Oprah

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”

namaste rainbowWhat thoughts come to your mind upon hearing “Oprah Winfrey”?

Class, grace, soul, empathy, justice, survivor, wealth, power, elegance, intelligence, creativity, renaissance?

Recently when visiting with Ellen, her response regarding a character-diminishing tweet from a political figure resulted in a mere shoulder shrug.  The world understood what she was saying and with that simple body language, Oprah positioned herself above the callous, uncivil, and immature tweet passing itself as political/social discourse.  She trumped her detractor with grace, elegance and non-engagement.

She has been quoted to say, “I try not to give power to negativity.”

In these tumultuous times, I need to heed Oprah’s wisdom.  I am the first one to jump feet first into a political foray.  That usually results in heated conversation which resolves nothing more than declaring them the “idiots” and me the “thinker”.  My mind wins the argument every time.  But, that victory comes with a price tag.  With each successive news story capturing my attention, the need to respond becomes an involuntary commitment to always be in “combat” mode.  It’s not a healthy mental nor physical condition to carry through out the day’s activity.  It colors every potential peaceful moment with anger and disgust.  I am giving power to all the world’s negativity even though I know this is not my God’s intention for my life.

The Buddhist tradition reminds us to find the quiet spaces within, to freely allow thoughts, positive and negative, to flow effortlessly into and out of our minds.  Do not resist any but, also,  do not dwell on any.  That is the power within which shapes our seconds, minutes, hours, days in this path called life.  It is my choice to surrender that power to negativity or goodness.

Certainly this does not dismiss us from the responsibilities of social justice for all mankind.  I have not been called to retreat to hillside caves on a Greek island, baking bread for the brothers and chanting verses throughout the day, although this is often an extremely beckoning option.  I know who I am today, I know what political action I will support, I know what my vote will be in upcoming elections, but learning to embrace Oprah’s advice will allow me to be “who I am” in a peaceful, self-empowering, soul-nurturing walk through life.

 

Bingo!

The airways, the newspapers, and our very own blogosphere are filled with chatter about 1st Amendment rights especially the freedom of speech and expression.  Yes, it is an important issue to all sides of the conversation from left to centrist to right.  But, should it be stirring up such controversy and baiting?cropped-patriots1.png

We have always had this right since the inception of our Bill of Rights.  It has been there regardless of whether the interpretations have been handed out by the Supreme Court of the United States or Joe Blow from Yakima. The Preamble states that these inalienable rights have been granted by the Creator under the heading of LIFE, LIBERTY & PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.  Take notice!  The “C” in Creator is capitalized.  That means this Creator is not just any creator but, THE CREATOR.  That makes the reference special.  It does not matter if you believe in my version of a creator, Tom Jefferson’s version or your very own personal version which could be that amoeba from way back in the primordial slime eons ago.  Freedom of speech and expression has always been ours, yours and mine,  since its creative inauguration.  Accordingly, it is our, yours and mine, responsibility to grab onto it, cherish and protect it .

Problem is that some folks believe theirs should take priority over ours.  Theirs is better, more godly.  Maybe theirs has usurped passages from scriptures or maybe theirs is founded on outdated traditions, or maybe theirs is simply some cockamamie interpretation of what grandpappy preached as truth.  It matters not because, as much as we would like to deny this, theirs is as valid as ours.  What has heretofore saved our civilization from annihilation is that we collectively employ  a conscience as a navigation system to pick through the varying ideas regarding freedom and for the most part have used that guidance judiciously.

Here comes the glitch.  My conscience guidelines could be light years away from the conscience of another.  So what do we do?  Well, we could all pull out our placards, put on our marching shoes, exercise our shouting voices and stand face to face to those with whom we disagree.  That’s not a bad thing, actually it is a good thing when we also cover our hearts with another characteristic which is not inherent, it needs to be nurtured and practiced.  That trait is civility.

I can oppose your viewpoint by letting you know that you are the biggest asshole in the world, call you names which would make my mother ashamed, and raise a fist to your nose hoping to duck any fists you could raise to me.  Lately, that seems to have become the American way.

Or I can exercise my abilities as a statesman and simply say, “Sir/Madam, I hear your point of view, I honor your right to express it, and I respectfully disagree.  Now, please hear my viewpoint.”

I believe that this is how great leaders and statesmen of the past have conducted life and achieved greatness for America.  They did not wear red hats or pump fists.  They did not tweet infantile insults at those who disagreed with them.  No, if responses were necessary to protect their freedom of speech or expression,  it was normally,  “I hear your assessment and I respectfully disagree. Now, hear mine.”

Civility.  It goes a long, long way in resolving issues and conflicts.  I freely admit that I also need a refresher course in civility basics now and then.  I am not immune to the name-calling and drama which has become a normative feature of today’s political discourse.  Ultimately, I want civility in my life because it lays a foundation for my primary objectives of “clean and serene” while trekking through God’s universe.

“Count to 10 before you open your mouth.”  Those words spoken by a very wise old man to me as a rebellious, young know-it-all hold a vast reservoir of  wisdom when practiced out of respect for others as well as myself.

“When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise.”  Proverbs 10:19

It seems that the disagreement over what is tolerable under free speech and expression is the vehemence, hatred, and violence which some are claiming as protected under 1st Amendment rights.  How can it be?  We can all talk about every issue until the cows come home and agree to disagree, but you threatening me and my family through words or actions with physical aggression or death because I do not think, talk, act, nor smell the same as you cannot possibly be what the Creator nor our founding fathers had in mind when they spoke of our inalienable rights. If so , then mankind is definitely not destined to be the enlightened species capable of unfathomable love and compassion as we have envisioned.

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The Principles of Etiquette – The Emily Post Institute, Inc.

(Remember the days of our youth when Emily Post was ridiculed by some of us for her “stuffy, old fogey” writings?  Wow, if only we had listened, larrypaulbrown)

This is the single most important thing we hope you read about etiquette. It’s that important. It’s the single most important thing to all of us who work here. And it was hugely important to Emily Post.

Source: The Principles of Etiquette – The Emily Post Institute, Inc.