Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Bringing our Love-Fear Paradigm to the Table

A Thanksgiving Opportunity

My wife Julia and I were recently driving in Manhattan. While in gridlock traffic, we looked left and noticed a glowing electric sign that was hanging in a window that read, “Right NOW is all there is.” We slowly moved along and a block later, across the street, a painted window read, “Love what you do.”  As we inched forward, we started laughing as we finally noticed the truck in front of us had an insignia, “Trust”, painted on the back.  It was a beautiful synchronous moment, where we realized that our environment was reaching out to us.

We have driven on this street, several times but never saw the signs on either side because we are usually racing to get somewhere. Traffic in SOHO is never predictable and we are often generally concerned about running behind. Yet, the difference this time was, as we drove, we were listening to a book that was aligning us with love and engaging us to be more present.

Fear and love, being the two motivating forces at play in this reality, create a co-existing paradigm, similar to the particle-wave principle of light. Light is both a particle and a wave, depending on how we observe it. Similarly, being in a state of fear or love, shifts our focus and changes our environment.

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In the midst of chaos, we have access to a pervasive calm.  What streams through us, moment to moment, is a love that offers us insights. Love can transcend the fear-based projections which motivate violence and suffering tending to dominate the world.

Both fear and love support us completely. If we are fearful, then the universe provides us with endless reasons to maintain our apprehension. If we are grounded in love, then we are able to recognize or find strength and inspiration, even in the midst of gridlock traffic.

The custom of gathering together for Thanksgiving is an opportunity to demonstrate this Love-Fear paradigm. It is all too familiar to allow dread of awkward interactions to pave the way for passive aggression, political declarations, outbursts of judgement followed by toxic silences.  With a determined intention, we can also decide to be present and align ourselves with love and gratitude. Despite all of our fearful quirks, the love we embody is worth bringing to the table. With that love, we can look past one another’s faults, and the factions we find ourselves in, to strengthen our bonds. It will also help with our digestion.

Whether you are gathered around with family or friends, or find yourself in solitude this week, may love be present. Happy Thanksgiving and a love-filled feast!

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!

Humanity’s band of merry makers

gandhi_mlkThroughout our history, both individually and collectively, amid the chaos and tumultuous conflicts, there has been a quiet stream of interactions that have upheld the spirit of our humanity.  Sometimes we have gained shelter from a story, a book, a writer who provided us with the best we have to offer in the context of fantasy, fiction, history or by directly offering us another option.  Sometimes we gain what James Joyce calls aesthetic arrest from paintings or artwork, which act like portals that connect us to all of life instantly.  Sometimes a single melody can transport us purely into the center of being in which are and always will be free.

There have been leaders, such as MLK, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, who use their faith and dedication to bring relief to those around them, inspiring communities to bring about benevolent change.  Then there are those people who open the door for you, run down the street to retrieve something the wind has carried away, speak up for you in a hostile crowd or offer you unsolicited comfort.

This stream of merry makers in all their various forms call out to us to join them.  In all likelihood, we have been among them periodically and delight in their dance that mirrors the depths of love.

As this week of Thanksgiving marches on and we take in the news, encounter marketing ploys, calculated entertainment, holiday anxiety, we may get jostled and frazzled. Lean on whatever centers you and join the parade that is hidden in plain sight.

anne_2148996b

“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”

-Anne Frank

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!