The Thinning Veil

As the weather turns towards winter our interaction with Nature offers another window of understanding. Shorter and often cloudy days are a transition away from the busy buzz of summer. The waning of the green and the falling leaves remind us of the finite nature of life. For those who live of and from the Earth the impending winter teaches us to prepare for what will surely be the stark contrast of summer’s plenty. So it is of little wonder that centuries of people have held the end of October and the beginning of November as a time of reflection.

Samhain, the Day of the Dead, All Souls Day and more were created by human beings who wanted to honor and celebrate this unique season. This passage of time brings with it the recognition of death and of those who have gone before us. Ancestors are honored and homage paid to them, in hopes that any darkness that had stalked them would let them rest in peace. There is also a hope to chase away any demons that may have been left behind.

The end of October and beginning of November is often referred to as the time of the thinning veil. The veil is the cloak that keeps us from the awareness of our true nature. When the veil thins, we have the opportunity to see differently. It is as if Nature has given us this time to make peace with our finite nature and to begin to comprehend our nature of infinite consciousness.

To distil this time to a holiday marked by fear and titillation is a commentary on our culture’s discomfort with death and our lack of connection to life’s more subtle invitations. When ceremony looses its roots, we are left with superstition.

Let the season remind us.

 

photo: wikipedia commons

Goodbye Columbus

We are inching closer to renaming Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The debate began in 1977 at a Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations. And it demands ongoing education.

Why education? Well, for starters, Columbus wasn’t the first European to discover the Western Hemisphere. The first were Norse, traveling west from Greenland, when Erik the Red founded a settlement near what is now Newfoundland in 985. Secondly, Columbus never set foot on North America and instead landed in what is now known as the Bahamas. After meeting the native people, Columbus incorrectly named them Indio and captured about twenty-five human beings to be gifted as slaves to the Spanish king and queen. About eight of his twenty-five captives survived the trip. This began the first transcontinental slave trade.

On his second voyage Columbus brought with him soldiers and farmers to colonize the land and the people. The Taino people, who were known to be peaceful and full of natural wisdom and complex, governing systems, were brutally eliminated. Thus began the systemic destruction of indigenous ways of life and the genocide that continues to this day.

So the question becomes, why do we celebrate a man who bridged the Atlantic Ocean with cruelty and ignorance? The answer lies in a world-view whose bottom line believes that the destiny of human kind lies with god*. I have read explanations that it was god’s hand that guided the misguided Columbus. This vengeful and cruel god is the excuse of those who continue to exercise colonialism and the genocide of indigenous people throughout the world.

In 1991, Russell Means, an Oglala Lakota human rights activist, gave the prophetic speech, “For the World to Live Columbus Must Die”. He challenged our reluctance to let go of the legend of Columbus. I agree. It is time for the ignorance to end.

 

* I choose to lower case “god” when I am referring to the man-made construct of a brutal and vengeful god. I capitalize “God” if I refer to an impartial and benevolent force. I am of the opinion the god of manifest destiny needs to go the way of Columbus.

Wisconsin is now recognizing Indigenous People’s Day

Photo / poster compliments of Wikipedia Commons.

Lovers of the Earth Know

In between the downpours that have become autumn’s new norm, I heard a faint cry from the potato patch. The potatoes were calling me to come and get them. I know that is ridiculous and perhaps it was my stomach saying it was time for lunch, but regardless, I took the time to unearth those precious gems. Heavy spring rains made their planting late and now they seemed pushed to the surface by the swell of water that continues to fall from the sky.

In case you haven’t gotten the memo, the times they are a changin’. The name we have given it is climate change. And while politicians debate the causes and pundits advance notions of population control and promote the need to industrialize our food systems even more, the gardener and the harvester observe and respond to the roller coaster ride that we are now engaged in.

To say we are in challenging times is an understatement.

As if uncertainty is not enough, the media spin attempts to guide us with fear. The already prevalent notion of scarcity is driving our pocket books and our vision.  When all the while, the earth remains quite capable of feeding us.

This is what the lover of the earth knows.

The lover of the earth knows that there is still time to learn from the seasons, to enrich the soil, to re-discover old wisdoms and re-plant old seeds. The lover of the earth knows that food of the earth is the best medicine, unadulterated and pure. And the lovers of the earth will go right on loving regardless of the climate upheaval, because we can.

The earth has many more secrets to reveal and we are capable of learning.

As for me, I’ll meet this new day with trust in my heart and hoe in hand.

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Belonging

The need to belong is a deeply human aspiration. We wear the labels of belonging as badges of acceptance. To be accepted is also high on our scale of needs. The yearning to be welcomed and celebrated as a member of something is a strong human motivator. These were my thoughts as I watched the parade of flags at the recent Pride celebration in La Crosse. The flags are symbols of identity. They are in direct response to cultural disapproval and censorship.

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Never quite comfortable in society’s boxes, I understand the urge to fly a new flag – and especially one that has not yet been pigeon holed into meaninglessness. So I marveled at the youth donning their flags determined to be unique, and challenging the status quo. It is good they are given a safe space to discover. And when the organization called “Free Mom Hugs” showed up in force to celebrate Pride, they added a touch of humanity and healing desperately needed. Too many gay youth are unwelcomed at home and these mothers giving hugs play an important role in reminding them that they are indeed loved for who they are.

Another coalescing of people that has heightened my observation skills are the numerous versions of Christianity. And of course there are the political affiliations that many cling to, which satisfy the need to belong while simultaneously separating us from others. The value and strength of community is undeniable. That can be witnessed at any sports event. I have yet to understand the value of separation.

I have found it far simpler to declare myself a human being and allow for the affiliation of “citizen of the Earth”. It seems to be a direct route to the source of the need to belong. It is certainly a satisfying one.

We remain one People, one Earth. We belong.

 

Tremendous thanks to WDRT for their continued supporting and for airing “Consider This”. You can hear my 2 minute commentaries every Thursday at 5:30 pm CST or listen via the web.

Inserted photo is of a memorial for murdered transgender women.

Gay flag compliments of wikipedia commons.

The Heart Breaks Free

“What will they say when they realize there is no hell?” These were the words a reverend told me, when I asked him to help someone who was dying and who feared the wrath of hell. I had told him, “Your church put the fear there and now your church needs to take it away”. His response told me that he was the person to help her, but it also carried the irksome reminder of the folly of faith.

Faith born of knowing does not require a middleman – or woman. Knowing is sufficient unto itself. So this threat of hell or the promise of heaven has not held much sway with me, once I set my sites on the need to know and not simply believe.

I have been having chats with people who consider themselves to be “religious”. It has been revealing. In the quiet one-to- one of conversation they express doubts and concerns about their chosen faiths. They will even express doubts that only “true believers” will make it to the pearly gates. And that is common sense.  Knowing someone and witnessing their kindness and enjoying their friendship, makes it hard to condemn them to an afterlife that may or may not exist.

The kindness we offer and the gratitude we feel are the wind in the sails of our hearts.

And hearts are designed to be free.

This past week Wisconsin lost a warrior of peace. He was not famous except to those who passed him on the street with his anti-war signs and his “veterans for peace” vest. Those of us, who put peace before war, loved him; for Lars lived what he knew, and he walked his talk.

Death is a great teacher and reminds us of this: We have this moment called now. Make the most of it.

 

 

The peace photo came from Lars facebook page as did the quote below. To know and not simply believe is the challenge.

“Sometimes war may become the only resort available, but never try to justify it, by saying that it’s the right thing to do, because war is never the right thing to do, no matter how right you feel. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die – you don’t know whose children are going to scream and burn – how many hearts will be broken – how many lives shattered – how much blood will spill until everybody does what they are always gonna have to do from the very beginning – sit down, talk and try to understand each other beyond the petty little differences born from instinctual tribalism.” 
― Abhijit Naskar, Fabric of Humanity

Bold Steps

In the midst of political chaos and climate struggle, it does the heart good to spend time in the company of people working to make things better.

Lately it seems more people are willing to set aside party allegiance and religious dogma to find common ground. That is a hopeful outcome of this confusing time. Perhaps recognizing there is no silver bullet solution is becoming the first step to having real communication.

People who exchange angry sound bites on social media may find these statements laughable, but I am not talking about pre-scripted, regurgitated and rehearsed sound bites. I am talking about communication that comes from the heart and is driven by love of place and love of people.

We must use the tool of time to engage with those who welcome conversation without prejudice or fear. We can call upon people who are willing to set aside belief and long held, but often-unfounded “fact”, to bridge the gap of misunderstanding that divides us.

It has been a pleasure to participate in some very real conversations of late. One is Wisconsin Partners’ monthly gathering called Kickapoo Conversations. Currently the discussions are about the need for housing in the Driftless. All voices are welcomed and people of varied backgrounds attend. I have found it to be a safe place for ideas to land and to take root.

Whether it’s the group working towards a moratorium on frac sand mining in Monroe County, or the committee in the Town of Forest grappling with how best to protect the township, I have been enriched by the respect people are offering one another even in disagreement.

And I am learning from everyone, even those who walk different paths than my own. In this time of incivility take the bold steps to be human again.

Talk to one another.

 

Transgender Violence

I remember when the Berlin wall came down and someone posed the question, “Whom will they hate next?” I remember squirming a bit as I realized targets of hate are people who are different.

It has been fifty years since the Stonewall Riots, which launched the modern Gay Rights movement. At that time the term “gay” covered it all. Many lesbians, gays and bi-sexuals now enjoy status quo lifestyles. Many attend churches and synagogues that are accepting of “gay” life. Some hold public office and climb the corporate ladder. And then there are those who do not fit so neatly into straight packages.

June is Pride Month and it began in New York’s Stonewall Inn with trans people leading the charge to end police brutality and harassment. And while much has changed since 1969, many are left behind in the push for equal and human rights.

People, who define themselves as transgender, questioning or two spirit, are too often marginalized by race, gender and socio-economic disparity.  It is a systemic issue based in prejudice and ignorance, leaving some at the mercy of human trafficking and survival sex work.

Young, indigenous and black transgender face some of the highest suicide and murder rates in the world. Violence and harassment are epidemic.

Many transgender migrants, who seek asylum, have been punished with solitary confinement and denied health care by our government.

In a dominant culture that fears the “other,” transgender people are persecuted for being different. Indigenous people are often the very first to defend their humanity.

It is time for people of faith to set aside their fear of “sin” and their judgment of right and wrong in order to conquer the greater evil, which is hate. And the LGB community needs to step up the fight for human rights for all of us.

This lack of humanity must end.

 

 

This transgender flag* from Wikimedia Commons: The Transgender Pride flag was designed by Monica Helms, and was first shown at a pride parade in Phoenix, Arizona, USA in 2000.

The flag represents the transgender community and consists of five horizontal stripes, two light blue, two pink, with a white stripe in the center.

Monica describes the meaning of the flag as follows:

“The light blue is the traditional color for baby boys, pink is for girls, and the white in the middle is for those who are transitioning, those who feel they have a neutral gender or no gender, and those who are intersexed. The pattern is such that no matter which way you fly it, it will always be correct. This symbolizes us trying to find correctness in our own lives”.

*Unlike the wider LGBT communities worldwide which have adopted the Rainbow flag, the various transgender individuals, organizations and communities around the world have not coalesced around one single flag design.