Excuses

I have had the joy and privilege of teaching children from preschool
through middle school level.  Often, they have taught me as much as I
have taught them.  And, whereas lesson content is certainly important,
some of the biggest learning is about life itself and interaction with
others.  An example is how willingly preschoolers absorb the simply
paraphrased Golden Rule. 

Another phenomenon is that when children become of an age to undertake homework, a new issue rears its head – the EXCUSE.  Some children love doing homework, and the idea of the excuse does not engage their attention much.  Others, for a number of reasons, definitely do not want to do it, often spending more effort on evading the requirement than they would on actually fulfilling it.  There are many excuses for the undone work, a classic (and not often offered) excuse being,”The dog ate my homework.”  And, of course, there are sometimes quite valid reasons mingled in with the excuses. 

The thing about an excuse is that it does not acknowledge that the homework was not done; instead, it offers apparent and sometimes quite creative reasons why the student should be given credit without doing the homework.  It does not honestly acknowledge that the homework was not done and that therefore there is not credit for doing the homework. (Exceptions/late acceptances may certainly be given for valid reasons that are honest barriers to getting the work which was intended to be accomplished done.)  The excuse is an attempt to avoid the work and also the consequence for not doing the work.

We have a similar situation in our adult world today.  We all – or at least most of us – want a world which is fairer, less violent, more respectful and caring, and more attentive to the needs of our planet and its denizens.  Most of us – but not all – seem to think that it is the job of the government to create and provide this.   The truth is that we are avoiding responsibility.  No government by itself can possibly create a system which is at the same time fairer, less violent, more respectful and caring, and more attentive to the needs of the planet on which we live.  By its nature, the power of government will first be used to secure the power of that government, and after that, whatever causes the government feels it wants to undertake.  True change does not come from the top down; mutual benefit does not come from the top down.   It comes from the bottom up.  Those of us who are expecting the government – either heavy handed or with a light touch – to secure and provide for us those conditions we need for optimal living, without our doing anything much except to obey and condemn those who disagree, are operating under the same illusion as the student who thinks he or she should get credit for undone work if he or she can offer a creative excuse.  We cannot gain from giving away our power and doing nothing.

Change which comes from the bottom up involves each of those whom that change will touch.  Not many of us live all by ourselves in a cave in the mountains.  We will all be touched by changes and doing the work of those changes involves us all.  We can elect the leaders we want, but with election does not come the ability to shoulder the responsibility of each member of the community.  Those who drop their responsibility have not given it to an authority, although they may have given their decision making power away. The responsibility remains, even if ignored.  We can be certain that if we give our power away and ignore our responsibility, we will get changes which are not to our liking.  Politically, true democracy rests on an informed and participating public – not just a leader/leaders and followers who echo what they say.

In order to achieve the goal of a widely participating public, it is necessary to begin listening to each other as opposed to debating, condemning or overpowering each other.  There is what I (and some others) call the “Law of Paradox”, which states, paraphrased, that if one holds in mind two diametrically opposing concepts long enough, one will eventually arrive at the center between them, which is where the truth is most likely to lie.  If one engages in (or writes) a discussion, as opposed to a debate or a persuasive presentation of one side only, one understands and considers BOTH sides.  Usually, one’s conclusion falls somewhere between the two (or more) sides.  However, even if the conclusion reached is strongly on one side of the spectrum, it is ALWAYS influenced by the opposing perspective.   The process is not competitive. What is sought is truth, not simply the power to “win”, to silence that which disagrees with one’s own particular viewpoint.  Rarely, if ever, is this done by big government.  It is, however, exemplified in the consensus decision making process used by many intentional communities.

People, we each have the responsibility to think, to envision, to discuss, to listen and to COOPERATIVELY create the system and environment in which we wish to live, from the grassroots up. (That does not mean giving in, it simply means not insisting on all one’s own way being the only right way, and it means treating the other with loving kindness.) Those of us who neglect to do that are abandoning both themselves and their fellow beings.  The more who give away their power by abandoning it, the less habitable our world will be.   We are currently on the cusp of change; it is time to wake up.  There are limitless excuses for being lazy, for neglecting to do the work required of us.  The excuses will not give us credit for having done the work.  No work means no credit, and results we do not wish to see, about which we may find out too late.

Let us wake up and stop using excuses to try to get what we want.  Let us realize what is being required of us, to cooperatively and respectfully engage in discussion of how to firmly but peacefully make the changes needed to usher us into a new way of being, known for a long time to those willing to listen.  Our humanity and the existence of the planet and all its denizens, including us, depends on that. 

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

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

Grief

We in the United States knew about the new virus called the Covid19, a more virulent variation of the SARS virus, well before we were seemingly suddenly affected.  At least, we had followed its progress in China, and tried pulling our citizens out of China.  We became aware that a cruise ship just off Japan had become affected.  We followed that but did not yet fully understand what was impending.  Seemingly suddenly, in March the virus began to spread – first in Washington State, then on the coasts in general, then over the entire country.  Schools were among the first to shut down.  This was quickly followed by the shutdown of any venue where people might gather – gyms, bars, etc.  Then, full lockdown was instituted in most states, with all but essential businesses closed, and people instructed to stay at home, keeping at least 6 feet between themselves and other human beings (except for the people with whom one lives).  No longer would close human contact be, as usual, a resource for stress and change.  No gatherings of more than 10 people, each 6 feet apart.  The news proceeded to issue running totals of the sick and dead, and to report how the hospitals and clinics were overwhelmed, understaffed, and poorly stocked with needed equipment.   Each day seemed to add a bit more on what we were to do and how dangerous our lives had become.  Fear mounted.   As Sonia Livingstone in YES magazine commented, we had “lost jobs, lost vacations, lost weddings, lost family members.”    Yet, the news says very little about grief.  Most of us are grieving.

The classic stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance, not necessarily in that order.  We deny our losses, saying they are not lost but just on hold for awhile.  We deny the situation, believing that shortly everything will go back to how it was.   We sedate ourselves with emphasis on the advantages of isolation (and there are advantages to slowing down, having time to be, and having time to be with family), trying to tell ourselves how fortunate we are.  We do not acknowledge the losses we have sustained from this virus.  This is denial.

Some of us are angry, and the news media likes this response.  It can be tapped for political reasons, and is sometimes used to deflect responsibility from ourselves by calling it “the Chinese virus” as if that would make it go away.  People who are angry can refuse to comply with distancing instructions or can unleash their fearful anger on others by criticizing and finger pointing.  None of this is helpful; yet, if we do not acknowledge the grief, the anger will not simply disappear.   Everything has suddenly changed; we no longer have the comfort of each other except by machine mediation; we no longer have the sense of being safe in our world; the simplest of tasks, e.g., grocery shopping, has taken on whole new aspects and component details; we have lost the sense of ourselves as productive workers, and some of us have physically lost family members who are no longer with us.  The losses are massive, and, although this particular virus will pass, the world will never be the way it was before.  The grief is also massive, and we need to acknowledge it.

Next, the bargaining; if we are very good and follow the rules, things may go back to the way they were before.  This is a hope, but not a reality.  There are definitely ways we need to change to engender positive outcomes, but just following the rules which keep us safe now are not those ways.   Understand that for a long time we have been inflicting problems and negativity on our planet.   Some of these are war, racism and rejection of the poor and suffering, massive development which destroys the natural habitats of our fellow beings on earth, fossil fuel extraction and burning combined with factory farming, especially CAFOs, which massively increase the pace of global warming, political divisions and feuding, plastic and other pollution, extreme income inequality, the results of global warming, such as increased fires and storms and the resulting suffering.   These actions of ours do not come without consequences.   Viruses thrive in an atmosphere of negativity, and the current state of the Earth is a feast for viruses.  This one may pass, but if we do not change our ways and act in ways that heal our earth and clean up our negativity, viruses will continue to appear and have a virus party at our expense.  These are the things on which we need to focus, rather than on futile attempts to be “good enough” so things will go back to the way they were before.  We can have a positive and wonderful result, but only if we accept that we need to clean up our acts first.

Which brings us to acceptance.  Most of us are not there yet.    Acceptance of what has happened, acceptance of our losses, acceptance of changes made and changes we need to make are what will lead us out of grief to a better situation.   We of course will not forget – one does not forget what was loved but is lost – but we will no longer be in a state of pain and suffering.   If we accept and do the work we need to do, we can transcend the current distress and rise whole from its remains.

We need to become aware of and acknowledge our grief.  We need not be ashamed of the stages of grief we may be experiencing now, but we need to acknowledge them for what they are.   We need to be as gentle as possible with ourselves as we pass through these stages and allow ourselves to feel them.  Unless we feel them, we cannot process them, and we become stuck in our grief.  We can raise our voices in cries and wails of mourning as we move through this wake for what was.  We need to feel all this and process it and arrive at the acceptance of loss and of what work now needs be done.    That is our hope; it is the only realistic one.

May we each allow ourselves to grieve, to be gentle with ourselves in grieving, and to finally accept – accept both our losses and our responsibility to do the work of moving ahead.

Peace, Diane