Form and Content

There is an old idiom, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” It derives from the times in which people drew water, heated it, put it in tubs to bathe, and then tossed it out when the bathing was done. It means to retain the old values, those handed down from millennia, as the forms of things are so rapidly changing. The “baby” is the eternal values, the “bathwater” is the forms that no longer work. I am passionate about this. Of course, the forms need to change. If they did not, there would be no growth, and no growth means the end, death. However, that does not mean also abandoning the values and truths that those forms contained.  One of the areas in which the baby is in danger is religion.

 Religion is under attack.   Although no one has proposed to abolish the First Amendment,  laws are being advanced which require people to pay for and participate in actions which are contrary to their beliefs, and the public viewpoint of those who express religious beliefs is that these people are racist, biased, ignorant, possibly violent, and utterly unfit to hold public office; those who are supported by religious people are also deemed less desirable for office, as they are seen as being influenced by religious positions.  The worst examples of those who claim to be religious are publicized.

Religion has a bad name with people who see religion as harmful, the cause of societal ills, and who choose to be either agnostic/atheist, or “spiritual” but claim no form and often no company or group/congregation.  Religion is also under attack by the state, which would like to see all people believe and act the same because it is easier to govern that way. The state insists that any kind of religion not interfere with what the state says is right to do. Both, I believe, are confused.

Religion consists of two aspects, form, and content. Form is the structures in the physical world which define the expression of the content. Form codifies how a given people perceive and how they are urged to act upon the underlying aspects they perceive as eternal.  Forms are human and belong to the physical world. Forms are many and varied and sadly, their adherents often tend to quarrel about which one is better.  Forms are human;  they exist in time and space and are amenable to the effects of each.

Content is the core reality, the unembodied source that form encodes.  It is that core which mystics, saints, seers, master shamans, prophets, and bodhisattvas understand and have borne witness to for eons. Content is universal and crosses all expressions.  Content is not judgment, punishment, or condemnation.  It is loving, in an eternal sense.  Content belongs to the realm which has no boundaries of time or space. Content is like water or air – here on Earth, it needs a structure or form to contain it. Therefore, in the physical world, forms, or practices, have been made to hold it. Some forms have lasted longer than others. Some forms have also altered over time, even shifting shape from the basic content they were designed to hold. Of course, change is necessary – but so also is continuity.

Many people profess a form and are sometimes quite active in it and devoted to it and are good people. Yet, if all they have is form, and they do not understand or connect with content, what they have is essentially an empty vessel. It is no longer the whole.  An empty vessel, an empty form, is simply that. It is not religion as a whole.   Empty form is not connected with the core which gives it meaning, and thus can draw people into conflicts, judging and behavior oppressive of others. 

Some people have an understanding only of content – those who are “spiritual” without having either a private or collective form or practice in which to contain their content. For these, over time, the content tends to dissipate, as will air or water not in containers. These folks may have touched the essence of being and been thereby enriched, but without a container, a form, a practice, the essence will not be enduring for them.

There are many forms. Try the names of all the world’s religions. Privately created and regularly practiced forms are still others.   Positioning forms as subservient to the state, or trying to eradicate them, serves to weaken that which contains the content.  The content is essential to our survival and the survival of our planet.  Happily, more and more people are beginning to seek for and connect with eternal content to fill their forms, private or communal.

There is no need to ban or weaken religion.  There is also no need to agitate for the forms of one religion over another, or for the prevalence of the one position of the state.   There are win-win solutions if we only look for them. Each faith form is an expression, in a different language, of the same essential and ethereal content.  Better to recognize and respect all the forms and focus ourselves on perceiving and understanding the universal content and striving to live our lives accordingly.    That is progress, not the requirement of the state (or, in a theocracy, one form which is the state) for all to think and act the same.

It is time for people to come together in cooperation and respect, and to heal the Earth and ourselves with understanding and the creative energy from which we draw our being.   It is counterproductive to expect others to express their understandings in the same way we do, or to have the state decide and regulate expression of the truth.

Peace, Diane

Transition

Transition

A long time ago, I was told, “Do not be afraid of the spaces between existences (times of transition).  It will feel like you are dying, but you are not.”  I recall those nearly forgotten words now.

We are in a time of transition, one which affects us all and the Earth itself.  No matter the culture or philosophy one follows, a transition is a time of collapse or tearing down what exists – a time of chaos – and rebuilding in a new direction.  Women who have gone through childbirth are in an excellent place to understand this.  Childbirth involves pain and stress for both mother and child, although the memory of it fades as mother and child become bonded in a new way.  It is the tearing down of what was – one forming body existing inside another body – and a rebuilding in a new way, mother and child separated and unique but still bonded.  It can be a dangerous time, but still a time of great promise and blessing.  We are in such a time now, socially in relation to each other, and physically in relation to our Earth.  The outcome of this time depends on how we can connect with our spiritual roots and create with the energy we receive.

Some of us are longing for the time that was, and believe that if all of us just obey strictly the official rules, we can return to that time with which we were familiar and things will be the same as before.  Within that group, there is an almost desperate adamancy that everyone should obey official directions and behave consistently in lockstep; there is no space for disagreement.  These are the people that accost others in parking lots for not wearing masks, or who reprimand people in stores who stand a few inches off the six-feet marks.  They tend to speak in heroic terms of those who are telling us the rules. There is certainly value in consistency and cooperation, but this premise of mandatory sameness as a way of return to the past leads only to disappointment and more desperation.  We cannot return to the time that was.   It has retreated into the past and has already morphed into memory.  It had to go.  This is a time of transition.

There are also those – perhaps the majority of us – who are unsure if draconian rules are really necessary and are not sure if the virus – the precipitator of the transition – is as deadly as it is reported to be.  However, in the midst of chaos, feelings of exhaustion and a certain jadedness leave them too tired to make effort to change things.  These of us are content to ride things out and accept whatever may emerge.  There is a tendency here to hide one’s head in the sand, ostrich-like, and simply refuse to believe that what emerges can be anything else but acceptable.  Doesn’t humanity have all this wonderful technology to save us?   Haven’t things always settled down before?  The weak point here is apathy. The tendency is to follow along wherever we are led (which is usually by other humans).  That tendency leaves us quite vulnerable to anything that may come along, even things that may be regretted later.

Then there are those who are quite aware of the processes of using energy, and who see in this crisis of transition an opportunity to create something profitable for themselves.  These are usually people already in some position of power, often silent power, such as corporate and banking millionaires (I will not categorize by saying all), scientific masters at subduing nature, popular or Machiavellian political personages, even those who wear the mantle of philanthropy.  They are the forces behind the push for mandatory masks, universal vaccination with digital tracking, more use of technology to capture our actions, thoughts, health and finances, and A1 controlled social systems.    Although the central focus is, “What’s in it for me?”  (and that focus will be denied if challenged) they possess a refined knowledge of negotiation and collaboration among themselves.  They are powerful, and actively try to create what they want.

Among us are also those who engage in vigorous, visible and often violent resistance to what they understand lies beneath stories in the news and on the internet and the rules formed ostensibly to control the spread of the virus and create compliance within society as a whole.  “We have to prevent chaos,” the enforcers of law and order may say, but chaos is an integral part of transition.  The protestors see what may be coming; they see that what very possibly may be created is contrary to what most of us, awake or not, value and want.  They take to the streets, march and perhaps riot. They may attack those they see as the oppressors, use strong language, directly confront the wrongs they see, and try in any way they can to oppose.  They do not understand the energy.  Protests are initially useful to call attention to something; after that, they simply reinforce what we do not want.   The focus on the protest donates energy to the thing one is protesting.  It would be better to focus on creating and modeling the change which is desired.

Yet another group – few but growing – either possess or are quickly learning the skill of dancing with the ineffable energy which surrounds us all and from which we emerge.  These fellow humans recognize what is going on and are aware of the dangers humanity may be facing as a result of the outcome of the transition.  However, because they understand creative energy, life force, they refuse to donate energy to those things by giving them their attention.  They recognize what currently exists – the chaos and transition and the various energies contained within it – but refuse to join the worry about it.  This is different from the group that is too jaded to act, but who still maintain a level of worry.  This last group understands the necessity of remaining as upbeat as possible, and of responding with as much love and non-judgment as they can.  That doesn’t mean that they agree with everything or that they think anything goes. They simply refuse to directly oppose, and instead focus on modeling what they believe to be the most just or loving way they can.  They are also the ones who love the Earth and model what will heal her (and truly, thereby save us).

These are broad categories, and, because everything and everyone does not neatly fit into boxes, they are not strictly definitive.  However, they are good examples of the way various people are responding to the pandemic, the chaos, and the transition.  I think we can each recognize ourselves, at least a little bit, in these extremely broad outlines.   We are all helping to shape what comes from the transition.  There is not one of us who does not affect it.  The final result will emerge from our combined visions and actions, mixed together into a new manifestation.   Much of the result will come from those of us who understand energy; it will be reinforced by the attitudes and actions of those who do not.  Not one of us can truthfully say, “It’s not my responsibility.”  Not one of us can avoid choosing, actively or passively, a path.

Now, when there is time amidst the chaos, let us take time to reflect on the path we are choosing, the results which may emerge from that path, the talents we have and those skills we want or need to learn, who our allies will be, and whether or how we wish to benefit each other and the Earth.

If we do not like what uncover as we reflect, there is time still to consciously change to a stance we would rather have.   We are all able to do this, but releasing apathy is prerequisite to being able to consciously choose or change or create.  Let us wish each other well.

Peace,   Diane

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