Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Culture of Peace


Today, there's a March for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence in my hometown, a city that has seen far too much violence and bloodshed in recent years.  I'm moved by the action of people from all around the community coming together to stand for change, and as I get ready to go and join them, I find myself asking:

What is a culture of peace and non-violence?

The answer occurring to me at the moment: It's a culture based on the truth of We Are One.

That little phrase is thrown around quite a bit in religious ceremonies, spiritual circles, and new age discussions, but as I see it, there is far more power in these three words than is often recognized and put into practice.  When people act from We Are One, there is a completely different response to a tragic event in the community.  Instead of blaming those most directly responsible, there is a collective responsibility that swoops in to help, to restore, and to reestablish balance.  There is engagement, instead of anger and disengagement.  Instead of "us versus them" patterns, there is an opening question of how will WE heal?

We Are One means that we don't get to separate out the bad guys and the good guys.  We don't get to make the depleted ozone layer the fault of big business, the gun violence the fault of drug dealers, or violence against women the fault of chauvinist men.  Of course there is responsibility by specific parties, but the narrow focus born of our finger pointing misses the big picture.

But that finger pointing habit is a really hard one to break.  In the moment, it can feel so much easier to find some bad people to blame for something that upsets us.  We can buy into the fantasy that if we just get rid of them or make them stop, then the problem will go away.  But after so many turns of this cycle, we need to ask if this is really true.  Do the problems go away for all the fighting we do?

In my observation, the answer to this one is no.  The problems seem to just get bigger; they may shift in form and location, but they remain.  Just like how viruses get immune to antibiotics, the patterns of violence get immune to the barriers and weapons we use to defeat them.  The entire idea of fighting against violence causes us to feed our own energy into the problems we seek to change.

"There is no way to peace.  Peace is the way."

To truly transform our violent culture, a culture of peace needs to grow from the seed of peaceful intention.  I actually love the phrase "a culture of peace."  When we shift from a focus on this intangible concept of peace to a focus on shifting the culture, the norms, and the ways of being, to me, it becomes a more practical movement.  We make up the culture, and by looking at the level of culture, more tangible things we can work on within ourselves arise, things that can spill over into actions in our lives, contributions in our immediate communities, and a growing movement within the greater human community.

A culture of peace needs to start with our own response to the realities that alarm us, challenge us, and break our hearts.  We are all in this together, we are one community, one human race.  When we take collective responsibility for the problems in our community, we have a collective power to transform.  This march feels like such a beautiful way the people of the city and surrounding areas are taking that collective responsibility and igniting their power for positive change.

"Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field.  I will meet you there."  Rumi

To me, this field is the culture of peace.  When we start spending more time in this field, acting more from our oneness than from our separateness, then I truly believe we will see the dawning of a culture of peace.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The "S" Word

Written in 2010, and sadly, way more relevant today than it was then.

One night at dinner, my 7 year old daughter was telling us the rules of her classroom, and my husband and I sat with attention as she told us, "we're not allowed to say all the bad words. You know, like the 's' word."

"The 's' word?" my husband asked almost afraid to hear the answer.

She leaned in and whispered, "stupid."

After recovering from what I thought was going to be a moment of shattering innocence, I thought about the ‘s’ word and why it was ban in her classroom. This ‘s’ word is one of the worst!  Way worse in intent and impact then the meaningless profanities I was so afraid she was beginning to learn.

Adults could take a cue from my daughter’s teacher in the rules we follow in everyday conversation. The news and the political conversations that grow out of the news throw around the ‘s’ word or one of its close cousins on a daily basis. We shamelessly belittle public figures and those who follow them, if they are on the other side of whatever we’re talking about.

The 's' word takes us smack in the middle of the "us against them" mentality. We build these imaginary fences that divide us into different groups: those that know what’s going on and those that are stupid and misled. These fences grow higher and higher, and those that feel cut out of a conversation form more passionate conversations among themselves.

And these divides breed ignorance. This attitude of “us and them” is so prevalent in American politics, and it isolates viewpoints by silencing critical debate that could help us see all aspects of a problem. Debates can go on without antagonizing those with different beliefs and values. Through the health care issue, we see how this “us and them” mentality is destroying our ability to problem solve as a community, and as ever greater problems come up for resolution, this lack of peaceful communication could have much greater consequences than ever before.

As I see it, we are seeing more and more of a disturbing mob rule sort-of environment.  The group someone stands with seems to have a lot more to do with their stance on an issue than that individual's discernment and attempt to understand the different sides of an issue.  I fear that this has us heading down a slippery slope towards a dangerously divided country. 

A big thing that I think we can all do to build a more peaceful dialogue and world is so simple: if only we can just really follow that rule of my daughter’s elementary school classroom about not using the "s" word.  If we refrained from this in our speech and spirit, I truly believe it would make a world of difference.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Peace in Action

Recycling a post from a couple years back today.   

“Let us take the risks of peace upon our lives, not impose the risks of war upon the world.” Quaker Proverb

Peaceful action, in my opinion, has little to do with how forceful or how tranquil the action itself is. Rather, the relevant inquiry is to examine the perspective from which the action arises. Even an action of great force can come from a equanimity of mind. When there is a true embrace of our shared humanity, I believe that even quite fierce or outwardly violent actions have the potential to move us toward peace. Internal state is where peace starts, and I believe that it's only through actions arising from an internal state of peace that we can bring the peace we have cultivated inside ourselves to the world around us.

On a wide scale, I believe humans have fallen into quite a different pattern. Our actions, large and small, aggressive and docile, are much more often fueled by a state of blameful separation and anger. The problem is that whether these actions succeed or fail in the short run, when we step back, we can start to notice that actions to taken with this blameful intention are in vain. The beast we think we are fighting just keeps getting stronger; it just keeps reappearing and morphing into more ruthless forms.

When Gandhi said “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” I don't see this as just a line of idealistic poetry. He was stating an observation about how certain kinds of actions work in the world. When we act in the hope for vengeance, in a belief that elimination and punishment will heal our wounds and make us safe, we become blind.

I notice a strong resistance to understand what offends us, and I think it is because we’re afraid that understanding would be like condoning or empowering what we think is wrong. So instead, we quite often choose to hate that which offends us. We choose the course of doing whatever it takes to eliminate, block, or oppose that which offends us. And in this course of action, we miss seeing an obvious pattern at work.

I believe that the opposite of our conditioned instincts is true. It is our resistance to understand, and the resulting hatred and loss of integrity that IS condoning and empowering the behavior that offends us. We're sending a clear message about what we think of as an empowered voice of opposition, and it actually invites the other side to continue speaking to us in the same language.

“Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.” Gandhi

Entertain the possibility that this isn’t merely a lofty metaphor, but a statement of actual truth. Gandhi’s movement to free India shows how this principle can actually work to break the chain of violence and injustice. Gandhi was so unique in his approach to opposition. He never lost faith in the British; he firmly held that if they really knew what they were doing and saw it clearly, they would leave India. And as we all learned, he was right, and in my humble opinion, this faith in his enemy was one of the most unique and powerful waves of change the world has ever seen.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


I'm guessing that anyone who has seen me in the past 10 years has seen me in this:

Every so often I sub in a different necklace, but at the end of the day, I feel like I need to get that imposter off and quickly get back to home base.  I just feel most authentic and like myself with this around my neck.

And the events of this past week, starting with MLK Day, then to the Inauguration, and finally yesterday's immense display in DC and around the world with the Women's March, have really got me thinking about the core sentiment that makes this necklace so special to me: Unity.

My understanding of the Om symbol is that it represents the sound of the Universe.  If all the different sounds and vibrations could be heard together, creating one symphony, one harmony, one vibration, it would be the sound of Om.   To me, the Om represents the One: One Life, One Being, One Human Race, One Love, One God: an indivisible reality that includes Everything.

Starting the week off with a flood of quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it all felt so in line with this sentiment of unity.  And then, inauguration day demonstrations around the world reflected his famous quote:

Although a response more directly to Donald Trump's assertion of a policy to build a wall between the US and Mexico, the deeper sentiment of connection, love, and unity seemed very much at the heart of these global demonstrations.

But it was yesterday, as I spent the greater part of my day watching live feeds from the Women's March in DC, that all this inquiry into unity went a bit deeper.   

As the March was approaching, I felt happy to see it coming together, and at the same time, quite certain my low-level-anxiety, crowd-averse self was not meant to hit the streets.  This set of Unity Principles around which the March was to revolve all resonated for me, and the idea of people channeling their angst feelings about the new president into an action felt right.

Although not as a marcher, I did find my own perfect way to contribute: crocheting hats.  A cousin was heading to DC with a group of 4, and I made them all these pussyhats:

I loved the idea of this whole hat project.  The unifying image of a sea of marchers wearing similar hats to express their power, their allegiance to the feminine, their oneness; it really inspired me.  And more, the fact that the world wide club of crocheters and knitters were stitching their love and support into hats that they sent off to DC tickled my heart even more.

I tuned in to see this great sea of pink, this unified demonstration, and I saw it, far beyond the pink hats and the borders of DC.  Truly, a touching and great display of solidarity from around the world.

But, I was reminded of a phenomenon that I've been seeing repeat itself for years.  I wrote about it first in this post: the 100%.  There I was talking about the Occupy Wallstreet movement and the common slogan of the 99 percent versus the 1 percent.  And yesterday, I felt a similar sense of these gatherings that seemed in large part to be motivated by the desire for unity, for bridges, for inclusion, that end up expressing messages of divisiveness.

The two most obvious divides I kept feeling arise yesterday were the Trump hate and the abortion debate.  When position statements about abortion and cutting criticisms of the new president were spoken or displayed, I started to wonder: how would I feel if I was strong moral/religious pro-life advocate? Or how would it feel if I was a woman who voted for Trump, not as a fan of his behavior or his every position, but only because I thought he better embodied my thoughts about what was good for the country?  When I explored what I'd feel like if I were those people, inclusion was not at all what I felt.

There was a subtle assumption that the liberal position on these things (Trump's a dangerous jackass and reproductive freedom is a fundamental right) are the only sane perspectives.  And even though these particular liberal positions are ones that resonate for me, I cannot agree that they are the only sane and loving ways to look at these questions.  I believe that it was this pattern of condescending liberal assumption that drove much of the momentum leading President Trump (for an article with a similar perspective click here), and this condescension isn't just coming from  liberals - it happens in both directions and in so many different ways. 

It's a reflex to belittle and even demonize opposing points of view.  It is a shadow that we need to tend to if we are ever to become truly unified.

No one can deny the incredible chasm that has been growing for many years in the US.  I saw one post yesterday that used the tag line "Two Americas" showing passionate and adorned demonstrators in support of Trump's inauguration and against it from this past weekend.  It left me wondering where these Two Americas is leading us.

Is the growing divide foreshadowing a civil war, or is it the call for us to do the difficult work of building bridges, even on the issues that divide us the most?  Will we face our disagreements with judgement and ridicule, or will we listen, try to understand, try to put ourselves in the position of those who see things differently?

Of the thousands, perhaps millions, of people that showed up around the world yesterday, a great variety of intentions were being expressed.  As I look to recent movements, I think this variety as it becomes expressed can be the Achilles Heel that becomes the movement's undoing at a certain point.  The more specific and loud different people get, the more people start turning away because the movement no longer really expresses their point of view.

There's another way though. We can rise above our differences of opinion and come together in our commonalities as citizens and as human beings.  If we look closely, I think we'll begin to notice the difference between our opinions and our humanity, and in this noticing, we can build a ground where more and more of us can meet, just as Rumi said, 

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.  I’ll meet you there." 

True unification requires us to sacrifice our own sense that we are right.  It requires us to suspend our judgement and open our minds.  After listening, we still may not agree, and we still may need to hold firm to our convictions and work hard to help other people understand our points of view.  There may even be times when we face atrocities and injustices so great that we need to take strong and unbending positions, actions of great magnitude and importance. 

But, what non-violent leaders like MLK and Gandhi showed us is that it is possible to stand firm in a point of view with your hand still outstretched to the ones that disagree.  Yesterday, I wondered, what if some of Trump's family came to the March, maybe even wanting to put on a pussyhat and show their support in one way or another.  Would they be welcomed guests?  Should they be welcomed guests? 

My prayer coming out of this extraordinary week is that we start thinking of inclusion in bigger terms.  May we embrace and allow room for our fantastic and great diversity, including our diversity of opinion and belief.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Anger

I had a plan to write about something different this Sunday, something a little more obviously aligned with peace.  But as I sit down at the keyboard this morning, I feel like anger is the more useful place for attention in my own journey toward greater peace.

We've all seen lots of anger projected through our screens during the last year of political debate and division.  I've found it pretty distasteful, and I felt like I mostly stayed above the anger.  Then, last weekend was one of my yoga teacher training weekends, and we learned about Ayurveda. In identifying our dominant doshas, I confirmed that I am dominantly Pitta - the fiery one.  As our teacher was reading the traits and mentioned a tendency toward anger, I remember thinking, "huh, that doesn't really sound like me."

And ever since that passing thought, life's been poking fun at me.

True, I'm not prone to screaming fits or violent outbursts.  I mostly have control of my tongue and don't call people names or burst out with strong judgements.  I mean, we all have our slips every once in awhile, but mostly, I'd call myself pretty chilled out and not at all a candidate for anger management classes.

But as often happens when I have a strong and wrong sense of myself arise, contradictions start coming out of the woodwork. 

First, I kept noticing dumb stuff, like a hyped up reaction to my husband's socks, left on the floor, again!  I just dismissed these as playful and scrappy interactions.  He's obviously not intimidated because those socks will be there again and again, and I know he likes a little fire in his woman.  

But then, something happened at work that triggered me.  I could literally feel the burning in my chest, and although it didn't turn into an overblown reaction, it churned in my mind, pretty relentlessly.  I could come up with soothing thoughts that calmed it down or shifted the attention positively for a time, but I was floored to notice how once that fire is lit, man, it's really hard to stop it!

And then lastly in this parade of my own disillusionment, on Friday night my daughter dropped her phone and broke the screen.  She was so freaked out about how I would react.  I was calm and fine.  (She did give me a text warning and seeing how nervous she was about my reaction quickly put me in check.)  As I talked to her later about why she was so nervous about my reaction, she had all kinds of good evidence for why she thought I'd lose my shit over it.

And finally I gave in: I am a bit of a crazy hot head. 

I had a lot more self-awareness about this part of myself when I was younger.  I liked it and would describe it as passionate, not angry.  I saw it as this sparky firecracker part of my personality, and I thought it served me well in treading my own path and making sure the world gave me my due respect.

But as I've gotten older, I've been less enchanted by this passionate side of myself.  In the early years of buckling down into marriage and motherhood, that wild stallion wreaked some havoc, and wanting to cultivate more stability in my family and my life, I put some strong focus on calming that aspect of myself.

Over the years, I've gotten pretty good at more consciously deciding how to direct those energies.  I'm filled with ideas and training about calming the fire - breathing through it, doing some yoga, writing in a journal until it begins to dissipate.  And that's all well and good, but the problem is: I'm just one sock away from another flare up.

I know it will come up again and again; it's a pattern that is seemingly hardwired into me this time around.  And my big concern is that sometimes this scrappy side feels like a complete contradiction to my deepest interests and hopes to be a contributor to peace in the world. 

The faces of peace and of fire seem so different from the outside, completely opposed.  But for some time, I've had this intuition that they aren't as separate as they seem.  I started exploring this idea of fierceness in peace a long while back in this post: the other side of peace.

As I think about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and other heroes of peace, I sense a certain grit and fire that fueled their faith and leadership to go beyond the dominant movements of the culture.  I sense that this fire has a place in a movement toward greater peace, both within and out in the world. 

Dealing with the anger is so tricky though, and really, I feel like a novice.  On one hand, I sometimes hold it inside myself to my own detriment, imploding with a fire that craves expression but I'm too afraid will come out wrong.  Or then, there are the times when I let it rip, and I feel horribly guilty for being unkind in ways I truly did not intend. 

The anger seems like the sword of the peaceful warrior.   It can be the tool that slices through resistance, ignorance and inertia and brings real and lasting change.  But, as we have seen in recent times, it can also be so cutting and simply fuel more destructive anger. 

I get the sense that our fate will be determined in large part by how we learn to wield this sword.

Sunday, January 8, 2017


Happy New Year!

I took the last two weeks off from my regular Sunday posts because holidays fell on both Sundays.  It gave me a good excuse to just take a full on break, and it was just what I needed. 

But now, it's a new year, and I feel ready to get back to it.

This week my mind took me down a dirt road from my past that led to a butterfly garden in Costa Rica where I worked just about two decades ago.  In exchange for room and board on the grounds of the garden, I gave hour long tours to tourists passing through the little mountain village, and in order to fill up that hour, I had to study butterflies pretty intensely for a week or two.  During my crash course, I also gained quite a strong affection for those pretty little winged creatures.

It was the butterfly life cycle that really pulled me in.  We had a chart of the life cycle somewhat like this one hanging in our nature center:

I saved my stop here for the end of my tour; it was my big finale.  I'd point out to my group that there is not a single thing in common between the caterpillar and the butterfly that it was to become.  I'd confess that before coming to work at the butterfly garden, I had assumed that when the caterpillar curled up into a ball, wings sprouted off some remaining part of the caterpillar body in order to form the butterfly.

But no, I'd tell them, it wasn't that kind of transformation at all.  It was a total and complete obliteration.  I'd tell them how the caterpillar broke down completely in the chrysalis, into a cellular soup.  There was nothing at all identifiable in the caterpillar that you'd find in the butterfly.

Then, I'd cover up the chrysalis at this point and say that if we didn't see this part, there would be nothing at all to let us know that this caterpillar and this butterfly were ever the same creature.  I then ended with my big punch on how the butterfly gave us a rare opportunity to peer beyond the veil of death and birth.  You know, just to leave them with a little something to ponder. 

My boss always joked about how he couldn't believe how I'd get even grown men cooing over the magic of butterflies.  It was easy for me though; my own cooing was completely authentic.

And this week, my old friend started fluttering into my mind quite surprisingly.

Over the last few weeks, I've felt like brokenness kept showing up.  Within my personal life, within my country, around the world, I just kept feeling like brokenness was showing its face around every corner.  And just as I was starting to feel overwhelmed by this sense of so much apparent destruction, the butterfly popped into my mind.

And with it, a sense of hope moved in.  As my brain started reaching back into those old files and that butterfly life cycle came back to the front of my mind, I remembered that brokenness and destruction can be part of a much bigger pattern, just as they are in the butterfly life cycle.  

To me, the butterfly represents the hope of life after death, the hope that something beautiful will come from the destruction of what came before.  Here's to the hope that 2017 will be a great year of transformation, moving some of this brokenness that's come before into something new and beautiful.

Sunday, December 18, 2016


This week, I don't really feel like I have all that much to say.  I watched this amazing TedTalk yesterday and really what I most want to share is this talk:

John Francis: Walk the 17 year vow of silence

Please watch it - a great way to spend the next 18 minutes.  A total delight, and an amazing story of his life - one part Forrest Gump, one part Gandhi.  I really really love this guy.

Update 1/6/17: I notice that since I heard this guy's story, something new has been inspired within me.  To me, he's a beautiful picture of profound success.  Not that more common type of success, but the success of keeping a deep personal commitment, of walking a long path to deep wisdom, of cultivating a wild allegiance to one's own truth.  His ability to hold to his inner commitments to not ride in a motorized vehicle and then to not speak for decades absolutely astounds me.  I think his story resonates for me because I feel like I'm of a similar breed.  I have pretty outlandish idealistic impulses, and sometimes, I even have a glimmer of the kind of fortitude his story illustrates.  He makes me curious about what it would look like if I was more focused about cultivating these traits in myself.     

Sunday, December 11, 2016


This image really grabbed me this week:

From the Facebook page of Standing Rock Rising

This picture was taken this past week when a group of U.S. veterans bowed down while one of them expressed an apology for how our military and government has mistreated and harmed Native people.  The Native elder responded by an in-kind apology for the 268 soldiers who were killed during the Battle of Big Horn by Sioux warriors.  This apology and forgiveness exchange was followed by a call by both the gathered veterans and the elder for World Peace.

Reading about this event, watching video, looking at pictures - this did much more than warm my heart.  It freaking set it on fire.  All week, I've felt giddy with optimism and love and hope. 

Almost 20 years ago now, I was studying abroad in Australia and saw a flyer for a meeting to discuss Aboriginal Reconciliation; I was intrigued enough to show up.  The meeting was related to the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, and I sat and listened as this small group of passionate people talked about their plan to organize some sort-of public recognition of the tragic history of the Indigenous people who were killed and abused in various ways as the Europeans settled Australia. 

Being in that meeting opened me up to consider facing the ugliest chapters of our history with something besides debilitating shame or fearful denial.  It gave me hope there was another way, and I've reflected back to that often over the years.

Australia continued experimenting with these questions about reconciliation, and around 9 years after my visit, the Australian government gave a public apology to their Indigenous people, the Apology of 2008.  This article has interesting comparisons of the Australian and United States' attempts to restore and heal relations with their Indigenous people.  The grand apology does not seem to have created the hoped for reconciliation in Australia, but that doesn't dampen my hope for what's possible.  It only makes me that much more curious about how it could be played out more meaningfully.

Forgiveness feels a bit like magic to me.

When awful things happen, both parties hold a key to deep resolution in their own ability to  apologize, to forgive, to be honest about what occurred.  In my own life, I've found that these are some of the hardest things to meaningfully do, and yet, these are our greatest opportunities for transformation and healing, both personally and collectively.

I pray that the forgiveness ceremony this week is a catalyst for more in that vein.  May we walk the road to deeply forgive ourselves, to deeply forgive each other, to deeply forgive our ancestors, and may some hard earned forgiveness be the fertile ground for a cultural transformation.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Long Shot

Man oh man.  These last six months or so have been a doozy here in the US, and it appears to be similar for planet earth in general.  And as the weather is turning colder, I'm really feeling the draw to unplug, head into hibernation, and hope everything goes ok out in the world while I'm warm in my little cave not paying attention to it all.

I have been paying attention, trying my best, and hoping the hardest things to hope.  And it's getting exhausting. 

I always seem to pick the long shot.  I vote for third parties in presidential elections a lot of the time.  If I'm not enthused by either major party candidate, I just can't get myself to choose the one that seems a lesser evil.  As we were nearing this election, I really thought that maybe I just had to do it this one time;  but at the final moment, I just didn't.  I somehow seem to have no trouble mustering the hope, despite everyone's "you must be crazy" looks, that something else is possible than the status quo, than this toxic two party system that seems so filled with smoke and mirrors.

And then since the election, again, my mind keeps turning to another long shot.  I keep wishing that maybe 37 of the republican electors will decide not to vote for Trump on December 19th, and just maybe the House will choose someone else.  If not, I'll move on and start hoping that he surprises me in the best possible ways, but until that long shot passes, it's where my eyes keep falling.

And then, there's the Dakota Access Pipeline; I'm hoping like crazy that it is never completed.  Somehow, maybe all the people, the prayers, the urgency of climate change will overcome, and this company losing billions of dollars on a pipeline that is never finished will change the tide and begin a cycle of rapid movement away from fossil fuels.

Even look at this blog: A Peaceful Human Race - dedicated to the hope that we evolve into a peaceful human race.  And the first blog I ever made I named A Sustainable Human Race, one I started on the hope that human beings would learn to sustain themselves in harmony with the miraculous and sensitive environmental balance of this incredible planet and all its inhabitants.

I'm a total dreamer, and even when something is a complete long shot, if it resonates for me, I believe, the way a kid into the double digits might still hold that belief in Santa.  It can be disheartening for me at times, but I have to admit that mostly I sort-of love this trait in myself.  Those long shots give me this comfy feeling that lets me know I'm home in my own strange self.

But lately, the long shots are feeling harder to believe in and more dire.  Last night, my husband and I were talking about some of the scary possibilities of our future - like nuclear war - and he said, "wow, maybe we won't even get to see global warming."

After we had a laugh, it hit me: maybe we won't.

Maybe we really are seeing the end, maybe we're living in Atlantis, maybe we are the dinosaurs stomping recklessly upon this planet and will soon be sunk under layers of dirt into its history.

I really haven't wanted to make peace with that.  I've wanted to hope my way through it, dreaming and visualizing and coming up with solutions to all the world's problems.  But after a couple decades of seeing humanity driving towards this brick wall and trying to wish and pray it away, I feel like it might be time for a change in my approach.

Those violinists on the Titanic have been on my mind this past week.  While everyone was rushing around in panic all around them, they went out on deck with their instruments and played their music, until the very end.  I've always loved that scene of the movie, feeling the deep beauty of choosing that way of spending their last moments.

I'm wondering if it's time for me to just make peace with the tragic ending, with the possibility that we will never become a truly peaceful human race, with the possibility that we may be among the last generations of human beings to live on this gorgeous planet. 

Nah.  I can write those words and I can see a significant number of arrows pointing at those possibilities, but something in me won't cooperate with that thinking.  A peaceful and sustainable human race is something that feels real to me, from the inside.

I have absolutely no idea whether this ship is going down or not, but either way, those violinists are a strong message for me right now.  Calm down in the midst of panic, step out on deck, and just play the role that you're clear is yours to play.  Part of my role is apparently to hold these long shots, and so I will, but it feels like time to hold them a little lighter and focus more on the music, the tastes, the everyday miracles that abound.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Our Nation's First Sin

The first thanksgiving feast between the Native Americans and Pilgrims that I was taught about as a kid colored my stories about the photo below.  This is a picture of my own Native American ancestor and her white husband, and as a kid, I told myself a story about a lovely unity and cooperation between the settlers and the Native Americans, a unity that led to a marriage that eventually led to my family.

But, is that the true story behind this photograph, behind the story of Thanksgiving?

I don't really know much about the real lives of the two people in this picture, and what really happened in that first thanksgiving feast also feels like a quite a mystery to me as I've learned more about that era.  I discovered this article, and I like how it boils things down to what we most likely do actually know.  It's a somewhat lighthearted look in comparison to the detail given in this article on the oppressive relationship between the settlers and the first people of this land.

Even if there was a beautiful shared celebration, both articles agree that things turned ugly. Our government walked a path of broken promises, stolen children, and genocide, and we only relatively recently and completely inadequately have worked to right those wrongs.  This video may surprise you with some of the key dates when Native Americans earned certain essential rights.  The treatment of our Indigenous people was our nation's first great sin.

This Thanksgiving weekend, along with being filled with a personal gratitude for the overwhelming blessings of my own personal life, I have been jumping out of my skin ready to scream, "IT IS TIME that we get moving on real reconciliation of our history of ignoring indigenous wisdom and our severe mistreatment of Native Americans by doing the right thing at Standing Rock!"  Seriously, if I had a mountaintop to scream from, I'd be there, screaming until my throat was sore.

For a snapshot of what's happening at Standing Rock, here's a look at a video that lays out the situation in favor of the Tribe and an article with the position of the company building the pipeline and another article from that point of view.  I've also found this map extremely helpful to give some context.  There is a lot out there on the militarized response of law enforcement against the Water Protectors, as the demonstrators call themselves.  You can start here and here if you'd like to learn more on those violent clashes.

Although I can accept that there are different ways to look at the situation in Standing Rock, what resonates most for me is what feels like a simpler and undeniable wisdom at the heart of all this. Water is Life, the Earth supports All Life, and our current way of living is not aligned with the preservation of our natural resources and environment for future generations.  And that this message is being brought to us by Native Tribes coming together in huge numbers, unifying to speak a truth of harmony and earth-honoring that reined in this land before the settlers came - that makes this whole situation feels all the more important to me.

When I first started learning about what's happening at Standing Rock, I didn't realize the mixing of the immediate issues for the Sioux Tribe and this company trying to finish the pipeline, and all these bigger picture issues.  It all seemed very intertwined, and I didn't much notice the lines between them, but as I've gone deeper, this has all become about so much more than just the immediate concerns and needs of the Sioux Tribe. 

It's become about preserving all water, Honoring the Earth in all our actions, and how the militarized response to the peaceful protests reflects back to the horrible history of relations between this country's first people and the immigrants who came to this country starting in 1492.  It's become about "killing the black snake" and keeping this pipeline from every being completed.  Re-routing it doesn't feel sufficient to me.  It's about the fossil fuel industry taking the hit this time, and a beginning of aligning bottom line profits with what really profits us all.

The first people of this land had a perspective of connectivity, harmony, and interdependence.  They cultivated their sense of connection with the Earth, the environment, the water, the animals.  They felt an allegiance to future generations, and they honored their responsibility to preserve and steward the Earth for the benefit of future generations.  The idea of land ownership made no sense to them at all, and their perspective was used against them by the early immigrants in all sorts of trickery.  Now, the realities of climate change are occurring and escalating, and the rejection of that indigenous wisdom is hitting us like a karmic slap in the face.

The vast majority of our schooled scientists are seeing that we are actually all connected, that we are actually all intertwined, and that we are actually fucking up our planet by our way of life.  They are seeing that we have to end this way of relating to the earth, to water, to energy and progress, or there will be far fewer future generations than we would hope.

I pray for a miracle here.  I pray that our country starts down a new path with Standing Rock - both in embracing our different cultural populations and our shared planet.  The United States is in crazy turmoil right now, and I pray that we begin the healing by facing our history honestly and facing our nation's first sin to take whatever action we possibly can to make things right at Standing Rock. 9 Effective Ways to Help Standing Rock.

Then, maybe we can continue with the healing by turning some attention to our country's second sin: slavery.