Monthly Archives: January 2013
Last fall a 9-year-old Oregon boy named Ocean brought his inner peace and caring into the world this way…
Ocean was concerned about “bullying, arguments, and pushing” at his school. “They weren’t being nice to each other,” he said of his fellow third graders, and neither his peacemaking efforts nor the teacher’s interventions seemed to help. “Pretty soon, the kids would be right back to arguing and fighting.”
Frustrated, Ocean took the problem home, and thought about it. Finally, he came up with an idea: the Kindness Club.
Ocean wanted to make it easy for people to point out when someone wasn’t being kind. He’d also noticed that sometimes when you tell someone they aren’t being nice, they get defensive and keep arguing. So, he went online, ordered bracelets that said “Kindness Club,” and gave one to everyone in his class, including the teacher. Now, whenever kids see someone who isn’t being nice, they can tap their bracelets, a gentle reminder of a common goal.
Ocean’s teacher said it’s pretty typical for third graders to argue during recess – they’re at an age when they’re learning about how to have compassion for others, and “sportsmanship can be a tough lesson.” Noticing that this year there were lots of hurt feelings happening at recess, she spent a lot of time talking to the class about sportsmanship and being kind to one another, but the conflicts persisted. One day she was lecturing the class about getting along when Ocean raised his hand. He told the class about his idea for a kindness class. The kids talked about the idea, role-played different scenarios, and agreed to try the bracelets, which now serve as a constant reminder about their pact to be kind.
Ocean’s mom said her son is very caring, and that she’s proud of him for coming up with his own solutions. “It makes him happy to help others. If everybody really thought about being kind, it would change everything.”
Let’s follow Ocean’s example of coming up with ideas that will encourage the caring innate in each of us and help us solve problems together.
In my last post, “Creating peace on earth,” I tried to arouse your desire to take the peace you’re hopefully creating within out into the world. Saying I thought that together we could transform the hellish aspects of life on planet Earth in the early 21st century into comparative heaven, I promised some ideas on how to do this “in the coming days.”
This post is at least a beginning on that.
The first thing we have to do to create peace in the “outer” world is to cultivate it within. Because if we don’t bring real peace, real love, and real calm to our brothers and sisters in desperate, conflicted situations, we’ll just end up increasing the misery. If our motives are egoistic or based on an entrenched point of view, we need to go home and do some inner work. Are we bringing more anger, blame, and judgment into the world? That’s counterproductive. Are we just trying to make ourselves feel better, heal our own confusion? We need to own that and be aware of how it can hurt rather than help. We’re human beings, not angels, so we can’t wait to be perfect, but we need to be honest with ourselves and others about where we are in any given moment.
Going out into the world, we may encounter people who are angry and desperate enough to kill or otherwise grievously hurt themselves and others. Can we meet those people, or others lacking in skill and/or understanding where they are, with acceptance and compassion? Sometimes yes, if, as I said in my previous post, we’ve been “cultivating peace within – following a spiritual path and meditating or having quiet moments of just being – open to messages from that part of our intuition that’s a spark of the divine, our connection with everything and everyone else.” Sometimes no, because we’re human, and we fall back easily into a narrow, egoistic perspective. Sometimes, as noted above, the best we’ll be able to offer will be our honesty, admitting that we’re frightened or confused, wanting to be able to (fill in the blank), but having trouble doing that, because (fill in the blank).
We’ll be constantly moving between the inner and the outer, recharging alone and going back out. And we’ll need to strive as much and as often as possible to give ourselves the same understanding, love, and compassion – “empathy,” as Nonviolent Communicators call it – we want to be able to offer others. Feel the love and acceptance in the air, with no boundaries, because – and here comes another #1 – we are really one. What hurts others hurts me. As long as one of my brothers and sisters is in prison, I’m not free. Isn’t that why you want to do this work in the first place?
The third #1 that I want you to be aware of is – full disclosure – a belief of mine that you may not agree with; but I want to share it with you because of the urgency of solving the problems that concern us – also because I’d rather see you/us experience success and avoid frustration. It’s this: our current global and national political and economic system is fundamentally flawed, untruthful, and can never solve the problems it continues to create. I’m talking about the United States, in my eyes the most violent terrorist entity ever, and capitalism, whose profit motive prevents us from solving problems like environmental catastrophe, poverty, and war, to name a few. Gun control in the wake of the killing of little children in Newtown, Connecticut is, thankfully, a big issue right now, but we can’t have a clear discussion about it because of the gun lobby, the people who profit from the sale of automatic and other weapons and ammunition.
You can read my ideas about these kinds of issues, based on the third #1, elsewhere on this blog (and there’ll be more in the future) – basically, what I’m saying here is that I think working within the system and expecting our “leaders” to solve problems is a pipe dream, a waste of time. We have to take matters into our own peaceful but determined hands, and create alternatives that will eventually replace the forces, practices, and institutions that run things now.
So, there you have it – my three #1s:
- A spiritual practice that keeps you in touch with and accepting of what’s true for you and others in each successive moment;
- Love for yourself and others, including all life, because we’re one; and
- (this one’s optional) a realization that the current political and economic system won’t solve the problems that most concern us.
Once you have these primary goals/ideas/practices as a base to start from, you can work on whatever kind of problem draws you in most strongly. Do you want to be a peacemaker between struggling humans? Between humans and the environment? Work on the welfare of animals? The list could go on forever – there’s plenty to choose from.
Maybe I should have added a fourth #1 to the list, because something else to remember is that, as I said in my previous post, our individual acts can inspire others. “But we also need to get together – to organize and form affinity groups for both mutual support and planning actions and campaigns. Getting together multiplies our power exponentially, and history shows that when we’re steadfast in it, not even the mightiest government can stand against us. Hitler and Stalin are no more, and the American ‘evil empire’ won’t last forever either. Another world really is possible.”
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, it will come as no surprise that my area of interest is world affairs, especially – because I’m a U.S. citizen – U.S. foreign policy. I feel partially responsible for trying to halt the U.S. death machine – the killing of innocent people (and, really, they’re all innocent, in the sense that violence never solves anything, and we’re all capable of causing harm) to create and maintain an empire and advance capitalist business interests.
I’ve also been big on ending injustice all my life, and one of the many epitomes of injustice for the past 60 years has been the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli government, supported by the United States government. Which brings up a corollary to the third #1: Never take any government’s propaganda, perpetrated these days via the mass media, at face value. You have to look deeper, because governments are always lying, at least in part, to cover their real motives. The latest example of this, which I have yet to fully unravel, is the “need” to fight Islamic terrorists in northern Mali. Something funny’s going on between the United States and Algerian governments here (bearing in mind that Algeria is a dictatorship), and you can bet that the regular, real people on the ground (Tuaregs and others) have a different story to tell. But I digress…
What tools and resources can you find to help you and your group(s) with the work you want to do?
For basic support and understanding of principle #1, read Miguel Ruiz, Erhart Tolle, Byro Katie, or Adyashanti – a lot of what they’ve written is online (videos, too). The Zen Peacemakers have a website, as does the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. Starhawk is a favorite resource of mine – read her novel The Fifth Sacred Thing, or her books on pagan spirituality, or find her website online to see what she’s doing and blogging about.
Also, if you haven’t already, check out the work of Marshall Rosenberg and others in Nonviolent Communication. (Rosenberg has a book with that title, and others, and there’s much online, including videos.) We’ve learned a violent (separated) way of looking at the world and communicating with each other that we don’t even recognize as such. Communicating the NVC way (When I see/hear…, I feel …, because I need …Would you be willing to (specific action)?) can seem stilted when you first try it, and it takes years of practice to make it a habit, but you need this tool in your kitbag.
For your specific interest(s), ask others, read books and periodicals, and look online. Because of my specific interest(s), the tools I’d focus on – if I were doing more than, to be honest, just reading and writing this blog – would be things like tax resistance, the International Solidarity Movement, the Global Nonviolent Peace Force, and Witness for Peace (Google these terms to find out more). Queued up on my bookmarks to explore further this week are Naomi Klein on capitalism and climate change (a Moyers and Company video), open source ecology, A Manifesto for Nonviolent Revolution, and the 2012 Global Peace Index.
The works of Gene Sharp, available on the Albert Einstein Institution website, are invaluable for the kind of world peace organizing I’m interested in. I have much of Sharp’s work in hard copy and will let you know more when I’ve had a chance to read it. (Or you can let me know more when you have a chance to read it!)
Remember the story I told you in my previous post about David Hartsough, one of the founders of the Global Nonviolence Peace Force, and what he said to a white racist attacker when he (David) was sitting in at a lunch counter helping to desegregate it? Go back and read it if you haven’t yet. I said I was going to tell you more about David, but I still haven’t had time to research him. You can though – he seems like a leader in what we’re trying to do.
I’ll keep offering ideas, examples, and models…How about you? What do you have to offer, even if it’s just a question. Or a disagreement. Let’s start a conversation, and maybe form some partnerships or affinity groups.
We just got through wishing for “peace on earth” and celebrating the birth of a new age, and now it’s Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday – another opportunity for us to think about peace, nonviolence, and doing things in a new way. On a personal note, tomorrow is also my younger son’s 44th birthday. I’d like to dedicate this post about how we can have peace on earth to him. Happy birthday, Jesse! You and your brother and the children you’ve each brought into the world are my inspiration for doing this.
Can we really have peace on earth? How?
I agree with all the folks who say that we have to start by cultivating peace within – following a spiritual path and meditating or having quiet moments of just being – open to messages from that part of our intuition that’s a spark of the divine, our connection with everything and everyone else. Then we have to do our best to be that peace in our personal lives, accepting and loving ourselves and others where we are, learning nonviolent communication, being of service to each other, etc.
But if it stops there, either our violent world won’t change noticeably, or, if it does, it will take so long that the unnecessary killing and wounding and suffering with go on much longer than it has to. I’d like to see us take the peace we’ve cultivated within and bring it into the larger world, witnessing to it with strangers and organizing to make it a global force, alongside the dark, unconscious forces of fear and greed that are hurting so many and destroying the natural world on which we depend. Not so there can be a battle, ’cause we’re nonviolent, but so folks can see and try an alternative.
What brings us peace shouldn’t put us to sleep, because it’s of a piece with what enlivens us, what’s given us life and beauty and love. It’s mellow, but it’s an active thing. I believe that that life and that love can not only take precedence over the smallness and fear that brings suffering to our individual lives, it can eventually disassemble the economic, political, cultural, and military death machine all these individual beliefs and practices have created. “All” we have to do is make it our top priority and truly bring it to bear.
We can do that individually in acts of courage that inspire others. That’s a necessary part of it. But we also need to get together – to organize and form affinity groups for both mutual support and planning actions and campaigns. Getting together multiplies our power exponentially, and history shows that when we’re steadfast in it, not even the mightiest government can stand against us. Hitler and Stalin are no more, and the American “evil empire” won’t last forever either. Another world really is possible.
It won’t be easy, and there is much to learn and practice, but we can do it, if each of us puts in his and her bit. As King and his hero Gandhi taught, we also have to stay as consistently as possible in a place of love and courage and nonviolence to make it work. And some of us have to be willing to risk everything, even our lives, for our values.
Here’s an example of what I mean: During the civil rights movement, David Hartsough, one of the founders of the Global Nonviolence Peace Force, was sitting in at a lunch counter helping to desegregate it, and a man approached him from behind. Holding a switchblade knife and with a horrible look of hatred on his face, he said, “You nigger lover – If you don’t get out of this store in two seconds, I’m going to stab this through your heart.” Hartsough looked the man in the eye, and said, “Friend, do what you believe is right, and I’ll still try and love you.” The man’s jaw and hand dropped, and he left the store. (More on Hartsough in the next day or so.)
Think about what it would take for you to take that kind of risk and devote that kind of energy to standing up for what you value.
I think many of us, including myself, have gotten inured to the increasing violence and ugliness of our society. The wars; the shootings; the increasingly ugly and violent books, TV shows, and movies. “We tried that in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s,” we say or think, “and it didn’t work…We tried it in 2003 before Bush launched the US invasion of Iraq. Millions of people demonstrated around the world, but the invasion went on as scheduled, devastating an entire country. The same in Afghanistan.” But did we launch an effective, consistent, in-it-to-the-finish campaign, putting our lives on the line? No. Most of us just marched for an hour, and hoped that, magically, our numbers on that day would deter a committed, powerful elite that had already demonstrated its indifference to a public opinion unwilling to “put its money where its mouth was.” This was an elite that had already gotten away with altering the outcome of two presidential elections and allowing (and aiding and abetting) the 9-11 attacks – more brazen even than the elite (or a small portion of it) that had JFK, Bobby, and King assassinated. Or than the one now calling the shots that I and others believe recently faked the death of Osama bin Laden (he probably died 10 years earlier of a genetic disease), among other things.
It’s going to take a lot more will and numbers and moral force than we’ve shown so far to counter this kind of entrenched and amoral power. Are we willing to accept that challenge?
Not that this is about hating the members of this elite – who are sometimes us – individual people acting or not acting as they believe they must. “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” Or they/we know, but can’t resist the temptation.
We can do better, especially together. We can cultivate the best in ourselves, our spark of the divine, our little light; join it with that of others; and learn from history and past and present teachers how to turn the ship around, stop the hurtling locomotive…It doesn’t have to go over the cliff (global warming) or keep running innocent people down till we’ve all been destroyed by it.
“They” can’t maintain the death machine without our participation and consent, tacit or active. We’re the ones who provide the money and the bodies for their wars, who act like everything’s fine when it isn’t. We haven’t known what to do about it, how we can break out of the current cage when there’s no convenient utopian island to step to. That perfect island will probably never exist. But we can create islands in the midst of what’s happening, and – together – each do better and more than we have.
The new age, the Great Turning as it’s been called, is trying to be born. This is its time. It requires maybe not all hands on deck to manifest, but more of us. Will we stand up and be counted? We’re God’s, the Goddess’s, Spirit’s heart, hands, and voice in this material world. It’s what we make of it: heaven, hell, or something in between. Shall we move more strongly toward heaven (peace) on earth?
Ideas on how in the days to come…