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Refracted Light and Life

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Light as a metaphor for life — man, has that been done to death! So today I won’t inflict that upon you; instead, I’ll allow a picture to speak a thousand words.

This week’s WordPress photo challenge asks bloggers to show refraction, which (as we all remember from physics class) is the way waves — like light and sound — are deflected and change direction when they pass through mediums of varying densities.

I’ve forgotten most of this stuff (hey, I only took Physics for Non-Math Majors) and had to look it up. Turns out, this change in direction is a result of the wave “traveling at different speeds at different points along the wave front.”

Which may explain why, when I step out onto my porch in the mornings, my body receives a clear message to slow down. Could it be beams of light communicating to my psyche? We are stepping into a different medium now, change course, take a detour, and slow down.

Grab your journal, grab your tea, and refract your life into this world for a time.

Bent Light as Life

Bent Light as Life

p.s. – As I’ve said, I’m not into physics. It’s hard. If you must, you may correct what I’ve said in the comments, but it isn’t necessary. I’ll just forget anyway.

Some Questions For You

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One of the blessings of pretending to be retired is having the time for reflection. Last week, I went on a silent retreat at Dayspring, a rustic spiritual retreat center not far from my home. There were no epiphanies or mystical visions, but I did have a restful day of walking, reading, and writing.

My meditative moments often produce more questions than answers, so I thought I’d pose a few for you, too — kind of a mini-retreat. Why not pretend to be retired for the moment, and pause to rest and contemplate some of life’s questions?

First, take a few deep breaths and quiet your mind. Relax. The world won’t stop spinning if you take a ten-minute break.

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Now – what interferes with your serenity these days? What’s causing you anxiety or stress? Are you worried about the past or the future, instead of enjoying this gift of today? Are there dark corners of your mind that need to be swept clean or old resentments that need to be scooped out and dumped in the dust bin? I’ve heard it said that holding on to resentment is like drinking poison every day and waiting for the other person to die.

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Where’s the color in your life?

 

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What fills your spirit with joy and celebration? Can you devote more time to these pursuits and these people? Are you laughing enough?

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CELEBRATE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you cultivate peace in your life? Could you be more intentional about it?

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Do you ever give yourself the gift of doing nothing? Does “doing nothing” make you anxious? If so, why? Are you avoiding emotions?

 

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Are there parts of yourself that you have locked away? Gated communities in your soul that block the scenery of your life? What are you keeping in? What are you keeping out?

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Are there fires that have grown cold? Things that used to warm your soul or ignite your passions but that no longer do? Is it time to scatter the ashes and move on, or could the embers be fanned back into flame with some attention from you?

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Why not “come away by yourself to a lonely place,” as Jesus said, and plan a quiet day to seek perspective on your life? To step back and look for patterns in the seemingly random twists and turns? Perhaps the boulders you keep stumbling over have lessons to teach you — maybe they are an important part of your journey.

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 Go ahead – sit on a bench and watch the morning go by.

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Spend the afternoon with a good book.

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 Most of all, enjoy the simple things.

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Easter Miracles

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I’m so glad I had a brother.

It’s been an awful week of missing him, but I’m grateful that the week ended with Easter. Easter — the day that promises that no matter how dark things look, there will be a dawn and it will be brighter than you could ever imagine.

Miracles happen. If you prefer not to acknowledge miracles, then it might be best not to look out the window. The arrival of spring feels like nothing short of a miracle this year, after the seemingly endless winter that included a previously unknown torture device called a “polar vortex.” The hyacinth are indeed blooming and the robins are nesting and the worms are doing their worm thing, breaking up and enriching the soil so that even more flowers will blossom.

Even my houseplants are in full celebration mode.

spring and the porches 008

Albert Einstein said that there are only two ways to live your life. “One is as though nothing is a miracle . . . the other is as though everything is.”

I choose option B.

I choose to believe that it was a divine gift that I got to live almost fifty-nine years with my brother. That somewhere in the heavenly realm, it was decided that our two souls belonged together, and God said, “Let there be laughter,” and Biff and I were born into the same family.

So today I miss him. A lot. But I am grateful for his life, and I believe that all things good are resurrected. He never could carry a tune (except, oddly enough, when he was impersonating Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin or Elvis Presley), so I don’t know if he’s singing with the angels. But he’s certainly celebrating. I look forward to joining him again when I’ve finished here.

Happy Easter!

He is Risen

He is Risen

“Twenty Years Ago, He Hacked His Neighbors To Death”

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April 7, 2014:

Twenty years ago today, a man got his hedge trimmers out of his shed, went next door where three children were playing, and hacked them to death: Twenty years ago today, the Genocide in Rwanda began — more than 800,000 people were slaughtered in 100 days by their neighbors, friends, and family.

So writes Lori Martin, a remarkable friend with whom I traveled to Africa in 2007. Lori fell for the orphans she met in Rwanda, dared to imagine that she could help, and uprooted her whole life to pursue her dream. She now lives a nomadic lifestyle, traveling back and forth between Rwanda and the U.S. and spending several months in Rwanda at a stretch.

Lori and Friends

Lori and Friends

A year ago, I marked the anniversary of the Genocide with a post about Lori and African Road, the organization she helped found in 2010. This year, I thought I’d ask Lori to share some of her own thoughts on the anniversary.

First, let me just remind you of that number again: 800,000. In 100 days. That is more than the number of Americans who died in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, both World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam wars, and our “war on terror” . . . COMBINED. Remember: Kwibuka.

In Her Own Words

Here’s what Lori has to say from Rwanda on this twentieth anniversary:

“Today begins a week of Remembrance called Kwibuka (remember) in Kinyarwanda, the language of Rwanda. It is a sober time to mourn the dead and honor the traumatized people who survived. Businesses and schools are closed. Parties and celebrations are put off.  People march in the streets and resolve never to allow such a thing to happen again.

I met a friend today (call him Evan) to plan a visit to villages where people are living in poverty, marginalized and discriminated against. He has been championing them for years, fighting for their rights and seeking to meet their needs largely on his own. He is hoping my organization might fund some of his projects to help the people.

I’m sorry to say that Evan was not hearing from me what he wanted to hear. I can’t make promises. Our board needs to discuss. Funds would need to be raised. Of course, that’s all I can say at the moment, but the fact is people continue to suffer while other people have the power to do something about it.

He continues to sound positive – ‘Of course, I understand the process! I know it has to be considered carefully!’ But I see hurt in his eyes. I see anger. He feels righteous anger at the ongoing injustice for these people, and a sense of powerlessness to do anything about it. I can sympathize – I would be hurt and frustrated, too. Injustice makes me angry.

And it just now made sense to me – a way I could get angry enough to hurt someone.

There are many factors that contributed to the Genocide in Rwanda. But I am guessing that people felt some sense of injustice and powerlessness. I look at Evan, trying every day to get help from people who are able, and not getting it. This is unjust, and people are suffering because of this imbalance.

How can we ensure Genocide never occurs again? I have no idea. But I think I understand how Evan feels.

Children from the Orphans’ Cooperative lead Lori to their meeting room.

Children from the Orphans’ Cooperative lead Lori to their meeting room.

You Can Make a Triple Difference!

If you would like to find out more about African Road and the work they do to provide housing for orphans, micro-enterprise business assistance for mothers, and education for young people, please visit the post I wrote about them last year. And here’s excellent news: a generous donor has pledged a matching grant, so if you contribute now, they will double it, — your gift will be tripled! Thanks for considering it. You can donate here. You can also visit and “like” African Road’s  Facebook page.

If you are a blogger, you might want to join Bloggers for Peace, a group of idealistic bloggers who pledge to write about peace at least once a month. If we send enough hope for peace into the cosmos, surely it will return to the earth. See the link below to get started.

 

Related Posts:

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/the-plane-crash-that-killed-a-million-people/

http://bloggers4peace.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/kozo-cheri-asks-that-you/

Bloggers for Peace — I urge you to join us!

What Color is Pride?

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What color is pride? For many baby boomers like me, I’ll bet the first thing that comes to mind is red, white, and blue. With stripes. Growing up in the post World War II era, the whole country was awash in the hues of Old Glory.

My father, being a Texan, had his own proud blend of red, white, and blue. As kids, we had a fine selection of confederate flags, which we draped over plastic replicas of General Lee’s horse Traveler, raised on toothpicks over little statues of the Alamo, and wore as magical capes as we pranced around the house fighting bad guys.

I was told that being half-Texan meant I could do just about anything I put my mind to. Bigger and better than anyone else.

My mother, on the other hand, was brought up under the red, white, and blue of England’s flag and passed on the idea that while we were better than everyone else, we were never to say so. “Don’t brag, it’s unbecoming,” was followed by, “No, dear, you mustn’t play with them — they are not our kind of people.”

What’s worse? My Dad’s resounding pride or my Mom’s false humility?

Oh well. My childhood understanding of pride may have been confused, but at least it all fell under red, white, and blue, so there was no question about the color of pride.

American Flag

The British are coming, the British are coming!

The British are coming, the British are coming!

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Until Vietnam. That’s when those colors began to divide America and my family. I sided with my older hippy brother over my Commie-fearing father, and my understanding of the color of pride morphed into a bright tie-die unity with the anti-war crowd. Proud to be a pacifist, proud to be against the machine, against the system. Proud to “let my freak flag fly,” as Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young put it in their song, “Almost Cut My Hair.”

Going Green

When the environmental movement took off, my sense of pride took on shades of green. In college, I began marching under the green and white eco-flag.

In surveys I did while working at the Sierra Club, we often found that people associated the word “environmentalist” with “arrogance,” and I can understand that. There’s an odd, almost combative pride that develops when people are devoted to a cause they feel means life or death. That’s particularly true when for policy reasons, they must define “the solution” and push for it, which comes across as “we know best.”

Still, the way I see it, when you are up against an opposing force that simply denies the reality of biology, climatology, or any other kind of science for that matter, it does no good to search for a “middle ground” — you have to push if you love humankind and the rest of creation. So I’m still green and proud of it.

Marching under the Green Flag

Marching under the Green Flag

A Child of the Universe

Speaking of loving humankind — in my thirties, I chose a path that truly confused my notions of pride. I became a committed Christian, which meant that I got serious about being open to personal transformation and healing. I had to lay down the prideful ego that, unbeknownst to me, had been driving my life up until that point.

When God was gracious enough to show me how much my ego and my need for recognition and esteem drove my actions, I was disgusted and dismayed and quite willing to change. I wanted to tear out the thick black threads of pride that ran through my being, binding me up and making me dance like a marionette to the tune of other people’s opinions.

At the same time, if you dare to believe that you are a beloved child of the Creator of the Universe and that you — yes, you — are unique and uniquely gifted in all of history, part of a cosmic plan to make the world a better place, well . . . well, just wow.

That’s a different color pride.

As I’ve gotten to know myself in the light of Love, I have become gentler with myself. Like any child, I have built-in needs for affection and approval. That’s OK; that’s sweet. I believe those needs are driven by our natural inclination to be close to God and to other people. (And, yes, also by our evolutionary need for survival in community, which I don’t think is contradictory to the God-part. We are wired that way by the Master Electrician.)

These natural emotional needs simply get warped by the world. Now that I’m aware of this, I keep watch, and on a good day these traits don’t run my life. I can smile fondly at them and go about my business.  I think that somewhere in the dynamic tension between our beloved uniqueness and our egoic drive lies a perfect balance of pride that is pure white like a dove in the sunshine, or perhaps transparent, clear as a pristine stream.

I’m nowhere near that color pride, nor do I expect to be in this lifetime.

creek

Abundant Yellow

Right now, I am experiencing pride as yellow — bright sunshine yellow. It is warm. It is glowing. It is good.

Last week, I graduated from Johns Hopkins with my Masters in Creative Nonfiction and gave a public reading from my thesis for close to two hundred people. I did well. People smiled and nodded and laughed in the right places. Am I proud of myself? Damn straight! I busted butt for four years to get to that podium, and I think I did a really good job. (Sorry, Mom, I know I’m not supposed to say that.)

At the Podium

At the Podium

Thing is, everyone else in my graduating class of sixteen also did a really good job. I’m super proud of them, too. We’re all standing in this sunny pride. There’s plenty of it to go around, enough of the good pride for everyone — it’s not something to clutch. It bathes the whole world in its warmth. We all glow from it. I think it comes from God, and I think it’s related to love. Which raises the question, what color is love? Another post.

Speaking of love, as I was writing this, my blog stats reached three thousand followers, adding to my golden glow. Thanks so much to all of you for accompanying me on my writing journey! I love you guys!!

And now, after that commercial break for a moment of pride, I will return to my false humility.

Related posts:

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/what-color-is-shame/

Photo credits: Wikimedia.com, Public Domain Photos, Publicdomainpictures.net

Wouldn’t You Like To Be A Person of Dignity?

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A friend of mine used the phrase “a woman of dignity” the other day, and the words echoed inside me like the caroling of a cathedral bell tower on Christmas Eve. Now I know what they mean when they say “it rang true.”

Ringing Truth

That’s exactly what I want to be, I thought. A woman of dignity. Not a woman with dignity, as if it’s something additive —  attached from the outside or assigned by someone else. But a woman of dignity, as if it’s the very stuff she’s made of. The word connotes integrity, another character trait to which I aspire. Integrated — whole, sound, of one piece of cloth. Dignity is something woven into your being.

File:Tapestry weaving.jpg

The Latin root of dignity means worthy, proper, and fitting, and the Indo-European root would be dek – to take, accept.

I love this combination of meanings, not just for women, but for everyone. We are all worthy just by our very existence. All we need to do is take this — accept it as truth. This way of self-identifying, this state of grace, is what I would call being a Child of God and recognizing it. We should accept no less than the proper and fitting honor for that, both from the way we treat ourselves and the way others treat us. Our inner ruminations, self-talk, our motivations, our outer behavior, and the way others treat us should all be rooted in decency — also from that same dek root.

Unlearning Falsehoods

I’d venture to say that most women, in particular, have grown up thinking they are not good enough. From a million societal messages, we hear this every day and our mothers did and our grandmothers did and so on and on. Many men I know got this message from their fathers, who probably got it from theirs: “No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t please him.”

Deep inside, most of us do not believe we are worthy, and we accept behavior that we don’t deserve, from ourselves and from others.

I grew up in an unhealthy environment where we all learned the various family “isms” that go along with an alcoholic home. Low self-esteem, anger, denial, anxiety, shame, lack of authenticity and trust, fear of intimacy — visit the Al-Anon family site if you’re interested in finding out more.

By the way, it’s not just alcoholism that foments these traits — a raging parent or sibling, emotionally distant or disturbed family members, drug, sex, or gambling addictions, etc. etc. And the behavior is often passed from generation to generation, so even if a particular generation does not have active addictive behaviors, they will still exhibit the behavioral and attitudinal “isms.” No offense, but I’ll bet you have some of them. You’ve got some voices in your head telling you lies.

We Get to Choose

Today, though, I get to choose. I’m no longer a trapped child, no longer a victim. I don’t have to do crazy anymore. I don’t even have to do disrespectful anymore. I can choose to walk away from people and situations that do not honor my dignity.

I can make choices that recognize and honor myself as a woman of dignity. If I recognize and treat myself that way, it’s far more likely that others will do the same. So honestly, you don’t have to become a person of dignity. You already *are* a person of dignity. Accept it and believe it. If you have to, start by “acting as if” — just act as if you’re a woman or man of dignity; own it — and see what happens.

Reach Out and Take It

This week, I’m going to talk to a lawyer about a situation that I have allowed to go on for many, many years. It’s been disrespectful and stressful and has had big ramifications in my life. I’ve decided that I deserve better. I’m not acting out of anger or revenge — that doesn’t come from dignity. I’m simply not accepting this anymore.

I am stunned that I have found the courage to do this, despite the fear of anger, retaliation, and loss of relationship. I’ve heard it said that courage is simply fear that has said its prayers. In fact, it was surprisingly easy to dial the lawyer’s number when I woke up this morning and said to myself, “I am a woman of dignity.”

So, here: I offer you dignity – reach out and take it.

Free, Public Domain Image: Military Veteran, In a Wheelchair, Shaking Hands Stock Photography

It’s Yours

Photo credits:
Bell Tower: Wikimedia Commons

Weaving hands: Wikipedia

Elderly man shaking hands: White House public domain photos; Acclaim Images

A Bit of Fluff in Obama’s Ear

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“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”  Wise words from Winnie-the-Pooh.

Thank God the bit of fluff that’s been lodged in President Obama’s ear when it comes to Syria seems to have been dislodged, at least for the time being.

Original Winnie the Pooh stuffed toys. Clockwi...

A cabinet meeting of Winnie-the-Pooh’s top advisors . . . might they bring some wisdom to the conundrum in Syria? (Photo:Wikipedia)

Miracles Happen

It was with a great sense of anxiety that my book group crowded onto the sofa to watch Obama’s speech on Tuesday night. Earlier, when we had been discussing an O’Henry short story, the chips and cheese had been rapidly disappearing from the bowls on the coffee table, but once Obama reached the podium, the snacking stopped and the silence fell.

Several of us had prayed and fasted through lunch the day before, along with hundreds from our church, on behalf of a peaceful solution in Syria. And it did feel like a miracle when half-way through his speech, Obama began to back away from the cliff.

My friend Shobha looked incredulous, her brown eyes wide and teary. “An answer to our prayers,” she said.

Trying to Trust

I never did trust George W. and all his war justifications. With all due respect (due being the operative word here), I think he was an idiot who was just the puppet of a bunch of neo-con war-mongers.

But I want to at least try to trust Obama; I voted for the guy. I like him personally, although I’ve been disappointed by him in many ways. I almost wanted him to persuade me of the wisdom of bombing Syria because I was so certain he was going to do it, and I didn’t want to lose all faith in his wisdom.

But I have not been persuaded; not in the least.

“Think it Over, Think it Under” (Pooh)

One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, wrote on her Facebook page September 8th:

“But isn’t this one reality–that the most fastidiously trained and learned people in the government, military, humanitarian and diplomatic fields, can’t figure out the right move — reason enough to hold off bomb strikes for the time being?”

Even my very conservative neighbor Pat, with whom I rarely agree about anything except the weather, agrees on Syria. Don’t bomb. Not now. What is the hurry? Her grandson is in the Army, somewhere in the Middle East, but he can’t tell her where.

I have only one friend who supports the bombing, and he’s one of those one-issue kind of guys. Israel is his issue, and peace is not his strategy. He might feel differently when his little boy reaches military age.

Otherwise, ambivalence is the strongest support for Obama’s position that I’ve heard.

Gratitude

I plan to do some volunteering this weekend. I want to serve out of the abundance of gratitude I am feeling.

I like to think it was the people who postponed this folly. That now and then, regular folks can still make a difference. Was it the yelling of Americans who are weary of their kids being killed? Was it the yelling of citizens in our allied nations (whatever *that* means these days — someone we’re not bombing?) tired of being dragged into conflict by the U.S.? Whatever it was, it shifted Obama’s ear-fluff.

I’m sure it was a complicated bit of fluff, probably comprised of ego, politics, patriotism, compassion, anger, fear — desperation might be a better word. I’ll bet he felt trapped by his own line in the sand.

I used to have a boss who said that when he could see no solution to an office politics problem, he would “just throw a grenade and let everyone run around for a while to see what happens.” I never agreed with this approach, and I never saw it turn out well. Stupid office politics; even stupider international politics. Apologies to my male readers, but I think it had something to do with testosterone.

“I don’t see much sense in that,” said Rabbit.
“No,” said Pooh humbly, “there isn’t. But there was going to be when I began it. It’s just that something happened to it along the way.”

And so, my fellow citizens, God bless America.

God bless Syria.

And God help us all.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A related post that conveys my thoughts in a much more intelligent way:  http://woodgatesview.com/2013/09/11/on-the-anniversary-of-911-a-victory-for-clear-headed-thinking/

This is my monthly contribution to Bloggers for Peace. Bloggers, why not sign up?

▶ You Hold the Key to Love and Fear

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“You hold the key to love and fear. All in your trembling hand.”

Do those words sound familiar? Do they unleash a rush of images and emotions? Probably so, if you are of a certain age. They surely do for me. Actually, the song “Get Together” by The Youngbloods makes me cry. It brings on a sense of longing that I’ve written about before.

Back in the sixties and seventies when I was growing up, there were these beings called hippies. They dressed in bright colors and denim and had big hair that smelled like patchouli oil, a scent that still intoxicates me and makes me feel instantly alive and in love.

Back in the day with George & Arlo

Back in the day; in love with George & Arlo

Mostly, though, hippies made beautiful music. They sang about love and peace and togetherness; and here’s the thing – they BELIEVED in it. They were imperfect people like you and I, and most of them were “just kids,” at least that’s what politicians and corporations supporting the Vietnam War called them to belittle their demands for peace.

Songs of Peace

Songs of Peace w/ Dennis & Mike

But  those kids believed. They thought if they just took over enough college admin buildings and held enough sit-ins and boycotts and rallies and marches on Washington that they could end that war. And they did. They dragged their aunts and uncles and mothers and fathers and eventually the politicians towards peace.

We Believed

We Believed

That’s why The Youngbloods song makes me sad. Because I still want to believe in the power of love and peace that they sang about; I still want to believe that if the people lead, eventually the leaders will follow.

Look at Us

But look at us now. Look. Look at the bombs, look at the destruction, look at the trillions America spends on spreading fear and death – I can’t even keep track of the number of wars we’re engaged in.

Lately I’m hearing dire warnings from the Pentagon that if their budget is cut, they “won’t be able to go as many places or do as many things.” Read: “We won’t be able to kill as many people.”

Look at the assault weapons spraying our schools with bullets and the arsenals being built up in private homes and the hate speech on the TV and the radio.

We are going the wrong direction. The Youngblood’s message didn’t take. Or it hasn’t yet.

Keep Hope Alive

I’m a Christian. I believe that Divine Love runs through every human being. If we allow it, this mighty river of love will wash away our pride and fear and ego so that we can become little rivulets of Divine Love in the world.

Rivulets run together and become rushing rivers that become oceans. This gives me hope.

That’s why I’m a Blogger for Peace — to join other rivulets of peace. This month, we’re issuing a challenge to raise the visibility of peace in the blogosphere.  If you blog, please join us by clicking here. You just need to blog about peace once a month – inner peace, family peace, world peace – just speak for peace. If you’re not a blogger, would you please consider stopping by the Be 4 Peace blog and “following” it? It doesn’t sound like much, but it didn’t sound like much when the hippies held their first sit-in either.

C’mon People — Unlock Peace

You hold the key to love and fear

All in your trembling hand

Just one key unlocks them both

It’s there at your command

So c’mon people now, smile on your brother – everybody get together, try to love one another right now.

This month Bloggers for Peace suggested we write about music and peace. That’s what prompted this post, and it’s why I’m asking you to listen to this beautiful anthem and then say a prayer that you might use your key to unlock love, not fear. Please listen:

 

Related Posts:

Here’s a nice post for peace from a fellow blogger for peace: http://bluegrassnotes.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/letter-to-divine-creator-monthly-peace-challenge/

http://bloggers4peace.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/kozo-cheri-asks-that-you/

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/the-bombs-bursting-in-air-330000-lives-four-trillion-bucks/

http://everydaygurus.com/2012/12/20/we-can-make-a-difference-right-here-right-now/

The Bombs Bursting in Air: 330,000 Lives, Four Trillion Bucks

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I just heard that a local Veterans for Peace group is being banned from the Fourth of July parade in Santa Barbara. Although they have marched in the past, this year they had the audacity to propose an actual float, one with crosses and flowers honoring the dead.

The official reason for their banishment – I’m not kidding here – is that they might pass out flyers which would cause litter.

Veterans. For peace.

Peace Sign

Peace is Patriotic

I wanted to blog about it, but I find I have no words. No comment. I can’t even think of what to call it. An outrage? A crime? An abomination?

I think I will simply quote a few true patriots this Fourth of July, as part of my commitment to being a Blogger for Peace.

Thomas Jefferson

A founding father, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and third president of the U.S.:

“If there be one principle more deeply written than any other in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest.”

James Madison

A founding father and fourth president of the U.S.:

Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.

No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honorable or venal love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace.

(Political Observations, April 20, 1795)

 John Quincy Adams

Secretary of State and sixth president of the U.S.:

…what has America done for the benefit of mankind? Let our answer be this:

She has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own.

She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart . . .Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be.  But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.

She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force….

She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit….

[America’s] glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is Freedom, Independence, Peace.

{Speech to Congress, July 4, 1821}

Helen Keller

{People} are taught that brave men die for their country’s honor. What a price to pay for an abstraction–the lives of millions of young men; other millions crippled and blinded for life; existence made hideous for still more millions of human beings; the achievement and inheritance of generations swept away in a moment–and nobody better off for all the misery!

Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought. Strike against manufacturing shrapnel and gas bombs and all other tools of murder. Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to millions of human beings. Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction. Be heroes in an army of construction.

{A speech at Carnegie Hall before World War I}

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered…

A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with  orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love.

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

{Riverside Church, April 4, 1967}

Your Taxpayer Dollars at War

There have been more than 330,000 direct war deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan since 2001. More than 200,000 of those people were civilians.

This does not include indirect deaths attributed to the wars — almost always more than direct deaths.

The amount our country has invested to cause these deaths is over four trillion dollars (spent and obligated).

Fifty-three percent of your taxes go towards war, in this way:

FY2009 federal piechart

Courtesy War Resisters League

 

If you’ve been around awhile, you might remember Ronald Reagan’s hawkish Secretary of State, Alexander Haig. He offered a sound strategy for Americans who prefer peace to militarism.

“Let them march all they want,” Haig said, “as long as they pay their taxes.”

Thanks for the tip, Al.

Perhaps you will celebrate the Fourth with me by taking a look at this information about boycotting the War Tax. Something our founding fathers might well have condoned . . . like refusing to pay an unjust tax on tea.

Then go drink a cold beer and blow something up.

 

Related articles:

http://bloggers4peace.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/kozo-cheri-asks-that-you/

http://cherispeak.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/allegiance-is-peace/

http://costsofwar.org/

Are You Too Busy to be Happy?

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Do you ever take the time to ask yourself what you really want; what you are really here for?

I’m talking about REAL time? Even in the spiritual communities to which I belong, people often don’t.

Which is weird, right? I mean if we truly believe we are part of a larger spiritual reality that can offer us peace and happiness and empower us to make the world healthier, why don’t we enthusiastically embrace every practice that might help us enter into that reality?

To my mind, the primary practice that helps us discover and align ourselves with our true nature and purpose is taking the time to be open and present to a reality beyond what our tiny minds can grasp.

George Bernard Shaw wrote that the true joy of life lies in being devoted to a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one,

… being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. 

George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OK, that’s strong language. I’m not calling anyone a selfish little clod of anything; I’m just saying, think about it.

Are you too busy to do “nothing,” which rather than being nothing, might actually mean everything to your happiness?

Life by the Pond

Yesterday I went on a silent retreat. I sat by a pond and watched a family of geese — the father, every feather aquiver with protective instincts, stood tall and alert by the mother who had nestled down and lifted her wing, welcoming her tottering yellow gosling into warm, downy safety.

Down the hill, a coyote led an intruder away from its den, trotting slowly and then looking back over its shoulder to be sure the ruse was working; and it did, as the binocular-bearing human hustled after the animal and away from the pups.

The sun caught the cerulean gleam of a bluebird perched atop its box, repeatedly announcing the family territory.

All of nature was doing exactly what it was meant to be doing. Instinctively.

Grasses by the Pond

Grasses Being Grasses

I Want You to be Happy

But we humans are different. We have the gift/curse of self-reflection — of ego — which can drown out our true selves and keep us on the go, trying to satisfy hungers we don’t even know are there. To get in touch with these hungers and decide if they are in our best interest, we need to slow down and listen.

How about planning an intentional fast from busyness as the relaxed summer season approaches?

Are you laughing now because what does she know, the summer isn’t any slower, it’s even busier?

Whose choice is that?

You are not a victim. You are in charge of your life. Cancel some stuff. Why not make a little time to ask yourself, or better yet, a power beyond yourself: what are you meant to do here in this one, short life? Are you on the right path?

Anyway, I don’t want to preach. I just want you to be happy. I know, odds are you are a stranger to me outside of the blogosphere — but happy people put happiness back into the world, and so I hope for happiness and centeredness and every kind of health for you.

Resisting the Demon of Busyness

I’m sharing this reading from Janet Ruffing that might give you food for summer thoughts.

Go ahead – give yourself a break, literally.

Centered

Centered

“Resisting the demon of busyness requires choices we would prefer not to make, and if we should succeed in making them, I can guarantee they will go unrewarded in both the secular and religious cultures in which we participate.

If we’re honest, we admit to ourselves that there’s something about all this busyness that we love. We like it this way, despite our half-hearted protests to the contrary. If we’re as busy as we pretend to be, then we’re too busy to allow ourselves to be affected by the pain and suffering of our world. We’re too busy to be addressed personally by the social, political or ecological disasters occurring in our relationships.

We are too busy to listen to our own feelings or those of others. Our busyness insulates from care and from compassion. Our busyness deadens our feelings and numbs our responses. The expectation that we must be busy all the time feels as if it is an external expectation, with the result that we don’t recognize that it is also self-generated in collusion with the culture.

I become flighty with so many things to attend to, moving from one thing to another, sometimes intuitively, sometimes impulsively and unreflectively. By this time, I am divided in my consciousness. It requires a different kind of discipline not to allow my attention to get caught in these ways.

This divided, distracted consciousness is a large part of the demon of busyness. This state of consciousness is literally illusion. It is something our collective consciousness keeps going because we agree to it. By keeping it going, getting captured by it, I fail to ask myself what I really want. I collude in frustrating my deepest desires by indulging the demon of busyness, so that I never have to ask what I really want to do or really need to do. Were I to do so, I might make a different set of choices in response to it.

What we need to resist is the sense of time-urgency and all the internal diffusion of consciousness which simultaneously thinks of the future, basks in self-importance and maintains an illusion of control. All of those internal ‘thoughts’ actually divert us from all dimensions of the present reality. They are literally useless and exhausting, yet somehow we love them…”

— From Resisting the Demon of Busyness by Janet Ruffing

Related Posts:

I am a member of Bloggers for Peace and this is my monthly post on the topic of Peace. I thought you might enjoy this thought that I borrowed from a post by fellow blogger for peace Elizabeth Obih-Frank:

“The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.” Black Elk

Also see:

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/how-not-to-screw-up-your-holidays/

http://everydaygurus.com/2012/12/20/we-can-make-a-difference-right-here-right-now/

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