Repressions Or . . .

There is no script for what our societies are going through. There is no map for this territory. Though groups of human beings have caused massive ecological damage to their surroundings throughout our history, the size and extent of industrialization’s infrastructure is unprecedented on the earth. We are becoming, to use a phrase from Marvel, the destroyers of worlds. Or, to take another popular reference, we are engaged in Star Wars where some are building the death star, the ultimate weapon capable of destroying whole planets at a time. To state it as clearly as possible we could say that the human race is becoming a monster.

Last week we touched on the capability of the human brain to record carefully the details around whatever traumatic experiences it has been through. Those events which threaten its continued existence are prioritized by the algorithm of evolutionary fitness which developed it. The same survival priority has also created the brains ability to hide the knowledge of those detailed traumatic memories from the ego, the self-conscious part of the human experience, if the ego would be incapacitated by them. Again, the priority is to get on with the necessary tasks of day-in and day-out living: finding food, shelter, mates, and maintaining the body in working order. To accomplish this animals have developed the ability to learn and the most powerful lessons are those that concern surviving.

The question of future survival is exactly what our ecological sciences are warning us is no longer assured. Though we are acting as though we do not know this, the facts are so well dispersed among the mass media that very few people are completely unaware. This leaves our social lives in a condition somewhat parallel to someone who is in denial about their childhood abuse. Such people are left doing what they can in the day-in and day-out tasks of their lives but are handicapped by unacknowledged fears, angers, and pain. Psychologists say the body of such people remembers the abuse, the brain of such people has seared the lessons into memory but the memory remains inaccessible to the ego. These repressions mold the ego which needs to navigate around the hot spots, placing it in the state of cognitive dissonance where they both know and do not know what is real for them. In order to avoid thinking the thoughts that would uncover the truth of their past, at some level of consciousness they remain obsessed with that past pain. This allows them to remain vigilant in their task of never allowing the thought that cannot be thought.

When the pain of such dual awareness gets to be too much, such people need to find relief in drugs, fanaticisms, violence, and other less than optimal behaviors. Are our societies that different?

The ongoing and accelerating sixth extinction is weighing heavily on our shoulders. As the evidence of climate change’s loss of climate stability accumulates and our minds take note of it, this too weighs heavily on our shoulders. As the coral reefs die our bodies respond viscerally since the threat of a dying ocean brings atavistic fears that the source of life itself might become poisoned by our hands. We have seen Venus and we have seen Mars, both providing mirrors of what earth could be. Though we may pretend as we go about our daily business that these things are not bothering us deeply, we cannot deny the evidence of our senses. Pondering and understanding the evidence of our senses is exactly what the human brain has evolved to do.

As hard as all of this is on the minds of every human being alive today, it is not the worst part of it. The worst knowledge of all is how simple the solution is to turn our trend lines into life supporting ones instead of the current life killing ones. We all know what we need to do. We need to stop burning fossil fuels.

Here is the thought that cannot be thought in modern civilized discourse. To think it involves so many unquestioned assumptions by which our existing social arrangements are maintained that we cower from it in fear. We need to recognize that Exxon is the enemy. We need to recognize that Exxon is not a few humans but an artificial construct created by our hands but now alive with a life of its own. Imagine for a moment that all the stockholders of Exxon awoke tomorrow morning from a shared nightmare in which they saw the state of the earth one hundred years from now and it shook them all to the bone. Imagine every stockholder suddenly insisting that the board of directors immediately develop a plan to ween the world off its oil addiction. This imaginative scenario is one in which human beings take the maximum responsibility for their choices and use their maximum courage to stand for what is right. What would be the outcome? Nothing. It is not legally possible for Exxon to do any such thing. It must only do that which will bring maximum profit to its stockholders. This is what I mean by we have created an artifact that now has a life of its own.

I do not want to be misunderstood as just another left-leaning guy railing against corporations. Corporations are simply collections of human beings, some of whom have committed evil acts and made evil decisions and will again, most of whom have not and will not. Most human beings are well intentioned. Human beings have a deep need to give back to the societies in which they have received all they have needed to survive. We are moved by the generosity of the hand that gives us our existence and this whole beautiful earth on which to experience it. It provokes a desire to give something back, to make something of the many gifts we have been given. Corporations simply harness that natural desire.

Exxon is, of course, just the whipping pole I chose as an example because it is the largest corporation on earth and the one currently in the driver’s seat of United States foreign policy making. Any number of other organizations could just as easily be analyzed along the same lines. This is what we are up against and so far it is proving to be an enemy to future well-being we are wholly incapable of defeating. How can we defeat the Nazi threat of our generation when it is not concentrated in a country or a particular political ideology but pervades our entire consciousness? We are so enamored by the loud bells and whistles of our modern technology that it has become impossible for most individuals to imagine living together any other way. We are enslaved.

No one in their right mind would choose to create the conditions of a massive die off of both people and animals for the sake of a smartphone. Ok, that is a bit flippant but it captures something I think is very real about our situation. First get clear about the die off our sciences are warning us is heading our way – fast. The existing population of close to eight billion human beings may very well become a population of maybe one billion by end of this century. The diversity of animal species could very well be diminished by fifty to eighty percent. Plant life does not escape these dire predictions either. The massive forest die off already happening across many parts of the world (due to Bark Beetles and such) is expected to only increase in a warming world. The desperate slash and burn techniques for acquiring arable land able to grow crops has, as of today, no counter force by which its accelerating rates might be curbed. Lacking predictable climate stability removes the ability to reliably grow food anyway. Those educated in the ecological sciences realize I could go on and on like this but these quick sketches are enough to indicate the die off we are involved in accelerating with our every choice to try and solve our ecological problems in any fashion other than stopping our burning of fossil fuels. Second, the smartphone was not an arbitrary choice of modern high technology. Social scientists and psychologists have made it very clear that allowing Apple and the other giants to sell these technologies to our children has had a profoundly negative effect on their self-esteem and attention spans. This might be an Apple future generations will wish we did not bite. We are looking at the second generation raised on screens and finding the number of people who read serious books about serious matters such as ecology (not to mention war and peace) has plummeted frighteningly. As a society we seem to have lost the ability to retain memories. Stories of great import hit the news wire and then are never heard about again. Where is the in-depth follow-up and postmortem on our crises by which we might learn something from them? (as a citizen do you personally even know how much national treasure the United States spent in 2017 dealing with climate change influenced extreme weather events? How much did Houston cost, that hub of tough talking Texans and oil?) This is the evidence I present for consideration and debate. These are the real world, on the ground facts that need to be answered and not evaded.

I am just a computer engineer, a systems scientist of sorts with a love of reading and a colorful past. I have no letters behind my name, no organizations backing up my words. What do I have? Just some tears and fears that do not let me deny what I have learned in my studies. No one in their right mind would choose to create the conditions of a massive die off of both people and animals for the sake of a smartphone. That is so obvious to me. What it shows me is that most people right now are not in their right minds because most people refuse to be put out by such considerations, refuse the cost of personal suffering such insight entails. Most people, it seems, have chosen to live instead in the lands of childish make-believe, hoping some big parent (be it our father president on earth or our father religious in heaven) will come and fix everything. No, not childish make-believe. We are into something much darker than that where every perversion and deviance is celebrated as a way forward, as if it were a blow for liberty and human rights. Shutting our eyes, closing our ears, muting our voices, we resemble nothing so much as the three monkeys that see no evil, hear no evil, and speak of no evils. This might be a viable strategy for dealing with problems that are seemingly so much larger than anything individuals can address, but I worry it is not. I think denial ultimately fails because of the nature of trauma processing within the brains we have. This is what has lead me to propose Mindful Ecology as an alternative approach.

Human beings are not powerless before the suicidal impulses that can be planted within them. However, dealing with them requires that we recognize the power that human beings have to make choices. That power lies only within individuals, not within magical father projections or group-think run organizations. Recognizing the power of choice clears the air. As sad as it might seem, you simply do not have the power to make good choices for other people, try as you might by whatever authoritarian enchantments you try. You do have the power to make your own choices. Once you become real clear that it is the burning of fossil fuels that is at the heart of what is ailing us, then you become naturally empowered to act on that knowledge in your own individual way. In the last analysis there is nothing else. In the last analysis, nothing else is needed.

Loving Kindness Or . . .

“He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,”— in those who harbour such thoughts hatred will never cease.”
Buddha

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and unjust.”
Jesus

“A blow from the whip raises a welt, but a blow from the tongue will break bones. Many have fallen by the edge of the sword, but not as many as by the tounge.”
Ben Sira 28.17

“Love is kind”
1 Corinthians 13

 

Why are the wise in one accord in recommending that we yoke ourselves as individuals to the discipline of loving kindness? Why do the teachings of non-violence and compassion exist at the heart of every modern world religion?

If we choose not to follow loving kindness we yoke ourselves to its opposite: hateful meanness. Today, as we start year one of this new United States, I would like to take a moment to look at this issue. Accusing whole peoples of evil never ends well. It is hard, the way I see things, not to expect the most probable outcome of our existing political trends to lead to world war. I cannot help but wonder what the odds are of another twelve months of world peace, such as it is. Things are scary now, there are many active theaters of war but it can quickly get so much worse. I wonder where we will be in the first week of January 2019 and ask all my readers to join me in praying for peace everyday this year. However that may play out, it is worthwhile now, before the bombing starts, to talk as clearly as we can about what is true and what are lies concerning the human condition. We all know the names of history’s most recent mass murderers: Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot. They each managed to destroy tens of millions, maybe hundreds of millions of human beings – one at a time. There is an interesting truth in the kill numbers of modern weaponry. It is worth saying in the daylight that if nuclear weapons are used in our next international orgy of violence, history might very well add Trump to that short list. It is something I wish a few more people were considering and taking seriously. That, however, is something not a single person of goodwill can make happen. The best we can hope to do is make circumstances such that it is easier to choose love over hate. People are free to choose loving kindness or not. Some will choose to be the meanest, most hate-filled SOB they can. I believe that what the wise are suggesting by urging us to loving kindness is that this is not a good choice for the person involved, the people their lives will touch, or, ultimately, the world itself.

As a species we now understand, in some fairly impressive detail, just how the inter-generational abuse we are prone to plays out. The human brain is made to take very special note of those things that most threaten its existence. When the brain is traumatized those memories become a load-stone in the psyche for the rest of a person’s life. The emotional, sexual, and physical abuse of the young, for example, do you think the brain ever really forgets any detail of these events? The psychological professions have pretty good models for how the brain is traumatized, how memories of trauma are repressed, and what effects this whole system has on personalities. The psychiatric professions have pretty good models for how the chemical makeup of the memory mechanism malfunctions so that the victims of trauma re-experiencing the memories of the traumatic events as if they were happening again, here and now in real time. The repression happens because the pain is too overwhelming to live with, the repression fails to deal with the pain because the brain never really forgets.

There is a lot to say concerning war trauma which veterans suffer. There is a lot to say about how to turn a human being into a killer by studying the techniques of boot camp. These are important and there is great hope for such people in our newer understanding of trauma. Yet these are effects. War comes out of the heart but what put it there? To get to the causes we need to take a look at childhood trauma.

Children want to be good and please their parents. Self worth and dignity are learned from the respect others show us, particularly those closest to us. Children are trying to earn that respect, first from their family members and later from their society. Sometimes it goes horribly wrong. I would expect most of my readers have had the chance to see a mother who blows up at her child, thrashing them with her adult anger and adult tongue, if not fists, belts, and all the rest. Emotional child abuse is the act of forcing adult emotions into a child’s body where they act as foreign material since children are incapable of assimilating them. Doing so lets a person scar that child for life, just as they were. If instead of love you offer hate, if instead of kindness you offer cruelty, you create the conditions for that child’s future suicide or, if they are the type of person that turns anger outward, their future acts of violence and mayhem. So tricky! You can kill people with your tongue and never go to jail! This is what the world-soul is all about; this long, sad tale of our slavery to hatred and meanness. The most insidious part is that if a child is subject to such treatment long enough, they will come to believe they deserve it. In their heart of hearts they will believe they are evil. Children are not capable of the psychological objectivity required to recognize they are in the hands of a sick parent or guardian. In fortunate cases they avoid adolescent suicide and the adult they become will find the inner resources to confront the abuse and internalized abuser. This is the destroyer we have been discussing in these essays.

Why are the wise in one accord in recommending that we yoke ourselves as individuals to the discipline of loving kindness? The opposite option is to allow the hateful meanness that lives inside of you to rule your life. Then you will enjoy exploding in rage at young children, torturing them for the innocence and happiness they enjoy. There was a whole You Tube channel devoted to films of children suffering things like strapping them down and washing their mouths out with toxic chemicals. Become an explosive bitch and you will get to bask in the knowledge that everyone around you is terrified of you. The problem is your world will become smaller and smaller until the fear you are projecting bites back – and it will. Soon you are living only to control other people through your emotional blackmail, imposing your will whenever it really counts. Choose to feed the hate inside you instead of gentleness and kindness and you create a monstrous appetite that cannot be satisfied. The teachings say it is like trying to slack your thirst by drinking sea water. It gets worse and worse until you can never let a chance go by to target someone’s dignity and send your poison into the soft spot inside where each of us can doubt our self worth.

But why limit yourself to children? You can, if you are careful, find adults with unhealed wounds of their own to push around too. We see such people in our nursing homes after a life long devoted to hate. We see them in marriages when one person is terrified of the other. You can get a real kick out of frightening people, insulting them, making them feel like failures. It gives the abuser a false sense that they are in control of the whole world. We see them attacking low wage waiters and waitresses, clerks and managers at department stores, anyone who can’t hit back.

Here is the thing about this: these assholes and bullies are spiritual cowards. Don’t be fooled just because some of them like to hang out in religions. Don’t be fooled when they wash their violence in the lie that they only do what they do to others “for their own good.” The bully does not have the courage to face the pain within. They refuse to take on the human responsibility to try and control the beast that lurks in the human heart. Each of us must make that choice, day in and day out. The sum total of our choices is what makes up the world-soul.

A Pause

I hope the season of light in extension has found my readers warm, safe, well-fed and able to make merry.

We will pick up our discussion again next week. Ecological disaster records are being broken weekly as the ongoing, relentless devastation accelerates, ripping through formerly stable systems one after the other from oceans to sky. In the senate the thieves have come. In the marketplace hungry ghosts are everywhere feasting, passing the planet through the cash register without rhyme or reason. In the church the abomination stands exposed.

We will learn to dance in the midst of the collapse. We really will.

Come Play

Stop the Presses! Hold the Phone!

Loving Eurogames

New Book Now Available

Just in time for the Holidays!

 

“It is a happy talent to know how to play.”
Emerson, Journals, 1834

Throughout my presentation of Mindful Ecology I have tried to emphasize that it is a path towards some happiness and sanity for our individual lives. Today I invite you to celebrate with me one of my life’s finest sources of pleasure. For more than 30 years I have found delight in playing games with my wife, family, and friends. Not just any games, a very particular type of game first developed in Europe after WWII.

Little else has stood the test of time as well as the satisfactions we derive from having learned how to play together. I think this is because these Eurogames are an exercise in ecological thinking and mind training cleverly packaged as entertainment. The people of our generations, as opposed to the Ostriches, respond to such things.

Mind Training – Players learn to win and lose gracefully by mastering the emotional roller-coaster they experience as fortunes rise and fall.

Ecological Training – Players learn to use limited resources wisely, carefully shepherding what is valuable to achieve what is most important.

The result of such training is to slowly shape our characters – for the better.

In a Well Played Game everyone wins because everyone has had fun. This happens when the dramatic competition for the win is never allowed to eclipse the larger context of joyful interpersonal cooperation. This is not a bad lesson for people to be exposed to in our time of hyper-capitalism and hyper-divisive politics. It might even show a way forward for the rebuilt communities that lie in wait for us on the other side of the Era of Cars.

All of this and more, is packaged in a humble game. How wonderfully ironic.

Can learning to play the Well Played Game teach us how to live the Well Lived Life?
Read Loving Eurogames: The Quest for the Well Played Game and decide for yourself.

Magical Christianity, an Oxymoron

“In the wider Middle East, it undermines and weakens America’s partners, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and others who have worked with the U.S. on issues relating to Iran, but also were hopeful that there would be a peace plan they could be part of. It weakens and undermines them.
The ones perhaps who are happiest, other than the Israeli government itself, which certainly is very happy, are Iran and its allies and Russia’s President Putin. We saw President Putin immediately take a victory lap, visiting Syria, Egypt, and Turkey all in one day, denouncing the Jerusalem decision, while also declaring victory in Syria and other places.”
The Long Term Global Consequences of Trump’s Jerusalem Move, PBS News

 

The failure of Homo Colossus as laid out in Limits to Growth is evident on every hand.

So what gives? Why is this blog, ostensibly interested in ecology and meditation, spending so much time on Christian teachings, to the point of quoting chapter and verse last week? It is because my studied opinion is that the fault line for the collapse of the Western Consensus runs through the Church. The 1970s saw more than just the publication of Limits to Growth, it also saw the publication of The Late Great Planet Earth and with that, the whole view of magical Christianity began to increase its influence on the culture of the United States.

Mindful Ecology leads each of us where it will. I believe ecology is, if I may put it this way, the current message of the Holy Spirit. That is, it is the communication to the human psyche, both individually and collectively, about what is the most urgent “revelation” for our day. The ecological crisis is a communication coming directly from the earth itself, what theology named the creation. It is a revelation of its creator-ways, or what we today call its molecular laws. There is a place for god-talk if it reminds us that what we are talking about, the earth ecological systems, are so much larger than we puny humans. There is a place for god-talk if it engenders respect.

The relocation of the United States embassy in Israel is an important move for the true believers. I worry that because the Christian message was abused by so many for so long, today many people who call themselves Christian wouldn’t know the actual, historic, mystical Christianity if it jumped up and bit them on the nose. The publishing industry phenomenon The Left Behind series is a good example of the popularity of the doomsday message, the Christian message gone haywire. “They can’t get enough of that doomsday stuff, they can’t get enough of it all,” sang Bowie in the The Next Day. Magical Christianity seeks a real world Armageddon in the Middle East, unable to differentiate wisdom teachings in symbols from rational discourse. The current earthquake changes around the geopolitical balance in the Middle East, the source of the neo-liberal system’s key oil supplies, are not happening in a vacuum. Geology is having a say as the largest oil field in on the planet, Ghawar in Saudi Arabia, quietly peaks behind the headlines. This is the truth that must not be spoken. Peak Oil was banished from our public discourse at just the time when the use of reason requires addressing it. We have been whistling past the graveyard since the 1970s made clear our position, and now the chickens are coming home to roost. It is not as if we never heard from Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Bush II, Clinton, and Obama or the report from our own armed forces insisting the United States has a serious oil dependency problem. But culturally we made different choices, and now there are consequences.

We are being offered religious packaging over the fundamental ecological problem. On this score, if I am reading the tea leaves right, the manipulation of public relations have only just begun. I think the Tillerson – Pence – Trump team have plans for the Middle East. When those plans are in full swing I expect they will be delivered to the public in a package of fundamentalist Christian faith. The ‘Crusades’ are already justified and meaningful for many folks within such traditional spiritual interpretations of the daily headlines.

In every religion throughout the long ages of the human story there has always been a tension between those who seek the mystical truth of spiritual things, and those who seek the magical power of spooky things. The mystic and the fundamentalist have never seen eye to eye, and from the looks of things, never will. As one of the mystical camp, a person who strongly believes in the value of contemplation and silent meditation, I offer a warning to those singing Onward Christian Soldiers. Things may not work out the way you expect them to, wrapped up in your flag and cross of self-righteousness.

If you were born with Christianity in your mother’s milk, you need to understand what that mythological constellation of symbols is really all about because it does concern you, whether you want it to or not. As it is said, Jesus would have come to earth to save you, and you alone. Christian mythology is the teaching of how the human conscience has an element of the shared collective or social world in it. In our most intimate inner sanctum we find the touch of other hands. Here we find the interests of other sentient beings equal to ours and thereby laying upon us an obligation. The obligation is to respect the life given even to “the least of these.”

What this means is that unscrupulous people can use this feature of the Christian mythology to manipulate others. The encounter with conscience holds a surprise for all people that were raised around the Christian stories. They are talking about, as pointed out last week, your body, your mind etc. Our culture has a practical understanding about this aspect of its symbol-rich inheritance and deals with it fairly well in Christian camps for adolescents and such. The problem comes when the wondrous vulnerability of love, so clearly on display in the Gospel story, is rejected. Then people have no alternatives but to go fishing around for things creature-reason cannot deliver. In the murky waters of a hunt for god-like power, the temptation is ever present to use the most powerful concept of all, namely god. But it is not right to use people, and God, so the Christian story teaches, includes personhood from all eternity. This means God is the ultimate person not to be used. It provokes righteous anger, as it must if any sort of justice and fairness is to exist.

What is revealed in this mythology is the very heart of the “one true God,” the inescapable ground of our being which is “closer to us than we are to ourselves.” The loving kindness human beings share with one another is real, because we really are free to choose otherwise. It is in that freedom that our love is made real. How could it be otherwise? Puppets cannot love one another. Love shows how that which created us respects us as persons. It is astonishingly good news that love comes directly from the “maker of heaven and earth.” This is what is witnessed by the true man taken up into the true God. The man who is real and honest with himself, particularly his own experiences of emotion that so deeply move us in both our flesh and psyche equally, is the true man, the authentic human being. These wellsprings of consciousness that move us so powerfully and so deeply, they are the witness to us of the mystery of reality. The reality is that the grandeur of the cosmos with its endless galaxies, the starry nurseries, and the explosive creation of black-holes, all of it is also our nursery and the grandeur resides in our chests.

Everyone on this path of ecological awakening arrives at the silence in which conscience speaks. Here the stars, those ancient watchers who record everything that really happens, are not mute. Mystics, like scientists, have long understood that, after a fashion, the stars are on the inside.

Suffer the little child to come to the Christ. This is the innocent one within you that still lives inside the memory of your nervous system. It is the spark of personhood before and after the terrifying abuse children suffer at the hands of those few evil adults that seek them out. The inner child, flesh of your flesh and bone of your bone, is silent when at peace. They are at peace when the adult they have become understands and respects who they are and the truth of what they have experienced. An adult that accepts their creature status finds in Jesus their protector, the one who will plead your case before those who would falsely accuse you. It is he that would, as we say, go to the carpet for you, or in this case, the cross. The old Christmas hymn O Holy Night states that with Jesus “the soul felt its worth.” Finding yourself as the latest generation in a history of countless ancestors, finding yourself as one individual in a world full of people, and finding yourself a victim of evil abuse, this is all a bit overwhelming. Allowing the little child to come to the Christ is, symbolically, how you come to know that your life matters. Jesus would have come to earth to share the teaching of the kingdom and the loving father with you if you were the only human being ever to exist throughout all the ages, to compassionately suffer your pain with you so you would not be alone if yours was the only human pain this universe would ever know, and would come to carry your bruised and broken heart when love dies in the dark night even if your heart were the only one to ever be broken. There is an encounter here with a very real psychological, biological, and social truth about the human condition. Call it what you will, this encounter with the higher should result in a healthy adult pride, one capable of sustaining a person through the trials and challenges of seeing their dreams come true through hard work and a good dose of faith, hope, and love.

Basically real faith is able to quite the mind when it becomes too anxious, and it is able to quite the body when it becomes too fearful. The witness of martyrs self-control is the classical example of faith and it is exactly this. A deep enough belief in a good God becomes a pervasive enough conviction, that persons can withstand assaults far beyond what the ego as a lone individual could endure. Those who mess around with this Christian symbolism in their unscrupulous fundamentalism are messing around with this biological control system in people. Hence so many abused by religion end up with substance abuse issues. They need additional help to maintain the faith.

The mystical teaching is that the human race is one body after a fashion, that we share in the experiences of being one flesh. Any injury or insult to human dignity is a direct assault on us all. The teachings ask only how we treat the poor, in the end there is nothing else. The poor and outcasts we discarded in our selfishness hold the hidden gold we desperately need to find as a species. In our hearts of hearts we judge ourselves by how we treat “the least of these,” not how well we treat the most wealthy and powerful. Now, with the crashing of Homo Colossus, the rich are being made poor. It is both an opportunity and a danger. Whether the lack of loving kindness that touches you with the cold finger of poverty is economic, emotional, intellectual, sexual, or spiritual, they all leave torture’s scars on the body. Our tears do not sleep and then, in our hurt and anger, we become twisted and confused and in need of healing. That this healing does in fact come to individuals, untangling lies and providing the courage to speak the truth, sustains a rational hope that it can also come to our communities. We can swing the tenor of the collective conversation towards real-world issues if enough of us insist on it.

Contemplation is the birthright of everyone, the sweetest gift life has to offer, a love-making with the cosmos and a resting in the arms of creation’s gifts. It pierces the darkness of our lives and finds meaning in their events, often painful and sorrowful but real and lasting and true. Learning to be still in body and mind allows us to sit openly listening to our hearts. Our hearts know what we are. They know our worth.