Abuela, Marita and theBaby Gopher

Early last week, I was listening to a friend describe how she had watched a cougar catch a baby gopher.  What she observed, she recounted, did not strike her as predation – the strong perpetrating upon the weak – but as the flow of the life force itself.  This is not the usual perception, and it gave me food for thought.  The child’s story below (also for adults) is the outcome of the pondering.  I share it with you; it is my take on the incident described by my friend.  Perhaps you will have your own take and can write your own story.  

Abuela, Marita, and the Baby Gopher

The old woman sat quietly on the round, weathered, moss-covered rock beside the path.  Her eyes were half closed, and her face wore a look of deep content as she raised it to absorb the rays of the late afternoon sun.  The path ran through a thicket of luxuriously full pine trees which adorned the thicket with their dark green needles and fresh aroma.  Quaking aspen, their long trunks covered with black-striped white bark, punctuated the thicket with their flaming yellow crowns.   The woman was waiting expectantly.  The child would be there any moment now. She breathed in the calm of the forest as she waited.  Footsteps were audible long before the child gave voice. 

“Abuelita, Abuelita,” her granddaughter’s voice called out, as the fleet-footed seven-year-old rounded the bend in the path. 

 “I am here, Marita,” the grandmother responded. “I was waiting for you.”  

“Abuelita,” the child cried out, racing into her grandmother’s welcoming arms.  “Abuelita, I saw a bobcat.” 

“How wonderful!” responded the woman.  “You saw him, and he did not harm you.  That is a good sign.”  

“But Abuelita,” protested Marita, “he had a dead baby gopher in his mouth.  He was going to eat it.”  

“Why do you think that was?” asked her grandmother. 

“I think the bobcat was hungry,” asserted Marita.  “He was hungry, so he killed a baby gopher.  But the baby gopher had not done anything wrong.  Why did it have to die?” 

“What do you think?” again queried Abuelita. 

Marita thought for a moment.  “I guess,” she finally offered, “that if the bobcat did not eat the baby gopher, he would go hungry and he would die.” 

“Probably,” agreed the grandmother, “if the bobcat did not eat, he would die.” 

“But why does someone have to die?” demanded Marita.  “If we die, we aren’t alive anymore.” 

Abuelita looked at Marita.  “You are wearing a beautiful jacket,” she commented. 

“Thank you, Abuelita.”  Marita looked proudly at her favorite jacket. It was made of a soft, sky-blue denim cloth, and lined in flannel. “But I wanted to know why either the baby gopher or the bobcat had to die.” 

“Take off your jacket, Marita,” instructed Abuelita.  

Puzzled, Marita complied. 

“Now turn it inside out.” 

Marita put her hands deep into the sleeves of the jacket and pulled them out until only the flannel was showing.  The flannel was pretty, too, checkered with bright red and navy. 

“Look,” pointed out Abuelita.  “Does your jacket look the same now, or is it different?” 

“Of course, it’s different,” declared Marita.  “It’s designed to be that way. It’s a reversible jacket.”  

“Did the beautiful blue side go away?” Abuelita asked. 

“Yes, replied Marita.  “But it’s not really gone, it’s just inside and you can’t see it anymore.   What does my jacket have to do with a bobcat or a baby gopher?”   

“Look around you, Marita.  Look at all the beautiful, wonderful life around you.  For example, look at the pine tree beside you.  Where did it come from?”  

“From a seed in a pinecone, of course,” answered Marita. 

“What will happen to the pine tree one day?”   

Marita thought for a moment.  “One day it will die, and turn into a log, and then into the dirt on the ground,” she said. 

“Where did the pine tree go?” asked Abuelita. 

Marita didn’t answer. 

“It is like your jacket,” explained Abuelita.  “On the one side, there is beautiful, wonderful life, and the pine tree is alive here.  When you turned your jacket inside out, you couldn’t see the beautiful blue anymore.  But it was still there.  On the other side of being alive here is another side of being alive, just as beautiful.  Because we don’t see it, we call it death and think it is not alive.  But it is alive, even if we cannot see it.” 

“Oh,” murmured Marita. 

“Most people think that dying is the end.  But it is just turning the jacket inside out.  There really is no death, only life.  Do you understand?”    

“Kind of,” Marita hesitated. “It is like my jacket.  I like to wear it blue side out, but I could wear it the other way, too.” 

“Good!”  exclaimed Abuelita. “Do you feel better about the baby gopher now?” 

“Yes, agreed Marita, “but are you going to die, too?” 

“One day that will happen, Marita,” averred her grandmother, “but not soon.  And when I do go to life’s other side, I will still love you.  And then one day you will meet me again.”  

Marita gave Abuelita a big hug.

Why this particular story?  There are many stories to explain death to children.  However, this story is about more than death, or our perception of it.  It shows also how strong is the connection between the two sides of the coin of life, and how ephemeral can be the veil between the two.  Perhaps it is time we learn to access that unseen realm, and from it gain the strength, motivation, and knowledge we need to restore the life-sapping imbalances surrounding us on Earth, on this side of the veil.

Peace, Diane

True Restitution

Despite what seem to be deliberate efforts to keep the Covid-19 epidemic foremost in the media, coverage of the many protests over unjust and violent treatment of Black people by police, called Black Lives Matter, is currently more in the forefront of people’s consciousness.  The protests continue; most are peaceful, some are violent, all are persisting.  We need the protests.  They serve to call attention to severe injustice and wrongful attitudes and perceptions that need to be corrected.  And they are the tip of a much bigger iceberg beneath the surface.

Although this particular injustice involving the police involves victimizing mainly Black people, it, and other injustices stemming from a common core involve other minority groups as well.  Native Americans and Hispanics are among those most commonly noticed, but Asians of various origins, religious groups such as Muslims, immigrants of all kinds, especially newcomers, and the poor whites who live subsistence lives in, say, the coal country of Appalachia are also among them.

The underlying wrong is economic.  It is described as capitalism carried to its destructive extreme, but it also uses racism as an effective support for funneling the wealth of the nation to the top, mostly white, international, corporate, and social elite.  Racism justifies this action by positing that some human beings are better than and more worthy of wealth and power than other human beings.    A bit of thought shows that race is actually a construct – not only because it devalues some at the expense of others, but because it is actually unreal.  Think – when one is asked to declare one’s “race” it might be color, language, ancestral birthplace, culture – there is no real definition of race.  It seems to mean only “other than myself”.  When I was in college, I took an anthropology course that defined race as being of only three types, Caucasoid, Negroid, and Mongloid.  However, within those classifications determined by academics, there are black Caucasoids(e.g., on the Indian subcontinent), white Negroids (some African indigenous) and Mongloids who are both tall and short, some with curly hair and who are certainly not yellow.  I have never seen a truly yellow person, a truly red person, a truly black (piece of coal color) person or a truly white (sheet of paper) person other than an albino.  Race is a highly inefficient attempt to classify people; it contains many exceptions and has no real meaning.  In addition, people are so mixed now from intermarriage that the concept is even more illusory.  However, it serves the purpose of the elite who wish to retain wealth and power.  It helps if the general populace believes in it and are willing to set themselves apart in competitive groups, some with more advantage so that the dissonance persists, and so that attention remains on those divisions instead of on the true movers of radically unequal wealth and power.

As we are taught in school, when our nation declared itself independent, it was led by rich white men separating from the control of Great Britain, where existed more rich white men in power over a poorer populace.   Those who could vote at the time of the Constitution were rich white men who owned land or property.  No Native Americans, from whom the land had been taken, no Black people, most of whom worked the land for free, no indentured whites, no poor whites, no women – only rich white men.  Amendments were later made to the Constitution to purportedly remedy the imbalance of power, but they seem to have had limited value.   Women are still paid less for equal work and harassed in the workplace, Blacks are still mostly relegated to low-paying and riskier jobs and poorer housing and often blocked from voting, Native Americans are still discriminated against in mainstream employment and relegated to infertile lands. Their women can be raped without much consequence being placed upon the rapist.  The land is still being destroyed, and Black people and poor whites are shunted to toxic locations or unhealthy low-income housing and food deserts.  The problem has not been corrected.

I recently read an article which disturbed me in one of the magazines I receive.    It includes some very good illustrations of how money has been stolen from Black people by collecting taxes from them and then denying them the benefit of the taxes (equal education, full admission to all State colleges, redlining to exclude them from housing and – not mentioned – blocks against Blacks actually owning the banks).  This is something of which we all need to be aware, and which is never taught in economics classes.   However, the author calls for restitution in a way with which I disagree.  He calls for direct payments to Black families from whites, whom he regards as thieves.  “Yes, all white people.”  Whites, he says, have benefited from things such as good schools paid for by Black taxes, and as such, all white people need to pay restitution.  First, to be a thief requires the intent to steal.  Our children and most common white people have no such intent; there is often even no awareness, not through the fault of these people, but through the fault of an accepted system.  In addition, even though there is a certain poetic justice in stripping whites of money and benefits and giving those to Blacks, it simply reverses the racism; it does not correct it.  The concept of racism still exists, even though the beneficiaries have changed.  The concept of reparations also fails to include Native Americans and Hispanics and others who have been stolen from or repressed.  The elite on the top still enjoy the wealth and power and still continue to plunder the system.  

If we are to correct the system which has deprived many of us of opportunities and the means of healthy existence and the benefits of our labor and creativity, and which has blocked us from effective power to make the rules of the system, then it will take the efforts of all of us – Black and white, Native and Hispanic and Asian and Islamic and every other category into which the system has relegated us.  We must work together as allies, not divided and arguing about who owes what to whom.  We must put our experiences and intelligences together to create a new system that works for all who will participate, and which also supports the planet on which we live.  We need to drop both the concept of race and also the idea that many still harbor that some people are better than other people and that we cannot trust those who are different from ourselves.   We must also drop the concept that there is not enough for all and that we must compete, creating haves and have nots.   It is a time for coming together and creating the new; it is not enough to attack the top and dismantle it.  We must create a new way of being to replace what currently exists.   This requires the cooperation of all of us.

Let us all look carefully at the assumptions and emotions that keep us apart, whether those be racism, fear, anger or even greed.  Let us recognize these for what they are, lay them aside, and give ourselves fully to acting as a member of the human community.  Let us build systems that work for all and hold in respect the Earth on which we live and the denizens with whom we share our lives.  Covid-19 is not the real enemy; it is a mighty distraction attempting to protect what is by keeping us from uniting to do what we need to do.  We do not have to be distracted.

Peace, Diane

Gratitude and Compassion

I grew up believing in the importance of giving, expressed both as putting forth energy to be productive and as charity by donation of time and resources to others in need.  I was taught that giving is greater than receiving, to always go the extra mile (being productive so that others would recognize my value), to exert effort to achieve and to maintain, and that giving is a position of power.  Sharing with siblings and others was also a given – it was “wrong” to withhold.  The best people were always givers.

In contrast, there was a certain shadow around the act of receiving.  We were made aware that, quite possibly when we received something, someone else had gone without.  There was guilt attached.  We were indebted to the giver and must always remember the person who had been kind enough to give something to us.  Often, that meant giving in to or obeying the giver.  Receiving implied that we were lacking or needy.  There was shame attached.  To accept charity was considered shameful. 

It was okay to “get” – especially if one was a boy.  “Getting” was a means to have what one needed or wanted by competing with others and putting out effort to achieve.  It was a way for goods and energy and esteem to come in other than by receiving without putting out the usually competitive effort.  It was a way of providing for oneself (and one’s family) without admitting any need for the help of others.  One earned what one had; therefore, it was not a gift.  We were to cultivate the qualities of self-reliance, rather than exhibit any kind of need, including politely refusing assistance when we could Although competition to “win” was encouraged, taking something away (as in snatching or stealing or deceiving) from someone else was not.   We should earn everything we got.

The result was an imbalance; it is an imbalance many of us share.  Our culture is more individualistic; it emphasizes self-reliance, pulling oneself up by the bootstraps.  The concept of cooperation is there, but the society itself is not particularly cooperative.  Most of us are familiar with giving, either as a duty or a self-esteem enhancing act, but do not know what it is to simply receive.  We are either one-sided, or we practice neither giving nor receiving very well.  

Here is a secret; giving and receiving are the heads and tails of the same coin.  One cannot give unless one has something one has first received to be given; the act of true giving opens one to receiving.  It is circular.  

Saints and sages, masters and mystics have for as long as people can remember exalted the qualities of gratitude and compassion.  The spiritually adept of all religions have practiced them, understanding that the qualities of gratitude and compassion are intimately connected.  They are on the same continuum.  Compassion is giving love in action; gratitude is opening oneself with love to receive.  It is not possible to practice compassion for long without also receiving, being filled with not only the motivating love to give, but also with the resources to do the giving.  Receiving money, one can give money; receiving skills, one can use those talents to help others; receiving knowledge or understanding, one can share those with others.   It is a circle, a continuous exchange within life.  We give, and we are given to.

When we look upon receiving as shameful, we block the flow of life through us.  I am deliberately using the term “receiving” as opposed to demanding, taking, feeling entitled to, or amassing.   Receiving is humble and relaxed, requiring no struggle to “get”.  It is trusting that the Universe, God, the One will provide what is needed, and then being open to perceive that we are being given to.  The trust and the perception are the basis of gratitude, the feeling of joy and well-being at being provided for.   We cannot be grateful if we do not perceive that we are being given to, or if we do not trust in that provision.

Mother Teresa is more known by what she gave to others.  Less is known about her trust and her acknowledgement that she was indeed provided for.  Somehow, what she needed would always come to her so that she could, in turn, give to others.  The circle was intact.

Giving, too, is a humble action.  Giving in order to increase one’s power or the esteem in which one is held or to increase our own inflow is not true giving, no matter the amount that may be put out.  Giving to charity intentionally in such a way that the gift is actually an investment which comes back in the form of increasing profits for companies in which one is invested is not really giving.  It is business.  True giving regards the gift as simply belonging to the receiver; it is a natural reaction to feeling compassion or a concern with justice.  It does not take a great deal of effort to do.

As a culture, we seem to lack the humility and the communal consciousness which allow us to receive, and to perceive those blessings with gratitude.  This weakness results in difficulty with true giving, skewing many of our gifts to be those which increase our power, are meant to increase our esteem in the eyes of others, or to return profit to us.  Lack of the ability to feel gratitude also limits our compassion.

Change starts in the present moment.  Now is the time to turn our attention to cultivating the ability to feel and express gratitude, while simultaneously keeping our eyes upon the quality of our compassion.  The world needs both if it and we, too, are to grow.  Our individual practice and mastery of gratitude and compassion are essential. They are a component of the growing world to come.

Peace, Diane

Regaining Our Connection

The news was on in the background as I worked on my computer, proceeding as news normally does, when my ears picked up some words that did not at all sound like what is regularly on the news.  It sounded more like a part of a science fiction show, or perhaps a section of a movie about healing via a strange version of the esoteric.   I focused and was astounded by what I saw (although I admit that afterwards I laughed at the absurdity).  An elderly woman, ostensibly a doctor, was passionately warning people to make sure God was watching when they had intercourse to make sure that they were not sleeping with spirits and demons (which was the cause of illness) and that vaccines were made with alien DNA.  Was this really a news program??  It was, and this was the person with whom Trump wishes to replace the current senior advisor on the pandemic, Dr. Fauci.  Replace Dr. Fauci with a witch doctor????   (Not to be confused with shamans, who are sane.) Alice in Wonderland had just expanded exponentially.  I have my reservations about vaccines, especially about the designer vaccine being hurriedly developed to ward off the Coronavirus, but I am certain the vaccine has not been made with alien DNA.

The news is also telling us that we need to come together to defeat the virus.  This is partly true.  However, the news puts out mixed messages about connecting with each other.  It says we should stay connected virtually and by acts of charity performed within the parameters of distancing, connecting at a surface level but continuing to wear masks and stay in our houses, or at least six feet away from each other.  I believe the reasoning is that if we do this, we will feel satisfied, rather than isolated from each other.  People do not like to be deprived of touch and of proximity.  Despite the surface nature of its pronouncement, the news is not incorrect in this matter.  We do need to connect, more than virtually, more than just sharing a meal outside a restaurant at tables six feet apart.

 I am not talking about being sheep in a herd, led by the latest official direction and pressure from the bandwagon.  People who connect respect the individuality of each other; they listen and discuss; they cooperate without pressuring each other to conform. For example, whatever I may think of masks, it does not hurt me to wear one either out of concern for the safety of others or simply to refrain from adding to the already overwhelming anxiety that many people feel.  Being vaccinated with a vaccine I do not think is safe and doubt is effective or being tracked to ensure that I get vaccinated is a completely different matter.  There is a difference between radical cooperation and tyranny.  We need to come together in cooperation at a deeper level, to sustain each other, to survive as a species and to influence the evolution of events towards a healed Earth,  disease-free living, and a just, compassionate and respectful social and economic order.

One concept we have for a long time been taught is that life is competitive; it is everyone for him/herself and for his/her immediate family.  Our schools, with their system of grades, are built that way.  The economic inequality we currently experience is built on a foundation of competition, winner take all.  Now that we are faced with the challenge of the pandemic (and also the ongoing challenge of an ever-warming Earth), we seem unable to come together to solve it using the standard competitive paradigm.

To achieve the deep cooperation we need is a major undertaking.  We once had that kind of cooperation, when people lived in tribes, or even in small neighborhoods, and worked together for the benefit of all.  Sure, there were disagreements then, but the disagreements were not allowed to destroy the well-being of the whole.  In various ways, the community would help the members who were at odds with each other work out their differences in ways that allowed life to go on.   We have lost that.   Now we have competition, fights, wars, winners, losers, and increasing chaos.   The mainly competitive path is not working. 

To succeed in reclaiming cooperation between ourselves, we must change the directive which instructs us that life is every man or woman for himself or herself, and that we need to defeat someone else in order to be successful or happy.  We have to give up some of our defining individualism, sacrificing some of it to the benefit of the whole.  No, our individual identities will not go away completely.  We are, after all, each unique, each an irreplaceable individual.  The value of our talents, though, must be geared towards helping the other unique individuals with whom we live.  The community supports us; we support the community.  That is the essence of cooperation.  We work together towards what we all in our wisdom perceive to be the best.  That is quite different than a government, or corporations, deciding what is best and giving us the illusion that if we just do it their way, we may manage to succeed, and life will be good for some of us at least.

Cooperative community is the way of the future.  It is in process; the substance is still evolving.  In community, each voice is heard, and time is taken to reach consensus.  Consensus is possible because people have learned to listen, and to discuss their differences and respect another’s stance without needing to feel that they have ‘won’. People work with and support each other.  The wisdom of even a few is not only heard but incorporated into consensus decisions.   Because the process takes time, the pace is slower, less frenzied.   This is new to us; if there are even distant memories of how it was, we still need to learn or relearn the patterns.  However, this ‘road less taken’ is the one that can lead us into a healed, peaceful world, prosperous equally for all.

Now is the time for change; now is the time for action.  If we shy away from this deeper working together, we are abdicating any influence we might have on what evolves.  Do we wish to live in the world some distant authority prescribes for us?  We can see the beginning of that now.   Let us pause now to think, to come together, to know each other as the wonderful, creative people we are at heart, and to use our combined talents to build a world in which we wish to live.

Peace, Diane