What Matters Most

I’ve heard it said that the peace movement is all but dead. Old activists still stand on street corners talking to the wind and wonder why and how people can walk on by and not see the obvious. I have deep respect for their tenacity and effort. Statisticians remind us the young may register but often do not vote. We all wrestle with laying blame as pundits pontificate about human apathy. I think we are all barking up the wrong tree.

While we insist on getting our points across and spend fruitless hours on facts that will be countered by more facts, we have forgotten the secret ingredient. Saint-Exupery said it best in The Little Prince, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.” 

We’ve lost our ability to listen to our heart. Driven by all things external, we hope to hit upon some semblance of truth and all the while ignoring the precious gems we carry within us. This ignorance is wide spread.

But here is the greatest secret of all: for there to be peace we must feel peace. Peaceful people do not make war. Peaceful people are engaged in the internal struggle to remain clear in a very confused world. Peaceful people would rather spend time enjoying the fruit of their effort, love and contentment. They don’t waste time creating calamity.

As lies and treachery are being exposed regarding the insurrection on January 6th, and as our current leader meets with a known Saudi assassin and continues to pump millions into weaponry, one has to wonder how did we get here?

The answer is simple: we stopped listening to what matters most. 

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“They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
–Isaiah the Prophet

photo: silkscreen print, Library of Congress, Public Domain

Peace in Ukraine

I’m not an apologist for the United States government, nor am I an apologist for Putin. I am a human being and I fear for the people of Ukraine as they await their fate. 

I wrote these words a few short hours before Putin unleashed a full-scale land, sea and air invasion on Ukraine. 

The conflict began in 2014 with thousands of civilians killed and nearly one and a half million forced to leave their homes. Peace building then took second stage as weaponry poured into the region from the United States and the EU. NATO failed to grasp the urgency of diplomacy and no one believed Putin would launch such an inhuman assault. 

Putin boldly lied referring to this new build up of nearly 200,000 troops on the Ukrainian border as a military exercise. And NATO, with the United States in the lead, miscalculated their ability to reel Putin in by sanctions, while arming the Ukrainians.

The people of the world are led by thinking that is steeped in power and financed by the military industrial complex. All sides weigh the financial risks and the political capital as they make their moves – using the same tactics and the same lies we have followed for decades. And it is women and children who pay the greatest price while profiteers gain.

It’s time we change course. We must become pro-peace. Our strategies must be life affirming. We must take the position that we are all human beings deserving the right to live in safety, with shelter, clean food and water and given the “elbow room” to be the unique individuals that we are. Our choices must be pro-human and pro-earth. 

Peace is our only way forward. Each individual must assess the value of peace. Each must make way for it.  May it prevail. May the Russian people demand it from their leader. May we all demand it.

map of Ukraine under attack – By Homoatrox – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=115503967

The Sovereign Ruler

The development of robotic killing machines is underway. One step beyond drone systems, these robots will take killing entirely out of human hands. Artificial intelligence, sensors and algorithms will determine the victims and the kill. This is not science fiction. About thirty countries are banning this new warfare before it becomes widely available and they’re asking others to do the same.

But we live in the United States, the country with the most to protect: our interference in other countries’ governments, our sale of arms to friends and foe, our willingness to keep the Pentagon and its secrets as top priority. There’s no surprise that the United States is rejecting the request to ban this warfare and is instead asking for rules of engagement and “codes of conduct”.  We are taking the lead in researching killer robots along with Russia, Israel, South Korea and India. Good luck managing death with “codes of conduct”.

The callousness of our ability to kill, to make excuses for the killing and to look away with ease has crept into every aspect of our society. Fear of other, vigilante self-defense and the need for power is crippling us. 

Not surprisingly, we’re being warned to take care of our mental health and while that is a good and worthy sentiment, it’s hard to live in such a desperate world and remain sane.

But we can and we must. There’s nothing normal in this lust for power and the willingness to kill. There is nothing human in spending billions on the Pentagon while people go hungry and homeless.

Someone recently asked me, “How can you know these things and not despair?” The answer is simple: the human heart remains my sovereign ruler and peace needs only to be given a chance. We can do this.

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“The Heart is the emperor, the supreme controller. The Heart is the fire at the center of our being, from which the spirit radiates.” 
-Neijing Suwen (Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine)

The Huangdi Neijing (given the title The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine in one of the latest translations) is an ancient treatise on health and disease said to have been written by the famous Chinese emperor Huangdi around 2600 BC.

A Pathway to Peace

I was thinking the other day how good it would be to stop shackling our children with beliefs we inherited. The innocence of a child is delicious to behold. Then we lather them up with all kinds of crazy ideas. We teach fear instead of instilling in them the possibility of consciousness. We teach hatred and alienation as we rob them of the sanctity of being human. We teach conformity in our desire to have them walk lock step with the status quo. And we let them fall prey to the same ideologies to which we unwittingly succumbed. 

For instance, since 1493, when a Pope issued the Doctrine of Discovery we have supported the idea of conquest and have used it for appropriation and colonization of indigenous people. And it can be argued that the subjugated role of women in Christianity combined with the notion of conquest makes way for the ongoing missing and murdering of indigenous women.

We teach, “Thou shall not kill”, making exceptions of war and capital punishment, and expect others to do harm on our behalf. This slipping away of our humanity did not come all at once and it will take a deliberate effort to retrieve it. 

But what is our recourse to reclaim our humanity? Conquest and violence are failed principles. Fighting fire with fire has does not work. Creating a culture of peace is the path we have yet to take. Understanding that our need for peace is as vital as breathing will give us the impetus to act. 

Cultivating our personal peace quickens the soul and cuts the chains of ideology. A recent international conference on Peace Education highlighted the good works of people world over towards this end. It was hopeful and inspiring.This is our moment to shine, bring on the peaceful.

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.

Change Course

Our history is full of people who have championed peace and diplomacy over war. We have honored those people and those ideals. Yet time after time we have allowed lies and greed to lead us into endless and inhumane wars.

The assassination of a member of Iran’s government was a flagrant disregard of international law and has opened the door for retaliation and the escalation of death and destruction.

The fumbling assertions of the Trump administration regarding troops in Iraq demonstrate the dangerous incompetency that is at the helm.

This president continues the legacy of past presidents, which is to be led by those who make money on weapons and war. When he speaks of protecting United States interests, he is speaking of oil. If we allow this escalation of war and the stealing of resources we are complicit and culpable.

But make no mistake;it is Congress that declares war, not the president. And it is the people of the United States who can still determine their collective history.

Therefore it is imperative we stand for peace and diplomacy in whatever means is available to us. It’s also imperative that we end our financial ties to the industries of weaponry and oil. And we must talk to those who believe in the false words and actions of a leadership, which is totally corrupt. And to the evangelicalswho are following in hope of some fulfillment of prophecy, I say, “Snap out of it”.

We need your kind hearts, we need your love of humanity and of the God you claim to worship; we need you to remember.

We must demonstrate to a world very uncertain of our motives but very certain of our ability to create chaos and death, that we, the people, are willing to change course.

It is still up to us.

 

Poster compliments of the tireless efforts of the American Friends Service Committee. Click to sign and learn more about stopping the escalation towards war.

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Resolve This

We make resolutions because we want things to be better. That is our nature. It’s our nature to be hopeful and when our hopes are dashed we suffer. Suffering is not part of our nature. It may appear that we are good at it, but in truth we run from it in every way we can. And we should.

Our culture has made a mockery of our nature. Whole industries are based on the fact that we want things to be better: better bodies, better minds, homes, and all. We are expected each year to declare personal resolutions. Books are written, tips are given and counselors are waiting at the ready when we fail.

When we are unclear about our nature we can be exploited. It doesn’t take much to see that exploitation is on an all time high. Our air, our water, and our relationships to one another are being trounced.

But I would suggest to you that this is happening because we are allowing it. And it is happening because we have forgotten our true nature.

We have grown comfortable with things that should not be comfortable. We have accepted leaders who are more content with war than peace; with food that is no longer nourishing us, but in fact makes us sick. We are comfortable with arbitrary divisions that are used to create arbitrary borders and arbitrary laws that destroy our humanity.

In forgetting who we are we have given our power away.

So if you are still searching for a resolution, why not resolve to know your truest nature, not the one the culture has determined for you. Our greatest gifts are in our absolute uniqueness and in our undeniable similarities. Our greatest longing is for peace. Not simply on the outside, but within.

And surely what lies within can be echoed out.

 

Restore Power to the Peaceful

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

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.

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