Tag Archives: Diversity

Spring’s colorful conspiracy.

The joys of renewal.

“A saint is an earth in eternal spring. Hafiz is a poet whose song I sing. Inside the veins of a petal on a redbud tree are hidden worlds where he may be.”- Hafiz (Rendered by Daniel Ladinsky and The Levins)

Here in NY, winter clings as if it begrudges spring its inevitability. Still, the daffodils have started to blossom in wild packs in our yard. They survived a serious snow storm that buried them after they had started to emerge from the ground. When it was time to shovel the walkway the next day, my wife Julia suggested we make a stop-action short that made it look like the snow was shoveling itself. There is always something to enjoy in winter. It doesn’t stop us from heading out to make music any more than it stops the deer and the groundhog (who lives under our deck) from traipsing all over our yard.  They leave trails that look like elaborate dances in the snow. Still, there is a freedom of movement that we rejoice in as the days get longer. We are excited to shed excess layers, putting away the heavy coats and big boots that crowd our entrance ways and closets.

Next week, we will travel down to Florida to join my family around an elongated table. There will be three generations of us celebrating Passover. There will be singing, joking, and philosophical wrestling during our elaborate symbol filled feast. Even though we gather to remember our emancipation from slavery, one of the dictates of this holiday is to be joyful. A mandate of joy seems like an oxymoron but sometimes we could all use a nudge.

I remember celebrating Easter as a kid with friends of my family. I stayed at their house, we colored eggs, they hid them and I went around their apartment looking for them. Cecil B. Demille’s Ten Commandments was on TV that night. The movie played in the background providing an epic backdrop. Even as delighted as I was with the egg hunt, I was aware that the thrill I felt was the connection I had laughing with my hosts. There was something divine about these bright colors staining our fingers, the prospect of discovery and getting to abandon ourselves to play.

Today, I read about the Hindu holiday of Holi, or “festival of colors.” Thousands of people gather in the streets, showering each other with bags of colorful powder called gulal.  The god Krishna was said to have played pranks on children during spring. In honor of this, everyone is invited to be children and a representative of the love-filled deity simultaneously. Again, joy is worked into the ritual. It is a prankster’s holiday where relationships are mended and friendships rejoiced in. Looking at pictures of vast crowds covered in clouds of color, it struck me what a wonderful way to remind ourselves not to let castes or pigmentation divide us.

All over the world, in its own time, spring comes in to warm us up with the promise of renewed life. That is a colorful prospect. Abandoning care long enough to let life in is a liberation. However we choose to celebrate this month, may we feel renewed, connected, colorful and bright.

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!

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]