I came upon our ducks in frenzy. I stopped to watch as one bolted from the crowd carrying something in her mouth. It was a full-grown frog and not one that she was willing to share. I watched as she continued to elude the others while attempting to consume the now dead frog. The other ducks gave up the chase as I watched in disbelief. It was all so unexpected. Never had I thought of a duck killing and eating a full-grown frog.
Nature has surprises. Although by now there shouldn’t be. I couldn’t judge her; she was following deep seeded instincts of survival. I could feel for the frog, but the reality is the frog has its own instincts to follow.
And then I began to consider the instincts that drive us. There are many who equate the ruthlessness they observe in Nature with the ruthlessness of human beings. It is used to justify the worst of our behaviors and it is also used to justify the corporal punishments we dole as retribution. It is used to justify war, genocide and all forms of inequality. We have become adept at declaring and resigning ourselves to humanity at its worst. It is the excuse we allow.
I have come to resent that excuse. I no longer believe we must accept and follow the base instincts of life. But it does mean we must consciously choose which instincts we will follow. We must survey the terrain of our being and choose which seeds must be cared for and which seeds should be left alone.
Choosing understanding over hatred, compassion over anger, and kindness over greed can be done.
It takes practice. It takes determination. It takes courage, but it can be done.
Yes, violence begets violence, but love certainly creates love
“Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love. ” Martin Luther King (1958)
I remember a poem I wrote when I was young; it was about a cage made of human hands. It was a response to the suffocation I felt when asked to conform. From that moment of clarity, I made it my business not to get caught in the cage.
Yet through the years I have unwittingly slipped into the cage needing to find my way out again and again. There is comfort in conformity even when we know it is against our better interest. And it is not easy to stand peaceful and resolute in the face of fear and hatred.
One of the bars of the cage is the belief that we are different from one another and gives way to inequality. One bar tells us that winners have the most toys – omitting the reality that we come and go from this world empty handed. One bar is adamant that human beings are vile and corrupt and need to be controlled.
The bars are our beliefs. When we accept them as truth they trap us.
Today our beliefs are tearing at the fabric of our humanity. We give our power to the powerful and anguish as they abuse it. We wring our hands and speak with contempt, but very few take the time to examine the cage. We have built it and we accept it. And no one can save us from this cage but us.
Our heroes are dying. The emperor is exposed. The worldwide collapse caused by the virus could have been stopped before it began. Power and money grabs carry on just as we have allowed. They are empowered by the belief that the destruction of the earth and of her people is unavoidable.
Yet none of this is ordained. Humanity is calling. It’s still our choice.
Step out of the cage.
Here come the first hints of spring right on time. I heard a robin sing yesterday and today the call of the sand hill crane caught my attention. The snow is melting and the mud and the ice are treacherous if you take a wrong step, but the brilliant sun makes the cold wind cower and you know it is only a matter of time before you will walk barefoot again.
And there is hope, right on time.
The news in any given day is bleak and I am inclined to believe it is intentionally so. It is easier to control a population when it is kept on edge. It is easier to drive an agenda if you do not give people a chance to find their own way. But at the end of the day, it will always be our choice to fall for fear mongering and hate baiting or to strive to create sustainable peace.
Winter in the Driftless is not for those afraid of a good challenge. But it is the beauty of the season and the brilliance of the night skies that soothes the soul and holds the promise of spring.
I couldn’t live in a hopeless world. And the return of the sand hill crane reminds me of that. I muse over the latest news on the coronavirus, or the hatred that has reared its head against Muslims in Delhi. Yet I rejoice to hear the Korean woman tell how she survived the disease and how the Hindu man saved many Muslim neighbors making trips by motorcycle.
You see, spring returns. And with it hope. Not blind hope, but hope born of reason, conviction and action laced with integrity. We are born for this. We are born to be victors over fear, hatred and ignorance, because we are born for love.
sandhill crane in flight courtesy of wikipedia commons
As the news that the coronavirus has reached Italy, and the numbers of infected people in South Korea rise, the world shrinks in fear and the stock market trembles.
The stock market trembles.
I stopped respecting the stock market years ago when a serious broker at Chicago’s Board of Trade told me he was happy when milk farmers struggled because he made money. I have further distanced myself from the market as I learned that the largest industry in the United States is the making and selling of weaponry. It is our largest industry.
Millions of innocent people in the Middle East are caught in the cross fires of United States weaponry. Homeless, hungry, hospitals bombed and borders closed there is a desperation that we seldom hear about. Their inhuman plight does not send a ripple through the market like our fear of a virus that may or may not be coming to get us.
And there in lies the curse of capitalism.
As long as making money is number one, we allow ourselves to not see. As long as our portfolios climb, there is little incentive to ask our handlers, “Where is the money coming from?”
President Trump recently visited India. Prior to his coming a huge wall was erected so that he would not have to see a slum on his drive to Ahmedabad. Trump has told us that the sight of homelessness is a stain on the beauty of a city – a stain on the city but no mention of the stain on our conscience as we allow people to live in squalor.
And that my friend is the curse of capitalism. Capitalism without conscience is a disease we can no longer afford.
Fear abounds these days. Socialism is coming to get you. But what the pundits warn as socialism is simply common sense.
photo courtesy of wikipedia commons: banknotes
Scholars debate the extent the Iroquois Confederacy influenced the founding fathers of this country. It is however indisputable that there was communication between the two peoples on the fundamentals of creating a union.
The Iroquois Confederacy was built upon a foundation of peace. Their beautiful oral tradition celebrates the Peacemaker who came and offered principles to guide the creation of a union of diverse tribes. Those principles were fundamental and held in common. It was understood that the Confederacy would be matrilineal and that they would include the earth in their undertakings. The women determined power, as they were the ones who selected the chiefs. Women were also charged with removing power from the chiefs if abuses or transgressions occurred.
The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States were advanced thinking among European peoples given the time. But the models of union developed by the forefathers of this country were constructs of economics. The history of this country is filled with abuses of power for economic gain from its onset. Today the words “abuse of power” are far more prevalent than declarations of, or the pursuit of, peace. And I would argue that the foundation of peace is needed.
Violence towards women and children, destruction of the earth, gun violence and endless and fruitless wars are all symptoms of a people who have traded the desire for peace for economic gain.
However, it is never to late to change course. And the righting of this ship can be seen in many aspects of our lives together. The cry for reparations, indigenous demands for the Rights of Nature, and the voices for peace are growing.
We would do well to incorporate the vision of peace as we determine our collective course. Wisdom invites us to end the abuse of power by restoring it to the peaceful.
photo is the flag of the Iroquois Confederacy from wikipedia commons
A friend came by to help us ready for winter. He’s a young Amish gentleman and we have shared laughter and good wishes for a few years now. He mentioned he would be traveling to celebrate Thanksgiving and I asked, “What foods do you have for your meal?” “Turkey most often”, he replied. And I thought about it a bit and asked, “Do you tell stories of Pilgrims and Indians?” “No”, he said. “Me either”, I said, and then added, “I must be a bit Amish”…and we laughed.
We had many sweet conversations that day as we puttered about moving wood and fencing, and getting the barn ready for the sheep to winter. He was brave enough to have his first taste of curry as we sat to eat our lunch, and liked it enough for seconds. He spoke about his new bride and how happy he is in his new life. I could feel his joy. It was infectious. I read to him a note of thanks that I had received and he smiled.
We talked about how good it would be if all people could respect each other in their differences and delight in their similarities. And once again I marveled at the ease of speaking to another human being who cherishes life first and foremost.
As the day wore on I felt our kinship grow and was grateful for the brief times we share. While driving home he made note of, and thanked me for, slowing down as I came upon a horse and buggy. “Too many people don’t take the time to slow down”, he said. “I know”, I said. “We too often forget there is precious life there.”
The silences in our conversations are laden with communication.
And he is one of the many people I am very grateful to love.
Best wishes in this season of wonder and gratitude.
While the pundits debate, the facts are undeniable. Worldwide militarism and nationalism lead the way. From the new “Christian” leadership in Bolivia destroying a decade of indigenous progress to the Republic of China proving the Hong Kong dissidents are correct in their concerns, the world seems embroiled in hatred and fear. And while the press offers us the winners and losers, there are few who comment on what is really at stake.
There are no winners. It’s as if the entire human race has lost its collective mind. If the mindset of superiority and control wins, we all lose. Let’s be real: we’re all sick. We are sick of greed, sick with power, sick with envy, sick of hatred. Our moral compass has been derailed.
The late poet and activist John Trudell spoke of this as a virus of the human race. I think he had it right. And we have tolerated this virus for far too long.
Among Andean people there is a ceremony to bring oneself or one’s community back to balance. It’s a beautiful prayer calling back our higher visions and fragmented selves. The request is made that our words, thoughts and emotions be clear and free. There is a request to walk in beauty on the earth with integrity and love. The ceremony is done with the complete recognition that we are capable of being whole. It’s done with trust in what is possible.
Whatever a human being conceives of or dreams is within reach. And I suggest to you that we must each take a step towards the dream of peace in our lives. Leaders have left us bankrupt in the ways of the heart and it can only be the ways of the heart that will set us free.
Today can be a new day. The choice is ours.
Thanks to WDRT for continuing to air “Consider This” every Thursday at 5:30 pm CST.
More on the derailing of our moral compass.
Photo: flag of peace – wikipedia commons.