Friday, August 29, 2014

Compassion as a Point of Connection

I have decided to try to turn all energy into compassion. This is, for me, a way to stay focused. It is also a thing greatly needed in our world.

By energy I mean the various internal energies we experience as emotions and thoughts, as well as the energies that act on us from the outside.

In the first case, if I feel anger I try to transmute this energy — after allowing myself to experience it for an appropriate amount of time — into compassion. A guy recently transferred back here after stealing from me and transferring out some time back. I was angry when it happened and again when I saw him again. I called him to account, telling him he needed to make right what he'd done.

I didn't want anything more than what he took from me, but even after claiming he wanted to make it right, he's made no effort. I've taken the energy of my anger and turned it into compassion — for other victims of injustice, for myself, and for this man whose integrity is so broken that he can't even see the value of trying to repair it.

I can do the same with the energy of happiness, boredom, frustration, self-contentment, fear, self-condemnation and so on. The can each be a point of connection to those in need of compassion in the world.

Energies from outside might be the energy of violence, cruelty, mindlessness, greed or, on the positive side, love, kindness, hope and optimism.

Once again, I can turn these energies into compassion as I experience them. I do so by expanding my awareness out from myself to the world, especially the world where it's hurting or striving. I should mention that this includes the non-human world as well as the human world. Where there is any need for compassion — and where is there not? — I offer it like a drink of water.

If I can do this in the physical world I will, but if not, I offer it up as energy: to the people in Ferguson, Missouri; to those in St. Louis; to the numberless and nameless suffering across our nation and world; to those betrayed by politics, corporate greed, and power; to those left behind; and to those on top, caught up in the delusion that winning is worthy of them.

I will strive toward this and fail, but even if I fail forever, the striving itself, the naming of this as my mission, will be my success.

Monday, August 18, 2014

"To Be My Symphony"

I was reading some quotes and came upon this by William Henry Channing and was inspired.
"To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable; and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly, to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages with open heart, to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasion; hurry never — in a word, to let the spiritual unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common; this is to be my symphony."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Fable

Here's my version of the fable I mentioned in this post, just for fun.

Eagles and Chickens

Once there was an eagle who thought he was a chicken. He scratched and pecked in the barnyard alongside all the other chickens and roosted in the coop at night. But he always felt that this barnyard life was too small for him, that he was called to something bigger. He saw birds flying overhead and felt a deep ache in his breast as if he had lost something important but couldn't remember what it was.

When he brought this up to other chickens they said, "What are you doing looking up anyway? Keep your eyes on the ground or you'll miss the crumbs and bugs that keep us alive."

"Being alive is great," he thought, "but what are  we alive for?" He couldn't stop asking questions or looking up at the wide open sky.

Then one day the farmer came, grabbed up a chicken by the legs and took it away squawking and flapping. The other chickens fluttered nervously for a few seconds but then went right back to scratching and pecking. Eagle had seen this before but never questioned it. Now he couldn't get the questions out of his mind. "Where did brother chicken go?" he asked several others. They all shrugged. "This is life. Why are you questioning it?"

The next Sunday the farmer came again. This time Eagle jumped and pumped his wings and suddenly found himself on the other side of the fence. He followed and watched as the farmer chopped off the chicken's head, plucked its feathers and carried the naked remains into the house.
He ran back and jumped the fence. He had to tell the other chickens what was going on. He was sure there would be a revolt of some sort.

But there was no revolt. Not even a protest. When Eagle got them all gathered and told them, he realized they already knew. They shook their heads at him and said, "Stop jumping the fence. What's the matter with you?"

He was so frustrated he flapped his wings again furiously. He found himself propelled up powerfully and hovered there looking down at the chickens. That was the moment he realized he wasn't a chicken. And though he had no idea what he was or where he was going, he knew he wouldn't be sleeping in the coop that night. He kept on flapping until the farmhouse was just a tiny speck beneath the endless sky.

Back in the barnyard the chickens shook their heads, clucked their tongues and went back to pecking and scratching the ground.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tending the Orphan Child

One of the biggest obstacles to growth of any kind is the belief that "we're already there." In my last post, I left you with the thought that "maybe you're a wholist," and if so, what does that mean? (If you want a primer on my idea of wholeness ethics, you might want to start here and here.)

First, it means you are in the process of becoming and being whole and the process of making the world more whole where you can. Wholeness isn't a destination that any of us have arrived at, but a process we're either engaged in or not at the moment. Wholeness is a dynamic, not a static, state.

Are you engaged in the process of becoming and being whole in this moment? Is this moment-by-moment tending to wholeness an ongoing practice in your life? Then maybe you are a wholist.

I believe we must get this right and together raise a generation that has reverence, goodwill and justice for themselves, for others, for animals and nature, and for the transcendent. Certain people, for reasons of their own, are actively and very skillfully teaching and advocating the opposite of these on a massive scale.

I recall hearing about a woman who went as a tourist somewhere in the world that was deeply broken. She witnessed oppressed people living in fear under a brutal regime and she found that people began to call on her to come and just listen to their stories. This was several decades ago and she was still working on their behalf.

When asked what made her commit her life to this cause she said, "simply knowing about it."

She went on to say that to know something is to become accountable to that truth, a trustee of it.

I believe this is so. Too often we think of the truth we come to know in life as a personal possession. I've come to think of it more as an orphan child that I, once having come upon, am accountable for loving, raising and sending out into the world.

Wholism is that child for me, but as the saying goes, "It takes a village..." It especially takes a village to raise a truth in this world.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Chickens and Eagles

I never thought I'd say it: Fox News — Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, et al — are right. 

About what? 

They're right that there is a culture war in America.

They are also wrong — about a lot of things — but particularly, they're wrong about who this war is between. They think it's between the "left" and the "right." The truth is, the left and right are not at war, they are in a symbiotic relationship. They orbit one another like a dual-star system, each defining the other's orbit. If one of them ever disappeared the other would not know what it is, because they only know themselves in reference to each other. Eventually gravity will pull them together and this new left-right entity will immediately start looking for another pole to create a new binary system with. This is the life cycle of dualistic systems.

The real culture war is between this left-right dualism and a third option, an alternative (not an opposite) to dualism. This alternative is ethical wholism. There is a war between dualism and wholism.

There are a bunch of problems with this, however. First of all, when it comes to war, wholists are like vegetarians at a barbeque. We don't like the war language and energy, especially the various social "wars" that dualists seem to love. We're also not big on "cliquing up." We're wholists and we believe our clique is everyone. 

But neither of these is our biggest problem, the one that will do us in if we don't recognize and address it. It is that many of us think we're liberals. This is a little like the eagle who thought he was a chicken, but before we get to that, I want to address the first two problems first.

We have a problem with the dualistic language and energy of war. I understand that and we can take possession of the language if we're engaged. But instead, we poo-poo the whole notion. All that war talk is for crazies on the fringe of both the left and the right. But just because we don't like the language dualists use to describe a reality doesn't mean the reality isn't real. If hordes invade your country the fact that you haven't declared war doesn't mean you don't have to deal with the invasion.

Call it a war, a struggle or simply a clash, but there is a contest going on in America and around the world. It's a real struggle between ideas and for hearts and minds. We have no right to sit on the sidelines and excuse ourselves from the struggle because we don't like the language. Yet this is largely what we're doing. We don't develop or stand up for our ideas and we don't advocate for them. As a result America is becoming more and more dualistic. The dualists are shaping our country and our future because we've ceded the ground.

The second problem is an extension of the first: As long as we deny that there's a struggle we won't see any reason to pull together, to unite as a group, and to learn to articulate our ideas and our vision of the future.

Which brings us back to the eagle who thinks he's a chicken. Most "liberals" I know are either dualistic or deflated. The dualists are a quixotic bunch passionately fighting but not really expecting to win their war against the windmills of ignorance and reactionary thinking. The deflated can't even muster a defense of their beliefs and keep them more out of habit than passion.

I say many of these people aren't liberals at all. They've just fallen for the old dualist trick that if you're attacked by someone you must take up the opposite of that position. Conservatives attack and we take up the position of liberals.

So, if you think of yourself as a liberal, take a close look at your feathers. Ask yourself if the coop and even the barnyard have always felt a little too small for you. Do you find yourself looking up at the sky longingly? If so, you might be a wholist.

I'll leave you with that thought and the question: What does it mean to be a wholist?