As the year 2013 draws to a close, we wish for every reader of theburninghand.com a New Year of ecstasy! You are worth the very best! You are worth Love!
May 2014 be a Happy Beginning to the "Boo!" of a life of mystic-activism!
May 2014 be a Happy Beginning to a serious effort to end world hunger and poverty!
May 2014 be a Happy Beginning to Peace between all the Peoples of the Middle East!
We have many more hopes and prayers for 2014, but mostly we hope for magic and wonder, romance and delight, to fill every heart!
Blessings to All!
Summoning all doubters! I hope that is not YOU! But "Doubt what?", you might ask? And I just might answer, why, doubt gravity, of course!
Look around: gravity is everywhere! (Except in the marketplace where money rises to the top -- in contradiction to both gravity and grace...). Everywhere we see the effects of climate change, of exploitation of the Earth and of her peoples, of the firing of bullets and missiles, of languages caught in the wretched rut of the mundane and the banal, and most especially, of the gradual minimization of romance and love... Because we have so effectively learned to ridicule romance, poetry is "slammed" and music is no longer the liberating inter-play between note and silence, but is instead a maddening rush in search of that which can never be found: except in romance...
What if this magnificent Universe was (and still is) constructed, not as a tragedy, but instead as a "romantic comedy"? Oh I know the thrill of impossible odds and the Hero overcoming the Enemy, but what if the real hero is the one who has learned to live in the sublime state of "surrender and adoration"? What if the entire Universe is Alive and Breathing to the rhythm of This Music: what if our sighs count for more than either our doubts or our victories? What if our breathing peace upon this precious blue Planet is our special and primary purpose? What if holding hands and talking with our lover were the Rule of Life and Faith of Every Religion?
What if gravitation -- as an integral part of creative manifestation -- is woven into the fabric of the Universe not just to "keep things in their relative place, but to instead give time to the seeking of lovers to actualize their dreams? What if the Great Scheme of Things were all to boil down to the reverence with which we move through our lives: would we listen and talk differently if we knew that the fate of Every Life and All of Human History depended upon the outcome of the next conversation we have with the one who is supposed to be our "beloved"?
Okay, so I had a little wine this evening with a light dinner -- for I am shuddering under the weight of a very heavy chest cold and coughing fits that untie my head -- and I am hopeful of being able to sleep for awhile... but these thoughts were coursing through my mind and I had to write them down to share with you! Let me assure you that I am writing as much (or more) to myself than I am to you: I am a doubter! Yet my heart aches with a hunger for everyone to know the humble beauty and radiance of an activated love: to know that each and every one of us is worthy of the very best and that very best is love-without-limits! And yes, I understand that the True Believers among us will say, "Believe in... and you will pass over into Paradise when you die!" So I'm not writing about either "doubt" or "belief" from the perspective of another differing opinion...
I am writing to propose that perhaps Einstein was wrong and gravity is responsible for people falling in love... or perhaps it is the still more mysterious force of "anti-gravity"... Have you watched a lover carrying a bunch of flowers to his beloved? Do you remember how buoyant the walk of such a lover: as if, give him a few balloons to go with his flowers, and he'll simply rise up into the clouds and float away? Have you observed the faces of the gay and lesbian couples as they have married in those states which have moved to allow it? Certainly, many of those marriages will end, probably in similar percentages as heterosexual marriages: but at least for a moment suspended in time, love has in deed overcome...
What if, and here's the point of this meditation, the Universe itself is Truly Alive and, further, what if It's only food is the love with which we bless another Being? Now, I submit that this is literally true! Do you see how this one simple "belief" would re-write every World Scripture, end predatory capitalism forever, liberate every person into equality and justice, preserve and protect soils, seeds, water and air, and begin the practice of beauty, kindness, service, and compassion in the building of the New Solidarity Paradigm?
And what would be one further definition of this new "lovertarian" be? I think that it could be as simple as "Kiss More"... surrender and adoration are the two hallmarks of all romance: why not of religion, politics, and economics as well? Clearly, the system currently in place is not working and tinkering around its edges will not fundamentally change anything, or certainly not change enough! So let's consider penetrating to the core of the One Reality by forming intentional communities willing to live lives of radiance, loving one another, serving those hurting, creating harmony with the Planet, and beginning the construction of alternatives within the New Solidarity Paradigm... seriously, do you have something better to do?
Mother Teresa's iconic face is among the most well known, certainly in my lifetime, while her spirit is equally revered. And in a world culture that prioritizes fashion and the negative aspects of the cult of personality, Mother Teresa humbly stands outside the reach of both: how could it be otherwise, for she was always most herself and comfortable standing nearest to the gutter? The glittering stars of Wealth, Privilege, and Power loved having their pictures taken with her -- but always a safe distance from that gutter of hers...
Being a devout Roman Catholic, Mother Teresa lived and breathed a Catholicism of, perhaps, another day and age, but she also served to bridge the ancient with the radically renewed. To be sure, we are unaware of her having ever publicly criticized the Church in either its doctrines or its hierarchy -- so she can seem quite dated -- yet her fidelity to her core vision of Yeshua-in-the-Poor, still casts its searching spotlight upon world systems of domination that are in dire need of a complete reformation: religion, politics, and economics alike. Again, she offered no public condemnation of Power by way of a commentary upon the times: EXCEPT for her decided faithfulness to a call that was a complete repudiation of that same Power: gathering up the used, abused, and utterly screwed up into Homes of Welcoming and Peace was commentary enough upon the systems that chew up and spit out the "least" among us!
The "icing" on the non-existent "cake" of Mother Teresa was her dare to Name those very same used, abused, and utterly screwed up: "Jesus"! Daring to proclaim that "God among us" was the abandoned poor, was a critique of predatory capitalism that even surpassed that of the ancient Biblical Prophets and Karl Marx himself! Daring to embrace those who were summarily cast aside by every system of Power, and to acknowledge their inalienable human worth and dignity, was once again a critique of Light and Truth. And, finally, daring to affirm the everlasting value of the smallest and seemingly most insignificant action, Mother Teresa empowered each one of us to live as agents of transformation: by our daily actions of service, surrender, and solidarity we may each advance the cause of everyone's liberation in Justice and Peace. This is no small thing!
The one task that Mother Teresa felt that the Holy One had allotted her was that of unconditional Love: especially for the poorest of the poor. Her solidarity with the leper was an enlightening contrast with the spotlight of the sensational: in a world culture made drunken by the trinkets of pleasure dropped from the tables of the Super-Rich and Powerful (for the sole intended purpose of numbing our minds and our souls), Mother Teresa's embrace of the leper marks the path of rEvolution: we are each and all worth infinitely more than any trinket -- even more than all of the trinkets combined!
The revelation, if you will, of Mother Teresa is precisely this: YOUR very being is the One Essential Revelation of the Holy One -- without exception! This very same One Love is the animating consciousness that creates, supports, and sustains the entire Universe! This Unity, this One Love, is worthy of our adoration and our surrender: and, side-by-side with that, of our service and our solidarity! By living this essential Oneness, we begin to put aright a world, a religion, a politics, and an economics that has gone astray into the dark practices of Domination: Oneness is both the antidote and the vision: Oneness is both the path and the New Creation. Mother Teresa played her part in the drama of the 20th century exceedingly well: it is now our turn to take up where she left off and chart a new society within the shell of the old...
"The Way of Soup"... is the way of Art, Music, Bricklaying, Teaching, Street Sweeping, Nursing, Poetry, Carpentry, Acting, Silk-Screening... and on and on... when done in a spirit of "surrender, service, and solidarity"...
Every human yearns for a deep sense of meaning and purpose: perhaps most often we "buy" the meaning and purpose told to us by our families... but for some of us, we entered this world with, seemingly, question marks embedded in our brains: "why why why and why not and what if?" And so we take off in search for our way...
My search led to Soup: a Kitchen serving the hungry, homeless, and marginalized of Salinas... it took years and years for my consciousness to evolve to the point of understanding that the initial impulse "to do good", while a starter, was really beside the point. It took years of cooking, serving, and loving and losing, for me to enter the second phase of "service": which is surrender: the "I" that kept showing up was called -- not just to cook -- but to be cooked! Oh, to be sure, I didn't jump into the soup pot, but I was nevertheless "cooked"! There, right there, in the simmering soup, rolling with the undulating vegetables, were pieces of my ego, along with my heart and soul... like the mysterious meld of long-simmered vegetables, the person "being cooked" loses that primal sense of separation and slowly, steadily, enters the sublime state of "no separation": "I am You, You are Me, and We are All Together" in the Mystic Soup of Only One... Then server and served are each and both: no difference... then, server and served, are about the way of mutual liberation...
Service and surrender must necessarily lead to "solidarity": if "I am You, You are Me, and We are All Together" then: here come the questions again: only this time, on real Overload! Feeding the hungry requires knowing why people are without food. Sheltering people requires knowing why people are without homes. Listening to people requires knowing why people break in life. Empathy and compassion are meant to trigger solidarity: why do the systems of Power not serve and liberate instead of obfuscate and oppress? Why do the systems of Power not place all Power at the service of people and this precious blue Planet instead of the worship Greed and Domination? Why do the systems of Power control every aspect of economics, politics, and religion: so that a few people are able to concentrate Wealth and the Wrongful Exercise of Power into a very few hands? These questions, along with a multitude of others, are like the salt, pepper, and herbs that render the soup finally delicious: and the cook has been "cooked" and is now the embodiment of solidarity...
"The Way of Soup" is the Way of Music, Art, Bricklaying, and every other means of living "service, surrender, and solidarity": everyone is worthy of leading the rEvolution! The transformation that we are all needing -- and worthy of: for ourselves, each other, and this precious blue Planet -- also needs us! We've got to be willing to put our toes to the line and enter the "race" of becoming love without limits: the world can't wait for someone else or for another time: our time is now: our Place is wherever we are willing to stand: in Solidarity: we require Justice, Peace, Equality, Harmony, Kindness, Beauty, Opportunity, Reverence, and Liberation for All: now!
So, are you standing? Are you forming or joining community? Are you leading by circles? Are you walking lightly upon the Planet? Are you becoming the Love you were all along? Sing it out! Raise your voice for all that is good, true, noble, and beautiful in humanity! Surely it is now obvious that we can't wait until tomorrow...
Speaking truth to power is the vocation of the mystic-activist... on the "way of a simpleton"...
There is within every person a divine core that is always true and present: regardless of any exterior circumstances, regardless of style of clothing, regardless of nation of residence, and political or religious opinions, regardless of economic status, or any other evident "difference": most especially, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
As human beings, we transcend every culture: we live and stand as always sacred. This is crucial to our understanding and awakening: we can't do anything to "earn" our sacred identity: it comes into the world with us, like our skin, like our soul: our sacred identity is who we are. "We were created by Love, for Love, to become Love", taught Simone Weil: perhaps never was there a truer statement uttered by human being! Since this is true: all religion, politics, and economics must therefore be oriented and structured to facilitate the full development and liberation of every person into the exploration of her fullest potential.
The illumination that was the gift of the prophets, including Yeshua the Poet, is precisely this truth: "Love the Holy One with your entire being, and love your neighbor as yourself". One cannot get anymore radical than this! Of course, religion gets caught up in the game of politics and money and so always loses its way -- sometimes for a very long time... but within the essence of each of the world religions: there is the "way of a simpleton"... oh, I know that in this day and age with technocracy feeding into the corporate Dominator Paradigm, our inclination is to "get on board" -- before we are completely left behind... but wisdom is the "pause" that stops to ask, "Where exactly is this train going?" Maybe the destination of this train is the loss of soul and the final devastation of this precious blue Planet: one really has to think before jumping onto this particular train!
The "way of a simpleton" is the gentle suggestion that we could, in fact, be choosing a different path: we could, in fact, choose a technology, a politics, and an economics with a human face: each one of us, and religion as well, could serve solidarity instead of domination! Since we have each been made to "swim" in Love, and to experience our lives within the marvels of Love, the "way of a simpleton" is the choosing to live a life of activated compassion and the intentional creation of beauty as the fullest expression of our sacred nature and our divine purpose.
The roots of this revolutionary insight lie deep in the Christian tradition: as it does in each of the world religions: as it also does, and not as an afterthought, in pagan, humanistic, shamanistic, and other insightful faiths and perspectives. Consider a few words from a few saints of the Christian tradition: "The rich take what belong to everyone, and claim they have the right to own it, to monopolize it." -- St. Basil
"The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry man." -- St. Basil
"Property is theft." -- St. Basil
"The price of the kingdom is the food you give to those who need it." -- St. Leo the Great
"Feeding the hungry is a greater work than raising the dead." -- St. John Chrysostom
"Houses of hospitality must be built for the poor in every city of every diocese." -- Council of Nicaea
While these six quotations focus on wealth, poverty, and the service of justice (works of mercy), they capture and reveal a spirit that is unmistakable: we are each and all responsible for the well-being of one another! The "way of a simpleton" is the conscious decision to join in the rEvolutionary struggle of solidarity and liberation -- not in the pursuit of power, but in the knowing that every life is, first of all sacred, and secondly that in the person of the poor the fullest revelation of the Divine is to be found: "What I do to the poor, I do to Jesus." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
"Love is the responsibility of an I for a you." -- Martin Buber
"You must build your life as if it were a work of art." -- Abraham Heschel
"The existence of all things derives from God's beauty." -- St. Thomas Aquinas
"With beauty before me, may I walk." -- Navajo Prayer
"We must learn to live in ways that reduce the world's suffering." -- Thich Nhat Hahn
"The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us." -- Dorothy Day
And here it begins: "I have made a footprint, a sacred one." -- Initiation Song for Osage Women
"The only task worthy of our efforts is to construct the future." -- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Ah yes, but isn't the rub in what kind of future we are wanting to talk about? If you listen to just about anyone on the world stage who represents what is termed the "right-wing", what would the characteristics of that future look like -- based upon current policy recommendations? We would have to start with a minimalist government: one that taxes less and does less; a government whose only significant responsibility would be to provide for the common defense: and the practical effect of such policies? Wealth and power would be concentrated into a few corporate hands; free market globalism would control economics; technology and bio-technology would be in service to the corporate state; poverty and hunger would likely grow significantly without governmental safeguards; the stewardship of the Earth's environment would be at the discretion of the profit margin; and, if one was supremely lucky, one might be able to "ascend" to the upper-ranks of the Corporate Kingdom: religion would be the opiate of the people / "pie in the sky when you die"... If one looks honestly at the economic and power trends of the last forty years, "trickle down" and all, free trade agreements, and attempts to roll-back environmental protections, is another outcome likely if the right-wing seizes world-control? Has anyone ever got a clear and concise answer from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, the Koch Brothers, Karl Rove, Jim DeMint, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul, as to what would the world of their honest intentions actually look like? How would it function? Who would have access to power? And lastly, just who it is that they represent?
I'm not much more interested in the ideas of liberals, although for the most part, I have a greater trust in their intentions, and probable hope in their concerns for the environment, for women's issues, and for the suffering poor. But I'm not particularly impressed with their policy recommendations, which altogether, amount to a high-wire act between opposite interests: corporate power and human culture. Huh? "Human culture"? What do I mean by use of those words?
A "human culture" is that which honors the Sacred in the "being-ness" of humanity: this is the root -- and all of us possess it in common: woman and man, rich and poor, north, south, east, or west: we are all the same. A human culture recognizes our "place" in the living-systems of Life on Earth: ecology and stewardship, protection of our soils, seeds, waters, and air is an essential core to human culture. A human culture vigorously endorses equality between the genders and equality between races and equality between the nonviolent expressions of our sexual identities. A human culture vigorously protects its children from all abuse, exploitation, or oppression; a human culture vigorously strives to ensure the full development and liberation of every child and person into the fullest expression of their possibilities. A human culture vigorously pursues a balance between personal pleasure and social responsibility: we are all in relation to, and responsible for the well-being of, our neighbors: mercy, justice, empathy, and compassion are the driving forces of a human culture. A human culture vigorously pursues the economic and political liberation of women and children: an educated and empowered woman is a village of opportunity for everyone. A human culture vigorously pursues economic justice: the divide between the "top" and the "bottom" is limited to a reasonable difference (four to one?): a human culture has recognized that true wealth is a caring community, social responsibility, the cultivation of the arts and pleasure, and just work to ensure a better future for every child and person. A human culture is one which recognizes that daily life is true religious practice and that kindness is the essence of every religion -- and of the "no" religion of simply being "human"... These are just a few seeds for your contemplation...
So, if the only task worthy of our efforts is the construction of the future, what is the future of your dreams, and how are you directing your efforts? Which way forward? What do you say? (Don't worry, perhaps only the entire Universe is watching and waiting for your answer...)
What are the limits to the sky?
Where does the Universe end?
These questions are not as useful as "How can I help you?"
The simpleton extends her mirror further than her arm can reach, and so can take in the view of those around her -- while the powerful walk around with their mirrors smashed against their noses -- and they propose that you get in line and follow them!
The space between the simpleton's wisdom and the pronouncements of the powerful is about the distance between here and never there -- the Mother knows this and so would draw you to her breast, while those others will be lucky to even catch a glimpse of her toes...
Though the Mother seems distant, she lives in the still point between every breath of every living thing. This "Place" is the threshold to Paradise. Never seen, yet it is the fertile ground of every possibility.
(From The Tao of Old Dan of Walking Green Mountain)
The way of a simpleton... life is the supreme teacher! Look at the cracks of a mountainside... don't the cracks tend to fill with greenery? Look at the lines on a face... look carefully between the lines... look at the hands of such a person: are they, too, lined... and are they unclenched? Yes, to live is to "entertain" suffering: but do you greet suffering as an unwelcome guest? Or have you learned to welcome all who come to your door as a teacher and not as an intrusion? In this is revealed the great artistry of the One Love Consciousness who animates both Matter and Being for hospitality and delight...
Wisdom is the grace to accept, like water, whatever is thrown at it... wisdom is also the intelligence to know the intention of the one doing the tossing. Sure, life happens: but what are your intentions? Do you anticipate occasions to curse or harm? Do you look for opportunities to manipulate, gossip, or blame? Do you live as a magnet for negativity and accusation? Or do you tend to look for the good in others and in situations as they present themselves? Do you intend kindness to the world in which you live? Do you practice beauty and gentleness in your lifestyle and expenditures? Intentions: are the stuff of greatness... or a steady descent into misery...
The way of a simpleton is, on the one hand, a clear rejection of the "wisdom" of the dominant systems of Power. But on the other, it is a joyous return to our natural condition of radiance: we were created by Love, for Love, to become Love: our capacity to love is therefore without limits! We have been crafted by the finest macro-brewer imaginable! Everything is tinged with Light... as if from the inside-out... Everything is a mirror of splendor... as its essential nature... The way of a simpleton is the luscious life to be found in the cracks!
Do you see what I see? A world of hungry children, of endless grief, of harmfulness, of greed and injustice, of a rapaciousness that would endlessly oppress women and exploit the Planet, and of every conceivable justification for violence, hatred, and inequality... But keep looking: do you see what I see now? A world suffused with forgiveness, of kindness, of a rising gentleness, of gracious compassion, of mutual-aid and the holy competition of sharing equally, of soils revered and waters protected, of creatures cherished, of the liberation of every person and all peoples to pursue their dreams of full development -- not for gain, but for giving -- and of the great melting of the weapons and guns of war into instruments of peace and beauty... I see a fruitful time of justice and equality, not as another force, but as a daily inspiration for the very good of everyone and all... I see radiance blossoming in sacred intentions to practice possibilities... I see Sacred Circles animating personal and social transformation... I see a Living Unity of World Religions: an easing away from the need to define or control, into an expression of compassion and gratitude for the incredible gifts of Life and this precious blue Planet... oh, yes, I do, of course, see a lot of work in the getting from here to there... but that is what the way of a simpleton is for: to give meaning and purpose to all the cracks...
So what is keeping you from saying, "I'm awake and ready!"? "Come, my friends, 'tis not too late to seek a newer world." (Tennyson).
Right at this very moment, peeking around the corner of our lives, is a Beauty that could start a rEvolution! You just have to be willing to see...
Virtually all of us have no real idea of the vast difference between the very few at the top of the world's economic food-chain, and the rest of us... likewise, there are very, very, few among us who have any sense whatsoever of the incredible poverty that marks the lives of billions of people at the very bottom of that same food-chain: most Americans like to believe that the differences between the "top" and the "bottom" can be overcome with a little bit of go-to-gumption... they further like to believe that the few at the "top" have the best interests of everyone else at heart... but there really is a better deal out there just waiting for us to snatch it up...
Take the pictured child as an example: what, to you, is she worth? Be honest! What is she worth? Is she worth less than the children that you know personally and perhaps love? Would this child's mother agree with whatever value you might -- out of the blue -- place upon her? Understand: this is not at all about me trying to cultivate guilt in you! This is all about Reality and Value: very basic philosophy, economics, and religion: you don't need a degree in philosophy, economics, or in theology to participate -- indeed, it's much better for you if you've skipped those studies altogether! (Or at least skipped the Institutionalized and Technologized Courses of the Dominator Paradigm). So, what do you think?
Here's what I think: the child pictured in the above photo is worth, exactly, 27 cents! I really shouldn't kid about something so important -- I'm just curious if you are actually giving attention to these musings! This child is actually worth: are you ready: exactly your value! Not a single cent of difference! So then, what are you worth? I don't even know most of you who will be reading this, but all of my life experience of serving the homeless for thirty years, all of my very human breakings, and all of the insights my shattered heart has revealed, point to this certainty: you are worth the very best! She is worth the very best! And everyone is worth the very best! This is the true, One Reality, that lurks around the many doorways of our lives: this the Beauty calling into the too-often quiet fields of our hearts and our consciences: "I am waiting for You! I am waiting to Welcome You Home! I am waiting to hold and caress Your every ache and pain, Your every lost dream, and Your every secret anguish! I am waiting to re-create You in my compassion and mercy! I am waiting to help You polish Your mirror so You can see that I am You! I am waiting to re-create this entire precious blue Planet, and every life upon it, into the Beauty of Kindness, Justice, and Peace! I am waiting to help You cultivate again the Garden of Eternal Delight!" ... So the One Love Consciousness, our Beloved Friend, says...
Talk about the Big Holiday Deal! What must we do to hear the Voice of the One ourselves? Well, it sure helps if you go and "spend" a bit of time stirring the soup pot in a Soup Kitchen... or become a volunteer at a Domestic Abuse Crisis Center... or take some serious environmental action... or organize for Equality and Justice... or begin to work for nonviolent alternatives to the military-industrial-technological-complex... or volunteer in campaigns to elect women political leaders... or attend inter-faith alternative worship services... or read a book by Andrew Harvey, Matthew Fox, Riane Eisler, David C. Korten, Frances Moore Lappe, bell hooks, Thich Nhat Hahn, Alice Walker, or Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, and perhaps the most important thinker / activist of our times, Vandana Shiva, (just a few suggestions)... but most of all, begin to make connections between everything that you buy or sell: all religion and politics is as local as your wallet: reduce the divide between your buddingly explosive conscience and everything that you think, say, and do... when we only spend our money and donate to businesses or non-profits that actually put into practice "love your neighbor as yourself", we will begin to see substantive change all around us...
So to re-cap: what are you worth? What is your neighbor -- even if she lives on the other side of this precious blue Planet -- worth? And the Big Holiday Deal is? Ah, beautiful are you... beautiful are you... beautiful are you... so, go ahead! With your heart now broken wide open and leaking out all over the place, buy this!
One of the great men of our time has passed from among us... but not before making it possible for all of us to become better human beings: and it is that which truly defines greatness.
Like many Americans and world citizens, I too felt the conviction that no race had an inherent right to oppress another race, and so in the ways that I could, I joined in the fight against apartheid: and it was the force of a world united that the brutal government of white South Africa finally yielded and set Mandela free and all the people that he represented. To read his autobiography "Long Walk to Freedom" is to be baptized into the revolutionary possibilities of hope, struggle, and justice: everyone who can read should / must read this book!
Having made my way "around the block" quite a number of times now, I find the myths that we men live by profoundly interesting. Perhaps for most of us, we dedicate the first twenty to thirty years of our lives in "building our towers": the myths by which we choose to live. Crammed into these "towers" are our childhood memories -- dominated by our relationship with our own father and / or father figures; our evolving belief systems; our chosen means to the ends of our goals; and, lastly, our interpretation of our mothers. While building our "towers", perhaps most of us establish our "family" -- including intimate relationships, friends, comrades, etc. For someone like Vice President Dick Cheney, his "tower" included a vigorous belief in the rightness of American domination on the world political and economic stage: dominance, in his mind's eye, also meant acceptance of all the associations that maintained this absolute priority: hence his complete support of the structures that allowed for the conviction of Nelson Mandela as a terrorist. (Never mind that "the shot heard round the world" was fired by men not in uniform, in hiding, who fired upon soldiers defending "British" soil and celebrated American revolutionaries like General Francis Marion -- known as the "Swamp Fox" for his effective combat methods of terrorist attacks on the British and fleeing capture by hiding in the swamps of the Carolinas -- could, by Cheney's definition be considered criminals.) Fanaticism is the hallmark of the "tower-builders": one sees it all the time in manic sport affiliations, politics, business, and the "lap-dog-person's" pursuit of power: and most of those the world over who have been considered "prophets" were men in the "tower-building" phase of life: how many seventy-plus year old men have bothered to found a new religion? The sage has de-constructed his tower and learned there are at least a few better things to do than to start a religion: or to kill for one.
The closer that one gets to erecting the "tower" of his youthful dreams -- in other words, the closer one gets to accessing the power that one's station affords -- the greater the impossibility of doing any "tower de-construction": for then the myths that one has chosen to live by have become far more important than people or any one person. These men are the most dangerous men in the world. Old men in old institutions are so used to viewing the world from their towers that those not in the towers are "the rabble", "the uninformed", the "unenlightened" and are always expendable. Men like Cheney, Ratzinger, Trump, and the Koch brothers are just a few of the faces known to us: but there are "tower-brokers" in every clime and culture. But this is precisely what makes Nelson Mandela so important as an example to everyone, men in particular. Twenty-seven years in prison effected his "tower de-construction" has little else could have: and when he walked out of prison a free man, he chose the deep interior freedom of leaving all hate behind and for the rest of his life offered his hand and life in the works of reconciliation. Mandela's "Long Walk to Freedom" is many things, but perhaps none so important as a "working manual on growing up", written by a sage who built his tower, saw it forcibly taken down, and emerged from the rubble a true human being: we should all be so blessed.
I hear the pain of this world
-- the mountain dogwood
Many years ago while on a camping retreat in Kings Canyon, I was walking a trail through the Giant Sequoias... perhaps the most glorious trees anywhere on this precious blue Planet... Others were walking the same trail as I, all of us following the base of a Sequoia up into the blue sky... continuing to walk, I rounded the trail to another and yet another stunning tree, but this time my eyes were captured by a little tree in the broken shadows of the Giants: a blossoming Mountain Dogwood, with leaves painted many shades of green...
That little Mountain Dogwood invited me to sit and join in her deep listening... somehow the whirl of atoms came to focus on the many cries of suffering the world over... until finally came the sounds of the Planet herself weeping in her whirl through Time and Space... The humble Dogwood could hear, which got me to wondering why is it so very hard for humans to hear the pain: oh, we feel it when it touches us, or maybe when someone we care for is suffering: but too few of us recognize the essential broken-nature of this world and the Universe... and the options that are available to us...
Some like the theory that says the brokenness was a "planned mistake": some further suppose, on faith, that Yeshua the Poet came to awaken and then remind us of our inherent divine dignity... The Sufis suppose that perhaps the mistake of the First Couple in the Original Garden wasn't exactly the disobedience of eating the Forbidden Fruit but instead it was of accepting their expulsion from the Garden: the one act of disobedience that really counted they missed, and so left the Garden -- and everyone following after them homeless -- when it was for that very moment that they had actually been created! The Creator, according to the mad poets anyway, desired Lovers and not wimps! They were supposed to say, "No! Sorry, but we are choosing to not leave! We feel deeply that You created us by Love, for Love, to become Love, so we are going to continue living with You, walking with You, working and playing with You, and most of all, loving with You...Sorry, again, but we aren't going anywhere!"
According to the little Mountain Dogwood, we are each and all, supposed to be saying and living: "I am worth the very best! I am worth Love!" And then we are supposed to be giving, doing, creating, and building the very best for everyone and everything upon this precious blue Planet! Until then, of course we are suffering and in pain: and the task of the little Mountain Dogwood is to listen (it's not like it can get up and go walking around) and blossom with the beauty that really could save the world... if we would but choose Beauty over all the ways of power, violence, greed, oppression, and inequality...
With the Mountain Dogwood, we can learn to be intently silent until we too can hear the pain of this world, and we can then become the beauty and the compassion that will return us all, once again, to the Garden of Endless Delight: the Home intended for us, and that we should never have left...
So much for the Mountain Dogwood, right? I mean, left?
Robert Daniel Smith was privileged to serve the homeless and marginalized for 30 years in Salinas, California. Together with his wife, Michelle, they founded an intentional community called the 'Companions of the Way', also in Salinas. Robert and Michelle are community organizers, Catholic Worker renegades, sacred activists, writers, poets, artists, Divine Mother devotees, and practitioners of Kriya Yoga as taught by Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment. Michelle is also a Montessori public school teacher. Robert is also an ordained Interfaith Minister.