Racism by any other name is Fear.

I live in a community (neighborhood, county, state,…) where closed-mindedness is the norm.  I would say racism is the norm but the attitudes and fiercely-held beliefs are not limited to preferences in the shade of skin or ethnic group or even ancestry…although those are very strongly separated classifications.

People around here are deeply resistant to changing how they think but then so are people all over the world.  If it is not what they grew up with, if it is not what they are familiar with, if he is not like me in (you name it: dialect, clothing style, vehicle type, licence plate, food preference,…) then it is wrong and therefore to be condemned, resisted, and (if possible) destroyed.

Two years ago, Lawrence Krauss, “Humanist of 2015,” was quoted as saying Organized religion, wielding power over the community, is antithetical to the process of what modern democracy should define as liberty. The sooner we are without it, the better.”  I won’t venture (right now) into all that is scary with that sentiment, but he demonstrates my point beautifully; Lawrence Krauss rejects everything about organized religion because it is not what he knows, is not what he is familiar with, and people who participate in organized religion don’t sound like the people he associates with…or him.

My own beloved college-educated, successful business-man brother threw out hundreds of dollars worth of organic food from my sister’s house because he “didn’t recognize any of it; I don’t eat that stuff.”

The short-cut suggestion to remedy this issue is ‘education.’  Doctors in hospitals all over the world struggle with patients’ refusals to follow prescribed improvements in diet and lifestyle and have thought the solution was education.  Pamphlets and discharge instructions with pictures and pleas have done little.  Helps and therapies seem to have no sizable impact.  My next door neighbor was hospitalized for 10 weeks last year for complications from surgery.  During this time he was given patches and drugs to help him withdraw from his addiction to smoking.  He lived smoke free among others who were smoke free for several weeks and he even admitted he felt great off the cigarrettes. On the drive home he stopped and bought a carton and lit up before he got to the front door.

These people are not willing to face their fears of the unknown.  “You sound wierd!”  “I don’t eat that stuff!”  “I don’t think my nerves could take it.”

Some fears are huge.  “What if there is not enough to go around?  Somebody has to go without.  Why does it have to be me?”  “If we let them have their way, they are going to take over!”  “One day they are going to rise up and kill every white person they see!”

It’s fear.  That’s all it is…fear.  Fear of deprivation; fear of the unknown; fear of unbearable whatever.  But it’s just fear.

So what’s the solution?  How do you help people who have unreasonable fear?  You must help them one person at a time.  In the way a parent helps a child who is fearful of the monster under the bed, you show them over and over that there is nothing there to be afraid of.  You show the person different from you that there is nothing for them to fear from you.  You demonstrate that there is more for them from people like you than hate. You demonstrate that different is okay…and safe…and sometimes good.

I have two neighbors…brothers…who were both raised in this closed-minded community.  One went into the Navy and worked beside people of a different color and national origin.  His brother did not leave home and has never worked beside people different from himself.  One is not fearful of people who are different; the other one is …but it looks like hate, not fear.

There are specific things we can do that help get through to people who have closed minds, fierce preferences, and fear.  First, be gentle with them; they will not listen if you are forceful or you are yelling.  Second, get to a point where you see things at their level …so that you can understand why they are fearful.  Third, allow them to vent.  Hold them in a safe environment so that they will be open to revealing what causes them to be fearful,  (Sometimes, that’s all they need.)  Their venting might be scary for you but you are the stronger one here.  They need to know…to see proof…that the resolution is stronger than their fear.  In other words, you need to love them.

If you have ever been a parent and you were faced with a child who cried out, “I HATE YOU!” then you know the dynamic I am describing:  you allowed the child to cry out the unthinkable…and then you assured the child that everything between you was still okay; you still love the child ‘the whole thing…all of it…without end.’  (Yes, I’ve been there.)

One more suggestion:  use words that are not usually used in these discussions.  Avoid the cliches and button words; you know what they are.

This is how loving is done.  This is how healing begins.  This is the work of Jesus.

 

By the way, I commend Senator Tim Scott in the way he met with President Trump; Scott introduced Trump to himself….in all of the aspects with which Trump is unfamiliar and that is what is necessary for a change of thinking…

Suffering and Need – the Mothers of Spiritual Evolution

Irma has reached South Carolina and we lost power an hour ago. (I’m composing on my cell phone…by candle light.)  My first thought when the power went out was that it would be back on soon because we live so close to the source… the dam. But then I remembered the prediction of wide-spread power outages.  Such a prediction is a good one because, electrical grid-wise, we are all connected.  That’s how and why brown-outs and black-outs occur…one city knocking down another.

Some people feel that images of disasters and heart-breaking stories from around the globe are too much to handle (“I can’t do anything about it.”)  However, in reaction to the news reports concerning the people in Texas and Florida, and even in Bangladesh, some internet friends and I have been writing about how we feel compelled to expand our compassion and concern out beyond our usual circle of friends and family.   One dear friend in Ireland said that it has changed the way she prays for people.  I’m inclined to agree with her because I believe in prayer.  I also believe that this is a new era…a time for increased global awareness, accompanied by an increased capacity for global compassion.

In the same way that technology has enabled power companies to interconnect and support and back up each other, we are getting better at doing the same spiritually. On a very small scale, when I struggle emotionally, my close friends step up and fill in with comfort and encouragement until my ‘transformers’ are running again. Healthy extended families and support groups like AA have been working like this for generations but now our awareness of suffering and need is global. How can our compassion cover it all?

Inventors of technology will attest to the truth that necessity is the mother of invention. Our increased awareness of the needs and struggles of others has necessitated a greater need for deeper and larger compassion and, spiritually, I believe we are being granted that greater capacity… almost as if we are able now to turn the light switch on in a previously secret room. Whether mankind has always had the capacity to hold the whole world in its heart…but just didn’t use it much…or whether we have evolved to be able to hold the globe in compassion, I believe we are discovering that it can be done.

Writers like Krista Tippett, Jim Marion, and Cynthia Bourgeault address how we as a civilization are evolving in consciousness.  Capabilities like nondual thinking, holding opposing views in a safe mediative space, and praying for the awakened consciousness of others are taking ‘helping others’ to a new level.

One of my friends cautioned me not long ago that I cannot heal the whole world…and she is correct… but I think we are getting closer to loving the whole world in compassion, all the time.

The Pendulum Stops Here

Some people think the solution to racism is to turn the tables … to even the score by having white people volutarily give up what they have to give to the blacks….for white people to eliminate themselves from competition so the black people can win…to swing the pendulum back the other way.  I say, the pendulum must be stopped. We must stop addressing the issue in terms of ‘us’ vs ‘them.’ As long as it remains a duality issue, there will be no resolution. A third force or perspective must be introduced and THAT is where the Gospel comes in.

Christ’s commandment was to love our neighbor. Who is your neighbor? Everybody but you…everybody… and that includes the misguided souls who claim allegiance to a ‘supremacy.’

Christ’s commandment was also to love our neighbor AS ourselves. Not ‘as much as’ but AS. Our neighbor IS us. Misguided ‘supremacists’ are part of the whole; abused and unjustly condemned but innocent black men are part of the whole. And the whole is All of us… which is you.  It’s also me.  It’s also Putin.  It’s also the people of China and North Korea.

If we were to stand as neutral force between two extremes and hold both in safety as they beheld each other and saw each other as loved by God, then we could watch as a new reality arose.

It is a natural human tendency to want someone to suffer…someone to pay for injustice; I get that. But that wastes time and does no good. We need healing now. When Jesus dealt with the people wanting to stone the woman caught in adultery, He did not have her throw stones back at her accusers. He dispelled the whole thing by asking who had not sinned.

Who among us has not hated? None of us is fit to condemn. We can, however, stop the stoning.

The pendulum stops here.

 

(The image was borrowed from the internet.)

Art and Climate Photos

Art Polanski was difficult to ignore. I was all about diversity and even I had difficulty with his acting out and belligerence. But he was a poet, a sensitive soul, and a fucking brilliant programmer. And this is a tribute to him.

Art smelled bad and looked bizarre. He wore zebra-striped pajama pants, printed tee-shirts over his barrel chest, and sandals. His hair was long and flowing, reminiscent of Sunday school pictures of Jesus, except Art’s hair was usually damp and probably greasy.

Art couldn’t sit still, especially in conversation, and would make grunting noises and seemingly uncontrollable editorial blurts.

I was told that after his first meeting with management, the deputy director erupted out of his office red faced,”Who the hell hired that guy?!?” Art had been hired, over the phone, by the chief scientist; Art was a graduate of MIT and knew the material.

His biggest crime was that he was gay. He wasn’t flamboyant; that would have been more acceptable. Art was just authentically Art. I never saw him more blissful and content than when he returned to work after the rainbow festival. But when that euphoria wore off he was back to acting out.

Art was lonely. The only family I heard him speak of was his sister; he said she suffered the same illness but hers was worse. Later, when he was arrested, the marshals found him living in squalor with cat feces on the floor.

But Art was also very intelligent. His disorder, or the medication for it, made him hot. When they screwed his window shut, he wedged a seed under the head of the screw and watered the seed. The judge at Art’s hearing, nearly a year later, said he would have done the same thing had he been smart enough to think up the seed trick.

Ultimately, Art was arrested for endangering the lives of others; he had a nose bleed and wiped blood onto the window in front of the exercise bike in the fitness room and he was gay. That made his bloody snot a ‘lethal weapon.’

Art was first put on administrative leave. I was given his project to finish. He called me late one day and he was quiet and subdued and said he didn’t blame the director; Art admitted that he had brought it on himself.

They held Art in federal prison for six months before giving him a hearing. He was charged with a misdemeanor and ‘time served.’ It was months later that he was found dead in his home.

While Art was in prison, he sent me a poem. I wish I still had it. He would stand at the window of his cell looking out at the field of yellow flowers…and watch as they were being mowed.

I took these photos of the draft climate report. My favorite photo is the one above. I first made the graph on the left in November 1997 when I finished the coding that was started by Art. My name then was Catherine S. Godfrey.

Art Polansky, this is for you.

Addendum: As a sworn civil servant, I took an oath, and because of that oath I feel bound by it to not “copy, cite, or distribute”. But I am also a photographer and writer. The draft says nothing about those activities. This is me, sticking it to the man.

 

The Journey Through Life and the Value of Video Games

In the past, I have lamented about my having “wasted” my youth; I suspect we all have lamented that lament;  I don’t anymore.  I am at a place in my life journey now, where I can look back over the terrain that I have navigated, and I can see the benefit…if not the purpose…of the trip.  Walk closely with me here…

In wrestling with my history (difficult relationships, failures, sloth and stagnation, abuses of others and indiscretions, seemingly ‘dead’ ends,…), I have looped back and tied up and seen connections that were not clear then.  I can see how frustrations then, initiated these revelations…now.

For example, the memory of intense longing that I felt (in my 20s and 30s) at the doorway of a bookstore, informs me now of the importance of intuition…but also of proper timing.  (“Yes, but not now.”)  The perceived import and relevance of the knowledge, insights, and wisdom to be imparted by those books, only makes sense to me now; only now am I ready to read those books; only now do I have the hooks to hang the insights from.  All, in good time.

In fact, I take comfort in that memory; I see the longing then to have been evidence of my being drawn along…all along. We are not puppets of God in this Universe, we have free will, but neither are we left totally alone to figure it all out.  We get help.

Oh, and those deviations and lungings off the path, they were not ‘wasted’ time but times of information gathering, insight development, and even anecdote material…for future use. Had I not been through dark nights and prodigal journeys, I would have no knowledge of such things…I would not know that terrain…no way to relate to those who have such nights and take such journeys and who need my steadying evidence of survival.  (“I got through it and learned from it and you will, too.”)

Throughout my dark nights and times of desiring to end my life, I had a sense that “this doesn’t make sense; I know this is not where I should be…where I belong.  I want to go home.”  Suicide seemed to be the only way to get home.  But then I received messages…so many messages…that the only way to get there from here is THROUGH.

Looking back, I see that it was in the THROUGH that I picked up all the ‘tools’ I would need to be of use to others on the other side of it…tools like strength and stamina, faith and trust in what I could not see, anecdotes and stories of others who have shared their stories of their own journeys…stories heard and shared in mental hospitals, even language and jargon…and those books.

I have been wrong to criticize and condemn people…particularly young people…for playing video games hours and hours at a time…particularly the ones where the character gains experience points and gathers tools along the way.  I sat through hours of knitting while my boyfriend and his friends played Dungeons and Dragons.  I thought it was stupid.  I have been concerned about the days my son has spent playing digital versions of the same sort of thing.  But I have been wrong.

Teaching kids that we benefit from experience…especially ‘failure’…and to look out for tools, messages from bystander, signs,… that might be useful later on, is valuable in helping them get through this life…and not just ‘get’ through this life, but ‘gain’ from this life.  Our lives are about more than just our lives.  (By the way, don’t tell my son, but I have been reading Fallout Equestria.  Does that make me a ‘mom-ony?’)

Finally, a friend and I have been sharing how we have often said, concerning our hard dark times, “I would not wish it on my worst enemy.”  Life is damned hard and the ‘richest’ of lives is not for the faint of heart.  I suspect that those who experience the worst sorts of journeys, are meant to do so.  I, myself, believe that I asked for it…that I requested it; I did so intentionally because without my hard times I would be of little use to others, now.

When the Heart is Ready

Sometimes I read something and there is no purchase.  Know what I mean?  The hooks aren’t in place or I have yet to have ‘taken the prerequisite?”

Last night I started rereading The Meaning of Mary Magdalene by Cynthia Bourgeault. In Chapter 4 of TM3, “The Gospel of Mary Magdalene,” I ‘got it’ at a level I hadn’t before. Here are some notes I took and my thoughts on them:

p.46 (bottom) – Jesus: “find contentment at the level of the heart, and if you are discouraged, take heart in the presence of the Image of your true nature.”  I receive that as instruction…and as significant as if it were one of Jesus’ commandments.  A few thoughts:  1) it reminds me of something my priest said at the beginning of my desire to ‘return’ to God.  I had said, “I’m not sure I believe,” and he replied, “For now, just know that your friends and I believe enough for you.” In other words, trust that there is more connecting you and securing you than just your sense of your faith.

2) It points out the REASON for habitual contemplation and centering prayer…to reinforce one’s dwelling at the level of the heart.  Abide there and find contentment there.  (Again…my profound grasp of the obvious.) and 3) Back in 1979, several things happened: I graduated from college, my sister suffered her stroke in Germany and was moved to DC after her surgery, I chose to go to DC to help care for her rather than go to grad school.  While in DC, I became interested in Christian faith and theology.  I read a lot of CS Lewis, at first.  I also read some deeper theologians (Karl Barth, was one) but I’m not sure who I was reading that addressed this same concept of the presence of one’s Image in another realm and the importance of being aligned with it.  I recall waking in the wee hours because I heard the ‘heavenly host’ singing; they were rejoicing in my spiritual ‘turning’ or arriving or in-turning.  I’ve always referred to that experience as my ‘being saved,’ if I was ever asked about being ‘saved.’

p.47 Jesus: “the Son of Humanity already exists within you.  Follow him, for those who seek him there will find him.”  I wrote in the word “in” after the instruction to “Follow him” because it behooves me (and might behoove others) to realize that He is not saying to walk the paths of the Holy Lands or even my neighborhood, but to follow Him inward because I will find Him there…within me.  It is not so much ‘What would Jesus DO?’ as it is ‘How did Jesus BE ?’  He, too, went inward.  He dwelt inward.  He abided inward.

p.47 Jesus: “do not lay down any further rules.”  I don’t think the “lest you…” is even necessary.

Jeff Foster, in his podcast with Sounds True, described how to discover one’s true nature by honoring what ‘comes up’…what one feels (pain, fear, anger,…).  By allowing and respecting one’s feelings and reactions, one opens them to the elements and one’s clutching of them dissipates.  You own it….and that’s all.  It goes.  No struggle, no force, no clutch, not really any striving.  When the cap is released and the fumes dissipate, one’s true nature is all that remains and one is able to ‘rest,’ as he put it.  This…sans fumes…is one’s true nature…one’s origin or at least one’s transmitted or analogue Image.  ..how one is.

p.48  CB relates: “…ignorance of one’s true nature, is to blame for the suffering of this world.  Acting in ways that are ‘adulterous in nature’ (stems from) a failure to stay in alignment with origin…with the ‘root’ of one’s nature.”  …again, the REASON for frequent and habitual contemplation and the regular practice of centering prayer.

Patience and Thinking in Deep Geologic Time

This morning, Mark Nepo reminds me of Lao-Tzu’s wisdom:

I have just three things to teach
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These are your greatest treasures. 

Patience with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.

Nepo elaborates:

Fear wants us to act too soon.  But patience, hard as it is, helps us to outlast our preconceptions.  This is how tired soldiers, all out of ammo, can discover through their inescapable waiting that they have no reason to hurt each other.”  

Given enough time, most of our enemies cease to be enemies, because waiting allows us to see ourselves in them.

Richard Rohr, in this morning’s meditation, puts today’s political tensions in similar perspective:

I know the situation in the world can seem dark today. We are seeing theological regression into fundamentalist religions which believe all issues can be resolved by an appeal to authority (hierarchy or Scripture) and so there is no need for an inner life of prayer. In the United States we have seen the rolling back of a compassionate economic system and the abandonment of our biblical responsibility for the poor, the sick, and refugees. Fear and anger seem to rule our politics and our churches. We see these same things in many parts of the world.

The negative forces are very strong, and the development of consciousness and love sometimes feels very weak. But a “Great Turning” is also happening, as believed and described in many ways by such people as Teilhard de Chardin. There is a deep relationship between the inner revolution of prayer and the transformation of social structures and social consciousness.

The Apostle Paul has a marvelous line: “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). In so many places, there are signs of the Holy Spirit working at all levels of society. The church might well have done its work as leaven because much of this reform, enlightenment, compassion, and healing is now happening outside the bounds of organized religion. Only God gets the credit.

The toothpaste is out of the tube. There are enough people who know the big picture of Jesus’ thrilling and alluring vision of the reign of God that this Great Turning cannot be stopped. There are enough people going on solid inner journeys that it is not merely ideological or theoretical anymore. This is a positive, nonviolent reformation from the inside, from the bottom up. The big questions are being answered at a peaceful and foundational level, with no need to oppose, deny, or reject. I sense the urgency of the Holy Spirit, with over seven billion humans on the planet. There is so much to love and so much suffering to share in and heal.

So how are we to be patient if so much is wrong?  By keeping today in perspective of a long view of mankind and by tending to our own “solid inner journeys.”  Krista Tippett, also guided by Teilhard, shares in Becoming Wise:  An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, that he foresaw that the “realm of human intelligence, information, and action…like the Internet…would drive the next stage of evolution–an evolution of spirit and consciousness.”

Tippett makes clear, however, that “Teilhard thought in slow, deep, geologic time, and so must we.  A long view of time can replenish our sense of ourselves and the world.  We are in the adolescence of our species, not by any measure in full possession of our powers.  The twenty-first-century globe resembles the understanding we now have of the teenage brain:  dramatically uneven; immensely powerful and creative at times and in places, reckless and destructive in others.”

***************************************************

Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening is an excellent guide book for one’s “solid inner journey.”

Richard Rohr’s daily meditations are solid gold wisdom found at Meditations@cac.org .

I’ve just started Krista Tippett’s book, Becoming Wise, but it looks to be the exact book I need to be reading right now.

My thanks to Ansel Adams for beautifully depicting visually, the massive stable strength that stands behind all of what we know as life.  Also, my eternal thanks to Lao-Tsu.

On Being: I am mutable

All my former ‘I am’s’ no longer hold.

I am an INFP
I am a single mom
I am bipolar
I am a Federal Employee, a scientist, a programmer
I am an artist, a writer, a photographer
I am young, old, fat, thin, blonde, outspoken, intense, impulsive

I have done all those things. I have worn all those clothes. But underneath, I simple ‘be’ and am capable of slipping into something more comfortable.

Delayed Gratification – not what you think

I have not always appreciated the value and merit of my hard life. But with 20/20 hindsight, I can see that God has been answering my prayers…all along the way.  I find myself now in a place of honor.

The beauty is that I can stand toe-to-toe with scientists, professionals, bureaucrats, and managers; I have been all those things. I can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with single mothers, divorced women, abusive / neglectful parents, persecuted Christians, even the promiscuous because I have been them.  Now, I can look in the eyes of customers who are missing teeth, wear worn-out clothing, and are buying cheap food with EBT cards and show them ‘knowing love’ and compassion; my smile is genuine.  I can sit with patience as the crippled man and the one with slow speech get to the parts of their stories where the true deep wisdom of life comes out.  I am one with them because I am truly one of them. The ‘crazy’ woman in the doctor’s office is no different from me except that she is at a bad place in her illness and is unmedicated.

To be no better off than anyone around me is a truly privileged place to be.  I am never embarrassed by their poverty or uncomfortable with their conditions.  I sit easy in the DSS or Social Security offices because I belong there.  Jesus was able to break bread with the tax collectors and prostitutes because He was one with God.  For me, though, it took a lifetime of abuse, neglect, mistreatment, and illness.  But I had prayed for that…sort of.

When I was a teenager, I prayed for the wisdom that scripture said was so valuable.  I also prayed to have a mastery of words so that I might be able to heal and to help people understand life and to get along.  Then I forgot that I had prayed for all of this.  Thank God, God did not forget.

So, here I am. God has been answering my prayers for the past 61.8 years.  And God is not done with me yet.