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

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

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