Appreciating our natural world - In Living Color

Weisman Another one of my favorite radio shows is To The Best Of Our Knowledge, TTBOOK, which is an NPR show produced by Wisconsin Public Radio. On 04/13/08 TTBOOK broadcast a show entitled "In Living Color". Here is a brief description of the show from the TTBOOK web site:

Imagine the world as we know it, only without us. In this hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge, a writer imagines a world reinventing itself without human beings. He sees the New York subway system returning to its watery origins. The re-absorption of carbon into the earth, and endangered wildlife coming back from the brink. Also, one man finds the extraordinary in encounters with birds. And, garbage island - the bobbing plastic wasteland that's plaguing the Pacific.

It is a fascinating show in three segments which lasts about 55 minutes. In the first segment Alan Weisman talks about his book, World Without Humans. I was so fascinated I went out yesterday and bought his book. What would happen if the earth suddenly had no humans?

In the second segment, Thomas Morton described the Pacific gyre. I didn't even know what the pacific gyre is. It is the place where the ocean currents coalesce way out in the pacific and fills up with garbage. Mr. Morton hires a boat to take him out to the gyre and he describes his experience. Also, Sam Keen describes his spiritual experience with nature through bird watching, and Erec Toso describes his experience of being bitten by a rattlesnake in his front yard in Arizona as he was walking home one night in the dark with his two little kids.

Overall, a very good radio show and I recommend it. You can listen on line by going to the TTBOOK web site by clicking on the link below.

Link: 080413A In Living Color.

Words are magic - for better or for worse

"Only the hand that erases can write the true thing."

Meister Eckhart

Slut, geek, idiot, asshole, whore, drunk, fatboy, dumb, lazy, slacker, felon - the names that confer identity assault us daily and we come to believe them. They bring to consciousness an identity which can cause great pain and work an evil magic on our life that poisons it and turns it sour if not deadly.

What is in a word? Nothing less than reality. Remember the old saying, "Perception is reality." Our own realities are created from words. Words confer consciousness; they confer meaning; they confer experience. And ignorant, unenlightened fools that we are, we believe them. And they are not true. What they refer to, the pictures they paint, the identities they confer is not who we are. How many people know that?

Be careful of the words you attribute to things and experiences. They are magical because they create a reality for ourselves and others. As the bumper sticker says, "Don't believe everything you think."


True happiness

It is a somewhat counter productive idea in Western Society that we each have an individual self. This idea of an individual self is good for the economy and for religion. It is good for the economy because individuals buy stuff. It is good for religion because clerics can manipulate people with the idea of individual salvation - I am going to heaven and you are going to hell.

But the reality is quite different. We are all radically dependent. We would not live to see life unless we were totally cared for for the first 3 or 4 years of our lives. At the end of life, if we live long and don't die suddenly, we will once again be dependent on caretakers to help us live for another day. In between we are radically interdependent. We could not even acquire language, the basis for our thoughts and intellectual life, were it not for others.

So this idea that we are autonomous beings who should only be interested in pursuing the fulfillment of our own desires is a myth which causes huge problems. This has been called by Rev. Richard Rohr the lie of individualism. This individualism is the height of narcissism which is essentially vapid and empty. We are a part of the interdependent web of life and it is in this recognition, growing awareness, and being of service to the world around us that true happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment lies. It is in our own best interest to be of service to others. It is when I selfishly and selflessly give of myself that I become truly happy.

All You Need Is Love - The Beatles. Video lasts about 4 minutes

Stuff happens!

Crisis I have been told that the Chinese symbol for crisis can also mean opportunity. In family systems theory, it is stated that a crisis occurs when the system is thrown out of equiblibrium; its homeostasis is disrupted; it becomes discombobulated. Systems love stability.

At a personal level, crisis is distressful. We feel anxious, perplexed, upset, scared, confused, and we struggle for balance. We attempt to avoid crises by resisting forces for change. However, as the bumper sticker says, "Shit happens!" People die, get fired, houses burn down, people get sick, etc. Sometimes a crisis is precipitated by good things like a vacation, a birth of a child, a marriage, winning large sums of money. Perhaps we can define crisis as a significant life changing event where our balance, our equilibrium is disturbed.

When dealing with a crisis, sometimes the best thing we can do rather than resist is to "go with the flow", to go deeper into it and hide in the vortex until the dust settles. As the dust settles, we look around and new things emerge more clearly. It becomes apparent to us what we must do and as this awareness and realization dawns, we move ahead with more confidence. While it is difficult at these times, it is our faith and sense of humor which can sustain us. Also the support and coaching and feedback from trusted others whom we have recruited and invited into our lives as consultants is crucial.

One of my favorite bumper stickers says, "Change is inevitable; progress is optional."

The Business of Being Born, the film

Childbirth My wife and I had 9 children. The last four were born at home between 1978 and 1987. We were way ahead of our time or way behind the time however you want to look at it, because during these years all babies were born in hospitals except for very, very, very, few. The people who gave birth at home either alone or with a midwife were considered to be very counter-cultural, or irresponsible, or crazy. Yet, 70 - 80% of babies in every first world country, except the United States, are born with a midwife, many at home.

Why is the United States with the second highest infant mortality rate of first world countries, so unusual in that it has professionalized and institutionalized one of the most natural functions in the world? As usual, follow the money. Birthing has become a big business even if it is bad for mothers and babies.

No woman in the United States should have a baby without seeing Ricki Lake's new documentary, released in 2008, The Business of Being Born. I highly recommend this film.

To watch the trailer, click here.

Link: The Business of Being Born (2008).

American Exceptionalism and Survivor's Guilt

Scott_tayler_2 Scott Tayler, a Co-Minister of the First Unitarian Church of Rochester, NY, gave a very interesting sermon on February, 3, 2008, entitled "The Healing Power of 'We Can't'".

Reverned Tayler talks about his Mennonite roots of nonviolence and his attempt to square this with American Exceptionalism which is the American belief that we are divinely ordained to save the world. This hubris leads to an unconscious belief that we are God. To what extent does our nationalism become idolotry?  Rev. Tayler then goes on to express a concern about America's survivor guilt, our sense of compassion of being responsible for the negative consequences of what we have set in motion.

I become quite impressed with the quality of Unitarian Universalist preaching about issues that affect our lives. I highly recommend Scott's sermon to you. It lasts about 20 minutes and you can listen on line or download the sermon to an MP3 player by going to the Digg site by clinking on the link below.

Link: Digg - The Healing Power of "We Can't" (February 3 2008) (Sermons from the First Unitarian Church of Rochester NY).

I have a new granddaughter

Donavan Angela and I had nine children. The two youngest were killed in 1993 in a drunk driving crash. Brigid was 5 and Ryan was 8. That was fourteen years ago, fifteen on March 11, 2008. This was a life shattering experience for our family, and yet life goes on.

Angela and I divorced in 2000 after 34 years of marriage. Our seven living children are doing well and they are the joy of my life. Recently my daughter Maureen and her husband, Rodney, had their second child, a little girl, on Monday, January 7, 2008, at Albany Medical Center, and they named her Donavan Elizabeth. This is my 10th grandchild and  6th granddaughter. Two of my other daughters are pregnant. Katie is due with a little girl in March, and Mary with a little boy due in May.

I am a very blessed man. God has not only blessed me, but blessed me abundantly!

I frankly don't know what to make of all this. It overwhelms me at times with what a remarkable life I have had and am living.

There is a saying that God tells us with the birth of a child that she/he hasn't given up on human beings yet, that there is still hope.

Amish Grace, the book

Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcends Tragedy by Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, and David L. Weaver-Zercher is a wonderful book, well written, informative, and inspiring.

Amish Grace describes the events following the tragedy at Nickel Mines, PA on October 2, 2006, when Charles Carl Roberts IV went into an Amish school and took 10 little girls hostage and eventually killing 5 and wounding another 5 and then killing himself.

The Amish, true to their beliefs, forgave Roberts and his family and invited Roberts widow and family to the funerals of their children and many of the Amish also attended the funeral of Roberts.

These acts of forgiveness, while true to the teachings of Jesus, are rarely seen in our society hell bent on vengeance and retribution. Many questions arose in resistance and denial of the forgiveness of the Amish accusing them of perpetrating a PR stunt, or of being psychologically imbalanced. Yet, Kraybill, Nolt, and Weaver-Zercher trace the history of the Amish culture and demonstrate that their acts of forgiveness are genuine, sincere, and "natural" given their belief system and culture.

Diana Butler Bass, a religion columnist, is quoted in the book as saying, "What if the Amish were in charge of the war on terror?"

While Bush and his religious right base claim to be Christian, they certainly don't follow the teachings of Jesus, but the Amish actually do and it shocks the world.

This is a lovely, well written, and inspiring book. I highly recommend it to all Americans and to people around the world, especially Christians who profess to follow Jesus. If people who profess to follow Jesus are sincere, they should pay close attention to the example set by our Amish brothers and sisters.

Having lost two children myself to a 3 time drunk driver, I know personally what it is like to loose children suddenly in a horrific tragedy. Other parents have suffered the same loss of children either suddenly or though terminal illnesses. It would be very helpful if we had the love, sympathy, and support of a community like the Amish have created for themselves.

As a Nickel Mines Amish man said on interview, "We were all Amish this week." I wish that we all  become Amish from here on out. Our world would be a much better place. If we all cannot become Amish, at least we would do well to practice their belief in the redemptive power of forgiveness.