, an idea of a nation not ruled by a king, where we are not confined to a caste system, locked into a station in life but free to move up and down the ladder, to align ourselves with whatever our moral compass points to. 
 
America stands for freedom that allows for choice; choice of religion, philosophy, expression, the gambit of experience.  We are a mirror pool of manifestation reflecting back every possibility and our manifest destiny is to move into the new frontier where we can hear and see ourselves as we truly are beyond centuries of prejudice, fear and doubt.  
 
We are our own forefathers and mothers declaring our independence from the tyranny of prideful ignorance.  A new nation reaching out beyond the borders of limited thought to embrace liberty as she bestows dignity to all who reach out for her.
 
Happy Birthday, blow out your candles and may your year be sweet.