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

Surface and Depth

 Surface and Depth

Last week, for the first time since March, I was able to go to my Tai Chi class in person.  There were only 4 people there; we kept distance and were masked, following the official pandemic protocols.   Even so, being able to do the form along with other people in real time, to talk in person, unmediated by machine, and to simply sense each other’s presence was a poignant reminder of something slightly suppressed but not forgotten and for which most of us long – being in community with other people in the way people were created to be. 

The sudden advent of the virus, the avalanche of change in reaction to it, and the subsequent rapid chaos has made the apparently mutating virus and the responses to it difficult to understand.  Even though we may understand the opportunities the virus has opened by unmasking the need to make social changes, even though we are cognizant of the relationship between the virus and our own part in the increasingly rapid progress of the death of the planet, even though we have observed the continued predilection for war and concern for individual benefit when many others suffer – even though we may be aware of the connectedness of all things, there is something not quite right about the way this virus is being handled.  It is hard to finger exactly what, but the sense is there.

Most obvious is that people are being asked to change their behavior into patterns for which humans are not designed.  Humans were never meant to exist distant from each other, masked as if the other might harm, not trusting and out of fear putting social pressure on each other to conform.  How are we expected to cooperate with each other (such as agreeing to wear masks as a communal practice) if we are told to stay apart, peppered with fear from media, told our very surroundings may make us ill, hampered in communication, and, basically held in isolation?  Fear is being used to make sure the majority comply.    Something is fishy here.   Is fear not the means used to keep populations stable under a quite different kind of government than we have assumed is ours?  So, we have first required unnatural behavior and next, rule by fear.

We hear a lot about staying healthy by wearing masks and avoiding each other, or by frequently scrubbing any available surface.  We hear that we have hope of health because a vaccine will soon be readily available.  It is good to maintain hygiene, and people do need hope even if there are questions about time for testing of new forms of vaccines and questions about related topics such as the effectiveness of related flu vaccines, given that those viruses tend to mutate, too.  However, where is the information on how to strengthen the innate human immunity or to use the plants found in nature for immune support?  They seem mutually supportive approaches with the masking, distancing, scrubbing and prospective vaccines.  Do those in authority not want us to know about those, or do they want us to consider them inferior to the approved and supported approaches?

There is also a strangeness in the response to economic effects created by requiring people to stay apart.   Small businesses are the most effected.  Small businesses are the lifeblood of a free, cooperative, and resilient population.   Yet, which businesses are going under, some perhaps unable to open again?  It is the small businesses; the corporations are somehow getting enough bailout support to carry them through the crisis.   It is the poor and the small who seem to be getting a choice between death by virus or death by economic decimation.  It is though the destruction of existing society (including major social institutions) were a goal, in favor of an order favoring even further the entrenched privileged.    Yes, the social order we have had has major flaws and needs re-structuring; but is the vectoring towards the upper few the direction in which we want the change to go?

Then there is the prolongation of the situation.  Yes, there is the explanation that it is because of the people who would not comply, and because of incompetent political leadership, even because the virus itself is mutating and re-infecting people.   Those would seem to be reasonable explanations, except that it is highly suggestive of scapegoating – the effort to point the finger elsewhere so as to not have to look at what really is.  Notice also that the fear in the media is increasing – the virus is reported to be more and more deadly and contagious, something we need to fear even more deeply, as if we were not already enough afraid.  Yet an equally dangerous, if even more deadly situation is not even being mentioned – the rapid increase in climate change and direct destruction of our planet, as pollution, soil destruction, CO2 emissions, and waste continue.  The response to the virus is even exacerbating them, such as the increased use of single use plastics.

What we are encouraged to trust is communication technology – internet, social media, email, texts, smart phones, and the like.  Marvelous as the technology is, it is certainly not the natural way to be, human communication mediated by machine.  Many, though, have learned to consider it as natural, to even be more comfortable communicating that way than in person.  The attitude apparently is to not question the situation because we have the technology to turn to.  But is the technology as trustworthy as it seems we are supposed to believe?   There are the scammers and hackers which prey upon the users of technology, targeting the unwary and those not up to par on computer security.  They may be criminals, and they may also be those who want to know what we are thinking so that they may target ads to us.  They are the surface.  Artificial intelligence has made it far easier for our life’s data to be collected, stored, and used to entice, manipulate, or perhaps even punish us.  Use of sophisticated technology is being considered to ensure that we all get vaccinated, whether or not we feel the vaccine itself is trustworthy; in addition to being vaccinated, it is proposed that we be tracked.  Ostensibly, the tracking is to ensure vaccine compliance, but such systems are certainly capable of following people wherever they go, watching with whom they associate, what they say, and perhaps what they think or feel.   Is this the society in which we wish to live?

There are more questions than answers.   Yes, there is a virus pandemic, and precautions need be taken.  Even with consensus on that condition, however, there is a sense that more is underfoot than a pandemic.  It is worth paying attention to.  While we are dealing as best we can with the virus and attempting to stay afloat as we navigate the extant chaos, we need also to maintain an awareness that more may be going on than obviously meets the eye.  Maintaining awareness is the price of retaining choices.  May we all learn to touch the deeper consciousness of the gathering forces and processes endeavoring to change our world, so that we may be able to choose between them and grow to realize our ability to use our choices to shape a world in which we wish to live.

Peace, Diane

A Call to Community

Wisdom tells us that the present is the only reality.  The past is gone, the future not yet here.  Thus, a snapshot of the present is the clearest truth.  The rest is memory or guesswork.   Currently, my state of Virginia has just gone into stage 3 of opening its economy, which had been closed by the Coronavirus.   Other states are in various stages of re-opening.  Yes, the virus is still being transmitted, but the consensus seems to be that if the states do not open their economies, we can choose between death from Coronavirus or death from deceased economies.  Most states have added precautionary regulations to their re-opening plans.  Some states are more consistent about enforcement than others.  Many people are rejoicing, seeing a return to “normal”, or the way things used to be before the virus.  Others are reserving their joy, maintaining a ‘wait and see” attitude. There is no consensus.

In true Alice in Wonderland fashion, events keep happening and creating chaos.  Given, needed changes can emerge out of chaos.  Ending racism, economic justice, and climate change are three of them currently in the news; others, such as restorative agriculture and abolishing war seem to garner less attention now.  No one really knows what will happen.  The only development with some certainty is that the “normal” of before the coronavirus is gone and will not return.   The new normal is yet unformed but will be different than before.

There are predictions by pundits of oncoming catastrophes of one kind or another that will inform the new normal.  One such prediction is economic collapse; the dollar will lose its value, there will be massive inflation and disruption to supply lines, creating shortages of foods, medicines, supplements (and maybe more toilet paper).  Another is a physical calamity, such as an EMP, or the sabotage of the power grid, or perhaps earthquakes or volcanic eruptions.   Yet another is the advent of massive Big Brother type tyranny, and the digitization of everything, even our bodies, so that we and everything else can be tracked.  A fourth is the effects of climate change, such as droughts, storms, floods, and dwindling water tables.  Each prediction has its reasons, and they can be investigated online. Some may happen, in full or part, and some may not.  Or, the other extreme, none of these things will happen and we will somehow attain a utopian society without much effort at change-making.  Whatever happens, it will not be the same as pre-Coronavirus.

Many of those who see catastrophes happening are busy preparing silently for the difficulties they foresee.   Most of this prepping is done individually by families who prepare for themselves, in as much detail as they can.  A few groups prepare together.  An underlying theme is that there will be chaos, and everyone will have to fend for himself/his family amidst looting and violence.  Cooperation is not the largest goal.  The thrust is to have as much of everything necessary or desired for oneself and one’s family and protect that from the envisioned chaos.

There is wisdom in being prepared, and perhaps the anticipated chaos will occur, although that cannot be known for certain.   What is missing, so far as I can see, is the element of community, cooperation and sharing.  This used to be a part of the lives of our ancestors, whether those in tribes or neighborhoods or frontier homesteads.  One cooperated and shared with one’s neighbors and hosting a stranger with generosity was a virtue.  We seem to have lost this in modern times.  It is not that there was no struggle; tribes and homesteaders fought, and neighborhoods tended to be of people who had known each other for a while.  However, the concepts of the virtues of cooperation and sharing were there.

We need to recapture these virtues if we are to create a new normal that is nurturing for people.  We need to expand these virtues, extending them to others who are different.  We need to combine our skills, wisdom, and energy to create a new normal in which all of us can live with dignity, exercise our creativity, be assured that our world will not poison us and that there will be enough food, shelter, water, clothes, medicine, education and the like for all who are open to receiving it.  That cannot be legislated from above.  It must come from people changing their own hearts and attitudes and working together cooperatively to create these conditions.  We need to recapture the attitude of community.

Communities, of whatever flavor, such as tribe, neighborhood, extended family, intentional community, are self-governing groups of people, from, say, 10 or 15 to as many as say, 50 (there is no set number, other than that which is workable for the group in its entirety) who commit to helping and supporting each other, working together, and who have the intent of staying together over time.  They occupy land of various acreages (some are rural, some urban) and are often self-sustaining.  They tend to be cognizant of the needs of the earth and the non-human life which inhabits it, and work in cooperation with those needs.   Generally, they govern themselves by consensus.  This contrasts with what now exists (and is in chaos) such as nations, states, counties, and other large units using forms of governance which are top heavy and authoritarian.  Voting still exists, but direct participation of the governed is rare.  People usually tend to look out for themselves and their families, embracing an ethos of competition and a race to the top or a sinking to the bottom.  Resources are indisputably unevenly distributed; those at the bottom often do not have enough.  The needs of the earth and other creatures go unseen or are neglected, following the apparent belief that the entire Earth and its resources are there simply to serve the needs and convenience of humanity.  (Some human beings were once held in slavery on plantations under a similar assumption.)

What now exists does not seem to be working very well.

Examples of how a modern community can function exist.  These extant communities show that people are truly able to come together and create successful community not only now, but also more prevalently into the future.  Like-minded people tend to gather into communities with others who hold similar values.  They are also willing to allow other groups their own values and beliefs.   Other than not attacking and harming one another, they recognize structures which are different from their own.  They also recognize the value and the right to continue living of the Earth and the plants and other animals who inhabit the Earth along with us.   Their ability to use communal wisdom enhances their ability to live in general harmony with the Earth and with each other. This is a summary; details can be found online at www.fic.org , for one, and also from many books written on the topic, including a directory of communities worldwide, available through www.fic.org .

We need now to examine how such a lifestyle might be possible for us.  Yes, there are difficulties to overcome; they are difficulties inherent in ourselves as people of a dominant and prosperous culture.  For example, we need to be less dependent on being right, on being one up on another, of being dependent on having many things, of tending to argue rather than try to reach agreement.  We can choose to overcome these difficulties and learn to truly cooperate, or we can carry our current stances into our demise.  The Earth will not choose to die so we can continue to be “right” until the end.  Even if the Earth did so choose, the death of the world which sustains us is also our own death.   Community is our hope; it is people working together, as cooperative units, to learn to heal the Earth and to give value and sustenance to every living being on the Earth.   People, is it harder to learn these things, or to continue to struggle with the chaos around us as we refuse to change?  Neither will be easy, but I do believe that the former will be exponentially more satisfying.

Let us now, before it is too late, to ponder the changes that need to be made, and the ineffectiveness of top-heavy government to make those changes.  We cannot avoid individual responsibility.  The struggle and chaos of the virus have given us our second chance.  Let us examine the format of cooperative community as a supportive medium in which to make these changes.  Let us research websites, read books and talk to those who have already made community, and then talk with each other about how we might do the same.    It is time.   We need community if we ourselves are to survive.  The whole supports the many, and the many support the whole.

Peace, Diane

Be the Change; the Way of Love

For more than a week now, the death of George Floyd via police brutality and the resulting widespread, vocal, and persistent call for police reform and the end of racism has pre-empted the prioritized space of the Covid-19 in the news.  Most of the protests have been peaceful; some have been violent and destructive.  Protests have been held in small town parks and cities worldwide.  Protests are still continuing, politicians have weighed in with their stances, and proposals have been put forth for completely eliminating the police, to demilitarizing the police, to more anti-racial attitude training.  Serious thought is also being given to increased funds being allocated to issues such as homelessness, mental health, food deserts, education disparity, and other issues which effect the poor, but mainly the poor of color.  We have yet to see if any or what will be a permanent outcome.

Protests are necessary, but they are only the beginning of change.   They serve to wake people up, to make as many as possible aware of the change that is needed and desired.  That is as far as they go; protests are dramatic, but they do not in themselves create change.   Political action and legislation can be helpful, but they, too, are limited.  Legislation can control specific actions, such as stopping for a red light.  It cannot govern attitudes, thoughts, and emotions, such as road rage.  For permanent change to occur, the perceptions, thoughts, attitudes, and emotions of people must change.  These are what underlie conditions; they create the conditions that the protests and laws are trying to change, and they create the change.   Negative emotional pressure, such as guilt, shame and fear cannot alter underlying conditions; in fact, they reinforce them.  Logic can inspire people to want to change, but the change must come from inside people themselves.   Change is truly a grassroots endeavor.

Most of us are familiar with the adage, “Be the change you want to see.”  Jay Shetty, in an interview in the September/October 2019 issue of Unity Magazine, explains, “When you start with being, you end up doing more effectively, but when you start with doing, you sacrifice being.  Everything is a byproduct of being.”   He advocates making to-be lists, rather than to-do lists.    Achievements, then, flow not from what is done, but from the being that underlies them.  The concept is not too difficult to understand; the application, however, can be a bit more confounding.
For example, it can be quite clear that one’s home needs organizing, but understanding what it means to be the organization, to be organized, is a bit less clear.  Being organized does not come from doing organizing; it is the other way around.  Yes, one can require oneself to do some organizing, and even achieve the result of an organized house.   However, if the being organized is not there, the result does not last.   Exactly how to change oneself from not being organized to being organized is still a mystery to me.  However, I know it does not come from shaming or guilting myself for disorder or fearing judgments or results of the disorder.  I can accept the logical desirability of being organized, and on rare occasions can even feel organized for a short while, but I have not yet learned to make organizing a central part of my being.  (It is also a virtue to be able to respond spontaneously, even in no visible organized order.)

To return to the topic of social order and social change, let’s pick three topics to explore.  Racism, the underlying motivator of “Black Lives Matter”, the practice of war, and the restoration of life and health to our Earth are three good examples.

Given that the more gradual method of being the change is the surest way of making lasting change, how would we proceed to change subconscious institutionalized racism into a social construct supporting the humanity of all and granting an equal status to both the needs of all and the peaceful expressions of all? How could we change our own being in such a way as to support the larger change we wish to see?   Perhaps, if one is white or of a group perceived as privileged, one way would be to make a true friendship with someone who is black or of another color.  By this, I do not mean befriending someone who is black.  That is the stance of the privileged helping the lesser person.  It is not bad to befriend someone, but that will not end racism.  By friendship, I mean becoming vulnerable to that person, in an equal emotional relationship.  Becoming a true friend means hearing the hurts and anger of the other person without judging, and appreciating even if not participating in the cultural expression of that person.  It means taking joy in the achievements of that person, and letting that person know of your joy.  It means accepting and acknowledging help from that person, as well as enjoying activities together.  It means feeling the human connection between you and recognizing the dignity of the other.  It means learning to love the other.   Conversely, if one is black (or of another underprivileged group), it means setting aside the assumption that someone who is white is not trustworthy (a kind of reverse racism when broadly applied) and making a true friendship with someone who is white.  In the movie Remember the Titans, the coach understood this when he integrated the team.   It is this kind of thing, multiplied many times over, that will bring about lasting change.  I think it has already begun.

War has plagued humanity since tribal groups encountered each other and competed for what were perceived to be scarce resources.  Over the lifetime of humanity, war has increased in virulence until it now can destroy not only humanity but Earth itself.   It is time for this to change – but how?  Agreements and treaties have been made, but because the underlying perceptions have not changed, the treaties have been manipulated, ignored, broken and betrayed innumerable times. That method is not viable.  War persists, more destructive weapons are developed and distributed, and more people are being trained to kill.  Here is something many people do not know; in order to be able to kill another human being without overwhelming damage to oneself, one must first become convinced that the ‘other’ is somehow less human than himself.   Boot camp sergeants are well aware of this.  The soldiers in any one army are taught that the soldiers in the other army, the ‘enemy’, are somehow less human than themselves, and permission is given to kill them.  This is the underlying assumption – that the ‘other’ is evil, barbaric, dangerous or in some way lesser, and therefore, it is OK to kill him and take what he has.  How, then, would one who wishes to transform war into peace go about this Herculean task?  How can one be peace, on a deep level?  It is easy to see how this is related to the root of racism – the idea that another human can be less human, less valuable than oneself.   Being friends with an enemy is certainly a possibility; there are stories about this which involve almost any war.  But the instances are presented as exceptions, not the rule.  In addition, the “enemy” keeps changing, depending on the era and the circumstances.  Somehow, we must give up judging the other entirely, give up the idea that we are better or more valuable than anyone else. On a personal level, this would mean not judging the person one considers to be one’s worst enemy or biggest threat.  It would involve not wrong making the backbiter who one perceives is destroying one’s reputation, or the one who cheated to get the higher grade on the test or the desired promotion.  It would mean finding compassion in one’s heart for such a person.  That is a tall order, but it is the underpinning of lasting peace.  Be the peacemaker, be peace; do not expect a government to negotiate and implement lasting peace without the underlying change in the majority of people, starting with oneself.

Healing our Earth is now of critical importance, to the extent that the survival of our own species is at risk if we do not do it.  The topic has been discussed, debated, and pronounced upon for nearly a century without any appreciable progress being made.  Yes, protests are held, activists are persistent, volunteers plant trees and examples have been made by communities who have discovered sustainable living.  Laws have been created and rescinded.  Yet, the Earth is in even more danger than before.  How can one be the change of a healed Earth?  Everyone can do something – even small children can raise their voices and remind adults of what needs to be done.  How, though, can we be the change?  Others wiser than I may have better answers, but it seems to me that the start of being the change of a healed Earth is to love that Earth – to spend time in nature, to enjoy and appreciate wildlife, to treat the Earth with respect, as one would a friend, to feel the earth under bare feet, to feel the energy of the Earth inside oneself.    How can one be the change of something of which one is unaware?  Secondly, a being agent of change would mean looking upon the Earth with the vision of Earth in its state of glorious wholeness, as a lover looks upon the face of the beloved in all its perfection.  The objections to the perfection – the scars of pollution on the Earth, for example, or the blemishes on the face of the beloved, would not be the central focus of perception.  That does not mean an unawareness of what needs healing; it means the vision would not be of the wounds, but of the wholeness.  We need more people who can do and are willing to do this.  No, the being is not the doing; it is the wellspring of the doing.  When we can be the change, the steps will be taken and the change will be done, and it will be lasting.

For most of us, this being is difficult; for many, it is also counterintuitive.  We have been trained to accomplish, to do.  It is time, now that doing has seemed to accomplish little, to raise our awareness to the level of being, and to begin our creations there.  It would seem to me that the level of being is also the level of love – not romance, but that love which considers the other as equal to and at one with oneself.  The time is now to go within and call upon this awareness.  In this way, we can make lasting desired change.

Peace, Diane