Sunday, February 26, 2017

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, February 25, 2017 - The Inevitability of Peace

People cling to the belief it’s all going to end badly. Things look pretty shaky right now. But that’s just because we’re looking in the wrong end of the binoculars. The view is somewhat accurate in content, but too narrow, hard to make out. Distorted.

It’s difficult to see the larger reality: We are so used to progress we feel like passengers standing in the aisle of a speeding train. We can barely perceive the true speed at which we are moving forward. We feel as if waiting in line at the cafe counter is an eternity of standing still. But it is an illusion.

If you take a step back to look at the wider timeline of known human history we have come a long way. And our progress is speeding up. Most notably, our social progress. Just a blip of time ago, whole populations of countries were enslaved by others as a common practice. It has taken (and is taking) a long time to eradicate slavery on this planet. Several thousand years and counting. But you can see the shift over time in what is considered acceptable.

We changed our laws here in the US on slavery only six generations ago. And it’s taken all of those six generations to even get to this point. We know we are not done yet. Rome wasn’t dismantled a day either. The old ways die hard and they’re hurling all their weapons in these, their dying hours. It still may get worse before it gets better. But the cha-cha of progress will prevail.

The point being, we are moving forward. And the Old School knows it now. We have reached the tipping point where it is no longer possible to keep people in the dark, away from one another. We know we are all out there now. That was the Old School’s best weapon against us. Keeping us separate. Keeping us in the dark. But no more.

Peace is inevitable now because of that one fact. You are free to call it Pollyanna Complex, or as I prefer to think of it, Constructive Delusion, if you wish. My belief in the inevitable peace of this planet is the one thing upon which I depend. It is the one hope upon which we all of us weigh our every decision, in fact. We just don’t realize it.

We all believe, deep down, that this world will one day, be at peace. All of our actions speak in favor of our continuing existence. There’s plenty one could use to refute everything I’m saying, of course. One could also conclude that people work toward peace only for themselves. But the scale is tipping on that as well the more we get to know one another and begin to recognize a very different understanding of the word Neighbor.

Be at peace, and peace will be with you. Let it radiate outward for all to receive and adopt for their own. Scour the earth with hope.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, February 11, 2017 - Start Looking Forward to Stopping

    I spent much of my adult life resenting stop lights. I want to move, not grind my brakes to powder in the second hilliest city in the country stopping at every single red light and sign.
Attempting to intuit a solution to my tension about this issue (which I definitely inherited from my father), I actually looked to one of the prevailing life practice concepts from many world faiths. Nonresistance. “What we resist persists,” Carl Jung said. There is deep truth to that.
When we resist someone or something it has a tendency to use its creativity to develop bigger armor and weapons against us. Nonresistance means working toward what you actually want rather than pushing against—and ultimately giving your energy to—the very thing you don’t want.
    I was definitely resistant to traffic lights. But if I felt stress from their existence, what good would that do me? They are a reality of life in any town larger than 250 people. Resisting traffic lights is futile. If I get upset every time I’m stopped by one, I will eventually hate driving altogether. Raging against a red light is not only pointless, it’s a missed opportunity.
I believe it is our right to feel good. That doesn’t mean we will feel good all the time. But if we make a practice of feeling good on a regular basis, the darker moments won’t feel quite as devastating when they arrive. It’s the same for someone who has a heart attack but was a regular practitioner of yoga for five years prior. Yoga won’t prevent all health problems, but it will greatly increase recovery time as well as minimize the damage when health problems occur.
Making a priority of feeling good prepares us for when things go wrong. Our minds are clearer, our bodies are literally attuned to gently recover from shock. But a nonresistant life practice requires creativity and vigilance. It requires that we pay attention to how we feel all the time and do what we can to regularly tweak our feelings in better directions.
This won’t prevent your child from getting an F on his report card. God knows a caring home didn’t prevent me from getting them. But if you are nonresistant to the F’s you’ll be more calm about them. If you’re more calm, you might be open to intuiting solutions which will actually work rather than simply grounding him. How will punishment encourage better grades? Suspending them from school doesn’t make better students either, but that’s how we traditionally respond to students who resist authority. Acting out means something. Listen honestly.
I decided to stop resisting traffic lights. I just sat there quietly monitoring my feelings to see if I could come up with a little trick to feel better. I fidgeted at the first light. Even the second. At the next, however, without thinking, I started counting my breaths. I took 18 deep cleansing breaths before the light turned green. I felt like a new man.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, February 4, 2017 - Hope from Ashes

Things look kind of scary right now, it's true. No matter what side of the fence you're on, there are people you love who are on the other. Our recent political campaign season exposed a deep cultural wound. Ironic to the point of seeming cosmic, the two most recent people to occupy the Oval Office could not possibly have been starker versions of the American Dream if they were characters in a Hollywood film script. We have been presented with a most compelling contrast. A contrast much deeper than party lines, deeper than color, deeper than the opportunity gap. Regardless of your views on Obama’s politics, our first black President exhibited fundamental grace, inherent class, thoughtfulness and welcoming. The contrast? The plantation owners have now banded together to become president out of spite.
But I also see something really beautiful happening. Probably the most disappointing thing to our current Oval Office Temp’s ego will be how ineffective and unloved he will really be. One could argue that the things he has done are highly effective toward his goal. But that's only the surface of our current political moment. Have you noticed the enormous response to everything that he does? I am heartened to see we still have the kind of action left in us that we displayed in the 60s.
The 60s changed the world and took us to the next level. Preparing us for revelations like we are seeing now. The 60s taught us to see corruption when it exists and call it out. The 60s invented the Internet. And now the fascists have all shown their hand again.
However, the world is very different than 80 years ago when it started before. We can all talk to each other for the first time in human history. We've already seen the Internet's capability to undermine regimes in ways never before possible. The writing's on the wall now. In time the moderates will come out of hiding and transform the Republican Party to the benefit of us all. The Democrats will lower their guards and collaborate.
In the most ironic of ways, and by the most vile mechanisms possible, Trump will actually be an important component in our ability to truly make America great—just not the way he’s expecting. We have always been capable of doing it. The power has been with us all along, just like a pair of ruby slippers. We have written an immaculate document to guide us. It is a frustrating cha-cha of progress, of course. Two steps forward, one step back. But all the better to pack down the soil so it's safer and clearer for the ones behind us.
Keep the faith. Attend the rallies. Paint the signs. Share important information. Do not stand down. Project love at every opportunity and exhibit grace for the losers once they are defeated. This is what being American truly is about. And neither soil nor document can confer it, nor can any wall stand against it.