OCTOBER 2

 

 

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Are you an advocate for non-violence?  Do I commit on a daily basis to non-violence in my life?  It is fitting that the International Day of Non-Violence be celebrated on the birthday of Mohandas Gandhi who was born October 2, 1869.  Bestowed the title of Mahatma (a person who is revered and respected) he led to the independence of India from British rule by mass non-violent civil disobedience.

Concurrently reported on the same news page which tells of Gandhi and today’s celebration of non-violent actions to confront the world’s affinity for violence, is an account of a national leader suggesting in a private meeting with aides that the immigration “problem” could be resolved by “shooting them in the legs” or “topping a 2000 mile electrified border wall with flesh piercing spikes.” MSN NEWS

We can only hope that this account of the President’s words were a summary of foolish and facetious statements by one who attempts to lead by division and fear.  Other actions and speech, however,  confirm that our nation is not governed by policies of non-violence.  Peace through enforced powers of violence is not what Gandhi had in mind when crusading for independence from Britain.  It is an unsustainable truce in which the oppressed must submit to an oppressor.

Who is my personal oppressor?  Yours?  What inner powers keep us from knowing peace?  What violence do we inflict upon our souls?  Perhaps the most significant factor in world-wide violence is absence of self-love.  No, not talking about ego and its deceptive need for attention, rather, the realization that compassion and tolerance of others begins with an attitude of compassion and tolerance for me.  I MUST LOVE ME BEFORE I CAN LOVE OTHERS.

Are you a movie fan or prime time TV viewer?  Ever question the need for all the blood and violence being shoved into your head?  Yes, it gets terrific ratings above and beyond any ratings SOUND OF MUSIC or I LOVE LUCY would garner.  But, it shows a complete absence of reverence for life.  Self-love and non-violence begin in a place of reverence for all life, all creation, all races, all tribes, all creeds, all religions, all lifestyles.  Doesn’t mean I need to understand or agree with your choices, but I must respect your right to live your choices.  Namaste, my fellow earthlings.  Have a blessed INTERNATIONAL DAY OF NON-VIOLENCE.

PRIDE7

 

the 7 deadlies

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”  C.G. Jung, MEMORIES, DREAMS, REFLECTIONS (1989)

Let’s allow those words to soak into our collective thick skulls.  Consider the person in your world whom you detest, whom you would never entertain in your home, whom you would vehemently argue will go to hell.  Yeah, think about that person for a moment and then let’s do a sincere soul search.  What is it within me, within you, that reflects with such intensity our dislike for that person?

“Well, Larry, I have a sense of values, compassion for fellow humans, a moral compass to guide me.  I am in no way like …….” (insert name here).

Okay, I get it.  You and I are stellar human beings with no quirks, no faults, no skeletons in our closets.  We have been nominated numerous times for sainthood and are just waiting for that moment when we will sit with the old man in the heavens pronouncing judgment upon the lesser of us – those whom we have previously decided will burn in hell.

Really?  Is that who we are?  Nothing more than pawns of runaway egos determined to remind others of the splinters in their eyes while ignoring the logs in our own eyes?  Is that what we are destined to be?  Granted, that is the human way, but aren’t we destined to be more than ego-driven bags of human flesh?  I am remembering a verse from the book of Luke, chapter 6, verse 41 which reminds me that the plank I carry in my own eye is needing my attention more than the speck of sawdust in my brother’s eye.  Matthew 7:3 has the same message.  Are these ancient writers trying to instill a bit of introspection in me to replace my self-serving ego-stroking?

Yeah, guilty as charged.  That neighbor who always rubs me the wrong way, the city councilman who seems more concerned about his image than job performance, the preacher who doesn’t appear to walk the talk, the politician who is obviously lacking a moral compass – they are all a composite of me and my own character defects.  The national leader who seems to always be screaming, “Look at me, look at me, dammit look at me,” is the same small voice within me screaming, “Here I am, pay attention to me.”

The denial wells up within, but maturity, which can be so evasive, tells me that those seven deadlies – the 7 vices which challenge our spiritual journey – are inherent in each of us.  GREED, ANGER, SLOTH, ENVY, GLUTTONY, LUST, PRIDE are at the center of any and all distractions from the universal truth that we are all one humanity, one organism, one Spirit simply trying to navigate the impermanence of this life on earth.

Doing life perfectly is not the goal.  It is impossible.  The ending of this trek is not foreseeable, but we have within us the capacity to alter the journey.  What will it be?  Ego driven or Spirit centered?

LOVE

 

Marianne rocks

Marianne Williamson, a Democratic Presidential candidate, has been on my radar screen ever since reading her book ILLUMINATA, published in 1994.  Her approach to Picture40spirituality in relation to the insanity of our world focuses on individual as well as governmental responsibility and dedication to nonviolent interaction.  It is refreshing to see an aspirant for political office who is not pumping international conflict and control.

from ILLUMINATA:

Dear Lord, please lift me up and heal me. 
Cast out of my mind all thoughts that are not of You. 
Cast out of me all harsh and critical nature. 
Cast out of me all violence and all anger. 
Cast out of me all demons from my past. 
For I would be made new.

It all begins within me.  Cast out of me all harsh and critical nature.  Cast out of me all violence and all anger.  Do you realize how difficult that can be in today’s world as we are blasted every day with media reports of raging conflicts, of government corruption, of unnecessary death as a result of violence?  Massacres of citizens in Syria, imprisonment of dissenters in Russia, genocide of indigenous people in African countries, suicide bombings in the Middle East, mass shootings in the USA – the ceaseless world horrors grab our attention each day as we watch the instantaneous news coverage.  How in hell can I ‘cast out all harsh and critical nature, violence and anger?’

It’s impossible unless I retire to my imaginary Mediterranean island with the monks, give up all worldly connections and meditate 24/7.  On that island is peace?  Maybe.  But living in seclusion on an island is not what Jesus taught through his own nonviolent interaction with the Jewish society of his time.  He did not cave, he did not capitulate to the Roman authorities nor the religious corruption of his time.  He participated and embraced all aspects of life in 1st century Israel.

Fr. Richard Rohr at CAC.ORG comments in today’s meditation:

“How is it that many Christians have managed to avoid what Jesus actually taught? We’ve evaded major parts of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): the Beatitudes, Jesus’ warning about idolizing “mammon,” his clear directive and example of nonviolence, and his command to love our enemies. I never see the Beatitudes on courthouse lawns. Perhaps we think his teaching is nice in theory but impractical in real life. Perhaps we do not believe nonviolence can actually effect real change.”

He goes on to say:

“Even the common ‘pro-life movement’ is much more pro-birth than about caring for all life—black and brown lives, refugees, the poor, the sick, immigrants, LGBTQIA people, the environment.” In fact, many “pro-lifers” I know are the first in line to oppose any gun regulation.”

I don’t have answers.  But, I do have prayers to instill in my heart and examples of nonviolent success on the world scene to inspire me.  The survival of our world depends on you and me.  We don’t have to be heroes or national celebrities to make a difference.  It all starts with me and what I harbor within.  You, too.  Let’s be instruments of peace.

PRIDE7

 

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cac.org – Richard Rohr

flowers

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

Like a beautiful flower, full of color, but without scent,
are the fine but fruitless words
of those who do not act accordingly.
But like a beautiful flower, full of color and full of scent,
are the fine and fruitful words
of those who do act accordingly.

from FLOWERS,  the Buddha

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We are encouraged in our faith walks and recovery programs to “walk the talk”.  Scriptures and rhetoric flow easily off the tongues of many religious and political leaders only to be sadly contradicted by actions which betray their words.  From the pulpits and the podiums flow endless streams of righteousness and exhortation but their eloquence produces no discernible spiritual fruit.

In these tumultuous times of hatred and vitriol spewing forth from politicians, clergy, and fellow citizens, many of us find our spiritual foundations rocked with a gut-wrenching desire to join in the melee of harshness and discord.  In a heartbeat, in a moment of anger, I can become as evil and slanderous as the worst of the worst seen in the newspapers or on the viewing screens.  In a fit of righteousness I can charge, judge, and condemn the most vocal offenders of my life’s philosophy.  I deem myself omnipotent. It is then that I immediately become a part of the problem and not a promoter of the solution.

Talk is cheap.  However, walking the talk is a never-ending endeavor which separates men from boys, wise from foolish, sheep from goats.  The Buddha attained nirvana following a path of selflessness and principled living.  Jesus and his disciples established a kingdom on earth led by the principles of “the Way.”  Gandhi won liberation for his people through non-violent dissent.  Martin Luther King, Jr. promoted non-violent protest as the vehicle to attain civil rights for African-Americans.  They all walked their talk.  Each of them was a peacemaker.

That also is my challenge in this life.  I shall probably never attain greatness or recognition, but I can always strive to lace my thoughts, speech, and actions with mindfulness and compassion.  I want the flowers of my life to be sweetly scented and fruitful.  Engaging in and wallowing in hatefulness and vitriol is not an option.  Filling my head with the latest scandal from media talking heads does not encourage enlightenment.  Ancient wisdom teaches that what  blossoms in the mind is who we are as a humanity.  Fruit or thorns?  Peace or strife?  Compassion or oppression?  It truly begins within each of us.

NAMASTE

rainbow

 

BUILDING 429

In my little world there’s an inside voice that tells me, “yes Larry, you are on the right track,” or, ” no Larry, you are screwing up”.  It’s a good personal barometer of fair or foul weather lying ahead.  Get out the sunglasses or put on the hip boots.

I take lots of things in life pretty seriously, sometimes too seriously.  Often I take myself too seriously.  I can be too thin-skinned for my own good and in the past I have spent days brooding over unkind remarks which honestly had no bearing on me as a person.  I guess I often allow ego to run my life.  I can be judgemental and I can be overbearing.

I usually believe that I have a fairly decent handle on the world and world affairs.  I see myself as a sane, rational human being.  On my better days the future has a rosey glow and I feel like I will live forever….well, almost forever.  On less optimistic days I truly have no desire to live a long, long life.  Why bother?  Who really cares?

But rarely do I find myself shaken to the core with a realization that simply has never occurred to me before.  I don’t know where it came from, I don’t remember thinking that peculiar thought before.  It’s discomfitting and it’s challenging.

That’s what has happened today.  I share opinions about the world, society, people, spirituality, sobriety, serenity, politics, etc., etc.  And I know that mine is just a small voice participating in a raucous conversation.  We share thoughts, we agree, we disagree and we go on with the day’s agenda.

However, never have I considered that there are people in this country, in this world who do not want to live in a society of non-violence.  We know some can’t, that some are caught up in political turmoil and social injustice.  But, I always thought that given their druthers, they would choose peace.  Apparently, that’s not true.

It’s obvious by responses on Facebook where conciliatory Congressmen are booed and ridiculed.  It’s equally obvious from reading letters to the editor in my newspaper.  We see it on our screens everyday.  Lord forgive me for being so blind and for living in a world of make-believe.  I should be old enough by now to know better.  Some folks simply love violence and actually thrive on it.  That is the utopia they seek.

So by now you might be asking, “Larry, where are you going with this?”

I’m a tired man with high blood pressure, aches and pains, cholesterol issues, emphysema and bunions on my toes.  I don’t have the financial resources to buy an island in the South Pacific where my cat and I can live in a peaceful disconnect from the world.  Hell, I barely have enough to feed my cat.  We are both getting older and, I don’t know about Max, but I am weary of the world’s agenda.

There’s a contemporary Christian song by BUILDING 429 which says:

“Sometimes it feels like I’m watching from the outside
Sometimes it feels like I’m breathing but am I alive
I will keep searching for answers that aren’t here to find

All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong”

That sums it up for me.  This is not where I belong.  The guns, the violence, the hatred, the racism, the bigotry, homophobia, Islamophobia………

“So when the walls come falling down on me
And when I’m lost in the current of a raging sea
I have this blessed assurance holding me.”

smiley 3

 

 

WMDs

In any alternative dialog the Las Vegas tragedy could have been headlined as “Madman employs weapons of mass destruction to murder 59 concert-goers.”

Bush used the threat of WMDs to involve us in a war in 2003 which saw nearly a half million Iraqi citizens murdered in addition to thousands of American military personnel.  Our overwhelming use of firepower did not bring resolution to the people of Iraq, our persecution and consequent prosecution of Hussein did not stop the advance of international terrorism, and our military presence in principalities controlled by centuries-old tribal disputes has not deterred madmen from doing the things which madmen are known to do.  They murder.

The American breed of madmen is encouraged by the epidemic of violence which has blackened the souls of thousands of grieving countrymen.  The American breed of madmen is assisted in his/her diabolical schemes of murderous rampage by undeterred access to weaponry designed to be used only by soldiers fighting in combat situations.  And the American breed of madmen is supported by a senseless interpretation of rights under the 2nd amendment.  This underlying creed has facilitated the unfettered growth of the NRA (National Rifle Association) into an organization which became “an avatar of white anxiety” that viewed President Obama as someone who “wanted to deprive gun-toting Americans of their constitutional right to bear arms.”NRA

“The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end,” Trump thundered before cheering throngs at the NRA’s annual meeting in April. “You have a true friend and champion in the White House.”

Under Mr. Obama’s Presidency, annual gun production skyrocketed 239 percent and the NRA membership hit a record five million.  It poured over $30 million into Trump’s campaign and millions more to stack Congress with gun-friendly lawmakers.  All but one of the NRA backed candidates won.  NRA millions

We Americans live in a war zone.  The terrorists we truly need to fear do not face the east five times daily to pray, they are not sequestered under the leadership of a man named Kim in North Korea.  The terrorist organization in our midst is a well-funded , politically involved, 5 million-strong, violence-promoting corps of quasi-militants who gather under the auspices of the NRA.  We need to wake up. This is not the NRA which decades ago protected the rights of sportsmen to own shotguns and rifles for hunting.  This organization promotes the accumulation of WMDs under the guise of 2nd amendment rights.  It is government approved terrorism.

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God, guns, guts

As a young man growing up in rural Pennsylvania one of the anticipations of the autumn aside from harvest, football, and hay rides was hunting.  It was a time of brotherly camaraderie, enjoying the fall colors in the woods, sipping hot cider on frosty mornings.  We hunted squirrel, rabbit, pheasants, turkey, and deer.  Every kill was taken home, dressed and put into a stew or into the freezer for future use.  Never was the bounty of the land wasted or taken for granted.  Wild game was another crop which the farmer harvested, gave thanks for, and used wisely.

As a young man growing up in rural Pennsylvania we all had at least one shotgun and rifle.  I had a 20 gauge and a 35 caliber, learned to use them safely, and appreciated the trust bestowed in me to hunt with other sportsmen.  I knew of no one who possessed or carried a pistol, revolver or any other small arms except for the local constable.  Absolutely no one in my community had a need for a military style weapon, especially law enforcement.

As a young man growing up in rural Pennsylvania we held a respect for one another that would preclude any actions of violence against our brothers and sisters.  It was not taught, it was not learned.  It was a part of who we were on the day we were born.  We called ourselves pacifists, but even more, we practiced nonviolence.  Pacifism is an attitude or mindset.  Nonviolence is an active pursuit.

Sadly, life in America today isn’t rural Pennsylvania 60 years ago.  Our viewing screens are plastered with the violence we level upon one another; Columbine, NYC, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Dallas, Charleston, and now Las Vegas.  Its an epidemic of violence fueled by fringe ideology with one common denominator: access to high powered, military style weaponry.

Many of those who claim a right to guns are no longer sport hunters who harvest the bounty of the land.  They have become instead proponents of the 2 nd Amendment accumulating enough arms to start a world war in their own backyards and they are supported by the power of the NRA, an association which began as a voice for the rights of hunters.

The perpetrators of the acts of violence which we see on our screens and in the newspapers are usually declared as mentally deranged.  Matters not.  The supporters of NRA claim that their right to possess military style weapons supersedes the rights of fellow Americans and their families to live safely in peaceful neighborhoods, communities, and cities.

In Florida, the state laws favor the gun owner who claims a right to carry at all times.  The illusion is that they want the ability to protect themselves in case of a deranged shooter engaging in a confrontation.  Hey, folks, it’s the OK Corral in your local WalMart, aisle 6.

“Who’s the good guy, who’s the bad guy….I dunno, just get the hell out of the crossfire.”

They say it’s for protection.  Guess what?  I feel safer hiking through the nearby woods with the alligators, the water moccasins, the bears, and the occasional homeless guy than I do shopping at my local grocery store.  That’s the depth of moral deprivation into which our society has slid.

Next time you see or hear “God, guns, and guts” think about it.  Give the association of those three words in the same sentence some serious thought.  As the proud proponents of gun rights often proclaim:

“They’ll have to pry my gun out of my dead hands.”  Well, then so be it.  It’s your choice. But, don’t kill me or my loved ones  in the process.

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prison for profit

“Our current criminal “justice” system has more to do with making a profit (through unpaid labor and filling quotas) and oppression of the marginalized than restoring individuals to wholeness and health. Though the United States holds only 5% of the world’s population, it houses 21% of the world’s prisoners. African-Americans and Hispanics are imprisoned at much higher rates, in spite of similar rates of drug use and crime as whites. [1] [1] African Americans and Hispanics comprise 32% of the US population, but comprise 56% of all incarcerated people (2015). See NAACP’s “Criminal Justice Fact Sheet” for more information” naacp.org/criminal-justice-fact-sheet.

Fr. Richard Rohr in his daily commentary on September 22nd, social wounds , speaks to the horrific cost to American society attributable to our system of law enforcement and punishment.  Not only are vast amounts of financial assets spent to incarcerate, an even great tragic loss is the waste of America’s greatest asset, its young people.

Based in Albuquerque, NM, the Franciscan admonishes a justice system which “has more to do with making a profit and oppression of the marginalized than restoring individuals to wholeness and health.”  He continues with statistics that support the beliefs of black skinned and brown skinned people that they are unfairly targeted and more harshly punished than white peers.

In my lifetime I have seen prisons transition from government-funded facilities to private for-profit entities which stand to reap a greater profit with an increased prison population.  The charge has been levied for several years that this is yet another device of a white controlled society to practice the brand of discrimination and racism which has existed since the abolishment of slavery.

Outside of the racial injustice issue, another great moral question of this privatizing of prisons is the incentive for unscrupulous judges to extract financial gain from the cases upon which they rule.  In my home state of Pennsylvania, such a travesty was exposed.

A Pennsylvania judge was sentenced to 28 years in prison in connection to a bribery scandal that roiled the state’s juvenile justice system. Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. was convicted of taking $1 million in bribes from developers of juvenile detention centers. The judge then presided over cases that would send juveniles to those same centers. The case came to be known as kids for cash .”

The judge is spending a lot of time in prison; however, the toll to young people cannot be reversed even as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed about 4000 convictions issued by Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008.

Jeff Pollins’ stepson was convicted by Ciavarella.

“These kids are still affected by it. It’s like post traumatic stress disorder,” Pollins told the Times Leader. “Our life is ruined. It’s never going to be the same… I’d like to see that happen to him,” he said.

This overt display of greed targeting the least capable of our society able to defend themselves, i.e., youth and  minorities, is not limited to a judge in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.  It is a rampaging outgrowth of a society which not only condones violence against each other, but increasingly promotes violence in professional sports venues, in entertainment, and in cinema.

The POTUS encourages violence at his ego rallies, in his exhortations to the police to not be “so gentle”, in his stance on DACA, in his descriptions of female conquests, and in his approach to extremely delicate interactions with North Korea.  Unfortunately, and sadly, the voice of violence is what his support base is demanding and expecting.

“[This is] the urgency of the great choice we face as a species: will we choose to continue to affirm a culture of systemic violence—or will we build a culture of active, creative, and liberating nonviolence so that we can not only survive but thrive?”  John Dear, The Nonviolent Life (Pace e Bene Press: 2013), x. Note that Pace e Bene and John Dear are leading a Campaign Nonviolence Week of Actions, September 16-24. Learn more at paceebene.org/programs/campaign-nonviolence/.

As always, we do have a choice.  We can commit to live non-violently or we can become part of the “fire and fury” described by Trump in his tweet several weeks ago.

namaste rainbow

there will be a day

“Living nonviolence requires daily meditation, contemplation, study, concentration, and mindfulness. Just as mindlessness leads to violence, steady mindfulness and conscious awareness of our true identities lead to nonviolence and peace. The deeper we go into mindful nonviolence, the more we live the truth of our identity as sisters and brothers of one another, and sons and daughters of the God of peace. The social, economic, and political implications of this practice are astounding: if we are sons and daughters of a loving Creator, then every human being is our sister and brother, and we can never hurt anyone on earth ever again, much less be silent in the face of war, starvation, racism, sexism, nuclear weapons, systemic injustice, and environmental destruction.” cac.org

John Dear, The Nonviolent Life (Pace e Bene Press: 2013), 15-17. Note that Pace e Bene and John Dear are leading a Campaign Nonviolence Week of Actions, September 16-24. Learn more at paceebene.org/programs/campaign-nonviolence/ .