Different generation, different side of the continent, more sophisticated weapons…but folks, it’s the same old bullshit. Sending young men and women off to fight the war that lines the pockets of corporate greed and political corruption. We have learned nothing, not a damned thing.
if you are sober today, give yourself and your God a hand
“Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now….we thought we could find an easier, softer way. But, we could not.”
ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, chapter 5, How It Works
Wisdom from the BIG BOOK, the alcoholic’s bible, teaches us that there is no easy way to transformation and restoration. We cannot hang on to old ideas, we cannot party with the old crowd, we cannot entertain previous bad habits and expect a sustained, peaceful sobriety. Millions of successfully recovering alcoholics will testify to this assertion from HOW IT WORKS. For us there is not an easier, softer way.
Those of us who profess a faith walk and try to follow earnestly the God of our understanding know this principle applies to all aspects of our lives. Discernment is an integral part of daily living. Not only recognizing a spiritual value, but following the direction of that moral compass becomes a driving force in our lives. Talk the walk and then walk the talk. We cannot conveniently turn on and off the spiritual connection which has returned us to sanity.
And so it is that when discussions of social, political and religious significance occur, we have a choice – wallow in the easier, softer way of complacency and submission to the status quo or advocate what could be infinitely more difficult, but principled. Our guide? It has to be that same moral compass, that discernment which we discovered through the grace of sobriety. It has to be what was learned by giving up the easier, softer way.
I recently witnessed a conversation between two upstanding members of the community. Debating politics, one offered an opinion that his Christian faith had no bearing on his choice in the upcoming 2020 Presidential election. The moral character of his candidate had nothing to do with fitness for the office or ability to lead. The booming economy and low unemployment rate were, by far, a more important barometer than any character faults and defects. Maybe he is right. Maybe it is okay during the election cycle to put away in a box the faith and values which have transformed our lives. Maybe the economy, stock markets and retirement accounts are more important than the life and work of Jesus manifesting through us. Maybe. What do you think?
Fr. Richard Rohr, in the mission statement for the CENTER FOR ACTION AND CONTEMPLATION, shares the following:
“The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. Oppositional energy only creates more of the same.”
It’s all about energy, isn’t it? Physical exertion, emotional expenditure, spiritual contemplation – it all revolves about the issues that are present in our lives. Where we spend our time and energy determines who we are, what we advocate and ultimately the state of mind we enjoy in peace or endure in turmoil. Therefore, next time I am tempted to jump into the mud with the other mud wrestlers (or whatever else hangs out in the slime), perhaps I should remember the exhortation of Fr. Rohr.
…and they all chimed in, “Yeah, Larry, and we’re going to nominate you for sainthood.”
Y’all ought to know by now that I live by the principle of progress rather than perfection, that lofty ideals are meant to be pursued, not attained. It’s the journey, not the destination that constitutes a successful life. Striving for a world dedicated to non-violence begins in me with every action, thought and prayer offered to the cause of personal earthly peace – “oppositional energy only creates more of the same.”
That’s difficult to digest. Does it mean that I should not be concerned about the injustice and hypocrisy which permeates the world? Should I just throw my arms up in frustrated surrender over the racism and intolerance infecting American society? Should I sit in my quiet place with my beads and prayer shawl praying away the hatred and bigotry?
No, certainly not. I should continue to see with dismay the horrors of social injustice, I should continue to speak out against the racism in my neighborhood, I should continue to protest by whatever resources I have the denigration of brothers and sisters of another race or creed or nationality. But, I should not jump into the mud and lather up in my own hypocrisy, intolerance and bigotry. Justifying my disagreement and winning a victory over another’s viewpoints is not the goal of non-violence. Proving the insanity of national politics will not make ours a better country.
I refer often to the wisdom of the ancients. The thoughts, the words, and the sayings which have survived the test of time have done so because they are – wisdom. In my opinion (and yes, I have many) the one nugget of wisdom erringly ignored by religious leaders and politicians alike is lead by example.
What examples are we choosing to lead us and guide us through an extremely violent period of world history? Whom do we choose to inform us and thereby sway our opinions? To what and to whom do we listen? What do we read and view on media screens? Where are we expending physical, emotional and spiritual energy? Is it oppositional or is it conducive to understanding and peaceful solution?
Hillary (yeah, don’t allow the name to betray your religion) famously said in her campaign, “When he takes the low road, we take the high road.”
Doesn’t really matter whether she meant it or actually lived it. The advice is great wisdom. Let’s not get mired in the mud (or sewage) which poses as moral guidance or political leadership. Observe it, digest it, and then continue to follow the compass which points true north. Let our criticism of the bad be tempered by practice of the better.
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.” ERNEST HEMINGWAY
The very good and the very gentle and the very brave – let’s focus on those words. The world system seems to despise those who have a moral compass, those who are peacemakers, those who have the courage to march to a different drummer. Governments, religions, and financial systems do not honor a man/woman who answers their demands with “no, I will not live that way.”
We are labeled ‘unpatriotic’ if we do not toe the current disgrace posing as a legitimate government. When we kneel in obeisance to compassion and tolerance rather than stand pledging allegiance to the cloth symbol of a nation, we are castigated as revolutionary and disrespectful. Well, maybe we are. All great accomplishments in governing have been manifested by protest. No, I cannot be silent when brothers and sisters of a different color or creed do not equally enjoy the fruits of the nation they have served in battle and embraced as home.
I will not profess the creeds of religions which deny even the most basic human understanding that all creatures are made in the image of the One whom they profess as God and Savior while simultaneously endorsing locked cages of children on our border and a war in the Gulf which threatens the citizens of Yemen with epic, catastrophic starvation. No, I will not.
I will not participate in the corporate destruction of our sacred ecosystem for the sake of increased profits of corporations which have abdicated ecological responsibility in lieu of financial extravagance. While much of the world’s population lives without the basic comforts of adequate food and clean water, placating the luxuriant appetites of the privileged at the expense of the marginalized poor cannot possibly advance the survival of our species materially or spiritually.
Enough is enough. Enough corruption, enough hatred, enough greed, enough racism, enough killing. Where will we choose to stand as our country approaches the threshold of despotic, authoritarian leadership? As the earth’s ecosystem is screaming “enough” where will our allegiance be placed? The answer for each of us is within. When that quiet voice of protest within becomes a scream reverberating throughout the universe, then, perhaps, we can be assured that we have done enough.
Have we ever considered what it is about others than disturbs us the most? Is it their conceit, their crass behavior, their selfishness? Or is it their love of possessions, their disregard for society’s moral conduct, their dishonesty? Of course, the next question would require us to look into our own selves wondering what it is about them that trips our trigger.
In my early recovery years, as I was complaining to my sponsor about a group member who embodied everything which I despised, he responded this way,
“All that you hate in others are elements of your own personality that you are afraid to look at.”
“Hell no, that’s not true,” I replied defensively. “I am not like that.”
And I truly believed that. But, the seed had been planted and would not allow me to rest until I took it to my quiet space within and considered my sponsor’s words. Jerry could be shallow and selfish – yeah, me too, we are, after all, alcoholics. Jerry could seem arrogant – yeah, me too, but that was due to my insecurity with others. Jerry seemed disinterested in his group members – yeah, me too, but again I was shy and felt awkward with people. Jerry didn’t seem to grasp the humility in recovery, his concept of a Higher Power was weird – really? What did I profess as a Higher Power? A vengeful, old, gray bearded, eyes on fire, lightning-spitting man sitting somewhere in the universe on his throne of judgement? How weird is that?
In due time I learned a lot about myself from Jerry. He mirrored my own ego which at that time totally controlled who I was. Eckhart Tolle in his book, A NEW EARTH -AWAKENING TO YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE, writes:
“The particular egoic pattern that you react to most strongly in others and misperceive as their identity tend to be the same patterns that are also in you, but that you are unable or unwilling to detect within yourself. In that sense, you have much to learn from your enemies. What is it in them that you find most upsetting, most disturbing? Their selfishness? Their greed? Their need for power and control? Their insincerity, dishonesty, propensity to violence, or whatever it may be? Anything that you resent and strongly react to in another is also in you.”
The initial response is probably, “no way, not true.” But, as with any planted seed, this will not disappear until it is either choked with weeds and dies or nourished and brought to fulfillment. The question becomes whether we will wither in our denial or respond and grow. That, essentially, is what recovery is about. It is much more than living without alcohol and drugs or whatever our addictions entertain. It is a continual recognition of the external forces and internal thoughts that attempt to control our true identity, that state of Being which the Buddha called anata – no self. Words attributed to Jesus of Nazareth in the 8th chapter of Mark, verse 34, “whoever wants to be my disciple (follow my Truth) must deny self…..” which, in other words, is to deny ego control of our response to the world in which we live. Peace or drama? How will we choose to live?
Our world has become one of us versus them. Nationalism, tribalism, religious intolerance – they all try to convince us that we are superior to them. The them are always wrong while us are always right. Eons ago this mindset meant only that the caveman with the best clubs and biggest stones would win and the others would need to move on to find another cave in which to live.
We are not cave dwellers. We have missiles and nuclear weapons instead of clubs and stones. Our separateness cannot be resolved by conflict and violence. There will be, in a World War 3, no winners. Our species and probably earth as we know it will be eradicated.
The next time I watch on media screens a national leader or world power whom I despise, the next time I see a religious leader lead his flock astray, the next time I look at my neighbor with disgust, I must remember the lessons which Jerry taught me in early sobriety. Despite the outward appearances of polarizing differences, we are the same. What we do, how we think will determine whether this species of ours sees a 22nd or 23rd century. It’s our responsibility to grow our planted seed into selfless maturity.
Marianne Williamson, a Democratic Presidential candidate, has been on my radar screen ever since reading her book ILLUMINATA, published in 1994. Her approach to spirituality 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.
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.
“See how the faithful city has become a harlot! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her – but now murderers…..Your rulers are rebels, companions of thieves; they love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.” ISAIAH 1:21,23
Of course Isaiah was directing his admonition to Jerusalem, the city central to Judaic life and justice in the 8th century BC. Social justice was established within Judaism as a mandate directly from the God whom they worshipped. To not follow the writings of scriptures regarding care for widows and orphans was anathema to Jewish ecclesiastical doctrine.
The parallel to contemporary society is uncanny. Isaiah may as well be speaking to the institutions, religious and governmental, of our country in 2019. Some of those who proclaim the Good News of Jesus with the right hand use the left hand to cover their deplorable justification of racism, intolerance, and persecution. Confinement in cages at our border is acceptable. Widows and orphans of the unimaginable violence in countries south of us are vilified and labeled by our political servants and errant religious leaders as unworthy of the compassion demanded of us as children of a universal God.
If you have studied ancient civilizations, you will know that once-proud Israel was not only subjugated by the Roman Empire, it was destroyed from within by the arrogance and greed of Israel’s leaders who at the time were its religious elite and powerful. The final annihilation was completed by the Romans in 70 AD and Israel no longer existed as a nation. Only in 1948 did it regain its independence.
Can’t happen here? Why not? Are we not complicit in child abuse, human rights violations, corruption, deceit, murders? Has not our once great nation given up its moral compass, its beacon to the world’s huddled masses? I think we have. We have become the whore of whom Isaiah prophesied.
“Prophet Isaiah reflects on the condition of Jerusalem. Once the city held to justice, but the present tense reality reveals much corruption, greed and complicity. Injustice plagues the city, seen in thwarted action on behalf of orphans and widows, the city’s most vulnerable residents. Society shows wear and tear, a sign of coming destruction. The failed city is a contemporaneous image. Massive corruption, mass complicity and loud maligning of immigrants and foreigners surround us now.” RED LETTER CHRISTIANS
“At their most mature levels, religions have a common goal: union with all beings and with God. Unfortunately, many religions and Christian denominations have over-emphasized differences and claimed that their particular brand is superior to others. Jesus didn’t come to start another religion but to reveal God’s presence in all of us. The Christian name for the universal incarnation is Christ, but it is known by innumerable other names.” cac.org – Richard Rohr
“….it is known by innumerable other names.”
I also believe that Jesus did not appear in 1st century Nazareth to start a religion called Christianity. The church fathers in the 3rd and 4th centuries did that in pursuit of theological and political power. They approved or disapproved the writings to be included in their Bible and severely persecuted those mystics and wisdom writers who disagreed. Mysticism, however, did persist with Francis of Assisi, 1181-1226, being the salient, well-known proponent. His followers were the beginnings of today’s Franciscan brotherhood.
“A “better” world is one in which we recognize that all people possess an incomparable value that we are morally obliged to respect . . . in social, political, and economic terms. Honoring the humanity of your fellow beings means that if they are hungry, ill, or oppressed, you must exert yourself to help them. . . . But this . . . runs up against our inherited instincts of self-protection, greediness, and desire to dominate others. . . .” cac.org – Richard Rohr
Following the above suggestion is a lofty goal of enlightened spirituality – I fail miserably on many fronts. But, as with all goals, perfection is not the destiny; progress is. Especially, today’s political and social climate can lead me astray in a heartbeat. I want to rant, I want to berate, I want to wander off into profanity and name-calling when I read the day’s headlines or listen to media news programs. After all, that is just human, isn’t it? But, then remembering what Jesus endured and suffered as a human, what authorities of religion and government inflicted on him, I am forced to accept that this life’s suffering is the price to pay for spiritual enlightenment. None of us, not one, will reach the other side unscathed.
“If we could rearrange energy from within—if we more often nurtured our companions and promoted their well-being, we would suffer much less. Rearranging energy from within is what mysticism does.” cac.org – Richard Rohr
Not an easy task, but we must start somewhere if we expect our species to survive.
- a terrorist threatens
- a terrorist instills fear
- a terrorist advocates violence
- a terrorist distorts facts
- a terrorist abandons the rule of law
- a terrorist has no moral compass
- a terrorist is subversive
- a terrorist is a thug
- a terrorist promotes anarchy
- a terrorist feeds on weakness and vulnerability
- a terrorist inflicts disorder
- a terrorist cares nothing for the victim of his/her actions
Ok, explain this to me again. Who is calling whom a terrorist?
I once loved slinging the mud just as much as the next guy. Lord knows that today we have enough ammunition to be slinging 24/7. From religion to Hollywood to elections to politicians there is an endless supply of trash talk that can fill the airwaves with unworthy news, innuendo, gossip, and outright lies. Even the sailor in me who many years ago drank too much beer with the rowdies in the local Navy hangout blushes like an innocent schoolgirl at some of what these ears hear today.
But, know what? Sling mud and you’re going to get muddy. Or to put it in terms an old salt would appreciate, “Sling shit and you will get shitty.” Slinging becomes an acceptable way to communicate, a vocalization of the anger and disgust residing within the cranium and slinging is infectious. Have you ever noticed that when you share the first cuss word in a conversation, the other person also takes more freedom with cussing. When you talk trash about another person, those around you feel free to throw their trash into that conversation also. It’s a socially transmissible dis-order. I fear that our society has been infected with a terminal case of slinging.
This is on my mind because Trump will be in Orlando, one of my favorite cities. I know the trash talk, the bullshit, the lies will flow freely in that arena. Middle fingers will be pointed at journalists, insults will be leveled, lies will be told, and Trump will smile victoriously from the podium because he knows he has stirred up yet another crowd of supporters into hysteria. Lord knows he doesn’t know how to run a country or keep us safe or play with other children nicely, or speak truth. The only thing he can do effectively is stir the shit pot. Aw hell, here I go again slinging. I truly want to give it up. Help!
My grandpa always said, “If you can’t talk nicely, then just keep your damned mouth shut.” I sure wish he was still with us. We could go to Orlando and spread some nice conversation. Well, maybe not. Grandpa also said, “Don’t try to reason with holier-than-thou Christians, the IRS, and Republicans. They have hearing problems.”
Grandpa was a wise man.