The Will of Life

I found a pile of feathers and straw in the barn. It was a barn swallow nest that had fallen from the rafter. When I moved the fluffy haven three fledgling birds were struggling underneath. Instincts kicked in to save them and I found a basket to hold them in hopes that their mother would hear their cries.  A closer look on the ground showed another seemingly lifeless sibling. I decided to hold it; in case it was not dead and in hopes that the warmth from my hand would ignite its will to live. Within moments it was squirming and I delighted in the will of Life to live. 

This on the morning I learned of the massacre of nineteen children and two adults at the hand of an eighteen year old. And I wondered what experiences had ripped compassion out of that eighteen year old heart? What twisted mindset had found a home in this unfortunate that had him ignore the will of Life?

Gratitude kicked in for all that has been given and for the choices I have made. I have learned to choose compassion over inhumanity, and I have allowed myself to hold kindness over hopelessness. It appears that many are struggling in an abyss of darkness, letting the will of Life pass them by. We have all participated in this growth of despair. It is a choice to belong to the voices that champion our goodness over our evil. And to still believe there is a way out.

We are born with a will to live, to thrive and to flourish. Circumstances will come and go, but the key remains. The will to love life is ours to protect, to learn from and to share. 

We cannot let fear destroy it.

  • The photo is not a barn swallow, but another fledgling that found its will to live.

2020’s Last Word

Many people are looking forward to midnight, as if the year’s woes will mysteriously disappear. Fairy tales and cocktails dull reality until it comes knocking at your door.

Covid upended us because we weren’t prepared. It isn’t covid. It’s our reluctance to accept that reality, as we know it is on rough waters. And instead of holding the helm deliberately through the storm, we relinquish it to division and fairy tales. 

And from what I can tell, in 2021 we’re poised to do the same. 

In case you haven’t heard. There is a new viral strain. It’s the same as the old, but even more contagious. So your fairy tales of invincibility, or “we are all going to die anyway” will again be put to the test.

Happy New Year.

But it could be a happy new year. It could be a year we remember the Golden Rule: to treat others, as you would like to be treated. 

It could be the year we welcome the understanding that we’re one race and put an end to systemic injustice. Say his name: #TamirRice.

And wouldn’t it be grand if we stood in solidarity to protect the planet for those to come? #StopLine3

We could let it be the year of restorative justice. And while we’re at it, we could provide good clean food for everyone, while we provide health care and education as well. Keep at it Bernie!

The military will have to stop sucking up the money, religions will have to preach, “love thy neighbor”, and corporations will need to be held accountable. 

That’s not impossible; it’s within our reach. 

But it’s up to us to demand.

You may be isolated, but you are not alone. Flip desperation to hope and action. 

Let’s make it a good year!

Something’s Happening

There’s something much greater happening right now than an election, and no, it is not the selection of a Supreme Court Justice, and no, it is not the ongoing crisis of a pandemic that never had to be this out of control…

There is something much greater, and much more immediate that’s happening. The intense polarizations are leaving us with a choice. Will we continue to participate in the downward spiral of separation and hatred or will we reclaim our connectedness and our humanity?

The choice is always there. 

I found a young rooster who had been beaten up by the others of his flock. His jaw is broken and it appears that his spine is broken as well, but still he stood and wobbled as he walked. I gave him some water and put food into his broken beak. He responded in a positive way and we have worked out systems that keep him safe and well fed. I bathe him with dust and he grooms himself with it. I am amazed at how much I love him and how my love has grown. His desire to live is a great teacher to me. And I will assist him as long as he needs. 

Our hearts have the capacity to love deeply and without restriction. And love itself is the reward.

That is the choice before us. We can maintain foolish divides or we can allow ourselves to love and to heal.

The status quo is full of contradictions and hypocrisy. The beliefs that we have inherited have made us very sick. But the remedy has always been at hand. Love. Love foolishly, love graciously. And appreciate the fact that you can love. It is a gift. 

Love is our greatest ally and our greatest weapon.

Love lavishly. 

Assert Our Humanity

For nearly four years we have watched a man upend human decency while far too many of us have cheered. Faith leaders have excused and even exalted him. Men have envied his power and women have given their power to him. We have heard him brag of sexual exploits and even boast that he could kill someone and get away with it. Well, from what I can see he has done far worse.

What could be worse? Fueled by our tolerance and by our loathing he has worked to dismantle human empathy, respect, and compassion for personal gain. But worse than breaking our dignity, he has modeled that behavior for imitators and children to emulate.

He has totally unleashed the “me, not us” attitude and has invited everyone to participate in the madness. He has turned a blind eye to those who are most likely to suffer from the pandemic. “It is what it is”, was what he offered. His bashing of anyone and everyone who is different should have ended his career in public office before it began. But Donald Trump is a master manipulator and we were ripe for the picking.

We have a long climb ahead of us to pull out of this gutter. But I believe we can do it. How we do it is key. We cannot keep throwing gasoline on the fire. We must find ways to mend the divide. His defeat in November needs to be a resounding thumping as we signal our return to “us, not me” and reject this era’s selfishness.

Let us keep walking into that “good trouble” as John Lewis invited.  And remain vigilant. The time to assert our humanity has come. Let the richness of our spirit lead us. Let us not be fooled again.

Nothing Less Will Do

Native peoples and environmentalists celebrated this week as a judge ruled that the Dakota Access Pipeline should be shut down pending a full impact review. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been cancelled and the Keystone XL Pipeline was stalled again in court. In addition, public pressure on a Washington, DC football team is forcing them to remove their racist name. Finally.

“Take your knee from my neck” is the silent and not so silent sentiment among people no longer willing to suffer senseless inhumanity.

While monuments of bronze and granite are being toppled, it is the ideals of colonialism and capitalism that are being unraveled. We are learning the torturous costs of building empire and the dismantling of it is long overdue.

Goliath does not go down without a fight, but the battle will not be won on his terms. The battle is won by conviction and the knowledge that there are better ways to coexist.

We do not have to fear this transformation. We have explored the brutal side of humanity; now let us lead with kindness and respect.

In these uncertain times, the certainty is this: to the people who have fought tirelessly for water and the earth; for those who honor their ancestry with a will to do more than endure; and for the ones who recognize that humanity is far greater than we have ever allowed it to be – this is our time.

Mainstream politics may not reflect it. Some religion may fight to conceal it, but this resurgence will not be stopped.

The strength and the resiliancy of our communities will be reflected by how we care for one another, how we listen to one another and how we honor one another. Nothing less will do.

 

Photo taken at Oceti Sakowin camp. My time in the camp continues to inspire and direct my course. Water is Life.

Humanity Rising

Apparently evolution is a slow process. A few hundred years ago, some people decided to break free of King George, and declared: all men are created equal. This was a great ideal for a new beginning. But then they were slammed by their own ignorance of how to treat “others”. We may have left the king behind, but we carried the imperial desires of conquest and greed into this new land.

Later, we helped defeat the Nazis, but we ignore the fact that they took a page from the United States’ playbook on how to systematically eradicate people. Our history taught the Nazis. Think on that.

Caught in the lies and the shame of it all, we have allowed ‘ole time religion and crooked politics to morph into the travesty we now call leadership.

But there is this positive note: many of the descendants of the people who were brutalized by the Doctrine of Discovery and of those who were enslaved to build this country, have never given up. We should be grateful for their strength and for their effort. We should stop hiding our shame behind militarized police and stop supporting the corporate kings, who now rule the land.

We should be grateful: for the constant reminders of what it means to love the land; grateful for the resilience of those who choose to triumph with love instead of fear; and grateful for the opportunity to make it right this time.

It is a beautiful land and it needs to be preserved. And yes, we are all created equal and with the unalienable right to Happiness. In spite of all the violence and the struggle for justice, there are those who still remember we are one race.

For that I am grateful.

Dear Graduate

Dear Graduate,

You are alive. You live in a most exciting time. You live at a crossroads in humanity and choices are very clear. You can continue to plug away at the dying systems you see floundering around you or you can reimagine and recreate something new and better for yourself and those who come after you.

To do this you must take stock of your strengths and your passions. You are alive. You hold within you great seeds of possibility that are yours and yours alone. There has never been another you. Cherish that. Honor the seed of your becoming and let it grow. Nourish it with kindness and respect. Allow wonder and remain a student of Life, regardless of what comes.

Give of yourself. Volunteer. Plant a tree. Tend a garden.  There is so much awaiting your loving touch.

And allow your cup to be filled. Accept kindness. It comes from strength not weakness.  Hone your gifts of humility, hope and courage. They will remain your steadfast friends throughout your life.

Do not curse your time, nor accept curses of others. You have potentials that have yet to be tapped waiting for you. Carry on.

And to those who fear for them: your fears are your own to unwind and discard. Do not pass the baton of fear. Systems crumble but from their ashes the phoenix rise. Do not doubt that something better can emerge from this unsettling time. It is never too late to reconcile errors of the past and make way for a better tomorrow. Forgive yourself for doing what you were told instead of discovering what was meant for you. In the time that remains you, find peace.

Respect

If you support the words and actions of this president, this piece is not for you.

If you want people to obey unjust laws, this is not for you.

If you believe that destruction of property holds the same value as systemic injustice towards of people of color, this is not for you.

If you are pushing for a civil war, this is clearly not for you.

If you are hoping the election will save us, it’s not for you either.

If you think change isn’t possible; I encourage you to think again.

This is for the Ones who recognize we are one People, one Race.  It’s for the Ones who won’t allow systems to control our human narrative.

It’s for the Ones who despite the entire struggle, can still make hope take action, and can still choose kindness over fear.

This is for the Ones who are picking up the pieces in shattered neighborhoods and who are feeding and clothing their communities. It’s for the Ones who are growing food and providing shelter, knowing that winter’s on the way. It’s for those who are stepping up to have the hard conversations. And for those who are not standing down in the face of militarized force.

The rhetoric of violence has been dominant too long. It’s time to let the healing begin. Yes, in the midst of absolute chaos, let the healing in.

Find your strengths, find your allies and fight like hell. Not with violence, but with the resolution of those who know it is our time.

Don’t tolerate ignorance. Save your energy and your passion for those you love and for creating something new. The old will wither and die. Let it die.

Stand firm in our common humanity; it is worthy of respect. And so are you.

It’s Good to Cry

 

Sometimes these days I am overwhelmed by a news story, a radio sound bite or a friend’s hardship and the tears begin to rain. Thinking about this need to cry, I am reminded of an old friend who once watched me tear up. In shame I tried to cover it and she said to me, “Don’t hide those tears. They’re precious. Not everyone can cry. I wish I could.”

Or the time my Navajo mentor explained to me that sometimes “hearts have something hard inside” and we have to allow the hard place to become soft again.

So now as I learn of impending famines, countries overwhelmed, the horrific death caused by the virus, or the need of relief for our health care workers, the tears come. I don’t try to hide them. I don’t try to stop them. They are part of my heart softening. They’re part of my prayer. A prayer without words; a prayer that beckons for all that is good and right to prevail.

There is a part of us that wants to cut to the chase. It wants the political posturing to take a back seat. It wants the allure of acquiring capital to not come at the expense of the living. It wants to stop hearing, “when we get back to normal”. And it is grateful when someone acknowledges that we can create the world we know is possible, not simply default to old and decaying ways.

We have before us a great challenge and it is not in discovering a vaccine. It is to allow our humanity to replace our greed. It is to demand more from one another so the Earth can continue to heal and feed her children.

Our tears are the forebears of action that will make it right once more.

 

photo by Noho

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Thanks to WDRT for airing these two minute commentaries every Thursday at 5:30 pm CST.

Resetting Priorities

I don’t believe in the devil, but if I did I am sure he would have been the one who planted the seed “divide and conquer”. And we have fallen for it for far too long. You would think with the new reality before us, wisdom might prevail and people would resume living with kindness leading the way. You might think with this pause and forced contemplation we could come up with something far better than fear baiting. You would think with all the good news that the earth is healing in wonderful ways, we would unite and make promises to never let it go back again. You would think.

And in many cases you would be right.

This is our reality: We are getting the chance to reset our priorities. Perhaps this time we will get it right. People and the environment before profit; kindness before capital; humanity over ignorance, these should be our rallying cries.

We are learning the difference between want and need and while it is scaring the crap out of corporate capitalists, many find it liberating. Mutual aid groups are forming helping those in need, picking up the slack of a government in disarray.

The demand to release ICE detainees and elderly prisoners is on the rise along with our growing compassion. And while it may come a bit late for some, may we act to ensure that lives were not lost in vain.

We also have a bit more time to think about inhumane policies like sanctions on countries during this pandemic. Our reach of kindness cannot be limited to our country, we must rise to the reality that we are one people, one planet.

Our sickness came long before this pandemic. Fear and hatred have divided us. Let us reset our priorities. Let kindness win.