It is the longest night of the year. Literally and figuratively.
As a nation, we are experiencing a national, dark night of the soul.
In a time like this— when corporations are people, and their influence in the electoral process has taken political representation away from the people, empowering the biggest money donors and their agendas, leaving citizens without a voice,
in a time like this— when 41% of the world’s wealth is in the hands 1% of the people and “a new report released by the World Economic Forum, ranks rising inequality as the top trend facing the globe in 2015 ” (1), and the poor are getting poorer,
in a time like this— when racism and inequality have their smoldering embers fanned into roaring flames across the country, due in part to the deaths of three black men Treyvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of three white men, and when one jury and two grand juries neither convict, nor indict the white neighborhood watchman nor white police officers for the deaths of the three men,
in a time like this— when citizens in cities across the country demonstrate against racism and police brutality, when medical students at Columbia, Brown and Yale Universities stage die-ins to protest racism and police brutality, and congressional staffers walk out of their jobs to stage a silent protest against the same, on the capitol steps with their hands raised,
in a time like this—when protests turned violent in Ferguson and businesses were destroyed, fires were set, and a peaceful protest in Berkley was turned into a melee by a splinter group of masked looters, smashing windows, looting stores and injuring police officers,
in a time like this—when two police officers were gunned down while sitting in their car on duty in NYC by a black man, who shot his girlfriend and was on a hunting expedition for white police officers to even the score,
in a time like this—when there has been a 31% increase of the deaths of police officers on the job from the same time last year and “Firearms were used in 69 percent of the nation’s murders, 40 percent of robberies, and 21.6 percent of aggravated assaults.” (2)
in a time like this—”The highest number of arrests were for drug abuse violations (estimated at 1,501,043, … and… there were an estimated 79,770 rapes (legacy definition) reported to law enforcement.”(ibid)
in a time like this—we have to stop. On this, darkest, longest night of the year, we need stop to look deep within ourselves an Americans, beyond race, gender, sexual orientation and political affiliation to our common humanity.
In a time like this we have to ask, what are we doing to each other? We have to find a way to turn down the rhetoric and get the the heart of these difficult, vital issues and work together to find real solutions if we are to survive as families, neighborhoods, cities, a society, a nation and a species.
We have some really big issues to solve together if our children and their children’s children are going to be able to thrive. How can we ever hope to solve global warming, environmental pollution, world hunger, genocide, war, nuclear threats, find cures for diseases like Ebola, Cancer and AIDS if we can’t sit down at the table and respect one another?
We have to craft a modern day Round Table, where everyone can be heard, and progress can be made. We have to stop listening to pundits argue on the various news channels as they inflame the issues further. Eric Deggan wrote for NPR on the news coverage of recent months,
” . . .Trying to talk about systemic racial issues during a crisis is always much harder. Real progress on racial issues happens when people thoughtfully consider perspectives different from their own — and that’s much tougher in a crisis.. . . In truth, this study is the starting point of a conversation that should include the effects of poverty, urban gangs, aggressive drug enforcement and more. But when people are trying to make a point, such detailed discussion is often left behind. Cable news has sped up the path from news reporting to punditry with disastrous results.” (3)
We have to find a way to talk to each other. People need to have confidence in law enforcement. The officers need to be just in their dealings with citizens and they need to know that the people have a stake in their well being also. One hand has to help the other.
Please, please stop the blood shed. As Mahatma Ghandi, a leader in non violent revolution once said, ” A eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” There is no way through the darkness but to move forward together, toward a new dawn. We have defeated dangerous enemies together in the past, let’s defeat the enemies within together and save our children and our future.
There was a post yesterday (10/31/14) on the Facebook Page “Humans of New York” where a gentleman was describing the loss of childhood wonder he said, “My happiest moments were way back in childhood. Everything was magical back then. All children are in a constant state of awe and everything is fantastic to them, but then the magical feeling dissipates and reality creeps in.” the interviewer asked “When was the last time you felt that magical feeling?”
“Ha! Not since I’ve been an adult, that’s for sure.”
What happens to all that wonder and to the thrill of discovery?
First, I would like to mention that not everyone had a happy, wonder-filled childhood. Those of us who were fortunate enough to experience it, have wonderful memories of those times.
Whether or not you had a happy childhood the everyday stresses of living, paying the bills, going to work, and having little time for oneself can all add up to exhaustion and disillusionment. I think there are three prime drivers of misery in our culture— competition, acquisition and consumption.
As a society we are told that we need more, better, faster, shinier, newer, and better everything. What we have–should never, ever—be enough. We have to buy the newest model and if we don’t have the cash we should buy it on credit. Now.
We want everything immediately, and if we have to wait for it, or put some effort into getting it, it’s not worth it. We spend much of our time on devices, plugged in to the internet, computer, phone, I pad, gaming systems, televisions, entertainment on demand, Net Flicks, and on and on. Even blogging…..like now.
Don’t get me wrong, I use technology every day and I am grateful for the opportunities it provides me to learn, grow and connect with the world. However, like too much of any good thing, it can sap the life out of you. For those of us 50 or over, we did not grow up with the internet, cell phones, cable TV, gaming systems or personal computers.
What was it about childhood that was so wondrous? It was EXPERIENCES, NOT THINGS.
I would like to offer three concepts for reactivation of experiences of joy and wonder for your consideration.
Imagination, Communication and the Natural World. Have you seen the FB/ You Tube video of the little girl running in her first rain? If you haven’t take a look http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxmmvHsDeuI
This is the wonder of childhood. Maybe we think we are too old for nature firsts, but give it a try. You’ve already seen rain, but when was the last time you purposefully took a walk in the rain, with out an umbrella…..? Go to a park and lie under a tree and took at the canopy and the sky, listen to your favorite music-or just listen to the wind and the sounds around you. Breathe in the scents of fresh cut grass, or central park after a rain, or piney woods, the beach, or a rose. Leave your phone at home, or turn it off if you must bring it!
Go for a hike, sit on the top of a hill and just be there. We have to stop rushing around and take time to look at the sunset, the stars. Make a plan, go somewhere you can be away from city lights and spend a night star gazing. There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all the beaches on planet Earth!!!! Look up from your daily grind and contemplate that one for a while! How it all came to be and the enormity of the expanse of the universe should give you at least a twinkle of the wonder of the unknown and the unanswerable questions about life and our place in it. It is an adult equivalent to ” Daddy where is up? Why is the sky blue? Where do we go when we die?”
You see, a sense of wonder is, I think, one of scale and experience. When you were a child, everything was new. But each day as you grew, each experience you had the day before was no longer new, but known. The opportunity to have new experiences did not go away…. we just got distracted by daily life. School and formal learning became the path to new discoveries, while most often, imagination was relegated to a lesser function. Re-activate your imagination. Do it by yourself, with your kids, with your grandkids. Do something creative. It doesn’t matter what. The arts, music, writing, pretend, dress-up, and so on….choose one.
There are new experiences of the psyche, the soul, the cosmos, that we have no definitive answers for. Pondering the meaning of the entire world in a flower, as the Buddah did, or all life in a mustard seed as Jesus did…will stretch your wonder capacity.
We are enslaved to the maintenance of the physical body, our homes, our bills, or food, our transportation, health care and on and on. Even Plato long ago said,
“Wars and revolutions and battles are due simply and solely to the body and desires. All wars are undertaken for the acquisition of wealth, and the reason why we have to acquire wealth is the body, because we are slaves in it’s service.”
Whether you agree with Plato or not, if we didn’t feel the need to compete with our neighbors and co workers, for a better house or car, or salary…if we didn’t need to always acquire the newest gadget, if we didn’t participate in a overly consumptive, disposable society, maybe we would have a little more time to cultivate our unexplored human potential. If we can say what we have materially, is enough…maybe we would have more time and mental energy to contemplate the beauty of natural world and life itself. A marine biologist in Maui, Hawaii told me, that humpback whales from around the globe begin the year with different song, and by the end of the migration, all the whales sing the same song, even if the pods have never met. That sparks wonder in me.
If it was our parents and families that gave us the safe loving environment to have the wonder filled experiences of our childhoods, who will do that for us now? We must hold that space for each other, person to person. Connect with people, face to face, get off your devices and truly communicate. Spend time together, conversations will take you places you never expected. You will help yourself and others along the way. Listen. Be present.
Here’s to you finding Wonder and Joyful moments in your adult lives!
“Thinking in Mythological terms helps to put you in accord with the inevitables of this vale of tears. You learn to recognize the positive values in what appear to be the negative moments and aspects of your life. The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.” Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell is one of my life’s heroes. The wisdom and insight that he gained though a lifetime of studying Mythologies from around the world has deeply influenced my thinking and perspective on life. In fact, it was his work that lead me to the grad school I am studying at, Pacifica Graduate Institute. Luckily for me they have all of his private library and archives of his personal papers!
Not everyone agrees with me regarding Joseph Campbell, usually you love him or hate him. Imagine that! In the tall Ivory towers of academia there are those who disagree with Campbell. The range of emotions begins with disgruntled scholars and runs the gamete through those who are dismissive of his theories, to down right hatred of the man. (They are, I believe, angry that he is so popular and he abandoned academia! When he found his passion and his advisors would not let him change his Ph.d. focus, he went off and followed his passion.)
Envy is a dangerous thing.
Within Mythology is the beginning of all stories. All narrative, novels, films, even the art of the pre-written cultural tradition of storytelling. It all begins with the Mythologies humans created or learned from the world around us. Mythologies give us an understanding of the world, the cosmos and our place in it.
If you haven’t read amy Campbell yet, I suggest you start with The Power of Myth or The Hero with a Thousand Faces and find your way from there. We are each heroes on our own journey to becoming fully who we can be. It is up to us to walk out the door and find the paths to follow, with passion and dedication. Each life is made of of many large and small hero journeys, and it is not all flowers and sunshine, but if you meet the hard times head on and venture into the unknown spaces, it is often there that you will find the treasure you seek.
Through mythology and it’s Archetypes, we can see that we are not alone. The course of a life has built into it– stages and rites of passage– that are both thrilling and terrifying- everyone who lives, must pass through them. It is truth of the human journey from womb to tomb. We are all in this together. The only question is, will you say yes to your adventure?
I need more time in nature. I need to make-take more time to feed my soul with the heady scents of ocean mist, warm pine, cooling eucalyptus, cabbage roses, new mown grass, and the living earth after the rain.
I need more time in nature to feel the teasing breeze, the gauntlet of wind flying down the canyon with dust for the sea, the spongy step of cool lawn, or shifting sand, hot, hurried and promising, on the way to waves; their rush and roar eternal, as I dive under the back-breaker rolling over me, to pop up, laughing and sputtering with my kids, on a day at the beach.
I need more time in nature and fewer dishes.
I need more time in nature and less cleaning.
I need more time in nature, a sky-full, a cup-full, a breath-full, a mouth-full, a heart-full a day.
I have been starved by the mundane in living.
This image was posted on Facebook last week and it kicked up a storm of comments.
The division of opinion seemed to run across narrowly defined political party lines, with a fair share of mud-slinging on both sides. These basic human needs and the desire to meet them for all people is not singular to our nation, nor to our time in history. Each generation faces it’s challenges and passes on to the next its ideas, solutions and unsolved problems.
One of the greatest challenges of our time is the growing division between those who believe in self autonomy, “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps,” taking care of yourself and your own only and those who believe in taking care of those who either temporarily or permanently need help.
The main objection and concern seems to be how to pay for support and services in a time of economic recession and government debt. I don’t claim to have the answers to these difficult problems but I do know that tough problems take hard work to fix and no amount of complaining and backbiting is going to make any progress on anything.
This week we said farewell to an American Icon, Pete Seger. His life is a lesson in strength of conviction, tenacity and how little steps can lead to big change for all of us. Pete used his music as a catalyst for social change. He began his musical career trading songs for meals in the depression. He knew poverty. He traveled the country playing music and writing songs that represented his view of the need for social change. He supported the Labor movement in the 1940’s and 50’s. When he was charged with contempt of congress by the House un-American Activities Committee he kept singing. Shunned from mainstream media, he took to college campuses and small towns. He sang to support the civil rights and the anti-war movements in the 60’s and the beginnings of the environmental movement in the 70’s. He played for Farm Aid, Occupy Wall Street, after which he is quoted as saying “Be wary of great leaders, … Hope that there are many, many small leaders.” and at 90 years old played Madison Square Garden. He won numerous awards including a Grammy, Kennedy Center National Medal of Arts Award, Songwriters Hall of Fame and Rock N Roll Hall of Fame.
Awards are great, yet I feel his greatest gift to us was his music and his unswerving belief that, “Participation that’s what’s gonna save the human race.” He sang it, he walked it, he lived it everyday in poverty and success. Little steps collectively and individually lead to great change.
None of the great changes in the world have happened overnight. And none of them have happened without hard work and sacrifice, many people taking many small steps. In 1776, at the birth of our nation, who would have dreamed that 233 years later we would elect the first Black President of the United States? The abolition of slavery seemed an impossible hurdle, civil rights was another long road that we walked as a nation together. The Great Depression, multiple wars, the creation of social security and Medicaid, Rowe vs. Wade, Gay Rights, same-sex marriage, all difficult issues that we have and must continue to face as a nation.
If the picture at the top of this blog had been posted 200 years ago saying…
“Wanting everyone, of every color, and both sexes to have the right to vote, the right to interracial and same-sex marry, the right to a free, public, equal education, the right to use birth control, the right to have an individually funded retirement account managed by the government to prevent homeless poverty in old age- does not make you un-American it makes you a compassionate person.”
…we may have read in the local papers an outcry similar to what we hear today..
“Impossible! Immoral ! Too costly! It will destroy society!
I submit to you that all our most pressing problems can and must be solved. “Participation – that’s what’s gonna save the human race.”
Providing Food, Water, Shelter, Education, Health Care, Dignity to all people is a worthy mission-and possible, as well as making real progress on climate change, energy policy, environmental defense, money in politics, poverty, privacy, education, terrorism, war and nuclear proliferation. We are going to have to make big changes in the way we think and act. We must consume less, reduce our carbon footprint, give more, help more, vote more, write more letters to congress, volunteer more, speak up more and care for and about each other a lot, lot more. This is it, there is no where else to go. No local planet yet to conquer. What do you want to leave as your legacy?
We can do it. We just have to make up our minds to do it. Little steps collectively and individually lead to great change.